Oh, how could she tell him No, when every fiber of her heart thrilled with the answer Yes. She mistook him—mistook the character of Arthur Carrollton, for, though pride was strong within him, he loved the beautiful girl who lay trembling in his arms better than he loved his pride; and had she told him then who and what she was, he would not have deemed it a disgrace to love a child of Hagar Warren. But Margaret did not know him, and when he said again, “Will Maggie answer me?” there came from her lips a piteous, wailing cry, and turning her face away she answered mournfully: “No, Mr. Carrollton, no, I cannot be your wife. It breaks my heart to tell you so; but if you knew what I know, you would never have spoken to me words of love. You would have rather thrust me from you, for indeed I am unworthy.”
“Don’t you love me, Maggie?” Mr. Carrollton said, and in the tones of his voice there was so much tenderness that Maggie burst into tears, and, involuntarily resting her head upon his bosom, answered sadly: “I love you so much, Arthur Carrollton, that I would die a hundred deaths could that make me worthy of you, as not long ago I thought I was. But it cannot be. Something terrible has come between us.”
“Tell me what it is. Let me share your sorrow,” he said; but Maggie only answered: “Not yet, not yet! Let me live where you are a little longer. Then I will tell you all, and go away forever.”
This was all the satisfaction he could obtain; but after a time she promised that if he would not mention the subject to her until the first of June, she would then tell him everything; and satisfied with a promise which he knew would be kept, Mr. Carrollton waited impatiently for the appointed time, while Maggie, too, counted each sun as it rose and set, bringing nearer and nearer a trial she so much dreaded.
Two days only remained ere the first of June, and in the solitude of her chamber Maggie was weeping bitterly. “How can I tell them who I am?” she thought. “How bear their pitying scorn, when they learn that she whom they call Maggie Miller has no right to that name?—that Hagar Warren’s blood is flowing in her veins?—and Madam Conway thinks so much of that! Oh, why was Hagar left to do me this great wrong? why did she take me from the pine-board cradle where she says I lay, and make me what I was not born to be?” and, falling on her knees, the wretched girl prayed that it might prove a dream from which she would ere long awake.
Alas for thee, poor Maggie Miller! It is not a dream, but a stern reality; and you who oft have spurned at birth and family, why murmur now when both are taken from you? Are you not still the same,—beautiful,—accomplished, and refined,—and can you ask for more? Strange that theory and practice so seldom should accord. And yet it was not the degradation which Maggie felt so keenly, it was rather the loss of love she feared; without that the blood of royalty could not avail to make her happy.