Once or twice, when I had been singing in the summer twilight, I had risen suddenly to lower a blind or admit Tinker, and had seen a tall, dark figure moving away behind the laurel bushes, and knew that it was Mr. Hamilton returning from some late visit and lingering in the dusky road to listen to me.
After I had discovered this for the third time, I began to think he came on purpose to hear me. My heart beat happily at the thought. In spite of his displeasure with me, he could not keep away from the cottage.
After this I sang every evening regularly for an hour, and always in the gloaming: it became my one pleasure, for I knew I was singing to him. Now and then I was rewarded by a sight of his shadow. More than once I saw him clearly in the moonlight. When I closed my piano, I used to whisper ‘Good-night, Giles,’ and go to bed almost happy. It was a little hard to meet him the next morning in Janet’s room and answer his dry matter-of-fact questions. Sometimes I had to turn away to hide a smile.
Gladys’s first visit was very disappointing. But everything was disappointing in those days. She had her old harassed look, and seemed worried and miserable, and for once I had no heart to cheer her, only I held her close, very close, feeling that she was dearer to me than ever.
She looked in my face rather inquiringly as she disengaged herself, and then smiled faintly.
‘I could not come before, Ursula; and you have never been to see me,’ a little reproachfully, ’though I looked for you every afternoon. I have no Lady Betty, you know, and things have been worse than ever. I cannot think what has come to Etta. She is always spiteful and sneering when Giles is not by. And as for Giles, I do not know what is the matter with him.’
‘How do you mean?’ I faltered, hunting in my work basket for some silk that was lying close to my hand.
‘That is more than I can say,’ she returned pointedly. ’Have you and Giles had a quarrel, Ursula? I thought that evening that you were the best of friends, and that—’ But here she hesitated, and her lovely eyes seemed to ask for my confidence; but I could not speak even to Gladys of such things, so I only answered, in a business-like tone,—
’It is true that your brother does not seem as friendly with me just now; but I do not know how I have offended him. He has rather a peculiar temper, as you have often told me: most likely I have gone against some of his prejudices.’ I felt I was answering Gladys in rather a reckless fashion, but I could not bear even the touch of her sympathy on such a wound. She looked much distressed at my reply.
’Oh no, you never offend Giles. He thinks far too much of you to let any difference of opinion come between you. I see you do not wish me to ask you, Ursula; but I must say one thing. If you want Giles to tell you why he is hurt or distant with you,—why his manner is different, I mean,—ask him plainly what Etta has been saying to him about you.’