When not excited it could scarcely be discerned at all, but the moment she was aroused, the delicate network of veins stood out round and full, forming what seemed to be a tiny hand without the thumb. It showed a little now in the firelight, and Mrs. Worthington shuddered as she glanced at what brought so vividly before her the remembrance of other and wretched days. Adaline observed the shudder and hastened to change the conversation from herself to Hugh, saying by way of making some amends for her unkind remarks: “It really is kind in him to give me a home when I have no particular claim upon him, and I ought to respect him for that. I am glad, too, that Mr. Stanley made it a condition in his will that if Hugh ever married, he should forfeit the Spring Bank property, as that provides against the possibility of an upstart wife coming here some day and turning us, or at least me, into the street. Say, mother, are you not glad that Hugh can never marry even if he wishes to do so, which is not very probable.”
“I am not so sure of that,” returned Mrs. Worthington, smoothing, with her small, fat hands the bright worsted cloud she was knitting, a feminine employment for which she had a weakness. “I am not so sure of that. Suppose Hugh should fancy a person whose fortune was much larger than the one left him by Uncle John, do you think he would let it pass just for the sake of holding Spring Bank?”
“Perhaps not,” ’Lina replied; “but there’s no possible danger of any one’s fancying Hugh.”
“And why not?” quickly interrupted the mother. “He has the kindest heart in the world, and is certainly fine-looking if he would only dress decently.”
“I’m much obliged for your compliment, mother,” Hugh said, laughingly, as he stepped suddenly into the room and laid his hand caressingly on his mother’s head, thus showing that even he was not insensible to flattery. “Have you heard that sound again?” he continued. “It wasn’t Tommie, for I found him asleep, and I’ve been all around the house, but could discover nothing. The storm is beginning to abate, I think, and the moon is trying to break through the clouds,” and, going again to the window, Hugh looked out into the yard, where the shrubbery and trees were just discernible in the grayish light of the December moon. “That’s a big drift by the lower gate,” he continued; “and queer shaped, too. Come see, mother. Isn’t that a shawl, or an apron, or something blowing in the wind?”
Mrs. Worthington arose, and, joining her son, looked in the direction indicated, where a garment of some kind was certainly fluttering in the gale.
“It’s something from the wash, I guess,” she said. “I thought all the time Hannah had better not hang out the clothes, as some of them were sure to be lost.”
This explanation was quite satisfactory to Mrs. Worthington, but that strange drift by the gate troubled Hugh, and the signal above it seemed to him like a signal of distress. Why should the snow drift there more than elsewhere? He never knew it do so before. He had half a mind to turn out the dogs, and see what that would do.