‘Listen to me,’ I continued imploringly. ’Have I ever failed or disappointed you? have I ever been untrue to you in word or deed? Do you think I am a woman who would betray the sacred confidence of another woman?’
‘No, of course not; but—’ Here my hand resolutely closed her lips.
’Then say to me, “I trust you, Ursula, as I would trust my own soul. I know no word would pass your lips that if I were standing by you I should wish unuttered.” Say this to me, Gladys, and I shall know you love me.’
She trembled, and turned still paler.
‘Why need he know it? What can he have to do with Lady Betty?’ she said irresolutely.
‘Leave that to me,’ was my firm answer: ’I am waiting for you to say those words, Gladys.’ Then she put down her head on my shoulder, weeping bitterly.
’Yes, yes, I will trust you. In the whole world I have only you, Ursula, and you have been good to me.’ And, as I soothed and comforted her, she clung to me like a tired child.
‘AT FIVE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING’
I passed a wakeful and anxious night, pondering over this strange recital that seemed to me to corroborate Max’s account. I had no doubt in my own mind as to the treachery that had alienated these two hearts. I knew too well the subtle power of the smooth false tongue that had done this mischief; but the motive for all this evil-doing baffled me. ’What is her reason for trying to separate them?’ I asked myself, but always fruitlessly. ’Why does she dislike this poor girl, who has never harmed her? Why does she render her life miserable? It is she who has sown discord between Mr. Hamilton and myself. Ah, I know that well, but I am powerless to free either him or myself at present. Still, one can detect a motive for that. She has always disliked me, and she is jealous of her position. If Mr. Hamilton married she could not remain in his house; no wife could brook such interference. She knows this, and it is her interest to prevent him from marrying. All this is clear enough; but in the case of poor Gladys?’ But here again was the old tangle and perplexity.
I was not surprised that Gladys slept little that night: no doubt agitating thoughts kept her restless. Towards morning she grew quieter, and sank into a heavy sleep that I knew would last for two or three hours. I had counted on this, and had laid my plan accordingly.
I must see Uncle Max at once, and she must not know that I had seen him. In her weak state any suspense must be avoided. The few words that I might permit myself to say to him must be spoken without her knowledge.
I knew that in the summer Max was a very early riser. He would often be at work in his garden by six, and now and then he would start for a long country walk,—’just to see Dame Earth put the finishing-touches to her toilet,’ he would say. But five had not struck when I slipped into Chatty’s room half dressed. The girl looked at me with round sleepy eyes as I called her in a low voice.