“Just my luck!” was Hagar’s mental comment, as she finished reading the letter and carried it to her mistress, who had always liked Hester, and who readily consented to give her a home, provided she put on no airs from having been for a time the wife of a reputed wealthy man. “Mustn’t put on airs!” muttered Hagar, as she left the room. “Just as if airs wasn’t for anybody but high bloods!” And with the canker-worm of envy at her heart she wrote to Hester, who came immediately; and Hagar—when she heard her tell the story of her wrongs, how her husband’s sister, indignant at his marriage with a sewing-girl, had removed from him the children, one a stepchild and one his own, and how of all his vast fortune there was not left for her a penny—experienced again the old bitterness of feeling, and murmured that fate should thus deal with her and hers.
With the next day’s mail there came to Madam Conway a letter bearing a foreign postmark, and bringing the sad news that her son-in-law had been lost in a storm while crossing the English Channel, and that her daughter Margaret, utterly crushed and heartbroken, would sail immediately for America, where she wished only to lay her weary head upon her mother’s bosom and die.
“So there is one person that has no respect for blood, and that is Death,” said old Hagar to her mistress, when she heard the news. “He has served us both alike, he has taken my son-in-law first and yours next.”
Frowning haughtily, Madam Conway bade her be silent, telling her at the same time to see that the rooms in the north part of the building were put in perfect order for Mrs. Miller, who would probably come in the next vessel. In sullen silence Hagar withdrew, and for several days worked half reluctantly in the “north rooms,” as Madam Conway termed a comparatively pleasant, airy suite of apartments, with a balcony above, which looked out upon the old mill-dam and the brook pouring over it.
“There’ll be big doings when my lady comes,” said Hagar one day to her daughter. “It’ll be Hagar here, and Hagar there, and Hagar everywhere, but I shan’t hurry myself. I’m getting too old to wait on a chit like her.”
“Don’t talk so, mother,” said Hester. “Margaret was always kind to me. She is not to blame for being rich, while I am poor.”
“But somebody’s to blame,” interrupted old Hagar. “You was always accounted the handsomest and cleverest of the two, and yet for all you’ll be nothing but a drudge to wait on her and the little girl.”
Hester only sighed in reply, while her thoughts went forward to the future and what it would probably bring her. Hester Warren and Margaret Conway had been children together, and in spite of the difference of their stations they had loved each other dearly; and when at last the weary traveler came, with her pale sad face and mourning garb, none gave her so heartfelt a welcome as Hester; and during the week when, from exhaustion and excitement, she was confined