« PreviousContinue »
1. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND
moi bon TALKING ABOUT,' SAID FLORENCE" (P. 75). Thon 2 "THE LITTLE MAID . . . FLEW AFTER HETTY (P. 78). bortis nibug
heard them both call out in high glee, “Hip, hip,
hoorah !" as she disappeared on the other side of the worst of it was that it seemed as if it would be the hedge and skimmed along the lane. so very interesting if she could only make out what “ Bother the book !" she cried angrily. “It conthe meaning really was.
fuses me so, I can't think of anything. Why Still reading, and running as hard as she could, i don't I stop, I wonder ?” She said this over about she few out of the garden gate. She wished to fifty times before she could understand what she turn round and see how her parents looked ; but was thinking of, for she was reading as fast as she that book drew her eyes on to its pages with could all the while, and everybody knows how the fascination of a serpent. Then she suddenly hard it is to read and think at just the same time.
I will think," she said, and flung the book down “I can't stand still!” shouted Hetty, who had got in the tall grass and furze. Then she began to a good way past the little cottager. “I've got think. “Is anybody running after me to stop me ?” muscular
spasms; it's a disease that makes you run She screwed her head round, but there was not just as if you were wound up like a clock. Run a sign of any one, and then she remembered the after me and catch me.”
Hip, hip, hoorah !” she had heard, and she really The little maid, nothing loth, flew after Hetty at began to believe that her parents didn't care a bit her topmost speed, and a very good runner she where she went to-that they had not even followed was, for she was soon alongside of her. “I'm her out of the garden.
going to the village to fetch some sugar and tea," At this dreadful discovery Hetty was filled with she said, and she held up a sixpence. alarm and dismay. It was beginning to grow dusk ; Hetty's eyes glistened. “Do you know," she and although she could not have been running cried, “I've been running ever since this morning, inore than half an hour, she had already gone right and I'm awfully tired. I don't believe anything across the great common, and was on the skirts of but sixpence will stop me." the wood. “At this rate," she thought, “I shall “What funny medicine !” said the little girl. soon get half round England. If I could only “How can sixpence cure your spasms ?” stand still a moment I could think how to stop “You don't understand," said Hetty irritably. myself; but there's no good waiting for that, be- “It's a very strange thing altogether, and if I were cause if I could stop at all I could stop altogether. to explain you wouldn't be able to see it. But if Why can't I think? I must and will find out the you'd only lend me that sixpence I'd give you a way to stop.”
shilling in return (Hetty didn't say when). I'm While these thoughts were passing through her ready to drop with running." mind she never noticed that she had plunged right “Where's the shilling?" asked the child. into the wood. Now she was startled by finding it Oh, you'd have to wait till I got home,” Hetty suddenly very dark, for a little way in it the trees replied, ignoring the fact that she must have two were pretty thickly grown.
weeks' pocket-money before she possessed such a “At any rate, I'm not obliged to go any particular way," she said to herself, “so I'll just turn round “I'll lend it you for a minute,” said the little girl, and go home. What a stupid I am !”
who was evidently curious to see how much truth But Hetty found to her horror that, try as she there was in Hetty's strange story. would, she couldn't turn round. Just as she got a Hetty eagerly seized the coin, exclaiming, “Now little edgeways, something she could not resist I've got the fine!” seemed to set her straight again, with her face Her legs immediately began to slacken their pace, towards the dark heart of the wood.
and presently she stood still. How lovely!" she “This is too ridiculous !” she cried impatiently. exclaimed, drawing a long breath of relief. “How could I forget the way to turn round ? It's “Now give me back my sixpence,” cried the all the running. I suppose you have to do it a
little girl. different way when you're running so fast. And Oh, no!” said Hetty, clasping it tightly, and yet I can't remember any rules about turning round. feeling that nothing could induce her to part with It never seemed to come difficult before.”
it. “ If you come to my house I'll give you a All this time Hetty was running so quickly that shilling the week after next.” she had penetrated a good way into the wood. It “But to-morrow's Sunday !” cried the child, was very hard running here, for thick roots of trees beginning to sob. “ If you don't give it back we lay all across her path, and frequently tripped her shan't have tea and sugar for to-morrow." up. But however much she hurt herself she still “If you come home with me you can have went on, quite heedless of the pain, not because pudding, and beef, and cake, and all sorts of things," she liked it, but because she couldn't help herself. said Hetty. “I know mamma would give you some.
Presently she noticed that it seemed to be getting “Enough for all ?” asked the child, with lighter, and in the distance she saw an opening in glistening eyes. the trees. She very soon reached it, and found a "Oh, yes!” Hetty answered readily, not caring clear space with a small cottage. A little girl about so long as she kept the sixpence.
