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Maggie Miller by Mary J. Holmes

Part 5 out of 5

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"See that everything is in order for our return," she said to Theo,
who promised compliance, and then, herself bewildered, listened to the
carriage as it rolled away; it seemed so like a dream that the woman
who three hours before could scarcely speak aloud had now started for
a ride of many miles in the damp night air! But love can accomplish
miracles, and it made the eccentric lady strong, buoying up her
spirits, and prompting her to cheer on the coachman, until just as the
day grew rosy in the east Leominster appeared in view. The house was
found, the carriage steps let down, and then with a slight trembling
in her limbs Madam Conway alighted and walked up the graveled path,
casting eager, searching glances around and commenting as follows:

"Everything is in good taste; they must be somebody, these Warners.
I'm glad it is no worse." And with each new indication of refinement
in Margaret's relatives the disgrace seemed less and less in the mind
of the proud Englishwoman.

The ringing of the bell brought down Janet, who, with an inquisitive
look at the satin hood and bundle of shawls, ushered the stranger
into the parlor, and then went for her mistress. Taking the card her
servant brought, Mrs. Warner read with some little trepidation the
name "Madam Conway, Hillsdale." From what she had heard, she was not
prepossessed in the lady's favor; but, curious to know why she was
there at this early hour, she hastened the making of her toilet, and
went down to the parlor, where Madam Conway sat, coiled in one corner
of the sofa, which she had satisfied herself was covered with real
brocatel, as were also the chairs within the room. The tables of
rosewood and marble, and the expensive curtains had none of them
escaped her notice, and in a mood which more common furniture would
never have produced Madam Conway arose to meet Mrs. Warner, who
received her politely, and then waited to hear her errand.

It was told in a few words. She had come for Margaret--Margaret, whom
she had loved for eighteen years, and could not now cast off, even
though she were not of the Conway and Davenport extraction.

"I can easily understand how painful must have been the knowledge that
Maggie was not your own," returned Mrs. Warner, "for she is a girl
of whom anyone might be proud; but you are laboring under a
mistake--Henry is not her brother;" and then very briefly she
explained the matter to Madam Conway, who, having heard so much, was
now surprised at nothing, and who felt, it may be, a little gratified
in knowing that Henry was, after all, nothing to Margaret, save the
husband of her sister. But a terrible disappointment awaited her.
Margaret was not there; and so loud were her lamentations that some
time elapsed ere Mrs. Warner could make her listen while she explained
that Mr. Carrollton had found Maggie the day previous at the Falls,
that they were probably in Albany now, and would reach Hillsdale that
very day; such at least was the import of the telegram which Mrs.
Warner had received the evening before. "They wish to surprise you,
undoubtedly," she said, "and consequently have not telegraphed to

This seemed probable, and forgetting her weariness Madam Conway
resolved upon leaving John to drive home at his leisure, while she
took the Leominster cars, which reached Worcester in time for the
upward train. This matter adjusted, she tried to be quiet; but her
excitement increased each moment, and when at last breakfast was
served she did but little justice to the tempting viands which her
hostess set before her. Margaret's chamber was visited next, and very
lovingly she patted and smoothed the downy pillows, for the sake of
the bright head which had rested there, while to herself she whispered
abstractedly, "Yes, yes," though to what she was giving her assent
she could not tell. She only knew that she was very happy, and very
impatient to be gone, and when at last she did go it seemed to her an
age ere Worcester was reached.

Resolutely turning her head away, lest she should see the scene of her
disaster when last in that city, she walked up and down the ladies'
room, her satin hood and heavy broche shawl, on that warm July
morning, attracting much attention. But little did she care. Margaret
was the burden of her thoughts, and the appearance of Mrs. Douglas
herself would scarcely have disturbed her. Much less, then, did the
presence of a queerly dressed young girl, who, entering the car with
her, occupied from necessity the same seat, feeling herself a little
annoyed at being thus obliged to sit so near one whom she mentally
pronounced "mighty unsociable," for not once did Madam Conway turn her
face that way, so intent was she upon watching their apparent speed,
and counting the number of miles they had come.

