“Did he?” and Alice spoke with great animation, for she had supposed that ’Lina’s, or at least Mrs. Worthington’s hands had been there.
But it was Hugh, all Hugh, and in spite of what Muggins had said concerning his aversion to her coming there, she felt a great desire to see him. She could understand in part why he should be angry at not having been consulted, but he was over that, she was sure from what Aunt Eunice said, and if he were not, it behooved her to try her best to remove any wrong impression he might have formed of her. “He shall like me,” she thought; “not as he must like that golden-haired maiden whose existence this sprite of a negro has discovered, but as a friend, or sister,” and a softer light shone in Alice’s blue eyes, as she foresaw in fancy Hugh gradually coming to like her, to be glad that she was there, and to miss her when she was gone.
Could Hugh have known the feelings with which Alice Johnson already regarded him, and the opinion she had expressed to Muggins, it would perhaps have stilled the fierce throbbings of his heart, which sent the hot blood so swiftly through his veins, and made him from the first delirious. They had found him in the quiet court, just after the sunsetting, and his uncovered head was already wet with the falling dew, and with the profuse perspiration induced by his long, heavy sleep. They could not arouse him to a distinct consciousness as to where he was or what had happened. He only talked of Ad and the Golden Haired, asking that they would take him anywhere, where neither could ever see him again. He was well known at the hotel, and measures were immediately taken for apprising his family of the sudden illness, and for removing him to Spring Bank as soon as possible.
Breakfast was not yet over at Spring Bank, and Aunt Eunice was just wondering what could have become of Hugh, when from her position near the window she discovered a horseman riding across the lawn at a rate which betokened some important errand. Alice spied him, too, and the same thought flashed over both herself and Aunt Eunice. “Something had befallen Hugh.”
Alice was the first upon the piazza, where she stood waiting till the rider came up, his horse covered with foam, and himself flurried and excited.
“Are you Miss Worthington?” he asked, doffing his soft hat, and feeling a thrill of wonder at sight of her marvelous beauty.
“Miss Worthington is not at home,” she said, going down the steps and advancing closer to him, “but I can take your message. Is anything the matter with Mr. Worthington?”
Aunt Eunice had now joined her, and listened breathlessly while the young man told of Hugh’s illness, which threatened to be the prevailing fever.
“They were bringing him home,” he said—“were now on the way, and he had ridden in advance to prepare them for his coming.”