Lida was a mite of ten and looked younger, because she was such a small, wizened little creature. To-night, as she sidled boldly enough up to the manse girls, she looked as if she had never been warm since she was born. Her face was purple and her pale-blue, bold little eyes were red and watery. She wore a tattered print dress and a ragged woollen comforter, tied across her thin shoulders and under her arms. She had walked the three miles from the harbour mouth barefooted, over a road where there was still snow and slush and mud. Her feet and legs were as purple as her face. But Lida did not mind this much. She was used to being cold, and she had been going barefooted for a month already, like all the other swarming young fry of the fishing village. There was no self-pity in her heart as she sat down on the tombstone and grinned cheerfully at Faith and Una. Faith and Una grinned cheerfully back. They knew Lida slightly, having met her once or twice the preceding summer when they had gone down the harbour with the Blythes.
“Hello!” said Lida, “ain’t this a fierce kind of a night? “T’ain’t fit for a dog to be out, is it?”
“Then why are you out?” asked Faith.
“Pa made me bring you up some herring,” returned Lida. She shivered, coughed, and stuck out her bare feet. Lida was not thinking about herself or her feet, and was making no bid for sympathy. She held her feet out instinctively to keep them from the wet grass around the tombstone. But Faith and Una were instantly swamped with a wave of pity for her. She looked so cold—so miserable.
“Oh, why are you barefooted on such a cold night?” cried Faith. “Your feet must be almost frozen.”
“Pretty near,” said Lida proudly. “I tell you it was fierce walking up that harbour road.”
“Why didn’t you put on your shoes and stockings?” asked Una.
“Hain’t none to put on. All I had was wore out by the time winter was over,” said Lida indifferently.
For a moment Faith stated in horror. This was terrible. Here was a little girl, almost a neighbour, half frozen because she had no shoes or stockings in this cruel spring weather. Impulsive Faith thought of nothing but the dreadfulness of it. In a moment she was pulling off her own shoes and stockings.
“Here, take these and put them right on,” she said, forcing them into the hands of the astonished Lida. “Quick now. You’ll catch your death of cold. I’ve got others. Put them right on.”
Lida, recovering her wits, snatched at the offered gift, with a sparkle in her dull eyes. Sure she would put them on, and that mighty quick, before any one appeared with authority to recall them. In a minute she had pulled the stockings over her scrawny little legs and slipped Faith’s shoes over her thick little ankles.
“I’m obliged to you,” she said, “but won’t your folks be cross?”
“No—and I don’t care if they are,” said Faith. “Do you think I could see any one freezing to death without helping them if I could? It wouldn’t be right, especially when my father’s a minister.”