‘No,’ with a sigh; ’but, as Max says, it is difficult to forgive the person who is the chief source of all our trouble. He did say that, and then he reproached himself again for uncharitableness, and added that he ought to have known me better.
’He does not seem quite certain yet that I can care for him, and he begs for just one word to put him out of his suspense, to tell him if I can ever love him well enough to be his wife. I don’t want him to wait long for my answer, Ursula: he has suffered too much already. I think I could write a few words that would satisfy him, if I could only trust Chatty to take them.’
’You had better wait until to-morrow morning and intrust your letter to the “five-o’clock carrier."’ And as my meaning dawned on her her doubtful expression changed into a smile. ‘Do wait, Gladys,’ I continued coaxingly. ’It is very selfish of me, perhaps, but I should like to give that letter to Max.’
’You may have your wish, then, for I was half afraid of sending it by Chatty. I have grown so nervous, Ursula, that I start at a shadow. I can trust you better than myself. Well, I will write it, and then it will be safe in your hands.’
I went away again after this, and left her alone in the quiet shady room. I fought rather a battle with myself as I paced up and down Lady Betty’s spacious chamber. Why need I think of my own troubles? why could I not keep down this pain? I would think only of Gladys’s and of my dear Max’s happiness, and I dashed away hot tears that would keep blinding me as I remembered the chilly greeting of the morning. And yet once—but no; I would not recall that bitter-sweet memory. I left Gladys alone for an hour: when I went back she was leaning wearily against the cushions of her chair, the closely-written sheets still open on her lap, as though she needed the evidence of sight and touch to remind her that it was not part of her dream.
‘Have you written your letter, Gladys?’
‘Yes,’ with a blush; ’but it is very short, only a few words. He will understand that I am weak and cannot exert myself much. Will you read it, Ursula, and tell me if it will do?’
I thought it better to set her mind at rest, so I took it without demur. The pretty, clear handwriting was rather tremulous: he would be sorry to see that.
’My dear Mr. Cunliffe,’—it said,—’Your letter has made me very happy. I wish I could answer it as it ought to be answered; but I know you will not misunderstand the reason why I say so little.
’I have been very ill, and am still very weak, and my hand trembles too much when I try to write; but I am not ungrateful for all the kind things you say; it makes me very happy to know you feel like that, even though I do not deserve it.
’You must not blame yourself so much for misunderstanding me: we have both been deceived; I know that now. It was wrong of me to give up my work; but Etta told me that people were saying unkind things of me, and I was a coward and listened to her: so you see I was to blame too.