I do not know how the majority of people feel when they sing, but with me the love of music was almost a passion. I could forget my audience in a moment, and would be scarcely aware if the room were empty or crowded.
For example, on this evening I had no idea that the gentlemen had entered the room, and the first intimation of the fact was conveyed to me by hearing a ‘Bravo!’ uttered by Mr. Hamilton under his breath.
‘But you must not leave off,’ he went on, quite earnestly. ’I want you to treat us as you treat poor Phoebe Locke, and sing one song after another until you are tired.’
I was about to refuse this request very civilly but decidedly, for I had no notion of obeying such an arbitrary command, when Miss Hamilton touched my arm.
’Oh, do please go on singing as Giles says: it is such a pleasure to hear you.’ And after this I could no longer refuse.
So I sang one song after another, chiefly from memory, and sometimes I could hear a soft clapping of hands, and sometimes there was breathless silence, and a curious feeling came over me as I sang. I thought that the only person to whom I was singing was Miss Hamilton, and that I was pleading with her to tell me the reason of her sadness, and why there was such a weary, hopeless look in her eyes, when the world was so young with her and the God-given gift of beauty was hers.
I was singing as though she and I were alone in the room, when Max suddenly whispered in my ear, ‘That will do, Ursula,’ and as soon as the verse concluded I left off. But before I could rise Miss Darrell was beside us.
’Oh, thank you so much, Miss Garston; you are very amiable to sing so long. Giles was certainly loud in your praises, but I was hardly prepared for such a treat. Why, Gladys dear, have you been crying? What an impressionable child you are! Miss Garston has not contrived to draw tears from my eyes.’
But, without making any reply, Miss Hamilton quietly left the room. Were her eyes wet, I wonder? Was that why Max stopped me? Did he want to shield her from her cousin’s sharp scrutiny? If so, he failed.
‘It is such a pity Gladys is so foolishly sensitive,’ she went on, addressing Uncle Max: ’natures of this sort are quite unfit for the stern duties of life. I am quite uneasy about her sometimes, am I not, Giles? Her spirits are so uneven, and she has so little strength. Parochial work nearly killed her, Mr. Cunliffe. You said yourself how ill she looked in the summer.’
‘True; but I never thought the work hurt her,’ replied Max, rather bluntly. ’I think it was a mistake for Miss Hamilton to give up all her duties; occupation is good for every one.’
‘That is my opinion,’ observed Mr. Hamilton. ’Etta is always making a fuss about Gladys’s health, but I tell her there is not the least reason for alarm; many people not otherwise delicate take cold easily. It is true I advised her to give up evening service for a few weeks until she got stronger.’