“Thank ye, guv’nor.”
“She is wild and delirious, and can get about in spite of her low state of health. It is possible that she may make some effort to get away, so be vigilant. Good day to you.”
“Good day, sir.” William Stevens stood at the gate, looking pensively after his employer; then he reseated himself upon his camp-stool, and, lighting his pipe, resumed his meditations. “I can’t make nought of it,” he muttered, scratching his head, “It do seem uncommon queer, to be sure. The boss he says, ‘She’s very low,’ says he, and then next minute he says, ‘She may be comin’ down and tryin’ to escape. ‘I’ve seen diers o’ all shapes and sizes, but I’ve never seed one as went a galivantin’ about like this—at least, not among them as died a nat’ral death. It do seem uncommon strange. Then, again, he’s off telegrayphin’ for a doctor to Lunnon, when there’s Doctor Corbett, o’ Claxton, or Doctor Hutton, o’ Bedsworth, would come quick enough if he wanted them. I can’t make no sense of it. Why, bust my buttons!” he continued, taking his pipe out of his mouth in a paroxysm of astonishment, “if here hain’t the dier herself!”
It was, indeed, Kate, who, learning that her guardian was gone, had come out with some vague idea of making a last struggle for her life and freedom. With the courage of despair, she came straight down the avenue to the sole spot where escape seemed possible.
“Good mornin’, missy,” cried Stevens, as she approached. “You don’t look extra bright this mornin’, but you ain’t as bad as your good guardian made me think. You don’t seem to feel no difficulty in gettin’ about.”
“There is nothing the matter with me,” the girl answered earnestly.
“I assure you there is not. My mind is as sound as yours.”
“That’s what they all says,” said the ex-warder with a chuckle.
“But it is so. I cannot stay in that house longer. I cannot, Mr.
Stevens, I cannot! It is haunted, and my guardian will murder me.
He means to. I read it in his eyes. He as good as tried this morning.
To die without one word to those I love—without any explanation of what
has passed—that would give a sting to death.”
“Well, if this ain’t outragis!” cried the one-eyed man; “perfectly outragis! Going to murder you, says you! What’s he a-goin’ to do that for?”
“God knows! He hates me for some reason. I have never gone against his wishes, save in one respect, and in that I can never obey him, for it is a matter in which he has no right to command.”
“Quite so!” said Stevens, winking his one eye. “I knows the feeling myself, cuss me, but I do! ‘Thine for once and thine for never,’ as the song says.”
“Why won’t you let me pass?” pleaded Kate. “You may have had daughters of your own. What would you do if they were treated as I have been? If I had money you should have it, but I have none. Do, do let me go! God will reward you for it. Perhaps when you are on your last bed of sickness the memory of this one good deed may outweigh all the evil that you have done.”
“Lor’, don’t she speak!” said Stevens, appealing confidentially to the nearest tree. “It’s like a dictionary.”
“And you won’t lose by it in this life,” the girl added eagerly. “See, here is my watch and my chain. You shall have that if you will let me through?”