"Look you, Duncan," Elsie exclaimed, when they had walked on some way in silence, "I've made up my mind to go, and what's the use o' waitin'? The sooner the better, for it may turn cold any day now. We shouldn't be long if it was fine, but if 'twas wet we might have to wait up in places. I must sit down an' see if I can find out the way to go from the map."
"We shan't be to school in time," Duncan protested.
"Well, an' I dunno that I care," Elsie replied. "What's the odds o' one afternoon more or less? It'll be many a day I shall be called truant, I reckon. But they might be after tellin' of us, an' she'd be lockin' me up in the loft, which isn't what I want, so we'll get to school to-day," she added, meditatively. "Here, take the basket, while I try to make the map out as we walk along."
Now, Elsie had a great many faults indeed, but there was one thing you may have noticed about her that had something of a good point about it: it never occurred to her to desert Duncan. She might have said, "You run on to the shop with the beans while I study the map," for Duncan knew his way well enough; but the little fellow had ever depended upon her, and been her inseparable companion. She would guide him into stray paths, but it would never occur to her to forsake him, or withdraw from him the protection of her fearless, daring spirit. One good point, however small and obscure it is, may be taken as a proof that there is some good soil in the nature which has developed it where other similar plants may flourish. We have room to hope, therefore, that Elsie was not without her better side.
"It don't look far," Elsie said, meditatively, tracing the space with her finger on the map, which was a small one, and to the inexperienced eyes that were studying it reduced distance to a mere nothing. "Here's London printed very big. It's a goodish way down, is London, gettin' on to the end of England, only England's a very little place, accordin' to the map. Any way, it wouldn't be so very long, for that old guide they've got at home with the map in it makes this road look just about six times as long as it is."
"You're quite sure we're goin' to run away?" Duncan asked, rather dolefully.
"I won't say whether it'll be walkin' or runnin', but I'm quite sure I shall go," Elsie replied.
"I think they'll cry when they can't find us," Duncan said, meditatively.
"Poor bodies! if they cry it'll be with rage to think we're gone," Elsie said contemptuously. "I just wonder if they'll guess then I've got the letter, an' that I've found out all about it. I'm no silly like you, Duncan, or I'd never have made head or tail of it; and then, what 'ud become of us when we're big?"
"We shan't be hungry, or tired, or anything bad, shall we?" asked the matter-of-fact Duncan.
Elsie's mind had passed over the trivial matter of the journey, and all such minor details, to the grand result, when she had found their father, and would be living with him in a beautiful place, with all that heart could desire. But Duncan's imagination could put on no such seven-league boots. It stuck fast at the first disagreeable details, and was not even rewarded by the prospect which so delighted Elsie, for his mind could not picture any other life than his present one.
"And what would you be the worse for a wee bit of hunger or tiredness? Ain't we often that? I'm hungry now without any dinner, an' you'll be fit to eat your head before you get your tea," said Elsie....