I took no notice of this outburst, and commenced clearing away the medicine-bottles to make room for my basket of chrysanthemums and ivy-leaves. Uncle Max had procured them for me, but I had no idea as I arranged them that they had come from Gladwyn.
Phoebe watched my movements very gloomily; she evidently disapproved of the whole proceeding. I carried out the bottles to Miss Locke, and begged her to throw them away: ‘they are of no use to her,’ I observed. ’Mr. Hamilton intends to send her a new mixture, and this array of half-emptied phials is simply absurd: it is just a whim. If your sister asks for them when I have gone, you can tell her that Miss Garston ordered them to be destroyed.’
On my return to the room I found Phoebe lying with her eyes closed. I could have laughed outright at her perversity, for of course she had shut them to exclude the sight of the flower-basket, though it was the loveliest little bit of colour, the dark-red chrysanthemum nestled so prettily among trails of tiny variegated ivy. I resolved to punish her for this piece of morbid obstinacy, and took down the wire blind; she was speechless with anger when she found out what I had done, but I was resolved not to humour these ridiculous fancies; the dull wintry light was not too much for her.
‘You must not be allowed to have your own way so entirely,’ I said, laughing: ’your sister is very wrong to give in to you. Mr. Hamilton wishes your room to be more cheerful: he says the dull surroundings depress and keep you low and desponding, and I must carry out his orders, and try how we are to make your room a little brighter. Now’—as she seemed about to speak—’I am going to sing to you, and then we will have a talk.’
’I don’t care to hear singing to-day, my head buzzes so with all this flack,’ was the sullen answer; but I took no notice of this ill-tempered remark, and began a little Scotch ballad that I thought was bright and spirited.
She closed her eyes again, with an expression of weariness and disgust that made me smile in spite of my efforts to keep serious; but I soon found out that she was listening, and so I sang one song after another, without pausing for any comment, and pretended not to notice when the haggard weary eyes unclosed, and fixed themselves first on the flowers, next on my face, and last and longest at the strip of lawn, with the bare gooseberry bushes and the narrow path edged with privet.
When I had sung several ballads, I waited for a minute, and then commenced Bishop Ken’s evening hymn, but my voice shook a little as I saw a sudden heaving under the bedclothes, and in another moment the large slow tears coursed down Phoebe’s thin face. It was hard to finish the hymn, but I would not have dispensed with the Gloria.
‘What is it, Phoebe?’ I asked gently, when I had finished. ’I am sorry that I have made you cry.’
‘You need not be sorry,’ she sobbed at last, with difficulty: ’it eases my head, and I thought nothing would ever draw a tear from me again. I was too miserable to cry, and they say—I have read it somewhere, in the days when I used to read—that there is no such thing as a tear in hell.’