At last Gretel began to feel like herself again.
"I have been asleep," she faltered, rubbing her eyes with both hands and looking very much ashamed.
"Yes, indeed, entirely too much asleep"--laughed Hilda, whose lips were very pale--"but you are well enough now. Lean upon me, Gretel. There, keep moving, you will soon be warm enough to go by the fire. Now let me take you into the cottage."
"Oh, no! no! no! jufvrouw, not in there! The meester is there. He sent me away!"
Hilda was puzzled, but she wisely forebore to ask at present for an explanation. "Very well, Gretel, try to walk faster. I saw you upon the mound, some time ago, but I thought you were playing. That is right, keep moving."
All this time the kindhearted girl had been forcing Gretel to walk up and down, supporting her with one arm and, with the other, striving as well as she could to take off her own warm sacque.
Suddenly Gretel suspected her intention.
"Oh, jufvrouw! jufvrouw!" she cried imploringly. "PLEASE never think of such a thing as THAT. Oh! please keep it on, I am burning all over, jufvrouw! I really am burning. Not burning exactly, but pins and needles pricking all over me. Oh, jufvrouw, don't!"