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HOME > Short Stories > Sue, A Little Heroine > CHAPTER XXV. ABOUT RONALD.
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 While poor Harris was trying to soothe the agonies of his conscience by being specially and extra good to Giles, and while Giles, who under Connie's care was recovering a certain114 measure of strength, and poor little Sue was still acting the part of Cinderella with Pickles as her champion, another child who plays an important part in this story was gradually recovering health and strength.  
When Ronald was well enough, to come downstairs, and then to walk across Mrs. Anderson's pretty little parlor, and on a certain fine day to go out with her for a walk, the good lady thought it was full time to make inquiries with regard to his relations.
She questioned her son George on the subject, and this gallant young fireman gave her what advice he could.
"No, don't employ detectives, mother," said George. "Somehow I hate the whole lot of them. Keep Ronald as long as you want to; he's a dear little chap, and a gentleman by birth, and he loves you too."
"I want to keep him, George; the child is the greatest delight and comfort to me. He is very unlike other children—very sensitive and delicate. But I do think that if he has relations they ought to know of his whereabouts."
"You have questioned him, of course, on the matter," said George Anderson.
"No—not much; he hasn't been strong enough. I think, too, the severe illness he has undergone, and the terrible frights he has been subject to, have to a certain extent affected his mind; and beyond the fact that he is always looking for his father, and hoping that his father may walk in, he never talks about the old days."
"Well, mother," said George, "I must be off now; duty time is close at hand." As he spoke he rose from the seat by the fire which he had been enjoying in his mother's room.
"Of course, there is little doubt that Major Harvey is dead; but you could call at the War Office and inquire, mother, couldn't you?"
"Yes, I could and will; and I won't employ detectives, my boy. You may be certain of one thing—that I don't want to part with the child."
The next day after breakfast, Mrs. Anderson felt that it was time to question Ronald with regard to his past life.
"You are quite well now, Ronald," she said.
"Yes," said Ronald, "ever so strong. I feel brave, too," he added; "it would take a very great deal to frighten me now. A soldier's boy should be brave," he continued, that pleading, pathetic look coming into his dark eyes, which gave such a special charm to his little face.
"This soldier's boy is very brave," said Mrs. Anderson, patting his little hand, as the child stood close to her.
"My father was a V. C., ma'am," remarked Ronald in a soft tone.
"You're very proud of that, Ronald—you have good reason to be," said his friend. "But now, dear, I seriously want to ask you a few questions. You have told me about Connie, and about some of your dreadful life with Mammy Warren. I am115 anxious that you should try to forget all these terrible things as much as possible."
"Oh! but, please, I never could forget dear Connie."
"I don't want you to forget her. I have been planning a delightful surprise for you with regard to her. But other things you can forget."
"There's another person I don't want to forget," said Ronald; "that is the good woman in the country who gave me delicious new-laid eggs and chops and chicken. Mrs. Cricket was her name. I used to think of The Cricket on the Hearth often when I was looking at her. She was very like one, you know—such a cosy, purring sort of woman."
"How long were you with her, Ronald?"
"I don't remember going to her," said Ronald, shaking his head; "but perhaps I was too ill. But I do remember being with her, and the little path in the wood, and how I gradually got better, and how she petted me. And I remember Connie coming down the path looking like an angel; but Connie was the only bright thing for me to think about that dreadful day. But oh, please—please, Mrs. Anderson! poor Mrs. Cricket! Father hasn't come back, you know—he is coming, of course, but he hasn't come yet—and no one has paid Mrs. Cricket!"
"No one has paid her, dear?"
"Nobody at all. Mammy Warren said to her that father would pay her, but I know now it must have been all a lie."
"I am very much afraid it was," said Mrs. Anderson. "That Mammy Warren was a dreadful woman. Well, Ronald, I must try and get Mrs. Cricket's address, and we'll send her some money; and some day perhaps—there's no saying when—you may be able to go back to her. Would you like to see her again?"
"Very, very much," said the child, "if Mammy Warren doesn't come to fetch me."
"Very well: I will endeavor to get her address. Perhaps Connie could tell me."
"Oh! perhaps she could," said Ronald; "for I couldn't. I haven't a notion where she lived, except that it was far in the country, and the cottage was teeny—just two rooms, you know—and there was a pretty wood outside, and the horse-chestnuts lying on the ground."
