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

‘No, I suppose not,’ with a sigh; ’her faith has suffered shipwreck; but you must try to win her back to peace.  Oh, you have much to do at Gladwyn, as well as other places.  I want you to feel at home with us, Miss Garston.  Some of us have our faults, we want knowing; but you must try and like us better, and then you will not find us ungrateful.’

He stopped rather abruptly, as though he expected an answer, but I only stammered out that he was very kind, and that I hoped when Gladys returned from Bournemouth that I should often see her.

‘Oh, to be sure,’ he returned hastily.  ’I forgot that her absence would make a difference.  You do not like poor Etta:  I have noticed that.  Well, perhaps she is a little fussy and managing; but she is a kind-hearted creature, and very good to us all.  I do not know what I should have done without her; my sisters do not understand me, they are never at their ease with me.  I feel this a trouble; I want to be good to them; but there always seems a barrier that one cannot break down.  I suppose,’ with intense bitterness, ’they lay the blame of that poor boy’s death at my door, as though I would not give my right hand to have him back again.’

‘Oh no, Mr. Hamilton,’ I exclaimed, shocked to hear him speak in this way, ’things are not so bad as that.  I know Gladys would be more to you if she could.’  But he turned upon me almost fiercely.

‘Do not tell me that,’ he said harshly, ’for I cannot believe you.  Gladys cared more for Eric’s little finger than the whole of us put together; she looks upon me as his destroyer, as a hard taskmaster who oppressed him and drove him out of his home.  Oh, you want to contradict me; you would tell me how gentle Gladys is, and how submissive.  No, she is never angry, but her looks and words are cold as this frozen snow; she has not kissed me of her own accord since Eric left us.  I sometimes think it is painful for her to live under my roof.’

‘Mr. Hamilton!’

‘Well, what now?’ in the same repellent tone.

’You are wrong; you are unjust.  Gladys does not feel like that; she has tried to forgive you in her heart for any past mistake; she sees you regret much that has passed, and she is no longer bitter against you.  I wish you would believe this.  I wish you could understand that she, too, longs to break down the barrier.  Perhaps I ought not to say it, but I think Miss Darrell keeps you apart from your sisters.’

‘What, Etta!’ in an astonished tone.  ’Why, she is always making excuses for Gladys’s coldness.  Come, Miss Garston, I cannot have you misunderstand my poor little cousin in this way.  You have no idea how faithful and devoted she is.  She has actually refused a most advantageous offer of marriage to remain with us.  She told me this in confidence; the girls do not know it:  perhaps I ought not to have repeated it; but you undervalue Etta.  Few women would sacrifice themselves so entirely for their belongings.’

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