“My poor brother,” she said at last, turning her face towards him and taking his hand in hers; “I am sorry for you—to lose us both, Maggie and me. What will you do?”
“Rose,” he said, bending so low that his brown locks mingled with the yellow tresses of her hair—“Rose, I do not regret Maggie Miller’s decision, neither do I blame her for it. She is a noble, true-hearted girl, and so long as I live I shall esteem her highly; but I too have changed—have learned to love another. Will you sanction this new love, dear Rose? Will you say that it is right?”
The white lids closed over the eyes of blue, but they could not keep back the tears which rolled down her face, as she asked somewhat sadly, “Who is it, Henry?”
There was another moment of silence, and then he whispered in her ear: “People call her Rose; I once called her sister; but my heart now claims her for something nearer. My Rose,” he continued, “shall it be? Will you live for my sake? Will you be my wife?”
The shock was too sudden—too great; and neither on that night, nor yet the succeeding day, had Rose the power to answer. But as the dew of heaven is to the parched and dying flower, so were these words of love to her, imparting at once new life and strength, making her as it were another creature. The question asked that night so unexpectedly was answered at last; and then with almost perfect happiness at her heart, she too added a few lines to the letter which Henry sent to Maggie Miller, over whose pathway, hitherto so bright, a fearful shadow was falling.
It was a rainy April day—a day which precluded all outdoor exercise, and Hagar Warren, from the window of her lonely cabin, watched in vain for the coming of Maggie Miller. It was now more than a week since she had been there, for both Arthur Carrollton and herself had accompanied the disappointed Anna Jeffrey to New York, going with her on board the vessel which was to take her from a country she affected so to dislike.
“I dare say you’ll be Maggie somebody else ere I meet you again,” she said to Maggie, at parting, and Mr. Carrollton, on the journey home, found it hard to keep from asking her if for the “somebody else” she would substitute his name, and so be “Maggie Carrollton.”
This, however, he did not do; but his attentions were so marked, and his manner towards her so affectionate, that ere Hillsdale was reached there was in Maggie’s mind no longer a doubt as to the nature of his feelings toward her. Arrived at home, he kept her constantly at his side, while Hagar, who was suffering from a slight attack of rheumatism, and could not go up to the stone house, waited and watched, thinking herself almost willing to be teased for the secret, if she could once more hear the sound of Maggie’s voice. The secret, however, had been forgotten in the exciting scenes through which Maggie had passed since first she learned of its existence; and it was now a long time since she had mentioned it to Hagar, who each day grew more and more determined never to reveal it.