‘Does Miss Darrell believe that he is dead?’
’Yes; and she is so angry if any one doubts the fact. I don’t know why she hates the poor boy so: even Mr. Cunliffe has reproved her for her want of charity. I think she fears Mr. Cunliffe more than any one, even Giles: she is always so careful what she says before him.’
’Gladys, I think I hear your brother’s voice in the hall, and your cheeks are quite wet: he will wonder what we have been talking about.’
’I will ring for Thornton, and the tea: he shall find me clearing the table. Don’t offer to help me, Ursula.’ And I sat still obediently, watching her slow, graceful movements about the room in the firelight: her fair hair shone like a halo of gold, and the dark ruby gown she wore gathered richer and deeper tints. That beautiful, sad face, how I should miss it!
It was some little time before Mr. Hamilton entered the room. Thornton had lighted the candles and arranged the tea-tray, and Gladys had placed herself at the table.
He testified no surprise at seeing me, but walked to the fire, after greeting me, and warmed himself.
‘They told me you were here,’ he said abruptly: ’I was at the cottage just now. Have you not had your tea? Why, it is quite late, Gladys, and I want to take Miss Garston away.’
‘Is there anything the matter, Mr. Hamilton?’ for I was beginning to understand his manner better now.
’Oh, I have some business for you, that is all,—another patient; but I will not tell you about it yet: you must have a good meal before you go out into the cold. I shall ring the bell for some more bread-and-butter; I know you dined early; and this hot cake will do you no good.’ And, as I saw he meant to be obeyed, I tried to do justice to the delicious brown bread and butter; but our conversation had taken away my appetite.
He stood over me rather like a sentinel until I had finished.
’Now, then, I may as well tell you. Susan Locke is ill,—acute pneumonia. I have just been down to see her, and I am afraid it is a sharp attack. Well, if you are ready, we may as well be going; the neighbour who is with her seems a poor sort of body. They sent for you, but Mrs. Barton said you were with Elspeth, and when Kitty went there you were nowhere to be found.’