When Charlton was reached, however, she did observe the women in a
shaker, who, with a pail of huckleberries on her arm, was evidently
waiting for someone.

An audible groan from the depths of the satin hood, as Betsy Jane
passed out and the cars passed on, showed plainly that the mother and
sister of George Douglas were recognized, particularly as the former
wore the red and yellow calico, which, having been used as a "dress
up" the summer before, now did its owner service as a garment of
everyday wear. But not long did Madam Conway suffer her mind to dwell
upon matters so trivial. Hillsdale was not far away, and she came each
moment nearer. Two more stations were reached--the haunted swamp was
passed--Chicopee River was in sight--the bridge appeared in view--the
whistle sounded, and she was there.

Half an hour later, and Theo, looking from her window, started in
surprise as she saw the village omnibus drive up to their door.

"'Tis grandmother!" she cried, and running to meet her she asked why
she had returned so soon.

"They are coming at noon," answered the excited woman--then, hurrying
into the house and throwing off her hood, she continued: "He's found
her at the Falls; they are between here and Albany now; tell
everybody to hurry as fast as they can; tell Hannah to make a
chicken pie--Maggie was fond of that; and turkey--tell her to kill a
turkey--it's Maggie's favorite dish--and ice cream, too! I wish I had
some this minute," and she wiped the perspiration from her burning

No more hysterics now; no more lonesome nights; no more thoughts of
death--for Margaret was coming home--the best loved of them all.
Joyfully the servants told to each other the glad news, disbelieving
entirely the report fast gaining circulation that the queenly Maggie
was lowly born--a grandchild of old Hagar. Up and down the stairs
Madam Conway ran, flitting from room to room, and tarrying longest
in that of Margaret, where the sunlight came in softly through the
half-closed blinds and the fair summer blossoms smiled a welcome for
the expected one.

Suddenly the noontide stillness was broken by a sound, deafening and
shrill on ordinary occasions, but falling now like music on Madam
Conway's ear, for by that sound she knew that Margaret was near.
Wearily went the half-hour by, and then, from the head of the tower
stairs, Theo cried out, "She is coming!" while the grandmother buried
her face in the pillows of the lounge, and asked to be alone when she
took back to her bosom the child which was not hers.

Earnestly, as if to read the inmost soul, each looked into the other's
eyes--Margaret and Theo--and while the voice of the latter was choked
with tears she wound her arms around the graceful neck, which bent to
the caress, and whispered low, "You are my sister still."

Against the vine-wreathed balustrade a fairy form was leaning, holding
back her breath lest she should break the deep silence of that
meeting. In her bosom there was no pang of fear lest Theo should be
loved the best; and, even had there been, it could not surely have
remained, for stretching out her arm Margaret drew Rose to her side,
and placing her hand in that of Theo said, "You are both my sisters
now," while Arthur Carrollton, bending down, kissed the lips of the
three, saying as he did so, "Thus do I acknowledge your relationship
to me."

"Why don't she come?" the waiting Madam Conway sighed, just as Theo,
pointing to the open door, bade Margaret go in.

There was a blur before the lady's eyes--a buzzing in her ears--and
the footfall she had listened for so long was now unheard as it
came slowly to her side. But the light touch upon her arm--the
well-remembered voice within her ear, calling her "Madam Conway,"
sent through her an electric thrill, and starting up she caught the
wanderer in her arms, crying imploringly, "Not that name, Maggie
darling; call me grandma, as you used to do--call me grandma still,"
and smoothing back the long black tresses, she looked to see if grief
had left its impress upon her fair young face. It was paler now, and
thinner too, than it was wont to be, and while her tears fell fast
upon it, Madam Conway whispered: "You have suffered much, my child,
and so have I. Why did you go away? Say, Margaret, why did you leave
me all alone?"

