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HOME > Short Stories > Sue, A Little Heroine > CHAPTER IV. SOLITARY HOURS.
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 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.

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