Bad Hugh eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 488 pages of information about Bad Hugh.
extended, and as best he could he was making his way to Richmond, when, worn out with hunger, watchfulness and fatigue, he sank down to die, as he believed, at the entrance of some beautiful woods which skirted the borders of a well-kept farm in Virginia.  Before him, at the distance of nearly a quarter of a mile, a large, handsome house was visible, and by the wreath of smoke curling from the rear chimney, he knew it was inhabited, and thought once to go there, and beg for the food he craved so terribly.  But fear kept him back—­the people might be Unionists, and might detain him a prisoner until the officers upon his track came up.  Dr. Richards was cowardly, and so with a groan, he laid his head upon the grass, and half wished that he had died ere he came to be the miserable wretch he was.  The pain in his ankle was by this time intolerable, and the limb was swelling so fast that to walk on the morrow was impossible, and if he found a shelter at all, it must be found that night.

Midway between himself and the house was a comfortable-looking barn, whither he resolved to go.  But the journey was a tedious one, and brought to his flushed forehead great drops of sweat, wrung out by the agony it caused him to step upon his foot.  At last, when he could bear his weight upon it no longer, he sank upon the ground, and crawling slowly upon his hands and knees, reached the barn just as it was growing dark, and the shadows creeping into the corners made him half shrink with terror lest they were the bayonets of those whose coming he was constantly expecting.  He could not climb to the scaffolding, and so he sought a friendly pile of hay, and crouching down behind it, ere long fell asleep for the first time in three long days and nights.

The early June sun was just shining through the cracks between the boards when he awoke, sore, stiff, feverish, burning with thirst, and utterly unable to use the poor, swollen foot, which lay so helplessly upon the hay.

“Oh, for Anna now,” he moaned; “if she were only here; or Lily, dear Lily, she would pity and forgive, could she see me now.”

But hark, what sound is it which falls upon his ear, making him quake with fear, and, in spite of his aching ankle, creep farther behind the hay?  It is a footstep—­a light, tripping step, and it comes that way, nearer, nearer, until a shadow falls between the open chinks and the bright sunshine without.  Then it moves on, around the corner, pausing for a moment, while the hidden coward holds his breath, and listens anxiously, hoping nothing is coming there.  But there is, and it enters the same door through which he came the previous night—­a girlish figure, with a basket on her arm—­a basket in which she puts the eggs she knows just where to find.  Not behind the hay, where a poor wretch was almost dead with terror.  There was no nest there, and so she failed to see the ghastly face, pinched with hunger and pain, the glassy eyes, the uncombed hair, and soiled tattered garments of him who once was known as one of fashion’s most fastidious dandies.

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Bad Hugh from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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