He had drawn nearer to her as he said this last, but she intuitively turned to Hugh, who started suddenly, growing white and faint as a suspicion of the truth flashed upon him.
“Mother?” he began, interrogatively, winding his arm about her, for she was the weaker of the two.
She knew what he would ask, and with her eye still upon the man who fascinated her gaze, she answered, sadly: “Forgive me, Hugh. He was—my husband; he is—’Lina’s father, not yours, Hugh—oh! Heaven be praised, not yours!” and she clung closely to her boy, as if glad one child, at least, was not tainted with the Murdock blood.
The convict smiled bitterly, and said to Hugh himself:
“Your mother is right. She was once my wife, but the law set her free from the galling chain. Will some one call Densie Densmore in? I may need her testimony.”
No one volunteered to go for Densie Densmore, and he was about repeating his request, when Alice came tripping down the stairs, and pausing at the parlor door, looked in.
“Anna!” she exclaimed, but uttered no other sound for the terror of something terrible, which kept her silent.
She stood looking from one to the other, until the convict said:
“Young lady, will you call in Densie Densmore? And stay, let the bride know. She is wanted, too. I may as well confront all my victims at once.”
Alice never knew what she said to Densie, or ’Lina either. She was only conscious of following them both down the stairs and into that dreadful room. No one had said that she was wanted, but she could not keep away. She must go, and she did, keeping close to Densie, who took but one step, then with a delirious laugh, she darted upon the stranger like a tigress, and seizing his arm, said, between a shriek and hiss:
“David Murdock, why are you here, a wolf in the sheepfold? Tell me, where is my stolen daughter?”
For an instant the convict regarded the raving woman, and then, as if in answer to her question, with a half nod, his glance rested on ’Lina, who, too much terrified to speak, had crept near to her affianced husband, now returning to consciousness. Hugh alone saw the nod, and it brought him at once to ’Lina, where, with his arm upon her chair, he stood as if he would protect her. Noble Hugh! ’Lina never knew one-half how good and generous he was until just as she was losing him.
“Densie,” the convict said, trying in vain to shake off the hand which held him so firmly: “Densie, be calm, and wait, as you see the others doing. They all, save one, are interested in me.”
“But my daughter, my stolen daughter. I’ll have her, or your life!” was Densie’s fierce reply.
“Auntie,” and Alice glided to Densie’s side.
She alone could control that strange being, roused now as she had not been roused in years. At the sound of her voice, and the touch of her fingers on her hand, Densie released her hold and suffered herself to be led to a chair, while Alice knelt beside her.