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Title: Sue, A Little Heroine
Author: Meade, L. T., 1854-1914
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SUE
A LITTLE HEROINE

by

L. T. MEADE

Author of
"A Girl from America," "The Princess of the Revels,"
"Polly, a New-Fashioned Girl," "A Sweet Girl Graduate," etc.



New York
The New York Book Company
1910



BIOGRAPHY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY

L. T. Meade (Mrs. Elizabeth Thomasina Smith), English novelist, was born
at Bandon, County Cork, Ireland, 1854, the daughter of Rev. R. T. Meade,
Rector of Novohal, County Cork, and married Toulmin Smith in 1879. She
wrote her first book, _Lettie's Last Home_, at the age of seventeen and
since then has been an unusually prolific writer, her stories attaining
wide popularity on both sides of the Atlantic.

She worked in the British Museum, living in Bishopsgate Without, making
special studies of East London life which she incorporated in her
stories. She edited _Atlanta_ for six years. Her pictures of girls,
especially in the influence they exert on their elders, are drawn with
intuitive fidelity; pathos, love, and humor, as in _Daddy's Girl_,
flowing easily from her pen. She has traveled extensively, being devoted
to motoring and other outdoor sports.

Among more than fifty novels she has written, dealing largely with
questions of home life, are: _David's Little Lad_; _Great St.
Benedict's_; _A Knight of To-day_ (1877); _Miss Toosey's Mission_;
_Bel-Marjory_ (1878); _Laddie; Outcast Robbin, or, Your Brother and
Mine_; _A Cry from the Great City_; _White Lillie and Other Tales_;
_Scamp and I_; _The Floating Light of Ringfinnan_; _Dot and Her
Treasures_; _The Children's Kingdom: the Story of Great Endeavor_; _The
Water Gipsies_; _A Dweller in Tents_; _Andrew Harvey's Wife_; _Mou-setse:
A Negro Hero_ (1880); _Mother Herring's Chickens_ (1881); _A London
Baby: the Story of King Roy_ (1883); _Hermie's Rose-Buds and Other
Stories_; _How it all Came Round_; _Two Sisters_ (1884); _Autocrat of
the Nursery_; _Tip Cat_; _Scarlet Anemones_; _The Band of Three_; _A
Little Silver Trumpet_; _Our Little Ann_; _The Angel of Love_ (1885); _A
World of Girls_ (1886); _Beforehand_; _Daddy's Boy_; _The O'Donnells of
Inchfawn_; _The Palace Beautiful_; _Sweet Nancy_ (1887); _Deb and the
Duchess_ (1888); _Nobody's Neighbors_; _Pen_ (1888); _A Girl from
America_ (1907).



CONTENTS

        I. BIG BEN'S VOICE.                           1 
       II. A SERVANT OF GOD.                          3 
      III. GOOD SECURITY.                             7 
       IV. SOLITARY HOURS.                            9 
        V. EAGER WORDS.                              10 
       VI. DIFFERENT SORT OF WORK.                   12 
      VII. SHOPPING.                                 21 
     VIII. COMPARISONS.                              26 
       IX. A TRIP INTO THE COUNTRY.                  31 
        X. THE RETURN TO LONDON.                     35 
       XI. A NEW DEPARTURE.                          44 
      XII. LEFT ALONE.                               48 
     XIII. PETER HARRIS.                             60 
      XIV. THE SEARCH.                               66 
       XV. CONCENTRATION OF PURPOSE.                 69 
      XVI. PICKLES.                                  74 
     XVII. CINDERELLA.                               78 
    XVIII. THE METROPOLITAN FIRE BRIGADE.            79 
      XIX. A SAINTLY LADY.                           83 
       XX. CAUGHT AGAIN.                             87 
      XXI. SAFE HOME AT LAST.                        94 
     XXII. NEWS OF SUE.                             105 
    XXIII. AMATEUR DETECTIVE.                       109 
     XXIV. MOTHER AND SON.                          112 
      XXV. ABOUT RONALD.                            113 
     XXVI. TWO CUPS OF COFFEE.                      124 
    XXVII. DELAYED TRIAL.                           127 
   XXVIII. CINDERELLA WOULD SHIELD THE REAL THIEF.  130 
     XXIX. A LITTLE HEROINE.                        132 
      XXX. WHAT WAS HARRIS TO HER?                  134 
     XXXI. A STERN RESOLVE.                         136 
    XXXII. AN UNEXPECTED ACCIDENT.                  137 
   XXXIII. A POINTED QUESTION.                      138 
    XXXIV. PICKLES TO THE FORE AGAIN.               141 
     XXXV. THE WINGS ARE GROWING.                   142 
    XXXVI. A CRISIS.                                143 
   XXXVII. THE HAPPY GATHERING.                     151 



SUE: A LITTLE HEROINE.

CHAPTER I.

BIG BEN'S VOICE.


Sue made a great effort to push her way to the front of the crowd. The
street preacher was talking, and she did not wish to lose a word. She
was a small, badly made girl, with a freckled face and hair inclined to
red, but her eyes were wonderfully blue and intelligent. She pushed and
pressed forward into the thick of the crowd. She felt a hand on her
shoulder, and looking up, saw a very rough man gazing at her.

"Be that you, Peter Harris?" said Sue. "An' why didn't yer bring Connie
along?"

"Hush!" said some people in the crowd.

The preacher raised his voice a little higher:

"'Tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee.'"

Peter Harris, the rough man, trembled slightly. Sue found herself
leaning against him. She knew quite well that his breath was coming
fast.

"His disciples and Peter," she said to herself.

The street preacher had a magnificent voice. It seemed to roll above the
heads of the listening crowd, or to sink to a penetrating whisper which
found its echo in their hearts. The deep, wonderful eyes of the man had
a power of making people look at him. Sue gazed with all her might and
main.

"Father John be a good un," she said to herself. "He be the best man in
all the world."

After the discourse--which was very brief and full of stories, and just
the sort which those rough people could not help listening to--a hymn
was sung, and then the crowd dispersed.

Sue was amongst them. She was in a great hurry. She forgot all about
John Atkins, the little street preacher to whom she had been listening.
She soon found herself in a street which was gaily lighted; there was a
gin-palace at one end, another in the middle, and another at the farther
end. This was Saturday night: Father John was fond of holding vigorous
discourses on Saturday nights. Sue stopped to make her purchases. She
was well-known in the neighborhood, and as she stepped in and out of one
shop and then of another, she was the subject of a rough jest or a
pleasant laugh, just as the mood of the person she addressed prompted
one or other. She spent a few pence out of her meager purse, her
purchases were put into a little basket, and she found her way home. The
season was winter. She turned into a street back of Westminster; it went
by the name of Adam Street. It was very long and rambling, with broken
pavements, uneven roadways, and very tall, narrow, and dirty houses.

In a certain room on the fourth floor of one of the poorest of these
houses lay a boy of between ten and eleven years of age. He was quite
alone in the room, but that fact did not at all insure his being quiet.
All kinds of sounds came to him--sounds from the street, sounds from
below stairs, sounds from overhead. There were shrieking voices and ugly
laughter, and now and then there were shrill screams. The child was
accustomed to these things, however, and it is doubtful whether he heard
them.

He was a sad-looking little fellow, with that deadly white complexion
which children who never go into the fresh air possess. His face,
however, was neither discontented nor unhappy. He lay very still, with
patient eyes, quite touching in their absolute submission. Had any one
looked hard at little Giles they would have noticed something else on
his face--it was a listening look. The sounds all around did not
discompose him, for his eyes showed that he was waiting for something.
It came. Over and above the discord a Voice filled the air. Nine times
it repeated itself, slowly, solemnly, with deep vibrations. It was "Big
Ben" proclaiming the hour. The boy had heard the chimes which preceded
the hour; they were beautiful, of course, but it was the voice of Big
Ben himself that fascinated him.

"Ain't he a real beauty to-night?" thought the child. "How I wishes as
Sue 'ud hear him talk like that! Sometimes he's more weakly in his
throat, poor fellow! but to-night he's in grand voice."

The discord, which for one brief moment was interrupted for the child by
the beautiful, harmonious notes, continued in more deafening fashion
than ever. Children cried; women scolded; men cursed and swore. In the
midst of the din the room door was opened and a girl entered.

"Sue!" cried Giles.

"Yes," answered Sue, putting down her basket as she spoke. "I'm a bit
late; there wor a crowd in the street, and I went to hear him. He wor
grand."

"Oh, worn't he?" said Giles. "I never did know him to be in such
beautiful voice."

Sue came up and stared at the small boy. Her good-natured but somewhat
common type of face was a great contrast to his.

"Whatever are you talking about?" she said. "You didn't hear him; you
can't move, poor Giles!"

"But I did hear him," replied the boy. "I feared as I'd get off to
sleep, but I didn't. I never did hear Big Ben in such voice--he gave out
his text as clear as could be."

"Lor', Giles!" exclaimed Sue, "I didn't mean that stupid clock; I means
Father John. I squeezed up as close as possible to him, and I never
missed a word as fell from his lips. Peter Harris were there too. I
wonder how he felt. Bad, I 'spect, when he remembers the way he treated
poor Connie. And oh, Giles! what do yer think? The preacher spoke to him
jest as clear as clear could be, and he called him by his name--Peter.
'Tell His disciples and Peter,' Father John cried, and I could feel
Peter Harris jump ahind me."

"Wor that his text, Sue?"

"Yes, all about Peter. It wor wonnerful."

"Well, my text were, 'No more pain,'" said the boy. "I ache bad nearly
always, but Big Ben said, 'No more pain,' as plain as he could speak,
poor old fellow! It was nine times he said it. It were werry
comforting."

Sue made no reply. She was accustomed to that sort of remark from Giles.
She busied herself putting the kettle on the fire to boil, and then
cleaned a little frying-pan which by-and-by was to toast a herring for
Giles's supper and her own.

"Look what I brought yer," she said to the boy. "It were turning a bit,
Tom Watkins said, and he gave it me for a ha'penny, but I guess frying
and a good dash of salt 'ull make it taste fine. When the kettle boils
I'll pour out your tea; you must want it werry bad."

"Maybe I do and maybe I don't," answered Giles. "It's 'No more pain' I'm
thinking of. Sue, did you never consider that maybe ef we're good and
patient Lord Christ 'ull take us to 'eaven any day?"

"No," answered Sue; "I'm too busy." She stood for a minute reflecting.
"And I don't want to go to 'eaven yet," she continued; "I want to stay
to look after you."

Giles smiled. "It's beautiful in 'eaven," he said. "I'd like to go, but
I wouldn't like to leave you, Sue."

"Take your tea now, there's a good fellow," answered Sue, who was
nothing if not matter-of-fact. "Aye, dear!" she continued as she poured
it out and then waited for Giles to raise the cup to his lips, "Peter
Harris do look bad. I guess he's sorry he was so rough on Connie. But
now let's finish our supper, and I'll prepare yer for bed, Giles, for
I'm desp'rate tired."



CHAPTER II.

A SERVANT OF GOD.


John Atkins, the street preacher, was a little man who led a wonderful
life. He was far better educated than most people of his station, and in
addition his mind was tender in feeling and very sensitive and loving.
He regarded everybody as his brothers and sisters, and in especial he
took to his heart all sorrowful people. He never grumbled or repined,
but he looked upon his life as a pilgrimage to a better country, and did
not, therefore, greatly trouble if things were not quite smooth for him.
This little man had a very wide circle of friends. The fact is, he had
more power of keeping peace and order in the very poor part of London,
back of Westminster, where he lived, than had any dignitary of the
Church, any rector, any curate, or any minister, be he of what
persuasion he might. Father John was very humble about himself. Indeed,
one secret of his success lay in the fact that he never thought of
himself at all.

Having preached on this Saturday evening, as was his wont, to a larger
crowd than usual, he went home. As he walked a passer-by could have seen
that he was lame; he used a crutch. With the winter rain beating on him
he looked insignificant. Presently he found the house where he had a
room, went up the stairs, and entered, opening the door with a
latch-key. A fire was burning here, and a small paraffin lamp with a red
shade over it cast a warm glow over the little place. The moment the
light fell upon Father John his insignificance vanished. That was a
grand head and face which rose above the crippled body. The head was
high and splendidly proportioned. It was crowned with a wealth of soft
brown hair, which fell low on the shoulders. The forehead was lofty,
straight, and full; the mouth rather compressed, with firm lines round
it; the eyes were very deep set--they were rather light gray in color,
but the pupils were unusually large. The pupils and the peculiar
expression of the eyes gave them a wonderful power. They could speak
when every other feature in the face was quiet.

"I don't like them--I dread them," said Peter Harris on one occasion.
"Aye, but don't I love 'em just!" remarked little Giles.

Giles and Sue were special friends of John Atkins. They had, in fact,
been left in his care by their mother three years before this story
begins. This was the way they had first learned to know Father John.

The man had a sort of instinct for finding out when people were in
trouble and when they specially needed him. There was a poor woman lying
on her dying bed, and a boy and a girl were kneeling close to her.

"Keep a good heart up, Giles," she said to the boy. "I know I'm goin' to
leave yer, and you're as lame as lame can be, but then there's Sue. Sue
has a deal o' gumption for such a young un. Sue won't let yer want,
Giles, lad; you need never go to the workhouse while Sue's alive."

"No, that he needn't, mother," answered Sue.

"Can't yer get back on to yer sofa, Giles?" she added, turning to the
boy. "You'll break your back kneeling by mother all this time."

"No, I won't; I'd rather stay," answered the boy. His eyes were full of
light; he kept on stroking his mother's hand.

"Go on, mother," he said. "Tell us more. You're goin' to 'eaven, and
you'll see father." A sob strangled his voice for a minute.

"Yes, I'll see my good 'usband--that is, I hope so; I can but trust--I
allus have trusted, though often, ef I may say the truth, I couldn't
tell what I were a-trusting to. Somehow, whatever folks say, there _is_
a Providence."

"Oh, mother!" said Giles, "God is so beautiful--when you see father
again you'll know that."

"Mother," interrupted Sue, "does yer think as Providence 'ull get me
constant work at the sewing, enough to keep Giles and me?"

"I dunno, Sue," answered the woman. "I've trusted a good bit all my
life, and more specially since your father was took, and somehow we
haven't quite starved. Happen it'll be the same with Giles and you."

The boy sighed. His back was aching terribly. His heart was breaking at
the thought of losing his mother; he struggled to continue kneeling by
the bedside, but each moment the effort became greater.

The children were kneeling so when a quick, light step was heard on the
stairs, and a little man entered. It was too dark in the room for the
children to see his face; they heard, however, a very pleasant voice. It
said in cheerful tones:

"Why haven't you fire here, and a candle? Can I help you?"

"There ain't much candle left," answered Giles.

"And mother's dying," continued Sue. "She don't mind the dark--do yer,
mother?"

The little man made no reply in words, but taking some matches from his
pocket, and also a candle, he struck a light. He placed the candle in a
sconce on the wall, and then turned to the three.

"Be yer a parson?" asked the woman.

"I am a servant of God," answered Atkins.

"I'm real glad as you're a parson," she answered; "you can make it all
right between Almighty God and me."

"You are mistaken; I can't do that. That is Jesus Christ's work. But I
will pray with you--let me hold your hand, and we will pray together."

Then and there in the dismal attic Father John spoke out his heart in
the following simple words. Even Sue never forgot those words to the
latest day she lived:

"Lord God Almighty, look down upon this dying woman. Thy Son died for
her and she knows it not. Lord, she is in great darkness, and she is so
near death that she has no time to learn the truth in its fullness; but
Thou who art in the light can show some of Thy light to her. Now, in her
dying hour, reveal to her Thyself."

The dying woman fixed her glittering eyes on the strange man. When he
ceased speaking she smiled; then she said, slowly:

"I allus felt that I could trust in Providence."

She never spoke after that, and half an hour afterwards she died.

This was the beginning of Father John's friendship with Giles and Sue.

The next day Sue, by dint of many and anxious inquiries, found him out,
and put her queer little unkempt head into his room.

"Ef yer please, parson, may I speak to yer 'bout Giles and me?"

"Certainly, my little girl. Sit down and tell me what I can do for you."

"Parson," said Sue, with much entreaty in her voice and many a pucker on
her brow, "what I wants to say is a good deal. I wants ter take care o'
Giles, to keep up the bit o' home and the bit o' victual. It 'ud kill
Giles ef he wor to be took to the work'us; and I promised mother as I'd
keep 'im. Mother wor allers a-trustin', and she trusted Giles ter me."

Here Sue's voice broke off into a sob, and she put up her dirty apron to
her eyes.

"Don't cry, my dear," answered Atkins kindly; "you must not break your
word to your mother. Will it cost you so much money to keep yourself and
Giles in that little attic?"

"It ain't that," said she, proudly. "It ain't a bit as I can't work, fur
I can, real smart at 'chinery needlework. I gets plenty to do, too, but
that 'ere landlady, she ain't a bit like mother; she'd trusten nobody,
and she up this morning, and mother scarce cold, and says as she'd not
let her room to Giles and me 'cept we could get some un to go security
fur the rent; and we has no un as 'ud go security, so we must go away
the day as mother is buried, and Giles must go to the work'us; and it
'ull kill Giles, and mother won't trust me no more."

"Don't think that, my child; nothing can shake your mother's trust where
God has taken her now. But do you want me to help you?"

Sue found the color mounting to her little, weather-beaten face. A fear
suddenly occurred to her that she had been audacious--that this man was
a stranger, that her request was too great for her to ask. But something
in the kindness of the eyes looking straight into hers brought sudden
sunshine to her heart and courage to her resolve. With a burst, one word
toppling over the other, out came the whole truth:

"Please, sir--please, sir, I thought as you might go security fur Giles
and me. We'd pay real honest. Oh, sir, will you, jest because mother did
trusten so werry much?"

"I will, my child, and with all the heart in the world. Come home with
me now, and I will arrange the whole matter with your landlady."



CHAPTER III.

GOOD SECURITY.


John Atkins was always wont to speak of Sue and Giles as among the
successes of his life. This was not the first time he had gone security
for his poor, and many of his poor had decamped, leaving the burden of
their unpaid rent on him. He never murmured when such failures came to
him. He was just a trifle more particular in looking not so much into
the merits as the necessities of the next case that came to his
knowledge. But no more, than if all his flock had been honest as the
day, did he refuse his aid. This may have been a weakness on the man's
part; very likely, for he was the sort of man whom all sensible and
long-headed people would have spoken about as a visionary, an
enthusiast, a believer in doing to others as he would be done by--a
person, in short, without a grain of everyday sense to guide him. Atkins
would smile when such people lectured him on what they deemed his folly.

Nevertheless, though he took failure with all resignation, success, when
it came to him, was stimulating, and Giles and Sue he classed among his
successes.

The mother died and was buried, but the children did not leave their
attic, and Sue, brave little bread-winner, managed not only to pay the
rent but to keep the gaunt wolf of hunger from the door. Sue worked as a
machinist for a large City house.

Every day she rose with the dawn, made the room as tidy as she could for
Giles, and then started for her long walk to the neighborhood of
Cheapside. In a room with sixty other girls Sue worked at the
sewing-machine from morning till night. It was hard labor, as she had to
work with her feet as well as her hands, producing slop clothing at the
rate of a yard a minute. Never for an instant might her eyes wander from
the seam; and all this severe work was done in the midst of an
ear-splitting clatter, which alone would have worn out a person not
thoroughly accustomed to it.

But Sue was not unhappy. For three years now she had borne without
breaking down this tremendous strain on her health. The thought that she
was keeping Giles in the old attic made her bright and happy, and her
shrill young voice rose high and merry above those of her companions.
No; Sue, busy and honest, was not unhappy. But her fate was a far less
hard one than Giles's.

Giles had not always been lame. When first his mother held him in her
arms he was both straight and beautiful. Though born of poor parents and
in London, he possessed a health and vigor seldom bestowed upon such
children. In those days his father was alive, and earning good wages as
a fireman in the London Fire Brigade. There was a comfortable home for
both Sue and Giles, and Giles was the very light and sunshine of his
father's and mother's life. To his father he had been a special source
of pride and rejoicing. His beauty alone would have made him so. Sue was
essentially an everyday child, but Giles had a clear complexion,
dark-blue eyes, and curling hair. Giles as a baby and a little child was
very beautiful. As his poor, feeble-looking mother carried him
about--for she was poor and feeble-looking even in her palmy
days--people used to turn and gaze after the lovely boy. The mother
loved him passionately, but to the father he was as the apple of his
eye.

Giles's father had married a wife some degrees below him both
intellectually and socially. She was a hard-working, honest, and
well-meaning soul, but she was not her husband's equal. He was a man
with great force of character, great bravery, great powers of endurance.
Before he had joined the Fire Brigade he had been a sailor, and many
tales did he tell to his little Giles of his adventures on the sea. Sue
and her mother used to find these stories dull, but to Giles they seemed
as necessary as the air he breathed. He used to watch patiently for
hours for the rare moments when his father was off duty, and then beg
for the food which his keen mental appetite craved for. Mason could both
read and write, and he began to teach his little son. This state of
things continued until Giles was seven years old. Then there came a
dreadful black-letter day for the child; for the father, the end of
life.

Every event of that torturing day was ever after engraved on the little
boy's memory. He and his father, both in high spirits, started off for
their last walk together. Giles used to make it a practice to accompany
his father part of the way to his station, trotting back afterwards
safely and alone to his mother and sister. To-day their way lay through
Smithfield Market, and the boy, seeing the Martyrs' Monument in the
center of the market-place, asked his father eagerly about it.

"Look, father, look!" he said, pointing with his finger. "What is that?"

"That is the figure of an angel, lad. Do you see, it is pointing up to
heaven. Do you know why?"

"No, father; tell us."

"Long ago, my lad, there were a lot of brave people brought just there
where the angel stands; they were tied to stakes in the ground and set
fire to and burned--burned until they died."

"Burned, father?" asked little Giles in a voice of horror.

"Yes, boy. They were burned because they were so brave they would rather
be burned than deny the good God. They were called martyrs, and that
angel stands there now to remind people about them and to show how God
took them straight to heaven."

"I think they were grand," answered the boy, his eyes kindling. "Can't
people be like that now?"

"Any one who would rather die than neglect a duty has, to my mind, the
same spirit," answered the man. "But now, lad, run home, for I must be
off."

"Oh, father, you are going to that place where the wonderful new
machinery is, and you said I might look at it. May I come?"

The father hesitated, finally yielded, and the two went on together. But
together they were never to come back.

That very day, with the summer sun shining, and all the birds in the
country far away singing for joy, there came a message for the brave
father. He was suddenly, in the full prime of his manly vigor, to leave
off doing God's work down here, doubtless to take it up with nobler
powers above. A fireman literally works with his life in his hands. He
may have to resign it at any moment at the call of duty. This
trumpet-call, which he had never neglected, came now for Giles Mason.

A fire broke out in the house where little Giles watched with keen
intelligence the new machinery. The machinery was destroyed, the child
lamed for life, and the brave father, in trying to rescue him and
others, was so injured by falling stones and pieces of woodwork that he
only lived a few hours.

The two were laid side by side in the hospital to which they were
carried.

"Father," said the little one, nestling close to the injured and dying
man, "I think people _can_ be martyrs now!"

But the father was past words, though he heard the child, for he smiled
and pointed upwards. The smile and the action were so significant, and
reminded the child so exactly of the angel who guards the Martyrs'
Monument, that ever afterwards he associated his brave father with those
heroes and heroines of whom the sacred writer says that "the world is
not worthy."



CHAPTER IV.

SOLITARY HOURS.


Giles was kept in the hospital for many weeks, even months. All that
could be done was done for him; but the little, active feet were never
to walk again, and the spine was so injured that he could not even sit
upright. When all that could be done had been done and failed, the boy
was sent back to his broken-down and widowed mother.

Mrs. Mason had removed from the comfortable home where she lived during
her husband's lifetime to the attic in a back street of Westminster,
where she finally died. She took in washing for a livelihood, and Sue,
now twelve years old, was already an accomplished little machinist.[1]

They were both too busy to have time to grieve, and at night were too
utterly worn-out not to sleep soundly. They were kind to Giles lying on
his sick-bed; they both loved him dearly, but they neither saw, nor even
tried to understand, the hunger of grief and longing which filled his
poor little mind.

His terrible loss, his own most terrible injuries, had developed in the
boy all that sensitive nerve organism which can render life so miserable
to its possessor. To hear his beloved father's name mentioned was a
torture to him; and yet his mother and Sue spoke of it with what seemed
to the boy reckless indifference day after day. Two things, however,
comforted him--one the memory of the angel figure over the Martyrs'
Monument at Smithfield, the other the deep notes of Big Ben. His father,
too, had been a martyr, and that angel stood there to signify his
victory as well as the victory of those others who withstood the torture
by fire; and Big Ben, with its solemn, vibrating notes, seemed to his
vivid imagination like that same angel speaking.

Though an active, restless boy before his illness, he became now very
patient. He would lie on his back, not reading, for he had forgotten
what little his father taught him, but apparently lost in thought, from
morning to night. His mother was often obliged to leave him alone, but
he never murmured at his long, solitary hours; indeed, had there been
any one by to listen to all the words he said to himself at these times,
they would have believed that the boy enjoyed them.

Thus three years passed away. In those three years all the beauty had
left little Giles's face; all the brightness had fled from his eyes; he
was now a confirmed invalid, white and drawn and pinched. Then his poor,
tired-out mother died. She had worked uncomplainingly, but far beyond
her strength, until suddenly she sickened and in a few days was dead.
Giles, however, while losing a mother, had gained a friend. John Atkins
read the sensitive heart of the boy like a book. He came to see him
daily, and soon completed the reading-lessons which his father had
begun. As soon as the boy could read he was no longer unhappy. His sad
and troubled mind need no longer feed on itself; he read what wise and
great men thought, for Atkins supplied him with books. Atkins's books,
it is true, were mostly of a theological nature, but once he brought him
a battered Shakespeare; and Sue also, when cash was a little flush,
found an old volume of the _Arabian Nights_ on a book-stall. These two
latter treasures gave great food to the active imagination of little
Giles.

FOOTNOTE

[1] In July 1877 arrangements were made to provide for the families of
    firemen who were killed in the performance of their duty, but nothing
    was done for them before that date.



CHAPTER V.

EAGER WORDS.


When John Atkins was quite young he was well-to-do. His father and
mother had kept a good shop, and not only earned money for their needs
but were able to put by sufficient for a rainy day. John was always a
small and delicate child, and as he grew older he developed disease of
the spine, which not only gave him a deformed appearance but made him
slightly lame. Nevertheless, he was an eager little scholar, and his
father was able to send him to a good school. The boy worked hard, and
eagerly read and learned all that came in his way.

Thus life was rather pleasant than otherwise with John Atkins up to his
fifteenth year, but about then there came misfortunes. The investment
into which his father had put all his hard-won earnings was worthless;
the money was lost. This was bad enough, but there was worse to follow.
Not only had the money disappeared, but the poor man's heart was broken.
He ceased to attend to his business; his customers left him to go
elsewhere; his wife died suddenly, and he himself quickly followed her
to the grave.

After these misfortunes John Atkins had a bad illness himself. He grew
better after a time, took to cobbling as a trade, and earned enough to
support himself. How he came to take up street preaching, and in
consequence to be much beloved by his neighbors, happened simply enough.

On a certain Sunday evening he was walking home from the church where he
attended, his heart all aglow with the passionate words of the preacher
he had been listening to. The preacher had made Bunyan the subject of
his discourse, and the author of the _Pilgrim's Progress_ was at that
time the hero of all heroes in the mind of Atkins. He was thinking of
his wonderful pilgrimage as he hurried home. He walked on. Suddenly,
turning a corner, he knocked up against a man, who, half-reeling, came
full-tilt against him.

"Aye, Peter," he said, knowing the man, and perceiving that he was far
too tipsy to get to his home with safety, "I'll just walk home with you,
mate. I've got an apple in my pocket for the little wench."

The man made no objection, and they walked on. At the next corner they
saw a crowd, all listening eagerly to the words of a large, red-faced
man who, mounted on a chair, addressed them. On the burning, glowing
heart of John Atkins fell the following terrible words:

"For there be no God, and there be nothing before us but to die as the
beasts die. Let us get our fill of pleasure and the like of that,
neighbors, for there ain't nothing beyond the grave."

"It's a lie!" roared Atkins.

The words had stung him like so many fiery serpents. He rushed into the
midst of the crowd; he forgot Peter Harris; he sprang on to the chair
which the other man in his astonishment had vacated, and poured out a
whole string of eager, passionate words. At that moment he discovered
that he had a wonderful gift. There was the message in his heart which
God had put there, and he was able to deliver it. His words were
powerful. The crowd, who had listened without any great excitement to
the unbeliever, came close now to the man of God, applauding him loudly.
Atkins spoke of the Fatherhood of God and of His love.

"Ain't that other a coward?" said two or three rough voices when Atkins
ceased to speak. "And he comes here talking them lies every Sunday
night," said one poor woman. "Come you again, master, and tell us the
blessed truth."

This decided Atkins. He went to his parish clergyman, an overworked and
badly paid man, and told him the incident. He also spoke of his own
resolve. He would go to these sheep who acknowledged no Shepherd, and
tell them as best he could of a Father, a Home, a Hope. The clergyman
could not but accept the services of this fervent city missionary.

"Get them to church if you can," he said.

"Aye, if I can," answered Atkins; "but I will compel them to enter the
Church above--that is the main thing."

Soon he began to know almost all the poor folks who crowded to hear him.
In their troubles he was with them; when joy came he heard first about
it, and rejoiced most of all; and many a poor face of a tired woman or
worn-out man, or even a little child, looking into his, grew brighter in
the presence of death.



CHAPTER VI.

DIFFERENT SORT OF WORK.


Connie was a very pretty girl. She was between thirteen and fourteen
years of age, and very small and delicate-looking. Her hair was of a
pale, soft gold; her eyes were blue; she had a delicate complexion, pink
and white--almost like a china figure, Sue said; Giles compared her to
an angel. Connie was in the same trade that Sue earned her bread by; she
also was a machinist in a large warehouse in the City. All day long she
worked at the sewing-machine, going home with Sue night after night,
glad of Sue's sturdy support, for Connie was much more timid than her
companion.

Connie was the apple of Harris's eye, his only child. He did everything
he could for her; he lived for her. If any one could make him good,
Connie could; but she was sadly timid; she dreaded the terrible moments
when he returned home, having taken more than was good for him. At these
times she would slink away to visit Giles and Sue, and on more than one
occasion she had spent the night with the pair rather than return to her
angry father. Some months, however, before this story begins, a terrible
misfortune had come to Peter Harris. He had come home on a certain
evening worse than usual from the effects of drink. Connie happened to
be in. She had dressed herself with her usual exquisite neatness. She
always kept the place ship-shape. The hearth was always tidily swept.
She managed her father's earnings, which were quite considerable, and
the wretched man could have had good food and a comfortable home, and
been happy as the day was long, if only the craze for drink had not
seized him.

Connie was very fond of finery, and she was now trimming a pretty hat to
wear on the following Sunday. Not long ago she had made a new friend, a
girl at the warehouse of the name of Agnes Coppenger. Agnes was older
than Connie. She was the kind of girl who had a great admiration for
beauty, and when she saw that people turned to look at pretty Connie
with her sweet, refined face and delicate ways, she hoped that by having
such a pleasant companion she also might come in for her share of
admiration. She therefore began to make much of Connie. She praised her
beauty, and invited her to her own home. There Connie made companions
who were not nearly such desirable ones as Sue and Giles.

She began to neglect Sue and Giles, and to spend more and more of her
time with Agnes.

On a certain day when the two girls were working over their
sewing-machines, the whir of the numerous machines filling the great
warehouse, Agnes turned to Connie.

"When we go out at morning break I 'ave a word to say to yer."

Connie's eyes brightened.

"You walk with me," whispered Agnes again.

An overseer came round. Talking was forbidden in the great room, and the
girls went on with their mechanical employment, turning out long seam
after long seam of delicate stitches. The fluff from the work seemed to
smother Connie that morning. She had inherited her mother's delicacy.
She coughed once or twice. There was a longing within her to get away
from this dismal, this unhealthy life. She felt somehow, down deep in
her heart, that she was meant for better things. The child was by nature
almost a poet. She could have worshiped a lovely flower. As to the
country, what her feelings would have been could she have seen it almost
baffles description.

Now, Sue, working steadily away at her machine a little farther down the
room, had none of these sensations. Provided that Sue could earn enough
money to keep Giles going, that was all she asked of life. She was as
matter-of-fact as a young girl could be; and as to pining for what she
had not got, it never once entered her head.

At twelve o'clock there was a break of half-an-hour. The machinists were
then turned out of the building. It did not matter what sort of day it
was, whether the sun shone with its summer intensity, or whether the
snow fell in thick flakes--whatever the condition of the outside world,
out all the working women had to go. None could skulk behind; all had to
seek the open air.

Connie coughed now as the bitter blast blew against her cheeks.

"Isn't it cold?" she said.

She expected to see Agnes by her side, but it was Sue she addressed.

"I've got a penny for pease-pudding to-day," said Sue. "Will you come
and have a slice, Connie? Or do yer want somethin' better? Your father,
Peter Harris, can let yer have more than a penny for yer dinner."

"Oh, yes," answered Connie; "'tain't the money--I 'aven't got not a bit
of happetite, not for nothing; but I want to say a word to Agnes
Coppenger, and I don't see her."

"Here I be," said Agnes, coming up at that moment. "Come right along,
Connie; I've got a treat for yer."

The last words were uttered in a low whisper, and Sue, finding she was
not wanted, went off in another direction. She gave little sighs as she
did so. What was wrong with pretty Connie, and why did she not go with
her? It had been her custom to slip her hand inside Sue's sturdy arm.
During the half-hour interval, the girls used to repair together to the
nearest cheap restaurant, there to secure what nourishing food their
means permitted. They used to chatter to one another, exchanging full
confidences, and loving each other very much.

But for some time now Connie had only thought of Agnes Coppenger, and
Sue felt out in the cold.

"Can't be helped," she said to herself; "but if I am not mistook, Agnes
is a bad un, and the less poor Connie sees of her the better."

Sue entered the restaurant, which was now packed full of factory girls,
and she asked eagerly for her penn'orth of pease-pudding.

Meanwhile Connie and Agnes were very differently employed. When the two
girls found themselves alone, Agnes looked full at Connie and said:

"I'm going to treat yer."

"Oh, no, you ain't," said Connie, who was proud enough in her way.

"Yes, but I be," said Agnes; "I ha' lots o' money, bless yer! Here,
we'll come in here."

An A.B.C. shop stood invitingly open just across the road. Connie had
always looked at these places of refreshment with open-eyed admiration,
and with the sort of sensation which one would have if one stood at the
gates of Paradise. To enter any place so gorgeous as an A.B.C., to be
able to sit down and have one's tea or coffee or any other refreshment
at one of those little white marble tables, seemed to her a degree of
refinement scarcely to be thought about. The A.B.C. was a sort of
forbidden fruit to Connie, but Agnes had been there before, and Agnes
had described the delight of the place.

"The quality come in 'ere," said Agnes, "an' they horders all sorts o'
things, from mutton-chops to poached heggs. I am goin' in to-day, and so
be you."

"Oh, no," said Connie, "you can't afford it."

"That's my lookout," answered Agnes. "I've half-a-crown in my pocket,
and ef I choose to have a good filling meal, and ef I choose that you
shall have one too, why, that is my lookout."

As Agnes spoke she pulled her companion through the swinging door, and a
minute later the two young girls had a little table between them, not
far from the door. Agnes called in a lofty voice to one of the
waitresses.

"Coffee for two," she said, "and rolls and butter and poached heggs; and
see as the heggs is well done, and the toast buttered fine and thick.
Now then, look spruce, won't yer?"

The waitress went off to attend to Agnes's requirements. Agnes sat back
in her chair with a sort of lofty, fine-lady air which greatly impressed
poor Connie. By-and-by the coffee, the rolls and butter, and the poached
eggs appeared. A little slip of paper with the price of the meal was
laid close to Agnes's plate, and she proceeded to help her companion to
the good viands.

"It's this sort of meal you want hevery day," she said. "Now then, eat
as hard as ever you can, and while you're eating let me talk, for
there's a deal to say, and we must be back in that factory afore we can
half do justice to our wittles."

Connie sipped her coffee, and looked hard at her companion.

"What is it?" she asked suddenly. "What's all the fuss, Agnes? Why be
you so chuff to poor Sue, and whatever 'ave you got to say?"

"This," said Agnes. "You're sick o' machine-work, ain't you?"

"Oh, that I be!" said Connie, stretching her arms a little, and
suppressing a yawn. "It seems to get on my narves, like. I am that
miserable when I'm turning that horrid handle and pressing that treadle
up and down, up and down, as no words can say. I 'spect it's the hair so
full of fluff an' things, too; some'ow I lose my happetite for my
or'nary feed when I'm working at that 'orrid machine."

"I don't feel it that way," said Agnes in a lofty tone. "But then, _I_
am wery strong. I can heat like anything, whatever I'm a-doing of.
There, Connie; don't waste the good food. Drink up yer corffee, and
don't lose a scrap o' that poached egg, for ef yer do it 'ud be sinful
waste. Well, now, let me speak. I know quite a different sort o' work
that you an' me can both do, and ef you'll come with me this evening I
can tell yer all about it."

"What sort of work?" asked Connie.

"Beautiful, refined--the sort as you love. But I am not going to tell
yer ef yer give me away."

"What do you mean by that, Agnes?"

"I means wot I say--I'll tell yer to-night ef yer'll come 'ome with me."

"Yer mean that I'm to spend all the evening with yer?" asked Connie.

"Yes--that's about it. _You_ are to come 'ome with me, and we'll talk.
Why, bless yer! with that drinkin' father o' yourn, wot do you want all
alone by yer lonesome? You give me a promise. And now I must pay hup,
and we'll be off."

"I'll come, o' course," said Connie after brief reflection. "Why
shouldn't I?" she added. "There's naught to keep me to home."

The girls left the A.B.C. shop and returned to their work.

Whir! whir! went the big machines. The young heads were bent over their
accustomed toil; the hands on the face of the great clock which Connie
so often looked at went on their way. Slowly--very slowly--the time
sped. Would that long day ever come to an end?

The machinists' hours were from eight o'clock in the morning to six in
the evening. Sometimes, when there were extra lots of ready-made clothes
to be produced, they were kept till seven or even eight o'clock. But for
this extra work there was a small extra pay, so that few of them really
minded. But Connie dreaded extra hours extremely. She was not really
dependent on the work, although Peter would have been very angry with
his girl had she idled her time. She herself, too, preferred doing this
to doing nothing. But to-night, of all nights, she was most impatient to
get away with Agnes in order to discover what that fascinating young
person's secret was.

She looked impatiently at the clock; so much so that Agnes herself, as
she watched her eyes, chuckled now and then.

"She'll be an easy prey," thought Agnes Coppenger. "I'll soon get 'er
into my power."

At six o'clock there was no further delay; no extra work was required,
and the machinists poured into the sloppy, dark, and dreary streets.

"Come along now, quickly," said Agnes. "Don't wait for Sue; Sue has
nothing to do with you from this time out."

"Oh dear! oh dear!" said Connie. "But I don't want to give up Sue and
Giles. You ha' never seen little Giles Mason?"

"No," replied Agnes, "and don't want to. Wot be Giles to me?"

"Oh," said Connie, "ef yer saw 'im yer couldn't but love 'im. He's the
wery prettiest little fellow that yer ever clapped yer two eyes on--with
'is delicate face an' 'is big brown eyes--and the wonnerful thoughts he
have, too. Poetry ain't in it. Be yer fond o' poetry yerself, Agnes?"

"I fond o' poetry?" almost screamed Agnes. "Not I! That is, I never
heerd it--don't know wot it's like. I ha' no time to think o' poetry.
I'm near mad sometimes fidgeting and fretting how to get myself a smart
'at, an' a stylish jacket, an' a skirt that hangs with a sort o' swing
about it. But you, now--you never think on yer clothes."

"Oh yes, but I do," said Connie; "and I ha' got a wery pwitty new dress
now as father guv me not a fortnight back; and w'en father don't drink
he's wery fond o' me, an' he bought this dress at the pawnshop."

"Lor', now, did he?" said Agnes. "Wot sort be it, Connie?"

"Dark blue, with blue velvet on it. It looks wery stylish."

"You'd look like a lydy in that sort o' dress," said Agnes. "You've the
face of a lydy--that any one can see."

"Have I?" said Connie. She put up her somewhat roughened hand to her
smooth little cheeks.

"Yes, you 'ave; and wot I say is this--yer face is yer fortoon. Now,
look yer 'ere. We'll stand at this corner till the Westminster 'bus
comes up, and then we'll take a penn'orth each, and that'll get us wery
near 'ome. Yer don't think as yer father'll be 'ome to-night, Connie?"

"'Tain't likely," replied Connie; "'e seldom comes in until it's time
for 'im to go to bed."

"Well then, that's all right. When we get to Westminster, you skid down
Adam Street until yer get to yer diggin's; an' then hup you goes and
changes yer dress. Into the very genteel dark-blue costoom you gets, and
down you comes to yer 'umble servant wot is waitin' for yer below
stairs."

This programme was followed out in all its entirety by Connie. The
omnibus set the girls down not far from her home. Connie soon reached
her room. No father there, no fire in the grate. She turned on the gas
and looked around her.

The room was quite a good one, of fair size, and the furniture was not
bad of its sort. Peter Harris himself slept on a trundle-bed in the
sitting-room, but Connie had a little room all to herself just beyond.
Here she kept her small bits of finery, and in especial the lovely new
costume which her father had given her.

She was not long in slipping off her working-clothes. Then she washed
her face and hands, and brushed back her soft, glistening, pale-golden
hair, and put on the dark-blue dress, and her little blue velvet cap to
match, and--little guessing how lovely she appeared in this dress, which
simply transformed the pretty child into one of quite another rank of
life--she ran quickly downstairs.

A young man of the name of Anderson, whom she knew very slightly, was
passing by. He belonged to the Fire Brigade, and was one of the best and
bravest firemen in London. He had a pair of great, broad shoulders, and
a very kind face. It looked almost as refined as Connie's own.

Anderson gave her a glance, puzzled and wondering. He felt half-inclined
to speak, but she hurried by him, and the next minute Agnes gripped her
arm.

"My word, ain't you fine!" said that young lady. "You _be_ a gel to be
proud of! Won't yer do fine, jest! Now then, come along, and let's be
quick."

Connie followed her companion. They went down several side-streets, and
took several short cuts. They passed through the roughest and worst part
of the purlieus at the back of Westminster. At last they entered a
broader thoroughfare, and there Agnes stopped.

"Why, yer never be livin' here?" asked Connie.

"No, I bean't. You'll come to my 'ome afterwards. I want to take yer to
see a lydy as maybe'll take a fancy to yer."

"Oh!" said Connie, feeling both excited and full of wonder.

The girls entered a side passage, and presently Connie, to her
astonishment, found herself going upwards--up and up and up--in a lift.
The lift went up as far as it would go. The girls got out. Agnes went
first, and Connie followed. They walked down the passage, and Agnes gave
a very neat double knock on the door, which looked like an ordinary
front door to a house.

The door was opened by a woman rather loudly dressed, but with a
handsome face.

"How do you do, Mrs. Warren?" said Agnes. "I ha' brought the young lydy
I spoke to yer about. Shall us both come in?"

"Oh, yes, certainly," said Mrs. Warren.

She stood aside, and Connie, still following her companion, found
herself at the other side of the neat door. The place inside was bright
with electric light, and the stout, showily dressed lady, going first,
conducted the girls into a room which Agnes afterwards spoke of as the
dining-room. The lady sat down in a very comfortable arm-chair, crossed
her legs, and desired Connie to come forward and show herself.

"Take off yer 'at," she said.

Connie did so.

"You're rather pretty."

Connie was silent.

"I want," said the stout woman, "a pretty gel, something like you, to
come and sit with me from ten to two o'clock hevery day. Yer dooties'll
be quite light, and I'll give yer lots o' pretty clothes and good
wages."

"But what'll I have to do?" asked Connie.

"Jest to sit with me an' keep me company; I'm lonesome here all by
myself."

Connie looked puzzled.

"You ask wot wages yer'll get," said Agnes, poking Connie on the arm.
Connie's blue eyes looked up. The showy lady was gazing at her very
intently.

"I'll give yer five shillin's a week," she said, "and yer keep, and some
carst-off clothes--my own--now and again; and ef that bean't a bargain,
I don't know wot be."

Connie was silent.