“Come along her own age came out of the door.
with me." Presently Hetty overtook her.
“ Where are you
* How far is it?" asked the little girl cautiously. going?" she asked.
“ To Haslemere." The child stared at her in surprise.
“Why, that's about twenty miles. We shouldn't wait a moment I'd tell you,” she cried to Hetty. get there to-night, and mother'd think I was lost.
I must have my sixpence! You're a thief! Give it to me, I say!” crying bitterly.
While the little girl was crying and scolding, Hetty, tightly clasping the coin, had turned round, and was walking quickly towards the wood.
She walked along pretty briskly for her-her usual pace being something like a snail's ; but evening was drawing on, and it began to grow very dark in the wood. Still, there was nothing for it but to get home as fast as she could, for there was no house but the cottage anywhere near, and it was not likely they would give her shelter. She wondered whether the cottage folk really only had tea and bread-and-butter for their Sunday ; if so, they would have only bread-and-butter now, without the tea. Hetty felt a little uncomfortable. The little girl called her a thief. But that was nonsense, because she was going to pay it back ; and, of course, she must get home, even if they didn't have tea. Tea wasn't much. She didn't care about it.
Twenty miles to go. It was no good walking ; she'd never get home. She must run.
But try as she would, her legs wouldn't go. They had just the same sort of feeling about them as when she had tried to stand still, only in the other way. She seemed quite to have forgotten the way to start off. They were as obstinate as she was herself, and that was saying something.
" I should like to beat them,” she thought angrily. “Why don't they do what they're wanted to? Obstinate things !"
It was no use calling them names ; they didn't go a bit the faster.
It came into her mind that if she got rid of the sixpence she would most likely set off running again. But that was a horrible alternative. She recalled with a shudder the long run she had already had, and she didn't know which she disliked the most, the running or not being able to run; besides, after the trouble she'd had to get the sixpence, she could not bring herself to throwing it away. If the little girl were anywhere near she would give it back. She plodded on through the dusky glades of the forest, which were growing so dark that she began to tremble at every sound among the branches.
As she walked along with difficulty, for she was dreadfully tired and footsore, she heard the distant sound of a dog barking. She listened eagerly, hoping it might be one of her father's dogs, who would conduct her safely home.
The sounds came nearer and louder, but they seemed to have an angry growl in them. Suddenly there flashed into her mind some words out of an old book she had been reading the day before.
“ The forests of England formerly abounded with wolves. There are still some to be found in the sombre depths of lonely woods, far removed from human habitations."
There could be no doubt that it was a wolf. Without a moment's hesitation, Hetty flung the sixpence int@ the deep tangled undergrowth, and to her intense relief found herself speeding away through the dark forest, heedless of roots and low hanging branches.
But the faster she ran the faster the wolf came after her. It was to be a race between them, and Hetty remembered with consternation that he had four legs to her two.
I wish I could describe Hetty's feelings while this grim race was going on. How her heart beat with terror, and the dreadful feeling of loneliness and despair as the baying came nearer, and she believed every moment she would be torn to pieces by that ravening wolf, with no one near to succour her, or even know the dreadful fate that had be. fallen her.
And it didn't seem likely that poor Hetty would get home. The wolf came nearer and nearer yet ; it was impossible for her to run faster. She was almost dropping with fatigue now, aching in every limb, and with a sort of numbness all over her.
Still she sped on, with that dreadful pitter-patter ever following. Suddenly she felt her frock seized, and with a cry of horror she looked round, to behold the great mild eyes of Bruin, her father's hound.
How it happened she could not tell, but presently she felt herself lifted in some one's arms, and worn out with fatigue, she dropped off into a sweet sleep.
That some one must have carried her home, for when she awoke she was lying wrapped up outside her own bed, feeling so beautifully rested, all except the aching in her limbs.
“Well, Hetty, how do you feel ?” asked her mother.
“Very nice, except the ache,” Hetty replied, with a long-drawn sigh of relief. “But after running so much--forty miles nearly--"
“ Running ! ” said her mother. “What do you mean, child ? "
But Hetty only replied, “I wonder how I can find the sixpence? Would you let me have one to pay the fine till I do? I don't think I could run any more. But I ought to give it back to the little girl first, I think.”
I don't know what you're talking about,” said her mother. “Have you been dreaming ?
“Oh, no! I never dreamt anything when I went to sleep. But who picked me up in the wood ?" she asked ; "and how did I get here, mamma?”