Little Girl Lost
The wind howled fiercely around her, sending icy sleet that jabbed like tiny needles into her face. Her feet, encased only in thin leather shoes, were numb from the deep snow through which she trudged. She knew she must find shelter soon. But where? She could see nothing but a few feet of the trail ahead in the consuming darkness. Dear God, help me!
To her right a dim light appeared, filtering through the dense forest. A narrow clearing looked to go in the direction of the light. Hopefully, she followed it. The trees gradually gave way until she saw that the light emanated from a small wooden house. To her left stood a barn. Fearful of visibly intruding upon unknown people, she lifted the latch to the barn and crept inside, closing the door behind her with the inside latch.
If it had appeared dark outside, the inside was totally devoid. At least she was out of the wind and sleet. She groped into the interior, holding her hands in front of her and shuffling her benumbed feet to avoid unseen dangers.
On what felt like a pile of straw she lay down. Immediately. she took off her shoes and attempted to rub circulation back into her feet. Gradually the stiffness thawed and feeling began to return, for which she was glad. She wound her tunic tightly around her and curled into a ball.
The barn clattered and groaned like an old man as it swayed under the onslaught of the wind. She would remain stationary until morning light, knowing from experience that barns were filled with hazards.
As she lay shivering in the darkness, she pondered her future. As for her past, there was no going back. She wanted only to put as much distance between herself and her former dwelling as possible—and to do her best to forget what had occurred there.
But where am I to go? she wondered. I am unready to face this harsh world alone. And who will want me? Who has ever truly wanted me?
She tried to pray, but her words fell flat. If there is truly a God, He most certainly wants nothing to do with me. Cold and exhausted from her journey, she drifted into a troubled sleep—hoping in her sleep to find both rest and refuge from the torments of her soul.
* * * * *
Her eyes opened to pale beams of light seeping through the gaps in the wooden siding of the barn. In stark contrast to the night before was the calm. Neither did it seem quite so cold.
She rose quickly, knowing that to linger would be imprudent. She was a vagrant—and well she knew it. She made her way to the barn door and raised the inside latch as silently as possible. Cautiously, she peered around the door to see if anyone might be watching. A heavy snow was falling. Across the way, perhaps thirty paces distant, was the wooden house. She discerned no movement inside, but knew that at least one of its occupants had risen for the new day. Smoke was rising from the chimney.
For a brief moment, she considered knocking on the door for the warmth and the food she knew to be inside. Immediately she squelched the thought. She had already encroached without permission upon a stranger’s hospitality and could ask for nothing more. Silently, she latched the door behind her and made for the road, hoping that the falling snow would quickly cover her tracks.
Only when she was on the road and sufficiently away from the property did she pause to view the scene around her. The skies were a solid, dismal gray. To the left of the road was a wide field, blanketed in snow, surrounded by a zigzagging split rail fence. On the far side of the field was another home, set partially into the forest behind it. Ahead and to her right was thick conifer forest as far as she could see.
She resumed her journey. To where, she did not know. The snow-covered road upon which she trod was slightly raised in the middle, giving evidence of fissures on either side, where wagon wheels over many years had worn the path. All was silence, but for the sound of her feet. No sound from the heavens. No birds. No movement. No human voices. Nothing but silent stillness and the indiscernible padding of snow upon snow.
With her two hands, she scooped a chunk of snow to quench her thirst. For her gnawing hunger, no remedy was apparent. As she moved, she tried vainly to avoid the snow, not wanting a repeat of her near frost-bitten experience of the night before. Her steps were heavy and trance-like.
As the morning wore on, her feet grew increasingly numb. Finally, she stopped and removed her shoes. Again, she attempted to rub life back into her feet. Despair penetrated her soul. She tried again to pray, but heard only inward accusation.
Do I hear something? She cocked her ears northward. Her eyes focused on the road she had already traveled, which disappeared into a curve a quarter of a mile behind her. The sound grew until she discerned the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves and the wheels of a wagon.
Hastily she put on her shoes and made for the cover of the woods to her right. She crouched behind a fallen log, her heart racing as the wagon approached. Part of her wanted to return to the road and ask for help. Another part feared that they might be people who would do to her what had already been done—or worse. The wagon came to the place where she had left the road and abruptly stopped.
“Hello,” came the kindly voice of a man. “We saw you run into the woods. Don’t be afraid. We won’t harm you. Do you need help?”
She peered cautiously over the log. On the buckboard, at the nearer side sat a man in common gray clothing, with a broad brimmed hat upon his head. To his left sat a woman, partially obscured, who looked to be his wife. Poking over the cargo area of the wagon were two heads, a young girl and what appeared to be a younger boy. They certainly didn’t look dangerous. Slowly, she stood to her feet.
“Oh John, she’s just a girl,” said the woman.
“Where are you heading?” asked the man.
“Away from where?”
“Away.” Slowly the girl ventured into the open.