|Newspaper Title||The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The Two Little Runaways|
The Two Little Runaways.
[WRITTEN FOB THE ' SYDNEY MAIL.']
Chapter IV. — [CONCLUDED.]
Wet, cold, hungry, and frightened, the two girls wandered off the platform and found their way on to the road. Dark and lonely as it was, they wandered on in hopes of finding some shelter, till they were both soaked by the rain, and Nellie's feet were too weary to carry her further. Then they crept into a tumble-down old barn v.-, tVio TYwdsidf' and manaared to sleeii a little in fitful
6natches till the morning dawned. The rain had all cleared off, and the sun soon blazed forth fiercely. The two children, in fop'- damp clothes, set out again on their travels. They had still a long journey before them, and had yet to learn the discomforts of travelling on foot and without money. After they had walked about three miles, and were both exhausted by the heat and unaccustomed fatigue, they had the good fortune to meet a kind-hearted drayman, who took compassion on their forlorn appearance, and offered to drive them a few miles further on their way. He also gave them each a large piece of bread, which they devoured eagerly, though it was much staler than some at which they grumbled when at Minerva House. They walked on again bravely for some time after he had to put them down ; then gradually Nellie began to limp, the soles of her boots were cut, and her poor little delicate feet were sore and bleeding. They were in an open country road now, and. Ada, leaving Nellie seated on the grass, wandered a little distance to a small stream, in which she dipped her pocket handkerchief to bind up her schoolfellow's feet. On her return she found that Nellie, faint from want of food and . exhausted by her long walk, had sunk back half fainting on the ground. Terribly alarmed, she knelt down and bathed Nellie's pale face with her handkerchief. For a few minutes Nellie's eyes opened, and she murmured faintly, 'Where am. I, Ada? We're not at home, are we ?' Then, for the first time, Ada gave way utterly. ' Oh, Nellie, darling !' she exclaimed, bursting into tears, 'it's all my fault. I've brought you to this, and I can never, never forgive myself ! How could we have left Minerva Houso, just tliink, Nellie ? It was only yesterday. Doesn't it 6eem years ago?' But Nellie could not think at all. Presently she raised her head and said, still in a weak voice, 'Never mind now, dear; I tliink I can walk again, if you Mill help me a little.' Ada assisted her for a few steps, with one arm tenderly round her waist; but almost directly Nellie's strength deserted her again. ' I am so tired, Ada,' she said. ' Let me lie down here, and go to sleep. I shall be quite well when I wake.' Ada sat down, and resting Nellie's head on her lap spread over her the one thin little shawl they had brought with them. Nellie'6 eyes soon closed : but her breathing was quick and irregular, and presently she began to talk rapidly and incoherently. ' It's getting 60 dark, Ada, and I'm tired. Don't you see Miss Rogers over there ? Oh, Miss Rogers, please, please don't make me say - it ! I can't do it, really I can't !' In a little while her large blue eyes opened ; she stared at Ada, but evidently without recognizing her at all. Then suddenly she cried, joyfully: ' Papa, papa ! I knew you would come. It was all a dream, wasn't it? But I was so frightened. Papa, papa ! take me home !' It was getting late in the afternoon ; there were no houses near, and Ada was afraid to leave Nellie alone while she went in search of assistance. All she could do was to bathe her fevered forehead with water from tiio stream, while she prayed, as she had never prayed m her life before, that God would send them help. The hours dragged slowly on; sometimes Nellie had some moments of troubled sleep ; sometimes, in fits of delirium, she spoke to her parents, to her schoolfellows, or to Miss Rogers. The first star at last appeared in the cloudless heavens ; and Ada began utterly to despair of help, when suddenly a well-known voice close to her shouted, ' Coo-ee ! I ve found them; here they are at last!' It was Harry Evelyn, and close behind him followed Mr. Wilson and Mr. Stanford. The thoughts of all the girls at Minerva House were so F'uch occupied with their lost schoolfellows that very few ' lessons were done on the day of their flight ; and as for the pnze essays they were completely forgotten. Agnes could 'Ujjkof nothing but Nellie, and was, indeed, so evidently imfitted for work of any kind that Miss Pocklington conside rately allowed her to remain out of the schoolroom. Miss .ockjingtou herself could only with the greatest difficulty I PT®. bor mind to the usual school routine, and many little | ™riagements of rules were passed by unnoticed. True to word, Harry Evelyn had rendered every assistance in his power to Mr. Stanford and Mr. Wilson in their anxious tlTiI an-^ k®11? very quick-witted and active had often ! inought of making inquiries of people to whom it would ] aever have occurred to the elder men to speak. Mrs. Tozer j seen and answered the advertisement in the morning paper, bo Harry set off with all speed to find the old woman, ®wuig the others to make inquiries in different directions, efound her without much difficulty, but despaired of ever Setting tile desired information from her, for Mrs. Tozer ^so charmed at the idea of having 'one of the quality ' visit her that she would have liked to have kept Harry v 616 f°r hours talking on all subjects but the one in which all ^-l8 interested. At last, however, she told him j; ij e ^meTr) and fortunately Ada had uninten fet out the name of the station to which they ere bound, or Mrs. Tozer's information would have been of nau value. Harry telegraphed at once to the distracted and. uncle, who arrived by the next train, and the i continued their search, with what success the reader ai^y knows. - -- ajT~'' Wilson's .thankfulness was shaded by sorrow and . tar d p]^9- *°°k bia little daughter in his arms and heard and Kir0?8 f°r the fever was gaining in height, sfinn L8 Eligbt frame shook constantly with her uncon v.Jr, 8tra&gles.. ' I shall take my poor child straight [»i h.er mother, Stanford,' said he; ' you and Harry 'f?h W Ada.' ance P cried Ada, in an agony of repent very his voice sounded veiy stern, ' are you am nn^7 ^^you, Ada ? no, dear,' he said tenderly, ' I aa%Ty' only ver7 veiy sad for my little Nellie.' Vae ft falter in.tbe strong man's voice with the last
words which pained Ada far more than anger could have done. It was a sad homeward journey for them all. Mr. Stanford and Harry, tirwl as they were, would have carried Ada to the station, but she insisted on walking. The relief of Miss Pocklington and all the girls at Minerva House, on lnvirin°- of the discovery of the little runaways, was extreme, though lessened of course by anxiety oil Nellie's account. Mr. Stanford had taken Ada to his own house, so the duty of informing Miss Pockling ton fell upon Harry Evelyn. In honour to him it mutt be stated that he fulfilled his task admirably. When he had finished his recital Miss Pocklington was so much overcome by her gratitude and emotion that she was on the point of testifying them by embracing Master Harry, but this was too much for his gravity, and he quitted the room precipi tately. Agnes pleaded 'hard to be sent home to help in nursing her little sister, but it now wanted such a snort time to the holidays that Miss Pocklington thought it better for her to remain at school. For some days after the adventure, the news about Nellie was uncertain and unsatis factory; the fatigue and exposure had seriously affected her delicate frame, and it seemed doubtful if her system would ever recover from the shock. However, before the momentous 20th of December, 6he was pronounced on the road to recovery, which enabled the girls to enjoy the party and distribution of prizes as they could not otherwise have done. The competition for Mr. Bridges' prize had been very limited, as Agnes had been too unhappy and unsettled to write an essay, and the handsome desk was awarded to Marion Armitage, the French and Arithmetic prizes both falling to Agnes's share. I do not think Nellie Wilson will live to be an old woman ; but certainly neither she nor Ada will ever forget the lossons taught them by their experiences when they ran away from Minerva House.