It was quite dark, and round her swept as it were a whirlpool of snow. The swift flakes struck at her eyes and ears like a swarm of vicious flies. In such a wind, the blows of the soft thin snow, beating upon her face, now from one quarter, now from another, were enough to bewilder even a strong woman like Kirsty. They were like hail to a horse. After trying for a while to force her way, she suddenly became aware of utter ignorance as to the direction in which she was going, and, for the first time in her life, a fell terror possessed her — not for herself, but' for Steenie and her father and mother. To herself, Kirsty was nobody, but she belonged to David and Marion Barclay, and what were they and Steenie to do without her! They would go on looking for her till they too died, and were buried yards deep in the snow!

She kept struggling on, her head bent, and her body leaning forward, forcing herself against, it hardly seemed through, the snow-filled wind — but whither? It was only by the feel of the earth under her feet, that she could tell, and at times she was by no means sure, whether she was going up or down hill. She kept on and on, almost hopeless of getting anywhere, certain of nothing but that, if once she 185 sat down, she would never rise again. Fatigue that must not yield, and the inroads of the cold sleep, at length affected her brain, and her imagination began to take its own way with her. She thought herself condemned to one of those awful dust-towers, for she had read Prideaux, specially devilish invention of the Persians, in which, by the constant stirring of the dust so that it filled the air, the lungs of the culprit were at length absolutely choked up. Dead of the dust, she revived to the snow: it was fearfully white, for it was all dead faces; she crushed and waded through those that fell, while multitudes came whirling up on her from all sides. Gladly would she have thrown herself down among them, but she must walk, walk on forever!

All the time, she felt in her dim suffering as if not she but those at home suffered: she had deserted them in trouble, and do what she might — she would never get back to them! She could, she thought, if she but put forth the needful energy, but the last self-exhaustive effort never would come!

Where was the dog? He had left her! He was nowhere near her! She tried to call him, but the storm choked every sound in her very throat. He would never have left her to save himself! He who makes the dogs must be at least as faithful as they! So she was not left comfortless!

Then she heard, or thought she heard the churchbell, and that may have had something to do with the strange dream out of which she came gradually to herself.

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