She was not sure that she could remain. Lady Betty was alone, as Giles and Etta were dining at the Maberleys’. She had been asked, and had refused; but Etta had taken in her work, as Mrs. Maberley had wanted them to go early. Perhaps she had better not stay, as it would not be kind to Lady Betty. But I soon overruled this objection. I told Miss Hamilton that I saw Lady Betty frequently, but that she herself had never called since her first visit, and that now I could not let her go.
I think she wanted me to press her; she was arguing against her own wishes, it was easy to see that. By and by she asked me in a low voice if I were sure to be alone, or if I expected any visitors; and when I had assured her decidedly that no one but Uncle Max ever came to see me, and that I knew he was engaged this evening, her last scruple seemed to vanish, and she settled herself quite comfortably for a chat. We talked for a little while on indifferent subjects. She told me about the neighbourhood and the people who lived in the large houses by the church, and about her brother’s work in the parish, and how if rich people sent for him he always kept them waiting while he went to the poor ones.
’Giles calls himself the poor people’s doctor: he attends them for nothing. He cannot always refuse rich people if they will have him, but he generally sends them to Dr. Ramsbotham. You see, he never takes money for his services, and as people know this, they are ashamed to send for him; and yet they want him because he is so clever. Giles is so fond of his profession; he is always regretting that he had a fortune left him, for he says it would have been far pleasanter to make one. Giles never did care for money; he is ready to fling it away to any one who asks him.’
Miss Hamilton kept up this desultory talk all tea-time. She spoke with great animation about her brother, and I could hardly believe it was the same girl who had sat so silently at the head of the table that evening at Gladwyn. The sad abstracted look had left her face. It seemed as though for a little while she was determined to forget her troubles.
When Mrs. Barton had taken away the tea-tray, she asked me, with the same wistful look in her eyes, to sing to her if I were not tired, and I complied at once.
I sang for nearly half an hour, and then I returned to the fireside. I saw that Miss Hamilton put up her hand to shield her face from the light; but I took no notice, and after a little while she began to talk.
’I never heard any singing like yours, Miss Garston; it is a great gift. There is something different in your voice from any one else’s: it seems to touch one’s heart.’
’If my singing always makes you sad, Miss Hamilton, it is a very dubious gift.’
‘Ah, but it is a pleasant sadness,’ she replied quickly. ’I feel as though some kind friend were sympathising with me when you sing: it tells me too that, like myself, you have known trouble.’