The next evening, as Madam Conway sat alone with Mr. Carrollton, she spoke of his return to England, expressing her sorrow, and asking why he did not remain with them longer.
“I will deal frankly with you, madam,” said he, “and say that if I followed my own inclination I should stay, for Hillsdale holds for me an attraction which no other spot possesses. I refer to your granddaughter, who, in the little time I have known her, has grown very dear to me—so dear that I dare not stay longer where she is, lest I should love her too well, and rebel against yielding her to another.”
For a moment Madam Conway hesitated; but, thinking the case demanded her speaking, she said: “Possibly Mr. Carrollton, I can make an explanation which will show some points in a different light from that in which you now see them. Margaret is engaged to Henry Warner, I will admit; but the engagement has become irksome, and yesterday she wrote asking a release, which he will grant, of course.”
Instantly the expression of Mr. Carrollton’s face was changed, and very intently he listened while Madam Conway frankly told him the story of Margaret’s engagement up to the present time, withholding from him nothing, not even Maggie’s confession of the interest she felt in him, an interest which had weakened her girlish attachment for Henry Warner.
“You have made me very happy,” Mr. Carrollton said to Madam Conway, as, at a late hour, he bade her good-night—“happier than I can well express; for without Margaret life to me would be dreary indeed.”
The next morning, at the breakfast table, Anna Jeffrey, who was in high spirits with the prospect of having Mr. Carrollton for a fellow-traveler, spoke of their intended voyage, saying she could hardly wait for the time to come, and asking if he were not equally impatient to leave so horrid a country as America.
“On the contrary,” he replied, “I should be sorry to leave America just yet. I have therefore decided to remain a little longer;” and his eyes sought the face of Maggie, who, in her joyful surprise, dropped the knife with which she was helping herself to butter; while Anna Jeffrey, quite as much astonished, upset her coffee, exclaiming: “Not going home! What has changed your mind?”
Mr. Carrollton made her no direct reply, and she continued her breakfast in no very amiable mood; while Maggie, too much overjoyed to eat, managed ere long to find an excuse for leaving the table. Mr. Carrollton wished to do everything honorably, and so he decided to say nothing to Maggie of the cause of this sudden change in his plan until Henry Warner’s answer was received, as she would then feel freer to act as she felt. His resolution, however, was more easily made than kept, and during the succeeding weeks, by actions, if not by words, he more than once told Maggie Miller how much she was beloved; and Maggie, trembling with fear lest the cup of happiness just within her grasp should be rudely dashed aside, waited impatiently for the letter which was to set her free. But weeks went by, and Maggie’s heart grew sick with hope deferred, for there came to her no message from the distant Cuban shore, which in another chapter we shall visit.