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   Chapter 19 MOLLY.

The Last Tenant By B. L. Farjeon Characters: 9741

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


I continued the conversation.

"That must be a long time ago, Barbara?"

"Oh, yes, sir; ever so long ago."

"What was the name of her master?"

"I don't remember, sir."

"If you heard it, would you remember it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Was it Mr. Nesbit?"

"That's the name, sir. 'E 'ad a daughter, sech a nice young lady, Molly told me."

"Miss Beatrice Nesbit?"

"That's 'er, sir. Molly was so fond of 'er, and she liked Molly, too."

"Do you know, Barbara, what became of Miss Beatrice?"

"No, sir; do you?"

I evaded the question. "Can you read?" I asked.

"Large letters, when they're wrote plain, sir."

"You can't read newspapers?"

"No, sir."

"When Molly went away--we will speak about that presently--did nobody tell you that something had happened in this house?"

"No, sir; I didn't speak about Molly or the 'ouse to nobody, and nobody spoke to me. Wot did 'appen, sir?"

"Never mind just now. It is for me to ask questions."

"I beg yer pardon, sir."

"No need, Barbara. Where and how did you live, my dear, while Molly was in service here?"

"It's 'ard to say, sir. I lived anywhere and any'ow. If it 'adn't been for Molly I don't think I'd 'ave lived at all. She used to say, used Molly, 'One day we'll live together, Barbara. When yer grows up, per'aps Miss Beatrice 'll give yer a place with 'er. Then we shall be in the same 'ouse, and we'll be as 'appy as the day's long.' The day aint come yet, sir."

"When Molly worked here used you to come and see her?"

"On the sly, sir. Mr. Nesbit, Molly sed, wouldn't allow no followers, and nobody else come to the 'ouse that didn't 'ave no business there, so I 'ad to come unbeknown to 'im. One night I wos in the kitching when Molly 'eard 'im coming down. She 'id me quick be'ind the clothes 'orse, as 'ad some things drying. It was lucky for me and Molly that he didn't ketch sight of me, or he'd 'ave bundled us both out. My 'eart wos in my mouth all the time."

"You saw Mr. Nesbit?"

"Yes, sir; I peeped through the things and sor 'im."

"A nice looking gentleman, Barbara?"

"Quite the other, sir; but 'e spoke smooth to Molly."

"Did you ever see Miss Beatrice?"

"Once, sir, the same way, and I think she knew I wos 'iding, but she never sed nothink. She was the nicest looking young lady I ever sor."

"Tell me about Molly going away."

"She sed she was going into the country with 'er master and Miss Beatrice, and that she wouldn't be away long. She give me some money, and promised to send me some more every week, but I aint 'eerd nothink of 'er from that day to this. There wos Mrs. Simpson, sir; she let me sleep in a corner of 'er room. She wos allus 'ard up, Mrs. Simpson wos, and two weeks after Molly wos gone she got into trouble, and went away, I don't know where to, and I'd no place to put my 'ead in. I walked about the streets and slep' in the park, and then I thought I'd come 'ere and wait for Molly. There wos nothink else for it, 'cause Mrs. Simpson 'ad cut 'er lucky, and Molly wouldn't know where else to look for me. It wos orfle lonesome 'ere at fust, and I wos frightened out of my life almost; but I got used to it after a bit, and it wos a slice of luck, wosn't it, sir, that I found a place to sleep in without being arsked to pay no rent? Then there wos the coal cellar pritty well full of coals, and lots of wood to make a fire with. Daytime I'd go out selling matches, begging, doing anythink to make a honest penny, and it wosn't easy to do that, I can tell yer. But 'ere I am, no better off and no wus since I begun, and never found out till to-night."

"You must have managed very cleverly, Barbara."

"Oh, they don't make 'em much artfuller nor me," said the poor girl rather proudly. It was a pitiful boast from one who had suffered such hardships, and who, after years of struggle, presented so lamentable an appearance. "I aint told yer all, though," she continued eagerly. "I don't keep no count of the days 'xcept with bits of sticks--one stick, Monday, two sticks, Tuesday, three sticks, Wednesday, up to six sticks, Satterday, and then I know to-morrer's Sunday, and I begin all over again. Weeks I don't know 'ow to reckon, and that's why I can't tell 'ow long Molly's been away. I dessay it was three months when a Satterday night come--not the last by a good many--and I got 'ome as 'ungry as 'ungry could be, and not a ha'penny to get grub with. So wot do I do but prowl about on the chance of finding somethink that 'll 'elp me on. Molly used to sleep in the basement, next to the kitching, and there's a cupboard in the room. Wot 'yer think I found in that there cupboard on the top shelf, that I 'ad to stand on two chairs to git to? A wooden money-box, sir, that rattled as I shook it up. There wos letters outside wrote large by Molly, 'For Barbara.' Yer might 'ave knocked me down with a

feather when I sor it, and I did tumble off the chairs and 'urt myself, but I 'ad the money box in my 'and for all that. It wos locked, and there wos no key, but I soon prised it open, and there it was, 'arf full of coppers that Molly'd been saving up for me, else she wouldn't 'ave wrote 'For Barbara' outside. Wosn't that good of Molly, sir?"

