“Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these ye did it unto Me,” kept ringing in Hugh’s ears, as he hastily dressed himself, striking his benumbed fingers together, and trying hard to keep his teeth from chattering, for Hugh was beginning his work of economy, and when at daylight Claib came as usual to build his master’s fire, he had sent him back, saying he did not need one, and bidding him go, instead, to Mrs. Hastings’ chamber.
“Make a hot one there,” he said. “Pile the coals on high, so as to heat up quick.”
As Hugh passed through the hall on his way downstairs, he could not refrain from pausing a moment at the door of Adah’s room. The fire was burning, he knew, for he heard the kindling coals sputtering in the flames, and that was all he heard. He would look in an instant, he said, to see if all were well, and carefully turning the knob he entered the chamber where the desolate Adah lay sleeping, her glossy brown hair falling like a veil about her sweet pale face, on which the tear stains still were visible.
As she lay with the firelight falling full upon her forehead, Hugh, too, caught sight of the mark which had attracted ’Lina’s curiosity, and starting forward, bent down for a nearer view.
“Strange that she should have that mark. Oh Heaven!” and Hugh staggered against the bedpost as a sudden thought flashed upon him. “Was that polished villain who had led him into sin anything to Adaline, anything to his mother? Poor girl, I am sorry if you, too, have been contaminated, however slight the contamination may be,” he said, softly, glancing again at Adah, about whose lips a faint smile was playing, and who, as he looked, murmured faintly:
“Kiss me, George, just as you used to do.”
“Rascally villain!” Hugh muttered, clinching his fist involuntarily. “You don’t deserve that such as she should dream of you. I’d kiss her myself if I was used to the business, but I should only make a bungle, as I do with everything, and might kiss you, little shaver,” and Hugh bent over Willie.
There was something in Hugh which won his confidence at once, and stretching-out his dimpled arms, he expressed his willingness to be taken up. Hugh could not resist Willie’s appeal, and lifting him gently in his arms, he bore him off in triumph, the little fellow patting his cheek, and rubbing his own against it.
“I don’t know what I’ll do with you, my little man,” he said, as he reached the lower hall; then suddenly turning in the direction of his mother’s room, he walked deliberately to the bedside, and ere the half-awakened ’Lina was aware of his intention, deposited his burden between her and his mother.
“Here, Ad, here’s something that will raise you quicker than yeast,” he said, beating a hasty retreat, while the indignant young lady verified his words by leaping half-way across the floor, her angry tones mingling with Willie’s crowing laugh, as the child took the whole for fun, meant expressly for his benefit.