So that was settled, and, of course, from that time I kept myself more than ever to myself, not even passing the time of day with a young man if I could help it, because I wanted to keep all my thoughts and all my words for Master Harry, if he should ever want me again.
Well, as I said, old Master and Mrs. Blake come back together from the station, and from that day forward Mrs. Blake was unbearabler than ever. And one day when Mr. Sigglesfield, the lawyer from Lewes, was in the parlour, she a-talking to him after he’d been up to see master (about his will, no doubt), she opened the parlour door sharp and sudden just as I was bringing the tea for her to have it with him like a lady—she opened the door sudden, as I say, and boxed my ears as I stood, and I should have dropped the tea-tray but for me being brought up a careful girl, and taught always to hold on to the tea-tray with all my fingers.
I’m proud to say I didn’t say a word, but I put down that tea-tray and walked into the kitchen with my ear as hot as fire and my temper to match, which was no wonder and no disgrace. Then she come into the kitchen.
‘You go this day month, Miss,’ she says, ’a-listening at doors when your betters is a-talking. I’ll teach you!’ says she, and back she goes into the parlour.
But I took no notice of what she said, for Master Harry, he hired me, and I would take no notice from any one but him.
Mr. Sigglesfield was a-coming pretty often just then, and Harry he come to me one day, and he says—
’It’s all right, Polly, and I must tell you because you’re the same as myself, though I don’t like to talk as if we was waiting for dead men’s shoes. Long may he wear them! But father’s told me he has left everything to me, right and safe, though I am the second son. My brother John never did get on with father, but when all’s mine, we’ll see that John don’t starve.’
And that day week old master was a corpse.
He was found dead in his bed, and the doctor said it was old age and a sudden breaking up.
Mrs. Blake she cried and took on fearful, more than was right or natural, and when the will was to be read in the parlour after the funeral she come into the kitchen where I was sitting crying too—not that I was fond of old master, but the kind of crying there is at funerals is catching, I think, and besides, I was sorry for Master Harry, who was a good son, and quite broken down.
‘You can come and hear the will read,’ she says, ’for all your impudence, you hussy!’
And I don’t know why I went in after her impudence, but I did. Mr. Sigglesfield was there, and some of the relations, who had come a long way to hear if they was to pull anything out of the fire; and Master Harry was there, looking very pale through all his sun-brownness. And says he, ’I suppose the will’s got to be read, but my father, he told me what I was to expect. It’s all to me, and one hundred to Mrs. Blake, and five pounds apiece to the servants.’