’Miss Hamilton was not at all feverish, I assure you. My visit has done her no harm.’ And I turned to Lady Betty, who stood on tiptoe to kiss me and breathed a ‘thank you’ into my ear; but Miss Darrell could not forbear from a parting fling as she bade me good-night.
‘We shall wait supper for you, Giles,’ she said rather pointedly; but Mr. Hamilton took no notice; he only bade me be careful, as it was rather slippery by the gate, and then he began telling me about the sermon, and, strangely enough, he endorsed my opinion of Max.
’I tell him he must have a change after Christmas; he looks knocked up, and a trifle thin. It will not hurt Tudor to work a little harder; you may tell Cunliffe I say so. Halloo! I think you had better take my arm, Miss Garston; it is confoundedly dark and slippery.’ But I declined this, as I was tolerably sure-footed.
Mr. Hamilton seemed in excellent spirits, and talked well and with great animation, as though he were bent on amusing me; he was a clever man, and had a store of useful information which he did not always care to produce. I never heard him talk better than on this occasion: there were flashes of wit and brilliancy that surprised me: I was almost sorry when I reached the cottage.
‘Good-night, Miss Garston, and thank you again for your deed of charity,’ he said quite heartily, and as though he meant it. Really, I never liked Mr. Hamilton so much before; but then he had never shown himself so genial. I saw Lady Betty the next morning, and asked her after Miss Hamilton, but I almost regretted my question when the naughty little thing treated me to one of her usual confidences: there was no inducing her to hold her tongue when she was in the humour for chatting.
‘Oh, it was such fun!’ she said, her eyes dancing with mischief. ’Etta was so cross when you were gone; she declared it was a conspiracy between us three, and that you only wanted Giles to walk home with you. No, I did not mean to repeat that, so please don’t look so angry. Etta did not really think so, but she will say these things about people. I tell Gladys Etta wants Giles herself. She scolded Chatty for being so stupid, and said if Leah had been at home she would have shown more sense; and then she went up to Gladys’s room in a nice temper, but Gladys would not listen, said she was tired, and ordered Etta out of the room. When Gladys is like that Etta can do nothing with her, so she sulked until Giles came home, and then began teasing him about his gallantry, and wondering how he enjoyed his walk, and you know her way.’
’Lady Betty, I am busy; besides which, I do not wish to hear any more of your cousin’s improving conversation.’