“She wouldn’t let her own mother eat with her. She compared me to a white nigger; and can I receive her now? No, no; and she don’t wish it. Yet I pitied her when her heart snapped to pieces there in the middle of the room; poor girl, poor girl!”
When Alice returned again to the parlor, the convict had gone. There had been a short consultation between himself and the doctor, an engagement to meet in Cincinnati to arrange their plan of search; and then he had turned again to his once wife, still sitting in her corner, motionless, white, and paralyzed with nervous terror.
“You need not fear me, Eliza,” he said, kindly, “I shall probably never trouble you again; and though you have no cause to believe my word, I tell you solemnly that I will never rest until I have found our daughter, and sent her back to you. Be kind to Densie Densmore; she was more sinned against than sinning. Good-by, Eliza, good-by.”
He did not offer her his hand; he knew she would not touch it; but with one farewell look of contrition and regret, he left her, and mounting the horse which had brought him there, he dashed away from Spring Bank, just as Colonel Tiffton reined up to the gate.
Nell would give him no peace until he went over to see what it all meant and if there really was to be no wedding. It was Alice who met him in the hall, explaining to him as much as she thought necessary, and asking him, on his return, to wait a little by the field gate, and turn back any other guest who might be on the road.
The colonel promised compliance with her request, and thus were kept away two carriage loads of people whose curiosity had prompted them to disregard the contents of the note brought to them so mysteriously.
Spring Bank was not honored with wedding guests that night; and when the clock struck eight, the appointed hour for the bridal, only the bridegroom sat in the dreary parlor, his head bent down upon the sofa arm, and his chest heaving with the sobs he could not repress as he thought of all poor Lily had suffered since he left her so cruelly. Hugh had told him what he did not understand before. He had come into the room for his mother, whom ’Lina was pleading to see; and after leading her to the chamber of the half-delirious girl, he had returned to the doctor, and related to him all he knew of Adah, dwelling long upon her gentleness and beauty, which had won from him a brother’s love, even though he knew not she was his Sister.
“I was a wretch, a villain!” the doctor groaned. Then looking wistfully at Hugh, he said: “Do you think she loves me still? Listen to what she says in her farewell to Anna,” and with faltering voice, he read: “That killed the love and now, if I could, I would not be his except for Willie’s sake.’ Do you think she meant it?”
“I have no doubt of it, sir. How could her love outlive everything? Curses and blows might not have killed it, but when you thought to ruin her good name, to deny your child, she would be less than woman could she forgive. Why, I hate and despise you myself for the wrong you have done my sister,” and Hugh’s tall form seemed to take on an increased height as he stood, gazing down on one who could not meet his eye, but cowered and hid his face.