"You 'ad best close with it," said Agnes. "It's a charnce once in a
'undred. Yer'll be very 'appy with Mrs. Warren--her's a real lydy."

"Yes, that I be," said Mrs. Warren. "I come of a very hold family. My
ancestors come hover with William the Conqueror."

Connie did not seem impressed by this fact.

"Will yer come or will yer not?" said Mrs. Warren. "I'll take yer
jaunts, too--I forgot to mention that. Often on a fine Saturday, you an'
me--we'll go to the country together. You don't know 'ow fine that 'ull
be. We'll go to the country and we'll 'ave a spree. Did yer never see
the country?"

"No," said Connie, in a slow voice, "but I ha' dreamt of it."

"She's the sort, ma'am," interrupted Agnes, "wot dreams the queerest
things. She's hall for poetry and flowers and sech like. She's not
matter-o'-fack like me."

"Jest the sort I want," said Mrs. Warren. "I--I loves poetry. You shall
read it aloud to me, my gel--or, better still, I'll read it to you. An'
as to flowers--why, yer shall pluck 'em yer own self, an' yer'll see 'em
a-blowin' an' a-growin', yer own self. We'll go to the country next
Saturday. There, now--ain't that fine?"

Connie looked puzzled. There certainly was a great attraction at the
thought of going into the country. She hated the machine-work. But, all
the same, somehow or other she did not like Mrs. Warren.

"I'll think o' it and let yer know," she said.

But when she uttered these words the stately dressed and over-fine lady
changed her manner.

"There's no thinking now," she said. "You're 'ere, and yer'll stay. You
go out arter you ha' been at my house? You refuse my goodness? Not a bit
o' it! Yer'll stay."

"Oh, yes, Connie," said Agnes in a soothing tone.

"But I don't want to stay," said Connie, now thoroughly frightened. "I
want to go--and to go at once. Let me go, ma'am; I--I don't like yer!"

Poor Connie made a rush for the door, but Agnes flew after her and
clasped her round the waist.

"Yer _be_ a silly!" she said. "Yer jest stay with her for one week."

"But I--I must go and tell father," said poor Connie.

"You needn't--I'll go an' tell him. Don't yer get into such a fright.
Don't, for goodness' sake! Why, think of five shillin's a week, and
jaunts into the country, and beautiful food, and poetry read aloud to
yer, and hall the rest!"

"I has most select poetry here," said Mrs. Warren. "Did yer never yere
of a man called Tennyson? An' did yer never read that most touching
story of the consumptive gel called the 'May Queen'? 'Ef ye're wakin'
call me hearly, call me hearly, mother dear.' I'll read yer that. It's
the most beauteous thing."

"It sounds lovely," said Connie.

She was always arrested by the slightest thing which touched her keen
fancy and rich imagination.

"And you 'ates the machines," said Agnes.

"Oh yes, I 'ates the machines," cried Connie. Then she added after a
pause: "I'm 'ere, and I'll stay for one week. But I must go back first
to get some o' my bits o' duds, and to tell father. You'd best let me
go, ma'am; I won't be long away."

"But I can't do that," said Mrs. Warren; "it's a sight too late for a
young, purty gel like you to be out. Agnes, now, can go and tell yer
father, and bring wot clothes yer want to-morrow.--Agnes, yer'll do
that, won't yer?"

"Yes--that I will."

"They'll never let me stay," said Connie, reflecting on this fact with
some satisfaction.

"We won't ax him, my dear," said Mrs. Warren.

"I must go, really, now," said Agnes. "You're all right, Connie; you're
made. You'll be a fine lydy from this day out. And I'll come and see
yer.--W'en may I come, Mrs. Warren?"

"To-morrer evenin'," said Mrs. Warren. "You and Connie may have tea
together to-morrer evenin', for I'm goin' out with some friends to the
thayertre."

Poor Connie never quite knew how it happened, but somehow she found
herself as wax in the strong hands of Mrs. Warren. Connie, it is true,
gave a frightened cry when she heard Agnes shut the hall door behind
her, and she felt positive that she had done exceedingly wrong. But Mrs.
Warren really seemed kind, although Connie could not but wish that she
was not quite so stout, and that her face was not of such an ugly brick
red.

She gave the girl a nice supper, and talked to her all the time about
the lovely life she would have there.

"Ef I takes to yer I'll maybe hadopt yer as my own daughter, my dear,"
she said. "You're a wery purty gel. And may I ax how old you are, my
love?"

Connie answered that she was fourteen, and Mrs. Warren remarked that she
was small for her age and looked younger. She showed the girl her own
smart clothing, and tried the effect of her bit of fur round Connie's
delicate throat.

"There," she said; "you can keep it. It's only rabbit; I can't afford no
dearer. But yer'll look real foine in it when we goes out for our
constooshionul to-morrow morning."

Connie was really touched and delighted with the present of the fur. She
got very sleepy, too, after supper--more sleepy than she had ever felt
in her life--and when Mrs. Warren suggested that her new little handmaid
should retire early to bed, the girl was only too glad to obey.



CHAPTER VII.

SHOPPING.


Connie slept without dreams that night, and in the morning awoke with a
start. What was the matter? Was she late? It was dreadful to be late at
the doors of that cruel factory. Those who were late were docked of
their pay.

Peter Harris was always very angry when his daughter did not bring in
her full earnings on Saturday night. Connie cried out, "Father, father!"
and then sat up in bed and pushed her golden hair back from her little
face. What was the matter? Where was she? Why, what a pretty room! There
was scarcely any light yet, and she could not see the different articles
of furniture very distinctly, but it certainly seemed to her that she
was in a most elegant apartment. Her room at home was--oh, so bare! just
a very poor trundle-bed, and a little deal chest of drawers with a tiny
looking-glass on top, and one broken chair to stand by her bedside. This
was all.

But her present room had a carpet on the floor, and there were
pictures hanging on the walls, and there were curtains to the
windows, and the little bed on which she lay was covered with a gay
counterpane--soft--almost as soft as silk.

Where could she be? It took her almost a minute to get back the memory
of last night. Then she shuddered with the most curious feeling of
mingled ecstasy and pain. She was not going to the factory to-day. She
was not going to work at that horrid sewing-machine. She was not to meet
Sue. She was not to be choked by the horrid air. She, Connie, had got a
new situation, and Mrs. Warren was a very nice woman, although she was
so fat and her dress was so loud that even Connie's untrained taste
could not approve of it.

Just then a voice called to her:

"Get up, my dear; I'll have a cosy breakfast ready for yer by the time
yer've put yourself tidily into yer clothes."

"Yes," thought Connie to herself, "I've done well to come. Agnes is
right. I wonder what she'll say when she comes to tea this evening. I
wonder if she met father. I do 'ope as father won't find me. I'd real
like to stay on here for a bit; it's much, much nicer than the cruel
sort of life I 'ave to home."

Connie dressed by the light which was now coming in more strongly
through the window. Mrs. Warren pushed a can of hot water inside the
door, and the girl washed with a strange, unwonted sense of luxury. She
had no dress but the dark-blue, and she was therefore forced to put it
on.

When she had completed her toilet she entered the sitting-room. Mrs.
Warren, in her morning _déshabille_, looked a more unpleasing object
than ever. Her hair was in tight curl-papers, and she wore a very loose
and very dirty dressing-gown, which was made of a sort of pattern
chintz, and gave her the effect of being a huge pyramid of coarse, faded
flowers.

There was coffee, however, which smelled very good, on the hearth, and
there was some toast and bacon, and some bread, butter, and jam. Connie
and Mrs. Warren made a good meal, and then Mrs. Warren began to talk of
the day's programme.

"I have a lot of shopping to do this morning," she said, "and we'll go
out not later than ten o'clock sharp. It's wonderful wot a lot o' things
I has to buy. There's sales on now, too, and we'll go to some of 'em.
Maybe I'll get yer a bit o' ribbon--you're fond o' blue ribbon, I take
it. Well, maybe I'll get it for yer--there's no saying. Anyhow, we'll
walk down the streets, and wot shops we don't go into we'll press our
noses against the panes o' glass and stare in. Now then, my dear, yer
don't s'pose that I'll allow you to come out walking with the likes o'
me with yer 'air down like that."

"Why, 'ow is it to be done?" said Connie. "I take it that it's
beautiful; I ha' done it more tidy than ever."

"But I don't want it tidy. Now then, you set down yere close to the
fire, so that you can toast yer toes, and I'll see to yer 'air."

Connie was forced to obey; more and more was she wax in the hands of her
new employer. Mrs. Warren quickly took the hair-pins out of Connie's
thick plait. She let it fall down to her waist, and then she unplaited
it and brushed out the shining waves of lovely hair, and then said, with
a smile of satisfaction:

"Now, I guess there won't be anybody prettier than you to walk abroad
to-day."

"But I can't," said Connie--"I don't ever wear my 'air like that; it's
only young lydies as does that."

"Well, ain't you a lydy, and ain't I a lydy? You're going out with one,
and yer'll wear yer 'air as I please."

Connie shivered; but presently the little dark-blue cap was placed over
the masses of golden hair, the gray fur was fastened round the slender
throat, and Connie marched out with Mrs. Warren.

Mrs. Warren's own dress was in all respects the reverse of her pretty
young companion's. It consisted of a very voluminous silk cloak, which
was lined with fur, and which gave the already stout woman a most portly
appearance. On her head she wore a bonnet covered with artificial
flowers, and she enveloped her hands in an enormous muff.

"Now, off we go," said Mrs. Warren. "You'll enjoy yerself, my purty."

It is quite true that Connie did--at least, at first. This was the time
of day when, with the exception of Sundays, she was always buried from
view in the ugly warehouse. She was unaccustomed to the morning
sunshine, and she was certainly unaccustomed to the handsome streets
where Mrs. Warren conducted her.

They walked on, and soon found themselves in crowded thoroughfares. At
last they stopped before the doors of a great shop, into which crowds of
people were going.

"Oh, what a pretty girl!" said Connie to her companion.

A young girl, very like Connie herself--so like as to make the
resemblance almost extraordinary--was entering the shop, accompanied by
an old gentleman who was supporting himself by the aid of a gold-headed
stick. The girl also had golden hair. She was dressed in dark blue, and
had gray fur round her neck. But above the fur there peeped out a little
pale-blue handkerchief made of very soft silk.

"That's purty," whispered Mrs. Warren to Connie. "Yer'd like a
'andkercher like that--yer shall 'ave one. Get on in front o' me; you're
slimmer nor me; I want to push into the shop."

Connie obeyed. As she passed the fair young girl, the girl seemed to
notice the extraordinary likeness between them, for she turned and
looked at Connie and smiled. She also said something to her companion,
who also stared at the girl. But stout Mrs. Warren poked Connie from
behind, and she had to push forward, and presently found herself in the
shop.

There it seemed to her that Mrs. Warren did very little buying. It is
true she stopped at several counters, always choosing those which were
most surrounded by customers; it is true she pulled things about, poking
at the goods offered for sale, and making complaints about them, but
always keeping Connie well to the fore.

A delicate color had sprung into the girl's cheeks, and almost every one
turned to look at her. The shopmen turned; the shopgirls gazed; the
customers forgot what they wanted in their amazement at Connie's beauty.
Her hair, in especial, was the subject of universal admiration--its
thickness, its length, its marvelous color. The girl herself was quite
unconscious of the admiration which her appearance produced, but Mrs.
Warren knew well what a valuable acquisition she had made in little
Connie.

When they left the shop she seemed to be in high good-humor. But, lo and
behold! a change had taken place in the outside world. The sun, so
bright and glorious, had hidden himself behind a murky yellow fog, which
was coming up each moment thicker and thicker from the river.

"Oh dear!" said Mrs. Warren.

"Oh dear!" cried Connie too. "We won't get lost, will us, ma'am?"

"Lost?" cried Mrs. Warren, with a sniff. "Now, I call this fog the most
beautiful fortunation thing that could have 'appened. We'll have a real
jolly morning now, Connie. You come along o' me. There, child--walk a
bit in front. Why, ye're a real, real beauty. I feel sort of ashamed to
be walkin' with yer. Let folks think that you're out with yer nurse, my
pretty. Yes, let 'em think that, and that she's screening yer from
misfortun' wid her own ample person."

Thus Connie walked for several hours that day. In and out of crowded
thoroughfares the two perambulated. Into shops they went, and out again
they came. Everywhere Connie went first, and Mrs. Warren followed very
close behind.

At last the good lady said that she had done her morning's shopping.
Connie could not well recall what she had bought, and the pair trudged
soberly home.

When they got there Mrs. Warren went straight to her own bedroom, and
Connie sat down by the fire, feeling quite tired with so much exercise.
Presently Mrs. Warren came out again. She had changed her dress, and had
put on an ample satin gown of black with broad yellow stripes. She was
in high good-humor, and going up to Connie, gave her a resounding smack
on the cheek.

"Now," she said, "yer won't think 'ard of poor Mammy Warren. See wot
I've gone an' got an' bought for yer."

Connie turned quickly. A soft little blue handkerchief, delicately
folded in tissue-paper, was laid on the table by the girl.

"Why--why--that ain't for me!" said Connie.

"Yes, but it be! Why shouldn't it be for you? I saw yer lookin' at that
purty young lydy who was as like yer as two peas. I watched 'ow yer
stared at the blue 'andkercher, and 'ow yer sort o' longed for it."

"But indeed--indeed I didn't."

"Anyhow, here's another, and yer can have it, and wear it peeping out
among yer fur. I take it that yer blue 'andkercher'll take the cake."

"Then you've bought it for me?" said Connie.

"Yus--didn't I zay so?"

"But I never seen yer do it," said Connie.

"Seen me do it?" said Mrs. Warren, her eyes flashing with anger. "You
was too much taken up with yer own conceits, my gel--hevery one staring
at yer, 'cos poor old Mammy Warren 'ad made yer so beautiful. But though
you was full to the brim o' yourself, I warn't so selfish; I were
thinkin' o' you--and yere's yer 'andkercher."

Connie took up the handkerchief slowly. Strange as it may seem, it gave
her no pleasure. She said, "Thank you, Mrs. Warren," in a subdued voice,
and took it into her little bedroom.

Connie felt that she did not particularly want to wear the handkerchief.
She did not know why, but a trouble, the first of the many troubles she
was to undergo in the terrible society of Mrs. Warren, came over her.
She went back again and sat down by the fire. During the greater part of
the afternoon the stout woman slept. Connie watched her furtively. A
strong desire to get up and run away seized her. Could she not get out
of that house and go back to Sue and Giles? How happy she would feel in
Giles's bare little room! How she would enjoy talking with the child!
With what wonder they would both listen to Big Ben as he spoke in that
voice of his the number of the hours! Giles would make up fairy-tales
for Connie to listen to. How Connie did love the "wonnerful" things he
said about the big "Woice"! One day it was cheerful, another day sad,
another day very encouraging, another day full of that noble influence
which the child himself so largely exercised. At all times it was an
angel voice, speaking to mankind from high above this sordid world.

It helped Giles, and it helped Connie too. She sat by the fire in this
well-furnished room and looked anxiously towards the door. Once she got
up on tiptoe. She had almost reached the door, but had not quite done
so, when Mrs. Warren turned, gave a loud snore, and opened her eyes. She
did not speak when she saw Connie, but her eyes seemed to say briefly,
"Well, don't you go any farther"; and Connie turned back into her small
bedroom.

Sharp at four o'clock Mrs. Warren started up.

"Now then," she said, "I'm goin' to get the tea ready."

"Can I help you, ma'am?" asked Connie. "Shall I make you some toast,
ma'am?"

"Toast?" cried Mrs. Warren. "Toast? Do you think I'd allow yer to spile
yer purty face with the fire beatin' on it? Not a bit o' it! You set
down there--it's a foine lydy you be, and I ha' to take care of yer."

"But why should yer do that, ma'am? I ain't put into the world to do
naught. I ha' always worked 'ard--father wanted me to."

"Eh?" said Mrs. Warren. "But I'm yer father and mother both now, and I
don't want yer to."

"Don't yer?" said Connie.

She sank down and folded her hands in her lap.

"I must do summut to whiten them 'ands o' yours," said Mrs. Warren; "and
I'm goin' to get yer real purty stockings an' boots to wear. You must
look the real lydy--a real lydy wears neat boots and good gloves."

"But I ain't a lydy," said Connie; "an' wots more," she added, "I don't
want to be."

"You be a lydy," said Mrs. Warren; "the Halmighty made yer into one."

"I don't talk like one," said Connie.

"No; but then, yer needn't speak. Oh lor'! I suppose that's Agnes
a-poundin' at the door. Oh, stand back, child, and I'll go to her."

Mrs. Warren opened the door, and Agnes stepped in.

"I ha' took French leave," she said. "I dunno wot they'll say at the
factory, but yere I be. You promised, you know, Mrs. Warren, ma'am, as I
shouldn't 'ave naught to do with factory life, niver no more."

"You needn't," said Mrs. Warren. "I ha' a deal o' work for yer to get
through; but come along into my bedroom and we'll talk over things."

Mrs. Warren and Agnes disappeared into the bedroom of the former, Mrs.
Warren having first taken the precaution to lock the sitting-room door
and put the key into her pocket. Poor Connie felt more than ever that
she was a prisoner. More than ever did she long for the old life which
she had lived. Notwithstanding her father's drinking bouts,
notwithstanding his cruelty and neglect, the free life, the above-board
life--even the dull, dull factory life--were all as heaven compared to
this terrible, mysterious existence in Mrs. Warren's comfortable rooms.



CHAPTER VIII.

COMPARISONS.


Mrs. Warren and Agnes talked together for quite three quarters of an
hour. When they came out of the bedroom, Mrs. Warren was wearing a
tight-fitting cloth jacket, which made her look more enormous even than
the cloak had done. She had a small black bonnet on her head, over which
she had drawn a spotted net veil. Her hands were encased in decent black
gloves, her skirt was short, and her boots tidy. She carried in her hand
a fair-sized brown leather bag; and telling Connie that she was "goin'
out," and would be back when she saw her and not before, left the two
girls alone in the little sitting-room.

After she had shut the door behind her, Agnes went over to it, and
possessing herself of the key, slipped it into her pocket. Then she
stared hard at Connie.

"Well," she said, "an' 'ow do yer like it?"

"I don't like it at all," answered Connie, "I want to go--I will go. I'd
rayther a sight be back in the factory. Mrs. Warren--she frightens me."

"You be a silly," said Agnes. "You talk like that 'cos you knows no
better. Why, 'ere you are as cosy and well tended as gel could be. Look
at this room. Think on the soft chair you're sittin' upon; think on the
meals; think on yer bedroom; think on the beautiful walk you 'ad this
morning. My word! you be a silly! No work to do, and nothing whatever to
trouble yer, except to act the lydy. My word! ef _you're_ discontent,
the world'll come to an end. Wish I were in your shoes--that I do."

"Well, Agnes, get into them," said Connie. "I'm sure you're more than
welcome. I'm jest--jest pinin' for wot you thinks naught on. I want to
see Giles and Sue and--and--father. You git into my shoes--you like
it--I don't like it."

Agnes burst into a loud laugh.

"My word!" she said, "you're be a gel and a 'arf. Wouldn't I jest jump
at gettin' into your shoes if I could? But there! yer shoes don't fit
me, and that's the truth."

"Don't fit yer, don't they?" exclaimed Connie. "Wot do yer mean by
that?"

"Too small," said Agnes, sticking out her ugly foot in its broken
boot--"too genteel--too neat. No one could make a lydy o' me. Look at my
'ands." She spread out her coarse, stumpy fingers. "Look at my face.
Why, yere's a glass; let's stand side by side, an' then let's compare.
Big face; no nose to speak of; upper lip two inches long; mouth--slit
from ear to ear; freckles; eyes what the boys call pig's eyes; 'air
rough and coarse; figure stumpy. Now look at you. Face fair as a lily;
nose straight and small; mouth like a rosebud; eyes blue as the sky. No,
Connie, it can't be done; what with that face o' yourn, and that gold
'air o' yourn, you're a beauty hout and hout. Yer face is yer fortoon',
my purty maid."

"My face ain't my fortune."

"Things don't fit, Connie. You ha' got to stay yere--and be a fine lydy.
That's the way you works for yer livin'--I ha' to work in a different
sort."

"What sort? Oh, do tel me!"

"No; that's my secret. But I've spoke out plain with the old woman, and
I'm comin' yere Saturday night--not to stay, bless yer! no, but to do
hodd jobs for her; for one thing, to look arter you when she's out. I
'spect she'll get Ronald back now you ha' come."

"Ronald!" cried Connie. "Who's he?"

"Never you mind; you'll know when yer see of 'im."

"Then I'm a prisoner," said Connie--"that's what it means."

"Well, well! take it like that ef yer like. Ain't it natural that Mrs.
Warren should want yer to stay now she ha' got yer? When yer stays
willin'-like, as yer will all too soon, then yer'll 'ave yer liberty.
Hin an' out then yer may go as yer pleases; there'll be naught to
interfere. Yer'll jest do yer dooty then, and yer dooty'll be to please
old Mammy Warren."

"Has my father missed me?" asked Connie, who saw by this time that she
could not possibly cope with Agnes; if ever she was to effect her escape
from this horrible place, it must be by guile.

"'Ow is father?" she asked. "'Ave he missed me yet?"

"Know nothing 'bout him. Don't think he have, for the boys, Dick and
Hal, was 'ome when I come back. They 'ad no news for me at all."

"You saw Sue to-day?"

"Yus, I saw her, an' I kep' well away from her."

"Agnes," said Connie in a very pleading voice, "ef I must stay 'ere--an'
I don't know wot I ha' done to be treated like this--will yer take a
message from me to little Giles?"

"Wot sort?" asked Agnes.

"Tell 'im straight from me that I can't come to see 'im for a few days,
an' ax him to pray for me; an' tell him that I 'ears the Woice same as
he 'ears the Woice, and tell 'im as it real comforts me. Wull yer do
that, Agnes--wull yer, now?"

"Maybe," said Agnes; then after a pause she added, "Or maybe I won't. I
'ates yer Methody sort o' weak-minded folks. That's the worst o' you,
Connie; you're real weak-minded, for all ye're so purty, what wid yer
'prays' an' yer Woice, indeed!"

"Hark! it's sounding now," said Connie.

She raised her little delicate hand, and turned her head to listen. The
splendid notes filled the air. Connie murmured something under her
breath.

"I know wot Giles 'ud say 'bout the Woice to-night," she murmured.

But Agnes burst into a loud laugh.

"My word!" she said. "You 're talkin' o' Big Ben. Well, you be a
caution."

"_He that shall endure_," whispered Connie; and then a curious hidden
sunshine seemed to come out and radiate her small face. She folded her
hands. The impatience faded from her eyes. She sat still and quiet.

"Wot hever's the matter with yer?" asked Agnes.

"Naught as yer can understand, Aggie."

"Let's get tea," said Agnes. She started up and made vigorous
preparations. Soon the tea was served and placed upon the little
centre-table. It was an excellent tea, with shrimps and
bread-and-butter, and cake and jam. Agnes ate enormously, but Connie was
not as hungry as usual.

"Prime, I call it!" said Agnes. "My word! to think of gettin' all this
and not workin' a bit for it! You be in luck, Connie Harris--you be in
luck."

When the meal was over, and Agnes had washed up and made the place tidy,
she announced her intention of going to sleep.

"I'm dead-tired," she said, "and swallerin' sech a fillin' meal have
made me drowsy. But I ha' the key in my pocket, so don't you be trying
that little gime o'running away."

Agnes slept, and snored in her sleep, and Connie restlessly walked to
the window and looked out. When Big Ben sounded again her eyes filled
with tears. She had never spent such a long and dismal evening in her
life.

Mammy Warren did not return home until between ten and eleven o'clock.
Immediately on her arrival, Agnes took her departure. Mammy Warren then
locked the door, and having provided herself with a stiff glass of
whisky-and-water, desired Connie to hurry off to bed.

"Yer'll be losing yer purty sleep," she said, "and then where'll yer
be?"

The next day Connie again walked abroad with Mrs. Warren. Once more she
was dressed in the dark-blue costume, with her golden hair hanging in a
great fleece down her back. But when she made her appearance without
the little blue handkerchief, Mrs. Warren sent her back for it.

"I know wot I'm about," she said. "The blue in the 'andkercher'll add to
the blue in yer eyes. Pop it on, gel, and be quick."

Connie obeyed.

"I don't--want to," she said.

"And _w'y_ don't yer?"

The woman's voice was very fierce.

"I'm somehow sort o' feared."

"Take that for bein' sort o' feared," said Mrs. Warren; and she hit the
child so fierce a blow on the arm that Connie cried out from the pain.

Poor Connie was a very timorous creature, however, and the effect of the
blow was to make her meek and subservient. The blue handkerchief was
tied on and arranged to Mrs. Warren's satisfaction, and they both went
out into the open air.

They went by 'bus to quite a different part of the town on this
occasion, and Mrs. Warren again assured her little companion that she
had a great deal of shopping to get through.

"That is why I wear this cloak," she said; "I ha' bags fastened inside
to hold the things as I buy."

Once again they got into a crowd, and once again Connie was desired to
walk on a little way in front, and once again people turned to look at
the slim, fair child with her beautiful face and lovely hair. Once more
they entered several shops, and invariably chose the most crowded
parts--so crowded that Mrs. Warren whispered to Connie:

"We must wait till our turn, honey. We must ha' patience, dearie."

They had patience. Mrs. Warren did absolutely purchase half-a-dozen very
coarse pocket-handkerchiefs, keeping Connie close to her all the time.
One of these she straightway presented to the girl, saying in a loud
voice as she did so to the attendant:

"I'm out with the purty dear to give her exercise. I am her nurse. She
mustn't walk too far. No, thank you, mum, I'll carry the 'andkerchers
'ome myself; I won't trouble yer to send them to Portland
Mansions.--Now, come along, my dear; we mustn't waste our time in this
'ot shop. We must be hout, taking of our exercise."

They walked a very, very long way that morning, and Mrs. Warren,
contrary to her yesterday's plan, did now and then expend a few pence.
Whenever she did so she drew the shop people's attention to Connie,
speaking of her as her charge, and a "dear, delicate young lydy," and
begging of the people to be quick, as "'ot air" was so bad for the dear
child; and invariably she refused to allow a parcel to be sent to
Portland Mansions, saying that she preferred to carry it. At last,
however, she seemed to think that Connie had had sufficient exercise,
and they went home from the corner of Tottenham Court Road on the top of
a 'bus.

On their way Connie turned innocently to her companion and said:

"Why ever did yer say as we lived in Portland Mansions?" But a sharp
pinch on the girl's arm silenced her, and she felt more nervous and
frightened than ever.

The moment they got home, Mrs. Warren again returned to her bedroom, and
came back neatly dressed in a black and yellow silk, with a keen
appreciation of roast pork and apple sauce, which had been preparing in
the oven all the morning. Connie too was hungry.

When the meal came to an end Mrs. Warren said:

"More like a lydy you grows each minute. But, my dear, I must thank yer
nivver to open yer mouth when you're out, for yer ain't got the accent.
Yer must niver do it until yer has acquired the rightful accent."

"Was that why yer pinched me so 'ard when I axed why yer spoke o'
Portland Mansions?" asked Connie.

Mrs. Warren burst into a loud laugh.

"Course it were," she said. "Don't yer nivver do nothing o' that sort
agin."

"But we don't live in Portland Mansions. Why did yer say so?" asked
Connie.

"Ax no questions and yer'll be told no lies," was Mrs. Warren's
response.

She accompanied this apparently innocent speech with a look out of her
fierce black eyes which caused poor Connie's heart to sink into her
shoes. After a minute Mrs. Warren said:

"To-morrer's Saturday; we'll go out a bit in the morning, and then we'll
take train into the country. I promised yer a jaunt, and yer shall 'ave
it. I'm thinking a lot o' yer, my dear, and 'ow I can best help such a
beautiful young gel. Yer accent must be 'tended to, and the best way to
manage that is for you to have a refoined sort o' companion. Ronald is
that sort. We'll go and fetch 'im 'ome to-morrer."

"Whoever is Ronald?" asked Connie. "Do tell me, please," she added in an
interested voice, "for Agnes spoke of him yesterday."

"You wait till yer see," said Mrs. Warren. She nodded good-humoredly.

The rest of the day passed very much like the day before. It was again
intensely dull to poor Connie. She had nothing whatever to do but to
feed and sit still. Again Mrs. Warren slept until tea-time. Then Agnes
made her appearance, and Mrs. Warren went out in a tight-fitting coat,
and with a leather bag in her hand. Agnes made tea and scolded Connie;
and Connie grumbled and cried, and begged and begged to be given back
her liberty.

Mrs. Warren returned a little later than the night before. Agnes went
away; Mrs. Warren drank whisky-and-water, and Connie was sent to bed.
Oh, it was a miserable night! And would her own people ever find her?
Would Sue be satisfied that Connie was not quite lost? And would Father
John look for her? Dear, kind, splendid Father John! What would she not
give to hear his magnificent voice as he preached to the people once
again? Would not her own father search heaven and earth to find his only
child? He was so good to Connie when he was not drunk--so proud of her,
too, so glad when she kissed him so anxious to do the best he could for
her! Would he give her up for ever? "Oh dear, dear!" thought the poor
child, "if it was not for the Woice I believe I'd go mad; but the
Woice--it holds me up. I'm 'appy enough w'en I 'ears it. Oh, little
Giles, thank yer for telling me o' the wonnerful Woice!"



CHAPTER IX.

A TRIP INTO THE COUNTRY.


Saturday dawned a very bright and beautiful day. Mrs. Warren got up
early, and Connie also rose, feeling somehow or other that she was going
to have a pleasanter time than she had yet enjoyed since her
imprisonment. Oh yes, she was quite certain now that she was imprisoned;
but for what object it was impossible for her even to guess.

Mrs. Warren bustled out quite an hour earlier than usual. She did not go
far on this occasion. She seemed a little anxious, and once or twice, to
Connie's amazement, dodged down a back street as though she were afraid.
Her red face turned quite pale when she did this, and she clutched
Connie's arm and said in a faltering voice:

"I'm tuk with a stitch in my side! Oh, my poor, dear young lydy, I'm
afeered as I won't be able to take yer for a long walk this blessed
morning."

But when Connie, later on, inquired after the stitch, she was told to
mind her own business, and she began to think that Mrs. Warren had
pretended.

They reached Waterloo at quite an early hour, and there they took
third-class tickets to a part of the country about thirty miles from
London. It took them over an hour to get down, and during that time
Connie sat by the window wrapped in contemplation. For the first time
she saw green grass and hills and running water, and although it was
midwinter she saw trees which seemed to her too magnificent and glorious
for words. Her eyes shone with happiness, and she almost forgot Mrs.
Warren's existence. At last they reached the little wayside station to
which Mrs. Warren had taken tickets. They got out, and walked down a
winding country lane.

"Is this real, real country?" asked Connie.

"Yus--too real for me."

"Oh ma'am, it's bootiful! But I dunna see the flowers."

"Flowers don't grow in the winter, silly."

"Don't they? I thought for sure I'd see 'em a-blowin' and a-growin'. Yer
said so--yer mind."

"Well, so yer wull, come springtime, ef ye're a good gel. Now, I want to
talk wid yer wery serious-like."

"Oh ma'am, don't!" said poor Connie.

"None o' yer 'dont's' wid me! You ha' got to be very thankful to me for
all I'm a-doin' for yer--feedin yer, and cockerin' yer up, and makin' a
fuss o' yer, and brushing out yer 'air, and giving yer blue ties, and
boots, and gloves."

"Oh ma'am, yes," said Connie; "and I'm wery much obleeged--I am,
truly--but I'd rayther a sight rayther, go 'ome to father; I would,
ma'am."

"Wot little gels 'ud like isn't wot little gels 'ull get," said Mrs.
Warren. "You come to me of yer own free will, and 'avin' come, yer'll
stay. Ef yer makes a fuss, or lets out to anybody that yer don't like
it, I've a little room in my house--a room widdout no light and no
winder, and so far away from any other room that yer might scream
yerself sick and no one 'ud 'ear. Into that room yer goes ef yer makes
trouble. And now, listen."

Mrs. Warren gripped Connie's arm so tight that the poor child had to
suppress a scream.

"I know wot ye're been saying to Agnes--a-grumblin' and a-grumblin' to
Agnes, instead o' down on yer knees and thankin' the Almighty that
yer've found Mammy Warren. I know all about it: Yer'll stop that--d'yer
'ear--d'yer 'ear?"

"Yus, ma'am," said Connie.

"Do yer, promise?"

"Yus, ma'am," said the poor child again.

"I'll see as yer keeps it--yer little good-for-nothing beggar maid as
I'm a-pamperin' of! Don't I work for yer, and toil for yer? And am I to
have naught but grumbles for my pains? Yer won't like that room--an'
it's there!"

"I won't grumble," said Connie, terrified, and not daring to do anything
but propitiate her tyrant.

Mrs. Warren's manner altered.

"Wull," she said, "I ha' brought yer down all this long way to 'ave a
plain talk, and I guess we 'ave 'ad it. You please me, and I'll do my
dooty by you; but don't please me, and there ain't a gel in the whole of
Lunnon'll be more misrubble than you. Don't think as yer'll git aw'y,
for yer won't--no, not a bit o' it. And now I've something else to say.
There's a young boy as we're goin' to see to-day. 'Is name is Ronald;
he's a special friend o' mine. I ha' had that boy a-wisiting o' me afore
now, but he were took bad with a sort of fever. My word! din't I nurse
him--the best o' good things didn't I give 'im! But his narves went
wrong, and I sent him into the country for change of hair. He's all
right now. He's a very purty boy, same as you're a purty gel, and I'm
goin' to bring him back to be a companion for yer."

"Oh ma'am!"

"Yus," said Mrs. Warren. "Yer'll like that, won't yer?"

"Oh yus, ma'am."

"Wull, now--we'll be calling at the cottage in a few minutes, and wot I
want yer to do is to have a talk with that yer boy. Ye're to tell him as
I'm wonnerful good; ye're to tell him the sort o' things I does for yer.
The poor boy--he got a notion in his head w'en he had the fever--that
I--I--Mammy Warren--wor cruel to him. You tell him as there ain't a word
o' truth in it, for a kinder or more motherly body never lived. Ef yer
don't tell him that, I'll soon find out; an' there's the room without
winders an' without light real 'andy. Now--do yer promise?"

These words were accompanied by a violent shake.

"Do yer promise?"

"Yus, I promise," said Connie, turning white.

Mrs. Warren had an extraordinary capacity for changing her voice and
manner, even the expression of her face. While she had been extracting
two promises from poor Connie, she looked like the most awful, wicked
old woman that the worst parts of London could produce; but when on two
points Connie had faithfully promised to yield to her wishes, she
immediately altered her tactics, and became as genial and affectionate
and pleasant as she had been the reverse a few minutes back.

"I believes yer," she said, "and you're a real nice child, and there
won't be any one in the 'ole of Lunnun 'appier than you as long as yer
take the part of poor old Mammy Warren. Now then, yere's the cottage,
and soon we'll see the little man. He'll be a nice companion for yer,
Connie, and yer'll like that, won't you?"

"Oh yes, ma'am," said Connie.

She was not a London child for nothing. She had known a good deal of its
ups and downs, although nothing quite so terrible as her present
position had ever entered into her mind. But she saw clearly enough that
the only chance of deliverance for her, and perhaps for the poor little
boy, was to carry out Mammy Warren's injunctions and to keep her promise
to the letter. Accordingly, when Mrs. Warren's knock at the cottage door
was answered by a kind-looking, pale-faced woman, Connie raised her
bright blue eyes to the woman's face and listened with deep interest
when Mrs. Warren inquired how the poor little boy was.

"Is it Ronald?" said the woman, whose name was Mrs. Cricket. "He's ever
so much better; he's taken kindly to his food, and is out in the woods
now at the back of the house playing all by himself."

"In the woods is he, now?" said Mrs. Warren. "Well, I ha' come to fetch
him 'ome."

"Oh ma'am, I don't think he's as strong as all that."

"I ha' come to fetch him 'ome by the wishes of his parients," said Mrs.
Warren. "I suppose," she added, "there's no doubt in yer moind that I
'_ave_ come from the parients of the boy?"

"Oh no, ma'am--none, o' course. Will you come in, and I'll fetch him?"

"Is he quite right in the 'ead now?" said Mrs. Warren as she and Connie
followed Mrs. Cricket into the cottage.

"He's better," said that good woman.

"No talk o' dark rooms and nasty nightmares and cruel old women? All
those things quite forgot?" asked Mrs. Warren.

"He ain't spoke o' them lately."

"Well then, he's cured; he's quite fit to come 'ome. This young lydy is
a r'lation o' hisn. I ha' brought her down to see 'im, and we'll all
travel back to town together.--You might go and find him, my dear," said
Mrs. Warren, turning to Connie, and meanwhile putting her finger to her
lips when Mrs. Cricket's back was turned in order to enjoin silence on
the girl.

"You run out into the woods, my purty, and find the dear little boy and
bring him back here as fast as yer like."

"Yes, missy," said Mrs. Cricket, opening the back door of the cottage,
"you run out, straight up that path, and you'll find little Ronald."

Connie obeyed. She was glad to be alone in order to collect her
thoughts. A wild idea of running away even now presented itself to her.
But looking back, she perceived that Mrs. Warren had seated herself by
the kitchen window and had her bold eyes fixed on her retreating little
figure. No chance of running away. She must trust to luck, and for the
present she must carry out Mrs. Warren's instructions.

Presently she came up to the object of her search--an exceedingly
pretty, dark-haired boy of about ten years of age. His face was pale,
his features regular, his eyes very large, brown, and soft, like rich
brown velvet. He did not pay much attention to Connie, but went on
laying out a pile of horse-chestnuts which he had gathered in rows on
the ground.

"Be your name Ronald?" said Connie, coming up to him.

He looked at her, then sprang to his feet, and politely took off his
little cap.

"Yes, my name is Ronald Harvey."

"I ha' come to fetch yer," said Connie.

"What for?" asked the boy.

"It's Mammy Warren," said Connie in a low tone.

"What?" asked the child.

His face, always pale, now turned ghastly white.

"She's such a nice woman," said Connie.

She sat down by Ronald.

"Show me these purty balls," she said. "Wot be they?"

"Chestnuts," said the boy. "Did you ever see them before? That was not
true what you said about--about----"

"Yus," said Connie, "it is true. I'm a little gel stayin' with her now,
and you--I want you to come back with me. She's real, real kind is Mammy
Warren."

The boy put his hand up to his forehead.

"You seem a nice girl," he said, "and you look like--like a lady, only
you don't talk the way ladies talk. I'm a gentleman. My father was an
officer in the army, and my darling mother died, and--and something
happened--I don't know what--but I was very, very, very ill. There was
an awful time first, and there seemed to be a woman called Mammy Warren
mixed up in the time and----"

"Oh, you had fever," said Connie, "and you--you pictured things to
yourself in the fever. But 'tain't true," she added earnestly. "I'm wid
her, an' she's real, real, wonnerful kind."

"You wouldn't tell a lie, would you, girl?" said the boy.

Connie bit her lip hard.

"No," she said then in a choked voice.

"I wonder if it's true," said the boy. "It seems to me it was much more
than the fever, but I can't--I can't _quite_ remember."

"She is very kind," echoed Connie.

"Children, come along in," said a cheerful voice at that moment; and
Connie, raising her eyes, saw the sturdy form of Mrs. Warren advancing
up the path to meet her.

"She was terrible cruel in my time," said Ronald, glancing at the same
figure. "I don't want to go back."

"Oh, do--do come back, for my sake!" whispered Connie.

He turned and looked into the beautiful little face.

"Boys have to be good," he said then, "and--and brave. My father was a
very brave man." Then he struggled to his feet.

"Well, Ronald," said Mrs. Warren, "and 'ow may yer be, my dear little
boy? This is Connie, a cousin o' yourn. Wot playmates you two wull be!
Ye're both comin' back with me to my nice 'ome this wery arfternoon. And
now Mrs. Cricket 'as got a meal for us all and then yer little things'll
be packed, Ronald, and I'll carry 'em--for in course yer nurse ought to
carry yer clothes, my boy. We'll get off to the train as fast as ever we
can arter we've had our meal. Now, children, foller me back to the
cottage."

Mrs. Warren sailed on in front. Connie and Ronald followed after, hand
in hand. There was quite a splendid color in Connie's pale cheeks now,
for all of a sudden she saw a reason for her present life. She had got
to protect Ronald, who was so much younger than herself. She would
protect him with her very life if necessary.



CHAPTER X.

THE RETURN TO LONDON.


Mrs. Warren made a very hearty meal. She swallowed down cup after cup of
strong coffee, and ate great hunches of thick bread-and-butter, and
called out to the children not to shirk their food.

But, try as they would, neither Connie nor Ronald had much appetite.
Connie, in spite of herself, could not help casting anxious glances at
the little boy, and whenever she did so she found that Mrs. Warren had
fixed her with her bold black eyes. It seemed to Connie that Mrs.
Warren's eyes said quite as plainly as though her lips had spoken:

"I'll keep my word; there's the room with no winder and no light in
it--yer'll find yerself in there ef yer don't look purty sharp."

But notwithstanding the threatening expression of Mrs. Warren's eyes,
Connie could not restrain all sign of feeling. Ronald, on the other
hand, appeared quite bright. He devoted himself to Connie, helping her
in the most gentlemanly way to the good things which Mrs. Cricket had
provided.

"The apple jam is very nice," he said. "I watched Mrs. Cricket make
it.--Didn't I, Mrs. Cricket?"

"That you did, my little love," said the good woman. "And I give you a
little saucer of it all hot and tasty for your tea, didn't I, my little
love?"

"Oh yes," replied Ronald; "and didn't I like it, just!"

"Jam's wery bad for little boys," said Mrs. Warren at this juncture.
"Jam guvs little boys fever an' shockin' cruel dreams. It's
bread-and-butter as little boys should heat, and sometimes bread without
butter in case they should turn bilious."

"Oh no, ma'am, begging your pardon," here interrupted Mrs. Cricket; "I
haven't found it so with dear little Master Ronald. You tell his
parients, please, ma'am, that it's milk as he wants--lots and lots of
country milk--and--and a chop now and then, and chicken if it's young
and tender. That was 'ow I pulled 'im round.--Wasn't it, Ronald, my
dear?"

"Yes," said Ronald in his gentlemanly way. "You were very good indeed,
Mrs. Cricket."

"Perhaps," interrupted Mrs. Warren, drawing herself up to her full
height, which was by no means great, and pursing her lips, "yer'll 'ave
the goodness, Mrs. Cricket, to put on a piece o' paper the exact diet
yer like to horder for this yere boy. I'm a busy woman," said Mrs.
Warren, "and I can't keep it in my 'ead. It's chuckens an' chops an'
new-laid heggs--yer did say new-laid heggs at thruppence each didn't
yer, Mrs. Cricket?--an' the richest an' best milk, mostly cream, I take
it."

"I said nothing about new-laid eggs," said Mrs. Cricket, who was
exceedingly exact and orderly in her mind; "but now, as you 'ave
mentioned them, they'd come in very 'andy. But I certain did speak of
the other things, and I'll write 'em down ef yer like."

"Do," said Mrs. Warren, "and I'll mention 'em to the child's parients
w'en I see 'em."

But at this juncture something startling happened, for Ronald, white as
a sheet, rose.

"Has my father come back?" he asked. "Have you heard from him? Are you
taking me to him?"

Mrs. Warren gazed full at Ronald, and, quick as thought, she adopted his
idea. Here would be a way--a delightful way--of getting the boy back to
her dreadful house.

"Now, ain't I good?" she said. "Don't I know wot a dear little boy
wants? Yus, my love, ye're soon to be in the harms of yer dear parient."

"But you said both parients," interrupted Mrs. Cricket.

Mrs. Warren put up her finger to her lips. She had got the boy in her
arms, and he found himself most unwillingly folded to her ample breast.

"Ain't one enough at a time?" was her most dubious remark. "And now
then, Ronald, hurry up with yer things, for Connie and me, we must be
hoff. We could leave yer behind, ef yer so wished it, but Lunnun 'ud be
a much more convenient place for yer to meet yer father."

"Oh I'll go, I'll go!" said Ronald. "My darling, darling father! Oh, I
did think I'd never see him again! And he's quite well, Mrs. Warren?"

"In splendid, splendid health," said Mrs. Warren. "Niver did I lay eyes
on so 'andsome a man."

"And I'll see him to-night?" said Ronald.

"Yus--ef ye're quick."

