‘To Liverpool?’ in unfeigned surprise.
’Yes; I have been thinking all night what is to be done about my unfortunate cousin. She is dependent on me, and I cannot send her away without finding her a home. That home,’ pausing as though to give emphasis to his words, ‘can never be under my roof again.’
‘I suppose not.’
’The sin is of too black a dye for me to bring myself to forgive her. If I were to say that I forgive her I should lie.’ And here his face became dark again. ’She has disgraced that poor boy Eric, and driven him away from his home; she has made Gladys’s life wretched: her whole existence must have been a tissue of deceit and treachery. How could I sleep when I was trying to disentangle this mesh of deception and lies? how do I know when she has been true or when wholly false?’
‘I fear there has been little truth spoken to you, Mr. Hamilton.’ I was thinking of Gladys when I said that, but something in my words seemed to strike him.
’Is there anything else I ought to know? But no, I have no time for that: I must try and make some arrangements at once: she cannot break bread with us again. The people I want to find are old patients of mine. I was able to serve them once: I feel as though I have a claim on them.’
‘But you will be back soon?’ for I could not bear him to leave us alone.
’To-morrow morning. I will take the night train up, but I shall be detained in London. Take care of Gladys for me, Miss Garston. Do not tell her more than you think necessary. Do not let Etta see her, if you can help it; but I know you will act for the best.’ Then, as he looked at me, his face softened for a moment. ’I wish I had not to leave you; but you could send for Mr. Cunliffe.’
‘Oh, there will be no need for that,’ I returned hastily, for the thought of the wretched woman upstairs would prevent me from sending for Uncle Max. ‘Come back as quickly as you can, and I will do my best for Gladys.’
‘I know it. I can trust you,’ he replied, very gently. ’Take care of yourself also.’ Then, as the wheels of the dog-cart sounded on the gravel, he held out his hand to me gravely, and then turned away. A moment afterwards I heard his voice speaking to Atkinson, and as I entered the shrubbery Pierson was fastening the gate after them.
‘THIS HOME IS YOURS NO LONGER’
There are long gray days in every one’s life.
I think that day was the longest that I ever spent: it seemed as though the morning would never merge into afternoon, or the afternoon into evening. Of the night I could not judge, for I slept as only weary youth can sleep.
Sheer humanity, the mere instinct of womankind, had obliged me to watch by Miss Darrell through the previous night: for some hours her hysterical state had bordered on frenzy. I knew sleep was the best restorative in such cases: she would wake quieter. There would be no actual need for my services, and unless she sent for me I thought it better to leave her alone: she was only suffering the penalty of her own sin, the shame of detected guilt. There was no sign of real penitence to give me hope for the future.