Then her mood would change, and motioning Theo to her side she would say to her, “Kiss me once, Theo, just as you used to do when I was Maggie Miller.”
Towards Arthur Carrollton she from the first manifested fear, shuddering whenever he approached her, and still exhibiting signs of uneasiness if he left her sight. “He hates me,” she said, “hates me for what I could not help;” and when, as he often did, he came to her bedside, speaking words of love, she would answer mournfully: “Don’t, Mr. Carrollton; your pride is stronger than your love. You will hate me when you know all.”
Thus two weeks went by, and then with the first May day reason returned again, bringing life and strength to the invalid, and joy to those who had so anxiously watched over her. Almost her first rational question was for Hagar, asking if she had been there.
“She is confined to her bed with inflammatory rheumatism,” answered Madam Conway; “but she inquires for you every day, they say; and once when told you could not live she started to crawl on her hands and knees to see you, but fainted near the gate, and was carried back.”
“Poor old woman!” murmured Maggie, the tears rolling down her cheeks, as she thought how strong must be the love that half-crazed creature bore her, and how little it was returned, for every feeling of her nature revolted from claiming a near relationship with one whom she had hitherto regarded as a servant. The secret, too, seemed harder to divulge, and day by day she put it off, saying to them when they asked what had so much affected her that she could not tell them yet—she must wait till she was stronger.
So Theo went back to Worcester as mystified as ever, and Maggie was left much alone with Arthur Carrollton, who strove in various ways to win her from the melancholy into which she had fallen. All day long she would sit by the open window, seemingly immovable, her large eyes, now intensely black, fixed upon vacancy, and her white face giving no sign of the fierce struggle within, save when Madam Conway, coming to her side, would lay her hand caressingly on her in token of sympathy. Then, indeed, her lips would quiver, and turning her head away, she would say, “Don’t touch me—don’t!”
To Arthur Carrollton she would listen with apparent composure, though often as he talked her long, tapering nails left their impress in her flesh, so hard she strove to seem indifferent. Once when they were left together alone he drew her to his side, and bending very low, so that his lips almost touched her marble cheek, he told her of his love, and how full of anguish had been his heart when he thought that she would die.
“But God kindly gave you back to me,” he said; “and now, my precious Margaret, will you be my wife? Will you go with me to my English home, from which I have tarried now too long because I would not leave you? Will Maggie answer me?” and he folded her lovingly in his arms.