’That will do. You must not tire yourself: even the nightingales must leave off singing sometimes; thank you so much. No! that sounds cold and conventional. I will not thank you. You were very happy singing, were you not?’
I could not see his face, but he was so close,—so close to me in the moonlight, and there was something in his voice that brought the old shyness back.
I was trying to answer, when we heard the front door open and some one speaking to Parker. Was that Miss Darrell’s voice? Mr. Hamilton heard it, for he moved away, and Gladys gave a half-stifled exclamation as he opened the door and confronted his cousin.
‘Where are you all?’ she asked, in a laughing voice. ’You look like bats or ghosts in the moonlight. No lights, and past ten o’clock! that is Gladys’s romantic idea, I suppose. What a dear fanciful child it is! Lady Betty, come and kiss me! Oh, I am so glad to be home again!’
‘Good-evening, Miss Darrell.’
’Good gracious! is that you, Miss Garston? I never dreamt of seeing you here to-night; and you were hiding behind that great piano. Giles, do, for pity’s sake, light those candles, and let me see some of your faces.’
But Mr. Hamilton seemed to take no notice of her request.
‘What brought you back so soon, Etta?’ he asked; and it struck me that he was not so pleased to see his cousin as usual. ’I thought you intended to remain another week.’
’Oh, but I wanted to see Gladys, after these months of absence. I thought it would be unkind to remain away any longer. Besides, I was not enjoying myself,—not a bit. Mrs. Cameron grows deafer every day, and it was very triste and miserable.’
‘How did you know I was at home, Etta?’ asked Gladys, in her clear voice.
Miss Darrell hesitated a moment: ’A little bird informed me of the fact. You did not wish me to remain in ignorance of your return, did you? It sounds rather like it, does it not, Giles? Well, if you must be inquisitive, Leah was writing to me about my dresses for the cleaner, and she mentioned casually that “master had gone to the station to meet Miss Gladys."’
‘I see; but you need not have hurried home on my account.’
’Dear me! what a cousinly speech! That is the return one gets for being a little more affectionate than usual. Giles,’—with decided impatience,—’why don’t you light those candles? You know how I hate darkness; and there is Miss Garston standing like a gray nun in the moonlight.’
‘It is so late that I must put on my bonnet,’ I replied quickly; for I was bent on making my escape before the candles were lighted. Never had I dreaded Miss Darrell’s cold scrutiny as I did that night.
Gladys followed me rather wearily.
‘Well it has been very pleasant, but our holiday has been brief,’ she said, with a sigh; and then she laid her cheek against mine, and it felt very soft and cold. With a sudden rush of tenderness I drew it down and kissed it again and again.