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HOME > Short Stories > Sue, A Little Heroine > CHAPTER X. THE RETURN TO LONDON.
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 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.36  
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?"37
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 had38 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; but39 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' do40 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 l............
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