She took her hat off, and drew her hood over her head, but with Dick beside her nothing would save her, she knew. So slowly had she come that darkness was already beginning to fall. Seeing this, she tried to hurry on more quickly, and once within sight of their own lane relief gave her strength to run. In the lane the twilight was deeper, and already Mrs. Perry, growing nervous, had lighted the lamp in the kitchen. The warm glow streamed out on poor frightened Huldah, and welcomed her. At the sound of her footsteps the house door flew open, and Mrs. Perry came out on the step to meet her; but instead of her usual smile and greeting, Huldah fell exhausted into her arms and burst into a passion of bitter sobs.
“I tell you that there’s my dog! He was stolen from me, and I’m going to ’ave the law of whoever’s got ’im.”
Tom Smith went blustering back into the public-house, almost speechless with anger. To have been so near Dick and then to have missed him, was almost more than he could bear. If he had known he had missed Huldah too, he would have been even more angry.
“You can’t have the law of people for taking in a stray,” remarked one man, quietly. They none of them liked Tom Smith, and most of them wished he would go on his way and leave them to their quiet gossip.
“Perhaps he ran away,” suggested another, drily.
Tom Smith glowered at him sullenly. “What should he run away for?” he asked, sharply.
“Well, that’s more’n I can say,” answered the man, calmly. “It seems to be his way, by the look of him just now. Dogs do it sometimes, when they think they’d like a change.”
“I know he didn’t run away; he was stolen, and I’d give five shillings to know who’d got him, and where he lives.”
He did not mean what he said, and he never intended to part with five shillings, but he did want to find Dick, and he meant to do it, too. For once he was taken at his word.
“Hand over your five bob. I can tell you where the dog lives.” The voice came from over by the window, and all eyes were turned in that direction. A young man, a stranger to all there, was standing leaning eagerly towards Tom Smith, his hand held out. He had been sitting silent until this moment, but listening attentively to all that was being said.
Tom Smith turned towards him, looking very foolish; and, as usual, when he felt small he began to bluster. “Likely tale I’m going to hand over five shillings now! How do I know you knows anything about the dog; what one I means, or where he lives, or anything at all about him? Besides, I don’t give the five bob unless I actually gets hold of the dog.”
“I tell you I do know him; he’s a yaller dog, a long-legged thing with a short tail, and he goes about with a girl, and he’s called Dick. I shouldn’t have said I know’d him if I didn’t.”