I could make nothing of Max this evening: he seemed restless and ill at ease; now and then he fell into a brown study and roused himself with difficulty. I was almost glad when he took his leave at last, for I had a feeling somehow—and a curious feeling it was—that we were talking at cross-purposes, and that our speeches seemed to be lost hopelessly in a mental fog; the cipher to our meaning seemed missing.
But he bade me good-night as affectionately as though I had done him a world of good: and when he had gone I sat down to my piano and sang all my old favourite songs, until the lateness of the hour warned me to extinguish my lamp and retire to bed.
I was just sinking into a sweet sleep when I heard Nathaniel’s voice bidding some one good-night, and in another moment I could hear firm quick footsteps down the gravel walk, followed by Nap’s joyous bark.
Mr. Hamilton had been in the house all the time I had been amusing myself. I do not know why the idea annoyed me so. ’How I wish he would keep away sometimes!’ I thought fretfully. ’He will think I am practising for to-morrow: I will not sing if they press me to do so.’ And with this ill-natured resolve I fell asleep.
My dinner-engagement obliged me to go to Phoebe quite early in the afternoon. Miss Locke looked surprised as she opened the door, but she greeted me with a pleased smile.
‘Phoebe will hardly be looking for you yet,’ she said, leading the way into the kitchen in the evident expectation of a chat; ’she did finely yesterday in spite of her missing you; when I went in to her in the morning she quite took my breath away by asking if there were not an easier chair in the house for you to use. “’Deed and there is, Phoebe, woman,” said I, quite pleased, for the poor thing is far too uncomfortable herself to look after other people’s comforts, and it was such a new thing to hear her speak like that: so I fetched father’s big elbow-chair with a cushion or two and his little wooden footstool, and there it stands ready for you this afternoon.’
‘That was very thoughtful of Phoebe,’ was my reply.
’Well, now, I thought you would be pleased, though it is only a trifle. But that is not all. Widow Drayton was sitting with me last afternoon, when all at once she puts up her finger and says, “Hark! Is not that your Kitty’s voice?” And so I stole out into the passage to listen. And there, to be sure, was Kitty singing most beautifully some of the hymns you sang to Phoebe; and if she could not make out all the words she just went on with the tune, like a little bird, and Phoebe lay and listened to her, and all the time—as I could see through the crack of the door—her eyes were fixed on the picture you gave her, and I said to myself, “Phoebe, woman, this is as it should be. You may yet learn wisdom out of the lips of babes and sucklings."’
‘I am very glad to hear all this, Miss Locke,’ I returned cheerfully. ’Kitty will be able to take my place sometimes. She will be a valuable little ally. Now, as my time is limited, I will go to Phoebe.’