Then Ronald darted into the next room, and Mrs. Cricket followed him,
and Connie and Mrs. Warren faced each other. Mrs. Warren began to laugh
immoderately.

"Young and tender chuckens," she said, "an' chops an' new-laid heggs an'
milk. Wotever's the matter with yer, Connie?"

Connie answered timidly that she though Ronald a dear little boy, and
very pretty, and that she hoped that he would soon get strong with the
nourishing food that Mrs. Warren was going to give him. But here that
worthy woman winked in so mysterious and awful a manner that poor Connie
felt as though she had received an electric shock. After a time she
spoke again.

"I'm so glad about his father!" she said. "His father was a hofficer in
the harmy. Will he really see him to-night, Mrs. Warren?"

"Will the sky fall?" was Mrs. Warren's ambiguous answer. "Once for all,
Connie, you ax no questions an' you'll be told no lies."

A very few moments afterwards Ronald came out of the little bedroom,
prepared for his journey. Mrs. Cricket cried when she parted with him,
but there were no tears in the boy's lovely eyes--he was all smiles and
excitement.

"I'll bring my own, own father down to see you, Mrs. Cricket," he said;
"maybe not to-morrow, but some day next week. For you've been very good
to me, darling Mrs. Cricket."

Then Mrs. Cricket kissed him and cried over him again, and the scene
might have been prolonged if Mrs. Warren had not caught the boy roughly
by the shoulder and pulled him away.

As they were marching down the tiny path which led from the cottage to
the high-road, Mrs. Cricket did venture to say in an anxious voice:

"I s'pose as Major Harvey'll pay me the little money as I spended on the
dear child?"

"That he will," said Mrs. Warren. "I'll see him to-night, most like, and
I'll be sure to mention the chuckens and the chops."

"Well then, good-bye again, darling," said Mrs. Cricket. Ronald blew a
kiss to her, and then, taking Connie's hand, they marched down the
high-road in the direction of the railway station, Mrs. Warren trotting
by their side, carrying the small bundle which contained Ronald's
clothes all tied up neatly in a blue check handkerchief.

"Yer'll be sure to tell yer father wot a good nurse I were to you,
Ronald," she remarked as they found themselves alone in a third-class
carriage.

"You're quite sure it _was_ only a dream?" said Ronald then very
earnestly.

"Wot do yer mean by that, chile?" inquired Mrs. Warren.

"I mean the dark room without any light, and the dreadful person
who--who--flogged me, and--the hunger."

"Poor little kid!" said Mrs. Warren. "Didn't he 'ave the fever, and
didn't Mammy Warren hold him in her arms, an', big boy that he be,
walked up and down the room wid him, and tried to soothe him w'en he
said them nasty lies? It wor a dream, my dear. W'y, Connie here can tell
yer 'ow good I am to 'er."

"Wery good," said Connie--"so good that there niver were no one better."

She tumbled out the words in desperation, and Mammy Warren gave her a
radiant smile, and poked her playfully in the ribs, and said that she
was quite the funniest gel she had ever come acrost. After this Connie
was quite silent until the little party found themselves at Waterloo.

Here they mounted to the top of a 'bus, and Ronald, trembling with
delight, clutched hold of Connie's hand.

"Stoop down," he said; "I want to whisper." Connie bent towards him. "Do
you think my father will be waiting for me when we get back to Mrs.
Warren's?"

"I don't know," was the only reply poor Connie could manage to give him.

At last the omnibus drive came to an end, and the trio walked the short
remaining distance to Mrs. Warren's rooms. Ronald almost tumbled
upstairs in his eagerness to get there first.

"Oh, how will he get in? I do hope he's not been waiting and gone away
again."

Mrs. Warren opened the door with her latch key. The room was dark, for
there was neither fire-light nor gas-light; but soon these deficiencies
were supplied, for Mrs. Warren was exceedingly fond of creature
comforts.

"I wonder when he'll come," said Ronald. He was standing by the table
and looking anxiously with his big brown eyes all round him. "I do
wonder when he'll come."

Mrs. Warren made no reply. She began to prepare supper. As she did so
there came a knock at the door. Mrs. Warren went to open it. She had an
eager conversation with some one who stood without, and then she and
Agnes entered the room together. Ronald evidently knew Agnes, for he
shrank away from her and regarded her arrival with the reverse of
pleasure.

"Wull--and 'ow yer?" said Agnes in a cheerful tone.

She chucked Ronald under the chin and remarked on his healthy
appearance.

"Wull," said Mrs. Warren, "yer can't blame the pore child for that,
seein' as he 'ave been cockered up on the best food in the
land--chuckens and chops, no less."

"Oh, dear me! how shockin' greedy you must be!" said Agnes. "I'm sure,
ma'am," she continued, turning to Mrs. Warren, "no one could desire
better than wot _you_ 'as to eat."

"I like my own food," said Mrs. Warren, "although it be simplicity
itself. There are two red 'errin's for supper to-night, and
bread-and-butter and tea, and a _little_ raspberry jam, and ef that
ain't enough for anybody's palate, I don't know----"

"My father, when he comes"--began Ronald, but here Mrs. Warren turned to
him.

"You're a manly boy, Ronald," she said, "and I know you'll tike wot I
'ave to say in a manly sperrit. Yer father have been called out o'
Lunnon, and won't be back for a day or two. He sent a message by Agnes
'ere. He don't know the exact day as he'll be back, but he'll come wery
soon."

"Yes," said Agnes, "I seen him."

"Where?" asked Ronald.

"In the street," said Agnes. "He come along 'ere an hour back. Ef you'd
been 'ome he might ha' took yer back with him; but w'en he found that
you was still in the country he wor that pleased 'is whole face seemed
to smile, and he said--said 'e, 'Dear Mammy Warren--I'd like to chuck
her under her chin.' Them was his wery words."

"I don't believe my father would say that sort of thing," answered
Ronald.

"Oh my!" said Agnes. "Highty-tighty! Don't yer go an' say as I tells
lies, young man----"

"An' it's the wery thing he would say," interrupted Mrs. Warren, "for a
plainer-spoken, more hagreeable man than the Major niver drew breath."

"He left yer a message," continued Agnes, "an' yer can tike it or leave
it--I don't care. Wot he said wor this. You're to obey Mammy Warren, an'
be wery grateful to her, an' do jest wot she tells yer until he comes
'ome. He'll be 'ome any day, an' he'll come an' fetch yer then, and the
more good yer be to Mammy Warren the better pleased he'll be."

Ronald sat down on a little stool. He had sat on that stool before. He
looked with dim eyes across the over-furnished, hot, and terribly ugly
room. That vision of delight which had buoyed him up all the way back to
London was not to be realized for a few days. He must bear with Mrs.
Warren for a few days. It did not enter into his head that the whole
story about his father was false from beginning to end. The present
disappointment was quite enough for so young a child to bear.

After this Mrs. Warren and Agnes conversed in semi-whispers, and
presently they retired into Mrs Warren's bedroom, and Connie and Ronald
were alone.

"I am glad yer've come 'ere, Ronald," said Connie.

"Yes," said Ronald. He pressed his little white hand against his
forehead.

"You're missing your father, I know," continued Connie, "Somehow I'm
a-missing o' mine."

"Have you a father, Connie?" asked the little boy.

"Yus--that I 'ave," said Connie. "Not a great, grand gentleman like
yourn, but a father for all that."

"Is your father in London?" asked the boy.

"Oh yes," answered Connie, "and not far from 'ere, nayther."

"Then why aren't you with him?" asked Ronald.

"'Cos I can't be," replied Connie in a low whisper.

"Hush!" said Ronald.

Just then the door opened and Agnes came out. Mrs. Warren followed her.
Mrs. Warren wore her usual tight-fitting jacket, but on this occasion
Agnes carried a leather bag, which seemed to be stuffed so full that it
was with difficulty it could be kept shut.

Mrs. Warren addressed the two children.

"I'm goin' to lock you two in," she said, "an' you'd best go to bed.
There's a little bed made up in your room, Connie, for Ronald to sleep
in; and as you're a deal older than that sweet little boy, you'll nurse
him off to sleep, jest as though he wor your real brother. Arter he's
asleep you can go to bed yerself, for there's nothing like early hours
for beauty sleep. You yere me, Connie? You know wot to do?"

"Yus," answered Connie. Her voice was almost cheerful. She was so truly
glad that Mrs. Warren was going out. When she heard the key turning in
the lock, and knew that she and Ronald were locked in all alone, she
scarcely seemed to mind, so glad was she of Ronald's company. Neither
child spoke to the other until the retreating footsteps of Mrs. Warren
and Agnes ceased to sound on the stairs.

Then Connie went up to Ronald, and kneeling down by him put her arms
round him and kissed him.

"You're very pretty," said the little boy, "although you don't talk
like a lady. But that doesn't matter," he added, "for you've got a
lady's heart."

"I love you, Ronald," was Connie's answer.

Ronald now put his own arms round Connie's neck and kissed her once or
twice on her peach-like cheek, and then they both sat down on the floor
and were happy for a few minutes in each other's company. After that
Ronald began to speak. He told Connie about his father and about his
mother. He did not cry at all, as most children would have done, when he
spoke of those he loved so dearly.

"Mother's dead nearly a year now," he said. "It was waiting for father
that killed her. Father went out to a dreadful war in South Africa, and
we heard that he was killed. Mother wouldn't believe it; she never did
believe it--never--and she taught me not to, and I never did. But, all
the same, it killed her."

"And then wot became of you?" asked Connie.

"I was taken here," replied Ronald. "That's three or four months ago
now. I remember quite well being out walking with my nurse. She wasn't
very nice, my nurse wasn't; but she was--oh, so good and kind compared
to--what--what happened afterwards! Darling mother was dead. They had
put her body in the grave, and the angels had got her soul. I didn't
like to think of the grave, but I did love to remember the angels. The
last thing mother said when she was dying was, 'Ronald, when your father
comes back, be sure you tell him that I never believed that he was
really dead.'"

"I promised her, and then she said again, 'And you'll never believe it
either, Ronald.' And I said that I never, never would, if it was a
thousand years. And then she kissed me and smiled; and I s'pose the
angels took her, for she never spoke any more."

"Well," said Connie, who did not want Ronald to dwell too long on this
very sad scene, "tell us 'bout the day you come 'ere."

"Mother was in her grave," said Ronald, "and there was no one who
thought very much about me; and my nurse--she was not half as kind as
when mother lived. One day she took me for a walk. We went a long, long
way, and presently she asked me to wait for her outside one of those
awful gin-palaces. She used to go in there sometimes, even when mother
was alive. Well, I waited and waited outside, but she never came out. I
was not a bit frightened at first, of course, for my father's boy
mustn't be a coward, must he, Connie?"

"No," answered Connie.

"But she didn't come out, and it got late, and people began to look at
me, and by-and-by Mammy Warren came out of the gin-palace. She was--oh,
so red in the face! and I thought I'd never seen so dreadfully stout a
woman. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, 'Wotever are you doing
here?' And I said, 'I'm waiting for my nurse, Hannah Waters.' And she
said, 'Oh, then, _you're_ the little boy!' And I stared at her, and she
said, 'Pooh Hannah's took bad, and she's asked me to take you home. Come
along at once, my dear.'

"I went with her. I wasn't a bit frightened--I had never been frightened
in all my life up to then. But she didn't take me home at all. She
brought me to this house. She was very kind to me at first, in a sort of
a way, and she told me that my relations had given me to her to look
after, and that I was to be her little boy for the present, and must do
just what she wanted."

"Well--and wot did she want?" asked Connie, trembling not a little.

"It wasn't so dreadful bad at first," continued Ronald. "She used to
take me out every day for long walks, and she made me look very nice;
and we went into shops, for she said she wanted to buy things, but I
don't think she ever did buy much. I used to be tired sometimes; we
walked such a very long way."

"And did she ever make you go a little, tiny bit in front of her?" said
Connie.

"Why, yes," replied Ronald. "But I rather liked that, for, you see, I'm
a gentleman, and she's not a lady."

"I wonder," said Connie, "ef she spoke of herself as your old nurse."

Ronald began to laugh.

"How clever of you to think of that, Connie! She always did; and
whenever she did buy things she said they were for me; and she used to
give--oh, tremendous grand addresses of where I lived."

"Portland Mansions, p'r'aps?" said Connie.

"Sometimes that, and sometimes other places; but of course the parcels
were never sent there; she always carried them herself."

"And she wore a big, big cloak, with pockets inside?" asked Connie.

"Yes, she did--she did."

"She does just the same with me now," said Connie. "I go out with her
every day, and we go into the big shops--into the most crowded
parts--and she doesn't buy much. I like that the best part of the day,
for all the rest of the time I have to stay here and do nothing."

"And so had I to stay in these rooms and do nothing," said Ronald. "But
I won't have to stay long now," he continued, "as my dear, dear father
has come home. Oh! I wish darling mother were alive, that she might feel
as happy as I do to-night."

"But tell me, Ronald," continued Connie, "how was it yer got the fever?"

"I don't quite remember that part," said the little boy. "All that part
was made up of dreams. There was a dreadful dream when I seemed to be
quite well, and when I said something before some one, and Mammy Warren
turned scarlet; and when I was alone she--she flogged me and put me
into a dark, dark room for--oh! it seemed like--for ever. And I had
nothing to eat, and I was so frightened--for she said there was a bogy
there--that I nearly died. I didn't like to be frightened, for it seemed
as though I couldn't be father's own son if I were afraid. But I was
afraid, Connie--I was. I'll have to tell darling father about it when I
see him; I'm sure he'll forgive me, more particular when he knows the
whole thing was only a fever dream--for there's not any room in this
house like that, is there, Connie."

"Yes, but there be," thought Connie. But she did not say so aloud.

That night Ronald slept as peacefully as though he were really back
again with his father. But Connie lay awake. Anxious as she had been
before Ronald's arrival, that state of things was nothing at all to her
present anxiety.

The next day was Sunday, and if it had not been for Big Ben the two poor
children would have had a most miserable time, for they were shut up in
Mrs. Warren's room from morning till night. In vain they begged to be
allowed to go out. Mrs. Warren said "No," and in so emphatic a manner
that they did not dare to ask her twice.

Agnes did not come at all to the house on Sunday, and Connie and Ronald
finally curled themselves up in the deep window-ledge, and Connie talked
and told Ronald all about her past life. In particular she told him
about Big Ben, and little Giles, and the wonderful, most wonderful
"Woice." After that the children had a sort of play together, in which
Ronald proved himself to be a most imaginative little person, for he
invented many fresh stories with regard to Big Ben, assuring Connie that
he was much more than a voice. He would not be at all surprised, he said
if Big Ben was not a great angel who came straight down from heaven
every hour to comfort the sorrowful people in Westminster. Ronald
thought it extremely likely that this wonderful angel knew his own
mother, and was on this special Sunday telling him to be a brave boy and
keep up his heart, for most certainly he would be safe back with his
father before another Sunday came.

"That's what he says," continued Ronald, "and that's what'll happen,
you'll see, Connie. And when darling father comes here you shall come
away too, for I won't leave you alone with Mammy Warren. She's not a
real kind person, is she, Connie?"

"Don't ax me," said Connie. Ronald looked up into her face.

"You can't tell a lie at all well," he said. "You're trying to make me
think that Mammy Warren's nice, but you're not doing it well, for I
don't believe you."

Then the big clock once again tolled the hour, and Ronald laughed with
glee.

"There's no doubt about it now," he said. "Father _is_ coming, and very,
very soon. Oh I am glad, and happy!"

During that Sunday the children had very little food, for Mrs. Warren
seemed all of a sudden to have changed her tactics. Whether it was the
fact that she was really angry at Mrs. Cricket's having fed the boy on
chicken and mutton-chops, no one could tell; but all he did have on that
eventful Sunday was weak tea, stale bread and butter, and a very little
jam.

Towards evening the two poor little creatures were really hungry.
By-and-by they clasped each other round the neck, and fell asleep in
each other's arms. It was in this condition--curled up near the
fire--that Mrs. Warren found them when she got home.



CHAPTER XI.

A NEW DEPARTURE.


With Monday morning, however, all things seemed to have altered. Mrs.
Warren was up spry and early. She called Connie to come and help her,
but she desired Ronald to lie in bed.

"It's a nasty day," she said; "there's sleet falling. We'll go out, of
course, for fresh air is good for children, but we must none of us wear
our best clothes."

"What do yer mean by that?" said Connie.

"Don't you go and ax me wot I mean; just do wot I tells yer. No
dark-blue dress for yer to-day, missy. I ha' got a old gownd as 'ull fit
yer fine."

Poor Connie trembled. Mrs. Warren went into her bedroom.

"'Ere, now," she said, "you put it on."

The old gown was certainly not at all nice. Its color was quite
indescribable. It was very ragged and torn, too, round the bottom of the
skirt. It dragged down in front so as almost to trip poor Connie when
she tried to walk, and was several inches too short in the back.

Mrs. Warren desired Connie to take off her dainty shoes and stockings,
and gave her some stockings with holes in them, and some very
disreputable shoes down at the heel. She made her pin across her chest a
little old shawl of an ugly pale pattern, and instead of allowing her to
wear her hair in a golden fleece down her back, she plaited it, and tied
it into a little bunch at the back of her head. She then put an old
bonnet on the child's head--a bonnet which must have once belonged to
quite an elderly woman--and tied it with strings in front. Connie felt
terribly ashamed of herself.

"I'm all in rags," she said, "jest as though I wor a beggar maid."

"I've a fancy that yer shall wear these 'ere clothes to-day," said Mrs.
Warren. "Yer've been a fine lydy too long; yer'll be a beggar maid
to-day. W'en I tell yer wot to do in the street, yer'll do it. You can
sing, I take it. Now then, you learn the words."

Mrs. Warren planted down before Connie the well-known words of "Home,
Sweet Home."

"I know this without learning it," said the girl.

"An' you 'as a good woice, I take it."

"Middlin'," replied Connie.

"Wull, sing it for me now."

Connie struck up the familiar words, and so frightened was she that in
real desperation she acquitted herself fairly well.

"You'll take a treble, an' the little boy 'ull do likewise, and I'll
take a fine, deep second. Ah! _I_ know 'ow to sing," said Mrs. Warren.

"You won't take little Ronald out on a dreadful sort o' day like this,"
said Connie.

"Wen I want yer adwice I'll ax fur it," said Mrs. Warren, with most
withering sarcasm.

Poor Connie felt her heart suddenly fit to burst. What new and dreadful
departure was this? Mrs. Warren now brought Ronald into the front room,
and there she arrayed him in garments of the poorest type, allowing his
little thin legs to be quite bare, and his very thin arms to show
through his ragged jacket. She posed, however, a little red cap on the
midst of his curly dark hair; and this cap most wonderfully became the
child, so that few people could pass him in the street without noticing
the sweetness of his angelic face. Then Mrs. Warren prepared herself for
the part she was to take. She went into her bedroom for the purpose, and
returned looking so exactly like a stout old beggar woman that the
children would scarcely have known her. She had covered her left eye
with a patch, and now only looked out on the world with her right one.
Her hair was knotted untidily under a frowsy old bonnet, and a very thin
shawl was bound across her ample breast.

"We'll do fine, I take it," she said to the children. "I am your mother,
my dears; you'll both 'old me by the 'and. Purtier little lambs couldn't
be seen than the two of yez. And ef poor, ugly Mammy Warren 'ave made
herself still uglier for yer sweet sakes, 'oo can but love 'er for the
ennoblin' deed? Wull, come along now, children; but first I'll build up
the fire, for we'll be 'ungry arter this 'ere job."

The fire was built up to Mrs. Warren's satisfaction, and the three went
downstairs. Ronald was quite speechless with shame--to go out like this,
to disgrace his brave father and his darling mother in this sort of
fashion, was pure torture to the boy; but Connie, in the thought of him
and the fear that he would take cold, almost forgot her own misery.

The three did not go anywhere by 'bus that day, but hurried down side
alleys and back streets until they got into the region of Piccadilly.
The children had not the least idea where they were. Suddenly, however,
they came to a pause outside a large hotel, and there Mrs. Warren struck
up the first note of "Home, Sweet Home."

She had timed everything well. The policeman was at the other end of his
beat, and she would not be molested for quite ten minutes. The
quavering, ugly notes of the old woman were well subdued, and Connie had
a really fine voice, and it rose high on the bitter air in sweet,
childish appeal and confidence. Ronald, too, was struck with a sudden
thought. That hotel was a sort of place where father used to live when
he was alive. Who could tell if his father himself might not have
returned, and might not be there, and might not hear him if he sang loud
enough and sweet enough?

The voice of the boy and the voice of the girl blended together, and
Mrs. Warren skilfully dropped hers so as not to spoil the harmony. The
people in the hotel were attracted by the sweet notes, and crowded to
the windows. Then Connie's face of purest beauty--Connie's face rendered
all the more pathetic by the old bonnet and the dreadful, tattered
dress--and Ronald with his head thrown back, his red cap held in his
hand, the white snow falling in flakes on his rich dark hair, made
between them a picture which would melt the hardest heart. Sixpences and
even shillings were showered from the windows, and as the last note of
"Home, Sweet Home" died away Mrs. Warren pocketed quite a considerable
harvest.

She and the children then moved on and did likewise before several other
large buildings, but they were not so successful again as they had been
with their first attempt. The police came back sooner than they were
expected. Ronald began to cough, too, and Connie's face looked blue with
cold. Mrs. Warren, however, was not disappointed. She spoke
encouragingly and protectingly to the children.

"Come 'ome, loveys," she said; "come 'ome, my little dears."

They did get home--or, rather, they got back to the dreadful house where
they were imprisoned--late in the afternoon, Ronald almost speechless
with cold and fatigue, Connie trembling also, and aching in every limb.

But now unwonted comforts awaited them. Mrs. Warren had no idea of
killing off these sources of wealth. She put Ronald into a hot bath, and
rubbed his limbs until they glowed, and then moved his little bed in
front of the fire and got him into it. Connie was also rubbed and dried
and desired to dispense with her beggar's toilet.

Afterwards there was quite a good dinner of roast pork with crackling
and apple sauce, and dreadful as their position was, both the poor
children enjoyed this meal as they had never enjoyed food before.

Thus a few days went by, the children going out every morning with Mrs.
Warren sometimes as beggar children, but sometimes again as children of
the well-to-do. These two programmes formed the most interesting part of
their little lives. For the rest of the day they sat huddled up
together, sometimes talking, sometimes silent, while each day a bigger
and bigger ache came into Ronald's heart. Why, oh why did not his father
come to fetch him?

But as all things come to an end, so the children's life in Mrs.
Warren's dreadful attics came to an abrupt conclusion.

One day, just as they were dressed to go out, there came a hurried knock
at the door. It seemed to Connie, who was very sharp and observant, that
Mrs. Warren did not much like the sound. She went to the door and,
before opening it, called out, "Who's there?"

"Agnes," was the reply; whereupon Mrs. Warren opened the door a few
inches, and Agnes squeezed in, immediately locking the door behind her.
She whispered something into Mrs. Warren's ear, which caused that good
woman to turn deadly white and stagger against the wall.

"Yer've no time to faint, ma'am," said Agnes. "'Ere--let me slap yer on
the back."

She gave two resounding whacks on Mrs. Warren's stout back, which caused
that woman to heave a couple of profound sighs and then to recover her
presence of mind.

She and Agnes then retired into her bedroom, where drawers were hastily
opened, and much commotion was heard by the two prettily dressed and
waiting children. In another minute or two Agnes came out alone.

"Wull," she said, "and 'ow be you, Connie?"

"I am all right," said Connie. "Where's Mammy Warren?"

"She's tuk bad, and won't want yer to go out a-walkin' with her to-day.
Oh my! oh my! how spry we be! It 'minds me o' the old song, 'As
Willikins were a-walkin' wid his Dinah one day.'"

"Agnes," said Connie, "I'm certain sure as there's some'ut wrong."

"Be yer now?" said Agnes. "Wull then, ye're mistook. Wot could be wrong?
Ye're a very queer and suspicious gel, Connie Harris--the most
suspicious as I hever see'd. Ye're just for all the world the most
selfish gel as could be found in the whole o' Lunnun. Pore Mammy Warren
was told of the sudden death of her sister, and that's all the sympathy
you guvs her. Wery different she behaves to you and Ronald. 'Hagnes,'
says she, 'tike those pore children for a run,' says she, 'and bring
them 'ome safe in time for dinner,' says she, 'an' give 'em some roast
mutton for dinner, poor darlin's,' says Mammy Warren; and then she falls
to cryin', and 'Oh, my sister!' she says, and 'Oh, poor Georgina!' she
sobs. Now then, the pair of yer--out we goes, and I'll go wid yer."

Quick as thought Agnes accomplished her purpose, and the two prettily
dressed children--Connie with her hair down her back, Ronald looking
like a little prince--found themselves in the street. But if the two
children thought that they had the slightest chance of running away they
were terribly mistaken, for Agnes proved even a sharper taskmistress
than Mrs. Warren. She seemed to Connie to have suddenly got quite old
and very cruel and determined. She walked the children here, and she
walked them there. They peered into shop windows and got into crowds,
but they did no shopping that morning. Connie was rather glad of that,
and now she was so accustomed to being stared at that she hardly took
any notice; while as to Ronald, his sweet brown eyes looked full up into
the face of every gentleman who passed, in the faint hope of discovering
his father again.

It seemed to Connie that they were out longer than usual; but at last
they did come back. Then, to their great surprise, they found the door
of Mammy Warren's sitting-room wide opened.

"My word! 'ow can this 'ave 'appened?" said Agnes.

They all went in, and Agnes went straight to the bedroom. She came out
presently, wearing a very grave face, and told the children that she
greatly feared poor Mammy Warren had gone off her head with grief--that
there wasn't a sign of her in the bedroom, nor anywhere in the house.

"And she's took her things, too," said Agnes. "Wull, now--wull, I must
go and search for her. Yer dinner's in the oven, children, and I'll come
back to see 'ow yer be sometime to-night, p'rhaps."

"Wull Mammy Warren come back to-night?" asked Connie.

"I don't know--maybe the poor soul is in the river by now. She wor took
wery bad, thinkin' of her sister, Georgina. I'll lock yer in, of course,
children, and yer can eat yer dinner and think o' yer mercies."



CHAPTER XII.

LEFT ALONE.


When Agnes went out the two children stared at each other.

"Connie," said Ronald, "I wish you'd tell me the real, real truth."

But Connie was trembling very much. "Don't yer ax me," she said. She
suddenly burst into tears. "I am so dreadfully frightened," she cried.
"I don't think I ever wor so frightened in all my life before. You're
not half so frightened as I am, Ronald."

"Of course not," said Ronald, "for I am a boy, you see, and I'll be a
man by-and-by. Besides, I have to think of father--father would have
gone through anything. Once he was in a shipwreck. The ship was really
wrecked, and a great many of the passengers were drowned. Father told me
all about it, but it was from a friend of father's that I learned
afterwards how splendid he was, saving--oh, heaps of people! It was that
night," continued Ronald, sitting down by the fire as he spoke, his eyes
glowing with a great thought, and his little face all lit up by the
fire-light--"it was that night that he first found out how much he
loved mother; for mother was in a great big Atlantic liner, and it was
father who saved her life. Afterwards they were married to each other,
and afterwards I came to them--God sent me, you know."

"Yus," said Connie.

She dried her eyes.

"Go on talking, Ronald," she said. "I never met a boy like you. I
thought there were no one like Giles, but it seems to me some'ow that
you're a bit better--you're so wonnerful, wonnerful brave, and 'ave such
a cunnin' way of talkin'. I s'pose that's 'cos you--you're a little
gen'leman, Ronald."

Ronald made no answer to this. After a minute he said:

"There's no thanks to me to be brave--that is, when I'm brave it's all
on account of father, and 'Like father, like son.' Mother used to teach
me that proverb when I was very small. Shall I tell you other things
that father did?"

"Oh yus, please," said Connie.

"He saved some people once in a great big fire. No one else had courage
to go in, but he wasn't afraid of anything. And another time he saved a
man on the field of battle. He got his V. C. for that."

"Wotever's a V. C.?" inquired Connie.

"Oh," said Ronald, "don't you even know that? How very ignorant you are,
dear Connie. A V. C.--why, it's better to be a Victoria Cross man than
to be the greatest noble in the land. Even the King couldn't be more
than a Victoria Cross man."

"Still, I don't understand," said Connie.

"It's an honor," said Ronald, "that's given for a very, very brave deed.
Father had it; when he comes back he'll show you his Victoria Cross;
then you'll know."

"Do yer think as he'll come soon?" asked Connie.

"He may come to-day," said Ronald--"or he may not," he added, with a
profound sigh.

The little boy had been talking with great excitement, but now the color
faded from his cheeks and he coughed a little. He had coughed more or
less since that dreadful day when Mrs. Warren had taken him out in the
snowstorm. He was always rather a delicate child, and after his bad
fever he was not fit to encounter such misery and hardship.

"Connie," he said after a time, "it's the worst of all dreadful things,
isn't it, to pretend that you are what you aren't?"

"What do yer mean by that?" asked Connie.

"Well, it's this way. You praise me for being brave. I am not brave
always; I am very frightened sometimes. I am very terribly frightened
now, dear Connie."

"Oh Ronald!" said Connie, "if you're frightened hall's hup."

"Let me tell you," said Ronald. He laid his little, thin hand on the
girl's arm. "It's about father. Do you think, Connie, that Mammy Warren
could have invented that story about him?"

"I dunno," said Connie.

"But what do you think, Connie? Tell me just what you think."

"Tell me what you think, Ronald."

"I am afraid to think," said the child. "At first I believed it, just as
though father had spoken himself to me. I thought for sure and certain
he'd be waiting for me here. I didn't think for a single moment that
he'd be the sort of father that would come and stand outside in the
landing and go away again just because I wasn't here. For, you see, I am
his own little boy; I am all he has got. I know father so well, I don't
believe he could do that kind of thing."

"Oh, but you can't say," answered Connie. "Certain sure, it seemed as
though Agnes spoke the truth."

"I thought that too; only father's a very refined sort of man, and he'd
never, never chuck Mrs. Warren under the chin."

"Agnes might have invented that part," said poor Connie. But in her
heart of hearts she had long ago given up all hope of Ronald's father
coming to fetch him.

"She might," said Ronald; "that is quite true; and he might have had to
go to the country--perhaps to rescue some one in great danger. He is the
sort who are always doing that. That's quite, quite likely, for it would
be in keeping with father's way. And he'd like me, of course, to be
unselfish, and never to make a fuss--he hated boys who made a fuss. Oh
yes, I did believe it; and on Saturday night and on Sunday, when Big Ben
talked to us, it seemed that it was mother telling me that father would
soon be with me. But a whole week has gone and he hasn't come. Why, it's
Saturday night again, Connie. I've been back again in this house for a
whole week now, and father has never, never come."

"Maybe he'll come to-night," said Connie.

"I don't think so; somehow I'd sort of feel it in my bones if he was
coming back."

"What do yer mean by that?" said Connie.

"Oh, I'd be springy-like and jumpy about. But I'm not. I feel--oh, so lazy
and so--so tired! and a little bit--yes, a greatbit--frightened--terribly
frightened."

"You must cheer up, Ronald," said Connie. Then she added, "I wish we
could get out o' this. I wish I could pick the lock and get aw'y."

"Oh, I wish you could, Connie," said the child. "Couldn't you try?"

"I'm a'most afeered to go into Mammy Warren's room," said Connie; "for
ef she did come back and see me any time, she'd punish me awful; but
p'r'aps I might find tools for picking the lock in her room."

"Oh, do let's try!" said Ronald.

Connie half-rose, then sat down again.

"It's me that's the coward now," she said.

"Oh, how so, Connie?"

"'Cos," said Connie, "there's that dark room with no winder--'tain't a
dream, Ronald."

"I thought it wasn't," said Ronald, turning white.

"No--it's there," said Connie, "and I'm afeered o' it."

Ronald sat very still for a minute then. He was thinking hard. He was
only a little boy of ten years old, but he was a very plucky one. He
looked at Connie, who although a little older than he, was very slight
and small for her age.

"Connie," he said, "if you and I are ever to make our escape we must not
be frightened. Even the dark closet won't frighten me now. _I_ am going
into Mrs. Warren's room."

"Oh Ronald! Are you? Dare you?"

"Yes, I dare. Father did worse things than that--why should I be
afraid?"

"You'd win the V. C., Ronald, wouldn't you, now?"

Ronald smiled.

"Not for such a little, little thing. But perhaps some day," he said;
and his eyes looked very bright. "Connie, if we can unpick the lock and
get the door open, where shall we go?"

"We'll go," said Connie in a brisk voice, "back to Father John as fast
as ever we can."

"Father John," said Ronald--"who is he?"

"I told you, Ronnie--I told you about him."

"I forgot for a minute," said Ronald. "You mean the street preacher."

"Yus," said Connie. "'E'll save us. There's no fear o' Mammy Warren
getting to us ever again ef he takes us in 'and."

Ronald smiled.

"The only thing I'm afraid of is this," he said--"that if it's true
about father, he may come here and find me gone."

"Let's leave a note for him," said Connie then. "Let's put it on the
table. If Mammy Warren should come back she'll find the note, but that
won't do any harm, for she knows Father John, and she's awful afeered of
him, 'cos she said as much, so she'd never follow us there."

"The very thing!" said Ronald. "Let's get some paper. Will you write the
note, Connie?"

The children poked round in the sitting-room, and found a sheet of very
thin paper, and an old pen, and a penny bottle of ink. Ronald dictated,
and Connie wrote:

"DEAR FATHER,--I've waited here for a week. I am trying to be very
brave. Connie's an awful nice girl. We've picked the lock here, father,
and we've gone to Father John, in Adam Street. Please come quick, for
your little boy is so very hungry for you. Come quick, darling
father.--Your little waiting boy, RONALD."

"That'll bring him," said Ronald. "We'll put it on the table."

Connie had written her letter badly, and there were several blots; but
still a feat was accomplished. Her cheeks were bright with excitement
now.

"What shall I put outside?" she asked--"on the envelope, I mean."

Ronald thought for a minute; then he said in a slow and impressive
voice:

"To Major Harvey, V. C., from Ronald."

"Nobody can mistake who it's meant for," said Ronald.

"Here's a bit of sealing-wax," said Connie. "Let's seal it."

They did so, Connie stamping the seal with a penny thimble which she
took out of her pocket.

"And now," said Ronald, pulling himself up, "all is ready, and I am
going into Mammy Warren's room to try and find tools for picking the
lock."

"I'm a-goin' with yer," said Connie.

"Oh Connie, that is brave of you."

"No," said Connie, "it 'ud be real cowardly to let yer go alone."

Hand in hand the two children crossed the ugly sitting-room, and opened
the door which led into that mysterious apartment known as Mammy
Warren's room. It certainly was a very strange-looking place. There was
no bed to be seen anywhere, which in itself was surprising. But Connie
explained to Ronald that the huge wooden wardrobe was doubtless a
press-bed which let down at night.

"She'd keep all kinds of things at the back of the bed," said the
practical Connie, who had seen several similar arrangements in the
houses of the poor.

This room, however, although ugly and dark--very dark--seemed to be
suspiciously bare. The children had turned on the gas--for evening had
already arrived--and they could see with great distinctness.

Mammy Warren owned the upper part of this tenement-house, and no one
ever came up the creaking stairs except to visit her. The children
therefore knew that if there was a footstep they would be in danger.
Connie, however, assured Ronald that she could put out the light and be
innocently seated by the fire if Mammy Warren did arrive unexpectedly.

All was silence, however, on the creaking stairs, and they were able to
resume their search. The chest of drawers stood with all its drawers
open and each one of them empty. No sort of tool could the children
find. The yellow and black silk dress had disappeared, but the
disreputable old beggar's clothes hung on the peg behind the door. There
was also a very ancient bonnet, which was hung by its strings over the
dress. Otherwise there was not a scrap of anything whatever in the room
except the press bedstead, which the children could not possibly open,
and the empty chest of drawers.

"But here," said Connie, "is a door. P'rhaps it's a cupboard door."

"Let's try if it will open," said Ronald.

He turned the handle. The door shot back with a spring, and the boy's
face turned pale.

"The dark closet!" said Connie. "The dark, dark room without a winder!"

Ronald caught hold of Connie's hand and squeezed it tightly. After a
minute he said in a husky voice:

"Come away."

Connie shut the mysterious closet door. The children turned out the gas
in Mammy Warren's bedroom, and went back to the sitting-room. Here they
crouched down, pale and trembling, before the fire.

"Don't, Ronnie--don't," said Connie.

"Hold me very tight, Connie," said the little boy.

She did so, pressing him to her heart and kissing his little face. After
a minute tears came to his eyes, and he said in a sturdy tone:

"Now I am better. It was wrong of me to be so frightened."

"Hark--there's the Woice!" said Connie.

They sat very still while Big Ben proclaimed the hour of nine.

"What does he say?" asked Ronald, turning round and looking at Connie.

"I know," said Connie, a light on her pretty face. "Father John preached
on it once. I know wot Big Ben's a-sayin' of to-night."

"Tell me," said Ronald.

"_He that shall endure_," said Connie. "Yes, Connie," repeated
Ronald--"'He that shall endure'----"

"_To the end_," said Connie, "_shall be saved_," she added.

"Oh Connie!" cried the boy. "Do you really, really think so?"

"Father John says it, and Father John couldn't tell a lie," continued
the girl. "He says that is one of God's promises, and God never made a
mistake. 'He that shall endure to the end--shall be saved.'"

"Then," said Ronald, "if _we_ endure _we_ shall be saved."

"Yes," replied Connie.

"You're not frightened, then?"

"Not after that," said Connie.

"How can you tell that _was_ what Big Ben said?"

"'Eard him," said Connie.

She unclasped Ronald's arms from her neck and stood up.

"I'm better," she said; "I'm not frightened no more. Sometimes it's 'ard
to endure--Father John says it is. But ''E that _shall_ endure to the
end'--to the _end_--he made a great p'int o' that--'shall be saved.'"

"Then _we'll_ be saved," said Ronald.

"Yus," answered Connie.

She looked down at the little boy. The boy was gazing into the fire and
smiling. Connie put on some fresh lumps of coal, and the fire broke into
a cheerful blaze. It did not matter at all to the good coal whether it
burned out its heart in an attic or a palace; wherever it was put to do
its duty, it did it. Now gay little flames and cheerful bursts of
bubbling gas rendered even the hideous room bright.

"W'y, it's long past tea!" said Connie. "I'll put on the kettle and
we'll have our tea, Ronald. Maybe Aggie'll be back in a minute, and
maybe she'd like a cup o' tea."

Connie put on the kettle, and then went to the cupboard to get out the
provisions. These were exceedingly short. There was little more than a
heel of very stale bread, and no butter, and only a scrape of jam; but
there was a little tea in the bottom of the tea-canister, and a little
coarse brown sugar in a cup.

Connie laid the table quite cheerfully.

"We'll toast the bread," she said. "Tea and toast is famous food."

She got an old, bent toasting-fork, and she and Ronald laughed and even
joked a little as they browned the stale bread until it was quite crisp
and tempting-looking.

"I'd ever so much rather have this tea than a great, big, grand one with
Mammy Warren," said Connie.

"Yes, Connie," said the boy; "so would I."

They had no milk with their tea, but that was, after all but a small
circumstance. They scraped out the jam-pot and spread its contents on
the hot toast, and contrived to enjoy the slender meal to the utmost.

Ronald said nothing about breakfast the next morning; he doubtless did
not even give it a thought. But Connie remembered it well, although she
took care not to allude to it.

Ten o'clock struck, and still Agnes did not appear. Eleven, twelve--and
no sign either of Mammy Warren or the girl.

"Shall we go to bed?" said Ronald.

"Let's bring our beds and lay 'em on the floor," said Connie, "in this
room. Some'ow I don't think as Mammy Warren 'ull come back to-night. She
wouldn't 'ave tuk all her things ef she meant to come; would she,
Ronald?"

"I don't know," said Ronald. He was very sleepy, for the hour was
terribly late for so young a child to be awake.

After a little reflection Connie decided only to drag his bed into the
front room. She could lie on the floor by his side, wrapped up in a
blanket. The fire was built up with the last scrap of coal in the hod,
and then Ronald lay down without undressing. Connie begged of him to
take off his clothes, but he said to her:

"Maybe father'll come in the middle of the night. I somehow feel as if
something must happen to-night, and I don't want not to be ready."

Connie therefore only removed his shoes. She tucked the blankets round
him, and said, "Good-night, Ronnie."

"What is that verse?" asked Ronald again. "'He that shall endure to the
end'----"

"'Shall be saved,'" finished Connie.

When she came to these words she noticed that little Ronald was sound
asleep. Connie changed her mind about lying down. She sat on the floor
by the boy's side, laid her head on the pillow close to his, and also
dropped asleep.

Big Ben called out the hour but the children slept. Perhaps the Voice
spoke to them in their dreams, for they smiled now and then. Doubtless
they were far away in those dreams from the dreadful attic, from the
influence of a most cruel woman, from hunger and cold. The fire burned
to a fine red glow, and then cooled down and grew gray and full of
ashes, and eventually went out. For it had burned its heart out trying
to help the children; and without a heart, even fire cannot keep alive.

But the two children slept on, although Ronald now stirred uneasily and
coughed in his sleep. It seemed to Connie that she also was oppressed by
something, as though a great and terrible nightmare were sitting on her
chest. Ronald coughed louder and opened his eyes.

"Connie, Connie--where are we?" he cried.

Connie sat up with a stare.

"I be stiff," she began, "and--and cold. Wotever's the hour? Bide a bit,
Ronald, and I'll find the matches and turn on the gas."

"What's the matter with the room?" said Ronald.

"I don't know nothing," said Connie.

"My eyes smart," said Ronald, "and I can't breathe."

"I feel queer too," said Connie. "I won't be a second finding out,
though. You lie quiet."

She groped about, found a match-box, which still contained a few
matches, struck a light, and applied it to the gas, which was at full
pressure now, and roared out, making a great flame.

"W'y, the room's full o' smoke," said Connie. "Wottever can it be?"

Ronald sat up in bed, opening his eyes.

"Where does it come from?" he said. "The fire is out."

Just then Big Ben proclaimed the hour of three.

"He that shall endure," thought Connie. "To the end," darted through
Ronald's mind; and just then both children heard an unmistakable and
awful roar. Was it the roar of human voices or the roar of something
else--a devouring and awful element? Connie turned white. Now, if ever,
was the time to be brave.

"I'll open the winder and look out," she said.

She sprang towards it and, with a great effort, pushed it half up. The
moment she did so, the noise from without came louder, and the noise
from within was more deafening.

"Fire! fire!" shouted a multitude of people from below in the street;
and "Fire! fire!" cried the frenzied inhabitants of the old
tenement-house. Connie and Ronald were on the top story. Connie went
back to Ronald.

"The house is on fire, Ronnie!" she said. "But we mustn't be frightened,
either of us; we must think of the grand verse, and of what Big Ben
said. Big Ben's an angel, you mind; Giles knows all about that."

"Oh yes," said Ronald, his teeth chattering; for the draught from the
open window, although it relieved his breathing, made him intensely
cold. "It's a beautiful verse, isn't it, Connie?" he continued.

"Yus," said Connie. "Let's get to the winder, Ronnie dear. We'll call
out. There are people down in the street. The fire-engines 'ull be on in
a minute; we'll be saved, in course."

"Oh, of course," said Ronnie. He staggered to the floor, and put his
feet into his shoes. "A good thing I wasn't undressed," he said.

"Yus," said Connie. "Now, let's get to the winder."

The children staggered there. The smoke was getting more dense; the room
was filling faster and faster with the horrible, blinding, suffocating
thing. But at the window there was relief. Connie put out her head for a
minute, and then quickly drew it back.

"There's flames burstin' out o' the winders," she said. "I wish as the
firemen 'ud come."

The children clung to one another. Just then, above the roar of the
flames and the screams of the people, something else was distinctly
audible. The fast approach of horses; the gallant figures of men in
brass helmets: the brave firemen--members of the noblest brigade in the
world--were on the spot.

"It's hall right," said Connie. "They've come. Don't yer be a bit
frightened, Ronnie; we'll soon be out o' this. You ax Giles w'en you see
him wot _'e_ thinks o' firemen. '_Es_ father were one. Oh, there's no
fear now that they've come!"

She pressed close to the window and put out her head and shoulders.
Ronald did likewise. The men out in the street were acting promptly. The
hose were brought to bear on the increasing flames. But all to no
purpose; the house was past saving. Was any one within?

"No," said a woman down in the crowd; "hevery soul is out, even to my
last biby--bless him!"

She gave a hysterical cry, and sat down on a neighboring doorstep.

