’It seems strange that we do not project our own shadows sometimes, and make our patient shiver,’ he said, with a touch of gruffness. ’It is little that I can do for Phoebe, except order her a blister or ice when she needs it. One cannot touch the real nervous suffering: there is where I look to you for help; a little cheerful talk now and then may lighten her burden. Anyhow, it would be a help for poor Miss Locke, who has a sad time of it trying to earn food for them both. There is a little niece who lives with them, a subdued, uncanny little creature, who looks as though the childhood were crushed out of her; you might take her in hand too.’
‘I wonder if Phoebe would like me to sing to her,’ I observed quietly. ‘I have found it answer sometimes in nervous illnesses.’
I thought my remark surprised him.
‘It is a good idea,’ he said slowly. ’You might try it. Of course it would depend a great deal on the quality of voice and style of singing. I wonder if you would allow me to judge of this,’—looking meaningly at the piano; but I shook my head at this, and he did not press the point.
We had very little talk after this, for he went away almost directly, first arranging to meet me at Mrs. Marshall’s about four the next day and go with me to Woodbine Cottage.
‘You will find plenty of work, Miss Garston,’ were his final words, ’so do not waste your strength unnecessarily.’ And then he left the room, but came back a moment afterwards to say that his sisters meant to call on me, only they thought I was hardly settled yet: ’we must get Mr. Cunliffe to bring you up to Gladwyn: we must not let you mope.’
I thought there was little chance of this, with Uncle Max and Mr. Tudor always looking after me. Mr. Hamilton had hardly closed the door before Uncle Max opened it again.
‘So the enemy has tasted bread and salt, Ursula,’ he said, looking excessively pleased: ’that is right, my dear: do not give way to absurd prejudices. You and Hamilton will get on splendidly by and by, when you get used to his brusque manner.’ And, though I did not quite endorse this opinion, I was obliged to acknowledge to myself that the last half-hour had not been so unpleasant after all.
A DIFFICULT PATIENT
I had a little talk with granny the next day.
Mrs. Marshall was dozing uneasily, and I was sitting by granny, nursing the baby, and waiting for Mr. Hamilton, when I felt her cold wrinkled hand laid on mine.
‘What is it, Elspeth?’ I asked, thinking she wanted something.
’What put it in your head, my bairn, to do the Lord’s work? that is what I am wanting to know. I have been listening to you this morning singing like a bird about the house, with all the bit creatures chirping about you, and I said to myself, “What could have put it into her head to leave all her fine friends, and come and wait on the likes of us old and sick folk and young bairns?"’