Oh yes, I dont mind that, but I am a little frightened now, for I had lost my road.
And what made you ask it of me? Suppose I should tell you wrong?
I am sure you will not do that, said the little creature you are such a very old gentleman, and walk so slow yourself.
I cannot describe how much I was impressed by this appeal and the energy with which it was made, which brought a tear into the childs clear eye, and made her slight figure tremble as she looked up into my face.
Come, said I, Ill take you there.
She put her hand in mind as confidingly as if she had known me from her cradle, and we trudged away together: the little creature accommodating her pace to mine, and rather seeming to lead and take care of me than I to be protecting her. I observed that every now and then she stole a curious look at my face as if to make quite sure that I was not deceiving her, and that these glances (very sharp and keen they were too) seemed to increase her confidence at every repetition.
For my part, my curiosity and interest were at least equal to the childs, for child she certainly was, although I thought it probable from what I could make out, that her very small and delicate frame imparted a peculiar youthfulness to her appearance. Though more scantily attired than she might have been she was dressed with perfect neatness, and betrayed no marks of poverty or neglect.
Who has sent you so far by yourself? said I.
Somebody who is very kind to me, Sir.
And what have you been doing?
That, I must not tell, said the child.
There was something in the manner of this reply which caused me to look at the little creature with an involuntary expression of surprise; for I wondered what kind of errand it might be that occasioned her to be prepared for questioning. Her quick eye seemed to read my thoughts. As it met mine she added that there was no harm in what she had been doing, but it was a great secreta secret which she did not even know herself.
This was said with no appearance of cunning or deceit but with an unsuspicious frankness that bore the impress of truth. She walked on as before, growing more familiar with me as we proceeded and talking cheerfully by the way, but she said no more about her home, beyond remarking that we were going quite a new road and asking if it were a short one.
While we were thus engaged, I resolved in my mind a hundred different explanations of the riddle and rejected them every one. I really felt ashamed to take advantage of the ingenuousness or grateful feeling of the child for the purpose of gratifying my curiosity. I love these little people, and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. As I had felt pleased at first by her confidence I determined to deserve it, and to do credit to the nature which had prompted her to repose it in me.
There was no reason, however, why I should refrain from seeing the person who had inconsiderately sent her to so great a distance by night and alone, and as it was not improbable that if she found herself near home she might take farewell of me and deprive me of the opportunity, I avoided the most frequented ways and took the most intricate. Thus it was not until we arrived in the street itself that she knew where we were. Clapping her hands with pleasure and running on before me for a short distance my little acquaintance stopped at a door and remaining on the step till I came up knocked at it when I joined her.
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