But the firemen of the London Brigade are very careful to ascertain for
themselves whether there is any likelihood of loss of life.

"Has any one come down from the top floor?" asked a tall young man. He
had a splendid figure--broad, square shoulders, and a light and athletic
frame--which showed at once that he was the very best possible sort of
fireman.

Just then the flames burst out more brightly than ever, and Connie, with
her fair hair surrounding her little face, and Ronald clinging to her
hand, were both distinctly seen.

"My God!" cried the firemen, "there are children up there. Put the
escape up at once--don't lose an instant--I am going up to them."

"You can't; it's certain death," said one or two. Several other voices
were also raised in expostulation. But if any one in that crowd supposed
that they were going to turn George Anderson, the bravest fireman in
London, from his purpose, they were mistaken.

"That little angel face, and the face of the boy by her side!" he said
once or twice under his breath. And then up and up he went--up and
up--the children in the burning room (for the flames had broken out
behind them now) watching and watching. His fear was that they might
fall from their perilous position. But they had both crept out on to the
window-ledge.

"Courage, courage!" he shouted to them. "Hold tight--I'll be there in a
minute!"

"The window is so hot!" gasped Connie.

"Think--think of the Voice," whispered Ronald.

He closed his eyes. In another minute he would have been beyond all
earthly succor, and up in those beautiful realms where angels live, and
his mother would meet him. But this was not to be.

In less than an instant a firm hand rescued the two children from their
perilous position, and they were brought down to the ground uninjured.
Ronald fainted in that descent, but Connie kept her consciousness. They
were out of Mammy Warren's awful house. She had a queer sense as though
she had been delivered from a worse danger even than fire.

People crowded round, and presently the tall fireman came up.

"What is your name?" he said to Connie.

"Connie," she replied.

"Well, Connie," he answered, "it was the sight of your beautiful face in
the window that gave me courage to save yer. Now, do you want to have a
shelter for yourself and your little brother to-night?'

"Thank you, sir," said Connie. The man pulled a card--it looked just
like a gentleman's visiting card--out of his pocket.

"Will you take that," he said, "to No. 12 Carlyle Terrace? It's just
round the corner. Take your little brother with you. There are two bells
to the house. Look for the one that has the word 'Night' written under
it. It used to be a doctor's house, but there's no doctor there now. My
mother will understand--give her that card, and tell her what has
happened. Good night."

He turned away. It was some time before Connie and Ronald could get rid
of the many neighbors who volunteered help, and who regarded the two
pretty children as the hero and heroine of the hour. Offers of a
shake-down for the night, of a hasty meal, of a warm fire, came to
Connie from all sorts of people. But she had made up her mind to follow
out the directions of the tall fireman, and saying that she had friends
at No. 12 Carlyle Terrace, she and Ronald soon started off to go to the
address the fireman had given them.

They were both too excited to feel the effects of all they had gone
through at first, but when they reached the house, and Connie pressed
the button of the bell which had the word "Night" written under it, she
was trembling exceedingly.

"Why are we coming here?" asked Ronald.

"I dunno," said Connie. "Seems as though a hangel was with us all the
time."

"I expect so," answered Ronald in a very weak voice.

"And," continued Connie, "he's a-leadin' of us 'ere."

They had pressed the bell, and quickly--wonderfully quickly--they heard
steps running down the stairs; and the door was opened by a tall
woman--very tall and very thin--with a beautiful pale face and soft
motherly eyes.

"What is it?" she asked. "What is the matter? Oh, my poor little dears!
And how you smell of fire! Have you been in a fire?"

"Please, ma'am," said Connie, "be yer the mother o' Mr. George
Anderson--the bravest fireman, ma'am? He told me to give yer this card,
ma'am."

"I am Mrs. Anderson. Oh, of course, if he's sent you----"

"_'E_ saved us from the fire, ma'am," said Connie.

"Come in, you poor little things," said Mrs Anderson. She drew the
children in; she shut the door behind them. It seemed to Connie when
that door shut that it shut out sorrow and pain and hunger and cold; for
within the house there was warmth--not only warmth for frozen little
bodies, but for tired souls.

Mrs. Anderson was one of the most motherly women in London; and George,
her son, knew what he was about when he sent the children to her.

Soon they were revived with warm baths and with hot port-wine and water,
and very soon afterwards they were both lying in beds covered with linen
sheets that felt soft and fine as silk. But Mrs. Anderson sat by them
both while they slept, for she did not like the look on the boy's face,
and felt very much afraid of the shock for him.

"The little girl can stand more," she said to herself. "She's a
beautiful little creature, but she's a child of the people. She has been
accustomed to hardships all her life; but with the boy it's
different--he's a gentleman by birth. Something very cruel has happened
to him, poor little lad! and this seems to be the final straw."

Mrs. Anderson was a very wise woman, and her fears with regard to little
Ronald were all too quickly realized. By the morning the boy was in a
high state of fever. A doctor was summoned, and Mrs. Anderson herself
nursed him day and night. Connie begged to be allowed to remain, and her
request was granted.

"For the present you shall stay with me," said Mrs. Anderson. "I don't
know your story, nor the story of this little fellow, but I am
determined to save his life if I can."

"I can tell yer something," said Connie. "Little Ronald's a real
gent--_'e's_ the son of a hofficer in 'Is Majesty's harmy, an' the
hofficer's name is Major Harvey, V. C."

"What?" cried Mrs. Anderson. She started back in amazement. "Why, I knew
him and his wife," she said. "I know he was killed in South Africa, and
I know his dear wife died about a year ago. Why, I've been looking for
this child. Is your story quite true, little girl?"

"Yus, it's quite true," said Connie. "But tell me--do tell me--is his
father really dead?"

"I fear so. It is true that his death was not absolutely confirmed; but
he has been missing for over two years."

"Ma'am," said Connie, "wot do yer mean by his death not bein'
confirmed?"

"I mean this, little girl," said Mrs. Anderson--"that his body was never
found."

"Then he ain't dead," said Connie.

"What do you mean?"

"I feel it in my bones," said Connie, "same as Ronald felt it in his
bones. _'E_ ain't dead."

Mrs. Anderson laid her hand on the girl's pretty hair.

"I am getting in a real trained nurse to look after Ronald Harvey," she
said. "If he's the son of my old friend, more than ever is he my care
now; and you this evening, little Connie, shall tell me your story."

This Connie did. When she had described all that had occurred to her
during the last few weeks, Mrs. Anderson was so amazed that she could
hardly speak.

"My poor child!" she said. "You can't guess what terrible dangers you've
escaped. That dreadful woman was, without doubt, a member of a large
gang of burglars. Several have been arrested within the last day or two,
and I have no doubt we shall hear of her soon at the police courts."

"Burglars?" said Connie--"burglars? Them be thieves, bean't they?"

"Yes--thieves."

"But what could she do with us?" said Connie.

"She used you for her own purposes. While people were looking at you,
she was doubtless picking their pockets. Don't think any more about it,
dear, only be thankful that you have escaped. And now, don't you feel
very anxious about your father and your old friends?"

"Yus," said Connie. "I'd like to go home. I'd like them to know once for
all what happened."

"Would you like to go back to-night? You can return to me, you know. I
shall be up with Ronald until far into the night."

Connie rose swiftly.

"You're not afraid of the streets, my poor little child?"

"Oh no, ma'am. I'm only quite an ordinary girl. I ha' learnt my
lesson," continued Connie. "I were real discontent wid my life at the
factory, but I'll be discontent no more."

"You had a sharp lesson," said Mrs. Anderson. "I think God wants you to
be a particularly good and a particularly brave woman, or He wouldn't
have let you go through so much."

"Yes, ma'am," answered Connie; "and I'll try 'ard to be good and brave."



CHAPTER XIII.

PETER HARRIS.


While Connie was going through such strange adventures in Mammy Warren's
attic room, her father, Giles, and Sue, and dear Father John were nearly
distracted about her.

Peter Harris was a rough, fierce, unkempt individual. He was fond of
drink. He was not at all easily impressed by good things; but, as has
been said before, if he had one tender spot in his heart it was for
Connie. When he drank he was dreadfully unkind to his child; but in his
sober moments there was nothing he would not do for the pretty,
motherless girl.

As day after day passed without his seeing her, he got nearly frantic
with anxiety. At first he tried to make nothing of her disappearance,
saying that the girl had doubtless gone to visit some friends; but when
a few days went by and there were no tidings of her, and Sue assured him
that she not only never appeared now at the great warehouse in Cheapside
where they used to work together, but also that she had been seen last
with Agnes Coppenger, and that Agnes Coppenger had also disappeared from
her work at the sewing-machine, he began to fear that something bad had
happened.

Father John was consulted, and Father John advised the necessity of at
once acquainting the police. But although the police did their best,
they could get no trace whatever either of Agnes or of Connie.

Thus the days passed, and Connie's friends were very unhappy about her.
Her absence had a bad effect on Peter, who, from his state of grief and
uneasiness, had taken more and more consolation out of the gin-palace
which he was fond of frequenting. Every night now he came home tipsy,
and the neighbors were afraid to go near. Soon he began to abuse Connie,
to say unkind things about her, and to fly into a passion with any
neighbor who mentioned her name.

Giles shed silent tears for his old playmate, and even the voice of Big
Ben hardly comforted him, so much did he miss the genial companionship
of pretty Connie. But now at last the girl herself was going home. She
had no fear. She was full of a wild and yet terrible delight. How often
she had longed for her father! Connie had a great deal of imagination,
and during the dreadful time spent at Mother Warren's, and in especial
since Ronald had come, she began to compare her father with Ronald's,
and gradually but surely to forget the cruel and terrible scenes when
that father was drunk, and to think of him only in his best moments when
he kissed her and petted her and called her his dear little motherless
girl.

Oh, he would be glad to see her now! He would rejoice in her company.

Connie quickly found the old house in Adam Street, and ran up the
stairs. One or two people recognized her, and said, "Hullo, Con! you
back?" but being too busy with their struggle for life, did not show any
undue curiosity.

"Is my father in?" asked Connie of one.

The man said, "He be." And then he added, "Yer'd best be careful. He
ain't, to say, in his pleasantest mood to-night."

Connie reached the well-known landing. She turned the handle of the
door. It was locked. She heard some one moving within. Then a rough
voice said:

"Get out o' that!"

"It's me, father!" called Connie back. "It's Connie!"

"Don't want yer--get away!" said the voice.

Connie knelt down and called through the keyhole:

"It's me--I've 'ad a dreadful time--let me in."

"Go 'way--don't want yer--get out o' this!"

"Oh father--father!" called Connie. She began to sob. After all her
dreams, after all her longings, after all her cruel trials--to be
treated like this, and by her father! It seemed to shake her very belief
in fathers, even in the great Father of all.

"Please--please--I'm jest wanting yer awfu' bad!" she pleaded.

Her gentle and moving voice--that voice for which Peter Harris, when
sober and in his right mind, so starved to hear again--now acted upon
him in quite the opposite direction. He had not taken enough to make him
stupid, only enough to rouse his worst passions. He strode across the
room, flung the door wide, and lifting Connie from her knees, said to
her:

"Listen. You left me without rhyme or reason--not even a word or a
thought. I sorrowed for yer till I turned to 'ate yer! Now then, get out
o' this. I don't want yer, niver no more. Go down them stairs, unless
yer want me to push yer down. Go 'way--and be quick!"

There was a scowl on his angry face, a ferocious look in his eyes.
Connie turned quite gently, and without any apparent anger went
downstairs.

"Ah!" said a man in the street, "thought yer wouldn't stay long."

"He's wery bad," said Connie. She walked slowly, as though her heart
were bleeding, down Adam Street until she came to the house where Father
John Atkins lived.

It was a little house, much smaller than its neighbors. Father John's
room was on the ground floor. She knocked at the door. There was no
answer. She turned the handle: it yielded to her pressure. She went in,
sank down on the nearest chair, and covered her face with both her
hands.

She was trembling exceedingly. The shock of her father's treatment was
far greater than she could well bear in her present weak and
over-excited condition. She had gone through--oh, so much--so very much!
That awful time with Mammy Warren; her anxiety with regard to little
Ronald; and then that final, awful, never-to-be-forgotten day, that
night which was surely like no other night that had ever dawned on the
world--the noise of the gathering flames, the terrific roar they made
through the old building; the shouts of the people down below; the heat,
the smoke, the pain, the cruel, cruel fear; and then last but not
least--the deliverance!

When that gallant fireman appeared, it seemed to both Connie and Ronald
as though the gates of heaven had opened, and they had been taken
straight away from the pains of hell into the glories of the blest. But
all these things told on the nerves, and when Connie now had been turned
away from her father's door, she was absolutely unfit for such
treatment.

When she reached Father John's she was as weak and miserable a poor
little girl as could found anywhere in London.

"My dear! my dear!" said the kind voice--the sort of voice that always
thrilled the hearts of those who listened to him. A hand was laid on the
weeping girl's shoulder. "Look up," said the voice again. Then there was
a startled cry, an exclamation of the purest pleasure.

"Why Connie--my dear Connie--the good Lord has heard our prayers and has
sent you back again!"

"Don't matter," said Connie, sobbing on, quite impervious to the
kindness, quite unmoved by the sympathy. "There ain't no Father 'chart
'eaven," she continued. "I don't believe in 'Im no more. There ain't no
Father, and no Jesus Christ. Ef there were, my own father wouldn't treat
me so bitter cruel."

"Come, Connie," said the preacher, "you know quite well that you don't
mean those dreadful words. Sit down now by the cosy fire; sit in my own
little chair, and I'll talk to you, my child. Why, Connie, can't you
guess that we've been praying for you?"

"Don't matter," whispered Connie again.

The preacher looked at her attentively. He put his kind hand for a
minute on her forehead, and then, with that marvellous knowledge which
he possessed of the human heart and the human needs, he said nothing for
the time being. Connie was not fit to argue, and he knew she was
worn-out. He got her to sit in the old arm-chair, and to lay her golden
head against a soft cushion, and then he prepared coffee--strong
coffee--both for her and himself.

It was late, and he was deadly tired. He had been up all the night
before. It was his custom often to spend his nights in this fashion;
for, as he was fond of expressing it, the Divine Master seemed to have
more work for him to do at night than in the daytime.

"There are plenty of others to help in the daytime," thought Father
John, "but in the darkness the sin and the shame are past talking about.
If I can lift a burden from one heart, and help one poor suffering soul,
surely that is the best night's rest I can attain to."

Last night he had put a drunken woman to bed. He had found her on a
doorstep, and had managed, notwithstanding his small stature and slender
frame, to drag her upstairs. There her terrified children met him. He
managed to get them into a calm state of mind, and then induced them to
help him for all they were worth. The great, bulky woman was undressed
and put into bed. She slept, and snored loudly, and the children crowded
round. He made them also go to bed, and went away, promising to call in
the morning.

He did so. The woman was awake, conscious, and bitterly ashamed. He
spoke to her as he alone knew how, and, before he left, induced her to
go with him to take the pledge. He then gave her a little money out of
his slender earnings to get a meal for the children, and spent the rest
of the day trying to get fresh employment for her. She had been thrown
out of work by her misdemeanors; but Father John was a power, and more
than one lady promised to try Mrs. Simpkins once again. The little
preacher was, therefore, more tired than his wont. He bent over Connie.
She drank her coffee, and, soothed by his presence, became calmer
herself.

"Now then," he said, "you will tell me everything. Why did you run
away?"

"'Cos I were tired o' machine-work. But, oh, Father John! I niver, niver
meant to stay aw'y. I jest thought as I were to get a nice new
situation; I niver guessed as it 'ud be a prison." Connie then told her
story, with many gaps and pauses.

"You see," said Father John when she had finished, "that when you took
the management of your own life into your own hands you did a very
dangerous thing. God was guiding you, and you thought you could do
without Him. You have been punished."

"Yus," said Connie. "I'll niver be the same again."

"I hope, indeed, that you will not be the same. You have gone through
marvellous adventures, and but for God Himself you would not now be in
the world. It is not only your pain and misery that you have to
consider, but you have also to think of the pain and misery you
inflicted on others."

"No," said Connie defiantly, "that I won't do. I thought father 'ud
care, but he turned me from 'ome."

"He did care, Connie. I never knew any one so distracted. He cared so
terribly, and was so sore about you, that he took to drink to drown his
pain. In the morning, when he is sober, you will see what a welcome he
will give you."

"No," said Connie, shaking her head.

"But I say he will. He will help you, and he will be a father to you. I
will take you to him myself in the morning."

Connie did not say anything more. When she had finished her coffee, the
preacher suggested that he should take her to Sue and Giles. The girl
looked at him wildly. In telling her story, she had never mentioned the
name of the lady who had taken her in, nor the name of the brave fireman
who had befriended her. But now Father John boldly asked her for these
particulars. Her little face flushed and she looked up defiantly.

"I dunnut want to give 'em," she said.

"But I ask you for them, Connie," said the preacher.

Connie could no more withstand Father John's authoritative tone than she
could fly. After a minute's pause she did tell what she knew, and Father
John wrote Mrs. Anderson's address down in his note-book.

"Now then, Connie," he said, rising, "you're better. Sue and Giles will
be so glad to see you once more! Come, dear; let me take you to them."

Connie stood up. There was a curious, wild light in her eyes; but she
avoided looking at the street preacher, and he did not observe it. Had
he done so he would have been more careful.

The two went out into the street together. It was now getting really
late. The distance between the preacher's room and the humble lodgings
where Sue and Giles lived was no great way, but to reach the home of the
little Giles they had to pass some very ill-favored courts. At one of
these Connie suddenly saw a face she knew. She started, trembling, and
would have fled on had not a hand been raised to warning lips. The
preacher at that instant was stopped by a man who wanted to ask him a
question with regard to a child of his whom Father John was trying to
find employment for.

Before he knew what had happened, Connie's hand was dragged from his.
The girl uttered a slight cry, and the next minute was enveloped in the
darkness of one of the worst courts in the whole of London.

"Quiet--quiet!" said a voice. "Don't you let out one sound or you'll
niver speak no more. It's me--Agnes. I won't do yer no 'arm ef ye're
quiet. Come along with me now."

Connie went, for she could not do anything else. Her feelings were
absolutely confused. She did not know at that fearful moment whether she
was glad or sorry to be back with Agnes Coppenger again. She only felt a
sense of relief at having slipped away from Father John, and at having,
as she thought, parted from her own cruel father.

"Oh Agnes!" she whispered, "hide me; and don't--don't take me back to
Mammy Warren!"

"Bless yer!" said Agnes, "she's coped by the perlice. Mammy Warren's
awaiting her trial in the 'Ouse of Detention; yer won't be worried by
her no more."

"W'ere are yer taking me, then, Agnes?"

"'Ome--to my 'ouse, my dear."

"Yer'll promise to let me go in the morning?"

"Safe an' sure I will--that is, ef yer want to go."

Agnes was now walking so fast that Connie had the utmost difficulty in
keeping up with her. She seemed all the time to be dodging, getting into
shadows, avoiding lights, turning rapidly round corners, making the most
marvellous short cuts, until at last--at last--she reached a very tall
house, much taller than the one where Mammy Warren had lived. She made a
peculiar whistle when she got there. The door was opened by a boy of
about Connie's age.

"'Ere we be, Freckles," said Agnes; "and I ha' got the beautiful and
saintly Connie back again."

"Hurrah for saintly Connie!" cried Freckles.

The two girls were dragged in by a pair of strong hands, and Connie
found herself in utter darkness, descending some slippery stairs--into
what depths she had not the slightest idea.

"These are the cellars," said Agnes when at last a door was flung open,
and she found herself in a very poorly lit apartment with scarcely any
furniture. "You was in hattics before," continued Agnes; "now ye're in
the cellars. Yer didn't greatly take to kind Mammy Warren, but perhaps
yer'll like Simeon Stylites better. He's a rare good man is Simeon--wery
pious too. He sets afore him a saint o' the olden days, an' tries to
live accordin'. He ain't in yet, so yer can set down and take things
heasy."

Connie sat down.

"I'm that frightened!" she said. Agnes began to laugh.

"Sakes!" she exclaimed, "you ha' no cause. Simeon's a real feeling man,
and he's allers kind to pore gels, more particular ef they 'appen to be
purty."

Agnes now proceeded to light a fire in a huge, old-fashioned grate.
There seemed to be abundance of coal. She built the fire up high, and
when it roared up the chimney she desired Connie to draw near.

"You ain't got over yer fright yet," she began.

"Don't talk of it," said Connie.

"I guess as I won't--yer do look piquey. 'Ow's the other kid?"

"I dunno."

Agnes laughed and winked. After a minute she said,

"Yer needn't tell me. 'E's with Mrs. Anderson, mother o' the fireman.
The fireman--'e's a real 'andsome man--I can tike to that sort myself.
The kid's wery bad, he is. Wull, ef he dies it'll be a pity, for he 'ave
the makings in 'im of a first-rate perfessional."

"Perfessional?" said Connie.

"Yus--ef he lives 'e'll be one. Simeon Stylites 'ull see to that. You'll
be a perfessional, too. There's no use in these 'ere days bein' anything
of an amattur; yer must be a perfessional or yer can't earn yer bread."

"I don't understand," said Connie.

"Sakes! you be stupid. It's good to open yer heyes now. Wot do yer think
Mammy Warren wanted yer for?"

"I never could tell, only Mrs. Anderson said----"

"Yus--tell us wot she said. She's a torf--let's get _'er_ idees on the
subjeck."

"I won't tell yer," said Connie.

"Oh--_that's_ yer little gime! Wull--I don't keer--I'll tell yer from my
p'int o' view. Mammy Warren wanted yer--not for love--don't think no
sech thing--but jest 'cos she could make you a sort o' decoy-duck. W'ile
she was pickin' up many a good harvest, folks was a-starin' at you; an'
w'en the little boy were there too, w'y, they stared all the more. She
'ad the boy first, and he were a fine draw. But he tuk ill, an' then she
had to get some sort, an' I told her 'bout you, and 'ow purty you were,
an' wot golden 'air you 'ad. 'Her golden 'air was 'angin' down her
back,' I sung to her, an' she were tuk with the picter. Then I got yer
for her--you knows 'ow. Wull, pore Mammy Warren! she's in quad for the
present. But she'll come out agin none the worse; bless yer! they feeds
'em fine in quad now. Many a one as I know goes in reg'lar for the cold
weather. You see, we'n yer gets yer lodgin' an' yer food at Government
expense, it don't cost yer nothing, an' yer come out none the worse.
That's wot Mammy Warren 'ull do. But Simeon Stylites-'e's a man 'oo
prides himself on niver 'avin' been tuk yet. He'll teach yer 'ow to be a
perfessional. Now then--yer ain't frightened, be yer?"

"No," said Connie. Once again she was the old Connie. She had got over
her anguish of despair and grief about her father's conduct. She must
get out of this, and the only chance was to let Agnes think that she
didn't mind.

"Yer'll make a _beautiful_ perfessional!" said Agnes, looking at her
with admiration now. "I could--I could grovel at yer feet--pore me, so
plain as I ham an' hall, an' you so wery genteel. There now, 'oo's that
a-knockin' at the door?"

Agnes went to the door. She opened it about an inch, and had a long
colloquy with some one outside.

"All right, Freckles," she said, "you can go to bed."

She then came back to Connie.

"Simeon ain't returning afore to-morrer," she said. "We'll tike to our
beds. Come along with me, Connie."



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SEARCH.


When Connie had been suddenly dragged with extreme force from the
preacher's side, he had darted after her, and would have been knocked
down himself, and perhaps killed, if the neighbor who had accosted him
had not also gone a step or two into the dark alley and dragged him
back by main force.

"You don't go down there, Father John," he said--"not without two or
three big men, as big as myself. That you don't--I'll keep you back,
Father John by all the strength in my body; for if you go down you'll be
killed, and then what use will yer be to the poor little gel?"

Father John acknowledged the justice of this. A crowd of men and women
had gathered round, as they always did in those parts at the slightest
disturbance. Father John recognized many of them, and soon formed a
little body of strong men and women. The policemen also came to their
aid. They searched the blind alley, going into every house. In short,
they did not leave a stone unturned to recover poor Connie; but, alas!
all in vain.

Father John was at least glad that he had not gone to visit Sue and
Giles. He could not bear to bring them such terrible tidings as that
poor Connie had come home and had been kidnapped again.

"We'll get her," said the policeman. "There are lots of thieves about
here; but as we've unearthed that dreadful character, Mother Warren,
we'll quickly get the rest of the gang. Don't you be afraid, Father
John; the child will be in your hands before the day is out."

Nevertheless, Father John spent a sleepless night, and early--very
early--in the morning he started off to visit Peter Harris. Peter had
slept all night. In the morning he awoke with a headache, and with a
queer feeling that something very bad had happened.

When Father John entered his room he gazed at him with bloodshot eyes.

"Wottever is it?" he said. "I had a dream--I must be mistook, of course,
but I thought Connie had come back."

"Well," said Father John very gravely, "and so she did come back."

"Wot?" asked the father. He sat up on the bed where he had thrown
himself, and pushed back his rough hair.

"I have some very sad news for you, Harris. Will you wash first and have
a bit of breakfast, or shall I tell you now?"

"Get out with you!" said the man. "Will I wash and have a bit o'
breakfast? Tell me about my child, an' be quick!"

All the latent tenderness in that fierce heart had reawakened.

"Connie back?" said the man. "Purty little Connie? You don't niver say
so! But where be she? Wherever is my little gel?"

"You ask God where she is," said the preacher in a very solemn voice.
"She's nowhere to be found. She came here, and you--you turned her away,
Peter Harris."

"I did wot?" said Harris.

"You turned her off--yes, she came to me, poor child. You had taken too
much and didn't know what you were doing."

The man's face was ghastly pale.

"What do yer mean?" he said.

"You took too much, and you were cruel to your child. She came to me in
bitter grief. I did what I could to soothe her; I assured her that I
know you well, and that you'd be all right and quite ready to welcome
her home in the morning."

"Well, and so I be. Welcome my lass home? There ain't naught I wouldn't
do for her; the best that can be got is for my Connie. Oh, my dear,
sweet little gel! It's the fatted calf she'll 'ave--the Prodigal didn't
have a bigger welcome."

"But she is no prodigal. She was sinned against; she didn't sin.
Doubtless she did wrong to be discontented. She was never very strong,
perhaps, either in mind or body, and she got under bad influence. She
was often afraid to go home, Peter Harris, because of you; for you were
so savage to her when you took, as you call it, a drop too much. I'll
tell you another time her story, for there is not a moment now to spare;
you must get up and help to find her."

Peter Harris sprang to his feet just as though an electric force had
pulled him to that position.

"Find her?" he said. "But she were here--here! Where be she? Wot did yer
do with her, Father John?"

"I didn't dare to bring her back here last night, and she could not stay
with me. I was taking her to Giles and Sue when----"

"Man--speak!"

Harris had caught the preacher by his shoulder. Father John staggered
for a minute, and then spoke gently,

"As we were passing a blind alley some one snatched her from me, right
into the pitch darkness. I followed, but was pulled back myself. As soon
as possible we formed a party and went to search for her, aided by the
police; but she has vanished. It is your duty now to help to find her.
The police have great hopes that they have got a clue, but nothing is
certain. Beyond doubt the child is in danger. Wake up, Harris. Think no
more of that horrible poison that is killing you, body and soul, and do
your utmost to find your lost child."

"God in heaven help me!" said the miserable man. "Lost--you say? And she
come 'ere--and I turned her off? Oh, my little Connie!"

"Keep up your courage, man; there's not a minute of time to spend in
vain regrets. You must help the police. You know nearly all the byways
and blind alleys of this part of London. You can give valuable
information; come at once."

A minute or two later the two men went out together.



CHAPTER XV.

CONCENTRATION OF PURPOSE.


While these dreadful things were happening to Connie, Sue rose with the
dawn, rubbed her sleepy eyes until they opened broad and wide, and went
with all youthful vigor and goodwill about her daily tasks.

First she had to light the fire and prepare Giles's breakfast; then to
eat her own and tidy up the room; then, having kissed Giles, who still
slept, and left all in readiness for him when he awoke, she started for
her long walk from Westminster to St. Paul's Churchyard. She must be at
her place of employment by eight o'clock, and Sue was never known to be
late. With her bright face, smooth, well-kept hair, and neat clothes,
she made a pleasing contrast to most of the girls who worked at Messrs.
Cheadle's cheap sewing.

Sue possessed in her character two elements of success in life. She had
directness of aim and concentration of purpose.

No one thought the little workgirl's aims very high; no one ever paused
to consider her purpose either high or noble; but Sue swerved not from
aim or purpose, either to the right hand or to the left.

She was the bread-winner in the small family. That was her present
manifest duty. And some day she would take Giles away to live in the
country. That was her ambition. Every thought she had to spare from her
machine-work and her many heavy duties went to this far-off, grand
result. At night she pictured it; as she walked to and from her place of
work she dwelt upon it.

Some day she and Giles would have a cottage in the country together.
Very vague were Sue's ideas of what country life was like. She had never
once been in the country; she had never seen green fields, nor smelt, as
they grow fresh in the hedges, wild flowers. She imagined that flowers
grew either in bunches, as they were sold in Convent Garden, or singly
in pots. It never entered into her wildest dreams that the ground could
be carpeted with the soft sheen of bluebells or the summer snow of wood
anemones, or that the hedge banks could hold great clusters of starry
primroses. No, Sue had never seen the place where she and Giles would
live together when they were old. She pictured it like the town, only
clean--very clean--with the possibility of procuring eggs really fresh
and milk really pure, and of perhaps now and then getting a bunch of
flowers for Giles without spending many pence on them.

People would have called it a poor dream, for Sue had no knowledge to
guide her, and absolutely no imagination to fill in details; but, all
the same, it was golden in its influence on the young girl, imparting
resolution to her face and purpose to her eyes, and encircling her
round, in her young and defenseless womanhood, as a guardian angel
spreading his wings about her.

She walked along to-day brightly as usual. The day was a cold one, but
Sue was in good spirits.

She was in good time at her place, and sat down instantly to her work.

A girl sat by her side. Her name was Mary Jones. She was a weakly girl,
who coughed long and often as she worked.

"I must soon give up, Sue," she panted between slight pauses in her
work. "This 'ere big machine seems to tear me hall to bits, like; and
then I gets so hot, and when we is turned out in the middle o' the day
the cold seems to strike so dreadful bitter yere;" and she pressed her
hand to her sunken chest.

"'Tis goin' to snow, too, sure as sure, to-day," answered Sue. "Don't
you think as you could jest keep back to-day, Mary Jones? Maybe you
mightn't be seen, and I'd try hard to fetch you in something hot when we
comes back."

"Ye're real good, and I'll just mak' shift to stay in," replied Mary
Jones. But then the manager came round, and the girls could say no more
for the present.

At twelve o'clock, be the weather what it might, all had to turn out for
half an hour. This, which seemed a hardship, was absolutely necessary
for the proper ventilation of the room; but the delicate girls felt the
hardship terribly, and as many of them could not afford to go to a
restaurant, there was nothing for them but to wander about the streets.
At the hour of release to-day it still snowed fast, but Sue with
considerable cleverness, had managed to hide Mary Jones in the warm
room, and now ran fast through the blinding and bitter cold to see where
she could get something hot and nourishing to bring back to her. Her own
dinner, consisting of a hunch of dry bread and dripping, could be eaten
in the pauses of her work. Her object now was to provide for the sick
girl.

She ran fast, for she knew a shop where delicious penny pies were to be
had, and it was quite possible to demolish penny pies unnoticed in the
large workroom. The shop, however, in question was some way off, and Sue
had no time to spare. She had nearly reached it, and had already in
imagination clasped the warm pies in her cold hands, when, suddenly
turning a corner, she came face to face with Harris. Harris was walking
along moodily, apparently lost in thought. When he saw Sue, however, he
started, and took hold of her arm roughly.

"Sue," he said, "does you know as Connie came back last night?"

"Connie?" cried Sue. Her face turned pale and then red again in
eagerness. "Then God 'ave heard our prayers!" she exclaimed with great
fervor. "Oh! won't my little Giles be glad?"

"You listen to the end," said the man. He still kept his hand on her
shoulder, not caring whether it hurt her or not.

"She come back, my purty, purty little gel, but I 'ad tuk too much, and
I were rough on her and I bid her be gone, and she went. She went to
Father John; _'e_ were kind to her, and 'e were taking her to you, w'en
some willain--I don't know 'oo--caught her by the arm and pulled her
down a dark alley, and she ain't been seen since. Wottever is to be
done? I'm near mad about her--my pore little gel. And to think that
I--_I_ should ha' turned her aw'y!"

Sue listened with great consternation to this terrible tale. She forgot
all about poor Mary Jones and the penny pie which she hoped to smuggle
into the workroom for her dinner. She forgot everything in all the world
but the fact that Connie had come and gone again, and that Peter Harris
was full of the most awful despair and agony about her.

"I'm fit to die o' grief," said the man. "I dunno wot to do. The
perlice is lookin' for her 'igh an' low, and---- Oh Sue, I am near off
my 'ead!"

Sue thought for a minute.

"Is Father John looking for her too?" she said.

"W'y, yus--of course he be. I'm to meet the perlice again this
afternoon, an' we'll--we'll make a rare fuss."

"Yer'll find her, in course," said Sue. "W'y, there ain't a doubt," she
continued.

"Wot do yer mean by that?"

"There couldn't be a doubt," continued the girl; "for God, who brought
her back to us all, 'ull help yer if yer ax 'Im."

"Do yer believe that, Sue?"

"Sartin sure I do--I couldn't live if I didn't."

"You're a queer un," said Harris, he felt a strange sort of comfort in
the rough little girl's presence. It seemed to him in a sort of fashion
that there was truth in her words. She was very wise--wiser than most.
He had always respected her.

"You're a queer, sensible gel," he said then--"not like most. I am
inclined to believe yer. I'm glad I met yer; you were always Connie's
friend."

"Oh yus," said Sue; "I love her jest as though she were my real sister."

"An' yer do think as she'll come back again?"

"I'm sartin sure of it."

"Turn and walk with me a bit, Sue. I were near mad w'en I met yer, but
somehow you ha' given me a scrap o' hope."

"Mr. Harris," said Sue, all of a sudden, "you were cruel to Connie last
night; but w'en she comes back again you'll be different, won't yer?"

"I tuk the pledge this morning," said Harris in a gloomy voice.

"Then in course you'll be different. It were w'en yer tuk too much that
you were queer. W'en you're like you are now you're a wery kind man."

"Be I, Sue?" said Harris. He looked down at the small girl. "No one
else, unless it be pore Connie, iver called me a kind man."

"And I tell yer wot," continued Sue--"ef ye're sure she'll come back--as
sure as I am--she----"

"Then I am sure," said Harris. "I'm as sure as there's a sky above us.
There now!"

"And a God above us," said Sue.

The man was silent.

"In that case," continued Sue, "let's do our wery best. Let's 'ave
iverything nice w'en she comes 'ome. Let's 'ave a feast for her, an' let
me 'elp yer."

"Yer mean that yer'll come along to my room an' put things in order?"
said Harris.

"Yes; and oh, Mr. Harris! couldn't yer take her a little bit of a
present?"

"Right you are, wench," he said. Harris's whole face lit up. "That _be_
a good thought!" He clapped Sue with violence on the shoulder. "Right
you be! An' I know wot she've set 'er silly little 'eart on--w'y, a
ring--a purty ring with a stone in it; and 'ere's a shop--the wery kind
for our purpose. Let's come in--you an' me--and get her one this wery
instant minute."

The two entered the shop. A drawer of rings was brought for Harris to
select from. He presently chose a little ring, very fine, and with a
tiny turquoise as decoration. He felt sure that this would fit Connie's
finger, and laying down his only sovereign on the counter, waited for
the change. Sue had gone a little away from him, to gaze in open-eyed
wonder at the many trinkets exhibited for sale. Notwithstanding her
excitement about Connie, she was too completely a woman not to be
attracted by finery of all sorts; and here were scarves and laces and
brooches and earrings--in short, that miscellaneous array of female
decorations so fascinating to the taste of girls like Sue. In this
absorbing moment she forgot even Connie.

In the meantime, in this brief instant while Sue was so occupied, the
man who served turned his back to get his change from another drawer. He
did this leaving the box with the rings on the counter. In the corner of
this same box, hidden partly away under some cotton-wool, lay two
lockets, one of great value, being gold, set with brilliants. In this
instant, quick as thought, Harris put in his hand, and taking the
diamond locket, slipped it into his pocket. He then received his change,
and he and Sue left the shop together.

He noticed, however, as he walked out that the shopman was missing the
locket. His theft could not remain undiscovered. Another instant and he
would be arrested and the locket found on his person. He had scarcely
time for the most rapid thought--certainly no time for any sense of
justice to visit his not too fine conscience. The only instinct alive in
him in that brief and trying moment was that of self-preservation. He
must preserve himself, and the means lay close at hand. He gave Sue a
little push as though he had stumbled against her, and then, while the
girl's attention was otherwise occupied, he transferred the locket from
his own pocket to hers, and with a hasty nod, dashed down a side-street
which lay close by.

Rather wondering at his sudden exit, Sue went on. Until now she had
forgotten Mary Jones. She remembered her with compunction. She also knew
that she had scarcely time to get the penny pies and go back to
Cheapside within the half-hour. If she ran, however, she might
accomplish this feat. Sue was very strong, and could run as fast as any
girl; she put wings to her feet, and went panting down the street. In
the midst of this headlong career, however, she was violently arrested.
She heard the cry of "Stop thief!" behind her, and glancing back, saw
two men, accompanied by some boys, in full pursuit. Too astonished and
frightened to consider the improbability of their pursuing her, she ran
harder than ever. She felt horrified, and dreaded their rudeness should
they reach her. Down side-streets and across byways she dashed, the
crowd in pursuit increasing each moment. At last she found that she had
run full-tilt into the arms of a policeman, who spread them out to
detain her.

"What's the matter, girl? Who are you running away from?"

"Oh, hide me--hide me!" said poor Sue. "They are calling out 'Stop
thief!' and running after me so hard."

Before the policeman could even reply, the owner of the pawnshop had
come up.

"You may arrest that girl, policeman," he said roughly. "She and a man
were in my shop just now, and one or other of 'em stole a valuable
diamond locket from me."

"What a shame! I didn't touch it!" said Sue. "I never touched a thing as
worn't my own in hall my life!"

"No doubt, my dear," said the policeman; "but of course you won't object
to be searched?"

"No, of course," said Sue; "you may search me as much as you like--you
won't get no stolen goods 'bout me;" and she raised her head fearlessly
and proudly. The crowd who had now thickly collected, and who, as all
crowds do, admired pluck, were beginning to applaud, and no doubt the
tide was turning in Sue's favor, when the policeman, putting his hand
into her pocket, drew out the diamond locket. An instant's breathless
silence followed this discovery, followed quickly by some groans and
hisses from the bystanders.

"Oh, but ain't she a hardened one!" two or three remarked; and all
pressed close to watch the result.

Sue had turned very white--so white that the policeman put his hand on
her shoulder, thinking she was going to faint.

"She is innocent," said in his heart of hearts this experienced
functionary; but he further added, "It will go hard for her to prove
it--poor lass!"

Aloud he said:

"I've got to take you to the lock-up, my girl; for you must say how you
'appened to come by that 'ere little trinket. The quieter you come, and
the less you talk, the easier it 'ull go wid you."

"I have nothink to say," answered Sue. "I can't--can't see it at all.
But I'll go wid yer," she added. She did not asseverate any more, nor
even say she was innocent. She walked away by the policeman's side, the
crowd still following, and the owner of the pawnshop--having recovered
his property, and given his address to the policeman--returned to his
place of business.

Sue walked on, feeling stunned; her thought just now was how very much
poor Mary Jones would miss her penny pies.



CHAPTER XVI.

PICKLES.


The lock-up to which the policeman wanted to convey Sue was at some
little distance. With his hand on her shoulder, they walked along, the
crowd still following. They turned down more than one by-street, and
chose all the short cuts that Constable Z could remember. One of these
happened to be a very narrow passage, and a place of decidedly ill
repute. The policeman, however, still holding his terrified charge,
walked down it, and the crowd followed after. In the very middle of this
passage--for it was little more--they were met by a mob even greater
than themselves. These people were shouting, vociferating, waving
frantic hands, and all pointing upwards. The policeman raised his eyes
and saw that the cause of this uproar was a house on fire. It was a very
tall, narrow house, and all the top of it was completely enveloped in
flames. From one window, from which escape seemed impossible--for the
flames almost surrounded it--a man leaned out, imploring some one to
save him. The height from the ground was too great for him to jump down,
and no fire-escape was yet in sight.

Policeman Z was as kind-hearted a man as ever lived. In the excitement
of such a moment he absolutely forgot Sue. He rushed into the crowd,
scattering them right and left, and sent those who had not absolutely
lost their heads flying for the fire-escape and the engines. They all
arrived soon after, and the man, who was the only person in the burning
part of the house, was brought in safety to the ground.

In the midst of the shouting, eager crowd Sue stood, forgetting herself,
as perhaps every one else there did also, in such intense excitement.
Scarcely, however, had the rescued man reached the ground when she felt
herself violently pulled from behind--indeed, not only pulled, but
dragged so strongly that she almost lost her feet. She attempted to
scream, but a hand was instantly placed over her mouth, and she found
herself running helplessly, and against her will, down a narrow passage
which flanked one side of the burning house; beyond this into a small
backyard; then through another house into another yard; and so on until
she entered a small, very dirty room. This room was full of unknown
condiments in jars and pots, some queer stuffed figures in
fancy-dresses, some wigs and curls of false hair, and several masks,
false noses, etc., etc. Sue, entering this room, was pushed instantly
into a large arm-chair, whereupon her captor came and stood before her.
He was a lad of about her own size, and perhaps a year or two younger.
He had a round, freckled face, the lightest blue eyes, and the reddest,
most upright shock of hair she had ever seen. He put his arms akimbo and
gazed hard at Sue, and so motionless became his perfectly round orbs
that Sue thought he had been turned into stone. Suddenly, however, he
winked, and said in a shrill, cheerful tone:

"Well, then, plucky 'un, 'ow does yer find yerself now?"

Not any number of shocks could quite deprive Sue of her common-sense.
She had not an idea of what had become of her. Was this another and a
rougher way of taking her to the lock-up? Was this queer boy friend or
foe?

"Be yer agen me, boy?" she said.

"Agen yer! Well, the ingratitude! Ha'n't I jest rescued yer from the
hands o' that 'ere nipper?"

"Oh!" exclaimed Sue; and the relieved tension of her poor, terrified
little heart found vent in two big tears which rose to her eyes.

The red-haired boy balanced himself on one toe in order to survey those
tears more carefully.

"Well," he said at length, in a tone in which there was a ludicrous
mingling of wonder and contempt--"well, ye're a queer un fur a plucky
un--a wery queer un. Crying! My eyes! Ain't yer hin luck not to be in
prison, and ain't that a subject for rejoicing? I don't cry when I'm in
luck; but then, thank goodness! I'm not a gel. Lor'! they're queer
cattle, gels are--wery queer, the best o' 'em. But they're as they're
made, poor things! We can't expect much from such weakness. But now look
you here, you gel--look up at me, full and solemn in the face, and say
if ye're hinnercent in the matter o' that 'ere locket. If yer can say
quite solemn and straightforward as yer his innercent, why, I'll help
yer; but if yer is guilty--and, mark me, I can tell by yer heyes ef
ye're talking the truth--I can do naught, fur I'm never the party to
harbor guilty folks. Now speak the truth, full and solemn; be yer
hinnercent?"

Here the red-haired boy got down on his knees and brought his eyes
within a few inches of Sue's eyes.

"Be yer hinnercent?" he repeated.

"Yes," answered Sue, "I'm quite, quite hinnercent; yer can believe me or
not as yer pleases. I'm quite hinnercent, and I won't cry no more ef
yer dislikes it. I wor never reckoned a cry-baby."

"Good!" said the boy; "I b'lieves yer. And now jest tell me the whole
story. I come hup jest when the perleeceman and the pawnbroker were
a-gripping yer. Lor'! I could a' twisted out o' their hands heasy
enough; but then, to be thankful agen, I ain't a gel."

"There's no good twitting me wid being a gel," interrupted Sue; "gels
have their use in creation same as boys, and I guess as they're often
the pluckier o' the two."

"Gels pluckier! Well, I like that. However, I will say as you stood
game. I guessed as you wor hinnercent then. And now jest tell me the
story."

