“I would like to see ’Lina,” she said to Alice, who carried the request to the sick room.
But ’Lina refused. “I can’t,” she said; “she hates, she despises me, and she has reason. Tell her I was not worthy to be her sister; tell her anything you like; but the doctor—oh, Alice, do you think he’ll come, just for a minute, before he goes?”
It was not a pleasant thing for the doctor to meet ’Lina now face to face, for of course she wished to reproach him for his treachery. But she did not—she thought only of herself; and when at last, urged on by Anna and Alice, he entered into her presence, she only offered him her hand at first, without a single word. He was shocked to find her so sick, for a few hours had worked a marvelous change in her, and he shrank from the bright eyes fixed so eagerly on his face.
“Oh Dr. Richards,” she began at last, “if I loved you less it would not be so hard to tell you what I must. I did love you, bad as I am, but I meant to deceive you. It was for me that Adah kept silence at Terrace Hill. Adah, I almost hate her for having crossed my path.”
There was a fearfully vindictive gleam in the bright eyes now, and the doctor shudderingly looked away, while ’Lina, with a soft tone, continued: “You believed me rich, and whether you loved me afterward or not, you sought me first for my money. I kept up the delusion, for in no other way could I have won you. Dr. Richards, if I die, as perhaps I may, I shall have one less sin for which to atone, if I confess to you that instead of the heiress you imagined me to be, I had scarcely money enough to pay my board at that hotel. Hugh, who himself is poor, furnished what means I had, and most of my jewelry was borrowed. Do you hear that? Do you know what you have escaped?”
She almost shrieked at the last.
“Go,” she continued, “find your Adah. It’s nothing but Adah now. I see her name in everything. Hugh thinks of nothing else, and why should he? She’s his sister, and I—oh! I’m nobody but a beggarly servant’s brat. I wish I was dead! I wish I was dead! and I will be pretty soon.”
This was their parting, and the doctor left her room a soberer, sadder man than he had entered it. Half an hour later, and he, with Anna, was fast nearing Versailles, where they were joined by Mr. Millbrook, and together the three started on their homeward route.
Rapidly the tidings flew, told in a thousand different ways, and the neighborhood was all on fire with the strange gossip. But little cared they at Spring Bank for the storm outside, so fierce a one was beating at their doors, that even the fall of Sumter failed to elicit more than a casual remark from Hugh, who read without the slightest emotion the President’s call for seventy-five thousand men. Tenderer than a brother was Hugh to the sick girl upstairs, staying by her so patiently that none save Alice ever guessed how he longed to be free and join in the search for Adah. To her it had been revealed by a few words accidentally overheard. “Oh, Adah, sister, I know that I could find you, but my duty is here.”