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Uncle Max ebook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 570 pages of information about Uncle Max.

‘I am glad of that, Gladys dear,’ I returned quietly; ’for I have long wanted courage to ask you a question.  What is the real reason of your estrangement from Max?’ and then, growing bolder, I whispered in her ear, as she shrank from me, ’I do not ask what are your feelings to him, for I think I have guessed them,—­unless, indeed, I am wrong, and you prefer your cousin Captain Hamilton.’  I almost feared that I had been too abrupt and awkward when I saw her sudden paleness:  she began to tremble like a leaf until I mentioned Captain Hamilton’s name, and then she turned to me with a look of mingled astonishment and indignation.

’Claude?  Are you out of your senses, Ursula?  Who has put such an idea into your head?’

I remembered Uncle Max’s injunctions to secrecy, and felt I must be careful.

‘I thought that it could not be Captain Hamilton,’ I returned, rather lamely:  ‘you have never mentioned his name to me.’  But she interrupted me in a tone of poignant distress, and there was a sudden trouble in her eyes, brought there by my mention of Claude.

‘Oh, this is dreadful!’ she exclaimed:  ’you come to me and talk about Claude, knowing all the time that I have never breathed his name to you.  Who has spoken it, then?  How could such a thought arise in your mind?  It must be Etta, and we are undone,—­undone!’

‘My darling, you must not excite yourself about a mere mistake,’ I returned, anxious to soothe her.  ’I cannot tell you how it came into my head; that is my little secret, Gladys, my dear:  if you agitate yourself at a word we shall never understand each other.  I want you to trust me as you would trust a dear sister,—­we are sisters in heart, Gladys,’—­but here I blushed over my words and wished them unuttered,—­’and to tell me exactly what has passed between you and Max.’

CHAPTER XL

THE TALK IN THE GLOAMING

I heard Gladys repeat my words softly under her breath,—­she seemed to say them in a sort of dream,—­’what has passed between you and Max.’  And then she looked at me a little pitifully, and her lip quivered.  ’Oh, if I dared to speak! but to you of all persons,—­what would you think of me?  Could it be right?—­and I have never opened my lips to any one on that subject of my own accord; if Lady Betty knows, it is because Etta told her.  Oh, it was wrong—­cruel of Giles to let her worm the truth out of him!’

’If Lady Betty and Miss Darrell know, you might surely trust me,—­your friend,’ I returned.  ’Gladys, you know how I honour reticence in such matters; I am the last person to force an unwilling confidence; but there are reasons—­no, I cannot explain myself; you must trust me implicitly or not at all.  I do not think you will ever repent that trust; and for your own sake as well as mine I implore you to confide in me.’  For a moment she looked at me with wide, troubled eyes, then she ceased to hesitate.

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