As time passed on, however, and no one appeared to dispute their right, different families occupied the house at intervals, until at last, when nearly fifty years had elapsed, news was one day received that Madam Conway, a granddaughter of the old Englishman, having met with reverses at home, had determined to emigrate to the New World, and remembering the “House by the Mill,” of which she had heard so much, she wished to know if peaceable possession of it would be allowed her, in case she decided upon removing thither and making it her future home. To this plan no objection was made, for the aged people of Hillsdale still cherished the memory of the hospitable old man whose locks were gray while they were yet but children, and the younger portion of the community hoped for a renewal of the gayeties which they had heard were once so common at the old stone house.
But in this they were disappointed, for Madam Conway was a proud, unsociable woman, desiring no acquaintance whatever with her neighbors, who, after many ineffectual attempts at something like friendly intercourse, concluded to leave her entirely alone, and contented themselves with watching the progress of matters at “Mill Farm,” as she designated the place, which soon began to show visible marks of improvement. The Englishman was a man of taste, and Madam Conway’s first work was an attempt to restore the grounds to something of their former beauty. The yard and garden were cleared of weeds, the walks and flower-beds laid out with care, and then the neighbors looked to see her cut away a few of the multitude of trees which had sprung up around her home. But this she had no intention of doing. “They shut me out,” she said, “from the prying eyes of the vulgar, and I would rather it should be so.” So the trees remained, throwing their long shadows upon the high, narrow windows, and into the large square rooms, where the morning light and the noonday heat seldom found entrance, and which seemed like so many cold, silent caverns, with their old-fashioned massive furniture, their dark, heavy curtains, and the noiseless footfall of the stately lady, who moved ever with the same measured tread, speaking always softly and low to the household servants, who, having been trained in her service, had followed her across the sea.
From these the neighbors learned that Madam Conway had in London a married daughter, Mrs. Miller; that old Hagar Warren, the strange-looking woman who more than anyone else shared her mistress’ confidence, had grown up in the family, receiving a very good education, and had nursed their young mistress, Miss Margaret, which of course entitled her to more respect than was usually bestowed upon menials like her; that Madam Conway was very aristocratic, very proud of her high English blood; that though she lived alone she attended strictly to all the formalities of high life, dressing each day with the utmost precision for her solitary dinner—dining off a service