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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSue, A Little Heroine - Chapter 9. A Trip Into The Country
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Sue, A Little Heroine - Chapter 9. A Trip Into The Country Post by :Arlene_1950 Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1773

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Sue, A Little Heroine - Chapter 9. A Trip Into The Country

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.

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