’Love him? he was everything to me: he was my twin, you know,—and so beautiful. Oh, I never saw a man’s face so beautiful as his; he had such bright ways, too, and such a ringing laugh,—I wake up sometimes and fancy I hear it; and then came his whistle and light footstep springing up the stairs; but it is only a part of my dream.’ She sighed, and went on: ’He was so fond of me, and used to tell me everything, and he was never cross to me, however put out and miserable he was; and I know they made him very miserable. Giles was so strict with him, and would not give him any liberty, and when Eric rebelled he was cruel to him.’
‘Oh, not cruel, surely!’ I could not help the involuntary exclamation. I thought Gladys looked at me a little strangely before she answered:
’It seemed cruel to us; he was very harsh,—oh, terribly harsh; but I think—nay, I am sure—he has repented of his hardness. I was slow to forgive him: perhaps it would be more true to say I have not wholly forgiven him yet; but I know now that he has suffered, that he would undo a great deal of the past if he could, and this makes me more merciful. Sometimes in my heart I feel quite sorry for Giles.’
THE MYSTERY AT GLADWYN
Just then Leah entered the room to replenish the fire, and Gladys dropped my hand hastily and took up a screen.
‘When my brother comes in we will have tea, Leah,’ she said quickly. ‘Where is Thornton, that he does not come in to do this?’
’I was passing through the hall, and I thought I would have a look at the fire, ma’am,’ observed Leah, as she stooped to throw on a log. As she did so, I saw her take a furtive look at us both,—it gave me an unpleasant feeling,—and a moment afterwards she said in a soft, civil voice,—
’There is no reason why Thornton should not bring tea now, if you like, ma’am. Master never cares to be waited for, and most likely he will be late this afternoon. I can walk home with Miss Garston when she is ready. I am sure my mistress would spare me.’
’We will see about that presently, Leah; when I want Thornton I will ring for him.’ Gladys spoke somewhat haughtily, and Leah left the room without another word; but I was sorry and troubled in my very heart to see Gladys motion me to be silent, and then go quickly to the door and open it and stand there for a moment. Her colour was a little heightened when she came back to her seat.
’She has gone now, but we must be careful and not speak loudly. I hate myself for being so suspicious, but I have found out that some of our conversations have been retailed to Etta. I am afraid Leah listens at the door. She came in just now to interrupt our talk: it is Thornton’s place to put coals on the drawing-room fire.’
I felt an uncomfortable sensation creeping over me.
‘Do you think she even heard us just now?’