"Indeed it was," I replied.

"I counted it out--six and tenpence, no less, sir, and I kissed the box, and the writing, and the money too, and I only wanted Molly alongside of me to make me as 'appy as the day's long. It lasted me a long while, that money did."

"Did you ever find any more?" I asked.

"No, sir, though I looked everywhere for it."

"Now, Barbara, can you tell me the name of the place your sister was going to with Mr. Nisbet and Miss Beatrice?"

"No, sir, she didn't know 'erself, she sed, but she promised to write to me--in large letters--directly she got there."

"Where did she say she would send the letter?'

"To the house that Mrs. Simpson lived in, sir."

"You remained in that house two weeks after Molly went away?"

"Yes, sir."

"And no letter came?"

"No, sir."

"How can you be sure of that?"

"Mrs. Simpson didn't git none for me, sir--I'm sure of that, 'cause I know she wouldn't deceive me. Why should she? It wouldn't 'ave done 'er no good to keep it from me; and she wosn't one of that sort. Then, sir, there wos the two postmen as used to leave the letters in the street. I made bold to arsk both of 'em about it, 'Is there a letter for Barbara, wrote large, please?' I sed to them every day, and they sed no, there wosn't. 'You won't give it to no one else, will yer, please, when it comes?' I sed to them and they sed they wouldn't. After Mrs. Simpson wos gone I went to the street regularly, and 'ung about for the postmen, and arsked 'em if there wos a letter for Barbara, or if there'd been one, and they allus sed no, and that they'd keep it for me if they got 'old of it. But it never come, sir. I couldn't 'ave done nothink else to make sure of it, could I, sir?"

"You could do nothing more, Barbara; and you were very clever in doing what you did. Did you understand from Molly that she was going abroad?"

"Abroad, sir!" exclaimed Barbara, in manifest astonishment.

"Out of England, I mean."

"Oh, no, sir; she'd 'ave been sure to 'ave told me if she'd 'ad any idea of that. And she'd never 'ave done it, sir; she'd never 'ave gone so fur away from me!"

"I don't think she would, Barbara, if she had known it. Did she tell you she was going alone first, and that her master and Miss Beatrice were to follow afterward?"

"No, sir, they wos to go all together."

"Are you sure of that?"

"As sure as I can be, sir."

"You have given me sensible answers to all my questions, my dear. I noticed when you came upstairs with us that you kept your eyes closed. I suppose you were sleepy."

"It wasn't that, sir."

"What was the reason?"

"I was frightened, sir."

"Of what?"

Barbara looked around timidly, and drew closer to the fire. "There's shadders in this 'ere 'ouse," she said, in a low tone.

"There are shadows everywhere, Barbara," I answered, as Bob and I exchanged glances. "Tell us what you mean."

"I can't, sir; it's beyond me. I 'eerd once, permiscuous like, that there wos a 'ouse somewhere in these parts as wos 'aunted, and I sed to myself, 'It's this one.' Then I begun to feel shadders about. It's months and months since I've come 'igher than the kitching; I've been frightened to. It's allus as if somethink wos going to 'appen, and when you woke me up to-night I thought it 'ad."

"You began to feel shadows about, Barbara?"

"Yes, sir."

"But what have you seen?"

"Nothink, sir; but I know they're 'ere."

"Have you heard anything?"

"Only a shaking and rattling, sir."

"When there was a wind blowing, Barbara. From your description that must have been what you heard. Some of the window sashes are loose, and of course, in a high wind, they would make a noise." Barbara did not answer, but seemed dubious, and at the same time a little relieved. I glanced at the cat at my feet. "You have seen nothing to-night?"

"No, sir."

"You see no shadows now?"

"No, sir."

In these replies there was no such confirmation of my own strange experiences as I had expected, and hoped, to receive when she began to speak of shadows, and I ascribed her fears to the natural nervousness of a child living in a lonely house. They were no stronger than sensitive children living in comfortable homes, with parents and brothers and sisters around them, often suffer from. I had tired Barbara out with my string of questions; her eyelids were closing and opening; her head was nodding. In the silence that ensued she closed her eyes, and did not open them again. The child had fallen asleep.

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