Just then she came to the top of the little hill up which Rob had crawled that winter morning, and once again the words Miss Rose had sung came back to her, as though they still lingered on the air there,
“Keep Thou my feet;
I do not ask to see
The distant scene,—one step enough for me.”
Huldah sang them aloud as she descended the slope, and the load of care slipped off her heart, leaving her with a brave determination to face courageously whatever might have to be faced.
HULDAH’S NEW HOME.
And there was very much to be faced, she found as the days came and went, for within a week of that afternoon when Emma Smith crossed her path again, much had been discussed and arranged, and another change was to come into Huldah’s life.
The doctor, the vicar’s own doctor, had seen and examined Emma Smith, and had given her but another year to live. He had not told her that, but he had warned her very gravely that she was in a very bad state of health, and that he would not answer for the consequences, if she did not obey him; and something in his voice or manner had stopped her peevish complainings, and set her thinking seriously.
The doctor strongly urged that she should go to the workhouse infirmary. “She will be well nursed and looked after there,” he said, “and she will be provided with all she requires,” but she herself showed such violent opposition that at last, in fear for her health, they ceased to press it. Had they done so, she would surely have run away. At the same time she had no other home, no means, and what powers she had had of earning any were fast failing her.
“I thought you’d be able to help me, now you’m getting on so well,” she said to Huldah. “We fed and clothed and did everything for you, and now’s your chance of returning some of it.” Then her mood changed, and she wept and moaned, and clung to the girl passionately. “Don’t you leave me!” she pleaded, hysterically; “don’t you go and turn your back on me, too. You was mine before you was hers,” nodding her head towards Mrs. Perry.
Her clinging to Huldah was more than a passing fancy, as they found, when they tried to get her to go into a home where she could have had rest and change and food and nursing. She sobbed and pleaded, then flatly refused to go, unless Huldah went too.
“She’s the only one in the world I know,” she cried. “Don’t send me away with strangers, they’ll all look down on me, and—and I—no, I couldn’t bear it. I won’t go, I won’t, I won’t! I’ll go off on the tramp again, where none of you will ever find me, and I won’t ever bother any of you any more.”
At last Huldah went with tears in her eyes to Miss Carew. “I’ll have to go with her, miss,” she said, piteously. “She can’t go away on the tramp all by herself. I can keep us both pretty well. I must go with her, Miss Rose, wherever she goes; she hasn’t got anybody else.”