“Of course it would,” said Alice. “Adah’s claim is a strong one, I’ll admit; but the doctor and Mr. Murdock are doing their best; and I ask, as a favor, that you remain at home to meet Mr. Stanley.”
Now Hugh knew that nothing could have tempted him to leave Spring Bank so long as Irving Stanley was there; but as he was just in a mood to be unreasonable, he replied that, “if Alice wished it, he should remain at home until Mr. Stanley’s visit was ended.”
Alice felt exceedingly uncomfortable, for never had Hugh been so provokingly distant and cool, and she was really glad when at last a carriage appeared across the fields, and she knew the “city cousin,” as Hugh called him, was coming.
He had come, and up in the chamber where ’Lina died, was making the toilet necessary after his hot dusty ride. Hugh, heartily ashamed of his conduct for the last two days, had received him most cordially, meeting him at the gate, and holding him by the hand, as they walked together to the house, where Mrs. Worthington stood waiting for him, her lips quivering, and tears dimming her eyes, as she said to him: “Yes, ’Lina is dead.”
Irving had heard as much at the depot, and heard, too, a strange story, the truth of which he greatly doubted. Mrs. Worthington had been ’Lina’s mother, he believed, and his sympathy went out toward her at once, making him forget that Alice was not there to meet him, as he half expected she would be, although they were really comparative strangers.
It was not until a rather late hour that Alice joined him, sitting upon the cool piazza, with Hugh as his companion. In summer Alice always wore white, and now, as she came tripping down the long piazza, her muslin dress floating about her like a snowy mist, her fair hair falling softly about her face and on her neck, a few geranium leaves twined among the glossy curls, and her lustrous eyes sparkling with excitement, both Irving Stanley and Hugh held their breath and watched her as she came, the one jealously and half angry that she was so beautiful, the other admiringly and with a feeling of wonder at the beauty he had never seen surpassed.
Alice was perfectly self-possessed, and greeted Mr. Stanley as she would have greeted any friend—and she was glad to see him—spoke of Saratoga, and then inquired for Mrs. Ellsworth about whom poor ’Lina had talked so much.
Mrs. Ellsworth was well, Irving said, though very busy with her preparations for going to Europe, adding “it was not so much pleasure which was taking her there as by the hope that by some of the Paris physicians her little deformed Jennie might be benefited. She had secured a gem of a governess for her daughter, a young lady whom he had not yet seen, but over whose beauty and accomplishments his staid sister Carrie had really waxed eloquent.”