“To learn how much you loved me,” answered Margaret, to whom this moment brought happiness second only to that which she had felt when on the river bank she sat with Arthur Carrollton, and heard him tell how much she had been mourned—how lonesome was the house without her—and how sad were all their hearts. But that was over now—no more sadness, no more tears; the lost one had returned; Margaret was home again—home in the hearts of all, and nothing could dislodge her—not even the story of her birth, which Arthur Carrollton, spurning at further deception, told to the listening servants, who, having always respected old Hagar for her position in the household as well as for her education, so superior to their own, set up a deafening shout, first for “Hagar’s grandchild,” and next for “Miss Margaret forever!”
By Theo’s request old Hagar had been taken home the day before, yielding submissively, for her frenzied mood was over—her strength was gone—her life was nearly spent—and Hagar did not wish to live. That for which she had sinned had been accomplished, and, though it had cost her days and nights of anguish, she was satisfied at last. Margaret was coming home again—would be a lady still—the bride of Arthur Carrollton, for George Douglas had told her so, and she was willing now to die, but not until she had seen her once again—had looked into the beautiful face of which she had been so proud.
Not to-day, however, does she expect her; and just as the sun was setting, the sun which shines on Margaret at home, she falls away to sleep. It was at this hour that Margaret was wont to visit her, and now, as the treetops grew red in the day’s departing glory, a graceful form came down the woodland path, where for many weeks the grass has not been crushed beneath her feet. They saw her as she left the house,—Madam Conway, Theo, all,—but none asked whither she was going. They knew, and one who loved her best of all followed slowly after, waiting in the woods until that interview should end.
Hagar lay calmly sleeping. The servant was as usual away, and there was no eye watching Margaret as with burning cheeks and beating heart she crossed the threshold of the door, pausing not, faltering not, until the bed was reached—the bed where Hagar lay, her crippled hands folded meekly upon her breast, her white hair shading a whiter face, and a look about her half-shut mouth as if the thin, pale lips had been much used of late to breathe the word “Forgive.” Maggie had never seen her thus before, and the worn-out, aged face had something touching in its sad expression, and something startling too, bidding her hasten, if to that woman she would speak.