The sun was shining radiantly, drying up the dew on the flowers, and making the red-tiled path glow warmly; it seemed to fill the garden, the cottage, and all Huldah’s world with cheerfulness. By the time she had finished sweeping, the kettle was singing, so Huldah got the teapot and warmed it. She even warmed the cup and saucer too, in her anxiety that Mrs. Perry should have her tea as hot as possible. Then she cut a slice of bread as neatly as she could and toasted it.
Dick was lying out in the sun, gnawing at the remains of his ham-bone, as happy as a dog could be. Huldah glanced out at him every now and then while she was toasting the bread, and tried to realise that they were the same two who only yesterday morning were thrashed so unmercifully—she, for giving Dick some bread and butter, and Dick for eating it, after which had followed that dreadful scene when her uncle Tom had kicked poor old helpless Charlie so cruelly, partly because the poor old horse moved slowly, but chiefly because he knew that it would hurt Huldah more than any beating or starving of herself could.
It hurt her so greatly that she felt she could not bear it any longer, and then and there made up her mind to run away. Half of Charlie’s kicks and blows were given him, she knew, because they hurt and angered her. Perhaps, she thought, if she were gone life would become easier for him. So she went,—and that was only yesterday, and the only pang of feeling or remorse that she felt for what she had done was the loss of Charlie.
“Do you think you could find your way to the vicarage?”
Huldah had given Mrs. Perry her breakfast, and taken her own, and now had gone up again to remove the cup and plate, and ask what more she could do. She was longing to make herself useful, that she might show how grateful she was for all that had been done for her.
“Yes, I’m sure I could,” she answered, readily.
“Miss Rose said she’d come to me any time I wanted her, and I feel I want her now, but I don’t know how to let her know, unless you will go for me.”
“I’ll go,” said Huldah, eagerly. “I’d like to.” Then, with sudden recollection of her uncle and aunt, her heart sank. “I—I don’t suppose I’d meet uncle that way, but—but there’d be the chance of that, any way I went,” she added, trying to be brave and sensible.
Mrs. Perry looked anxious too. “I don’t s’pose he could have got so far by this time, even if he came this way. You see, he’d have to keep to the road with the van, and you cut across country.”
“Oh, it’s sure to be all right,” said Huldah, more bravely, determined not to be afraid. “I won’t take Dick, though, if you’ll keep him, ma’am. If I did see them coming, I could hide behind a hedge or somewhere, but Dick, he’s racing everywhere, and I’d never be able to hide him too.”