Madam Conway did not herself really believe in Hagar’s insanity. She had heretofore been perfectly faithful to whatever was committed to her care, so she bade her be quiet, saying they would trust her for a time.
“It’s the talking to myself,” said Hagar, when left alone. “It’s the talking to myself which makes them call me crazy; and though I might talk to many a worse woman than old Hagar Warren, I’ll stop it; I’ll be still as the grave, and when next they gossip about me it shall be of something besides craziness.”
So Hagar became suddenly silent and uncommunicative, mingling but little with the servants, but staying all day long in her room, where she watched the children with untiring care. Especially was she kind to Hester, who as time passed on proved to be a puny, sickly thing, never noticing anyone, but moaning frequently as if in pain. Very tenderly old Hagar nursed her, carrying her often in her arms until they ached from very weariness, while Madam Conway, who watched her with a vigilant eye, complained that she neglected little Maggie.
“And what if I do?” returned Hagar somewhat bitterly. “Aint there a vast difference between the two? S’pose Hester was your own flesh and blood, would you think I could do too much for the poor thing?” And she glanced compassionately at the poor wasted form which lay upon her lap, gasping for breath, and presenting a striking contrast to little Maggie, who in her cradle was crowing and laughing in childish glee at the bright firelight which blazed upon the hearth.
Maggie was indeed a beautiful child. From her mother she had inherited the boon of perfect health, and she throve well in spite of the bumped heads and pinched fingers which frequently fell to her lot, when Hagar was too busy with the feeble child to notice her. The plaything of the whole house, she was greatly petted by the servants, who vied with each other in tracing points of resemblance between her and the Conways; while the grandmother prided herself particularly on the arched eyebrows and finely cut upper lip, which she said were sure marks of high blood, and never found in the lower ranks! With a scornful expression on her face, old Hagar would listen to these remarks, and then, when sure that no one heard her, she would mutter: “Marks of blood! What nonsense! I’m almost glad I’ve solved the riddle, and know ’taint blood that makes the difference. Just tell her the truth once, and she’d quickly change her mind. Hester’s blue, pinched nose, which makes one think of fits, would be the very essence of aristocracy, while Maggie’s lip would come of the little Paddy blood there is running in her veins!”
And still Madam Conway herself was not one-half so proud of the bright, playful Maggie as was old Hagar, who, when they were alone, would hug her to her bosom, and gaze fondly on her fair, round face and locks of silken hair, so like those now resting in the grave. In the meantime Mrs. Miller, who since her daughter’s birth, had never left her room, was growing daily weaker, and when Maggie was nearly nine months old she died, with the little one folded to her bosom, just as Hester Hamilton had held it when she too passed from earth.