"To learn how much you loved me," answered Margaret, to whom this
moment brought happiness second only to that which she had felt when
on the river bank she sat with Arthur Carrollton, and heard him tell
how much she had been mourned--how lonesome was the house without
her--and how sad were all their hearts. But that was over now--no more
sadness, no more tears; the lost one had returned; Margaret was home
again--home in the hearts of all, and nothing could dislodge her--not
even the story of her birth, which Arthur Carrollton, spurning at
further deception, told to the listening servants, who, having always
respected old Hagar for her position in the household as well as for
her education, so superior to their own, set up a deafening shout,
first for "Hagar's grandchild," and next for "Miss Margaret forever!"



By Theo's request old Hagar had been taken home the day before,
yielding submissively, for her frenzied mood was over--her strength
was gone--her life was nearly spent--and Hagar did not wish to live.
That for which she had sinned had been accomplished, and, though it
had cost her days and nights of anguish, she was satisfied at last.
Margaret was coming home again--would be a lady still--the bride of
Arthur Carrollton, for George Douglas had told her so, and she was
willing now to die, but not until she had seen her once again--had
looked into the beautiful face of which she had been so proud.

Not to-day, however, does she expect her; and just as the sun was
setting, the sun which shines on Margaret at home, she falls away to
sleep. It was at this hour that Margaret was wont to visit her, and
now, as the treetops grew red in the day's departing glory, a graceful
form came down the woodland path, where for many weeks the grass
has not been crushed beneath her feet. They saw her as she left the
house,--Madam Conway, Theo, all,--but none asked whither she was
going. They knew, and one who loved her best of all followed slowly
after, waiting in the woods until that interview should end.

Hagar lay calmly sleeping. The servant was as usual away, and there
was no eye watching Margaret as with burning cheeks and beating heart
she crossed the threshold of the door, pausing not, faltering not,
until the bed was reached--the bed where Hagar lay, her crippled hands
folded meekly upon her breast, her white hair shading a whiter face,
and a look about her half-shut mouth as if the thin, pale lips had
been much used of late to breathe the word "Forgive." Maggie had
never seen her thus before, and the worn-out, aged face had something
touching in its sad expression, and something startling too, bidding
her hasten, if to that woman she would speak.

"Hagar," she essayed to say, but the word died on her lips, for
standing there alone, with the daylight fading from the earth, and the
lifelight fading from the form before her, it seemed not meet that she
should thus address the sleeper. There was a name, however, by which
she called another--a name of love, and it would make the withered
heart of Hagar Warren bound and beat and throb with untold joy.
And Margaret said that name at last, whispering it first softly to
herself; then, bending down so that her breath stirred the snow-white
hair, she repeated it aloud, starting involuntarily as the rude walls
echoed back the name "Grandmother!"

"Grandmother!" Through the senses locked in sleep it penetrated, and
the dim eyes, once so fiery and black, grew large and bright again as
Hagar Warren woke.

Was it a delusion, that beauteous form which met her view, that soft
hand on her brow, or was it Maggie Miller?

"Grandmother," the low voice said again, "I am Maggie--Hester's child.
Can you see me? Do you know that I am here?"

Yes, through the films of age, through the films of coming death, and
through the gathering darkness, old Hagar saw and knew, and with a
scream of joy her shrunken arms wound themselves convulsively around
the maiden's neck, drawing her nearer, and nearer still, until the
shriveled lips touched the cheek of her who did not turn away, but
returned that kiss of love.

"Say it again, say that word once more," and the arms closed tighter
round the form of Margaret, who breathed it yet again, while the
childish woman sobbed aloud, "It is sweeter than the angels' song to
hear you call me so."

She did not ask her when she came--she did not ask her where she had
been; but Maggie told her all, sitting by her side with the poor hands
clasped in her own; then, as the twilight shadows deepened in the
room, she struck a light, and coming nearer to Hagar, said, "Am I much
like my mother?"

