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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 570 pages of information about Uncle Max.

CHAPTER XXIV

WEEPING MAY ENDURE FOR A NIGHT

I could not suppress an exclamation when Mr. Hamilton mentioned the name.

Susan Locke!  Poor, simple, loving-hearted Susan!  What would become of Phoebe if she died?

Mr. Hamilton seemed to read my thoughts.

‘Yes,’ he said, looking at me attentively, ’I knew you would be sorry; Miss Locke was a great favourite of yours.  Poor woman! it is a sad business.  I am afraid she is very ill:  they ought to have sent for me before.  Now, if you are ready, we will start at once.’

‘I will not keep you another minute.  Good-bye, Ursula.’  And Gladys kissed me, and quietly followed us to the door.  It was snowing fast, and the ground was already white with the fallen flakes.  Mr. Hamilton put up his umbrella, and stood waiting for me under the shrubs, but a sudden impulse made me linger.

Gladys was still standing in the porch; her fair hair shone like a halo in the soft lamplight, her eyes were fixed on the falling snow.  I had said good-bye to her so hastily:  I ran back, and kissed her again.

‘I wish you were not going, Gladys; I shall miss you so.’

‘It is nice to hear that,’ she returned gently.  ’I shall remember those words, Ursula.  Write to me often; your letters will be my only comfort.  There, Giles is looking impatient; do not keep him waiting, dear.’  And she drew back, and a moment afterwards I heard the door shut behind us.

Mr. Hamilton did not speak as I joined him, and I thought that our walk would be a silent one, until he said presently, in rather a peculiar tone,—­

’Well, Miss Garston, I suppose I ought to congratulate you for succeeding where I have failed.’  Of course I knew what he meant, but I pretended to misunderstand him, and he went on,—­

’You have won my sister’s heart.  Gladys cares for few people, but she seems very fond of you.’

‘The feeling is reciprocated, I can assure you.’

‘I am glad to know that,’ he returned heartily.  ’I only wish you could teach Gladys to be like other girls; she is too young and too pretty to take such grave views of life; it is unnatural at her age.  One disappointment, however bitter, ought not to cloud her whole existence.  Try to make her see things in a more reasonable light.  Gladys is as good as gold.  Of course I know that she is a fine creature; but it is not like a Christian to mourn over the inevitable in this undisciplined way.’

He spoke with great feeling, and with a gentleness that surprised me.  I felt sure then of his affection for his young sister; I wished Gladys could have heard him speak in this fatherly manner.  But, in spite of my sympathy, it was difficult for me to answer him.  I felt that this was a subject that I could not discuss with Mr. Hamilton, and yet he seemed to wish me to speak.

‘You must give her time to recover herself,’ I said, rather lamely.  ’Gladys is very sensitive; she is more delicately organised than most people; her feelings are unusually deep.  She has had a severe shock; it will not be easy to comfort her.’

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