‘Of your solemn promise, most solemnly uttered,’ she repeated, ’that if I were ill you would come and nurse me. I claim that promise, Ursula.’
‘Is it absolutely necessary that I should come?’ I asked, in a distressed voice, for all at once life seemed too difficult to me. How had I deserved this fresh pain!
In a moment her manner grew more excited.
’Necessary! If you leave me to Etta’s tender mercies I shall die. But no—no! you could not be so cruel. They are making me take those horrid draughts now, and I know she gives me too much. I get so confused, but it is not sleep. My one terror is that I shall say things I do not mean, about—well, never mind that. And then she will say that my brain is queer. She has hinted it already, when I was excited at your going away. There is nothing too cruel for her to say to me. She hates me, and I do not know why.’
‘Hush! I cannot have you talk so much,’ for her excitement alarmed me. ’Remember, I am your nurse now,—a very strict one, too, as you will find. Yes, I will keep my promise. I will not leave you, darling.’
‘You promise that? You will not go away to-night?’
‘I shall not leave you until you are well again,’ I returned, with forced cheerfulness. But if she knew how keenly I felt my cruel position, how sick and trembling I was at heart! What would he think of me? No, I must not go into that. Gladys had asked this sacrifice of me. She had thrown herself on my compassion. I would not forsake her. ’God knows my integrity and innocence of intention. I will not be afraid to do my duty to this suffering human creature,’ I said to myself. And with this my courage revived, and I felt that strength would be given me for all that I had to do.
IN THE TURRET-ROOM
My promise to stay with Gladys soothed her at once, and she lay back on her pillows and closed her aching eyes contentedly, while I sat down and wrote a hasty note to Mrs. Barton.
When I had finished it, I said quietly that I was going downstairs in search of her brother; and when she looked a little frightened at this, I made her understand, in as few words as possible, that it was necessary for me to obtain his sanction, both as doctor and master of the house, and then we should have nothing to fear from Miss Darrell. And when I had said this she let me go more willingly.
My errand was not a pleasant one, and I felt very sorry for myself as I walked slowly downstairs hoping that I should find Mr. Hamilton alone in his study; but they must have lingered longer than usual over dessert, for before I reached the hall the dining-room door opened, and they came out together; and Miss Darrell paused for a moment under the hall lamp.
She was very much overdressed, as usual, in an eau de Nile gown, trimmed with costly lace: her gold bangles jangled as she fanned herself.