“But you’ll have the rent on’t, I reckon?” asked he, anxiously. “I’ve many a time heerd ’em say as it was settled on the missus first, and then on you.”
“Oh, yes, it is not that; but you know, under the beech-tree—”
“Ay!” said he, heavily. “It’s been oftentimes on my mind, waking, and I think there’s ne’er a night as I don’t dream of it.”
“But how can I leave it!” Ellinor cried. “They may do a hundred things—may dig up the shrubbery. Oh! Dixon, I feel as if it was sure to be found out! Oh! Dixon, I cannot bear any more blame on papa—it will kill me—and such a dreadful thing, too!”
Dixon’s face fell into the lines of habitual pain that it had always assumed of late years whenever he was thinking or remembering anything.
“They must ne’er ha’ reason to speak ill of the dead, that’s for certain,” said he. “The Wilkinses have been respected in Hamley all my lifetime, and all my father’s before me, and—surely, missy, there’s ways and means of tying tenants up from alterations both in the house and out of it, and I’d beg the trustees, or whatever they’s called, to be very particular, if I was you, and not have a thing touched either in the house, or the gardens, or the meadows, or the stables. I think, wi’ a word from you, they’d maybe keep me on i’ the stables, and I could look after things a bit; and the Day o’ Judgment will come at last, when all our secrets will be made known wi’out our having the trouble and the shame o’ telling ’em. I’m getting rayther tired o’ this world, Miss Ellinor.”
“Don’t talk so,” said Ellinor, tenderly. “I know how sad it is, but, oh! remember how I shall want a friend when you’re gone, to advise me as you have done to-day. You’re not feeling ill, Dixon, are you?” she continued, anxiously.
“No! I’m hearty enough, and likely for t’ live. Father was eighty-one, and mother above the seventies, when they died. It’s only my heart as is got to feel so heavy; and as for that matter, so is yours, I’ll be bound. And it’s a comfort to us both if we can serve him as is dead by any care of ours, for he were such a bright handsome lad, with such a cheery face, as never should ha’ known shame.”
They rode on without much more speaking. Ellinor was silently planning for Dixon, and he, not caring to look forward to the future, was bringing up before his fancy the time, thirty years ago, when he had first entered the elder Mr. Wilkins’s service as stable-lad, and pretty Molly, the scullery-maid, was his daily delight. Pretty Molly lay buried in Hamley churchyard, and few living, except Dixon, could have gone straight to her grave.