Somewhat reassured, Lillian led her nurse to one of the old oaks beside the path, and pointed to a figure lying half hidden in the fern. A slender, swarthy boy of sixteen, with curly black hair, dark brows, and thick lashes, a singularly stern mouth, and a general expression of strength and pride, which added character to his boyish face and dignified his poverty. His dress betrayed that, being dusty and threadbare, his shoes much worn, and his possessions contained in the little bundle on which he pillowed his head. He was sleeping like one quite spent with weariness, and never stirred, though Hester bent away the ferns and examined him closely.
"He's not dead, my deary; he's asleep, poor lad, worn out with his day's tramp, I dare say." "I'm glad he's alive, and I wish he'd wake up. He's a pretty boy, isn't he? See what nice hands he's got, and his hair is more curly than mine. Make him open his eyes, Hester," commanded the little lady, whose fear had given place to interest.
"Hush, he's stirring. I wonder how he got in, and what he wants," whispered Hester.
"I'll ask him," and before her nurse could arrest her, Lillian drew a tall fern softly over the sleeper's face, laughing aloud as she did so.
The boy woke at the sound, and without stirring lay looking up at the lovely little face bent over him, as if still in a dream.
"Bella cara," he said, in a musical voice. Then, as the child drew back abashed at the glance of his large, bright eyes, he seemed to wake entirely and, springing to his feet, looked at Hester with a quick, searching glance. Something in his face and air caused the woman to soften her tone a little, as she said gravely, "Did you wish to see any one at the Hall?"
"Yes. Is Lady Trevlyn here?" was the boy's answer, as he stood cap in hand, with the smile fading already from his face.
"She is, but unless your business is very urgent you had better see Parks, the keeper; we don't trouble my lady with trifles."
"I've a note for her from Colonel Daventry; and as it is not a trifle, I'll deliver it myself, if you please."
Hester hesitated an instant, but Lillian cried out, "Mamma is close by, come and see her," and led the way, beckoning as she ran.
The lad followed with a composed air, and Hester brought up the rear, taking notes as she went with a woman's keen eye.
About the Author
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo's Boys. Raised by her transcendentalist parents, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Little Women is loosely based on Alcott's childhood experiences with her three sisters.