“’But perhaps she never showed herself when these awful people were here, but took to flight until they left.’
“’You didn’t never know her, miss. The brave she was! She’d have stood up to lions. She’ve been here all the while: and only to think what her innocent eyes and ears must have took in! There was another couple—’ Mrs. Carkeek sunk her voice.
“‘Oh, hush!’ said I, ‘if I’m to have any peace of mind in this house!’
“’But you won’t go, miss? She loves you, I know she do. And think what you might be leaving her to—what sort of tenant might come next. For she can’t go. She’ve been here ever since her father sold the place. He died soon after. You musn’t go!’
“Now I had resolved to go, but all of a sudden I felt how mean this resolution was.
“‘After all,’ said I, ‘there’s nothing to be afraid of.’
“’That’s it, miss; nothing at all. I don’t even believe it’s so very uncommon. Why, I’ve heard my mother tell of farmhouses where the rooms were swept every night as regular as clockwork, and the floors sanded, and the pots and pans scoured, and all while the maids slept. They put it down to the piskies; but we know better, miss, and now we’ve got the secret between us we can lie easy in our beds, and if we hear anything, say “God bless the child!” and go to sleep.’
“‘Mrs. Carkeek,’ said I, ‘there’s only one condition I have to make.’
“‘Why, that you let me kiss you.’
“‘Oh, you dear!’ said Mrs. Carkeek as we embraced: and this was as close to familiarity as she allowed herself to go in the whole course of my acquaintance with her.
“I spent three years at Tresillack, and all that while Mrs. Carkeek lived with me and shared the secret. Few women, I dare to say, were ever so completely wrapped around with love as we were during those three years. It ran through my waking life like a song: it smoothed my pillow, touched and made my table comely, in summer lifted the heads of the flowers as I passed, and in winter watched the fire with me and kept it bright.
“‘Why did I ever leave Tresillack?’ Because one day, at the end of five years, Farmer Hosking brought me word that he had sold the house—or was about to sell it; I forget which. There was no avoiding it, at any rate; the purchaser being a Colonel Kendall, a brother of the old Squire.’
“‘A married man?’ I asked.
“’Yes, miss; with a family of eight. As pretty children as ever you see, and the mother a good lady. It’s the old home to Colonel Kendall.’
“‘I see. And that is why you feel bound to sell.’
“’It’s a good price, too, that he offers. You mustn’t think but I’m sorry enough—’
“’To turn me out? I thank you, Mr. Hosking; but you are doing the right thing.’
“Since Mrs. Carkeek was to stay, the arrangement lacked nothing of absolute perfection—except, perhaps, that it found no room for me.