’I have made up my mind that the atmosphere of Gladwyn is fatal to my soul’s health. I seem to wither up like some sensitive plant in that blighting air; half-truths, misunderstandings, and jealousies have corroded our home peace. I am better away from it all, for here I can own myself ill and miserable, and no one blames or misapprehends my meaning: there are no harsh judgments under the guise of pity.
’These dear people are so truly charitable, they think no evil of a poor girl who is faithful to a brother’s memory: they are patient with my sad moods, they leave me free to follow out my wishes. I wander about as I will, I sketch or read, I sit idle; no one blames me; they are as good to me as you would be in their place.
’I shall stay away as long as possible, until I feel strong enough to take up my life again. You will not be vexed with me, my dear Ursula: you know how I have suffered; you of all others will sympathise with me. Think of the relief it is to wake up in the morning and feel that no jarring influences will be at work that day; that no eyes will pry into my secret sorrow, or seek to penetrate my very thoughts; that I may look and speak as I like; that my words will not be twisted to serve other people’s purposes. Forgive me if I speak harshly, but indeed you do not know all yet. Your last letter made me a little sad, you speak so much of Giles. Do you really think I am hard upon him? The idea is painful to me.
’I like you to think well of him. He is a good man. I have always thoroughly respected him, but there is no sympathy between us. Of course it is more Etta’s fault than his: she has usurped my place, and Giles no longer needs me. Perhaps I am not kind to him, not sisterly or soft in my manners; but he treats me too much as a child. He never asks my opinion on any subject. We live under his protection, and he never grudges us money; he is generous in that way; but he never enters into our thoughts. Lady Betty and I lead our own lives.
’You ask me why I do not write to him, my dear Ursula. Such a thought would never enter my head. Write to Giles! What should I say to him? How would such a letter ever get itself written? Do you suppose he would care for me as a correspondent? I should like you to ask him that question, if you dared. Giles’s face would be a study. I fancy I write that letter,—a marvellous composition of commonplace nothings. “My dear brother, I think you will like to hear our Bournemouth news,” etc. I can imagine him tossing it aside as he opens his other letters: “Gladys has actually written to me. I suppose she wants another cheque. See what she says, Etta. You may read it aloud, if you like, while I finish my breakfast.” Now do not look incredulous. I once saw Lady Betty’s letter treated in this way, and all her poor little sentences pulled to pieces in Etta’s usual fashion. No, thank you, I will not write to Giles. I write to Lady Betty sometimes, but not often: that is why she comes to you for news. We are a queer household, Ursula. I am very fond of my dear little Lady Betty, but somehow I have never enjoyed writing to her since Etta one day handed to her one of my letters opened by mistake. Lady Betty has fancied the mistake has occurred more than once.’