"It wor this way," began Sue, whose color and courage were beginning to
return. Then she told her tale, suppressing carefully all tears, for she
was anxious to propitiate the red-haired boy. She could not, however,
keep back the indignation from her innocent young voice; and this
indignation, being a sure sign in his mind of pluckiness, greatly
delighted her companion.

"'Tis the jolliest shame I ever heard tell on in all my life," he said
in conclusion; but though he said this he chuckled, and seemed to enjoy
himself immensely. "Now then," he added, "there's no doubt at all as
ye're hinnercent. I know that as clear--I feels as sartin on that
p'int--as tho' I wor reading the secrets of my own heart. But 'tis jest
equal sartin as a magistrate 'ud bring you hin guilty. He'd say--and
think hisself mighty wise, too--'You had the locket, so in course yer
tuk the locket, and so yer must be punished.' Then you'd be tuk from the
lock-up to the House o' Correction, where you'd 'ave solitary
confinement, most like, to teach you never to do so no more."

"'Ow long 'ud they keep me there?" asked Sue. "'Ow long 'ud they be
wicked enough to keep me there fur what I never did?"

"Well, as it wor a first offence, and you but young, they might make it
a matter of no longer than a year, or maybe eighteen months. But then,
agen, they'd 'ave to consider as it wor diamonds as you tuk. They gems
is so waluable that in course you must be punished according. Yes,
considerin' as it wor diamonds, Sue, I would say as you got off cheap
wid two years."

"You talk jest as tho' I had done it," said Sue angrily, "when you know
perfect well as I'm quite hinnercent."

"Well, don't be touchy. I'm only considerin' what the judge 'ud say. I
ain't the judge. Yes, you'd 'ave two years. But, lor'! it don't much
matter wot time you 'ad, for you'd never be no good arter."

"Wot do you mean now?" asked Sue.

"I mean as you'd never get no 'ployment, nor be able to hold up yer
head. Who, I'd like to know, 'ud employ a prison lass--and what else 'ud
you be?"

Here Sue, disregarding her companion's dislike to tears, broke down
utterly, and exclaimed through her sobs:

"Oh! poor Giles--poor, poor Giles! It 'ull kill my little Giles. Oh! I
didn't think as Lord Jesus could give me sech big stones to walk hover."

"Now ye're gettin' complicated," exclaimed the red-haired boy. "I make
'lowance fur yer tears--ye're but a gel, and I allow as the picture's
dark--but who hever is Giles? And where are the stones? Ye're setting
still this 'ere minute, and I guess as the arm-chair in which I placed
yer, though none o' the newest, be better than a stone."

"Giles is my brother," said Sue; "and the stones--well, the stones is
'phorical, ef yer knows wot that means."

"Bless us, no! I'm sure I don't. But tell about Giles."

So Sue wiped her eyes again and went back a little further in her
life-story.

"It is complicated," said her companion when she paused--"a lame
brother, poor chap, and you the support. Well, well! the more reason as
you should keep out o' prison. Now, Sue, this is wot I calls _deep_;
jest keep still fur a bit, and let me put on my considerin' cap."

The red-haired boy seated himself on the floor, thrust his two hands
into his shock of hair, and stared very hard and very straight before
him. In this position he was perfectly motionless for about the space of
half a minute; then, jumping up, he came again very close to Sue.

"Be yer willin' to take the adwice of a person a deal wiser nor
yourself? Look me full in the heyes and answer clear on that p'int."

"Yes, I'm sure I am," said Sue, in as humble a spirit as the most
exalted teacher could desire.

"Good!" said the red-haired boy, giving his thigh a great clap. "Then
you've got to hearken to _me_. Sue, there's nothink in life fur you but
to hide."

"To hide!" said Sue.

"Yes. You must on no 'count whatever let the perleece find yer. We must
get to discover the guilty party, and the guilty party must confess; but
in the meanwhile yer must hide. There must be no smell o' the prison
'bout yer, Sue."

"Oh! but--but--boy--I don't know yer name."

"Pickles," said the red-haired boy, giving his head a bob. "Pickles, at
yer sarvice."

"Well, then, Pickles," continued Sue, "if I go and hide, what 'ull
become o' Giles?"

"And what 'ull come o' him ef yer go ter prison--yer goose? Now, jest
yer listen to the words o' wisdom. You mustn't go back to Giles, fur as
sure as you do the perleece 'ull have you. That would break that little
tender brother's heart. No, no, leave Giles ter me; you must hide, Sue."

"But where, and fur how long?" asked Sue.

"Ah! now ye're comin' sensible, and axin' refreshin' questions. Where?
Leave the where to me. How long? Leave the how long ter me."

"Oh Pickles! ye're real good," sobbed Sue; "and ef yer'll only promise
as Giles won't die, and that he won't break his heart wid frettin', why,
I'll leave it ter you--I'll leave it all ter you."

"And yer couldn't--search the world over--leave it to a safer person,"
said Pickles. "So now that's a bargain--I'll take care on Giles."



CHAPTER XVII.

CINDERELLA.


"The first thing to be considered, Sue," said Pickles, as he seated
himself on the floor by her side, "is the disguise. The disguise must be
wot I consider deep."

"Wot hever does yer mean now?" asked Sue.

"Why, yer Silly, yer don't s'pose as yer can go hout and about as you
are now? Why, the perleece 'ud have yer. Don't yer s'pose as yer'll be
advertised?"

"I dunno heven wot that his," said Sue.

"Oh! my heyes, ain't yer green! Well, it 'ull be, say, like this.
There'll be by hall the perleece-stations placards hup, all writ hout in
big print: 'Gel missing--plain gel, rayther stout, rayther short, wid
round moon-shaped face, heyes small, mouth big, hair----"

"There! you needn't go on," said Sue, who, though by no means vain,
scarcely relished this description. "I know wot yer mean, and I don't
want ter be twitted with not being beautiful. I'd rayther be beautiful
by a long way. I s'pose, as the disguise is ter change me, will it make
me beautiful? I'd like that."

Pickles roared. "Well, I never!" he said. "We'll try. Let me see; I must
study yer fur a bit. Hair wot's called sandy now--changed ter black.
Heyebrows; no heyebrows in 'ticlar--mark 'em hout strong. Mouth:
couldn't sew hup the mouth in the corners. No, Sue, I'm feared as I
never can't make no pictur' of yer. But now to be serious. We must set
to work, and we has no time ter spare, fur hold Fryin-pan 'ull come
home, and there'll be the mischief to pay ef he finds us yere."

"Who's he?" asked Sue.

"Who? Why, the owner of this yer shop. I'm in his employ. I'm wot's
called his steady right-hand man. See, Sue, yere's a pair o' scissors;
get yer hair down and clip away, and I'll get ready the dye."

Pickles now set to work in earnest, and proved himself by no means an
unskilled workman. In a wonderfully short space of time Sue's long,
neutral-tinted hair was changed to a very short crop of the darkest hue.
Her eyebrows were also touched up, and as her eyelashes happened to be
dark, the effect was not quite so inharmonious as might have been
feared. Pickles was in ecstasies, and declared that "Not a policeman in
London 'ud know her." He then dived into an inner room in the funny
little shop, and returned with an old blue petticoat and a faded red
jersey. These Sue had to exchange for her own neat but sober frock.

"Ye're perfect," said Pickles, dancing round her. "Yer looks hangelic.
Now fur the name."

"The name?" said Sue. "Must I 'ave a new name too?"

"In course yer must; nothink must let the name o' Sue pass yer lips.
Now, mind, that slip o' the tongue might prove fatal."

"Wery well," said Sue in a resigned voice of great trouble.

"Yer needn't be so down on yer luck. I don't myself think anythink o'
the name o' Sue; 'tis what I considers low and common. Now, wot's yer
favorite character? Say in acting, now."

"There's no character hin all the world as I hadmires like Cinderella,"
said Sue.

"Oh, my heyes, Cinderella, of hall people! Worn't Cinderella wot might
'ave bin called beautiful? Dressed shabby, no doubt, and wid
hard-hearted sisters--but hadn't she small feet, now? Well, Sue, I don't
say as ye're remarkable fur them special features b'in' small, nor is
yer looks _wery_ uncommon; but still, ef yer have a fancy for the name,
so be it. It _will_ be fun thinkin' of the beautiful, small-footed
Cinderella and looking at you. But so much the better, so come along,
Cinderella, fur Fryin'-pan 'ull catch us ef we don't make haste."

"Where are we to go?" asked the poor little newly made Cinderella, with
a piteous face.

"Now, yer needn't look like that. None but cheerful folks goes down wid
me. Where are yer to go to? Why, to mother, of course--where else?"

"Oh, have you got a mother?" asked Sue.

"Well, wot next? 'Ow did I happen ter be born? Yes, I has a mother, and
the wery best little woman in the world--so come along."



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE METROPOLITAN FIRE BRIGADE.


Pickles and Sue had to go a long way before they reached the destination
of "the best little woman in the world." They walked along by-streets
and all kinds of queer places, and presently reached a part of London
where Sue had never been before. They passed whole streets of
warehouses, and came then to poor-looking dwelling-houses, but all of an
immense height, and very old and dirty. It was the back slums of
Westminster over again, but it was a Westminster severed as far as one
pole is from another to Sue.

"We does a roaring trade yere," said Pickles, looking around him with
the air of a proprietor well satisfied with his property.

"Wot in?" asked Sue.

"Wot hin? Well, that may surprise yer. Hin fire, of course."

"Wot do yer mean?" asked Sue.

"Wot does I mean? I mean as we deals in that 'ere rampagious helement.
We belongs to the great London Fire Brigade. That his, my brother Will
does; and I have a cousin wot thinks hisself no end of a swell, and he's
beginning his drill. Do you suppose, you goose, as I'd have acted as I
did, wid that 'ere remarkable coolness jest now, when the fire wor
burning, and the man wor on the wery brink of destruction, ef fire had
not bin, so to speak, my native hair? But now, here we are at last, so
come along hup to mother!"

Taking Sue's hand, Pickles dragged her up flight after flight of stairs,
until they reached the top of one of the very tall, dirty houses. Here
he suddenly flung open a door, and pushing Sue in, sang out:

"Mother, yere I be! And let me introduce to you Cinderella. Her sisters
have bin that unkind and mean as cannot be told, and she have taken
refuge wid us until the Prince comes to tie on the glass slipper."

No doubt Pickles' mother was thoroughly accustomed to him, for she did
not smile at all, but coming gravely forward, took Sue's two hands in
hers, and looking into her face, and seeing something of the great
trouble there, said in a soft, kind tone:

"Sit down, my dear--sit down. If I can help you I will."

"Oh, you can help her real fine, mother!" said Pickles, beginning to
dance a hornpipe round them both. "And I said as you were the wery best
little 'oman in all the world, and that you would do hall you could."

"So I will, my lad; only now do let the poor dear speak for herself."

But Sue did not. There are limits beyond which fortitude will not go,
and those limits were most suddenly reached by the poor child. Her
morning's early rising, her long walk to her place of business, her hard
work when she got there; then her hurried run for the sick girl's lunch,
her cruel betrayal, her very startling capture by Pickles; the fact that
her hair had been cut off, her clothes changed, her very name altered,
until she herself felt that she must really be somebody else, and not
the Sue whom Giles loved.

All these things she had borne with tolerable calmness; but now (for Sue
was really starving) the warm room, the bright fire--above all, the kind
face that bent over her, the gentle voice that asked to hear her
tale--proved too much. She put up her toil-worn hands to her face and
burst into such sobs as strong people give way to in agony.

Mrs. Price beckoned to Pickles to go away, and then, sitting down by
Sue's side, she waited until the overloaded heart should have become a
little quieted; then she said:

"And now, my dear, you will tell me the story."

Sue did tell it--told it all--Mrs. Price sitting by and holding her
hands, and absolutely not speaking a single word.

"You believes me, marm?" said Sue at last.

Mrs. Price looked in the girl's eyes and answered simply:

"Yes, poor lamb, I quite believe you. And now I am going to get you some
supper."

She made Sue lie back in the easy-chair by the fire, and drawing out a
little round table, laid a white cloth upon it.

Sue's mind, by this time partly relieved of its load, was able to take
in its novel surroundings. The house might be very tall and very dirty,
but this room at least was clean. Floor, walls, furniture--all reflected
a due and most judicious use of soap and water; and the woman moving
about with gentle, deft fingers, arranging now this and now that, was
quite different from any woman Sue had ever seen before. She was a
widow, and wore a widow's cap and a perfectly plain black dress, but she
had a white handkerchief pinned neatly over her shoulders, so that she
looked half-widow, half-nun.

She was tall and slender, with very beautiful dark eyes. Sue did not
know whether to think her the very gravest person she had ever seen or
the very brightest. Her face was thoughtful and sweet; perhaps when in
repose it was sad, but she never looked at a human being without a
certain expression coming into her eyes which said louder and plainer
than words, "I love you."

This expression gave the hungry and poor who came in contact with her
glance many a heart-thrill, and it is not too much to say they were
seldom disappointed of the sympathy which the look in those dark and
lovely eyes gave them reason to hope for.

Mrs. Price now laid the tea-things, giving the poor little shorn and
transformed Cinderella sitting by the hearth so many expressive glances
that she began to feel quite a heavenly peace stealing over her. "Worn't
Jesus real good to bring me yere?" was her mental comment. She had
scarcely made it before two young men came in.

These young men were dressed in the uniform of the London Fire Brigade.
They looked dusty, and the taller of the two was covered with smoke and
dirt.

"Mother," he said as he tossed his helmet on the table. "I've been
worked almost to death. You have supper ready, I hope."

"Yes, yes, my lad--a nice little piece of boiled pork, smoking hot, and
pease-pudding and potatoes. I am glad you've brought George with you. He
is kindly welcome, as he knows."

"As he knows very well," answered George, with a smile.

He touched the woman's shoulder for an instant with his big hand. Then
the two young men went into the next room to have a wash before supper.

"William is coming on fine," said George, when they returned, looking at
the other fireman--"though you did disobey orders, William, and are safe
to get a reprimand.--Fancy, Mrs. Price! this brave son of yours,
returning from his day's drill, must needs see a fire and rush into it,
all against orders--ay, and save a poor chap's life--before any one
could prevent him."

It may be as well to explain here that each man who wishes to join the
Metropolitan Fire Brigade must first have served some time at sea; also,
before a man is allowed to attend a fire he must be thoroughly
trained--in other words, he must attend drill. There's a drill class
belonging to each station. It is under the charge of an instructor and
two assistant instructors. Each man, on appointment, joins this class,
and learns the use of all the different appliances required for the
extinction of fire.

William Price had not quite completed his eight weeks' drill.

"Yes, it was a ticklish piece of work," continued Anderson. "The poor
chap he rescued was surrounded by flames. Then, too, the street was so
narrow and the crowd so great that the whole matter is simply wonderful;
but that policeman who kept order was a fine fellow."

"Why, it worn't never the fire as we come from jest now!" here burst
from Sue.

"Hush--hush, Cinderella!" said Pickles, who had come back, giving her a
push under the table. "It 'ud be more suitable to yer present sitiwation
ef yer didn't talk. In course it wor that same fire. Why, it wor that
deed o' bravery done by my own nearest o' kin as incited me to hact as I
did by you."

"Whoever is the girl?" said Price, noticing poor Sue for the first time.

"Cinderella's the name of this 'ere misfortunate maiden," replied
Pickles; "an' yer ax no more questions, Bill, an' yer'll get no stories
told."

"I must go, Mrs. Price," said Anderson; "but I'll be back again as soon
as possible."

"Tell me first, George," said the widow, "how your mother is."

"I haven't been to see her for a few days, but she wrote to say that
both the children who were rescued from the fire a few days back are
doing fairly well. The boy was bad at first, but is now recovering."

"Ah! that was a brave deed," said Price in a voice of the greatest
admiration.

"And did she tell you the names of the poor little critters?"

"She did. Connie was the name of one----"

"Connie?" cried Sue, springing to her feet.

"Sit down, Cinderella, and keep yourself quiet," cried Pickles.

George Anderson gave the queer little girl who went by this name a
puzzled glance.

"Yes," he said briefly, "Connie was the name of one, and Ronald the name
of the other. I never saw a more beautiful little creature in all the
world than Connie."

"That's _'er_!" broke from Sue's irrepressible lips.



CHAPTER XIX.

A SAINTLY LADY.


When so many strange things were happening, we may be sure that Father
John was not idle. He had hoped much from Peter Harris's knowledge of
the byways and dens and alleys of Westminster. But although Peter was
accompanied by the sharpest detectives that Scotland Yard could provide,
not the slightest clue to Connie's whereabouts could be obtained. The
man was to meet more detectives again that same afternoon, and meanwhile
a sudden gleam of hope darted through Father John's brain.

What a fool he had been not to think of it before! How glad he was now
that he had insisted on getting the name and address of the brave
fireman deliverer from Connie on the previous night!

He went straight now to the house in Carlyle Terrace. He stopped at No.
12. There he rang the bell and inquired if Mrs. Anderson were within.

Mrs. Anderson was the last woman in the world to refuse to see any one,
whether rich or poor, who called upon her. Even impostors had a kindly
greeting from this saintly lady; for, as she was fond of saying to
herself, "If I can't give help, I can at least bestow pity."

Mrs. Anderson was no fool, however, and she could generally read in
their faces the true story of a man or woman who came to her. More often
than not the story was a sad one, and the chance visitor was in need of
help and sympathy. When this was not the case, she was able to explain
very fully to the person who had called upon her what she thought of
deceit and dishonest means of gaining a livelihood; and that person, as
a rule, went away very much ashamed, and in some cases determined to
turn over a new leaf. When this really happened Mrs. Anderson was the
first to help to get the individual who had come to her into respectable
employment.

She was by no means rich, but nearly every penny of her money was spent
on others; her own wants were of the simplest. The house she lived in
belonged to her son, who, although a gentleman by birth, had long ago
selected his profession--that of a fireman in the London Fire Brigade.
He had a passion for his calling, and would not change it for the
richest and most luxurious life in the world.

Now Mrs. Anderson came downstairs to interview Father John. Father John
stood up, holding his hat in his hand. He always wore a black
frock-coat; his hair hung long over his shoulders; his forehead was
lofty; his expressive and marvelously beautiful gray eyes lit up his
rugged and otherwise plain face. It was but to look at this man to know
that he was absolutely impervious to flattery, and did not mind in the
least what others thought about him. His very slight but perceptible
deformity gave to his eyes that pathetic look which deformed people so
often possess.

The moment Mrs. Anderson entered the room she recognized him.

"Why," she said in a joyful tone, "is it true that I have the honor of
speaking to the great street preacher?"

"Not great, madam," said Father John--"quite a simple individual; but my
blessed Father in heaven has given me strength to deliver now and then a
message to poor and sorrowful people."

"Sit down, won't you?" said Mrs. Anderson.

Father John did immediately take a chair. Mrs. Anderson did likewise.

"Now," said the widow, "what can I do for you?"

"I will tell you, madam. Her father and I are in great trouble about the
child----"

"What child?" asked Mrs. Anderson. "You surely don't mean little Connie
Harris? I have been nervous at her not reappearing to-day. At her own
express wish, she went to visit her father last night. I would have sent
some one with her, but she wouldn't hear of it, assuring me that she had
been about by herself in the London streets as long as she could
remember; but she has not returned."

"No, madam?"

Over Father John's face there passed a quick emotion. Then this last
hope must be given up.

"You have news of her?" said Mrs. Anderson.

"I have, and very bad news."

Father John then related his story.

"Oh, why--why did I let her go?" said Mrs. Anderson.

"Don't blame yourself dear lady; the person to blame is the miserable
father who would not receive his lost child when she returned to him."

"Oh, poor little girl!" said Mrs. Anderson. "Such a sweet child, too,
and so very beautiful!"

"Her beauty is her danger," said Father John.

"What do you mean?"

"She told me her story, as doubtless she has told it to you."

"She has," said Mrs. Anderson.

"There is not the least doubt," continued the street preacher, "that
that notorious thief, Mrs. Warren, used the child to attract people from
herself when she was stealing their goods. Mrs. Warren is one of the
most noted pickpockets in London. She has been captured, but I greatly
fear that some other members of the gang have kidnapped the child once
more."

"What can be done?" said Mrs. Anderson. "I wish my son were here. I know
he would help."

"Ah, madam," said Father John, "how proud you must be of such a son! I
think I would rather belong to his profession than any other in all the
world--yes, I believe I would rather belong to it than to my own; for
when you can rescue the body of a man from the cruel and tormenting
flames, you have a rare chance of getting at his soul."

"My son is a Christian as well as a gentleman," said Mrs. Anderson. "He
would feel with you in every word you have uttered, Father John. I will
send him a message and ask him if he can meet you here later on
to-night."

"I shall be very pleased to come; and I will if I can," said Father
John. "But," he added, "my time is scarcely ever my own--I am the
servant of my people."

"Your congregation?" said Mrs. Anderson.

"Yes, madam; all sorts and conditions of men. I have no parish; still, I
consider myself God's priest to deliver His message to sorrowful people
who might not receive it from an ordained clergyman."

Mrs. Anderson was silent. Father John's eyes seemed to glow. He was
looking back on many experiences. After a minute he said:

"The consolation is this: 'He that shall endure to the end--shall be
saved.'"

"How very strange that you should speak of that!" said Mrs. Anderson.

"Why so, madam? Don't you believe it?"

"Oh, indeed I do! But I'll tell you why I think it strange. There is a
little boy--the child who was also rescued from the fire--in my house.
He was very ill at first; he is now better, but not well enough to leave
his bedroom. I was anxious about him for a time, but he is, I thank God,
recovering. Now, this child went on murmuring that text during his
delirium--a strange one to fall from the lips of so young a child."

"Indeed, yes, madam. I am most deeply interested. I am glad you have
mentioned the little boy. Connie told me about him last night. I am
sorry that in my anxiety for her I forgot him."

"You could never forget little Ronald if you were to see him," said Mrs.
Anderson. "I don't think I ever saw quite so sweet a child. His
patience, his courage, and I think I ought to add his faith, are
marvelous."

"He cannot be nicer or better than a little boy of the name of Giles who
lives in a very poor attic near my own room," said the preacher.

"I wonder," said Mrs. Anderson after a pause, "if you could spare time
to come up and see little Ronald with me."

"I should be only too glad," said Father John.

So Mrs. Anderson took the preacher upstairs, and very softly opened the
door, beyond which stood a screen. She entered, followed by the
preacher, into a pretty room, which had lovely photographs hanging on
the walls, that bore on childhood in different aspects. There was the
summer child--the child of happiness--playing in the summer meadows,
chasing butterflies and gathering flowers. And there also was the winter
child--the child of extreme desolation--shivering on a doorstep in one
of London's streets. There were other children, too--saintly
children--St. Agnes and her lamb, St. Elizabeth, St. Ursula; and, above
all, there were photographs of the famous pictures of the Child of all
children, the Child of Bethlehem.

The windows of the room were shaded by soft curtains of pale blue. A
cheerful fire burned in the grate, and a child lay, half-sitting up, in
a bed covered by a silken eider-down.

The child looked quite content in his little bed, and a trained nurse
who was in the room went softly out by another door as Mrs. Anderson and
the preacher entered.

"Hasn't Connie come back?" asked Ronald.

"No, dear," said Mrs. Anderson; "she's not able to do so just yet."

"I want her," said Ronald, suppressing a sigh.

"I have brought this gentleman to see you, Ronald."

"What?"

The boy cast a quick glance at the somewhat ungainly figure of Father
John. Another disappointment--not the father he was waiting for. But the
luminous eyes of the preacher seemed to pierce into the boy's soul. When
he looked once, he looked again. When he looked twice, it seemed to him
that he wanted to look forever.

"I am glad," he said; and a smile broke over his little face.

Father John sat down at once by the bedside, and Mrs. Anderson went
softly out of the room.

"Waiting for something, little man?" said the street preacher.

"How can you tell?" asked Ronald.

"I see it in your eyes," said the preacher.

"It's father," said Ronald.

"Which father?" asked the preacher.

"My own," said Ronald--"my soldier father--the V. C. man, you know."

"Yes," said Father John.

"I want him," said Ronald.

"Of course you do."

"Is he likely to come soon?" asked Ronald.

"If I could tell you that, Ronald," said the street preacher, "I should
be a wiser man than my Father in heaven means me to be. There is only
one Person who can tell you when your earthly father will come."

"You mean Lord Christ," said Ronald.

"I mean Christ and our Father in heaven."

Ronald shut his eyes for a minute. Then he opened them.

"I want my father," he said. "I'm sort o' starving for him."

"Well," said Father John, "you have a father, you know--you have two
fathers. If you can't get your earthly father down here, you're certain
safe to get him up there. A boy with two fathers needn't feel starved
about the heart, need he, now?"

"I suppose not," said Ronald.

"He need not, of course," said Father John. "I'll say a bit of a prayer
for you to the Heavenly Father, and I know that sore feeling will go out
of your heart. I know it, Ronald; for He has promised to answer the
prayers of those who trust in Him. But now I want to talk to you about
something else. I guess, somehow, that the next best person to your
father to come to see you now is your little friend Connie."

"Yes, yes!" said Ronald. "I've missed her dreadful. Mrs. Anderson is
sweet, and Nurse Charlotte very kind, and I'm beginning not to be quite
so nervous about fire and smoke and danger. It's awful to be frightened.
I'll have to tell my father when he comes back how bad I've been and how
unlike him. But if I can't get him just now--and I'm not going to be
unpatient--I want Connie, 'cos she understands."

"Of course she understands," said the preacher. "I will try and get her
for you."

"But why can't she come back?"

"She can't."

"But why--why?"

"That is another thing I can't tell you."

"And I am not to be unpatient," said Ronald.

"You're to be patient--it's a big lesson--it mostly takes a lifetime to
get it well learned. But somehow, when it is learned, then there's
nothing else left to learn."

Ronald's eyes were so bright and so dark that the preacher felt he had
said enough for the present. He bent down over the boy.

"The God above bless thee, child," he said; "and if you have power and
strength to say a little prayer for Connie, do. She will come back when
the Heavenly Father wills it. Good-bye, Ronald."



CHAPTER XX.

CAUGHT AGAIN.


When Connie awoke the next morning, it was to see the ugly face of Agnes
bending over her.

"Stylites is to 'ome," she said briefly. "Yer'd best look nippy and come
into the kitchen and 'ave yer brekfus'."

"Oh!" said Connie.

"You'll admire Stylites," continued Agnes; "he's a wery fine man. Now
come along--but don't yer keep him waiting."

Connie had not undressed. Agnes poured a little water into a cracked
basin for her to wash her face and hands, and showed her a comb, by no
means specially inviting, with which she could comb out her pretty hair.
Then, again enjoining her to "look slippy," she left the room.

In the kitchen a big breakfast was going on. A quantity of bacon was
frizzling in a pan over a great fire; and Freckles, the boy who had let
Connie and Agnes in the night before, was attending to it. Two men with
rough faces--one of them went by the name of Corkscrew, and the other
was known as Nutmeg--were standing also within the region of the warm
and generous fire. But the man on whom Connie fixed her pretty eyes,
when she softly opened the door and in all fear made her appearance, was
of a totally different order of being.

He was a tall man, quite young, not more than thirty years of age, and
remarkably handsome. He had that curious combination of rather fair hair
and very dark eyes and brows. His face was clean-shaven, and the
features were refined and delicate without being in the least
effeminate; for the cruel strength of the lower jaw and firmly shut lips
showed at a glance that this man had a will of iron. His voice was
exceedingly smooth and gentle, however, in intonation.

When he saw Connie he stepped up to her side and, giving her a gracious
bow, said:

"Welcome to the kitchen, young lady."

"It's Stylites--bob yer curtsy," whispered Agnes in Connie's ear.

So Connie bobbed her curtsy. Was this the man she was to be so
dreadfully afraid of? Her whole charming little face broke into a smile.

"I'm so glad as you're Stylites!" she said.

The compliment, the absolutely unexpected words, the charm of the smile,
had a visible effect upon the man. He looked again at Connie as though
he would read her through and through; then, taking her hand, he led her
to the breakfast-table.

"Freckles," he said, "put a clean plate and knife on the table. That
plate isn't fit for a young lady to eat off."

Freckles grinned from ear to ear, showing rows of yellow teeth. He
rushed off to wash the plate in question, and returned with it hot and
shining to lay again before Connie's place. Simeon Stylites himself
helped the little girl to the choicest pieces of bacon, to delicate
slices of white bread, and to any other good things which were on the
table. As he did this he did not speak once, but his eyes seemed to be
everywhere. No one dared do a thing on the sly. The rough-looking men,
Corkscrew and Nutmeg, were desired in a peremptory tone to take their
mugs of tea to another table at the farther end of the great room. One
of them ventured to grumble, and both cast angry glances at Connie.
Stylites, however, said, "Shut that!" and they were instantly mute as
mice.

The boy Freckles also took his breakfast to the other table; but Agnes
sat boldly down, and pushing her ill-favored face forward, addressed
Simeon in familiar style:

"I nabbed her--yer see."

"Shut that!" said Stylites.

Agnes flushed an angry red, gave Connie a vindictive look, but did not
dare to utter another word. Connie ate her breakfast with wonderful
calm, and almost contentment. During the night which had passed she had
gone through terrible dreams, in which Simeon Stylites had figured
largely. He had appeared to her in those dreams as an ogre--a monster
too awful to live. But here was a gracious gentleman, very goodly to
look upon, very kind to her, although rude and even fierce to the rest
of the party.

"He'll let me go 'ome," thought Connie; "he 'ave a kind 'eart."

The meal came to an end. When it did so Corkscrew came up and inquired
if the young "amattur" were "goin' to 'ave her first lesson in
perfessional work."

"Shut that!" said Stylites again. "You go into cellar No. 5 and attend
to the silver, Corkscrew.--Nutmeg, you'll have the other jewelry to put
in order this morning. Is the furnace in proper order?"

"Yus, sir."

"Get off both of you and do your business. We're going out this
evening."

"When, sir?"

"Ten o'clock--sharp's the word."

"On wot, sir?"

"No. 17's the job," said Simeon Stylites.

"And wot am I to do?" said Agnes.

"Stay indoors and mend your clothes."

"In this room, sir?"

"No; your bedroom."

"Please, Simeon Stylites, yer ain't thanked me yet for bringin' Connie
along."

For answer Stylites put his hand into his pocket, produced half-a-crown,
and tossed it to Agnes.

"Get into your room, and be quick about it," he said.

"May I take Connie along, please, sir?"

"Leave the girl alone. Go!"

Agnes went.

"Come and sit in this warm chair by the fire, dear," said Stylites.

Connie did so. The smile round her lips kept coming and going, going and
coming. She was touched; she was soothed; she had not a scrap of fear;
this great, strong, kind man would certainly save her. He was so
different from dreadful Mammy Warren.

"Freckles," said the chief, "wash the breakfast things; put them in
order; take them all into the pantry. When you have done, go out by the
back door, being careful to put on the old man's disguise to-day. Fasten
the wig firmly on, and put a patch over your eye. Here's five shillings;
get food for the day, and be here by twelve o'clock sharp. Now go."

"Yus, sir."

Freckles had an exceedingly cheerful manner. He knew very little fear.
The strange life he led gave him a sort of wild pleasure. He winked at
Connie.

"Somethin' wery strange be goin' to 'appen," he said to himself. "A
hamattur like this a-brought in by private horders, an' no perfessional
lesson to be tuk." He thought how he himself would enjoy teaching this
pretty child some of the tricks of the trade. Oh, of course, she was
absolutely invaluable. He didn't wonder that Mammy had brought in such
spoil when Connie was there. But even Freckles had to depart, and Connie
presently found herself alone with the chief.

He stood by the hearth, looking taller and more exactly like a fine
gentleman, and Connie was more and more reassured about him.

"Please, sir----" she began.

"Stop!" he interrupted.

"Mayn't I speak, sir?"

"No--not now. For God's sake don't plead with me; I can't stand that."

"Why, sir?"

But Connie, as she looked up, saw an expression about that mouth and
that jaw which frightened her, and frightened her so badly that all the
agony she had undergone in Mammy Warren's house seemed as nothing in
comparison. The next minute, however, the cruel look had departed.
Simeon Stylites drew a chair forward, dropped into it, bent low, and
looked into Connie's eyes.

"Allow me," he said; and he put his hand very gently under her chin, and
raised her little face and looked at it.

"Who's your father?" he asked.

"Peter Harris."

"Trade?"

"Blacksmith, sir."

"Where do you live?"

"Adam Street, sir; and----"

"Hush! Only answer my questions."

Stylites removed his hand from under the girl's chin, and Connie felt a
blush of pain sweeping over her face.

"How long were you with that woman Warren?"

"Dunno, sir."

"What do you mean by answering me like that?"

"Can't 'elp it, sir. Tuk a fright there--bad fire--can't remember,
please, sir."

"Never mind; it doesn't matter. Stand up; I want to look at your hair."

Connie did so. Simeon took great masses of the golden, beautiful hair
between his slender fingers. He allowed it to ripple through them. He
felt its weight and examined its quality.

"Sit down again," he said.

"Yus, sir."

"You're exactly the young girl I want for my profession."

"Please, sir----"

"Hush!"

"Yus, sir."

"I repeat--and I wish you to listen--that in my profession you would
rise to eminence. You haven't an idea what it is like, have you?"

"No--I mean I'm not sure----"

"You had better keep in ignorance, for it won't be really necessary for
you to understand."

"Oh, sir."

"Not really necessary."

Connie looked up into the stern and very strange face.

"But you miss a good deal," said Stylites--"yes, a very great deal. Tell
me, for instance, how you employed your time before you entered Mrs.
Warren's establishment."

"I did machine-work, sir."

"I guessed as much--or perhaps Coppenger told me. Machine-work--attic
work?--Shop?"

"Yus, sir--in Cheapside, sir--a workshop for cheap clothing, sir."

"Did you like it?"

"No, sir."

"I should think not. Let me look at your hand."

He took one of Connie's hands and examined it carefully.

"Little, tapering fingers," he said, "spoiled by work. They could be
made very white, very soft and beautiful. Have you ever considered what
a truly fascinating thing a girl's hand is?"

Connie shook her head.

"You'd know it if you stayed with me. I should dress you in silk and
satins, and give you big hats with feathers, and lovely silk stockings
and charming shoes."

"To wear in this 'ere kitchen, sir?"

"Oh no, you wouldn't live in this kitchen; you would be in a beautiful
house with other ladies and gentlemen. _You would_ like that, wouldn't
you?"

"Yus, sir--ef I might 'ave Ronald and Giles and father and Father John,
and p'rhaps Mrs. Anderson and Mr. George Anderson, along o' me."

"But in that beautiful house you wouldn't have Mr. and Mrs. Anderson,
nor your father, nor that canting street preacher, nor the children
you've just mentioned. It's just possible you might have the boy Ronald,
but even that is problematical--you'd have to give up the rest."

"Then, sir," said Connie, "I rayther not go, please."

"Do you think that matters?" said Stylites.

"Wot, sir?"

"That you'd rather not go?"

"I dunno, sir."

"It doesn't matter one whit. Children who come here aren't asked what
they'd rather or rather not do, girl--they've got to do what _I_ order."

The voice came out, not loud, but sharp and incisive, as though a knife
were cutting something.

"Yus, sir--yus, sir."

"Connie"--the man's whole tone altered--"what will you give me if I let
you go?" "Oh, sir----"

"I want you to give me something very big, I've taken great trouble to
secure you. You're the sort of little girl I want; you would be very
useful to me. You have come in here--it is true you haven't the least
idea where this house is--but you've come in, and you've seen me, and
you've discovered the name which these low people call me. Of course,
you can understand that my real name is not Simeon Stylites--I have a
very different name; and my home isn't here--I have a very different
home. I would take you there, and treat you well, and afterwards perhaps
send you to another home. You should never know want, and no one would
be unkind to you. You would be as a daughter to me, and I am a lonely
man."

"Oh, sir--sir!" said poor Connie, "I--I like you, sir--I'm not
afeered--no, not much afeered--but if you 'ud only let the others
come----"

"That I cannot do, girl. If you choose to belong to me you must give up
the others."

"_Ef_ I choose, sir--may I choose?"

"Yes--on a condition."

The man who called himself Simeon Stylites looked at the girl with a
queer, hungry expression in his eyes.

"I wanted you very badly indeed," he said; "and I was not in the least
prepared to be sentimental. But I had a little sister like you. She died
when she was rather younger than you. I loved her, and she loved me. I
was quite a good man then, and a gentleman----"

"Oh, sir--ye're that now."

"No, girl--I am not. There are things that a gentleman would do which I
would _not_ do, and there are things which no gentleman would do which I
do. I have passed the line; nevertheless, the outward tokens remain; and
I live--well, child, I want for nothing. My profession is very
lucrative--very."

Connie did not understand half the words of this strange, queer man,
with a terribly stern and yet terribly pathetic voice.

"When I saw you this morning," said Stylites, "I knew at once it was no
go. You were like the little Eleanor whom alone in all the world I ever
truly loved. You are too young to be told my story, or I would tell it
to you."

"Oh, sir," said Connie, "I'd real like to comfort yer."

"You can't do that, and I won't spoil the life of any child with such a
look of my little Eleanor. I am going to give you back your liberty--on
a condition."

"Wot's that?" said Connie.

"That you never breathe to mortal what happened to you from the time you
left your friend, the street preacher, last night, until the time when
you found yourself at liberty and outside that same court. Wild horses
mustn't drag it from you; detectives must do their utmost in vain. I am
willing to do a good deal for you, girl, solely and entirely because of
that chance likeness. But I won't have _my_ profession and _my_ chances
in life imperilled. Do you promise?"

"Sir, I'll niver,--niver tell."

"You must promise more strongly than that--the others must be
witnesses."

"Oh, sir--oh, sir! you must trust me. Don't call the others in; let me
promise to you, yer lone self, an' I will keep my word."

The strange man with the strange eyes looked long for a full minute into
Connie's face.

"I could have been good to you," he said, "and what I had to offer was
not altogether contemptible. But it somehow wouldn't have fitted in with
my memory of Eleanor, who went back to God at eleven years of age, very
pure in heart, and just like a little child. 'Of such is the Kingdom of
Heaven.' Those are the words which mark her little grave in a distant
part of the country. If you will follow in her steps, and be pure and
good in heart and life, you may meet my Eleanor in another world. And
perhaps you may be able to tell her that I--a man given over to extreme
wickedness--did one kind deed for her sake when I gave you back to your
friends."

"Sir----"

"Not another word. I am a man of moods, and I might recant what I have
just said."

Simeon Stylites sounded a little gong on the table. Agnes came hurriedly
in.

"Fetch this child's hat and jacket," said the great man imperatively.

Agnes brought them.

"Be I to take her out, sir?" she said.

"No. And listen. This child isn't for us; let her alone in future.--Are
you ready, Connie?"

"Yus, sir."

Simeon Stylites put on the most gentlemanly overcoat and a well-brushed
silk hat, and he took a neat stick in his hand and went boldly out of
the house. As soon as ever he got outside he saw a hansom, and beckoned
the driver. He and Connie got in.

They went for a long drive, and Stylites dismissed the hansom in a
distant part of the town.

"You wouldn't know your way back again?" he said to the girl.

"No, sir; an' ef I knew I wouldn't tell."

"Well, then--good-bye."

"Good-bye, sir."

"Yes, good-bye. Walk down this street till you come to the end. Here's a
shilling--you'll get a hansom; ask a policeman to put you in. From there
go home again, and forget that you ever saw or heard of Simeon
Stylites."



CHAPTER XXI.

SAFE HOME AT LAST.


When Harris parted from Sue he ran quickly in his cowardly flight. He
did not stay his fleet steps until he had gained a very quiet street.
Then, knowing that he was now quite safe, he exchanged his running for a
rapid walk. He suddenly remembered that he was to meet the detectives,
who were moving heaven and earth to get Connie back for him, not later
than three o'clock.

They were to meet by appointment in a certain street, and the hour of
rendezvous was quickly approaching. He got there in good time; but what
was his amazement to see, not only the two detectives--ordinary-looking
men in plain clothes--but also the street preacher?

The street preacher came up to him eagerly. The detectives also followed
close.

"Harris," said Atkins, "you can thank God on your knees--your child is
safe at home."

"Wot?" said Harris.

In that instant something sharp as a sword went through his heart. Oh,
what a mean, terrible, horrible wretch he was! What a cowardly deed he
had just committed! And yet God was kind, and had given him back his
child.

"Connie is in your room, waiting for you," said Atkins. "I went in not
an hour ago, hoping to find you, and there she was."

"It's very queer," said Detective Z. "You should have been there also,
and have questioned the girl. There isn't the least doubt that she could
give the most valuable information, but she won't utter a word--not a
word."

"Won't she, now?" said Harris. "Perhaps not to you, but she wull, quick
enough, to her own father."

The entire party then turned in the direction of Harris's rooms. They
went up the stairs, and Harris flung the door wide. A little, slight
girl, in the identical same dark-blue dress which Harris had bought for
her with such pride not many weeks ago, was standing near the fire.
Already her womanly influences had been at work.

The fire burned brightly. The room was tidy. The girl herself was
waiting--expectation, fear, longing, all expressed in her sensitive
face.

"Father!" she cried as Harris--brutal, red of face, self-reproachful, at
once the most miserable and the gladdest man on earth--almost staggered
into the room.

He took the slim little creature into his arms, gave her a few fierce,
passionate kisses; then saying, "It is good to have yer back, wench,"
pushed her from him with unnecessary violence. He sank into a seat,
trembling all over. The two detectives marked his agitation and were
full of compassion for him. How deeply he loved his child, they felt.
But Father John read deeper below the surface.

The man was in a very queer state. Had anything happened? He knew Harris
well. At such a moment as this, if all were right, he would not be so
overcome.

The detectives began to question Connie.

"We want to ask you a few questions, my dear," said Constable Z. "Who
dragged you into that court last night?"

"I won't say," answered Connie.

"You won't say? But you know."

"I won't say nothing," said Connie.

"That is blamed nonsense!" cried Harris, suddenly rousing himself.
"Yer've got to say--yer've got to make a clean breast of it. Wot's up?
Speak!"

"I wouldn't be here, father," said Connie, "'ef I'd not promised most
faithfully not _iver_ to tell, and I won't iver, iver, iver tell, not to
anybody in all the world."

There was a decidedly new quality in the girl's voice.

"I wouldn't do it for nobody," continued Connie. She drew herself up,
and looked taller; her eyes were shining. The detectives glanced at each
other.

"If you was put in the witness-box, missy," said one, "yer'd have to
break that promise o' yourn, whoever you made it to, or you'ud know what
contempt of the law meant."

"But I am not in the witness-box," said Connie, her tone suddenly
becoming gay. "It was awful kind of people to look for me, but they
might ha' looked for ever and niver found me again. I'm 'ere now quite
safe, and nothing 'as 'appened at all, and I'm niver goin' to tell.
Please, Father John, _you_ won't ask me?"

"No, my child," said Father John. "You have made a promise, perhaps a
rash one, but I should be the last to counsel you to break it."

Nothing more could be gained from Connie at present; and by-and-by
Father John and the two detectives left her alone with Harris. When the
door closed behind the three men a timid expression came into Connie's
gentle eyes. Beyond doubt her father was sober, but he looked very
queer--fearfully red in the face, nervous, trembling, bad in his temper.
Connie had seen him in many moods, but this particular mood she had
never witnessed in him before. He must really love her. He knew nothing
about that terrible time last night when he had turned her away. Then he
did not know what he was doing.

Connie was the last to bear him malice for what--like many other little
girls of her class--she considered he could not help. Most of the
children in the courts and streets around had fathers who drank. It
seemed to Connie and to the other children that this was a necessary
part of fathers--that they all took what was not good for them, and were
exceedingly unpleasant under its influence.

She stood now by the window, and Harris sank into a chair. Then he got
up restlessly.

"I be goin' out for a bit, lass," he said. "You stay 'ere."

"Oh, please, father," said Connie, "ef you be goin' out, may I go 'long
and pay Giles a wisit? I want so much to have a real good talk with
him."

When Connie mentioned the word Giles, Harris gave quite a perceptible
start. Something very like an oath came from his lips; then he crushed
back his emotion.

"Hall right," he said; "but don't stay too long there. And plait up that
'air o' yourn, and put it tight round yer 'ead; I don't want no more
kidnappin' o' my wench."

There was a slight break in the rough man's voice, and Connie's little
sensitive heart throbbed to the tone of love. A minute later Harris had
gone out, and Connie, perceiving that it was past four o'clock, and that
it would not be so very long before Sue was back from Cheapside,
prepared to set off in quite gay spirits to see little Giles.