"Yes, yes, only more winsome," was the answer, and the half-blind eyes
looked proudly at the beautiful girl bending over the humble pillow.

"Do you know that?" Maggie asked, holding to view the ambrotype of
Hester Hamilton.

For an instant Hagar wavered, then hugging the picture to her bosom,
she laughed and cried together, whispering as she did so, "My little
girl, my Hester, my baby that I used to sing to sleep in our home away
over the sea."

Hagar's mind was wandering amid the scenes of bygone years, but it
soon came back again to the present time, and she asked of Margaret
whence that picture came. In a few words Maggie told her, and then for
a time there was silence, which was broken at last by Hagar's voice,
weaker now than when she spoke before.

"Maggie," she said, "what of this Arthur Carrollton? Will he make you
his bride?"

"He has so promised," answered Maggie; and Hagar continued: "He will
take you to England, and you will be a lady, sure. Margaret, listen to
me. 'Tis the last time we shall ever talk together, you and I, and
I am glad that it is so. I have greatly sinned, but I have been
forgiven, and I am willing now to die. Everything I wished for has
come to pass, even the hearing you call me by that blessed name; but,
Maggie, when to-morrow they say that I am dead--when you come down to
look upon me lying here asleep, you needn't call me 'Grandmother,' you
may say 'poor Hagar!' with the rest; and, Maggie, is it too much
to ask that your own hands will arrange my hair, fix my cap, and
straighten my poor old crooked limbs for the coffin? And if I should
look decent, will you, when nobody sees you do it--Madam Conway,
Arthur Carrollton, nobody who is proud--will you, Maggie, kiss me once
for the sake of what I've suffered that you might be what you are?"

"Yes, yes, I will," was Maggie's answer, her tears falling fast, and
a fear creeping into her heart, as by the dim candlelight she saw a
nameless shadow settling down on Hagar's face.

The servant entered at this moment, and, glancing at old Hagar, sunk
into a chair, for she knew that shadow was death.

"Maggie," and the voice was now a whisper, "I wish I could once more
see this Mr. Carrollton. 'Tis the nature of his kin to be sometimes
overbearing, and though I am only old Hagar Warren he might heed my
dying words, and be more thoughtful of your happiness. Do you think
that he would come?"

Ere Maggie had time to answer there was a step upon the floor, and
Arthur Carrollton stood at her side. He had waited for her long, and
growing at last impatient had stolen to the open door, and when the
dying woman asked for him he had trampled down his pride and entered
the humble room. Winding his arm round Margaret, who trembled
violently, he said: "Hagar, I am here. Have you aught to say to me?"

Quickly the glazed eyes turned towards him, and the clammy hand was
timidly extended. He took it unhesitatingly, while the pale lips
murmured faintly, "Maggie's too." Then, holding both between her own,
old Hagar said solemnly, "Young man, as you hope for heaven, deal
kindly with my child," and Arthur Carrollton answered her aloud, "As I
hope for heaven, I will," while Margaret fell upon her knees and wept.
Raising herself in bed, Hagar laid her hands upon the head of the
kneeling girl, breathing over her a whispered blessing; then the hands
pressed heavily, the fingers clung with a loving grasp, as it were, to
the bands of shining hair--the thin lips ceased to move--the head fell
back upon the pillow, motionless and still, and Arthur Carrollton,
leading Margaret away, gently told her that Hagar was dead.

* * * * *

Carefully, tenderly, as if she had been a wounded dove, did the whole
household demean themselves towards Margaret, seeing that everything
needful was done, but mentioning never in her presence the name of the
dead. And Margaret's position was a trying one, for though Hagar had
been her grandmother she had never regarded her as such, and she could
not now affect a grief she did not feel. Still, from her earliest
childhood she had loved the strange old woman, and she mourned for
her now, as friend mourneth for friend, when there is no tie of blood
between them.

