‘Come out into the garden, Giles,’ she said, with a ladylike yawn; ’it is so hot indoors. I thought you said that you expected Mr. Cunliffe.’
‘Perhaps he will be here by and by,’ returned Mr. Hamilton; and then he looked up and saw me.
‘Miss Garston!’ he ejaculated, as though he could scarcely believe his eyes, and Miss Darrell broke into an angry little laugh; but I took no notice of her. I determined to speak out boldly what I had to say.
‘Mr. Hamilton,’ I said quickly, ’I have seen Gladys. I am quite shocked at her appearance: she certainly looks very ill. If you will allow me, I should like to remain and nurse her.’
‘But you must allow no such thing, Giles,’ interfered his cousin sharply. ’I have always nursed poor dear Gladys myself, and no one understands her as I do.’
‘Gladys sent for me just now,’ I went on firmly, without taking any notice of this speech, ’to beg me to remain with her. She has set her heart on my nursing her, and she reminded me of my promise.’
‘What promise?’ he asked, rather harshly; but I noticed that he looked disturbed and ill at ease.
’Some months ago, just before Gladys went to Bournemouth, she asked me to make her a promise, that if she were ever ill in this house I would give up my work and come and nurse her. She was perfectly well then,—at least, in her ordinary health,—and I saw no harm in giving her the promise. She claims from me now the fulfilment.’
‘Very extraordinary,’ observed Miss Darrell, in a sneering voice. ’But then dear Gladys was always a little odd and romantic. You remember I warned you some time ago, Giles, that if we were not careful and firm—’
‘Pshaw!’ was the impatient answer, and I continued pleadingly,—
’Gladys seems to me in a weak, nervous state, and I do not think it would be wise to thwart her in this. Sick people must be humoured sometimes. I think you could trust me to watch over her most carefully.’
’Giles, I will not answer for the consequences if Miss Garston nurses Gladys,’ interposed Miss Darrell eagerly. ’You have no idea how she excites her. They talk, and have mysteries together, and Gladys is always more low-spirited when she has seen Miss Garston. You know I have only dear Gladys’s interest at heart, and in a serious nervous illness like this—’ But he interrupted her.
’Etta, this is no affair of yours: you can leave me, if you please, to make arrangements for my sister. I am very much obliged to you, Miss Garston, for offering to nurse Gladys, but there was no need of all this explanation; you might have known, I think, that I was not likely to refuse.’
He spoke coldly, and his face looked dark and inflexible, but I could see he was watching me. I am sure I perplexed and baffled him that night: as I thanked him warmly for his consent, he checked me almost irritably:
’Nonsense! the thanks are on our side, as we shall reap the benefit of your services. What shall you do about your other patients, may I ask?’