She went into her tiny bedroom. It was a very shabby room, nothing like
as well furnished as the one she had occupied at Mammy Warren's. But oh,
how glad she was to be back again! How sweet the homely furniture
looked! How dear was that cracked and handleless jug! How nice to behold
again the wooden box in which she kept her clothes!

The little girl now quickly plaited her long, thick hair, arranged it
tightly round her head, and putting on a shabby frock and jacket, and
laying the dark blue, which had seen such evil days, in the little
trunk, she hastily left the room.

She was not long in making her appearance in Giles's very humble attic.
Her heart beat as she mounted the well-worn stairs. How often--oh, how
often she had though of Giles and Sue! How she had longed for them! The
next minute she had burst into the room where the boy was lying, as
usual, flat on his back.

"Giles," she said, "I've come back."

"Connie!" answered Giles. He turned quickly to look at her. His face
turned first red, then very pale; but the next minute he held up his
hand to restrain further words.

"Don't say anything for half a minute, Connie, for 'e's goin' to speak."

"Big Ben? Oh!" said Connie.

She remembered what Big Ben had been to her and to Ronald in Mammy
Warren's dreadful rooms. She too listened, half-arrested in her progress
across the room. Then, above the din and roar of London, the sweet
chimes pealed, and the hour of five o'clock was solemnly proclaimed.

"There!" said Giles. "Did yer 'ear wot he said now?"

"Tell us--do tell us!" said Connie.

"'The peace of God which passeth all understanding.'" said Giles. "Ain't
it fine?"

"Oh yus," said Connie--"yus! Giles--little Giles--'ow I ha' missed yer!
Oh Giles, Giles! this is the peace o' God come back to me again."

Giles did not answer, and Connie had time to watch him. It was some
weeks now since she had seen him--weeks so full of events that they were
like a lifetime to the child; and in those weeks a change had come over
little Giles. That pure, small, angel face of his looked smaller,
thinner, and more angelic than ever. It seemed as if a breath might blow
him away. His sweet voice itself was thin and weak.

"I did miss yer, Connie," he said at last. "But then, I were never
frightened; Sue were--over and over."

"And w'y weren't yer frightened, Giles?" said Connie. "You 'ad a reason
to be, if yer did but know."

"I did know," said Giles, "and that were why I didn't fret. I knew as
you were safe--I knew for sartin sure that Big Ben 'ud talk to
yer--_'e'd_ bring yer a message, same as 'e brings to me."

"Oh--he did--he did!" said Connie. "I might ha' guessed that you'd think
that, for the message were so wery strong. It were indeed as though a
Woice uttered the words. But oh, Giles--I 'ave a lot to tell yer!"

"Well," said Giles, "and I am ready to listen. Poke up the fire a bit,
and then set near me. Yer must stop talking _w'en 'e_ speaks, but
otherwise you talk and I listen."

"Afore I do anything," said Connie--"'ave you 'ad your tea?"

"No. I didn't want it. I'll 'ave it w'en Sue comes 'ome."

"Poor Sue!" said Connie. "I'm that longin' to see her! I 'ope she won't
be hangry."

"Oh, no," said Giles. "We're both on us too glad to be angry. We missed
yer sore, both on us."

While Giles was speaking Connie had put on the kettle to boil. She had
soon made a cup of tea, which she brought to the boy, who, although he
had said he did not want it, drank it off with dry and thirsty lips.

"Dear Connie!" he said when he gave her the cup to put down.

"Now you're better," said Connie, "and I'll speak."

She began to tell her story, which quickly absorbed Giles, bringing
color into his cheeks and brightness into his eyes, so that he looked by
no means so frail and ill as he had done when Connie first saw him. She
cheered up when she noticed this, and reflected that doubtless Giles was
no worse. It was only because she had not seen him for so long that she
was really frightened.

When her story was finished Giles spoke:

"You're back, and you're safe--and it were the good Lord as did it.
Yer'll tell me 'bout the fire over agin another day; and yer'll tell me
'bout that little Ronald, wot 'ave so brave a father, another day. But
I'm tired now a bit. It's wonnerful, all the same, wot brave fathers do
for their children. W'en I think o' mine, an' wot 'e wor, an' 'ow 'e
died, givin' up his life for others, I'm that proud o' him, an'
comforted by him, an' rejoiced to think as I'll see 'im agin, as is
almost past talkin' on. But there! you'd best go 'ome now; you're quite
safe, for 'E wot gives Big Ben 'is message 'ull regard yer."

"But why mayn't I wait for Sue?" said Connie.

"No," said Giles in a faint tone; "I'm too tired--I'm sort o' done up,
Connie--an' I can't listen, even to dear Sue axin' yer dozens and dozens
o' questions. You go 'ome now, an' come back ef yer like later on, w'en
Sue 'ull be 'ome and I'll ha' broke the news to her. She knows she must
be very quiet in the room with me, Connie."

So Connie agreed to this; first of all, however, placing a glass with a
little milk in it by Giles's side. She then returned to her own room,
hoping that she might find her father there before her.

He was not there; his place was empty. Connie, however, was not alarmed,
only it had struck her with a pang that if he really loved her half as
much as she loved him he would have come on that first evening after her
return. She spent a little time examining the room and putting it into
ship-shape order, and then suddenly remembered that she herself was both
faint and hungry.

She set the kettle on, therefore, to boil, and made herself some tea.
There was a hunch of bread and a piece of cold bacon in the great
cupboard, which in Connie's time was generally stored with provisions.
She said to herself:

"I must ax father for money to buy wittles w'en he comes in." And then
she made a meal off some of the bacon and bread, and drank the sugarless
and milkless tea as though it were nectar. She felt very tired from all
she had undergone; and as the time sped by, and Big Ben proclaimed the
hours of seven, eight, and nine, she resolved to wait no longer for her
father. She hoped indeed, he would not be tipsy to-night but she resolved
if such were the case, and he again refused to receive her, to go to
Mrs. Anderson and beg for a night's lodging.

First of all, however, she would visit Giles and Sue. Giles would have
told Sue the most exciting part of the story, and Sue would be calm and
practical and matter-of-fact; but of course, at the same time, very,
very glad to see her. Connie thought how lovely it would be to get one
of Sue's hearty smacks on her cheek, and to hear Sue's confident voice
saying:

"You _were_ a silly. Well, now ye're safe 'ome, you'll see as yer stays
there."

Connie thought no words would be quite so cheerful and stimulating to
hear as those matter-of-fact words of Sue's. She soon reached the
attic. She opened the door softly, and yet with a flutter at her heart.

"Sue," she said. But there was no Sue in the room; only Giles, whose
face was very, very white, and whose gentle eyes were full of distress.

"Come right over 'ere, Connie," he said. She went and knelt by him.

"Ye're not well," she said. "Wot ails yer?"

"Sue ain't come 'ome," he answered--"neither Sue nor any tidin's of her.
No, I ain't frightened, but I'm--I'm lonesome, like."

"In course ye're not frightened," said Connie, who, in the new _rôle_ of
comforter for Giles, forgot herself.

"I'll set with yer," she said, "till Sue comes 'ome. W'y, Giles,
anythink might ha' kep' her."

"No," said Giles, "not anythink, for she were comin' 'ome earlier than
usual to-night, an' we was to plan out 'ow best to get me a new
night-shirt, an' Sue herself were goin' to 'ave a evenin' patchin' her
old brown frock. She were comin' 'ome--she 'ad made me a promise;
nothin' in all the world would make her break it--that is, _ef_ she
could 'elp herself."

"Well, I s'pose she couldn't 'elp herself," said Connie. "It's jest this
way. They keep her in over hours--they often do that at Cheadle's."

"They 'aven't kep' 'er in to-night," said Giles.

"Then wot 'ave come to her?" "I dunno; only Big Ben----"

"Giles dear, wot _do_ yer mean?"

"I know," said Giles, with a catch in his voice, "as that blessed Woice
comforts me; but there! I must take the rough with the smooth. 'E said
w'en last 'e spoke, 'In all their affliction 'E were afflicted.' There
now! why did those words sound through the room unless there _is_
trouble about Sue?"

Connie argued and talked, and tried to cheer the poor little fellow. She
saw, however, that he was painfully weak, and when ten o'clock struck
from the great clock, and the boy--his nerves now all on edge--caught
Connie's hand, and buried his face against it, murmuring, "The Woice has
said them words agin," she thought it quite time to fetch a doctor.

"You mustn't go on like this, Giles," she said, "or yer'll be real ill.
I'm goin' away, and I'll be back in a minute or two."

She ran downstairs, found a certain Mrs. Nelson who knew both Sue and
Giles very well, described the state of the child, and begged of Mrs.
Nelson to get the doctor in.

"Wull, now," said that good woman, "ef that ain't wonnerful! Why, Dr.
Deane is in the 'ouse this very blessed minute attending on Hannah
Blake, wot broke her leg. I'll send him straight up to Giles, Connie, ef
yer'll wait there till he comes. Lor, now!" continued Mrs. Nelson, "w'y
hever should Sue be so late--and this night, of all nights?"

Connie, very glad to feel that the doctor was within reach, returned to
the boy, who now lay with closed eyes, breathing fast. Dr. Deane was a
remarkably kind young man. He knew the sorrows of the poor, and they all
loved him, and when he saw Giles he bent down over the little fellow and
made a careful examination. He then cheered up the boy as best he could,
and told him that he would send him a strengthening medicine, also a
bottle of port-wine, of which he was to drink some at intervals, and
other articles of food.

"Wen 'ull Sue come back?" asked Giles of the doctor.

"Can't tell you that, my dear boy. Your sister may walk in at any
minute, but I am sure this little friend will stay with you for the
night."

"Yus, if I may let father know," said Connie.

"You mustn't fret, Giles; that would be very wrong," said the doctor. He
then motioned Connie on to the landing outside. "The boy is ill," he
said, "and terribly weak--he is half-starved. That poor, brave little
sister of his does what she can for him, but it is impossible for her to
earn sufficient money to give him the food he requires. I am exceedingly
sorry for the boy, and will send him over a basket of good things."

"But," said Connie, her voice trembling, "is he wery, wery ill?"

"Yes," said the doctor--"so ill that he'll soon be better. In his case,
that is the best sort of illness, is it not? Oh, my child, don't cry!"

"Do yer mean that Giles is goin'--goin' right aw'y?" whispered Connie.

"Right away--and before very long. It's the very best thing that could
happen to him. If he lived he would suffer all his life. He won't suffer
any more soon. Now go back to him, and cheer him all you can."

Connie did go back. Where had she learnt such wonderful
self-control--she who, until all her recent trials, had been rather a
selfish little girl, thinking a good deal of her pretty face and
beautiful hair, and rebelling when trouble came to her? She had chosen
her own way, and very terrible trials had been hers in consequence. She
had learned a lesson, partly from Ronald, partly from Big Ben, partly
from the words of her little Giles, whom she had loved all her life. For
Giles's sake she would not give way now.

"Set you down, Connie--right here," said Giles.

She sat down, and he looked at her.

"Wot do doctor say?" said Giles.

"Oh, that ye're a bit weakly, Giles. He's goin' to send yer a basket o'
good wittles."

Giles smiled. Then he held out his shadowy little hand and touched
Connie.

"Niver mind," he said softly; "I know wot doctor said."

A heavenly smile flitted over his face, and he closed his eyes.

"It won't be jest yet," he said. "There'll be plenty o' time. Connie,
wull yer sing to me?"

"Yus," said Connie, swallowing a lump in her throat.

"Sing ''Ere we suffer.'"

Connie began. How full and rich her voice had grown! She remembered that
time when, out in the snow, she had sung--little Ronald keeping her
company:

    "Here we suffer grief and pain,
    Here we meet to part again,
      In Heaven we part no more.
    Oh! that will be joyful,
      When we meet to part no more."

The words of the hymn were sung to the very end, Giles listening in an
ecstasy of happiness.

"Now, 'Happy Land,'" he said.

Connie sang:

    "There is a Happy Land,
      Far, far away,
    Where saints in glory stand,
      Bright, bright as day."

The second hymn was interrupted by the arrival of a messenger, who
brought a bottle of medicine and a large basket. The contents of the
basket were laid on the table--a little crisp loaf of new bread, a pat
of fresh butter, half a pound of tea, a small can of milk, a pound of
sugar, half-a-dozen new-laid eggs, and a chicken roasted whole, also a
bottle of port-wine.

"Now then," said Connie, "look, Giles--look!"

The messenger took away the basket. Even Giles was roused to the
semblance of appetite by the sight of the tempting food. Connie quickly
made tea, boiled an egg, and brought them with fresh bread-and-butter to
the child. He ate a little; then he looked up at her.

"You must eat, too, Connie. Why, you _be_ white and tired!"

Connie did not refuse. She made a small meal, and then, opening the
bottle of wine with a little corkscrew which had also been sent, kept
the precious liquid in readiness to give to Giles should he feel faint.

Eleven o'clock rang out in Big Ben's great and solemn voice. Connie was
very much startled when she heard the great notes; but, to her surprise,
Giles did not take any notice. He lay happy, with an expression on his
face which showed that his thoughts were far away.

"Connie," he said after a minute, "be yer really meanin' to spend the
night with me?"

"Oh yus," said Connie, "ef yer'll 'ave me."

"You've to think of your father, Connie--he may come back. He may miss
yer. Yer ought to go back and see him, and leave him a message."

"I were thinking that," said Connie; "and I won't be long. I'll come
straight over here the very minute I can, and ef Sue has returned----"

"Sue won't come back--not yet," said Giles.

"Why, Giles--how do you know?"

"Jesus Christ told me jest now through the Woice o' Big Ben," said the
boy.

"Oh Giles--wot?"

"'E said, 'Castin' all your care on God, for He careth for you.' I ha'
done it, and I'm not frettin' no more. Sue's all right; God's a-takin'
care of her. I don't fret for Sue now, no more than I fretted for you.
But run along and tell your father, and come back." Connie went.

At this hour of night the slums of Westminster are not the nicest place
in the world for so pretty a girl to be out. Connie, too, was known by
several people, and although in her old clothes, and with her hair
fastened round her head, she did not look nearly so striking as when
Mammy Warren had used her as a decoy-duck in order to pursue her
pickpocket propensities, yet still her little face was altogether on a
different plane from the ordinary slum children.

"W'y, Connie," said a rough woman, "come along into my den an' tell us
yer story."

"Is it Connie Harris?" screamed another. "W'y, gel, w'ere hever were yer
hall this time? A nice hue and cry yer made! Stop 'ere this minute and
tell us w'ere yer ha' been."

"I can't," said Connie. "Giles is bad, and Sue ain't come 'ome. I want
jest to see father, and then to go back to Giles. Don't keep me,
neighbors."

Now, these rough people--the roughest and the worst, perhaps, in the
land--had some gleams of good in them; and little Giles was a person
whom every one had a soft word for.

"A pore little cripple!" said the woman who had first spoken.--"Get you
along at once, Connie; he's in."

"I be sorry as the cripple's bad, and Sue not returned," cried another.
"I 'ope Sue's not kidnapped too. It's awful w'en folks come to
kidnappin' one's kids."

While the women were talking Connie made her escape, and soon entered
her father's room. She gave a start at once of pleasure and apprehension
when she saw him there. Was he drunk? Would he again turn her out into
the street? She didn't know--she feared. Peter Harris, however, was
sober. That had happened in one short day which, it seemed to him, made
it quite impossible for him ever to drink again.

He looked at Connie with a strange nervousness.

"Wull," he said, "you _be_ late! And 'ow's Giles?"

He did not dare to ask for Sue. His hope--for he had a hope--was that
Sue had come back without ever discovering the locket which he had
transferred to her pocket. In that case he might somehow manage to get
it away again without her knowing anything whatever with regard to his
vile conduct. If God was good enough for that, why, then indeed He was a
good God, and Harris would follow Him to his dying day. He would go to
the preacher and tell him that henceforth he meant to be a religious,
church-going man, and that never again would a drop of drink pass his
lips. He had spent an afternoon and evening in the most frightful
remorse, but up to the present he had not the most remote intention of
saving Sue at his own expense. If only she had escaped unsuspected, then
indeed he would be good; but if it were otherwise he felt that the very
devils of hell might enter into his heart.

"'Ow's Giles? 'Ow did he take yer comin' 'ome again, wench?"

"Oh father," said Connie, panting slightly, and causing the man to gaze
at her with wide-open, bloodshot eyes, "Giles is wery, wery bad--I 'ad
to send for the doctor. 'E come, and 'e said--ah! 'e said as 'ow little
Giles 'ud soon be leavin' us. I can't--can't speak on it!"

Connie sat down and covered her face with her hands. Harris drew a
breath at once of relief and suspicion. He was sorry, of course, for
little Giles; but then, the kid couldn't live, and he had nothing to do
with his death. It was Sue he was thinking about. Of course Sue was
there, or Connie would have mentioned the fact of her not having
returned home.

Connie wept on, overcome by the strange emotions and experiences through
which she had so lately passed.

"Connie," said her father at last, when he could bear the suspense no
longer, "Sue must be in great takin'--poor Sue!"

"But, father," said Connie, suddenly suppressing her tears, "that's the
most dreadful part of all--Sue ain't there!"

"Not there? Not to 'ome?" thundered Harris.

"No, father--she ha' niver come back. It's goin' on for twelve
o'clock--an' Giles expected her soon arter six! She ain't come back,
'ave Sue. Wottever is to be done, father?"

Harris walked to the fire and poked it into a fierce blaze. Then he
turned his back on Connie, and began to fumble with his neck-tie,
tightening it and putting it in order.

"Father," said Connie.

"Wull?"

"Wot are we to do 'bout Sue?"

"She'll be back come mornin'."

"Father," said Connie again, "may I go and spend the night 'long o'
Giles? He's too weakly to be left."

"No," said Harris; "I won't leave yer out o' my sight. Ef there's
kidnappin' about an' it looks uncommon like it--you stay safe within
these four walls."

"But Giles--Giles?" said Connie.

"I'll fetch Giles 'ere."

"Father! So late?"

"Yus--why not? Ef there's kidnappin' about, there's niver any sayin'
w'en Sue may be back. I'll go and fetch him now, and you can get that
sofy ready for him; he can sleep on it. There--I'm off! Sue--God knows
wot's come o' Sue; but Giles, e' sha'n't want."

Harris opened the door, went out, and shut it again with a bang. Connie
waited within the room. She was trembling with a strange mixture of fear
and joy. How strange her father was--and yet he was good too! He was not
drunk to-night. That was wonderful. It was sweet of him to think of
bringing Giles to Connie's home, where Connie could look after him and
give him the best food, and perhaps save his life. Children as
inexperienced as Connie are apt to take a cheerful view even when things
are at their lowest. Connie instantly imagined that Giles in his new and
far more luxurious surroundings would quickly recover.

She began eagerly to prepare a place for him. She dragged a mattress
from her own bed, and managed to put it on the sofa; then she unlocked a
trunk which always stood in the sitting-room; she knew where to find the
key. This trunk had belonged to her mother, and contained some of that
mother's clothing, and also other things.

Connie selected from its depths a pair of thin and very fine linen
sheets. These she aired by the fire, and laid them over the mattress
when they were quite warm. There was a blanket, white and light and very
warm, which was also placed over the linen sheets; and a down pillow was
found which Connie covered with a frilled pillow-case; and finally she
took out the most precious thing of all--a large crimson and gold shawl,
made of fine, fine silk, which her mother used to wear, and which Connie
dimly remembered as thinking too beautiful for this world. But nothing
was too beautiful for little Giles; and the couch with its crimson
covering was all ready for him when Harris reappeared, bearing the boy
in his arms.

"I kivered him up with his own blanket," he said, turning to Connie.
"Ain't that sofy comfor'ble to look at? You lie on the sofa, sonny, an'
then yer'll know wot it be to be well tended."

Little Giles was placed there, and Connie prepared a hot bottle to put
to his feet, while Harris returned to the empty room to fetch away the
medicine and get the things which Dr. Deane had ordered. He left a
message, too, with Mrs. Nelson, telling her what had become of the boy,
and asking Dr. Deane to call at his house in the future.

"You be a good man," said Mrs. Nelson in a tone of great admiration. "My
word, now! and ain't it lucky for the kid? You be a man o' money, Mr.
Harris--he'll want for nothing with you."

"He'll want for nothing no more to the longest day he lives," answered
Harris.

"Ah, sir," said Mrs. Nelson, "he--he won't live long; he'll want for
nothing any more, sir, in the Paradise of God."

"Shut up!" said Harris roughly. "Ye're all with yer grumblin's and moans
jest like other women."

"And what message am I to give to Sue--poor girl--when she comes 'ome?"
called Mrs. Nelson after him.

But Harris made no reply to this; only his steps rang out hard and firm
and cruel on the frosty ground.



CHAPTER XXII.

NEWS OF SUE.


The next morning, when Connie awoke, she remembered all the dreadful
things that had happened. She was home again. That strange, mysterious
man, Simeon Stylites, had let her go. How awful would have been her fate
but for him!

"He were a wery kind man," thought Connie. "And now I must try to forget
him. I must never mention his name, nor think of him no more for ever.
That's the way I can serve him best--pore Mr. Simeon! He had a very
genteel face, and w'en he spoke about his little sister it were real
touching. But I mustn't think of him, for, ef I do, some day I might let
his name slip, an' that 'ud do him a hurt."

Connie's thoughts, therefore, quickly left Simeon Stylites, Agnes
Coppenger, Freckles, Nutmeg, and Corkscrew, and returned to the exciting
fact that Sue was now missing, and that Giles was under her own father's
roof.

She sprang out of bed, and quickly dressing herself, entered the general
sitting-room. She was surprised to find that her father had taken his
breakfast and had gone; that Giles was sitting up, looking very pretty,
with his little head against the white pillow, and the crimson and gold
shawl covering his couch.

"Why, Connie," he said, the minute he saw her, "wot a silly chap I wor
yesterday! It's all as plain now as plain can be--I know everything
now."

"Wottever do you mean?" said Connie. "But don't talk too much, Giles,
till I ha' got yer yer breakfast."

"Bless yer!" said Giles, with a weak laugh, "I ha' had my breakfast an
hour and a half ago--yer father guv it to me. He be a wery kind man."

"My father guv you your breakfast?" said Connie.

She felt that wonders would never cease. Never before had Harris been
known to think of any one but himself.

"Set down by me, Connie; you can't do naught for your breakfast until
the kettle boils. I'll tell yer now w'ere Sue is."

"Where?" asked Connie. "Oh Giles! have yer heard of her?"

"Course I 'ave--I mean, it's all as clear as clear can be. It's only
that Sue 'ave more money than she told me 'bout, and that she's a-tryin'
to give me my 'eart's desire."

"Your 'eart's desire, Giles?"

"Yus--her an' me 'ave always 'ad our dream; and dear Sue--she's a-makin'
it come to pass, that's all. It's as plain as plain can be. She's a-gone
to the country."

"To the country? Oh no, Giles; I don't think so. Wottever 'ud take her
to the country at this time o' year?"

"It's there she be," said Giles. "She knew as I wanted dreadful to 'ear
wot it were like, an' she 'ave gone. Oh Connie, you went to the country;
but she didn't guess that. She ha' gone--dear Sue 'ave--to find out all
for herself; an' she thought it 'ud be a rare bit of a s'prise for me. I
must make the most of it w'en I see her, and ax her about the flowers
and everything. She's sartin to be back to-day. Maybe, too, she could
get work at plain sewin' in the country; an' she an' me could live in a
little cottage, an' see the sun in the sky, and 'ear the birds a
singin'. It's a'most like 'eaven to think of the country--ain't it,
Connie?"

"Yus," said Connie, "the country's beautiful; but wicked people come out
o' Lunnon to it, an' then it's sad. An' there's no flowers a-growin' in
the fields and 'edges in the winter, Giles--an' there's no birds
a-singin'."

"Oh! but that 'ull come back," said Giles. "You can eat yer breakfast
now, Connie, an' then arter that we'll talk more about the country. You
_ain't_ goin' to work to-day--be you, Connie?"

"Oh no," said Connie; "I ha' lost that place, an' I dunno w'ere to find
another. But there's no hurry," she added, "and I like best now to be
along o' you."

Connie then ate her breakfast, and Giles lay with his eyes closed and a
smile of contentment on his face.

In the course of the morning there came an unlooked-for visitor.

A funny-looking, red-haired boy entered the room. Seeing Giles asleep,
he held up his finger warningly to Connie, and stealing on tiptoe until
he got opposite to her, he sat down on the floor.

"Wull, an' wottever do yer want?" asked Connie.

"Hush!" said the red-haired boy.

He pointed to Giles. This action on the part of a total stranger seemed
so absurd to Connie that she burst out laughing. The red-haired boy
never smiled. He continued to fix his round, light-blue eyes on her face
with imperturbable gravity.

"Wull," he exclaimed under his breath, "ef she ain't more of a
Cinderella than t' other! Oh, wouldn't the Prince give _her_ the glass
slipper! Poor, poor Cinderella at 'ome! _you've_ no chance now. Ain't
she jest lovely! I call her hangelic! My word! I could stare at that
'ere beauteous face for hiver."

As these thoughts crept up to the fertile brain of Pickles his lips
moved and he nodded his head, so that Connie really began to think he
was bewitched.

"Wottever do you want?" she whispered; and, fortunately for them both,
at that juncture Giles stirred and opened his eyes.

"That's right!" cried Pickles. "Now I can let off the safety-valve!"

He gave a sigh of relief.

"Whoever's he?" asked Giles, looking from the red-faced boy to Connie.
But before she had time to reply, Pickles sprang to his feet, made a
somersault up and down the room, then stood with his arms akimbo just in
front of Giles.

"I'm glad as you hintroduced the word 'he,' young un; hotherwise, from
the looks of yer both, you seems to liken me to a monster. Yer want to
know who's _he_? He's a boy--a full-grown human boy--something like
yerself, only not so flabby by a long chalk."

"But wot did you want? and wot's yer name, boy?" said Connie, who could
not help laughing again.

"Ah!" said Pickles, "now ye're comin' to the p'int o' bein' sensible,
young 'oman. I thought at first you could only drop hangelic speeches,
an' that you 'ailed from the hangel spheres; but now I see ye're a
gel--oh, quite the very purtiest I hiver laid heyes on. Now, as I've
spoke my true mind, I'll hanswer yer questions in a discreet an' pious
manner. My name is Pickles--Pickles, at yer sarvice."

"I never heered such a name in all my life," said Connie.

"Wery like not. I were christened by the proper name o' James; but no
James as ever walked 'ud hold me--it didn't fit no w'y; an' Pickles did.
So Pickles I am, an' Pickles I'll be to the end o' the chapter. Now, as
to wot I wants--w'y; I wants a talk with that mealy-faced chap wot looks
as if I'd heat him up alive."

"No, I don't," said Giles. "I were only thinking as you 'ad the wery
reddest 'air I iver see'd in my life."

"Personal remarks air considered ill-mannered, young man. And let me
tell yer as my hair's my special glory. But now to business. You can't
know, I guess, wot I wants yer for."

"No, I can't," said Giles.

"That's rum; and I to tike the trouble not only to wisit yer own most
respectable mansion, but to foller yer 'ere in the true sperrit of
kindness."

"Ye're wery good; but I can't guess wot ye're up to," answered Giles.

"Dear, dear! the silliness o' folks! Now, w'en a stranger seeks yer
hout, isn't it safe to s'pose as he brings news?"

"Wull, yes."

"Next clue--shall I 'elp yer a bit? You 'asn't, so to speak, lost
something lately--thimble, or a pair of scissors, or something o' that
sort?"

"Oh, it's Sue! It's my darling Sue;" exclaimed Giles, a light breaking
all over his face. "'As yer brought news of Sue, boy?"

"Be Sue a thimble, scissors, or a gel?"

"Oh! a gel, in course--my own dear, dear, only sister."

"A little, fat, podgy kind o' woman-gel, wid a fine crop o' freckles and
sandy hair?"

"Yes, yes; that's she. I have bin waiting fur her hall night. Where is
she? Please, please, Pickles, where is she?"

"Well, can't yer guess? Where 'ud she be likely ter be? She worn't a
wandering sort o' gel, as neglected her home duties, wor she?"

"Oh no! she never stayed out in hall her life afore."

"She worn't, so to speak, a gel as wor given to pilfer, and might be tuk
to cool herself in the lock-up."

"Never--never! Sue 'ud sooner die than take wot worn't her own; and I
wish I wor strong enough to punch yer head fur thinkin' sech a thing,"
said Giles, his face now crimson with indignation.

"Well, softly, softly, young un; I didn't say as she _did_ pilfer. I
think that 'ere podgy gel as honest as the day. But now, can't yer guess
where she his?"

"Oh yes! I can guess wery well," answered Giles, his face softening
down. "I guessed long ago--didn't I, Connie?"

"Well, now, wot hever did yer guess?" asked Pickles, in some amazement.

"Oh! there wor but one thing to guess. There were one dream as Sue and I
were halways dreaming, and she have gone off widout me at last, to see
wot it wor like. She'll be back hany moment, arter she have seen and
found hout hall she could. Sue have gone to the country, Pickles."

"Oh, my heyes! to the country!" exclaimed Pickles. His face grew
crimson, and he was obliged to leave his seat and walk to the window,
where he remained with his back to the others for nearly a minute, and
where he indulged in some smothered mirth.

When he turned round, however, he was as grave as a judge.

"You _are_ clever," he said to Giles.

"I'm right, ain't I?" asked Giles.

"In course; you're always as right as a trivet."

"Oh, I'm so glad! And does she find it wery beautiful?"

"Scrumptious! fairy-like! scrumptious!"

"Oh, how happy I am! And when 'ull she be back?"

"Well, that's the part as may moderate your raptures; she can't exactly
tell when. She sent me to tell yer as she don't exactly know. It may be
to-morrow; or, agen, it mayn't be fur a week, or even more. She's hever
so sorry, and she sends yer a whole pocketful o' love, but she can't
tell when she'll get back."

"But what is she stayin fur?"

"Oh! my heyes! wot is she staying fur? You wants ter live in a cottage
in the country, don't yer?"

"Why, yes, that's hour dream."

"Well, ha'n't she to find hout wot the price o' them are? Ha'n't she,
stoo-pid?"

"I s'pose so. Is that what she's staying fur?"

Pickles nodded.

"You don't never tell no lies, do you, boy?"

"I! Wot do yer take me fur? You can b'lieve me or not as yer pleases."

"Oh! I do b'lieve yer. Will yer take a message back to Sue?"

"Why, in course."

"Tell her to have two rooms in the cottage, and plenty o' flowers hall
round, and a big winder where I can look hout at the stars when I can't
sleep o' nights."

"Yes, I'll tell her faithful. Hanythink else?"

"Tell her as I love to think as she's in the country, but to come back
as fast as she can; and give--give her my wery best love. And you
wouldn't like to give her a kiss fur me?"

"Oh! my heye! yere's a rum go. Fancy me a-kissing Cind--I means Sue. No,
young un, I hasn't the wery least hobjection in life. I'll give her two
resounding smacks the wery minute as I sees her. Lor'! it will be fine
fun. Now, good-bye. I'll come and see yer soon agen.--Good-bye, my
beauty. I only wishes as it wor _you_ I wor axed ter kiss.--Good-bye,
Giles. I'll remember wot yer said 'bout that 'ere cottage."

"Be sure as the winders is big enough fur me to see the stars," called
out Giles after him.



CHAPTER XXIII.

AMATEUR DETECTIVE.


Mrs. Price had been blessed by nature with two sons, each as different
in manners, disposition, appearance, and tastes as the poles. William,
aged twenty, was dark, quiet-looking, with a grave and kind face. In
disposition he was as fine a fellow as ever breathed, thoughtful for
others, good to all, doing his duty because he loved and feared both God
and his mother. He was very reserved, and seldom spoke, but when he did
give utterance to his thoughts they were to the point and worth
listening to. Mrs. Price was often heard to say that the mere presence
of her elder son in the room gave her a sense of repose, that she felt
that she had some one to lean on--which in truth she had.

James, her second and younger son, had not one of his brother's
characteristics; he had no gentle courtesies, no quiet ways. Except when
asleep, he was never known to be still for a moment. One glance at his
fiery head, at his comical face, would show plainly that he was a very
imp of mischief. He was kind-hearted--he would not willingly injure the
smallest living thing--but his wild, ungovernable spirit, his sense of
the ludicrous in all and every circumstance, made him sometimes do
unintentional harm, and his mother had some difficulty in getting him
out of the scrapes into which he was always putting himself. No work he
had ever done had so delighted the boyish heart of James Price, _alias_
Pickles, as the capture of Sue from the hands of the police. The whole
story had a certain flavor about it which would be sure to captivate
such a nature as his. Sue was innocent; he was quite certain of that.
But then, as certainly some one else was guilty. Here, then, was a work
after his own heart; he would find out who the guilty party was. He had
a great deal of the detective about him; indeed, he had almost resolved
to join that body when he was grown-up.

He had brought Sue to his mother; and his mother, too, believing in the
girl's innocence, was yet much puzzled how to advise her or what to do
with her. Sue, being thoroughly drilled and frightened into such a
course by Pickles, had declared that nothing would induce her to go
home; for that if she did she would certainly be taken to prison, and
found guilty of a crime of which she was quite innocent. Mrs. Price,
too, felt that she could not counsel Sue to go back, though the agony of
the poor girl, when she thought of Giles waiting and longing for her,
was sad to witness.

To comfort her a little, Pickles went to see Giles, being warned by Sue
on no account to tell him the truth, which would, she said, absolutely
and at once break his heart.

Pickles, winking profoundly, told her to leave it to him. He went, and
Giles himself supplied him with an idea on which he was not slow to
work. Giles was fully persuaded that Sue was in the country, and might
not return for some days. He seemed more pleased than otherwise that she
should be so employed. Pickles was so delighted with his own success
that he danced a kind of hornpipe all the way home.

He found Sue by herself and very disconsolate, for Mrs. Price had gone
out on some errands.

The first thing he did was to go up to her and give her two very fierce
salutes, one on her brow, the other on the point of her chin.

"There, now," he said; "that 'ere little tender brother sent yer them."

"Oh Pickles! how is he? Is he wery cut up?" asked poor Cinderella,
raising a tearful face.

"Cut up? Not a bit o' him! Why, he's quite perky; he think as you has
gone to the country."

"Oh Pickles! how hever could he?"

"Well, listen, and I'll tell yer."

Pickles here related his whole interview, not forgetting to reproduce in
full all his own clever speeches, and his intense admiration for Connie.

"I'd do a great deal fur _you_, Cinderella," he said in conclusion; "fur
though ye're as ordinary a woman as I hiver met, yet still yer belongs
to the species, and I has a weakness fur the species; but oh, lor'! ef
it had been that 'ere Connie, why, I'd have a'most spilt my life-blood
fur that hangelic creature."

"Well, yer see, it wor only me," said Sue, not a little piqued.

"Yes, it wor only you. But now, wot do you think of it all?"

"Oh! I'm wery glad and thankful that Giles is wid Connie. He wor halways
fond of Connie, and I'm real pleased as he thinks as I'm gone to the
country--that 'ull satisfy him ef hanythink will, fur he have sech a
longing fur it, poor feller! But oh, Pickles! I do hope as you didn't
tell him no lies, to make him so keen upon it."

"No--not I. I only nodded and made-believe as he wor clever. No, I wor
careful o' the utterances o' the tongue, which is an unruly member."

"Well, I'm glad," said Sue. "I only hope as it ain't wrong to deceive
him."

"No, it ain't a bit wrong; don't you go a fussing about nothink. But now
you have got to listen to me, fur I have got something most serious to
talk over."

"I'll listen," replied Sue.

"Good! And wot little bit o' brain you have you may stick inter the
listening, too, fur you will presently have to think a deal."

"Wery well," answered Sue, who had long ago come to consider Pickles the
greatest oracle she had ever seen.

Pickles planted himself on his knees in front of her, and having placed
one hand firmly on each leg, bent forward until he brought himself into
what he considered a telling position with regard to her face.

"Ef yer want to unearth a secret, stare 'em well right inter the heyes,"
was one of his detective principles.

"Now, Cinderella," he began, "you say as ye're hinnercent o' that 'ere
theft?"

"You know I am," answered Sue.

"And yet that 'ere wauluable trinket wor found in yer pocket."

"Well, I can't help that."

"I'm afraid yer can't, Cinderella; and a wery ugly business it is fur
yer; it 'ud bring yer in guilty in hany court wot hiver."

"I know that, Pickles--I know that only too well; that's why I'm here."

"An' you must stay yere until ye're proved hinnercent."

"Yes."

"Well, that may be awkward--not fur us, but fur poor, little tender
Giles. He thinks as ye're gone to the country, and I give him to
understand as yer would not be back fur maybe a day or two. But he's
hall on a quiver fur yer to come back now; he's hall on a tremble to
know wot the country is like. He says ye're to get a cottage as have a
big winder in it, fur he wants to see the stars o' nights. Now, I think
by the looks o' Giles as he'll fade away wery quick ef yer don't come
back soon."

"Oh, I know it--I know it!" said Sue. "What shall I do? Ef I do go back
I shall be tuk ter prison. Oh! oh! oh!" and she began to weep.

"Don't cry, you silly! Cryin' never mended no broken bones. You dry your
eyes and listen when the oracle speaks."

"I will," said Sue, endeavoring to check her sobs.

"Well then, yer hinnercence must be proved. The way to prove yer
hinnercence is to find hout _who_ put that 'ere trinket in yer pocket."

"Oh Pickles! I don't--I don't think hany one could be so wicked."

"Bless yer, gel! yer hasn't gone about and seen life like me. 'Tis a
wicked world, Cinderella. Some one put that locket in yer pocket; ef it
worn't yerself, it wor another."

"I don't know why hany one should do it," said Sue.

"You leave that to me. The reason is a mystery; the person wot did it is
a mystery; it remains fur this yere child"--giving his breast a great
slap--"to unravel them both. Now, Cinderella, wot kind o' man wor that
'ere Peter Harris wot went wid yer to the shop?"

"He wor a wery rough kind o' man," said Sue, "and he often drank. He wor
in trouble jest then 'bout Connie. Connie is his daughter. She wor away
fur a bit, and had come back, and he wanted to give her a ring, and, as
I telled yer, we went inter the shop to buy her one."

"And had that 'ere Harris much money?"

"He didn't say as he hadn't; he gave a sovereign to pay fur the ring."

"Don't yer think, Cinderella, as it wor _he_ put the locket in your
pocket?"

"Indeed I don't," answered Sue, in great indignation. "He wor a bit
rough, and used to drink a good deal, but I never heerd mortal say as he
worn't as honest a man as ever stepped. Besides, Pickles, he wor a
friend to me, and I wor a friend to Connie, and even ef he wished to do
something so desperate wicked he couldn't, fur I wor at the other side
o' the shop a'most."

"All the same," replied Pickles, shaking his fiery head, "I believe as
he did it. 'Tis a desperate big mystery, but I means to clear it hup, so
you leave it ter me, Cinderella."



CHAPTER XXIV.

MOTHER AND SON.


That night Mrs. Price and her younger son had a conversation.

"I do not want to send her away, Jamie," she said when they had
discoursed with much interest for some time. "She shall and must stay
here for the present; but it cannot go on always, for what would the
poor little brother do? If Cinderella is the bread-winner, and Cinderella
can earn no bread, the poor little fellow will starve."

James Price, _alias_ Pickles, was looking very sober, even thoughtful.

"It tuk a deal o' time to save hup, and 'tis rare and comforting to
reflect on having it--but there's my half-crown," he said.

"Bless you, my laddie! it will help a trifle, but half-a-crown won't
feed the smallest eater for long."

"Then, mother, you know I allow no one ter dictate ter me but you. Wot's
to be done? Ere we to betray the hinnercent?"

"No, my lad--no. I confess I am sorely puzzled."

"But I ain't," said Pickles, who had knowingly brought his mother round
to make this confession. "I ain't puzzled the least bit in life, fur I
_know_ who is the real thief."

"Now, Jamie, what do you mean?"

"Mother, it were the man as went with Cinderella inter the shop; it wor
he wot stole the locket and then put it inter her pocket. I don't know
how he did it, nor why he did it, but I do know that _did_ do it."

"Oh! my dear boy, in your love of mystery you are allowing your
imagination to run away with you. I do not think any one would be so
wicked."

"Never you mind, mother; take it on trust as there's that much
wickedness in this yer world. Be thankful ye're hout o' the way o'
hearing o' what's disgusting to dwell on, but this yere is a mystery as
must be cleared hup. How do you s'pose, mother, as the locket did get
inter Cinderella's pocket?"

"It may have slipped in as she stood by the counter."

"Oh, come, mother! that 'ud go down wid no jury as hiver walked. No, no;
b'lieve me as 'tis as I say; and wot's more, 'tis my business to prove
the truth o' my thoughts. There's a mystery, but James Price, _alias_
Pickles, 'ull unravel it. You keep Cinderella fur a week yere, mother,
and I'll engage as the guilty party confesses by the end o' that time."

"I will keep the little girl as long as is necessary, Pickles. But do be
careful. Do not allow your vivid imagination to make you unjust to
others."

"You leave it ter me, mother. You jest promise faithful to keep
Cinderella fur a bit, and I'll do the rest."

"Yes, Jamie," said Mrs. Price, "I certainly will make that promise."

"That's a brick o' a mother. And now I'm off to bed, fur there's nothing
like sleep when the brain is much exercised, as mine is at present."



CHAPTER XXV.

ABOUT RONALD.


While poor Harris was trying to soothe the agonies of his conscience by
being specially and extra good to Giles, and while Giles, who under
Connie's care was recovering a certain measure of strength, and poor
little Sue was still acting the part of Cinderella with Pickles as her
champion, another child who plays an important part in this story was
gradually recovering health and strength.

When Ronald was well enough, to come downstairs, and then to walk across
Mrs. Anderson's pretty little parlor, and on a certain fine day to go
out with her for a walk, the good lady thought it was full time to make
inquiries with regard to his relations.

She questioned her son George on the subject, and this gallant young
fireman gave her what advice he could.

"No, don't employ detectives, mother," said George. "Somehow I hate the
whole lot of them. Keep Ronald as long as you want to; he's a dear
little chap, and a gentleman by birth, and he loves you too."

"I want to keep him, George; the child is the greatest delight and
comfort to me. He is very unlike other children--very sensitive and
delicate. But I do think that if he has relations they ought to know of
his whereabouts."

"You have questioned him, of course, on the matter," said George
Anderson.

"No--not much; he hasn't been strong enough. I think, too, the severe
illness he has undergone, and the terrible frights he has been subject
to, have to a certain extent affected his mind; and beyond the fact that
he is always looking for his father, and hoping that his father may walk
in, he never talks about the old days."

"Well, mother," said George, "I must be off now; duty time is close at
hand." As he spoke he rose from the seat by the fire which he had been
enjoying in his mother's room.

"Of course, there is little doubt that Major Harvey is dead; but you
could call at the War Office and inquire, mother, couldn't you?"

"Yes, I could and will; and I won't employ detectives, my boy. You may
be certain of one thing--that I don't want to part with the child."

The next day after breakfast, Mrs. Anderson felt that it was time to
question Ronald with regard to his past life.

"You are quite well now, Ronald," she said.

"Yes," said Ronald, "ever so strong. I feel brave, too," he added; "it
would take a very great deal to frighten me now. A soldier's boy should
be brave," he continued, that pleading, pathetic look coming into his
dark eyes, which gave such a special charm to his little face.

"This soldier's boy is very brave," said Mrs. Anderson, patting his
little hand, as the child stood close to her.

"My father was a V. C., ma'am," remarked Ronald in a soft tone.

"You're very proud of that, Ronald--you have good reason to be," said
his friend. "But now, dear, I seriously want to ask you a few questions.
You have told me about Connie, and about some of your dreadful life with
Mammy Warren. I am anxious that you should try to forget all these
terrible things as much as possible."

"Oh! but, please, I never could forget dear Connie."

"I don't want you to forget her. I have been planning a delightful
surprise for you with regard to her. But other things you can forget."

"There's another person I don't want to forget," said Ronald; "that is
the good woman in the country who gave me delicious new-laid eggs and
chops and chicken. Mrs. Cricket was her name. I used to think of _The
Cricket on the Hearth_ often when I was looking at her. She was very
like one, you know--such a cosy, purring sort of woman."

"How long were you with her, Ronald?"

"I don't remember going to her," said Ronald, shaking his head; "but
perhaps I was too ill. But I do remember being with her, and the little
path in the wood, and how I gradually got better, and how she petted me.
And I remember Connie coming down the path looking like an angel; but
Connie was the only bright thing for me to think about that dreadful
day. But oh, please--please, Mrs. Anderson! poor Mrs. Cricket! Father
hasn't come back, you know--he is coming, of course, but he hasn't come
yet--and no one has paid Mrs. Cricket!"