Her promise, too, was kept, and with her own hands she smoothed the
snow-white hair, tied on the muslin cap, folded the stiffened arms,
and then, unmindful who was looking on, kissed twice the placid face,
which seemed to smile on her in death.

* * * * *

By the side of Hester Hamilton they made another grave, and, with
Arthur Carrollton and Rose standing at either side, Margaret looked on
while the weary and worn was laid to rest; then slowly retraced her
steps, walking now with Madam Conway, for Arthur Carrollton and Rose
had lingered at the grave, talking together of a plan which had
presented itself to the minds of both as they stood by the humble
stone which told where Margaret's mother slept. To Margaret, however,
they said not a word, nor yet to Madam Conway, though they both united
in urging the two ladies to accompany Theo to Worcester for a few

"Mrs. Warner will help me keep house," Mr. Carrollton said, advancing
the while so many good reasons why Margaret at least should go, that
she finally consented, and went down to Worcester, together with Madam
Conway, George Douglas, Theo, and Henry, the latter of whom seemed
quite as forlorn as did she herself, for Rose was left behind, and
without her he was nothing.

Madam Conway had been very gracious to him; his family were good, and
when as they passed the Charlton depot thoughts of the leghorn bonnet
and blue umbrella intruded themselves upon her, she half wished that
Henry had broken his leg in Theo's behalf, and so saved her from
bearing the name of Douglas.

The week went by, passing rapidly as all weeks will, and Margaret was
again at home. Rose was there still, and just as the sun was setting
she took her sister's hand, and led her out into the open air toward
the resting-place of the dead, where a change had been wrought; and
Margaret, leaning over the iron gate, comprehended at once the feeling
which had prompted Mr. Carrollton and Rose to desire her absence for
a time. The humble stone was gone, and in its place there stood a
handsome monument, less imposing and less expensive than that of Mrs.
Miller, it is true, but still chaste and elegant, bearing upon it
simply the names of "Hester Hamilton, and her mother Hagar Warren,"
with the years of their death. The little grave, too, where for many
years Maggie herself had been supposed to sleep, was not beneath the
pine tree now; that mound was leveled down, and another had been made,
just where the grass was growing rank and green beneath the shadow of
the taller stone, and there side by side they lay at last together,
the mother and her infant child.

"It was kind in you to do this," Margaret said, and then, with her
arm round Rose's waist, she spoke of the coming time when the sun of
another hemisphere would be shining down upon her, saying she should
think often of that hour, that spot, and that sister, who answered:
"Every year when the spring rains fall I shall come to see that the
grave has been well kept, for you know that she was my mother, too,"
and she pointed to the name of "Hester," deep cut in the polished

"Not yours, Rose, but mine," said Maggie. "My mother she was, and as
such I will cherish her memory." Then, with her arm still around her
sister's waist, she walked slowly back to the house.

A little later, and while Arthur Carrollton, with Maggie at his side,
was talking to her of something which made the blushes burn on her
still pale cheeks, Madam Conway herself walked out to witness the
improvements, lingering longest at the little grave, and saying to
herself, "It was very thoughtful in Arthur, very, to do what I
should have done myself ere this had I not been afraid of Margaret's

Then, turning to the new monument, she admired its chaste beauty, but
hardly knew whether she was pleased to have it there or not.

"It's very handsome," she said, leaving the yard, and walking backward
to observe the effect. "And it adds much to the looks of the place.
There is no question about that. It is perfectly proper, too, or Mr.
Carrollton would never have put it here, for he knows what is right,
of course," and the still doubtful lady turned away, saying as she
did so, "On the whole, I think I am glad that Hester has a handsome
monument, and I know I am glad that Mrs. Miller's is a little the
taller of the two!"



