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HOME > Short Stories > Sue, A Little Heroine > CHAPTER I. BIG BEN'S VOICE.
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 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 prompted2 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."

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