‘Little she-bear, do you know how glad I am!’ Max joyously exclaimed. And indeed he looked very glad.
‘WHAT 0’ THE WAY TO THE END?’
Two days afterwards I went back to the White Cottage and took up my old life again,—my old life, but how different now!
I shall never forget how Phoebe welcomed me back, and how she and Susan rejoiced when I told them the news. Strange to say, neither of them seemed much surprised. They had expected it, Susan said, in rather an amused tone, for it was easy to see the doctor had thought there was no one like me, and was always hinting as much to them. ’Why, I have seen him watch you as though there were nothing else worth looking at,’ finished Susan, with simple shrewdness.
I kept my own counsel with regard to Aunt Philippa and Jill, for I had made up my mind to go up to Hyde Park Gate as soon as they had returned, and tell them myself. But I wrote to Lesbia, with strong injunctions of secrecy.
The answer came by return of post.
It was a most loving, unselfish little letter, and touched me greatly.
‘I shall be your bridesmaid, Ursula,’ it said, ’whether you ask me or not. Nothing will keep me away that day. I shall love to be there for dear Charlie’s sake.
’The news has made me so happy. Mother scolded me when she found me crying over your letter, but she cried herself too. We both agreed that no one deserved happiness more. I am longing to see your Mr. Hamilton, Ursie dear. He has one great virtue in my eyes already, that he appreciates you,’ and so on, in Lesbia’s gentle, sisterly way.
The fact of our engagement made a great sensation in the place. People who had hitherto ignored the village nurse came to call on me. I suppose curiosity to see Mr. Hamilton’s fiancee brought a good many of them.
My new position was not without its difficulties. Giles, who was impatient and domineering by nature, chafed much against the restraints imposed upon him by my loneliness.
His brief calls did not suffice him. I would not let him come often or stay long. Max asked us to the vicarage sometimes, and now and then Gladys or Lady Betty would call for me and carry me off to Gladwyn for the evening; and of course I saw Giles frequently when he visited his patients, but with his dislike to conventionality it was rather difficult to keep him in good-humour. He could not be made to see why I should not marry him at once and put an end to this awkward state of things.
We had our first lovers’ quarrel on this point,—our first and our last,—for I never had to complain of my dear Giles again.
I think hearing about Lady Betty’s long engagement with Claude Hamilton had made him very sore. He had been bitterly angry both with poor little Lady Betty and also with Gladys. He declared the secrecy had hurt him more than anything; but Eric acted as peacemaker, and he was soon induced to condone his sisters’ trangression.