“God, help me in my sorrow,” was the prayer which fell from the quivering lips, but did not break the silence of that little room, where none, save God, witnessed the conflict, the last Hugh ever fought for Alice Johnson.
He could give her up at length; could think, without a shudder, of the time when another than himself would call her his wife; and when, late that afternoon, he took the evening train for Cleveland, not one in the crowded car would have guessed how sore was the heart of the young man who plunged so energetically into the spirited war argument in progress between a Northern and Southern politician. It was a splendid escape valve for his pent-up feelings, and Hugh carried everything before him, taking by turns both sides of the question, and effectually silencing the two combatants, who said to each other in parting: “We shall hear from that Kentuckian again, though whether in Rebeldom or Yankeeland we cannot tell.”
LETTERS FROM HUGH AND IRVING STANLEY
Claib had brought two letters from the office, one for Mrs. Worthington from Hugh, and one for Alice from Irving Stanley. This last had been long delayed, and as she broke the seal a little nervously, reading that his trip to Europe had been deferred on account of the illness of his sister’s governess, but that he was going on board the ship that day, July tenth, and that his sister was there with him and the governess, “A modest, sweet-faced body,” he wrote, “who looks very girl-like from the fact that her soft, brown hair is worn short in her neck.”
Alice had a tolerably clear insight into Irving Stanley’s character, and immediately her mind conjured up visions of what might be the result of a sea voyage and months of intimate companionship with that sweet-faced governess, “who wore her soft, brown hair short in her neck.”
“I hope it may be so,” she thought; and folding up her letter, she was about going out to the rustic seat beneath a tall maple where Mug sat, whispering over the primer she was trying so hard to read, when a cry from Mrs. Worthington arrested her attention and brought her at once to the side of the half-fainting woman.
“What is it?” Alice asked, in much alarm, and Mrs. Worthington replied: “Oh, Hugh, Hugh, my boy! he’s enlisted, joined the army! I shall never see him again!”
Could Hugh have seen Alice then he would not for a moment have doubted the nature of her feelings toward himself. She did not cry out, nor faint, but her face turned white as the dress she wore, while her hands pressed so tightly together, that her long, taper nails left the impress in her flesh.
“God keep him from danger and death,” she murmured; then, winding her arms around the stricken mother, she wiped her tears away; and to her moaning cry that she was left alone, replied: “Let me be your child till he returns, or, if he never does—”