“Did she send me no message?” asked Rose; and taking out the tiny note, Henry passed it to her, just as his aunt called to him from the house, whither he went, leaving her alone.
There were blinding tears in Rose’s eyes as she read the few lines, and involuntarily she pressed her lips to the paper which she knew had been touched by Maggie Miller’s hands.
“My sister—sister Maggie,” she repeated; and at the sound of that name her fast-beating heart grew still, for they seemed very sweet to her, those words “my sister,” thrilling her with a new and strange emotion, and awakening within her a germ of the deep, undying love she was yet to feel for her who had traced those words and asked to be her sister. “I will do right,” she thought; “I will conquer this foolish heart of mine, or break it in the struggle, and Henry Warner shall never know how sorely it was wrung.”
The resolution gave her strength, and, rising up, she too sought the house, where, retiring to her room, she penned a hasty note to Maggie, growing calmer with each word she wrote.
“I grant your request [she said] and take you for a sister well beloved. I had a half-sister once, they say, but she died when a little babe. I never looked upon her face, and connected with her birth there was too much of sorrow and humiliation for me to think much of her, save as of one who, under other circumstances, might have been dear to me. And yet as I grow older I often find myself wishing she had lived, for my father’s blood was in her veins. But I do not even know where her grave was made, for we only heard one winter morning, years ago, that she was dead with the mother who bore her. Forgive me, Maggie dear, for saying so much about that little child. Thoughts of you, who are to be my sister, make me think of her, who, had she lived, would have been a young lady now nearly your own age. So in the place of her, whom, knowing, I would have loved, I adopt you, sweet Maggie Miller, my sister and my friend. May Heaven’s choicest blessings rest on you forever, and no shadow come between you and the one you have chosen for your husband! To my partial eyes he is worthy of you, Maggie, royal in bearing and queenly in form though you be, and that you may be happy with him will be the daily prayer of
The letter was finished, and Rose gave it to her brother, who, after its perusal, kissed her, saying: “It is right, my darling. I will send it to-morrow with mine; and now for a ride. I will see what a little exercise can do for you. I do not like the color of your face.”