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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSue, A Little Heroine - Chapter 3. Good Security
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Sue, A Little Heroine - Chapter 3. Good Security Post by :Paul_Manuel Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1756

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Sue, A Little Heroine - Chapter 3. 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."

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CHAPTER II. A SERVANT OF GODJohn 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