Hetty shuddered. She was silent for some moments, and when she began again, it was in a whisper.
"I came to a place where there was lots of chips and turf, and I sat down on the trunk of a tree to think what I should do. And all of a sudden I saw a hole under the nut-tree, like a little grave. And it darted into me like lightning — I'd lay the baby there and cover it with the grass and the chips. I couldn't kill it any other way. And I'd done it in a minute; and, oh, it cried so, Dinah — I couldn't cover it quite up — I thought perhaps somebody 'ud come and take care of it, and then it wouldn't die. And I made haste out of the wood, but I could hear it crying all the while; and when I got out into the fields, it was as if I was held fast — I couldn't go away, for all I wanted so to go. And I sat against the haystack to watch if anybody 'ud come. I was very hungry, and I'd only a bit of bread left, but I couldn't go away. And after ever such a while — hours and hours — the man came — him in a smock-frock, and he looked at me so, I was frightened, and I made haste and went on. I thought he was going to the wood and would perhaps find the baby. And I went right on, till I came to a village, a long way off from the wood, and I was very sick, and faint, and hungry. I got something to eat there, and bought a loaf. But I was frightened to stay. I heard the baby crying, and thought the other folks heard it too — and I went on. But I was so tired, and it was getting towards dark. And at last, by the roadside there was a barn — ever such a way off any house — like the barn in Abbot's Close, and I thought I could go in there and hide myself among the hay and straw, and nobody 'ud be likely to come. I went in, and it was half full o' trusses of straw, and there was some hay too. And I made myself a bed, ever so far behind, where nobody could find me; and I was so tired and weak, I went to sleep . . . .But oh, the baby's crying kept waking me, and I thought that man as looked at me so was come and laying hold of me. But I must have slept a long while at last, though I didn't know, for when I got up and went out of the barn, I didn't know whether it was night or morning. But it was morning, for it kept getting lighter, and I turned back the way I'd come. I couldn't help it, Dinah; it was the baby's crying made me go — and yet I was frightened to death. I thought that man in the smock-frock 'ud see me and know I put the baby there. But I went on, for all that. I'd left off thinking about going home — it had gone out o' my mind. I saw nothing but that place in the wood where I'd buried the baby . . . I see it now. Oh Dinah! shall I allays see it?"
Hetty clung round Dinah and shuddered again. The silence seemed long before she went on.
"I met nobody, for it was very early, and I got into the wood . . . .I knew the way to the place . . . the place against the nut-tree; and I could hear it crying at every step . . . .I thought it was alive . . . .I don't know whether I was frightened or glad . . . I don't know what I felt. I only know I was in the wood and heard the cry. I don't know what I felt till I saw the baby was gone. And when I'd put it there, I thought I should like somebody to find it and save it from dying; but when I saw it was gone, I was struck like a stone, with fear. I never thought o' stirring, I felt so weak. I knew I couldn't run away, and everybody as saw me 'ud know about the baby. My heart went like a stone. I couldn't wish or try for anything; it seemed like as if I should stay there for ever, and nothing 'ud ever change. But they came and took me away."
Hetty was silent, but she shuddered again, as if there was still something behind; and Dinah waited, for her heart was so full that tears must come before words. At last Hetty burst out, with a sob, "Dinah, do you think God will take away that crying and the place in the wood, now I've told everything?"
"Let us pray, poor sinner. Let us fall on our knees again, and pray to the God of all mercy."