Huldah scarcely knew how that walk passed. She was conscious now and then of a feeling of shame, for letting herself be carried. She felt she ought to walk, but before she could say so the old faintness stole over her again, and she knew that to walk was beyond her power. Now and then she heard the policeman talking in a friendly voice to Dick, who walked close beside them, and Dick’s excited bark. She was wondering how much further they had to go, when they drew up, and Huldah found herself being laid on a wooden bench in a room where two or three policemen were standing round a fire.
To her surprise, she was no longer afraid of them, they were too kind and gentle for that. One of those standing by the fire, an elderly man, came over to where she lay.
“Well, young woman,” he said, cheerfully, “and when did you have anything to eat last? Day before yesterday, by the look of you.”
Huldah tried to remember. “It wasn’t quite so long ago as that,” she said, feebly. “I had some dinner—yesterday, I think. When was yesterday?”
The man laughed. “Don’t you worry,” he said, kindly; “you’ve been living two days in one, and have got muddled. You will feel better when you’ve had a basin of hot bread and milk. Bring her over to the fire, Harry, she’s starved with the cold.”
“Harry,” her first friend, carried her over, and put her in a big armchair by the fire, and presently one of the others brought her a basin of hot bread and milk, and a plateful of food for Dick, and before Huldah had taken a half of it she was feeling altogether a different person.
“I didn’t feel hungry, but I s’pose I was,” she said, simply, looking up with grateful, friendly eyes at the old policeman. “I feel ever so much better now.”
“Ay, ay; we don’t always know what we want, nor what is good for us,—but here’s somebody as’ll be good for you, unless I’m very much mistaken!” and Huldah, following the direction of his eyes as they travelled to the door, gave one long low cry of rapturous delight, for there walking in to the police station were Mrs. Perry and Miss Rose!
ONE SUMMER’S AFTERNOON.
Huldah was home again, and Dick too, and more free and happy than they had ever been in their lives before, for, from Huldah, at any rate, there was lifted the great dread of being traced by her uncle and taken back, a dread which had in the old days lain always like a shadow on her life. Now, the worst had happened, and was over, for the law had declared that neither Tom Smith nor Emma, his wife had the slightest claim to her, not being related at all. Nor were they fit and proper persons to have the charge of any child. And to her great delight she was handed over to the guardianship of the vicar and Miss Rose Carew, and to the care of Mrs. Perry, to be trained and brought up to be an honest, truthful, industrious woman.