“It can’t be helped,” muttered Hagar, and then, when Mrs. Conway asked an explanation of her conduct, she answered, “I was afraid you’d wake her up, and mercy knows I’ve had worry enough with both the brats.”
Not till then had Madam Conway observed how haggard and worn was Hagar’s face, and instead of reproving her for her boldness she said gently: “You have indeed been sorely tried! Shall I send up Bertha to relieve you!”
“No, no,” answered Hagar hurriedly, “I am better alone.”
The next moment Madam Conway was moving silently down the narrow hall, while Hagar on her knees was weeping passionately. One word of kindness had effected more than a thousand reproaches would have done; and wringing her hands she cried, “I will not do it; I cannot.”
Approaching the cradle, she was about to lift the child, when again Madam Conway was at the door. She had come, she said, to take the babe to Margaret, who seemed better this morning, and had asked to see it.
“Not now, not now. Wait till I put on her a handsomer dress, and I’ll bring her myself,” pleaded Hagar.
But Madam Conway saw no fault in the fine cambric wrapper, and taking the infant in her arms she walked away, while Hagar followed stealthily. Very lovingly the mother folded to her bosom the babe, calling it her fatherless one, and wetting its face with her tears, while through the half-closed door peered Hagar’s wild dark eyes—one moment lighting up with exultation as she muttered, “It’s my flesh, my blood, proud lady!” and the next growing dim with tears, as she thought of the evil she had done.
“I did not know she had so much hair,” said Mrs. Miller, parting the silken locks. “I think it will be like mine,” and she gave the child to her mother, while Hagar glided swiftly back to her room.
That afternoon the clergyman whose church Mrs. Conway usually attended, called to see Mrs. Miller, who suggested that both the children should receive the rite of baptism. Hagar was accordingly bidden to prepare them for the ceremony, and resolving to make one more effort to undo what she had done she dressed the child whom she had thought to wrong in its own clothes, and then anxiously awaited her mistress’ coming.
“Hagar Warren! What does this mean? Are you crazy!” sternly demanded Madam Conway, when the old nurse held up before her the child with the blue nose.
“No, not crazy yet; but I shall be, if you don’t take this one first,” answered Hagar.
More than once that day Madam Conway had heard the servants hint that Hagar’s grief had driven her insane; and now when she observed the unnatural brightness in her eyes, and saw what she had done, she too thought it possible that her mind was partially unsettled; so she said gently, but firmly: “This is no time for foolishness, Hagar. They are waiting for us in the sickroom; so make haste and change the baby’s dress.”