‘It was a very injudicious proceeding,’ went on Miss Darrell smoothly. ’Gladys was to blame, of course; but still, if you remember, I told you how delicate she was, and how we dreaded night air for her: young people are so careless of their health, but of course, as Giles said, we thought she would be safe with you. You see, Giles looks upon you in the character of nurse, Miss Garston, and forgets you are young too. “Depend upon it, they have forgotten the time,” I said to him: “when two girls are chattering their secrets to each other, they are not likely to remember anything so sublunary.” You should have seen Giles’s expression of lordly disgust when I said that.’
‘I should rather have heard Mr. Hamilton’s answer.’
‘Don’t be too sure of that,’ returned Miss Darrell, in a mocking voice that somehow recalled my dream. ’I am afraid it would not please you. Giles is no flatterer. He said he thought you would have been far too sensible for that sort of nonsense, but that one never knew, and that it was not only young and pretty girls like Gladys who could be romantic, and for all your staid looks you were not Methuselah: rather a dubious speech, Miss Garston.’
‘True!’ far too dubious to be entirely palatable to my feminine pride; but I was careful not to hint this to Miss Darrell, and she went on in the same light jesting way.
’It is terribly hard to satisfy Giles, he is so critical; he sets impossible standards for people, and then sneers if they do not reach them. He had conceived rather a high opinion of you, Miss Garston. He told me one day that he would be glad for you to be intimate with his sisters, as they would only learn good from you, and that he hoped that I would encourage your visits. I trust that he has not changed his opinion since then; but Giles is so odd when people disappoint him. I said last night that we would invite you for to-morrow, and then you and Gladys could finish your talk; but he was as cross as possible, and begged that I would invite no one for Thursday, as he was very busy, and Gladys must find another opportunity for her talk. There, how I am chattering on!—and perhaps I ought not to have said all that; but I thought you would wonder at our want of neighbourliness, and of course we cannot expect you to understand Giles’s odd temper: it is a great pity he has got this idea in his head.’
‘What idea, Miss Darrell?’
’Dear, dear, how sharp you are! how you take me up! Of course it is only Giles’s ill temper: he cannot really think you wanting in ballast.’
‘Oh, I understand now. Please go on.’
‘But I have no more to say,’ rather bewildered by my abruptness. ’Of course we shall see you soon, when all this has blown over. If you like, I will tell Giles I have seen you.’
’Please tell Mr. Hamilton nothing. I will speak to him myself. Good-night, Miss Darrell; I am rather cold and tired after my day’s work. I do not in the least expect that Miss Hamilton has taken any harm.’ And I made my escape. I do not know what Miss Darrell thought of me, but she walked on rather thoughtfully; as for me, I felt tingling all over with irritation. If Mr. Hamilton had dared to imply these things of me, I should hardly be able to keep my promise to Uncle Max, for I would certainly decline to visit at Gladwyn.