‘Why do you not try to make things a little clearer?’ I asked. ’Could you not say a word to him as we walk home? Uncle Max is so good that I cannot bear him to be vexed about anything, and I know he is disappointed that you will not work in the school.’
‘Yes, I know; but you do not understand,’ she returned gently. ’I should like to speak to him, if I dared, but I think my courage will fail; it is not so easy as you think.’ And then as we went downstairs she took my arm, and I could feel that her hand was very cold. ’I wish he had not asked you to come: it shows he is hurt with me; but all the same I should have asked you myself.’
Uncle Max took up his felt hat directly he saw us, and followed us silently into the entry; he did not speak as we went down the little garden together; and as we turned into the road leading to the vicarage it was Miss Hamilton who spoke first. She was still holding my arm, perhaps that gave her courage, and she looked across at Max, who was walking on my other side.
’Mr. Cunliffe, I am so sorry you were hurt with me the other night, when Etta spoke about the schools. I am not giving up work for my own pleasure; I loved it far too much; but there are reasons,’
I heard Max give a quick, impatient sigh in the darkness.
’So you always say, Miss Hamilton; you remember we have talked of this before. I have thought it my duty more than once to remonstrate with you about giving up your work, but one seems to talk in the dark; somehow you have never given me any very definite reasons,—headaches,—well, as though I did not know you well enough to be sure you are the last person to think of ailments.’
’Yes, but one’s friends are over-careful; but still you are right; it is not only that. Mr. Cunliffe, I wish you would believe that I have good and sufficient reasons for what I do, even if I cannot explain them. It makes one unhappy to be misunderstood by one’s clergyman, and,’ hesitating a moment, ‘and one’s friends,’
‘Friends are not left so completely in the dark,’ was the pointed answer. ’It is no use, Miss Hamilton. I find it impossible to understand you. I have no right to be hurt. No, of course not, no right at all,’—and here Max laughed unsteadily,—’but still, as a clergyman, I thought it could not be wrong to remonstrate when my best worker deserted her post.’
There was no response to this, only Miss Hamilton’s hand lay a little heavily on my arm, as though she were tired. I though it best to be silent. No word of mine was needed. I could tell from Max’s voice and manner how bitterly he was hurt.
But when he next spoke it was on a different subject.
’I must beg your pardon, Miss Hamilton, for having wronged you in my thoughts about something else. I find your brother has forbidden you to attend evening service for the present. And no doubt he is right; but your cousin gave me to understand that you stayed away for a very different reason.’