WHITEFOOT IS SADDLED
After the first day or so the strangeness and novelty of my position wore off, and I settled down to my work in the sick-room.
Chatty waited upon us very nicely; but Miss Darrell never came near us. Once a day a formal message was brought by Chatty asking after the invalid. I used to think this somewhat unnecessary, as Mr. Hamilton could report his sister’s progress at breakfast-time.
When I encountered Miss Darrell on my way to the garden I always accosted her with marked civility; her manner would be a little repelling in return, and she would answer me very coldly. In spite of her outward politeness, I think she was a little afraid of me at that time. I always felt that a concealed sneer lay under her words. She made it clearly understood that she considered that I had forced myself into the house for my own purposes. Under these conditions I thought it better to avoid these encounters as much as possible.
I saw Uncle Max two or three times. He had timed his visits purposely that he might join me in my stroll in the garden. We had made the arrangement to meet in this way daily. Max’s society and sympathy would have been a refreshment to me, but we were obliged to discontinue the practice. Max never appeared without Miss Darrell following a few minutes afterwards. She would come out of the house, brisk and smiling, in grande toilette,—to take a turn in the shrubberies, as she said. Max would look at me and very soon take his leave. At last he told me dejectedly that we might as well give it up, as Miss Darrell was determined that he should not speak to me alone: so after that I contrived to send him daily notes by Chatty, who was always delighted to do an errand in the village.
‘I can’t think what makes Miss Darrell so curious, ma’am,’ the girl once said to me. ’She asks me every day if I have been down to the vicarage. She did it while master was by the other afternoon, and he told her quite sharply that it was no affair of hers.’
‘Never mind that, Chatty.’
‘Oh, but I am afraid she means mischief, ma’am,’ persisted Chatty, who had a great dislike to Miss Darrell, which she showed by being somewhat pert to her, ’for she said in such a queer tone to master, “There, I told you so: now you will believe me,” and master looked as though he were not pleased.’