Again the landlady pondered.
‘Would you be willing to pay five and sixpence?’
’Yes, I would pay five and sixpence—if you are quite sure that you could let me live in my own way with satisfaction to yourself. I—in fact, I am a vegetarian, and as the meals I take are so very simple, I feel that I might just as well prepare them myself. Would you object to my doing so in this room? A kettle and a saucepan are really all—absolutely all—that I should need to use. As I shall be much at home, it will be of course necessary for me to have a fire.’
In the course of half an hour an agreement had been devised which seemed fairly satisfactory to both parties.
‘I’m not one of the graspin’ ones,’ remarked the landlady. ’I think I may say that of myself. If I make five or six shillings a week out of my spare room, I don’t grumble. But the party as takes it must do their duty on their side. You haven’t told me your name yet, mum.’
’Miss Madden. My luggage is at the railway station; it shall be brought here this evening. And, as I am quite unknown to you, I shall be glad to pay my rent in advance.’
‘Well, I don’t ask for that; but it’s just as you like.’
’Then I will pay you five and sixpence at once. Be so kind as to let me have a receipt.’
So Miss Madden established herself at Lavender Hill, and dwelt there alone for three months.
She received letters frequently, but only one person called upon her. This was her sister Monica, now serving at a draper’s in Walworth Road. The young lady came every Sunday, and in bad weather spent the whole day up in the little bedroom. Lodger and landlady were on remarkably good terms; the one paid her dues with exactness, and the other did many a little kindness not bargained for in the original contract.
Time went on to the spring of ’88. Then, one afternoon, Miss Madden descended to the kitchen and tapped in her usual timid way at the door.
’Are you at leisure, Mrs. Conisbee? Could I have a little conversation with you?’
The landlady was alone, and with no more engrossing occupation than the ironing of some linen she had recently washed.
’I have mentioned my elder sister now and then. I am sorry to say she is leaving her post with the family at Hereford. The children are going to school, so that her services are no longer needed.’
’Yes. For a shorter or longer time she will be in need of a home. Now it has occurred to me, Mrs. Conisbee, that—that I would ask you whether you would have any objection to her sharing my room with me? Of course there must be an extra payment. The room is small for two persons, but then the arrangement would only be temporary. My sister is a good and experienced teacher, and I am sure she will have no difficulty in obtaining another engagement.’
Mrs. Conisbee reflected, but without a shade of discontent. By this time she knew that her lodger was thoroughly to be trusted.