It was the first time Hugh had called Adah “my sister,” and it seemed to fill every nook and corner of his great heart with unutterable love for the absent girl. “Sister, sister,” he kept repeating to himself, and as he did so, his resentful indignation grew toward the man who had so cruelly deceived her, until at last he abruptly left the room, lest his hot temper should get the mastery, and he knock down his dastardly brother-in-law, as he greatly wished to do.
It was a sad house at Spring Bank that night, and only the negroes were capable of any enjoyment. Terrified at first at what by dint of listening they saw and heard, they assembled in the kitchen, and together rehearsed the strange story, wondering if none of the tempting supper prepared with so much care would be touched by the whites. If not, they, of course, had the next best right, and when about midnight Mrs. Worthington passed hurriedly through the dining-room, the table gave evidence that somebody had partaken of the marriage feast, and not very sparingly either. But she did not care, her thoughts were divided between the distant Adah, her daughter—her own—the little brown-eyed child she had been so proud of years ago, and the moaning, wretched girl upstairs, ’Lina, tossing distractedly from side to side; now holding her throbbing head, and now thrusting out her hot, dry hands, as if to keep off some fancied form, whose hair, she said, was white as snow, and who claimed to be her mother.
The shock had been a terrible one to ’Lina—terrible in more senses than one. She did love Dr. Richards; and the losing him was enough of itself to drive her mad; but worse even than this, and far more humiliating to her pride, was the discovery of her parentage, the knowing that a convict was her father, a common servant her mother, and that no marriage tie had hallowed her birth.
“Oh, I can’t bear it!” she cried. “I can’t. I wish I might die! Will nobody kill me? Hugh, you will, I know!”
But Hugh was away for the family physician, for he would not trust a gossiping servant to do the errand. Once before that doctor had stood by ’Lina’s bedside, and felt her feverish pulse, but his face then was not as anxious as now. He did not speak of danger, but Hugh, who watched him narrowly, read it in his face, and following him down the stairs, asked to be told the truth.
“She is going to be very sick. She may get well, but I have little to hope from symptoms like hers.”
That was the doctor’s reply, and with a sigh Hugh went back to the sick girl, who had given him little else than sarcasm and scorn.
Drearily the morning dawned, but there were no bridal slumbers to be broken, no bridal farewells said. There were indeed good-byes to be spoken, for Anna was impatient to be gone. But for Adah, who must be found, and Willie, who must be cared for, and Charlie, who was waiting for her, she would have tarried longer, and helped to nurse the girl whom she pitied so much. But even Alice said she had better go, and so at an early hour she was ready to leave the house she had entered under so unpleasant circumstances.