A kind word unmanned Hugh at once, and kneeling by his mother, he put his arms around her, and asked again her care for Adah.
“Hugh,” and Mrs. Worthington looked him steadily in the face, “is Adah your wife, or Willie your child?”
“Great guns, mother!” and Hugh started to his feet as quick as if a bomb had exploded at his side. “No! Are you sorry, mother, to find me better than you imagined it possible for a bad boy like me to be?”
“No, Hugh, not sorry. I was only thinking that I’ve sometimes fancied that, as a married man, you might be happier, even if you did lose Spring Bank; and when this woman came so strangely, and you seemed so interested, I didn’t know, I rather thought—”
“I know,” and Hugh interrupted her. “You thought, maybe, I raised Ned when I was in New York; and, as a proof of said resurrection, Mrs. Ned and Ned, Junior, had come with their baggage.”
If the hair was golden instead of brown, and the eyes a different shade, he shouldn’t “make so tremendous a fuss,” he thought; and, with a sigh to the memory of the lost Golden Hair, he turned abruptly to his mother, and as if she had all the while been cognizant of his thoughts, said:
“But that’s nothing to do with the case in question. Will you be kind to Adah Hastings, for my sake? And when Ad rides her highest horse, as she is sure to do, will you smooth her down? Tell her Adah has as good a right here as she, if I choose to keep her.”
“I never meddle with your affairs,” and there was a tone of whining complaint in Mrs. Worthington’s voice; “I never pry and you never tell, so I don’t know how much you are worth, but I can judge somewhat, and I don’t think you are able.”
Mrs. Worthington was much more easily won over to Hugh’s opinion than ’Lina. They’d be a county talk, she said; nobody would come near them; hadn’t Hugh enough on his hands already without taking more?
“If my considerate sister really thinks so, hadn’t she better try and help herself a little?” retorted Hugh in a blaze of anger.
’Lina began to cry, and Hugh, repenting of his harsh speech as soon as it was uttered, but far too proud to take it back, strode up and down the room, chafing like a young lion.
“Come children, it’s after midnight, let us adjourn until to-morrow,” Mrs. Worthington said, by way of ending the painful interview, at the same time handing a candle to Hugh, who took it silently and withdrew, banging the door behind him with a force which made ’Lina start and burst into a fresh flood of tears.
“I’m a brute, a savage, and want to kick myself,” was Hugh’s not very self-complimentary soliloquy, as he went up the stairs. “What did I want to twit Ad for? Confound my badness!” and having by this time reached his own door, Hugh sat down to think.