"Good-evening, Mrs McNab," she would say.
She had a pleasant way with her. The girls all liked her. But, dear,many things had changed since then (she shut the drawer); many familieshad lost their dearest. So she was dead; and Mr Andrew killed; andMiss Prue dead too, they said, with her first baby; but everyone had lostsome one these years. Prices had gone up shamefully, and didn't comedown again neither. She could well remember her in her grey cloak.
"Good-evening, Mrs McNab," she said, and told cook to keep a plate ofmilk soup for her—quite thought she wanted it, carrying that heavy basketall the way up from town. She could see her now, stooping over herflowers; and faint and flickering, like a yellow beam or the circle at theend of a telescope, a lady in a grey cloak, stooping over her flowers, wentwandering over the bedroom wall, up the dressing-table, across thewash-stand, as Mrs McNab hobbled and ambled, dusting, straightening.
And cook's name now? Mildred? Marian?—some name like that. Ah, shehad forgotten—she did forget things. Fiery, like all red-haired women.
Many a laugh they had had. She was always welcome in the kitchen. Shemade them laugh, she did. Things were better then than now.
She sighed; there was too much work for one woman. She wagged herhead this side and that. This had been the nursery. Why, it was all dampin here; the plaster was falling. Whatever did they want to hang a beast'sskull there? gone mouldy too. And rats in all the attics. The rain came in.
But they never sent; never came. Some of the locks had gone, so thedoors banged. She didn't like to be up here at dusk alone neither. It wastoo much for one woman, too much, too much. She creaked, shemoaned. She banged the door. She turned the key in the lock, and left thehouse alone, shut up, locked.
The house was left; the house was deserted. It was left like a shell on asandhill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it. The long nightseemed to have set in; the trifling airs, nibbling, the clammy breaths,fumbling, seemed to have triumphed. The saucepan had rusted and themat decayed. Toads had nosed their way in. Idly, aimlessly, the swayingshawl swung to and fro. A thistle thrust itself between the tiles in the larder.