But here Hilda could control herself no longer. “Mamma! mamma!” she cried. “How can you be so unkind, so cruel? Leave me—you and papa both? Why, I shall die! Of course I shall die, all alone in this great house. I thought you loved me!” and she burst into tears, half of anger, half of grief, and sobbed bitterly.
“Dear child!” said Mrs. Graham, smoothing the fair hair lovingly, “if you had heard me out, you would have seen that we had no idea of leaving you alone, or of leaving you in this house either. You are to stay with—”
“Not with Aunt Emily!” cried the girl, springing to her feet with flashing eyes. “Mamma, I would rather beg in the streets than stay with Aunt Emily. She is a detestable, ill-natured, selfish woman.”
“Hildegarde,” said Mrs. Graham gravely, “be silent!” There was a moment of absolute stillness, broken only by the ticking of the little crystal clock on the mantelpiece, and then Mrs. Graham continued: “I must ask you not to speak again, my daughter, until I have finished what I have to say; and even then, I trust you will keep silence until you are able to command yourself. You are to stay with my old nurse, Mrs. Hartley, at her farm near Glenfield. She is a very kind, good woman, and will take the best possible care of you. I went to the farm myself last week, and found it a lovely place, with every comfort, though no luxuries, save the great one of a free, healthy, natural life. There, my Hilda, we shall leave you, sadly indeed, and yet feeling that you are in good and loving hands. And I feel very sure,” she added in a lighter tone, “that by the time we return, you will be a rosy-cheeked country lass, strong and hearty, with no more thought of headaches, and no wrinkle in your forehead.” As she ceased speaking, Mrs. Graham drew the girl close to her, and kissed the white brow tenderly, murmuring: “God bless my darling daughter! If she knew how her mother’s heart aches at parting with her!” But Hilda did not know. She was too angry, too bewildered, too deeply hurt, to think of any one except herself. She felt that she could not trust herself to speak, and it was in silence, and without returning her mother’s caress, that she rose and sought her own room.
Mrs. Graham looked after her wistfully, tenderly, but made no effort to call her back. The tears trembled in her soft blue eyes, and her lip quivered as she turned to her work-table; but she said quietly to herself: “Solitude is a good medicine. The child will do well, and I know that I have chosen wisely for her.”
Bitter tears did Hildegarde shed as she flung herself face downward on her own blue sofa. Angry thoughts surged through her brain. Now she burned with resentment at the parents who could desert her,—their only child; now she melted into pity for herself, and wept more and more as she pictured the misery that lay before her. To be left alone—alone!—on a squalid, wretched farm, with a dirty old woman, a woman who had been a servant,—she, Hildegardis Graham, the idol of her parents, the queen of her “set” among the young people, the proudest and most exclusive girl in New York, as she had once (and not with displeasure) heard herself called!