I strolled about the garden for an hour, and then went back to the house. Mr. Hamilton was just closing the door of his sister’s room. He looked happier, I thought: the dark, irritable expression had left his face. He came forward with a smile.
’Gladys has been telling me, Miss Garston. I am more glad than I can say. Cunliffe is a fine fellow; there is no one that I should like so well for a brother.’
‘I knew you would say so. Uncle Max is so good.’
‘Well, he has secured a prize,’ with a slight sigh. ’Gladys is a noble woman; she will make her husband a happy man. There is little doubt that Etta did mischief there; but Gladys was not willing to enter on that part of the subject. I begin to think,’ with a quick, searching look that somewhat disturbed me, ’that we have not yet reached the limits of her mischief-making.’
I could have told him that I knew that. I think he meant to have said something more; but a slight movement in the direction of Miss Darrell’s room made us separate somewhat quickly. I saw Mr. Hamilton glance uneasily at the half-closed door as he went past it.
I found Gladys in tears, but she made me understand with some difficulty that they were only tears of relief and joy.
‘But I am sorry too, because I have so often grieved him so,’ she said, drying her eyes. ’Oh, how good Giles is!—how noble!—and I have misunderstood him so! he was so glad about Max, and so very very kind. And then we talked about Eric. He says we were wrong to keep it from him, that even you were to blame in that. He thinks so highly of you, Ursula; but he said even good people make mistakes sometimes, and that this was a great mistake. I was so sorry when he said that, that I asked his pardon over and over again.’
I felt that I longed to ask his pardon too; and yet the fault had been Gladys’s more than mine; but I knew she had talked enough, so I kissed her, and begged her to lie down and compose herself while I got the tea ready.
We did not see Mr. Hamilton again that night. Gladys and I sat by the open window, talking by snatches or relapsing into silence. When she had retired to rest I stole out into the passage to see what had become of tired Chatty, but I repented this charitable impulse when I saw Miss Darrell standing in the open doorway opposite, as though she were watching for some one.
On seeing me she beckoned imperiously, and I crossed the passage with some reluctance.
‘Come in a moment: I want to speak to you,’ she said hoarsely; and I saw she was much excited. ’I sent Chatty to bed. We have finished packing,—oh, quite finished. Giles will be satisfied with my obedience; and now I want you to tell me what you and he were saying about Mr. Cunliffe.’ But her white lips looked whiter as she spoke.
‘Excuse me, Miss Darrell,’ I returned; but she stopped me.
’You are going to say that it is no business of mine. You are always cautious, Miss Garston; but I am resolved to know this, or I will refuse to leave the house to-morrow morning. Are they engaged? is that what Giles meant when he said he was a fine fellow?’