A few mad plunges, another wrench, which pitched ’Lina headlong against the window, and the steep, shelving bank was reached, but in endeavoring to climb it the carriage was upset, and ’Lina found herself in pitchy darkness. Perfectly sobered now, Caesar extricated her as soon as possible. The carriage was broken and there was no alternative save for ’Lina to walk the remaining distance home. It was not far, for the scene of the disaster was within sight of Spring Bank, but to ’Lina, bedraggled with mud and wet to the skin, it seemed an interminable distance, and her strength was giving out just as she reached the friendly piazza, and called on her mother for help, sobbing hysterically as she repeated her story, but dwelling most upon her ruined dress.
“What will Hugh say? It was not paid for, either. Oh, dear, oh, dear, I most wish I was dead!” she moaned, as her mother removed one by one the saturated garments.
The sight of Hugh called forth her grief afresh, and forgetful of her dishabille, she staggered toward him, and impulsively winding her arms around his neck, sobbed out:
“Oh, Hugh, Hugh! I’ve had such a doleful time. I’ve been in the creek, the carriage is broken, the horses are lamed, Caesar is drunk, and—and—oh, Hugh, I’ve spoiled my dress!”
Laughing merrily Hugh held her off at a little distance, likening her to a mermaid fresh from the sea, and succeeding at last in quieting her down until she could give a more concise account of the catastrophe.
“Never mind the dress,” he said, good-humoredly, as she kept recurring to that. “It isn’t as if it were new. An old thing is never so valuable.”
Alas, that ’Lina did not then confess the truth. Had she done so he would have forgiven her freely, but she let the golden opportunity pass, and so paved the way for much bitterness of feeling in the future.
During the gloomy weeks which followed, Hugh’s heart and hands were full, inclination tempting him to stay by the moaning Adah, who knew the moment he was gone, and stern duty, bidding him keep with delirious ’Lina, who, strange to say, was always more quiet when he was near, taking readily from him the medicine refused when offered by her mother. Day after day, week after week, Hugh watched alternately at the bedsides, and those who came to offer help felt their hearts glow with admiration for the worn, haggard man, whose character they had so mistaken, never dreaming what depths of patient, all-enduring tenderness were hidden beneath his rough exterior. Even Ellen Tiffton was softened, and forgetting the Ladies’ Fair, rode daily over to Spring Bank, ostensibly to inquire after ’Lina, but really to speak a kindly word to Hugh, to whom she felt she had done a wrong. How long those fevers ran, and Hugh began to fear that ’Lina’s never would abate, sorrowing much for the harsh words which passed between them, wishing they had been unsaid, for he would rather