’Don’t let the hope go out of your voice, Gladys: it will all come right by and by. Only be strong and patient, my darling.’
‘I am strong when I am near you, but not when I am alone,’ she answered, with a slight shiver; and then we heard Lady Betty’s voice calling her, and she left me reluctantly.
I thought she would come back, so I did not hurry myself; but presently I got tired of waiting, and walked to the head of the staircase.
As I looked down on the lighted hall I saw Mr. Hamilton standing with folded arms, as though he had been waiting there some time; at the sound of my footstep he looked up quickly and eagerly, and our eyes met, and then I knew,—I knew!
‘Come, Ursula,’ he said, with a sort of impatience, holding out his hand; and somehow, without delay or hesitation, just as though his strong will was drawing me, I went down slowly and put my hand in his, and it seemed as though there was nothing more to be said.
I saw his face light up; he was about to speak, when Miss Darrell swept up to us noiselessly with a hard metallic smile on her face.
’Do you know, Miss Garston, Lady Betty tells me that the nightingales are singing so charmingly; she and I are just going down the road to listen to them, if you can put up with our company for part of the way.’
Giles—I called him Giles in my heart that night, for something told me we belonged to each other—said nothing, but his face clouded, and we went out together.
No one heard the nightingales, but only Lady Betty commented on that fact. Miss Darrell was talking too volubly to hear her. She clung to my side pertinaciously, almost affectionately; she wanted to hear all about the wedding; she plied me with questions about Sara, and Jill, and Mr. Tudor. All the way up the hill she talked until we passed the church and the vicarage, until we were at the gate of the White Cottage, and then she stopped with an affected laugh.
’Dear me, I have actually walked the whole way; how tired I am!—and no wonder, for there is eleven chiming from the church tower. For shame, to keep us all up so late, Miss Garston!’
‘I will not detain you,’ I returned, with secret exasperation.
Mr. Hamilton had not spoken once the whole way, only walked silently beside me; but as he set open the gate and wished me good-night, his clasp of my hand gave me the assurance that I needed.
‘Never mind: he will come to-morrow and tell me all about it,’ I said to myself as I walked up the narrow garden-path between the rows of sleeping flowers. If I lingered in the porch to watch a certain tall figure disappear into the darkness, no one knew it, for the stars tell no tales.
It was well that the stars, those bright-eyed spectators of a sleeping world, tell no tales of us poor humans, or they might have whispered the fact that the reasonable sober-minded Ursula Garston was holding foolish vigil that night until the gray dawn drove her away to seek a brief rest.