"But now, Ronald, I want you to go farther back. Tell me of things that happened when—when your mother was alive."
"I—I'll try," said the boy.
"Go on, dear—tell me all you can."
"It's very difficult," said Ronald. "I remember little bits, and then I forget little bits."
"I don't want you to worry yourself, dear; but can you recall anybody ever calling to see your mother—anybody who might be a relation of yours?"
"There was the old gentleman, of course," said Ronald.
"Who, dear?"
"He was very old, and he wore glasses, and his hair was116 white. He most times made mother cry, so I—I used to be sorry when he came."
"Can you recall his name?"
"Mother used to call him Uncle Stephen; but he was not her relation—he was father's. I think he always scolded mother; she used to look dreadfully bad after he was gone. I don't want to see him again."
"But he may have had a kind heart."
"Oh, I don't know," said Ronald. "I don't want to see him again."
"Do you think, by chance, that his name was Harvey?"
"I don't know. I think he in a sort of way belonged to father."
"Then," said Mrs. Anderson, "I guess that his name was Harvey. Now, I won't question you any more, Ronald. You may sit up and play with your bricks."
Ronald played happily enough, and Mrs. Anderson, after thinking for a few minutes, wrote out an advertisement. The advertisement ran as follows:
"If a gentleman who was called Uncle Stephen by a little boy, son of the late Major Harvey, who was supposed to have been killed in action at Ladysmith on ——, would wish to know anything of the same boy, he can get full particulars from Mrs. Anderson, 12 Carlyle Terrace, Westminster."
This advertisement was put into the Times, the Standard, the Telegraph, and in fact, into all the daily newspapers. It appeared once, and Mrs. Anderson sat—as she expressed it—with her heart in her mouth for a whole day. But nothing happened: nobody came to inquire; there was no letter on the subject of the little son of brave Major Harvey. On the second day of the advertisement Mrs. Anderson felt a great relief in her heart.
"After I have advertised for a whole week," she said to herself, "I shall, I think, have done my duty, and perhaps I shall be allowed to keep the dear child."
She had looked, and felt, very sad on the first day of the advertisement, but on the second day she was more cheerful, and suggested to Ronald that Connie should come and have tea with him.
Ronald was delighted, and clapped his hands in glee. Mrs. Anderson wrote a little note to Connie, slightly blaming her for not coming to see her, but begging her to call that afternoon and have tea with Ronald. Connie was greatly delighted when she got the letter.
"May I go, Giles? Do yer mind?" she asked.
"In course not," answered Giles. "Why should I mind? Yer'll dress yerself in yer wery best, Connie, and I'll like well to look at yer afore yer goes out, an' w'en yer comes back."
So Connie put on her dark-blue costume once more, and brushed out her mane of golden hair and let it hang down her back; for she knew that Ronald would scarcely recognize her deprived of this ornament. Then, having left his tea all117 ready for Giles, she ran quickly in the direction of Mrs. Anderson's house.
She arrived there at four o'clock in the afternoon, to see a little face pressed up close to the pane of glass, and eager eyes watching for her. When she appeared on the steps little hands began to clap, and there was an eager rush of footsteps and then Ronald himself opened the door.
"Oh Connie, Connie!" he said, "come in—do, do come in!"
"How be yer, Ronald?" asked Connie.
"I'm as well as well can be, and I'm happy, too. Mrs. Anderson is just a beautiful old lady, and so very good to me! But come and tell me all about yourself. You and I are to have tea all alone in this room. We will have fun. Why, Connie dear, how lovely you look!"
Connie told Ronald that he also looked lovely, and the two children sat down side by side, while Ronald related the little bit of his story which had transpired since Connie saw him last.
"I was very ill," he said, "for a bit, and silly, and—and cowardly. But a wonderful man came to see me, and he talked—oh, so beautifully!—and then I got better; and Mrs. Anderson has been more than good to me—no one was ever so good to me before except father. She tells me, Connie, that I must not keep looking out for father; for if he can come he will, and if he can't I've just got to wait with patience. The street preacher, too, talked about patience. It's a little bit hard to be very patient, isn't it, Connie?"
"Yus," said Connie.
