The foot was carefully cared for, Maggie’s own hands tenderly bandaging it up; and then with redoubled zeal she returned to the attack, pressing old Hagar so hard that the large drops of perspiration gathered thickly about her forehead and lips, which were white as ashes. Wearied at last, Maggie gave it up for the time being, but her curiosity was thoroughly aroused, and for many days she persisted in her importunity, until at last, in self-defense, old Hagar, when she saw her coming, would steal away to the low-roofed chamber, and, hiding behind a pile of rubbish, would listen breathlessly while Margaret hunted for her in vain. Then when she was gone she would crawl out from her hiding-place, covered with cobwebs and dust, and mutter to herself: “I never expected this, and it’s more than I can bear. Why will she torment me so, when a knowledge of the secret would drive her mad!”
This, however, Maggie Miller did not know. Blessed with an uncommon degree of curiosity, which increased each time she saw old Hagar, she resolved to solve the mystery, which she felt sure was connected with herself, though in what manner she could not guess. “But I will know,” she would say to herself when returning from a fruitless quizzing of old Hagar, whose hiding-place she had at last discovered; “I will know what ’tis about me. I shall never be quite happy till I do.”
Ah, Maggie, Maggie, be happy while you can, and leave the secret alone! It will come to you soon enough—aye, soon enough!
Very rapidly the winter passed away, and one morning early in March Maggie went down to the cottage with the news that Madam Conway was intending to start immediately for England, where she had business which would probably detain her until fall.
“Oh, won’t I have fun in her absence!” she cried. “I’ll visit every family in the neighborhood. Here she’s kept Theo and me caged up like two wild animals, and now I am going to see a little of the world. I don’t mean to study a bit, and instead of visiting you once a day I shall come at least three times.”
“Lord help me!” ejaculated old Hagar, who, much as she loved Maggie, was beginning to dread her daily visits.
“Why do you want help?” asked Maggie laughingly. “Are you tired of me, Hagar? Don’t you like me any more?”
“Like you, Maggie Miller!—like you!” repeated old Hagar, and in the tones of her voice there was a world of tenderness and love. “There is nothing on earth I love as I do you. But you worry me to death sometimes.”