“I will go and ask them to help me,” she thought, dully. “They won’t kill me; perhaps they’ll give me a bit of bread for one of my baskets. They won’t call the p’lice so late as this.”
Dick looked up at her and obediently followed. It was all one to him where he went. He had no hopes and no fears, he was better off than poor Huldah in that respect, but he roused to renewed interest and expectation when his little mistress stopped before a cottage, and walking timidly up the garden, knocked at the front door.
A NIGHT SCARE.
Silence! Seconds passed, to Huldah they seemed endless, her heart, which at first had beat furiously, quieted down until it seemed scarcely to beat at all. Save for the good-night calls of the birds, and the sad mooing of a cow in a field not far away, the silence remained unbroken.
“Perhaps I didn’t knock loud enough,” thought Huldah, “or whoever’s inside may be gone to sleep.”
If her plight had been less desperate, she would never have had the courage to knock again, but she felt ill and exhausted and frightened, and something seemed to tell her that here she might find help. So, after waiting a little longer, she screwed up her courage again, and rapped once more, this time more loudly; and this time, at any rate, her knock called forth response. There were sounds of hasty shuffling steps across the floor, and then a voice, old and evidently trembling, called through the door, “Who is there?”
Huldah was puzzled how to answer. If she were to say “me,” it would be only foolish, while if she called back, “I am Huldah Bate,” her hearer would not know who Huldah Bate was. However, she had to say something, so she called back pleadingly, “I am a little girl, Huldah Bate, and please, ma’am, I’m starving, and—and please open the door. I can’t hurt you, I am too little.”
It was her voice even more than her words which induced Martha Perry to open her door to the suppliant. It was such a childish voice, and so weak, and pleading, and tired. So the bolts were drawn back, and the door was opened. It was only opened a few inches, but wide enough to let out a stream of light, which brought some comfort and hope to the child’s heart and the dog’s heart. Huldah stepped forward into the light to show herself.
“You are sure you ’aven’t got anybody with you?” asked the woman, with nervous suspicion.
“No, ma’am, no one but Dick.”
“Who’s Dick?” hastily pushing the door close, in her alarm.
“Dick’s my dog. He—he followed me. He’s starving, too,” and a sob broke from Huldah’s throat. “We wouldn’t hurt you, ma’am, for anything; we couldn’t, we’re dead-beat. I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday, and we’ve come miles and miles. I don’t want to come in, ma’am,” she pleaded, more and more eagerly, as the door remained rigidly closed, except for about three inches. “If only you’ll give us a bit of bread. I haven’t got any money, but I’ll give you one of my baskets for it. Oh, please, ma’am, don’t turn us away!” The tears began to rain down her thin white cheeks. She had borne all that she could bear, and she had not the strength to keep them back any longer.