This was the mother’s charitable explanation, made with a bitter sigh as she recalled ’Lina’s heartless anger when the letter was received, as if Hugh were to blame, as, indeed, ’Lina seemed to think he was.
Meantime Alice, in her own room, was reading ’Lina’s note, containing a most glowing description of the delightful time she was having at Saratoga, and how hard it would be to leave.
“I know dear Hugh is in good hands,” she wrote, “and it is so pleasant here that I really do want to stay a little longer. Pray write to me just how Hugh is, and if I must come home. What a delightful lady that Mrs. Richards is—not one bit stiff as I can see. I don’t know what people mean to call her proud. She has promised, if mamma will leave me here, to be my chaperon, and it’s possible we may visit New York together, so as to be there when the prince arrives. Won’t that be grand? She talks so much of you that sometimes I’m really jealous. Perhaps I may go to Terrace Hill before I return, but rather hope not, it makes me fidgety to think of meeting the Misses Richards, though, of course, I know I shall like them, particularly Anna. Oh, I most forgot! Irving is here yet, and has a sister, Mrs. Ellsworth, with him now. She is very elegant, and very much admired. Tell Adah I heard Mrs. Ellsworth say she wished she could find some young person as governess for her little girl, and kind of companion for her. I did not speak of Adah, but I thought of her, knowing she desired some such situation. She might write to Mrs. Ellsworth here, but I’d rather she should not refer to me as having known her. You see Mrs. Ellsworth would directly inquire about her antecedents, and to a stranger it would not sound well that she came to us one stormy night with that child, whose father we know nothing about, and if I told the truth, as I always try to do, I should have to tell this. So it will be better for Adah not to know us, even if she should come to Mrs. Ellsworth. You will understand me, I am sure, and believe that I am actuated by the kindest of motives. She can direct to Mrs. Julia Ellsworth, Union Hall, Saratoga Springs. By the way, tell mother not to forget that dress. She’ll know what you mean.
“Mr. Stanley seemed quite blue after you went away. I should not be surprised to hear of his being at Spring Bank some day. Isn’t it funny that you had to go right there? Perhaps it’s as well for you that Hugh is sick. You will got a better impression. Au revoir.”
Not a word was there in this letter of the doctor, but Alice understood it all the same. He was the attraction which kept the selfish girl from her brother’s side. “May she be happy with him, if, indeed, he has a right to win her,” was Alice’s mental comment, shuddering as she recalled the time when she was pleased with the handsome doctor, and silently thanking God, who had saved her from much sorrow. Hearing Mrs. Worthington in the hall, and remembering what ’Lina said concerning the dress, she stepped to the door and delivered the message, wondering that Mrs. Worthington should seem so confounded, and stammer so, as she turned to Adah, just coming up the stairs, and said: