There was silence in the rooms below—silence in the chambers above,—silence everywhere,—for the sick woman seemed fast nearing the deep, dark river whose waters move onward, but never return.
Almost a week went by, and then, in a room far more humble than where Margaret Miller lay, another immortal being was given to the world; and, with a softened light in her keen black eyes, old Hagar told to her stately mistress, when she met her on the stair, that she too was a grandmother.
“You must not on that account neglect Margaret’s child,” was Madam Conway’s answer, as with a wave of her hand she passed on; and this was all she said—not a word of sympathy or congratulation for the peculiar old woman whose heart, so long benumbed, had been roused to a better state of feeling, and who in the first joy of her newborn happiness had hurried to her mistress, fancying for the moment that she was almost her equal.
“Don’t neglect Margaret’s child for that!” How the words rang in her ears as she fled up the narrow stairs and through the dark hall, till the low room was reached where lay the babe for whom Margaret’s child was not to be neglected. All the old bitterness had returned, and as hour after hour went by, and Madam Conway came not near, while the physician and the servants looked in for a moment only and then hurried away to the other sickroom, where all their services were kept in requisition, she muttered: “Little would they care if Hester died upon my hands. And she will die too,” she continued, as by the fading daylight she saw the pallor deepen on her daughter’s face.
And Hagar was right, for Hester’s sands were nearer run than those of Mrs. Miller. The utmost care might not, perhaps, have saved her; but the matter was not tested; and when the long clock at the head of the stairs struck the hour of midnight she murmured: “It is getting dark here, mother—so dark—and I am growing cold. Can it be death?”
“Yes, Hester, ’tis death,” answered Hagar, and her voice was unnaturally calm as she laid her hand on the clammy brow of her daughter.
An hour later, and Madam Conway, who sat dozing in the parlor below, ready for any summons which might come from Margaret’s room, was roused by the touch of a cold, hard hand, and Hagar Warren stood before her.
“Come,” she said, “come with me;” and, thinking only of Margaret, Madam Conway arose to follow her. “Not there—but this way,” said Hagar, as her mistress turned towards Mrs. Miller’s door, and grasping firmly the lady’s arm she led to the room where Hester lay dead, with her young baby clasped lovingly to her bosom. “Look at her—and pity me now, if you never did before. She was all I had in the world to love,” said Hagar passionately.