Price, who was forging ahead, carried the trunk in her arms as if it had been a child, but every few minutes she waited for me to come up to her, and encouraged me when I stumbled in the darkness.
“Only a little further, my lady,” she said, and I did my best to struggle on.
We reached the gate to the high road at last. Tommy the Mate was there with his stiff cart, and Price, who was breathless after her great exertion, tumbled my trunk over the tail-board.
The time had come to part from her, and, remembering how faithful and true she had been to me, I hardly knew what to say. I told her I had left her wages in an envelope on the dressing-table, and then I stammered something about being too poor to make her a present to remember me by.
“It doesn’t need a present to help me to remember a good mistress, my lady,” she said.
“God bless you for being so good to me,” I answered, and then I kissed her.
“I’ll remember you by that, though,” she said, and she began to cry.
I climbed over the wheel of the stiff cart and seated myself on my trunk, and then Tommy, who had been sitting on the front-board with his feet on the outer shaft, whipped up his horse and we started away.
During the next half-hour the springless cart bobbed along the dark road at its slow monotonous pace. Tommy never once looked round or spoke except to his horse, but I understood my old friend perfectly.
I was in a fever of anxiety lest I should be overtaken and carried back. Again and again I looked behind. At one moment, when a big motor-car, with its two great white eyes, came rolling up after us, my stormy heart stood still. But it was not my husband’s car, and in a little while its red tail-light disappeared in the darkness ahead.
We reached Blackwater in time for the midnight steamer and drew up at the landward end of the pier. It was cold; the salt wind from the sea was very chill. Men who looked like commercial travellers were hurrying along with their coat-collars turned up, and porters with heavy trunks on their shoulders were striving to keep pace with them.
I gave my own trunk to a porter who came up to the cart, and then turned to Tommy to say good-bye. The old man had got down from the shaft and was smoothing his smoking horse, and snuffling as if he had caught a cold.
“Good-bye, Tommy,” I said—and then something more which I do not wish to write down.
“Good-bye, lil missie,” he answered (that cut me deep), “I never believed ould Tom Dug would live to see ye laving home like this . . . But wait! Only wait till himself is after coming back, and I’ll go bail it’ll be the divil sit up for some of them.”
It was very dark. No more than three or four lamps on the pier were burning, but nevertheless I was afraid that the pier-master would recognise me.