"No one has paid her, dear?"

"Nobody at all. Mammy Warren said to her that father would pay her, but
I know now it must have been all a lie."

"I am very much afraid it was," said Mrs. Anderson. "That Mammy Warren
was a dreadful woman. Well, Ronald, I must try and get Mrs. Cricket's
address, and we'll send her some money; and some day perhaps--there's no
saying when--you may be able to go back to her. Would you like to see
her again?"

"Very, very much," said the child, "if Mammy Warren doesn't come to
fetch me."

"Very well: I will endeavor to get her address. Perhaps Connie could
tell me."

"Oh! perhaps she could," said Ronald; "for _I_ couldn't. I haven't a
notion where she lived, except that it was far in the country, and the
cottage was _teeny_--just two rooms, you know--and there was a pretty
wood outside, and the horse-chestnuts lying on the ground."

"But now, Ronald, I want you to go farther back. Tell me of things that
happened when--when your mother was alive."

"I--I'll try," said the boy.

"Go on, dear--tell me all you can."

"It's very difficult," said Ronald. "I remember little bits, and then I
forget little bits."

"I don't want you to worry yourself, dear; but can you recall anybody
ever calling to see your mother--anybody who might be a relation of
yours?"

"There was the old gentleman, of course," said Ronald.

"Who, dear?"

"He was very old, and he wore glasses, and his hair was white. He most
times made mother cry, so I--I used to be sorry when he came."

"Can you recall his name?"

"Mother used to call him Uncle Stephen; but he was not her relation--he
was father's. I think he always scolded mother; she used to look
dreadfully bad after he was gone. I don't want to see _him_ again."

"But he may have had a kind heart."

"Oh, I don't know," said Ronald. "I don't want to see him again."

"Do you think, by chance, that his name was Harvey?"

"I don't know. I think he in a sort of way belonged to father."

"Then," said Mrs. Anderson, "I guess that his name was Harvey. Now, I
won't question you any more, Ronald. You may sit up and play with your
bricks."

Ronald played happily enough, and Mrs. Anderson, after thinking for a
few minutes, wrote out an advertisement. The advertisement ran as
follows:

"If a gentleman who was called Uncle Stephen by a little boy, son of the
late Major Harvey, who was supposed to have been killed in action at
Ladysmith on ----, would wish to know anything of the same boy, he can
get full particulars from Mrs. Anderson, 12 Carlyle Terrace,
Westminster."

This advertisement was put into the _Times_, the _Standard_, the
_Telegraph_, and in fact, into all the daily newspapers. It appeared
once, and Mrs. Anderson sat--as she expressed it--with her heart in her
mouth for a whole day. But nothing happened: nobody came to inquire;
there was no letter on the subject of the little son of brave Major
Harvey. On the second day of the advertisement Mrs. Anderson felt a
great relief in her heart.

"After I have advertised for a whole week," she said to herself, "I
shall, I think, have done my duty, and perhaps I shall be allowed to
keep the dear child."

She had looked, and felt, very sad on the first day of the
advertisement, but on the second day she was more cheerful, and
suggested to Ronald that Connie should come and have tea with him.

Ronald was delighted, and clapped his hands in glee. Mrs. Anderson wrote
a little note to Connie, slightly blaming her for not coming to see her,
but begging her to call that afternoon and have tea with Ronald. Connie
was greatly delighted when she got the letter.

"May I go, Giles? Do yer mind?" she asked.

"In course not," answered Giles. "Why should I mind? Yer'll dress
yerself in yer wery best, Connie, and I'll like well to look at yer
afore yer goes out, an' w'en yer comes back."

So Connie put on her dark-blue costume once more, and brushed out her
mane of golden hair and let it hang down her back; for she knew that
Ronald would scarcely recognize her deprived of this ornament. Then,
having left his tea all ready for Giles, she ran quickly in the
direction of Mrs. Anderson's house.

She arrived there at four o'clock in the afternoon, to see a little face
pressed up close to the pane of glass, and eager eyes watching for her.
When she appeared on the steps little hands began to clap, and there was
an eager rush of footsteps and then Ronald himself opened the door.

"Oh Connie, Connie!" he said, "come in--do, do come in!"

"How be yer, Ronald?" asked Connie.

"I'm as well as well can be, and I'm happy, too. Mrs. Anderson is just a
beautiful old lady, and so very good to me! But come and tell me all
about yourself. You and I are to have tea all alone in this room. We
will have fun. Why, Connie dear, how lovely you look!"

Connie told Ronald that he also looked lovely, and the two children sat
down side by side, while Ronald related the little bit of his story
which had transpired since Connie saw him last.

"I was very ill," he said, "for a bit, and silly, and--and cowardly. But
a wonderful man came to see me, and he talked--oh, so beautifully!--and
then I got better; and Mrs. Anderson has been more than good to me--no
one was ever so good to me before except father. She tells me, Connie,
that I must not keep looking out for father; for if he can come he will,
and if he can't I've just got to wait with patience. The street
preacher, too, talked about patience. It's a little bit hard to be very
patient, isn't it, Connie?"

"Yus," said Connie.

"Oh! and, Connie, some day perhaps you and I may go and stay with Mrs.
Cricket in the country, and Mrs. Anderson is going to send her money for
the chickens and fresh eggs and things. But I can't remember where the
country is--can you, Connie?"

"We got out at a plice called Eastborough, an' the cottage wor a ivy
cottage down a lane."

"Ivy Cottage--of course!" said Ronald. "How stupid of me to have
forgotten! Now it's all right, and dear Mrs. Cricket will get her
money."

When Ronald had told all his story Connie told all hers. In especial she
told about Giles, and about poor Sue, who had vanished just as suddenly
and completely as she (Connie) and Ronald himself on a certain day had
disappeared from their friends.

"It's very, very queer," said Ronald. "Connie," he added, "I want to see
that little boy. Can't you take me back to him now--can't you?"

"Yus," said Connie, "I could; but would it be right?"

"We'll ask Mrs. Anderson," said Ronald, "I'm certain sure she won't
mind. You know the way there; you won't let yourself be kidnapped any
more, will you, Connie?"

"No," said Connie.

Then tea was brought in, and the children enjoyed it. But Ronald could
think of nothing but Giles and his earnest desire to see him. Once again
he begged and implored of Connie to take him, just to sit for a few
minutes by the little cripple's side, and Connie again said that Mrs.
Anderson ought to know.

It was just at that moment that a cab drew up at the door, and out of
the cab there stepped a white-headed old man, who came ponderously up
the steps, leaning on a gold-headed stick. He rang the bell with a loud
peal. Ronald began to listen.

"Who can it be?" he said. He ran to the window, and looking out, saw the
cab waiting; but he missed the sight of the old gentleman, whom
doubtless he would have recognized; and the neat little parlor-maid went
to open the door, and then the labored steps were heard in the hall, and
the drawing-room door was opened and shut, and there was silence.

"A visitor for my dear new aunty," said Ronald. "I always call her my
aunty, and she likes it very much. Oh Connie, do take me just to see
Giles! I know it isn't wrong, and I should be quite safe with you."

"First of all," said Connie, "we'll ring the bell and ask if we may
speak to Mrs. Anderson for a minute."

"Very well," said Ronald; "only I 'spect she's busy with the person who
has called."

Anne came to answer the children's summons, and told them that her
mistress was particularly engaged and could not be disturbed.

"That's all right," answered Ronald; "you can go away now, please. You
needn't take the tea-things just for a bit. You can go away, please,
Anne."

Anne, who was devoted to Ronald, thought that the children wanted to
play together, and left them alone in the little parlor. The light was
growing dim, and Connie poked the fire into a blaze.

"I ought to be goin' back," she said. "Giles 'ull want me. I'll come
another day, Ronald, and Mrs. Anderson'll let me bring yer back to Giles
then."

"No, no--to-day," said Ronald--"to-day--to-night--this minute. It isn't
wrong. I must see him. You'll take me to see him, and then you'll bring
me back, won't you, Connie?"

"W'y, yus," said Connie. "I s'pose it ain't wrong; but you can't do more
nor set down in the room for about five minutes, Ronald, for yer'll 'ave
to get back 'ere quite early, you know."

Ronald, delighted at any sort of consent on the part of his little
friend, rushed upstairs to fetch his velvet cap and his little overcoat.
But he forgot, and so did Connie, all about the thin house-shoes he was
wearing. Soon he had slipped into the coat, and cramming the cap on his
head and looking up at Connie with a gay laugh, said:

"Now we'll come."

They were in the hall, and had just opened the hall door, when suddenly
that of the drawing-room was opened, and the old man, who helped himself
along with a stick, came out. Ronald looked back and caught sight of
him; but Ronald himself being in shadow, the old man did not notice him.
The old man then spoke in a loud voice:

"It is all settled, then, and I will call to-morrow morning at ten
o'clock to fetch back the boy. Have him ready. And now, good-day to you,
madam."

But the old gentleman suddenly stopped as he uttered these words, for
the hall door was slammed by some one else with violence, and Ronald
turned a white face up to Connie.

"It's himself--it's Uncle Stephen. He made mother cry and cry. I won't
go back to him. I won't be his boy. Hide me--hide me, Connie!"

Connie herself felt very much frightened.

"Come along 'ome with me," she said. "He can't get yer at my 'ome. Don't
shrink like that, Ronald. Be a man, dear Ronald."

The children got back to Connie's rooms without any special adventure.
There Giles was waiting with that peaceful look on his face which seemed
more or less to quiet every one who came in his way. He smiled all over
his little face when he saw Connie, and then his eyes grew big and
surprised as he noticed the small boy who kept her company.

"Why are yer back so soon, Connie?" he said. "I warn't not one little
bit lonesome. And 'oo's he?" said Giles.

"This is my dear little friend Ronald," said Connie.

"And I wanted to see you awful bad," said Ronald, running up to Giles,
flinging his cap on the floor, and kneeling down by him. "I have thought
of you--oh, so much! It was you, you know, who taught me to endure to
the end. Did Connie tell you about that?"

"Yes," said Giles, "she told me."

Ronald looked up at Connie. Giles watched the two, and then he held out
his little hand and touched Ronald's.

"You're wery brave," he said. "You had a brave father."

"He is a V. C. man. He's coming to see me one day," said Ronald.

"I know," said Giles. "It's real supporting to 'ave a brave father. I
have one too."

"Have you?" said Ronald. "And is he coming to see you one day?"

"No--I'm goin' to 'im. Don't let's talk about it now."

Ronald sat down on the side of Giles's crimson and gold bed, and glanced
round the room. Connie lit a paraffin lamp and put it on the table. In
his first excitement at seeing Giles, Ronald forgot the mad terror which
had awakened in him at the sound of Uncle Stephen's voice. But now he
remembered.

"I have come to stay," he remarked emphatically.

"Oh no, Ronald, you can't," exclaimed Connie.

"I am not going back," exclaimed Ronald. "Giles, I needn't, need I?
There's a dreadful man coming to-morrow, and he's going to take me away
from my darling aunty. I won't go. I'll hide here with you, Giles."

"Will yer?" said Giles. "That 'ull be real pain to yer aunty, won't it?"

"Real pain?" said Ronald. "But Connie can tell her. Connie needn't say
where I am. She can just tell that I heard Uncle Stephen's voice, and
that I am hiding. I can't go back, can I, Giles--can I?"

"Dunno," said Giles; but a wistful expression came into his face.

"Why do you look like that?" asked Ronald.

"Sometimes one 'as to do things one can't do," was Giles's next rather
difficult remark.

"But this is really silly," said Ronald, "for we can do the things we
can do."

"Course not--not by ourselves," said Giles. "But if we're to endure to
the end, why, 'E'll help."

"You remind me of that awful fire," said Ronald.

He jumped up and walked across the room. His eyes were dim; his heart
was beating with great rapidity, for he was still weak and had gone
through much. Oh, that cruel, cruel old man who had made his mother cry
so often! He thought upon him with a growing terror.

Connie looked at Ronald, and then she glanced at Giles and her eyes said
to Giles:

"Help me all you can about Ronald." Then Giles called her to him.

"Leave Ronald with me for a bit," he said. "Go back and tell Mrs.
Anderson; but leave little Ronald with me."

Connie immediately went out; but Ronald was so absorbed in trying to
quiet his beating heart, and in trying to recover his courage, that he
did not even know when she closed the door after her.

Connie ran as quickly as she could all the way to Carlyle Terrace. There
she rang a loud peal at the front door. It was Mrs. Anderson herself who
opened it to her.

"Oh Connie!" said the widow, "thank God! Have you brought news of
Ronald? What _has_ happened, Connie--what _has_ happened?"

Connie immediately entered the house.

"May I speak to yer, ma'am?" she said.

"Certainly; but where is the boy?"

"He's quite safe, ma'am--he's with Giles."

"Why did he go out? He did very wrong."

"I did wrong too," said Connie. "I tuk him. He's frightened, ma'am.
Ronnie's rare and frightened. He heered wot the old gentleman said."

"How could he hear?" said Mrs. Anderson.

Connie told.

"'Tain't true, ma'am, is it?" said Connie. "Yer wouldn't niver, niver,
let little Ronald go away?"

"Yes, but I must. I am very sad. I wish I needn't send him; but the
gentleman who called to-day is his father's uncle, and his nearest
relation in the world. Connie, you must bring Ronald home. I will go
with you myself to fetch him."

"Oh, ma'am," said Connie, beginning to sob, "it 'ull break his 'eart."

"No, Connie," answered Mrs. Anderson. "Hearts like Ronald's--brave and
true and faithful--don't break; they endure. Besides that, the old
gentleman--Mr. Harvey--will not be unkind to him; I am certain of that."

So Connie and Mrs. Anderson returned side by side to the house where
Giles and Ronald were waiting for them.

When they entered they saw a picture which Mrs. Anderson could never
forget: the dying boy, with his radiant face, lying on the bed
half-supported by pillows, the crimson and gold coverlet making a
wonderful patch of color; and Ronald, the tears still wet on his cheeks,
but his eyes very bright, his lips firm, his whole attitude that of a
soldier's child.

The moment he saw Mrs. Anderson he went up to her.

"I am ashamed," he said. "Giles has told me the son of a V. C. man
should not be a coward. It is all right--I am going back."

Mrs. Anderson pressed the boy's hand.

"I knew you wouldn't disappoint me, Ronald," she said. Then she turned
and talked a little longer to Giles. She saw how weak the child was, and
knew, with a woman's perception, what a very little time longer he had
to live in this old world.

"My sister's in the country, ma'am," said Giles in his brightest manner.
"She's looking for a little house for her an' me--two winders in our
room--that's wot Sue an' me thought we 'ud like--and iverythink wery
purty. Sue may be back any day. She's takin' a good bit of a time
a-lookin' for the 'ouse; but she'll find it, an' then I'll go there."

"But are you strong enough to be moved, Giles?" inquired Mrs. Anderson.

"Yus," said Giles in his confident tone, "quite strong enough. I want to
see the country, and to live in it for a spell, afore I go right 'ome to
the best Country of all. Sue's lookin' out; she'll be back--oh, any day,
for she knows the time's short."

"Giles," said Connie, "you're too tired to talk any more."

She gave the boy some of his restorative medicine, and Ronald went up
and kissed him. "Don't forget," said Giles, "brave fathers----"

"Not me!" answered Ronald. "Brave fathers for ever!" Then Ronald went
away.

Mrs. Anderson took his hand and led him back to the house. She did not
scold him for going out with Connie. She did not mean to reproach him at
all; he had made a great victory; she felt proud of him. When supper had
come to an end she called the boy to her:

"Ronald dear, I wish to say something. If you were a coward to-day, so
was I."

"You--my aunt?" said Ronald. "Oh no--no!"

"Yes. I didn't want to part with you."

Ronald shivered.

"Won't you ever see me any more?"

"I hope so. Mr. Harvey was very kind."

"Is his name Harvey--same as mine?"

"Yes, darling; he is your father's uncle, and your father lived with him
in his old place in Somersetshire when he was a boy. He loved your
father. He'll tell you lots of stories about him."

"About when does he expect father home?" asked Ronald.

"He doesn't know. Perhaps, Ronald--perhaps--never."

But here Ronald gave himself a little shake.

"I know father's coming back," he said--"feel it in my bones."

There was silence then between the woman and the boy. After a long time
Ronald spoke:

"He made mother cry, all the same."

"He told me about that. He wasn't really unkind to her. I, on the whole,
like him, Ronald, and I think you can do a lot for him--I think your
father would wish it."

"Would he?" said Ronald, his eyes sparkling.

"I think so. I expect God wants you to help him. He's a hard old man
because he has no one to love him, but he did care for your father."

Ronald flung his arms round Mrs. Anderson's neck and kissed her.

That night it must be owned that he slept badly; and early--very
early--in the morning he awoke.

"Times is pretty bad," thought the boy to himself; "and there's lots o'
battles round. But oh, Giles! brave fathers for ever! You and me won't
disgrace our fathers, will we, Giles?"

Then he got up and dressed himself, and went downstairs and waited until
Mrs. Anderson arrived. As soon as she entered the room he said one word
to her--"When?"

"Ten o'clock," said Mrs. Anderson. It was eight o'clock then.

"Two hours more," said Ronald.

During those two hours he was very busy. He packed his bricks, and
helped Mrs. Anderson to put his very scanty wardrobe into a very tiny
trunk. The time went by. Ten o'clock struck, and, sharp to the minute, a
cab drew up at the door.

Out of the cab the old gentleman stepped. He entered the hall. He was a
very fussy old man, and did not want a young child to live in the house
with him. He expected, too, that Mrs. Harvey's boy--he had undoubtedly a
great contempt for poor young Harvey--would be a miserable, dwindled,
wretched sort of creature. But, lo and behold! a little chap with head
well thrown back, his eyes bright and lips brave, stepped up to him.

"Here I am, Uncle Stephen. I am Ronald. How do you do?"

"Bless my soul!" said the old man. "Let me look at you."

He drew the boy round so as to get the light on his face.

"'Pon my word!" he said, "you are not the sort of little chap I
expected. You're uncommon like your father."

Ronald flushed with pride. Mr. Harvey came into the parlor and had a
little talk with Mrs. Anderson.

"I am indeed indebted to you, madam," he said. "This boy is so
surprisingly like my nephew that I could almost fancy the years had gone
back and I was teaching the little chap to take his first gallop.--Your
father was game on a horse, my lad."

"Yes, sir," said Ronald, nodding his head. "'Spect so, sir," he added.
The old gentleman chucked him under the chin and uttered a laugh.

"Well, boy, we must be going," he said. "We mustn't keep your kind
friend. You will let me know, madam, for what I am indebted to you."

"For nothing, sir," said Mrs. Anderson. A crimson color rushed into her
face. "It has been a labor of love to help this dear little fellow. I
could take no money; you mustn't even mention it, sir."

"Well, madam--well--I respect your proper pride, and anything I can
do---- By the way--eh, Ronald?--there's no saying, but I might invite
your friend down to the country.--Do you know Somersetshire, madam?"

"I used to know it very well when I was a girl. My people lived in
Somersetshire."

"Then perhaps you will come and pay us a visit, and see Ronald after he
has learned the full use of the saddle and bridle--eh, Ronald?"

"Oh--aunty! Will you come?" said Ronald.

"I will, darling.--I should like it very much indeed, Mr. Harvey; it is
most kind of you to ask me."

"But please--please," said Ronald, who had suddenly lost all his fear,
"may Connie come, too?"

"Who's Connie?"

"My special friend and sister."

"Ho, ho!" said the old man. "I must hear more about her. Can make no
rash promises. But all right, little chap; I'll do what I can for you.
Now, if you had taken after---- Well, never mind--I won't say anything to
hurt you."

"And, please," said Ronald suddenly, "of course you wouldn't pay my
aunty, for the things she did can't be paid for. But poor Mrs.
Cricket--aunty, I know her address. The place in the country is called
Eastborough; and it's Ivy Cottage, aunty; and--she was good to me----"

"Yes," said Mrs. Anderson, "you'll let me explain, please, Mr. Harvey.
This dear little boy spent a month at Mrs. Cricket's, and she was never
paid a penny."

"She ought to be paid," said Ronald. "Course, when father returns he'll
pay you back again. But she ought to get it, for there was real new-laid
eggs, and the chickens were so tender."

"'Pon my word," said the old gentleman, "you're a queer boy! I guess
you've got the true Harvey blood in you. Never neglect a friend--eh? And
never owe a penny. Well now, madam, will you see to this? And what
amount of money ought I to give you for the woman?"

Mrs. Anderson named what she thought would be a correct sum, and
immediately afterwards the old gentleman produced the money from his
waistcoat pocket.

It was a hard moment for Ronald when he said good-bye, but after he got
into the cab he could not help feeling both surprised and elated. He
could not help staring and staring at the old gentleman.

"Was it your photograph," he said at last, "that my father kept in his
dressing-room?"

"I expect so," said the old gentleman.

"It's surprising," said Ronald, "how I forget. But now I remember. He
loved you--he used to talk to me about you. He said it was you taught
him first to be brave."

"Bless him--bless him!" said the old gentleman.

His voice got a little raspy; it is certain that his eyes were a little
dim.

"Perhaps," said Ronald--he had a marvelous way of comprehending the
situation--"but for you he would not have been a V. C. man."

"God bless you! It was in himself--he had the noblest heart, the
grandest nature! There, boy! don't upset me. 'Pon my word! I hated the
thought of having you---- And I hated going to you," said Ronald;
"but----"

The old face looked into the young face, and the young face looked into
the old face, and then they both laughed.

Before they reached the old gentleman's hotel Ronald had so far advanced
to a friendly footing that he had peered into the contents of the old
man's pocket, had pulled out his watch, had applied it to his ear, and
had even gone the amazing length of demanding one for himself.



CHAPTER XXVI.

TWO CUPS OF COFFEE.


When Harris parted from Giles and Connie--on the very same day that
Connie had gone to tea with Ronald, on the very same day that Ronald had
visited Giles--he was as troubled and miserable as man could be. There
was but one brave thing for him to do--he ought to confess his sin.

Where Sue could be he had not the faintest idea. Why was she absent? It
was days now since she had left her home--Sue, of all people--Sue, with
a little delicate brother like Giles. It was unlike her to go. There
could be but one reason. Harris had taken means to ascertain whether
poor Sue had been up before the magistrates. He knew enough about the
law, and about crime generally, to know that she would be taken up for
theft to Bow Street; but beyond doubt she had never gone there. Where in
all the world could she be? Harris was by no means sufficiently sorry to
give himself up for conscience's sake; but he was in a state of
nervousness and great distress of mind.

As he walked down a side-street, his hands in his pockets, his rough fur
cap--which he generally wore slouched--well off his eyes, he was
suddenly accosted by a red-haired boy, who looked at him with a very
innocent face and inquired meekly "ef he were lookin' for a job."

"None o' yer sauce, youngster," said Harris, passing on.

"I don't mean the least sauce in life, master," said the red-haired boy,
still in the most humble and gentle tone. "I only thought ef we were
goin' in the same direction we might p'rhaps cheer each other up."

"You're a likely youngster, you ere," he said, looking down at him with
the grimmest of smiles.

"Yus, my mother says as I'm well grown for my hage," replied Pickles;
and then, keeping pace with the tall man, he began to whistle softly.

Harris returned to his interrupted thoughts, and soon forgot the small
boy, who had to run to keep up with his long strides. Suddenly the
little boy exclaimed in a shrill, eager treble:

"I say, mister!"

"Wot now, young 'un?"

"You ain't of a wery obleeging turn, be yer? You couldn't help me, now,
ter find a guilty party?"

"You seems a wery rum chap," said Harris rather crossly.

"I don't know nothink 'bout yer guilty parties. There, be off, can't
yer!"

"I'll be off in a twinkle, master. I ain't rum a bit; my mother allers
said as I wor a real quiet boy; but when my heart is full to bustin' it
seems a relief to talk to a body, and you, tho' yer puts on bein'
fierce, have a kind nature."

"Now, what hever do yer mean by that?"

"Master, you must furgive a wery timid and heasily repulsed boy; but it
ain't possible, even fur one so known to be frightened as me, to be
feared of yer. I reads yer kindness in yer heyes, master, and so I makes
bold to tell my tale o' woe."

"Well, tell away," said Harris, who could not help laughing and looking
a little less gruff than before.

"You wouldn't be inclined, now, that we should have hour talk hover a
pint of hot coffee? There's a heatin-house where the young man have took
down the shutters and is dusting away in a manner as his real
appetizing. I has fourpence in my pocket. You wouldn't mind my treating
yer, jest fer once, would yer?"

"Not in the least, youngster. I think it'll be a wery sensible use to
put yer money to, and a deal more prudent than spending it in marbles or
street plays."

"Master, my mother don't allow me to play at marbles, or to hindulge in
street wanities, so I has the money and can afford ter be generous. Now
let's enter. I smells the coffee a-grinding hup fur hour breakfasts
halready."

So Harris and Pickles went in to the eating-house, where in a moment or
two, over two steaming cups of excellent coffee, Pickles proceeded to
unburden himself of his story.

"It is only a few days agone, master, as the occurrence as distresses me
happened. I wor walking along a certain street wot shall be nameless. I
wor walking along bravely, as is my wont, and thinking of my mother,
when I see'd a young gel a-flying past me. She wor a wery short, stout
gel, and her legs they quite waggled as she ran. I never see'd a gel run
so wery hard afore, and I pricked hup my senses to guess wot it hall
meant. Soon wor the mystery explained. I heerd ahind of her the cry of
'Stop thief!' and a number of men and boys were a-giving of her chase. I
thought as I'd run wid 'em and see what it hall meant.

"Presently we shall come up wid the gel. There she wor in the arms of a
policeman. He wor a-clutching of her, and trying to find hout wot wor
the matter; but she wor so blown she couldn't speak fur a good bit. Then
hup comes a man wot said as he had a pawnshop, and that inter the
pawnshop had come a man and a gel ter buy a ring, and when they come
hout there wor a diamond locket missing. He said as either the gel or
the man 'ad tuk the locket; and as the man could not be found, he must
get the policeman to search the gel. The poor fat gel, she looked quite
scared, and said as she hadn't done it; but the nipper said as she must
be searched, and he put in his hand inter her pocket and drew hout the
diamond locket. She said as she had never put it there. But, in course,
it worn't ter be expected as they'd believe her, so she were tuk orf ter
prison. She wor tuk orf ter prison--I see'd her myself."

Here Pickles paused. Nothing could have been more refined and delicate
than the use he had made of his eyes during this narrative; only very
quick and fleeting glances did he bestow upon his companion.

When Harris at the commencement of his tale started and changed color,
Pickles dropped a piece of bread, and stayed under the table looking for
it until the man had quite recovered his composure. When his short story
had come to an end he paused; then he said, still without bestowing more
than the swiftest side-glance on Harris, "The poor fat gel were tuk orf
to the lock-hup. But 'tis borne bin on me, master--'tis borne him on me,
and I can't get no rest day nor night--as that yer gel were hinnercent.
I believe as she never tuk the locket, and I think that ef ye're as
kind-hearted as yer looks yer'll help me ter find that other guilty
party."

Harris rose to his feet.

"Don't be a fool, lad," he said angrily. "I have no time ter give ter
sech nonsense. I'm soory fur the gel, but ef she had the locket, of
course she tuk the locket. There! I can waste no time. I'll pay fur my
hown coffee. Good-morning."

"Good-morning, master, and thank yer. I'm glad as ye're sorry fur the
gel; she have a lame brother as must miss her, and her case 'ull go
heavy, I fear. It seems as it might be a good work ter find the guilty
party. I think as it wor the man as went with her inter the shop. I mean
ter attend the trial, and I'll mention, ef permitted, my suspicions. But
I won't keep yer longer. Sorry again as yer won't oblige me, I'll go
home now and consult my mother."

All the way back to Great Anvill Street, where Mrs. Price lived, Pickles
danced a hornpipe.

"I've nailed him at last," he said, chuckling and laughing and dancing
all in one breath. "Now to put on the torture screw until he confesses!
Oh Pickles, my boy, _wot_ a treasure you'll prove yerself in Scotland
Yard!"



CHAPTER XXVII.

DELAYED TRIAL.


It is quite true that Pickles had put on the torture screw. Harris felt
exceedingly uncomfortable as he walked home. It was a fact, then, that
Sue had been caught and put in prison. That disagreeable boy had seen it
all; he had witnessed her rapid flight; he had heard her protestations
of innocence; he had seen her carried off to prison. Sue, so good and
brave and honest, would be convicted of theft and would have to bear the
penalty of theft--of another's theft, not her own. What a foolish girl
she had been to run away! Of course, it made her guilt seem all the
plainer. There was not a loophole of escape for her. She was certain to
be found guilty; probably to-day she would be brought before the
magistrate and sentence pronounced upon her. He wondered what magistrate
would try her; how long her punishment would last. Had he dared he would
have attended her trial. But he did not dare. That red-haired boy--that
most unpleasant, impudent boy--would probably be there. There was no
saying what things he might say. He would probably appear as a witness,
and nothing would keep that giddy tongue of his quiet. What a very queer
boy he was, and how strange were his suspicions! When any one else in
all the world would have accepted Sue's guilt as beyond doubt or
question, he persisted in declaring her innocent. Nay, more than that,
he had even declared that the man who had gone with her into the shop
was the guilty person. Harris knew there was no proof against the man.
No one had seen him take the locket; no one had witnessed its transfer
into Sue's pocket. The man was safe enough. No one living could bring
his guilt home to him.

But stay a moment! A horrible fear came over him. Why did that boy speak
like that? He saw Sue running away. Perhaps he had seen more than that.
Perhaps he had come on the platform of events earlier in the narrative.
Harris felt the cold sweat starting to his forehead as it occurred to
him that that awful boy had reason for his talk--that he _knew_ to whom
he was speaking. When Harris took the locket he might have been
flattening his nose against the window-pane at the pawnbroker's; he
might have seen all that was taking place. What was to be done? He could
not confess, and yet if he didn't he was in horrible danger; his present
state was worse than any state he had been in before. Suppose Connie
ever found out his meanness, his wickedness.

Harris was very fond of Connie just then. He had suffered during her
absence. His home was pleasant to him--as pleasant as his guilty
conscience would permit during those days, for little Giles was like no
one else. Oh, could the awful moment ever come when Giles would look at
him with reproachful eyes--when Giles would turn away from him? The
miserable man felt that were such a time to arrive it would be almost as
bad as the knowledge that God Himself could not forgive him. He was
distracted, miserable; he must find a refuge from his guilty thoughts.

A public-house stood handy. He had not really taken too much for a long
time now--not since that terrible night when, owing to drink, he had
turned his child from his door. But he would forget his misery now in
drink.

"That dreadful boy!" he muttered--"that dreadful, dreadful boy, with
hair like a flame, and eyes that peered into you like gimlets!"

Harris passed through the great swing-doors. His good angel must almost
have disappeared at that moment.

Meanwhile Connie and Giles watched and waited in vain for Sue. She was
coming to-day--she was coming to-morrow. But the weary hours went by and
no Sue arrived; there was no message from her. Harris went oftener and
oftener to the public-house, and brought less and less of his wages
home, and Giles faded and faded, and Connie also looked very sad and
weary.

Once Connie said to Giles, when nearly a month had gone by:

"Yer'll 'ave to give up that notion 'bout the country, Giles, for
'tain't true."

"Yus, I believe I must give it up," said Giles.

"Ain't yer anxious now 'bout dear Sue?" asked Connie.

"Not wery," said Giles. "Ef she ain't in the country, the good Lord 'ave
her safe somewhere else--that's wot I'm a-thinkin' of. Father John said
to me we'en he come last as trials of this sort are good for me."

"You 'ave nothing but trials, poor Giles!" said Connie.

"Oh no," answered Giles; "I ha' lots o' blessings--you and Big Ben, the
beautiful Woice, you know. Connie, some'ow I think as my wings is
growin' wery fast. I think w'en they're full-grown----"

"Wot then?" asked Connie.

"Why, I'll fly away. I can't 'ardly believe as a poor little lame boy
like me could fly up higher than the stars, but that's wot 'ull 'appen.
I picter it wery often--me no longer tied down to my bed, but with
wings, flyin' about as strong as the angels. Only Father John says I'll
be higher than the angels, for I'll be one o' the ransomed o' the Lord.
I'll see Father John, too, an' you'll come after a bit, an' Sue 'ull
come. I can't fret no, I can't."

After this Connie went for the doctor, and the doctor said that the boy
was very ill--that he might linger a few weeks more, but his sufferings
were growing less, and that Connie's kind care was effecting wonders for
him.

The weeks went by. Harris grew accustomed to his sense of guilt, and Sue
to her captivity. Pickles was anxiously looking forward to a crisis.
Harris, after giving way to drink for several days, refrained again and
worked steadily. He brought in, in consequence, good wages, and Connie
and Giles wanted for nothing. It was the one salve to his conscience,
this making of Giles comfortable; otherwise, notwithstanding the
manifest amendment of his ways, he was scarcely happy. Indeed, Pickles
took care that he should not be so. In the most unlikely and unexpected
places this dreadful boy would dart upon him, and more and more certain
was Harris that he not only knew his secret, but had witnessed his
guilt. Harris would have fled miles from the boy, but the boy would not
be fled from. He acted as a perpetual blister on the man's already sore
conscience, and Harris almost hated him.

His first resolve to confide in Pickles and bribe him into silence had
long ago died away. He dared not even offer to bribe him; the perfectly
fearless and uncorrupt spirit which looked out of the eyes of the boy
would be, he knew, proof against all that he could do in the matter of
either rewards or punishments. No; all that Harris could do was to
maintain as imperturbable a spirit as possible while Pickles expatiated
upon the cruel fate of Sue. As far as he could dare question him, he
learned from Pickles that Sue had not been yet tried even before the
magistrate. He wondered greatly at this delay, and Pickles, who read his
wonder in his eyes, remarked lightly that the reason of this long
postponement was because the police were busy looking for the guilty
party.

"Whether they finds him or not," concluded Pickles, "it must come off
soon now, fur I'm told that the expense of keeping Sue is breaking that
'ere lock-hup. I 'spect as it 'ull be the finest bit o' a trial as have
been fur many a day. I means to be there. And you'll come, won't yer,
Mr. Harris?"

"I'm sick o' the subject," said Harris.

"Oh no, you ain't, Mr. Harris; you 'ave a wery quiet manner, as his only
wot his right and becoming, but I can see yer hinterest in yer heyes.
You can't keep that good-natured, human look out o' yer heyes, Mr.
Harris; nor can yer help a-starting when yer sees me a-coming. Oh no,
yer may say wot yer likes, but ye're real interested in that pore,
misfort'nit Sue, I _knows_; so you will come to her shameful trial,
won't yer?"

In despair, and fearing any other reply, Harris promised.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

CINDERELLA WOULD SHIELD THE REAL THIEF.


After one of these interviews Pickles went home and consulted Sue.

"Cinderella," he said, "am I to act as yer prince or not?"

"I dunno wot hever yer means, Pickles."

"Well, my beauty, 'tis jest this--the Prince rescued Cinderella from her
cruel sisters, and I want ter rescue you from the arms of justice. You
has a wery shameful accusation hanging over you, Cinderella; you is, in
short, hiding from the law. I can set yer free. Shall I?"

Sue's plump face had grown quite thin during the anxieties of the past
month, and now it scarcely lighted up as she answered Pickles:

"I want ter be set free, but I don't want ter be set free in your way."

"'Tis the only way, Cinderella. The man, Peter Harris, is the guilty
party. He tuk that 'ere locket; he put it in yer pocket. I don't know
how he did it, nor why he did it, but I do know that no one else did it.
I have jest come from him, and lor' bless yer! I have had him on the
torture hooks. I made-b'lieve as you were to be tried next week, and I
axed him to come to the trial. I could a'most see him shivering at the
bare thought, but fur hall that he did not dare but say he'd come. Now,
Cinderella, ef you were to allow me to manage it, and I wer to get you
and he face to face, why, he'd jest have to confess. I'd have a couple
o' witnesses handy, and we'd write it down wot he said, and you'd be set
free. I'd manage so to terrify him aforehand that he'd have ter
confess----"

"And then he'd be put in prison?" said Sue.

"Why, in course; and well he'd deserve it. He's the right party to go,
fur he's guilty. Yes, shameful guilty, too."

"He couldn't manage to run away and escape afterwards?"

Pickles laughed. "You think as I'd help him, maybe. Not a bit o' me! I
don't harbor no guilty parties, Cinderella, as I ha' told yer heaps and
heaps o' times. No, he's guilty, and he goes ter prison; there ain't
nothink hard in sending him ter prison."

"It ha' seemed ter me often lately, Pickles, as it must be harder to lie
in prison guilty than not guilty--you ha'nt, nothink ter trouble yer
mind ef yer ain't guilty."

"Well then, I s'pose, in that case, as yer'll give yerself hup."

"I'd a deal rayther be in hiding with yer, Pickles; but I don't feel as
ef I _could_ put Mr. Harris in prison."

"Then you must go yerself, fur this thing can't go on fur ever."

Sue looked frightened, and her commonplace gray eyes fell to the ground.
She took up the poker and began to trace a pattern on the floor: it was
as intricate as her own fate just now. She was a little heroine,
however, and her noble thoughts redeemed all plainness from her face
when at last she spoke:

"Once, Pickles, arter mother died we was brought down wery low. I had a
dreadful influenzy, and I couldn't nohow go to the machining, and we
were near starving. Mr. Harris lent me a shilling that time, and we
pulled through. Another time I couldn't meet the rent, and Connie, she
begged of her father, and he give me the money; and when I offerd it him
back again he wouldn't take it. He wor a rough man, but he had a kind
heart. When I were last at home he wor in a real dreadful trouble about
Connie--and I loved Connie better nor any one in hall the world, arter
Giles. Pickles, it 'ud break Connie's heart fur her father to be tuk to
prison. I don't know why he did that--ef he really did do it--but I
can't furget those two times as he wor good ter me, and hever since I
have come yere he have done heverything fur Giles. No, I couldn't send
Mr. Harris to prison. I couldn't rest heasy ef I thought o' him sent
there by me. I'd rayther lie there myself."

"Wery well, Cinderella; in course you've got ter choose, fur one or
other of yer must go to prison, as it is against hall common-sense as
you could stay hiding here fur ever. I hadmires yer rare consideration
fur that hardened man, Peter Harris. I can't understand it--no, not the
least bit in the world--but I hadmires it as I hadmires the top o' the
big mountain wot I could never climb, but jest contemplate solemnly from
below. I can understand better yer repugnance not to break the heart o'
that purty Connie. Most plain women is hard on their more lucky sisters,
and I hadmires you, Cinderella, fur rising superior to the wices of yer
sex; but wot I can't hunderstand--wot puzzles me--is yer sad failure in
sisterly love. There's that little brother; why, heven now he's pining
hal to nothing to see yer. Don't yer think as it 'ull break _his_ heart
ef yer is tuk ter prison? Why, ef yer could have seen him when he heerd
me even hint at sech a thing! He said as he wished as he could knock me
down."

The tears rapidly filled Sue's eyes. "Pickles," she said after a moment
of thought, "'tis a wonderful, wonderful puzzlement ter me. I can't
least of all break the heart of Giles. Giles wor left ter me by mother,
and I promised as I'd allers tend him real faithful; but wot I 'as bin
thinking is that ef yer must give me hup, and not hide me any longer,
and I must be locked hup fur a time, that perhaps we might manage as
Giles might still think as I wor in the country. Connie would be wery
good ter him, and Mr. Harris would support him jest as well as I could
have done. Giles, he's that innercent that he'd easily be made ter
believe as I could not help going away. He knows nothink o' life, little
Giles don't; he'd never, never guess as there were ought o' the prison
'bout me, and arter a time he'd get accustomed to doing widout me. I
think, Pickles, we might manage so as not to break Giles's heart, and
yet fur me to go ter prison."

"Then you really, really chooses to go ter prison, Cinderella?"

"I choose, Pickles, never to tell on Peter Harris--never, wot hever
happens. I don't want ter go to prison--not one bit--but ef I can't stay
hiding, why, I s'pose as I must."

"You can't stay hiding more than a day or two longer, Cinderella, and I
thinks as ye're a great fool;" and Pickles walked out of the room in
apparently high dudgeon.



CHAPTER XXIX.

A LITTLE HEROINE.


Two days afterwards it was Sunday. Pickles and his mother went to
church, but Sue did not accompany them. She had hitherto,
notwithstanding her disguise, been afraid to stir abroad. To-day,
however, when mother and son had departed, she ran eagerly up to the
tiny attic where she slept. In this attic was an old box without a lock.
Sue opened it in some perturbation. There were several articles of
wearing apparel in this box, all of a mothy and mouldy character. One by
one Cinderella pulled them out. First there was a purple silk dress. She
gazed at it with admiration. Yes; no one would ever recognize Sue in
silk. It would be delightful to put it on. She did so. The skirt was
much too long, but with the aid of a whole boxful of pins, she managed
to bundle it up round her waist. Then came a soft, many-colored Paisley
shawl. Would any one in all the world think of the little machinist if
she sallied forth in purple silk and Paisley shawl? Sue did not believe
it possible. She put on the shawl, and tied on her head an old-fashioned
bonnet, trimmed with many-colored ribbons. There was further, in the
wonderful box, an old remnant of gauze. This would act as a veil. Now,
indeed, she was completely disguised. She thought herself very grand,
and wondered had the Prince ever bought finer clothes for the real
Cinderella. She shut the box again, tripped downstairs, and out into the
street. She had not been out for a whole month now, and the fresh,
frosty air, even coming to her through the musty gauze, was very
refreshing. She walked quickly. She had an object in view. Very
purposeful was her careworn little face as she stepped briskly along.
She had a problem to solve. It was too weighty for her young shoulders;
she must get the advice of another. She meant to consult Father
John--not by words; no, not even with him would she dare confide her
secret. But he preached now both Sunday morning and Sunday evening. She
would stand with the crowd and listen to his sermon. Perhaps once again
there would be a message for her in it. She had not forgotten that last
sermon of his; and that last message sent to her from God by his lips
had been with her all through her month of captivity.

It had been a sad and anxious month for Sue, and now its crisis had
come, for the kind people who had protected her could do so no longer;
she could no longer eat their bread, nor accept the shelter of their
home. No; Sue quite agreed with Pickles that it would be impossible for
her to stay in hiding always. Better go forth at once and meet the worst
and have it over. She would be put in prison. Yes--that is, either she
or Peter Harris would be put in prison. Pickles had quite brought her
round to the belief that Harris was really the guilty party. He had done
a very, very dreadful thing. Sue could not understand why he had acted
so badly, so cruelly by her. Surely he was the right person to go to
prison; she could not bear his crime for him. But then, again, it would
be very like Jesus Christ if she did. It was wonderful how the thought
of the Great Example was before the mind of this simple, ignorant child
as she walked hastily on to meet the one who she believed would decide
her fate. To-morow, most likely, Pickles would come to her and ask for
her final decision. She must make up her mind to-day. She had a long way
to walk, and when she reached the street where Father John held his
weekly services the place was already crowded. The preacher had mounted
on his chair and had commenced his discourse. Sue heard one or two
people say, "Look at little Mother Hubbard." But others, again, admired
her costume, and out of respect for the rich silk dress, made way for
her to approach nearer to the preacher.

"Now, Lord Jesus, please do give me the right word," whispered Sue. Then
through her musty veil her eyes were fixed anxiously on Atkins. Was it
more than a coincidence? This was the sentence which fell upon the
expectant ear:

"My dear, dear brothers and sisters, 'tis a wonderfully happy thing to
be good. It gives a man rare courage. You, most of you, knew poor Bob
Daily. Well, he died this morning. He was not a scrap afraid. I was with
him, and he went away rejoicing. He knew he was going straight away to
Jesus--straight away to the arms of Jesus. He told me a queer thing
which had happened to him when he was a young man. He was falsely
accused of a crime which he had not done. He was put in prison. He had
to stay locked up for what he was innocent of for two years. He said he
guessed who had really done the crime, but he did not like to tell on
this man, who was much worse off than himself. He bore the punishment
for the guilty man, and he had his reward. All the time he was in prison
Jesus remained so close to him that He made his heart sing. He says that
he could look back on that part of his life as the very happiest time
that he had ever spent."

"I'm a bit faint-like," said Sue to her nearest neighbor. "Let me out,
please." The people made way for her, and for a moment or so she leant
against the nearest lamp-post. She did not hear another word of the
sermon. She did not need to. When she felt better she walked back to
Great Anvill Street.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, just before Pickles went to bed, Sue sought him.

