There was nothing to be seen down the lane except a single cart with a loutish young man walking at the horse’s head. She had a horror of the country folk since her encounter with the two bumpkins upon the Sunday. She therefore slipped away from the gate, and went through the wood to the shed, which she mounted. On the other side of the wall there was standing a little boy in buttons, so rigid and motionless that he might have been one of Madame Tussaud’s figures, were it not for his eyes, which were rolling about in every direction, and which finally fixed themselves on Kate’s face.
“Good morning, miss,” said this apparition.
“Good morning,” she answered. “I think I saw you with Mrs. Scully yesterday?”
“Yes, miss. Missus, she told me to wait here and never to move until I seed you. She said as you would be sure to come. I’ve been waitin’ here for nigh on an hour.”
“Your mistress is an angel,” Kate said enthusiastically, “and you are a very good little boy.”
“Indeed, you’ve hit it about the missus,” said the youth, in a hoarse whisper, nodding his head to emphasize his remarks. “She’s got a heart as is big enough for three.”
Kate could not help smiling at the enthusiasm with which the little fellow spoke.
“You seem fond of her,” she said.
“I’d be a bad ‘un if I wasn’t. She took me out of the work’us without character or nothing, and now she’s a-educatin’ of me. She sent me ‘ere with a message?”
“What was it?”
“She said as how she had written instead o’ electro-telegraphing, ’cause she had so much to say she couldn’t fit it all on a telegraph.”
“I thought that would be so,” Kate said.
“She wrote to Major—Major—him as is a-follerin’ of her. She said as she had no doubt as he’d be down to-day, and you was to keep up your sperrits and let her know by me if any one was a-wexin’ you.”
“No, no. Not at all,” Kate answered, smiling again. “You can tell her that my guardian has been much kinder to-day. I am full of hope now. Give her my warmest thanks for her kindness.”
“All right, miss. Say, that chap at the gate hasn’t been giving you no cheek has he—him with the game eye?”
“No, no, John.”
John looked at her suspiciously. “If he hasn’t, it’s all right,” he said; “but I think as you’re one of them as don’t complain if you can ‘elp it.” He opened his hand and showed a great jagged flint which he carried. “I’d ha’ knocked his other peeper out with this,” he said, “blowed if I wouldn’t!”
“Don’t do anything of the sort, John, but run home like a good little boy.”
“All right, miss. Good-bye to ye!”
Kate watched him stroll down the lane. He paused at the bottom as if irresolute, and then she was relieved to see him throw the stone over into a turnip field, and walk rapidly off in the opposite direction to the Priory gates.