‘If Etta knows, we should be lost,’ she repeated drearily.
‘She shall not know, then,’ I returned, pretending cheerfulness, though I was inwardly dismayed. ’You and I will watch and wait, Gladys. Do not be so cast down, dear. Remember it is never so dark as just before the dawn.’
‘No,’ she replied, with a faint smile, ’you are right there; but it is growing dark in earnest, Ursula, and I must go home, or Leah will be coming in search of me.’
‘Very well; I will walk with you,’ I replied; and in five minutes more we had left the cottage.
We walked almost in silence, for who could tell if eaves-droppers might not lurk in the dark hedgerows? I know this feeling was strong in both our minds.
At the gate of Gladwyn we kissed each other and parted.
‘I am happier, Ursula,’ she whispered. ’You must not think I am ungrateful for the news you have given me, only it has made me restless.’
‘Hush! there is some one coming down the shrubbery,’ I returned, dropping her hand, and going quickly into the road. As I did so, I heard Leah’s smooth voice address Gladys:
’You were so, late, ma’am, that I thought I had better step down to the cottage, for fear you might be waiting for me.’
‘It is all right, Leah,’ was Gladys’s answer. ’Miss Garston walked back with me. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.’ And then I heard their footsteps dying away in the distance.
NIGHTINGALES AND ROSES
I was very busy the next morning. I went round to the Marshalls’ cottage to see Peggy, and then I paid Phoebe a long visit, and afterwards I went to Robert Stokes.
They seemed all glad to welcome me back, especially Phoebe, who lay and looked at me as though she never wished to lose sight of me again.
When I had left her room I sat a little while with Susan. She still looked delicate, but at my first pitying word she stopped me.
’Please don’t say that, Miss Garston. If you knew how I thank God for that illness! it has opened poor Phoebe’s heart to me as nothing else could have opened it.’
‘She does indeed seem a different creature,’ I returned, full of thankfulness to hear this.
’Different,—nay, that is not the word: the heart of a little child has come back to her. It rests me now, if I am ever so tired, to go into her room. It is always “Sit down, Susan, my woman, and talk to me a bit,” or she will beg me to do something for her, just as though she were asking a favour. I read the Bible to her now morning and evening, and Kitty sings her sweet hymns to us. It is more like home now, with Phoebe to smile a welcome whenever she sees me. I do not miss father and mother half so much now.’
’If you only knew how happy it makes me to hear you say all this, Miss Locke!’