"Pickles, I ha' made up my mind--I ha' made it up quite," she said.

"Well?" asked Pickles.

"You gave me three days, Pickles, and the time 'ull be up to-morrow.
Well, I'll go to prison 'stead o' Peter Harris. I ha' that in my mind
which 'ull make it come uncommon light ter me. I'll go to prison 'stead
o' he."



CHAPTER XXX.

WHAT WAS HARRIS TO HER?


Pickles went up to the very small room where he slept, threw himself on
his bed, and fell a-wondering. For the first time in his life he was
completely at sea. What _did_ Cinderella mean? For a whole month now she
had been his special charge. He had rescued her; he had kept her in the
safe shelter of his mother's house; he had been, he considered, very
kind indeed to Cinderella. What a fate she would have had but for him!
Sent to prison for a crime of which she was absolutely innocent, her
whole future disgraced, blighted, ruined! All the time while he had been
hunting up Harris, and bringing his ingenious little mind to bear down
the full weight of his crime upon the guilty man, he had thought that no
amount of gratitude on Cinderella's part--nay, even a whole lifetime of
devotion--could scarcely repay all she owed him.

But now he kicked his legs impatiently and said to himself that it was
enough to provoke the best-natured boy in the universe. After all his
trouble, all his hard thoughts and anxious reflections, here was this
tiresome Cinderella refusing to be set free. He had, as he expressed it,
nailed his man; he had put the noose round him, and all he had to do was
to tighten it, and Sue would be free and Harris sent to prison. But
without Sue's aid he could not do this, and Sue most emphatically
to-night had refused his aid. She would go to prison herself, but she
would not betray Harris. What did the girl mean? What was this cowardly
Harris to her that she should risk so much and suffer so sorely for his
sake? How she had dreaded prison! How very, very grateful she had been
to him for saving her! But now she was willing to go there, willing to
bear the unmerited punishment, the lifelong disgrace. Why? Pickles,
think hard as he would, could get no answer to solve this difficulty.
True, she had said she had something in her mind which would lighten the
prison fare and the prison life. What was it? Pickles could stand it no
longer; he must go and consult his mother. He ran downstairs. Mrs. Price
had not yet gone to bed. Pickles sat down beside her by the fire, and
laid his curly red head in her lap.

"Mother," he said, "this 'ere detective's foiled at last."

"What's up now, Jamie, boy?" asked the mother.

Pickles told her. He described how he had all but brought the crime home
to Harris; how he had proved to Sue that Harris was the guilty party;
but that now Sue, after all his tremendous trouble, had refused to
identify him. She would go to prison, she said; she would not tell on
Harris. "I don't understand it one bit, mother," he said in conclusion.

"But I do, Jamie, my boy," answered Mrs. Price, tears filling her kind
eyes. "I understand it very well. It means just this--that Sue, dear
child, is very noble."

Pickles opened his eyes very wide.

"Then, mother," he began, "Cinderella is----" and then he stopped.

"Your Cinderella, whom you rescued, is a real little heroine, Jamie; but
she must not go to prison. We must do something for her. She has been
with me for a whole month now, and I never came across a more upright
little soul. You surely have not been frightening her with the base idea
that we would give her up, my boy?"

Pickles colored and hung his head.

"I own, mother," he said, "that I did put a little bit of the torture
screw to bear on Sue. I didn't mean really as she should go to prison;
but I thought as a small dose of fright might make her tell on that
Harris. I do think that Peter Harris is about the meanest character I
ever come across, and I'd like _him_ to go to prison wery well indeed,
mother dear."

"If he's guilty, believe me he's not a very happy man, my lad. My own
feeling is that 'tis best to leave all punishment to the God against
whom we sin. But about Sue? She must not sleep with the notion that
she's to go to prison. I have a great mind to go to her now."

"Oh! but, mother, mayn't I tell her my own self? 'Twas I as rescued her.
She's my own Cinderella, after all, mother dear; and I'd real enjoy
telling her. She's asleep hours ago now, mother."

"Well, lad, see and have it out with the child before you go to work in
the morning, and then I'll have a talk with her afterwards."



CHAPTER XXXI.

A STERN RESOLVE.


But Sue was not asleep. She had quite made up her mind now as to her
line of action. There was no longer even a particle of lingering doubt
in her brave little soul; she was innocent, but as the sin which was
committed must be punished, she would bear the punishment; she would go
to prison instead of Harris. Prison would not be so bad if she went
there innocent.

Yes, Sue would certainly go to Prison. The next day she would consult
Mrs. Price, and take the proper steps to deliver herself up to the
police. She would go to the pawnbroker's shop and say to him, "I am the
little girl in whose pocket you found that lovely diamond locket. I am
very sorry I hid from you so long, but now I have come back, and you can
send for the police. I will promise not to run away again when they are
taking me to prison."

This was Sue's resolve, but first she intended to do something else. It
was because of this something else that she lay awake now; it was
because of this almost passionate longing and desire that she lay with
her eyes wide open. She was going to put on her disguise once more; just
once again, before she was put in prison, she would wander free and
unrestrained into the streets. But she must do this very, very early in
the morning, and she feared that if she closed her eyes she would sleep
over the right time.

It was now March, and the days were lengthening. She rose before the
dawn, put on again some portion of the remarkable costume she had worn
the day before, and went out. Yes, she was going to prison. She was most
likely going to prison that very day. But before she was locked up she
would visit Harris's house. She would steal into his rooms to take one
look--one long last look for how many weary months--at Giles. She knew
the ways of this tenement house well. She had nothing to do but walk up
the stairs and lift the latch of Harris's room and go in. Some of the
neighbors locked their room doors at night. But Susan remembered with
satisfaction that Harris never did so. It was quite dark when she set
off, for she knew she had a very long walk from Great Anvill Street to
Westminster.



CHAPTER XXXII.

AN UNEXPECTED ACCIDENT.


By dint asking her way more than once, of some of the very policemen
whom she dreaded, Sue found herself at last in the old, well-remembered
neighborhood. She passed the door of the house where her mother had died
and where she had been so happy with Giles, and went on quickly to the
other house where Connie and Harris lived. The house door stood open, as
was its wont. Sue mounted the stairs; with trembling hands she lifted
the latch of Harris's room. Yes, as she had trusted, it was only on the
latch. She stooped down, unfastened her shoes, and took them off; then
she stole into the room. There were two bedrooms, besides a
sitting-room, in Harris's portion of the house. In one of the bedrooms
slept Harris, in the other his daughter, and in the little sitting-room
lay the lame boy. Thus Sue found herself at once in the presence of her
little brother. Her heart beat high. How easily she had accomplished her
purpose! How good God was to her! Stealing over on tiptoes, she knelt
down by Giles. There was scarcely any light as yet; but a little
streamed in from the badly curtained window. This little had sought out
Giles, and lingered lovingly round his delicate face and graceful head;
he looked ethereal with this first soft light kissing him. Sue bent down
very close indeed. She dared not breathe on his face. She scarcely dared
draw her own breath in her fear of waking him; but she took his gentle
image more firmly than ever into her heart of hearts: it was to cheer
her and comfort her during long, long months of prison life.

As she bent over him in an ecstasy of love and longing, Giles stirred.
Instantly Sue hid herself behind a curtain: here she could see without
being seen.

The lame boy stirred again and opened his eyes. He looked peaceful;
perhaps he had had a happy dream.

"I think Sue 'ull soon now have found that cottage in the country," he
said aloud. Then he turned over and, still smiling, went to sleep again.

Sue's eyes filled with tears. But the light was getting stronger; any
moment Harris might rise. Though she would go to prison for Harris, yet
she felt that she could not bring herself to meet him. Yes, she must go
away with an added weight in her poor, faithful little heart. She stole
downstairs, and out into the street. Yes, it was very hard to bear the
sight of Giles, to hear those longing words from the lips of Giles, and
yet go away to meet unjust punishment for perhaps two long years.

Still, it never entered into Sue's head to go back from her resolve, or
to save herself by betraying another.

Her head was very full of Bible lore, and she compared herself now to
one of those three young men who had gone into a fiery furnace for the
cause of right and duty.

"Jesus Christ wor with them, jest as He'll be with me," she said to
herself as she crossed Westminster Bridge. Yes, brave little girl, you
were to go through a fiery furnace, but not the one you thought was
being prepared for you.

Sue's trouble, swift and terrible, but in an unlooked-for form, was on
her even now. Just as she had got over the bridge, and was about to
cross a very wide thoroughfare, some lumbering wagons came thundering
up. They turned sharp round a corner, and the poor child, weak and giddy
from her morning's most unwonted exertion, suddenly found herself
turning faint. She was in the middle of the crossing, the wagons were
upon her, but she could not run. She had scarcely time to throw up her
arms, to utter one piercing cry of terror, before she was thrown to the
ground. She had a horrible sensation of her life being crushed out of
her, of every bone being broken; then followed peace and
unconsciousness.

One of the wagons had gone partly over her; one leg was broken. She was
carried to the accident ward at St. Thomas's Hospital close by.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A POINTED QUESTION.


Neither had Mrs. Price slept well. All night long she either had fitful
and broken dreams, in which her small guest, Sue, constantly figured; or
she lay with her eyes open, thinking of her. She was surprised at the
child's resolve. She recognized an heroic soul under that plain and
girlish exterior.

In the morning she got up rather earlier than usual, and instead of
going directly downstairs, as was her custom, she went up to Sue's
attic. She had promised her eccentric young son to allow him to tell his
own tale in his own way; but she meant to comfort Sue with some
specially loving and kind greeting. Having a true lady's heart, she knew
how to give Sue a very cheering word, and she went upstairs with that
heart full.

Of course there was no Sue in the little chamber. The bed had been lain
in, but was now cold and unoccupied. Mrs. Price went downstairs,
considerably puzzled and disturbed. She sent for Pickles and told him.

She was full of fear at Sue's disappearance, and told the heedless boy
that she blamed him.

"You did wrong, my lad--you did very wrong," she said. "You gave the
poor thing to understand that she was to be put in prison, and now
doubtless she has gone to deliver herself up."

"No, mother. She only went out to have a little exercise. Cinderella
'ull be back in an hour or so," answered the boy.

But he did not speak with his usual assurance and raillery. The fact
was, the calculations in his shrewd little brain were upset by Sue's
disappearance. He felt disturbed, perplexed, and annoyed.

His mother being really displeased with him was a novel experience to
Pickles. She blamed herself much for having allowed him his own way in
this matter, and the moment breakfast was over, went out to the nearest
police-station to relate Sue's story.

Pickles stayed in until noon; then he also went out. He had cheered
himself until this hour with the hope that Sue had only gone out for a
walk. Notwithstanding all the improbabilities of his poor, frightened
Cinderella venturing to show herself in the street, he had clung firmly
to this idea; but when the neighboring clock struck twelve he was
obliged to abandon it. He was obliged to admit to his own little puzzled
heart that it was on no ordinary walk that Sue had gone. Remorse now
seized him in full measure. He could not bear the house; he must vent
his feelings in exercise. For the first time in his sunny and healthy
young life he walked along the streets a defeated and unhappy boy.

Suddenly, however, a thought occurred to him. He stood still when it
flashed across his fertile brain. Then, with a cheerful shout, which
caused the passers-by to turn their heads and smile, he set off running
as fast as his feet would carry him.

Hope would never be long absent from his horizon, and once again he was
following it joyfully.

He was on his way now to Harris's house. He meant to pay pretty Connie a
visit, and when with her he would put to her a pointed question.

It was nearly three o'clock when he reached Westminster. A few minutes
later he found himself on the landing outside Connie's rooms. Here,
however, he was again a little puzzled, for he wanted to see Connie and
not to see Giles. Taking a long time about it, he managed to set the
closed door ajar. He looked in. Connie and Giles were both within.
Connie was mending her father's socks; Giles was reading aloud to her.
Neither of them had noticed the slight creaking noise he had made in
opening the door. He ventured on a very slight cough.

This sound was heard; the reading ceased.

"Come in," said Connie.

This he must not do. He waited an instant, then creaked the door again.

"Dear, dear! I made certain I had shut that door," said Connie.

At this she rose unsuspiciously. "Jest wait a minute, Giles dear. I
didn't catch that last bit."

She ran to the door to put it to. Pickles placed his foot in her way.

The obstacle caused her to look into the passage. There a boy, very red
by nature, and with his natural color now much intensified by hard
running, stood awaiting her.

He pointed to the door, put his finger to his lips, then rushed down the
first flight of stairs, where he turned round, and beckoned to her to
follow him.

"I'll be back in a minute, Giles," said Connie. She had ready wit enough
to perceive at a glance that Pickles had something to say to her which
he did not wish Giles to hear.

Closing the door behind her, she ran downstairs. Pickles could have
hugged her in his gratitude.

"Ain't you a perfect duck of a darlin'?" he said, gazing hard and full
into her face.

"What do you want me for, Pickles?" asked Connie.

"Fur one or two things of much private importance. First, tell me, how
is the little lame chap as is fretting fur his sister wot is kept in the
country?"

"He is not so well, Pickles; he is not so well as he was. Pickles, I
don't believe that story about Sue being in the country."

"You don't believe me when I opens my lips to give utterance to the
words of gospel truth!" replied Pickles. But his red face grew a shade
redder, and his full, bold gaze was not quite so steady as usual. "Why,
surely, Pickles, _you_ ain't going to be troubled wid nerves!" he said
to himself.

Connie, watching anxiously, entreated in her softest tones: "Dear
Pickles, you might trust me. I should like to know, and I won't tell
Giles."

"Ay, ay, that's a woman's curiosity; but the misfortune is as it can't
be gratified. No, Connie. You are as rare and pretty a bit of woman as
hiver I clapped heyes on. But fur hall that you ain't going to come
hover this yere boy. When I tells you, Connie, that Sue is hin the
country, please believe as she _his_ in that year health-giving place.
When 'tis conwenient fur me to confide in you farther, why, I'll do it.
That time ain't at present. In the meantime, ef you want to real help
them who ere in difficulty, you will let me know widout any more wasting
o' precious time where yer father, Peter Harris, is working to-day."

"Oh Pickles! wot do you want wid him?"

"Nothink to hurt you, pretty one. Now, will you speak?

"He's at Messrs ---- in ---- Street," replied Connie.

"Thank yer; and now I'm off. Ef you'll listen to the words o' solemn
wisdom, and be guided in that same, you'll not mention this stolen
interview to little Giles--bless the little chap! You keep up his heart,
Connie. As soon as hiver this yer young man can manage it, Sue shall
come home. Lor', now! ain't the world strange and difficult to live in?
Wot 'ull bring joy to one 'ull give pain to t'other, but the cause o'
right must win the day. Well, good-bye, Connie. I'll wery like look in
soon again."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

PICKLES TO THE FORE AGAIN.


Connie went back to Giles, and Pickles, having obtained the information
which he desired, sped as fast as his feet could carry him down the
street. Once more his spirits were high, and hope was before him.

"I may save you, you most obstinate and tiresome Cinderella," he said to
himself. "But oh, _wot_ a mistake gels are! Why hever those weak and
misguided beings was allowed to be is a puzzlement too great fur me."

But though Pickles talked even to himself in this light and careless
vein, there was (and he knew it) a pain in his heart--a pain joined to
an admiration for Sue, which would have made him willing to fight to the
very death in her behalf.

The day, however, had been spent while he was rushing about, and by the
time he reached the place where Connie had directed him to seek her
father, the workmen were putting by their tools and preparing to go
home.

Pickles followed Harris down the street. Harris was talking to and
walking with one of his fellow-workmen, and Pickles did not care to
accost him except when he was alone.

At the corner, however, of the next street the two parted; and then the
boy, putting his face into grave and serious order, ran lightly after
Harris. When he addressed him his very voice trembled.

"Mr. Harris, I see'd you coming out of that yer shop. I'm in much
perplexity and trouble in my mind, and I thought the sight of you and a
talk wid you might maybe set me up."

"You thought wrong, then," said Harris, replying in his gruffest voice,
"for I'm in a mortal bit of a hurry, and I'm in no humor to listen to no
chaff, so get away."

"Oh, Mr. Harris! I'll endeavor to run by yer side for a minute or two.
Mr. Harris, wot does yer think? That little Sue wot I tolled yer
on--why, she has discovered who the guilty party is. She have found out
who really stole the locket and put it into her pocket."

"She have!" said Harris. He was so astonished and taken by surprise that
he now stood still. He stood quite still, gazing helplessly at Pickles,
while his weather-beaten face grew pale.

"'Tis gospel truth as I'm telling yer," continued Pickles, fixing his
own light-blue eyes full on his victim. "Sue knows hall about it--the
whole thing; the great and awful meanness have been made plain to her.
Yes, she knows all, Sue does; but, Mr. Harris----"

"Yes; wot have I to say to this tale? I'm in a hurry--tearing hurry--I
tell yer."

"Yes, Mr. Harris; I won't keep yer. Sue knows, but Sue, she won't
betray. I know who did it," she said, "but I won't tell on him. He lent
me a shilling once. He is kind to my little brother wot is lame. I know
wot he did, but I won't never tell, I'll go to prison 'stead of he."

Harris's color had returned. He now walked so fast that Pickles had to
run to keep up with him. Suddenly, seeing a passing omnibus, he hailed
it, and in a second was on the roof. He did not glance at Pickles. In
reply to his tale he had not answered by a single word.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE WINGS ARE GROWING.


Connie went back to Giles, sat down by him, and he resumed his reading.
He was going through the _Pilgrim's Progress_ to her, reading short
sentences at a time, for his voice was too low and weak to enable him to
exert himself for long at a time.

"Connie, wot were that as I read last?"

Connie colored.

"You weren't listening," said Giles reproachfully. "It wor a most
beautiful bit. But you didn't hear me, Connie."

"I wor thinking o' something else jest then," owned Connie. "I'll listen
now wid hall my might, dear Giles."

"Ah! but I'm tired now," said Giles; "and besides, I want to talk 'bout
something else, Connie."

"Well."

"Sue have been a whole month in the country to-day--rayther more than a
month. I don't understand it at all. I never thought as she could stay
so long away from me. I suppose 'tis hall right, and cottages such as we
want do take a powerful long time to find. It has been a long
time--wery, wery long--but have I been patient 'bout Sue all this long
time, Connie?"

"Yes, indeed, dear Giles."

"Oh! I'm glad, fur I've tried to be. Then, Connie, wot I'm thinking is
that ef Sue don't soon come back--ef she don't soon find that 'ere
cottage--why, I won't want it, Connie. Sue 'ull come back and find
me--gone."

"Gone!" echoed Connie. "Do you mean dead? Oh Giles! you're not ill
enough to die."

"Yes, Connie, I think I am. I'm so real desperate weak sometimes that I
don't like even to move a finger. I used to be hungry, too, but now I
never cares to eat. Besides, Connie dear----"

"Yes, Giles," answered Connie.

"Those wings that I told you of--why, I often seem to feel them flutter
inside of me. I told you before, Connie, that when they was full grown,
why, I'd fly away. I think they are growing wery fast. I'll want no
cottage in the country now. I'm going away to a much better place, ain't
I, Connie?"

"Oh! but, Giles, I don't want to think that--I don't want to," answered
Connie, the tears raining down her cheeks.

"'Tis real good fur me, though, Connie. I used to pine sore fur the
country; but it have come hover me lately that in winter it 'ud be
dull--scarcely any flowers, and no birds singing, nor nothink. Now, in
heaven there's no winter. 'A land o' pure delight,' the hymn calls it,
'and never-withering flowers.' So you see, Connie, heaven must be a
sight better than the country, and of course I'd rayther go there; only
I'm thinking as 'tis sech a pity 'bout Sue."

"Yes, I wish as Sue was home," said Connie.

"Connie dear, couldn't we send her a message to come straight home to me
now? I'm so feared as she'll fret real hard ef she comes wid news of
that cottage and finds me gone."

"I'll look fur her; I will find her," said Connie with sudden energy.
Then she rose and drew down the blinds.

"I'll find Sue ef I can, Giles; and now you will go to sleep."

"Will you sing to me? When you sing, and I drop off to sleep listening,
I allers dream arterwards of heaven."

"What shall I sing?"

"'There is a land of pure delight.'"



CHAPTER XXXVI.

A CRISIS.


Connie went downstairs and stood in the doorway. She had gone through a
good deal during these last adventurous weeks, and although still it
seemed to those who knew her that Connie had quite the prettiest face in
all the world, it was slightly haggard now for a girl of fourteen years,
and a little of its soft plumpness had left it.

Connie had never looked more absolutely pathetic than she did at this
moment, for her heart was full of sorrow for Giles and of anxiety with
regard to Sue. She would keep her promise to the little boy--she would
find Sue.

As she stood and thought, some of the roughest neighbors passed by,
looked at the child, were about to speak, and then went on. She was
quite in her shabby, workaday dress; there was nothing to rouse jealousy
about her clothes; and the "gel" seemed in trouble. The neighbors
guessed the reason. It was all little Giles. Little Giles was soon
"goin' aw'y."

"It do seem crool," they said one to the other, "an' that sister o' his
nowhere to be found."

Just then, who should enter the house but kind Dr. Deane. He stopped
when he saw Connie.

"I am going up to Giles," he said. "How is the little chap?"

"Worse--much worse," said Connie, the tears gathering in her eyes.

"No news of his sister, I suppose?"

"No, sir--none."

"I am sorry for that--they were such a very attached pair. I'll run up
and see the boy, and bring you word what I think about him."

The doctor was absent about a quarter of an hour. While he was away
Connie never moved, but stood up leaning against the door-post, puzzling
her brains to think out an almost impossible problem. When the doctor
reappeared she did not even ask how Giles was. Kind Dr. Deane looked at
her; his face was wonderfully grave. After a minute he said:

"I think, Connie, I'd find that little sister as quickly as I could. The
boy is very, very weak. If there is one desire now in his heart,
however, it is just to see Sue once more."

"I ha' give him my word," said Connie. "I'm goin' to find Sue ef--ef I
never see Giles agin."

"But you mustn't leave him for long," said the doctor. "Have you no plan
in your head? You cannot find a girl who is lost as Sue is lost in this
great London without some clue."

"I ain't got any clue," said Connie, "but I'll try and find Pickles."

"Whoever is Pickles?" asked the doctor.

"'E knows--I'm sartin sure," said Connie. "I'll try and find him, and
then----"

"Well, don't leave Giles alone. Is there a neighbor who would sit with
him?"

"I won't leave him alone," said Connie.

The doctor then went away. Connie was about to return to Giles, if only
for a few minutes, when, as though in answer to an unspoken prayer, the
red-headed Pickles appeared in sight. His hair was on end; his face was
pale; he was consumed with anxiety; in short, he did not seem to be the
same gay-hearted Pickles whom Connie had last met with. When he saw
Connie, however, the sight of that sweet and sad face seemed to pull him
together.

"Now must I give her a blow, or must I not?" thought Pickles to himself.
"It do seem 'ard. There's naught, a'most, I wouldn't do for pore
Cinderella; but w'en I have to plant a dart in the breast of that 'ere
most beauteous crittur, I feels as it's bitter 'ard. W'y, she 'ud make
me a most captiwatin' wife some day. Now, Pickles, my boy, wot have you
got in the back o' your 'ead? Is it in love you be--an' you not fourteen
years of age? Oh, fie, Pickles! What would yer mother s'y ef she knew?"

Pickles slapped his hand with a mighty thump against his boyish breast.

"That's the w'y to treat nonsense," he said aloud. "Be'ave o' yerself,
Pickles--fie for shame, Pickles! That 'ere beauteous maid is to be
worshipped from afar--jest like a star. I do declare I'm turnin'
po-ettical!"

"Pickles!" called Connie at this moment. "Stop!"

"Pickles be 'ere," replied the youth, drawing up before Connie and
making a low bow.

"Giles is worse, Pickles," said Connie, "an' wot's to be done?"

Pickles's round face grew grave.

"Is 'e wery bad?" he asked.

"So bad that he'll soon go up to God," said Connie. Her eyes filled with
tears; they rolled down her cheeks.

"Bright as dimants they be," thought the boy as he watched her.
"Precious tears! I could poetise 'bout them."

"Pickles," said Connie again, "I have made Giles a promise. He sha'n't
die without seeing Sue. I'm sartin sure, Pickles, that you could take me
to Sue now--I'm convinced 'bout it--and I want you to do it."

"Why do you think that?" asked Pickles.

"'Cos I do," said Connie. "'Cos of the way you've looked and the way
you've spoken. Oh, dear Pickles, take me to her now; let me bring her
back to little Giles to-night!"

Once again that terribly mournful expression, so foreign to Pickles's
freckled face, flitted across it.

"There!" he said, giving himself a thump. "W'en I could I wouldn't, and
now w'en I would I can't. I don't know where she be. She's lost--same as
you were lost--w'ile back. She's disappeared, and none of us know
nothink about her."

"Oh! is she really lost? How terrible that is!" said Connie.

"Yus, she's lost. P'r'aps there's one as could find her. Connie, I 'ate
beyond all things on 'arth to fright yer or say an unkind thing to yer;
but to me, Connie, you're a star that shines afar. Yer'll fergive the
imperence of my poetry, but it's drawn from me by your beauty."

"Don't talk nonsense now, Pickles," said Connie. "Things are too
serious. We must find Sue--I must keep my promise."

"Can you bear a bit o' pine?" said Pickles suddenly.

"Pain?" said Connie. "I've had a good deal lately. Yes, I think--I think
I can bear it."

"Mind yer," said Pickles, "it's this w'y. I know w'y Sue left yer, and I
know w'y she ain't come back. It's true she 'aven't give herself hup
yet, although she guv me to understand as she were 'bout to go to
prison."

"To prison?" said Connie, springing forward and putting her hand on
Pickles's shoulder. "Sue--the most honest gel in all the world--go to
prison?"

"Oh yes," said Pickles, "yer might call her honest; but w'en she goes
into a pawnshop an' comes hout agin wid a golden dimant locket a-hid in
her pocket, there are people as won't agree wid yer, an' that's the
solemn truth, Connie."

Connie's face was very white.

"I don't believe it," she said.

"Yer don't?" cried Pickles. "But I were there at the time. But for me
she would ha' been locked up long ago. But I tuk pity on her--'avin' my
own suspicions. I hid her and disguised her. Wot do yer think I come
'ere for so often but jest to comfort the poor thing an' bring her news
o' Giles? Then all of a suddn't my suspicions seemed confirmed. I
guessed wot I see is workin' in your mind--that some one else done it
an' putt the blame on 'er. Oh, I'm a born detective. I putt my wits in
soak, an' soon I spotted the guilty party. Bless yer, Connie! ye're
right--Sue be honest--honest as the day--noble, too--more nobler nor
most folk. Pore Sue! Pore, plain Cinderella! Oh, my word! it's beauteous
inside she be--an' you're beauteous outside. Outside beauty is
captiwatin', but the hinner wears best."

"Go on," said Connie; "tell me wot else you 'ave in yer mind."

"It's this: yer may own up to it, an' there's no use beatin' about the
bush. The guilty party wot stole the locket an' transferred it by
sleight-of-'and to poor Sue is no less a person than yer own father,
Connie Harris."

Connie fell back, deadly pale.

"No--no!" she said. "No--no! I am sartin sure 'tain't that way."

"Yus, but it be that way--I tell yer it be. You ax 'im yerself; there's
no time for muddlin' and a-hidin' o' the truth. You ax the man hisself."

"Father!" said Connie. "Father!"

Harris, wrangling with another workman, was now seen approaching. When
he perceived his daughter and Pickles, his first impulse was to dart
away down a side-street; but Pickles, that most astute young detective,
was too sharp for him.

"No," he said, rushing at the man and laying his hand on his shoulder.
"Giles is bad, an' we can't find Sue no'ow, and yer must tell the
truth."

Harris did not know why his heart thumped so heavily, and why a sort of
wild terror came over him; but when Connie also joined Pickles, and
raising her eyes to the rough man's face, said, "Be it true or be it
lies, you are my own father and I'll niver turn agin yer," her words had
a most startling effect.

Harris trembled from head to foot.

"S'y that agin, wench," he muttered.

"You're mine--I'll not turn agin yer," said Connie.

"Then why--wot 'ave I done to deserve a child like this? There, Pickles!
you know--and you ha' told Connie--it's all the truth. There come a day
w'en I wanted money, an' I were met by sore temptation. I tuk the dimant
locket w'en the pawnbroker 'ad 'is back turned on me; but as I were
leavin' the shop--Sue bein' by my side--I suddenly saw him pokin' his
finger into the place where it had been. I knew it were all up. I
managed to slip the locket into Sue's pocket, and made off. I ha' been
near mad since--near mad since!"

"Small wonder!" said Pickles. "An' do yer know that she 'ad made up her
mind to go to prison 'stead o' you?"

"You told me so," said Harris--"at least you told me that she was goin'
to prison instead o' the guilty party."

"Wull," said Pickles, "yer own 'eart told yer 'oo was the guilty party."

"That's true, youngster."

"Father," said Connie, "we can't find Sue anywhere, and Giles is dying,
and we must get her, and you must help."

"Help?" said Harris. "Yes, I'll help. I won't leave a stone unturned.
She wanted to save me, knowing the truth. Wull, I'll save and find her,
knowin' the truth."

"I will come with you," said Connie. "I want to go wid yer; only wot am
I to do with Giles?"

"Don't worrit 'bout him," said Pickles. "I'm 'ere to be o' sarvice to
you, Miss Connie--and to you, sir, now as you 'ave come ter yer right
mind."

"Then I will come with you, father," said Connie. "We'll both go
together and find Sue."

As Pickles was entering the house he popped his head out again.

"I forgot to mention," he said, "as hinquiries o' the most strict and
dertective character 'ave been institooted by yer 'umble sarvant for
poor Cinderella--I mean Sue. They've led to no results. There's nothing
now but one o' the hospitals."

It is very doubtful whether Pickles believed himself the clue he had
unexpectedly given to Harris and Connie, but certain it is that they
immediately began their investigations in those quarters. From one
hospital to another they went, until at last they found Sue in bed in
St. Thomas's Hospital--flushed, feverish, struggling still to hide her
secret in order that when she was better she might save Peter Harris.

The poor child was rather worse than usual that evening, and the surgeon
who had set her leg was slightly anxious at her feverish symptoms. He
said to the nurse who was taking charge of the little girl:

"That child has a secret on her mind, and it is retarding her recovery.
Do you know anything about her?"

"No, sir. It is very awkward," said the nurse, "but from the first she
has refused to give her name, calling herself nothing but Cinderella."

"Well," said the doctor, "but Cinderella--she doesn't seem touched in
the head?"

"Oh no," said the nurse; "it isn't that. She's the most sensible,
patient child we have in the ward. But it's pitiful to see her when she
thinks no one is listening. Nothing comforts her but to hear Big Ben
strike. She always cheers up at that, and murmurs something below her
breath which no one can catch."

"Well, nurse," said the doctor, "the very best thing would be to relieve
her mind--to get her to tell you who her people are, and to confide any
secret which troubles her to you."

"I will try," said the nurse.

She went upstairs after her interview with the doctor, and bending over
Sue, took her hot hand and said gently:

"I wish, little Cinderella, you would tell me something about yourself."

"There's naught to tell," said Sue.

"But--you'll forgive me--I am sure there is."

"Ef you was to ask me for ever, I wouldn't tell then," said Sue.

"Ah! I guessed--there is something."

"Yes--some'ut--but I can't bear it--the Woice in the air is so
beautiful."

"What voice?" asked the nurse, who feared that her little patient would
suddenly become delirious.

"It's Big Ben hisself is talkin' to me and to my darling, darling little
brother."

"Oh! you have a little brother, Cinderella?"

"Yus, a cripple. But don't ask me no more. The Woice gives me strength,
and I won't niver, niver tell."

"What does Big Ben say? I don't understand."

"No," said Sue; "and p'r'aps ye're not wanted to understand. It's for me
and for him, poor darling, that Woice is a real comfort."

The nurse left her little charge a few minutes afterwards. But before
she went off duty she spoke to the night nurse, and confessed that she
was anxious about the child, who ought to be recovering, and certainly
would but for this great weight of trouble on her mind.

All these things, which seemed in themselves unimportant, bore directly
on immediate events; for when Connie and Harris arrived at St. Thomas's
Hospital and made inquiries with regard to a little, freckled girl, with
an honest face and sturdy figure, the hall porter went to communicate
with one of the nurses, and the nurse he communicated with turned out to
be the night nurse in the very ward where Sue was lying--so suffering,
so ill and sorely tried.

Now, the nurse, instead of sending word that this was not the hour for
visiting patients, took the trouble to go downstairs herself and to
interview Connie and her father. Connie gave a faithful description of
Sue, and then the nurse admitted that there was a little girl in the
hospital who was now in the children's surgical ward. She had been
brought in a day or two ago, having a broken leg, owing to a street
accident. She was a very patient, good child, but there was something
strange about her--nothing would induce her to tell her name.

"Then what do you call her?" asked Harris.

He was still full of inward tremors, for at that moment he was thinking
that of all the sweet sights on earth, that sight would be little Sue's
plain face.

"Have yer no name for the pore child?" he repeated.

"Yes," said the nurse. "She calls herself Cinderella."

"It's Sue! It's Sue herself father! God has led us to her--and it's Sue
her very own self!"

Poor Connie, who had borne up during so many adventures, who had faced
the worst steadfastly and without fear, broke down utterly now. She
flung herself into her father's arms and sobbed.

"Hush, wench hush!" said the rough man. "I am willin' to do hall that is
necessary.--Now then, nurse," he continued, "you see my gel--she's
rather upset 'bout that pore Cinderella upstairs. But 'ave yer nothing
else to say 'bout her?"

"She acts in a strange way," said the nurse. "The only thing that
comforts her is the sound of Big Ben when he strikes the hour. And she
did speak about a little cripple brother."

"Can us see her?" asked Connie just then.

"It is certainly against the rules, but--will you stay here for a few
minutes and I'll speak to the ward superintendent?"

The nurse went upstairs. She soon returned.

"Sister Elizabeth has given you permission to come up and see the child
for a few minutes. This, remember, is absolutely against the ordinary
rules; but her case is exceptional, and if you can give her relief of
mind, so much the better."

Then Connie and her father followed the nurse up the wide, clean stairs,
and down the wide, spotless-looking corridors, until they softly entered
a room where many children were lying, some asleep, some tossing from
side to side with pain.

Sue's little bed was the fifth from the door, and Sue was lying on her
back, listening intently, for Big Ben would soon proclaim the hour. She
did not turn her head when the nurse and the two who were seeking her
entered the ward; but by-and-by a voice, not Big Ben's, sounded on her
ear, and Connie flung herself by her side and covered her hand with
kisses.

"You don't think, Sue, do yer," said Connie, "that _us_ could stop
seekin' yer until we found yer?"

Sue gave a startled cry.

"Connie--Connie! Oh Connie! 'ow is Giles?"

"'E wants yer more than anything in all the world."

"Then he--he's--still alive?"

"Yus, he's still alive; but he wants yer. He thought you was in the
country, gettin' pretty rooms for you and him. But oh, Sue! he's goin'
to a more beautiful country now."

Sue didn't cry. She was about to say something, when Harris bent
forward.

"God in 'eaven bless yer!" he said in a husky voice. "God in 'eaven give
back yer strength for that noble deed yer ha' done for me an' mine! But
it's all at an end now, Susan--all at an end--for I myself 'ave tuk the
matter in 'and, an' hall you 'as to do is to get well as fast as ever
yer can for the sake o' Giles."

"You mustn't excite her any more to-night," said the nurse then, coming
forward; "seeing," she added, "that you have given the poor little thing
relief. You can come again to-morrow; but now she must stay quiet."

Late as the hour was when Harris and Connie left St. Thomas's Hospital,
Harris turned to Connie.

"I've some'ut to do--and to-night. Shall I take yer 'ome first, or wull
yer come with me?"

"Oh, I will come with you, father," said Connie.

"Wull then, come along."

They walked far--almost as far as Cheapside. Connie could not imagine
why her father was taking her into a certain dingy street, and why he
suddenly stopped at a door which had not yet been shut for the night.

"I thought as there were a chance of findin' him up," he said. "Come
right in, gel."

Connie entered, and the next minute Harris was addressing the pawnbroker
from whom he had stolen the locket.

"I 'ave a word to say with you," he remarked; and then he related the
circumstances of that day, several weeks ago now.

"But we found it," said the pawnbroker, "in the pocket of the young
gel."

"It was I as put it there," said Harris. "It was I--the meanest wretch
on 'arth. But I've come to my senses at last. You can lock me up ef yer
like. I'll stay 'ere; I won't even leave the shop ef yer want to deliver
the real thief over to justice."

The pawnbroker stared at the man; then he looked at Connie. There is no
saying what he might have done; but Connie's face, with its pleading
expression, was enough to disarm any one.

"The fact is," he began "this sort o' thing ought to be punished, or
however could poor folks live? But it's a queer thing. When the young
gel vanished, as it seemed, into the depths of the 'arth, and I 'ad got
my property back, I tuk no further trouble. In course, now that you 'ave
delivered yerself up, it seems a'most fair that the law should take its
course."

"That's wot I think," said Harris. "Make a short job of it, man. Call in
a constable; 'e can take me to Bow Street to-night."

"No 'urry, man," said the pawnbroker. "I want yer to tell me some'ut
more. Is that other little party alive or dead? It seems to me as though
the 'arth must 'ave swallered her up."

"I will tell you," said Connie; and she did relate Sue's story--as much
as she knew of it--and with such pathos that even that pawnbroker, one
of the hardest of men, felt a queer softness about his heart.

"Wull," he said--"wull, it's a queer world! To think o' that child
plannin' things out like that! And ef she ad come to me, I might ha'
believed her, too. Wull now, she be a fine little crittur. An'
s'pose"--he glanced at Harris--"I don't prosecute you, there's no call,
to my way o' thinkin'. And the fact is, I'm too busy to be long out of
the shop. Don't you steal no more, neighbor. You ha' got off dirt-cheap
this time, but don't you steal no more."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE HAPPY GATHERING.


There came a day in the early spring of that year when a great many
pleasant things happened to the people who have been mentioned in this
story.

Connie's room was very bright with flowers--spring flowers--which had
been sent to her all the way from Eastborough by Mrs. Cricket.
Quantities of primroses were placed in a huge bowl, and the sun came
feebly in at the window and seemed to kiss and bless the flowers. There
were also some early buttercups and quantities of violets.

Giles was neither better nor worse, but perhaps on this day he was a
little bit on the side of better. It was so beautiful to think that Sue
was coming back!

Oh, this was a wonderful day! Sue was well again; Connie was happy;
Harris was never tired of doing all he could both for Connie and Giles;
and other people were happy too, for Sue's return was to be marked by a
sort of holiday--a sort of general feast.

To this feast was invited--first, Mrs. Anderson; then Ronald, who
happened to be staying in London and was deeply excited at the thought
of seeing Connie once more; and also dear Father John, who would not
have missed such an occasion for the wide world. Of course, Pickles
could not be left out of such a gathering; but he could scarcely be
considered a guest, for did he not belong, so to speak, to the family,
and was not dear Sue, in particular, his special property?

Mrs. Anderson supplied the good things for the feast. This she insisted
upon. So Connie spread quite a lordly board--cold meats not a few, some
special delicacies for Giles, and a splendid frosted cake with the word
"Cinderella" written in pink fairy writing across the top. This special
cake had been made by Mrs. Price, and Pickles had brought it and laid it
with immense pride on a dish in the centre of the table.

"Yus," said Connie, "it do look purty, don't it? Wot with good things to
eat, and wot with flowers, it's quite wonderful."

When everything was arranged, Connie went into a little room to put on
once again her dark-blue dress, and to unplait her thick hair and allow
it to fall over her shoulders.

"It's for Ronald," she said. "Ronald wouldn't know me without my hair
down."

Then, one by one, the visitors made their appearance--Father John, who
sat down by Giles's side and held his hand, and by his mere presence
gave the boy the greatest possible comfort; and Pickles, whose face was
shining with hard rubbing and soap and water, and whose red hair stuck
upright all over his head. Then Mrs. Anderson came in and sat down, and
gave a gentle look first at Giles and then at Connie; and Connie felt
that she loved her better than ever, and Giles wondered if he would meet
many with faces like hers in heaven.

In short, every one had arrived at last except the little heroine. But
hark! there was a sound outside as though some vehicle had stopped at
the door. Giles's breath came fast. There were steps on the stairs, and
two porters from the hospital carried Sue in between them.

"Oh, I can really walk," she said. "And oh, Giles--Giles!--Please put me
down, porter; I really, really can walk."

"Jest as himpatient as ever, Cinderella!" said Pickles, who always
tried, as was his custom, to be specially funny in pathetic times.

Sue glanced at him, but could not speak just then. There are moments in
our lives when no words will come. She went up to Giles and hid her face
on his pillow. Poor little Sue had a bitterly hard fight with herself,
for that face, which belonged not to earth, unnerved her,
notwithstanding the rapture of seeing it once again. But Giles himself
was the first to recover composure.

"We are 'avin' such a feast!" he said. "An' it's all _so_ beautiful! Now
then, Sue I do 'ope as ye're 'ungry."

After that Ronald spoke and made the others laugh; and Sue bustled
about, just as though she were at home, and Connie helped her; and very
soon they all crowded round the table, except Giles, who had his dainty
morsels brought to him by Sue's own hands.

Thus they ate and laughed and were merry, although perhaps the laughter
was a little subdued and the merriment a trifle forced.

It was when the feast was quite over that Father John spoke a few
words--just a very few--about the love and goodness of God, and how He
had brought His wandering sheep home again to the fold, and how He had
helped Connie in dark times, and Ronald in dark times, and Sue in dark
times.

"And He is helping Giles, and will be with him to the end," said the
street preacher. "And now," he added, "I think Giles is very tired and
would like to be all alone with Sue. Suppose, neighbors, we go into the
next room."

The opening of the door of the next room was one of the surprises which
had been planned by Connie and her father. As he was now earning such
really excellent wages, and as he had taken the pledge and meant to keep
it, he felt he was entitled to another room. It was neatly furnished.
There was a fire burning in the grate, and there were white muslin
curtains to the windows. Connie spoke of it with great pride as the
"drawing-room," and Pickles assured her that even to set foot in that
room was enough to make Connie a "lydy" on the spot.

When they were alone Sue and Giles talked softly one to the other.

"The blessed Woice," said Sue, "'ave been with me all the w'y."

"And with me," said Giles.

"You won't go jest yet, Giles," said Sue.

"Wery soon--but not quite yet," he answered.

Sue smiled and kissed his hand, and they talked as those who have been
long parted, and know they must be parted soon again, will talk, when
heart meets heart.

In the other room people were not more cheerful, but at least more glad.

"There is nothing left to wish for," said Pickles. "It's just the best
thing in all the world for little Giles to get quite well up in heaven.
Ain't it now?" he added, looking at Father John.

"Yes," said Father John very briefly. Then he turned to Connie.

"You must never forget all that you have lived through, Connie," he
said. "You'll be a better and a braver girl just because of these dark
days."

"She's the best wench on 'arth," said Harris.

Suddenly Ronald sprang forward and spoke.

"Uncle Stephen said I was to tell you he has bought the cottage in the
country where Mrs. Cricket lives and he's adding to it and making it
most beautiful, and dear Mrs. Cricket is to be housekeeper, and you're
all to come down in the summer--all of you--even Giles; and Giles is to
stay there as long as he lives. Uncle Stephen is a splendid man,"
continued Ronald. "It was after him my darling V. C. father took when he
became so great and brave and manly, and I love Uncle Stephen better
than any one except father. Father hasn't come home yet, and perhaps I
won't see him until Giles sees his father. But I'm a very, very happy
boy, and it's all because of Uncle Stephen. Now, the rest of you can be
happy too in my cottage--Uncle Stephen says it _is_ my cottage--in the
beautiful country."

       *       *       *       *       *

These things came to pass, and even Giles went for a short time to the
beautiful country, where the flowers grew in such abundance, and where
the birds sang all day long.

"Now you can guess," he said to Sue after they had been there a
fortnight or more, "some little bit about the joys of the Land of Pure
Delight."



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes

1. This book makes extensive use of dialect. Original spellings of
   words in dialect have been retained.

2. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

3. Table of Contents added in this text was not present in original
   edition.

4. One word has been changed from the original to correctly identify
   the speaker, Agnes, replying to Connie's question:
   p. 27 original: "Wot sort?" asked Connie.
      replacement: "Wot sort?" asked Agnes.





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