“This way,” he said, when he put her down in the road. “I like seclusion when I take a walk. There’s a station I prefer to Springbrook, it’s one I used to favour a good bit,” with a meaning little laugh, “and if I haven’t forgot my way all these years, and they haven’t altered the face of the country, the shortest cut to it lies through these very fields, so step out and put your best foot foremost.”
THE JOURNEY AND THE ARRIVAL.
Harry Lang’s “short cut” to the next station meant a good two hours of heavy walking, sometimes over rough uneven ground, sometimes through a little coppice, or along a quiet lane, all of them unknown to Jessie. For this very reason, perhaps, the way seemed even longer than it really was, but to the poor exhausted child it seemed endless. Her head ached distractingly, her back and legs ached, and her feet had almost refused to do her bidding long before she reached the station.
Her father noticed that she lagged, but it never occurred to him that the real reason was that she was exhausted—at least it did not occur to him until, when they at last reached the refreshment room, Jessie dropped like a stone upon the floor.
“What are you doing?” he snapped crossly, “get up! Can’t you see where you are going?”
But Jessie neither saw, nor heard, nor moved. The kindly-faced woman behind the counter first leaned out over it to look at her, then came around.
“Why, she’s in a dead faint,” she cried, lifting the limp little hand; “has she walked far? She looks dead beat.”
Harry Lang muttered something about “just a mile or so,” but he did not enlarge on the subject, and he seemed so morose and surly that no one felt drawn to say more to him than they could help. The woman lifted Jessie up, and laid her gently on a couch, but she had bathed her brow and her hands, and held smelling-salts under her nose for quite a long while before she showed any signs of life, and Harry Lang had wished himself miles away, and regretted his day’s work many times before Jessie with a deep, deep sigh at last opened her eyes.
For a moment she looked about her uncomprehendingly; then, as realization came to her, the woman bending over her heard her moan despairingly.
“Is she ill?” she asked.
“No,” said Harry Lang curtly, “only a bit tired and upset at having to leave the folks that brought her up. Maybe she’s hungry; we’ve walked a good step to get here, and we haven’t had a bite of anything. I’m hungry myself, so I dare say she is. Hungry, Jessie?”
“I want to go home, I must—I must. Oh, let me go,” moaned Jessie wildly, looking up at him beseechingly; but at sight of his face she shrank back frightened, and the words died on her lips.
“You are going home as fast as I can take you,” he said roughly; “if you’d sent word, I dare say they’d have got a special,” he added, with a sarcastic laugh.