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HOME > Short Stories > Sue, A Little Heroine > CHAPTER XX. CAUGHT AGAIN.
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 When Connie awoke the next morning, it was to see the ugly face of Agnes bending over her.  
"Stylites is to 'ome," she said briefly. "Yer'd best look nippy and come into the kitchen and 'ave yer brekfus'."
"Oh!" said Connie.
"You'll admire Stylites," continued Agnes; "he's a wery fine man. Now come along—but don't yer keep him waiting."
Connie had not undressed. Agnes poured a little water into a cracked basin for her to wash her face and hands, and88 showed her a comb, by no means specially inviting, with which she could comb out her pretty hair. Then, again enjoining her to "look slippy," she left the room.
In the kitchen a big breakfast was going on. A quantity of bacon was frizzling in a pan over a great fire; and Freckles, the boy who had let Connie and Agnes in the night before, was attending to it. Two men with rough faces—one of them went by the name of Corkscrew, and the other was known as Nutmeg—were standing also within the region of the warm and generous fire. But the man on whom Connie fixed her pretty eyes, when she softly opened the door and in all fear made her appearance, was of a totally different order of being.
He was a tall man, quite young, not more than thirty years of age, and remarkably handsome. He had that curious combination of rather fair hair and very dark eyes and brows. His face was clean-shaven, and the features were refined and delicate without being in the least effeminate; for the cruel strength of the lower jaw and firmly shut lips showed at a glance that this man had a will of iron. His voice was exceedingly smooth and gentle, however, in intonation.
When he saw Connie he stepped up to her side and, giving her a gracious bow, said:
"Welcome to the kitchen, young lady."
"It's Stylites—bob yer curtsy," whispered Agnes in Connie's ear.
So Connie bobbed her curtsy. Was this the man she was to be so dreadfully afraid of? Her whole charming little face broke into a smile.
"I'm so glad as you're Stylites!" she said.
The compliment, the absolutely unexpected words, the charm of the smile, had a visible effect upon the man. He looked again at Connie as though he would read her through and through; then, taking her hand, he led her to the breakfast-table.
"Freckles," he said, "put a clean plate and knife on the table. That plate isn't fit for a young lady to eat off."
Freckles grinned from ear to ear, showing rows of yellow teeth. He rushed off to wash the plate in question, and returned with it hot and shining to lay again before Connie's place. Simeon Stylites himself helped the little girl to the choicest pieces of bacon, to delicate slices of white bread, and to any other good things which were on the table. As he did this he did not speak once, but his eyes seemed to be everywhere. No one dared do a thing on the sly. The rough-looking men, Corkscrew and Nutmeg, were desired in a peremptory tone to take their mugs of tea to another table at the farther end of the great room. One of them ventured to grumble, and both cast angry glances at Connie. Stylites, however, said, "Shut that!" and they were instantly mute as mice.
The boy Freckles also took his breakfast to the other table; but Agnes sat boldly down, and pushing her ill-favored face forward, addressed Simeon in familiar style:89
"I nabbed her—yer see."
"Shut that!" said Stylites.
Agnes flushed an angry red, gave Connie a vindictive look, but did not dare to utter another word. Connie ate her breakfast with wonderful calm, and almost contentment. During the night which had passed she had gone through terrible dreams, in which Simeon Stylites had figured largely. He had appeared to her in those dreams as an ogre—a monster too awful to live. But here was a gracious gentleman, very goodly to look upon, very kind to her, although rude and even fierce to the rest of the party.
"He'll let me go 'ome," thought Connie; "he 'ave a kind 'eart."
The meal came to an end. When it did so Corkscrew came up and inquired if the young "amattur" were "goin' to 'ave her first lesson in perfessional work."
"Shut that!" said Stylites again. "You go into cellar No. 5 and attend to the silver, Corkscrew.—Nutmeg, you'll have the other jewelry to put in order this morning. Is the furnace in proper order?"
"Yus, sir."
"Get off both of you and do your business. We're going out this evening."
"When, sir?"
"Ten o'clock—sharp's the word."
"On wot, sir?"
"No. 17's the job," said Simeon Stylites.
"And wot am I to do?" said Agnes.
"Stay indoors and mend your clothes."
"In this room, sir?"
"No; your bedroom."
"Please, Simeon Stylites, yer ain't thanked me yet for bringin' Connie along."
For answer Stylites put his hand into his pocket, produced half-a-crown, and tossed it to Agnes.
"Get into your room, and be quick about it," he said.
"May I take Connie along, please, sir?"
"Leave the girl alone. Go!"
Agnes went.
"Come and sit in this warm chair by the fire, dear," said Stylites.
Connie did so. The smile round her lips kept coming and going, going and coming. She was touched; she was soothed; she had not a scrap of fear; this great, strong, kind man would certainly save her. He was so different from dreadful Mammy Warren.
"Freckles," said the chief, "wash the breakfast things; put them in order; take them all into the pantry. When you have done, go out by the back door, being careful to put on the old man's disguise to-day. Fasten the wig firmly on, and put a patch over your eye. Here's five shillings; get food for the day, and be here by twelve o'clock sharp. Now go."90
"Yus, sir."
Freckles had an exceedingly cheerful manner. He knew very little fear. The strange life he led gave him a sort of wild pleasure. He winked at Connie.
"Somethin' wery strange be goin' to 'appen," he said to himself. "A hamattur like this a-brought in by private horders, an' no perfessional lesson to be tuk." He thought how he himself would enjoy teaching this pretty child some of the tricks of the trade. Oh, of course, she was absolutely invaluable. He didn't wonder that Mammy had brought in such spoil when Connie was there. But even Freckles had to depart, and Connie presently found herself alone with the chief.
He stood by the hearth, looking taller and more exactly like a fine gentleman, and Connie was more and more reassured about him.
"Please, sir——" she began.
"Stop!" he interrupted.
"Mayn't I speak, sir?"
"No—not now. For God's sake don't plead with me; I can't stand that."
"Why, sir?"
But Connie, as she looked up, saw an expression about that mouth and that jaw which frightened her, and frightened her so badly that all the agony she had undergone in Mammy Warren's house seemed as nothing in comparison. The next minute, however, the cruel look had departed. Simeon Stylites drew a chair forward, dropped into it, bent low, and looked into Connie's eyes.
"Allow me," he said; and he put his hand very gently under her chin, and raised her little face and looked at it.
"Who's your father?" he asked.
"Peter Harris."
"Blacksmith, sir."
"Where do you live?"
"Adam Street, sir; and——"
"Hush! Only answer my questions."
Stylites removed his hand from under the girl's chin, and Connie felt a blush of pain sweeping over her face.
"How long were you with that woman Warren?"
"Dunno, sir."
"What do you mean by answering me like that?"
"Can't 'elp it, sir. Tuk a fright there—bad fire—can't remember, please, sir."
"Never mind; it doesn't matter. Stand up; I want to look at your hair."
Connie did so. Simeon took great masses of the golden, beautiful hair between his slender fingers. He allowed it to ripple through them. He felt its weight and examined its quality.
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