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 Pickles and Sue had to go a long way before they reached the destination of "the best little woman in the world." They walked along by-streets and all kinds of queer places, and presently reached a part of London where Sue had never been before. They passed whole streets of warehouses, and came then to poor-looking dwelling-houses, but all of an immense height, and very old and dirty. It was the back slums of Westminster over again, but it was a Westminster severed as far as one pole is from another to Sue.80  
"We does a roaring trade yere," said Pickles, looking around him with the air of a proprietor well satisfied with his property.
"Wot in?" asked Sue.
"Wot hin? Well, that may surprise yer. Hin fire, of course."
"Wot do yer mean?" asked Sue.
"Wot does I mean? I mean as we deals in that 'ere rampagious helement. We belongs to the great London Fire Brigade. That his, my brother Will does; and I have a cousin wot thinks hisself no end of a swell, and he's beginning his drill. Do you suppose, you goose, as I'd have acted as I did, wid that 'ere remarkable coolness jest now, when the fire wor burning, and the man wor on the wery brink of destruction, ef fire had not bin, so to speak, my native hair? But now, here we are at last, so come along hup to mother!"
Taking Sue's hand, Pickles dragged her up flight after flight of stairs, until they reached the top of one of the very tall, dirty houses. Here he suddenly flung open a door, and pushing Sue in, sang out:
"Mother, yere I be! And let me introduce to you Cinderella. Her sisters have bin that unkind and mean as cannot be told, and she have taken refuge wid us until the Prince comes to tie on the glass slipper."
No doubt Pickles' mother was thoroughly accustomed to him, for she did not smile at all, but coming gravely forward, took Sue's two hands in hers, and looking into her face, and seeing something of the great trouble there, said in a soft, kind tone:
"Sit down, my dear—sit down. If I can help you I will."
"Oh, you can help her real fine, mother!" said Pickles, beginning to dance a hornpipe round them both. "And I said as you were the wery best little 'oman in all the world, and that you would do hall you could."
"So I will, my lad; only now do let the poor dear speak for herself."
But Sue did not. There are limits beyond which fortitude will not go, and those limits were most suddenly reached by the poor child. Her morning's early rising, her long walk to her place of business, her hard work when she got there; then her hurried run for the sick girl's lunch, her cruel betrayal, her very startling capture by Pickles; the fact that her hair had been cut off, her clothes changed, her very name altered, until she herself felt that she must really be somebody else, and not the Sue whom Giles loved.
All these things she had borne with tolerable calmness; but now (for Sue was really starving) the warm room, the bright fire—above all, the kind face that bent over her, the gentle voice that asked to hear her tale—proved too much. She put up her toil-worn hands to her face and burst into such sobs as strong people give way to in agony.
Mrs. Price beckoned to Pickles to go away, and then, sitting81 down by Sue's side, she waited until the overloaded heart should have become a little quieted; then she said:
"And now, my dear, you will tell me the story."
Sue did tell it—told it all—Mrs. Price sitting by and holding her hands, and absolutely not speaking a single word.
"You believes me, marm?" said Sue at last.
Mrs. Price looked in the girl's eyes and answered simply:
"Yes, poor lamb, I quite believe you. And now I am going to get you some supper."
She made Sue lie back in the easy-chair by the fire, and drawing out a little round table, laid a white cloth upon it.
Sue's mind, by this time partly relieved of its load, was able to take in its novel surroundings. The house might be very tall and very dirty, but this room at least was clean. Floor, walls, furniture—all reflected a due and most judicious use of soap and water; and the woman moving about with gentle, deft fingers, arranging now this and now that, was quite different from any woman Sue had ever seen before. She was a widow, and wore a widow's cap and a perfectly plain black dress, but she had a white handkerchief pinned neatly over her shoulders, so that she looked half-widow, half-nun.
She was tall and slender, with very beautiful dark eyes. Sue did not know whether to think her the very grave............
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