Three times old Hagar essayed to speak, and at last between a whisper and a moan, she found strength to say: “Will you kiss me once, Maggie darling? ’Twill be something to remember, in the lonesome nights when I am all alone. Just once, Maggie! Will you?”
Maggie could not refuse, and gliding to the bowed woman’s side she put back the soft hair from off the wrinkled brow, and left there token of her forgiveness.
* * * * *
The last May sun had set, and ere the first June morning rose Maggie Miller would be nowhere found in the home her presence had made so bright. Alone, with no eye upon her save that of the Most High, she had visited the two graves, and, while her heart was bleeding at every pore, had wept her last adieu over the sleeping dust so long held sacred as her mother’s. Then kneeling at the other grave, she murmured, “Forgive me, Hester Hamilton, if in this parting hour my heart clings most to her whose memory I was first taught to revere; and if in the better world you know and love each other—oh, will both bless and pity me, poor, wretched Maggie Miller!”
Softly the night air moved through the pine that overshadowed the humble grave, while the moonlight, flashing from the tall marble, which stood a sentinel over the other mound, bathed Maggie’s upturned face as with a flood of glory, and her throbbing heart grew still as if indeed at that hushed moment the two mothers had come to bless their child. The parting with the dead was over, and Margaret sat again in her room, waiting until all was still about the old stone house. She did not add to her letter another line telling of her discovery, for she did not think of it; her mind was too intent upon escaping unobserved; and when sure the family had retired she moved cautiously down the stairs, noiselessly unlocked the door, and without once daring to look back, lest she should waver in her purpose, she went forth, heartbroken and alone, from what for eighteen happy years had been her home. Very rapidly she proceeded, coming at last to an open field through which the railroad ran, the depot being nearly a quarter of a mile away. Not until then had she reflected that her appearance at the station at that hour of the night would excite suspicion, and she was beginning to feel uneasy, when suddenly around a curve the cars appeared in view. Fearing lest she should be too late, she quickened her footsteps, when to her great surprise she saw that the train was stopping! But not for her they waited; in the bright moonlight the engineer had discovered a body lying across the track, and had stopped in time to save the life of a man, who, stupefied with drunkenness, had fallen asleep. The movement startled the passengers, many of whom alighted and gathered around the inebriate.
In the meantime Margaret had come near, and, knowing she could not now reach the depot in time, she mingled unobserved in the crowd, and entering the rear car, took her seat near the door. The train at last moved on, and as at the station no one save the agent was in waiting, it is not strange that the conductor passed unheeded the veiled figure which in the dark corner sat ready to pay her fare.