Years hence, if the cable resting far down in the mermaids' home
shall prove a bond of perfect peace between the mother and her child,
thousands will recall the bright summer morning when through the
caverns of the mighty deep the first electric message came, thrilling
the nation's heart, quickening the nation's pulse, and, with the music
of the deep-toned bell and noise of the cannon's roar, proclaiming to
the listening multitude that the isle beyond the sea, and the lands
which to the westward lie, were bound together, shore to shore, by a
strange, mysterious tie. And two there are who, in their happy home,
will oft look back upon that day, that 18th day of August, which gave
to one of Britain's sons as fair and beautiful a bride as e'er went
forth from the New England hills to dwell beneath a foreign sky.

They had not intended to be married so soon, for Margaret would wait
a little longer; but an unexpected and urgent summons home made it
necessary for Mr. Carrollton to go, and so by chance the bridal day
was fixed for the 18th. None save the family were present, and Madam
Conway's tears fell fast as the words were spoken which made them one,
for by those words she knew that she and Margaret must part. But not
forever; for when the next year's autumn leaves shall fall the old
house by the mill will again be without a mistress, while in a
handsome country-seat beyond the sea Madam Conway will demean herself
right proudly, as becometh the grandmother of Mrs. Arthur Carrollton.
Theo, too, and Rose will both be there, for their husbands have so
promised, and when the Christmas fires are kindled on the hearth and
the ancient pictures on the wall take a richer tinge from the ruddy
light, there will be a happy group assembled within the Carrollton
halls; and Margaret, the happiest of them all, will then almost
forget that ever in the Hillsdale woods, sitting at Hagar's feet, she
listened with a breaking heart to the story of her birth.

But not the thoughts of a joyous future could dissipate entirely the
sadness of that bridal, for Margaret was well beloved, and the billows
which would roll ere long between her and her childhood's home
stretched many, many miles away. Still they tried to be cheerful, and
Henry Warner's merry jokes had called forth more than one gay laugh,
when the peal of bells and the roll of drums arrested their attention;
while the servants, who had learned the cause of the rejoicing, struck
up "God Save the Queen," and from an adjoining field a rival choir
sent back the stirring note of "Hail, Columbia, Happy Land." Mrs.
Jeffrey, too, was busy. In secret she had labored at the rent made
by her foot in the flag of bygone days, and now, perspiring at every
pore, she dragged it up the tower stairs, planting it herself upon the
housetop, where side by side with the royal banner it waved in the
summer breeze. And this she did, not because she cared aught for the
cable, in which she "didn't believe" and declared "would never work,"
but because she would celebrate Margaret's wedding-day, and so make
some amends for her interference when once before the "Stars and
Stripes" had floated above the old stone house.

And thus it was, amid smiles and tears, amid bells and drums, and
waving flags and merry song, amid noisy shout and booming guns, that
double bridal day was kept; and when the sun went down it left a glory
on the western clouds, as if they, too, had donned their best attire
in honor of the union.

* * * * *

It is moonlight on the land--glorious, beautiful moonlight. On Hagar's
peaceful grave it falls, and glancing from the polished stone shines
across the fields upon the old stone house, where all is cheerless
now, and still. No life--no sound--no bounding step--no gleeful song.
All is silent, all is sad. The light of the household has departed;
it went with the hour when first to each other the lonesome servants
said, "Margaret is gone."

Yes, she is gone, and all through the darkened rooms there is found no
trace of her, but away to the eastward the moonlight falls upon the
sea, where a noble vessel rides. With sails unfurled to the evening
breeze, it speeds away--away from the loved hearts on the shore which
after that bark, and its precious freight, have sent many a throb of
love. Upon the deck of that gallant ship there stands a beautiful
bride, looking across the water with straining eye, and smiling
through her tears on him who wipes those tears away, and whispers in
her ear, "I will be more to you, my wife, than they have ever been."

So, with the love-light shining on her heart, and the moonlight
shining on the wave, we bid adieu to one who bears no more the name of
Maggie Miller.

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