This satisfied Madam Conway that the half-crazed woman meditated harm to her favorite grandchild, and she consented readily to her removal to the cottage, which by her orders was made comparatively comfortable. For several weeks, when she came, as she did each day, to the house, Madam Conway kept Maggie carefully from her sight, until at last she begged so hard to see her that her wish was gratified; and as she manifested no disposition whatever to molest the child, Madam Conway’s fears gradually subsided, and Hagar was permitted to fondle and caress her as often as she chose.
Here now, for a time, we leave them; Hagar in her cottage by the mine; Madam Conway in her gloomy home; Maggie in her nurse’s arms; and Theo, of whom as yet but little has been said, playing on the nursery floor; while with our readers we pass silently over a period of time which shall bring us to Maggie’s girlhood.
Fifteen years have passed away, and around the old stone house there is outwardly no change. The moss still clings to the damp, dark wall, just as it clung there long ago, while the swaying branches of the forest trees still cast their shadows across the floor, or scream to the autumn blast, just as they did in years gone by, when Hagar Warren breathed that prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” Madam Conway, stiff and straight and cold as ever, moves with the same measured tread through her gloomy rooms, which are not as noiseless now as they were wont to be, for girlhood—joyous, merry girlhood—has a home in those dark rooms, and their silence is broken by the sound of other feet, not moving stealthily and slow, as if following in a funeral train, but dancing down the stairs, tripping through the halls, skipping across the floor, and bounding over the grass, they go, never tiring, never ceasing, till the birds and the sun have gone to rest.
And do what she may, the good lady cannot check the gleeful mirth, or hush the clear ringing laughter of one at least of the fair maidens, who, since last we looked upon them, have grown up to womanhood. Wondrously beautiful is Maggie Miller now, with her bright sunny face, her soft dark eyes and raven hair, so glossy and smooth that her sister, the pale-faced, blue-eyed Theo, likens it to a piece of shining satin. Now, as ever, the pet and darling of the household, she moves among them like a ray of sunshine; and the servants, when they hear her bird-like voice waking the echoes of the weird old place, pause in their work to listen, blessing Miss Margaret for the joy and gladness her presence has brought them.