It was a long time since Hagar had breathed that prayer, but at Mrs. Miller’s request she commenced it, repeating it correctly until she came to the words, “Give us this day our daily bread”; then she hesitated, and bending forward said, “What comes next, Miss Margaret? Is it ’Lead us not into temptation?”
“Yes, yes,” whispered the half-unconscious lady. “’Lead us not into temptation,’ that’s it.” Then, as if there were around her a dim foreboding of the great wrong Hagar was to do, she took her old nurse’s hand between her own, and continued, “Say it often, Hagar, ‘Lead us not into temptation’; you have much need for that prayer.”
A moment more, and Margaret Miller slept, while beside her sat Hagar Warren, half shuddering, she knew not why, as she thought of her mistress’ words, which seemed to her so much like the spirit of prophecy.
“Why do I need that prayer more than anyone else?” she said at last. “I have never been tempted more than I could bear—never shall be tempted—and if I am, old Hagar Warren, bad as she is, can resist temptation without that prayer.”
Still, reason as she would, Hagar could not shake off the strange feeling, and as she sat half dozing in her chair, with the dim lamplight flickering over her dark face, she fancied that the October wind, sighing so mournfully through the locust trees beneath the window, and then dying away in the distance, bore upon its wing, “‘Lead us not into temptation.’ Hagar, you have much need to say that prayer.”
Aye, Hagar Warren—much need, much need!
The wintry winds were blowing cold and chill around the old stone house, and the deep untrodden snow lay highly piled upon the ground. For many days the gray, leaden clouds had frowned gloomily down upon the earth below, covering it with a thick veil of white. But the storm was over now; with the setting sun it had gone to rest, and the pale moonlight stole softly into the silent chamber, where Madam Conway bent anxiously down to see if but the faintest breath came from the parted lips of her only daughter. There had been born to her that night another grandchild—a little, helpless girl, which now in an adjoining room was Hagar’s special care; and Hagar, sitting there with the wee creature upon her lap, and the dread fear at her heart that her young mistress might die, forgot for once to repine at her lot, and did cheerfully whatever was required of her to do.