"Oh! and, Connie, some day perhaps you and I may go and stay with Mrs. Cricket in the country, and Mrs. Anderson is going to send her money for the chickens and fresh eggs and things. But I can't remember where the country is—can you, Connie?"
"We got out at a plice called Eastborough, an' the cottage wor a ivy cottage down a lane."
"Ivy Cottage—of course!" said Ronald. "How stupid of me to have forgotten! Now it's all right, and dear Mrs. Cricket will get her money."
When Ronald had told all his story Connie told all hers. In especial she told about Giles, and about poor Sue, who had vanished just as suddenly and completely as she (Connie) and Ronald himself on a certain day had disappeared from their friends.
"It's very, very queer," said Ronald. "Connie," he added, "I want to see that little boy. Can't you take me back to him now—can't you?"
"Yus," said Connie, "I could; but would it be right?"
"We'll ask Mrs. Anderson," said Ronald, "I'm certain sure she won't mind. You know the way there; you won't let yourself be kidnapped any more, will you, Connie?"
"No," said Connie.
Then tea was brought in, and the children enjoyed it. But118 Ronald could think of nothing but Giles and his earnest desire to see him. Once again he begged and implored of Connie to take him, just to sit for a few minutes by the little cripple's side, and Connie again said that Mrs. Anderson ought to know.
It was just at that moment that a cab drew up at the door, and out of the cab there stepped a white-headed old man, who came ponderously up the steps, leaning on a gold-headed stick. He rang the bell with a loud peal. Ronald began to listen.
"Who can it be?" he said. He ran to the window, and looking out, saw the cab waiting; but he missed the sight of the old gentleman, whom doubtless he would have recognized; and the neat little parlor-maid went to open the door, and then the labored steps were heard in the hall, and the drawing-room door was opened and shut, and there was silence.
"A visitor for my dear new aunty," said Ronald. "I always call her my aunty, and she likes it very much. Oh Connie, do take me just to see Giles! I know it isn't wrong, and I should be quite safe with you."
"First of all," said Connie, "we'll ring the bell and ask if we may speak to Mrs. Anderson for a minute."
"Very well," said Ronald; "only I 'spect she's busy with the person who has called."
Anne came to answer the children's summons, and told them that her mistress was particularly engaged and could not be disturbed.
"That's all right," answered Ronald; "you can go away now, please. You needn't take the tea-things just for a bit. You can go away, please, Anne."
Anne, who was devoted to Ronald, thought that the children wanted to play together, and left them alone in the little parlor. The light was growing dim, and Connie poked the fire into a blaze.
"I ought to be goin' back," she said. "Giles 'ull want me. I'll come another day, Ronald, and Mrs. Anderson'll let me bring yer back to Giles then."
"No, no—to-day," said Ronald—"to-day—to-night—this minute. It isn't wrong. I must see him. You'll take me to see him, and then you'll bring me back, won't you, Connie?"
"W'y, yus," said Connie. "I s'pose it ain't wrong; but you can't do more nor set down in the room for about five minutes, Ronald, for yer'll 'ave to get back 'ere quite early, you know."
Ronald, delighted at any sort of consent on the part of his little friend, rushed upstairs to fetch his velvet cap and his little overcoat. But he forgot, and so did Connie, all about the thin house-shoes he was wearing. Soon he had slipped into the coat, and cramming the cap on his head and looking up at Connie with a gay laugh, said:
"Now we'll come."
They were in the hall, and had just opened the hall door,119 when suddenly that of the drawing-room was opened, and the old man, who helped himself along with a stick, came out. Ronald looked back and caught sight of him; but Ronald himself being in shadow, the old man did not notice him. The old man then spoke in a loud voice:
"It is all settled, then, and I will call to-morrow morning at ten o'clock to fetch back the boy. Have him ready. And now, good-day to you, madam."
But the old gentleman suddenly stopped as he uttered these words, for the hall door was slammed by some one else with violence, and Ronald turned a white face up to Connie.
"It's himself—it's Uncle Stephen. He made mother cry and cry. I won't go back to him. I won't be his boy. Hide me—hide me, Connie!"
Connie herself felt very much frightened.
"Come along 'ome with me," she said. "He can't get yer at my 'ome. Don't shrink like that, Ronald. Be a man, dear Ronald."
The children got back to Connie's rooms without any special adventure. Th............
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