To my surprise, Miss Hamilton’s voice interrupted her: it was a little like her step-brother’s voice, and had a slight hesitation that was not in the least unpleasant. She spoke rather slowly: at least it seemed so by comparison with Miss Darrell’s quick sentences.
’Etta, we have not done what Giles told us. We hope you will come and dine with us to-morrow. Miss Garston, without any ceremony.’
‘Dear me, how careless of me!’ broke in Miss Darrell, but her forehead contracted a little, as though her cousin’s speech annoyed her. ’Giles gave the message to me, but we were talking so fast that I quite forgot it. My cousin will have it that you are dull, and our society may cheer you up. I do not hold with Giles. I think you are far too superior a person to be afraid of a little solitude; strong-minded people like you are generally fond of their own society; but all the same I hope you do not mean to be quite a recluse.’
‘We dine at seven, but I hope you will come as much earlier as you like,’ interposed Miss Hamilton. ‘No one will be with us but Mr. Tudor.’
‘You forget Mr. Cunliffe, Gladys,’ observed Miss Darrell, in rather a sharp voice. ’I am sure I do not know what the poor man has done to offend you; but ever since last summer—’ But here Miss Hamilton rose with a gesture that was almost queenly, and her impassive face looked graver than ever.
’I did not know you had invited Mr. Cunliffe, Etta, or I should certainly have mentioned him. Good-bye, Miss Garston: we shall look for you soon after six.’
There was something wistful in her expression; it seemed as though she wanted me to come, and yet I was a complete stranger to her. I felt very reluctant to dine at Gladwyn, but that look overruled me.
‘I will try to come early,’ was my answer, and then I drew back to let them pass.
Miss Darrell bade me good-bye a little stiffly; something had evidently put her out. As they went down the narrow garden path I could see she was speaking to Miss Hamilton rather angrily, but Miss Hamilton seemed to take no notice.
What did it all mean? I wondered; and then I suddenly bethought myself of my other visitor. I had wholly forgotten her existence in my interest in her beautiful sister. What could have become of Lady Betty?
LADY BETTY LEAVES HER MUFF
This question was speedily answered.
The gate had scarcely closed behind my visitors when I heard a gay little laugh behind me, and Lady Betty tripped across the passage and took possession of the easy-chair in the friendliest way.
‘Now we can have a chat and be cosy all by ourselves,’ she said, with childish glee; and then she stopped and looked at me, and her rosy little mouth began to pout, and a sort of baby frown came to her forehead.
’You don’t seem pleased to see me again. Shall I go away? Are you busy, or tired, or is there anything the matter?’ asked Lady Betty, in an extremely fractious voice.