I had some difficulty in finding out to whom she was alluding, but I imagined she meant her master, who was certainly looking a little thin, and then she went off on another tack.
’Folks seem mighty curious about you, Miss Ursula; people do say that only a young lady crossed in love would think of doing such an out-of-the-way thing as putting up at the White Cottage and nursing poor people. There was Rebecca Saunders,—you know Rebecca at the post-office,—she said to me last night, “So your young lady has come, Mrs. Drabble; the vicar was at the station, I hear, and Dr. Hamilton came down by the same train: wasn’t that curious, now? I am thinking she must be a mighty independent sort of person to take this work on her; there has been trouble somewhere, take my word for it, for it is not in young folks’ nature to go in for work and no play."’
‘Oh, I mean to play as well as work,’ I returned, laughing. ’Don’t tell me any more, Mrs. Drabble; people will talk in a village, but I would rather not hear what they say.’ And then I went back to the study and made tea for Uncle Max, and tried to pretend that I felt quite myself, and was not the least uneasy in my mind,—as though I could deceive Max.
‘Well, Ursula,’ he said, shaking his head at me, ’did Hamilton or Mrs. Drabble give you those hot cheeks?’
‘Oh, Uncle Max,’ I returned hastily, ’I am so sorry Mr. Hamilton is your friend.’
‘Why so, little she-bear?’
’Because—because—I detest him: he is the most disagreeable, insufferable, domineering person I have ever met.’
’Candid; but then you were always outspoken, my dear. Now, shall I tell you what this disagreeable, insufferable, domineering person said to me in the hall?’
’Oh, nothing he said will make any difference in my opinion, I assure you.’
’Possibly not, but it is too good to be lost. He said, “That little girl actually believes in herself and her work; it is quite refreshing to meet with such naivete nowadays. Ursula did you call her? Well, the name just suits her.” How do you like that, poor little bear?’
’I like it as well as I liked all Mr. Hamilton’s speeches. Max, do you really care for that odious man? Must I be civil to him?’
‘Indeed, I hope you will be civil, Ursula,’ replied Uncle Max, in an alarmed voice. ’My dear, Giles Hamilton, Esq., is my most influential parishioner; he is rich; he doctors all my poor people gratis, bullies them one moment, and does them a good turn in the next; he is clever, kind-hearted, and has no end of good points, and, though he is eccentric and has plenty of faults, we chum together excellently, and I am very intimate with his people.’
‘His people—who are they?’ I asked irritably.
‘Oh, it is a queer household up at Gladwyn,’ returned Max, rather uneasily. ’Hamilton has a cousin living with him, as well as his two sisters; her name is Darrell,—Etta Darrell; she is a stylish-looking woman, about five-and-thirty; one never knows a lady’s age exactly.’