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HOME > Short Stories > Sue, A Little Heroine > CHAPTER XXXVI. A CRISIS.
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 Connie went downstairs and stood in the doorway. She had gone through a good deal during these last adventurous weeks, and although still it seemed to those who knew her that Connie had quite the prettiest face in all the world, it was slightly haggard now for a girl of fourteen years, and a little of its soft plumpness had left it.  
Connie had never looked more absolutely pathetic than she did at this moment, for her heart was full of sorrow for Giles and of anxiety with regard to Sue. She would keep her promise to the little boy—she would find Sue.
As she stood and thought, some of the roughest neighbors passed by, looked at the child, were about to speak, and then went on. She was quite in her shabby, workaday dress; there was nothing to rouse jealousy about her clothes; and the "gel" seemed in trouble. The neighbors guessed the reason. It was all little Giles. Little Giles was soon "goin' aw'y."
"It do seem crool," they said one to the other, "an' that sister o' his nowhere to be found."
Just then, who should enter the house but kind Dr. Deane. He stopped when he saw Connie.
"I am going up to Giles," he said. "How is the little chap?"
"Worse—much worse," said Connie, the tears gathering in her eyes.
"No news of his sister, I suppose?"144
"No, sir—none."
"I am sorry for that—they were such a very attached pair. I'll run up and see the boy, and bring you word what I think about him."
The doctor was absent about a quarter of an hour. While he was away Connie never moved, but stood up leaning against the door-post, puzzling her brains to think out an almost impossible problem. When the doctor reappeared she did not even ask how Giles was. Kind Dr. Deane looked at her; his face was wonderfully grave. After a minute he said:
"I think, Connie, I'd find that little sister as quickly as I could. The boy is very, very weak. If there is one desire now in his heart, however, it is just to see Sue once more."
"I ha' give him my word," said Connie. "I'm goin' to find Sue ef—ef I never see Giles agin."
"But you mustn't leave him for long," said the doctor. "Have you no plan in your head? You cannot find a girl who is lost as Sue is lost in this great London without some clue."
"I ain't got any clue," said Connie, "but I'll try and find Pickles."
"Whoever is Pickles?" asked the doctor.
"'E knows—I'm sartin sure," said Connie. "I'll try and find him, and then——"
"Well, don't leave Giles alone. Is there a neighbor who would sit with him?"
"I won't leave him alone," said Connie.
The doctor then went away. Connie was about to return to Giles, if only for a few minutes, when, as though in answer to an unspoken prayer, the red-headed Pickles appeared in sight. His hair was on end; his face was pale; he was consumed with anxiety; in short, he did not seem to be the same gay-hearted Pickles whom Connie had last met with. When he saw Connie, however, the sight of that sweet and sad face seemed to pull him together.
"Now must I give her a blow, or must I not?" thought Pickles to himself. "It do seem 'ard. There's naught, a'most, I wouldn't do for pore Cinderella; but w'en I have to plant a dart in the breast of that 'ere most beauteous crittur, I feels as it's bitter 'ard. W'y, she 'ud make me a most captiwatin' wife some day. Now, Pickles, my boy, wot have you got in the back o' your 'ead? Is it in love you be—an' you not fourteen years of age? Oh, fie, Pickles! What would yer mother s'y ef she knew?"
Pickles slapped his hand with a mighty thump against his boyish breast.
"That's the w'y to treat nonsense," he said aloud. "Be'ave o' yerself, Pickles—fie for shame, Pickles! That 'ere beauteous maid is to be worshipped from afar—jest like a star. I do declare I'm turnin' po-ettical!"
"Pickles!" called Connie at this moment. "Stop!"
"Pickles be 'ere," replied the youth, drawing up before Connie and making a low bow.145
"Giles is worse, Pickles," said Connie, "an' wot's to be done?"
Pickles's round face grew grave.
"Is 'e wery bad?" he asked.
"So bad that he'll soon go up to God," said Connie. Her eyes filled with tears; they rolled down her cheeks.
"Bright as dimants they be," thought the boy as he watched her. "Precious tears! I could poetise 'bout them."
"Pickles," said Connie again, "I have made Giles a promise. He sha'n't die without seeing Sue. I'm sartin sure, Pickles, that you could take me to Sue now—I'm convinced 'bout it—and I want you to do it."
"Why do you think that?" asked Pickles.
"'Cos I do," said Connie. "'Cos of the way you've looked and the way you've spoken. Oh, dear Pickles, take me to her now; let me bring her back to little Giles to-night!"
Once again that terribly mournful expression, so foreign to Pickles's freckled face, flitted across it.
"There!" he said, giving himself a thump. "W'en I could I wouldn't, and now w'en I would I can't. I don't know where she be. She's lost—same as you were lost—w'ile back. She's disappeared, and none of us know nothink about her."
"Oh! is she really lost? How terrible that is!" said Connie.
"Yus, she's lost. P'r'aps there's one as could find her. Connie, I 'ate beyond all things on 'arth to fright yer or say an unkind thing to yer; but to me, Connie, you're a star that shines afar. Yer'll fergive the imperence of my poetry, but it's drawn from me by your beauty."
"Don't talk nonsense now, Pickles," said Connie. "Things are too serious. We must find Sue—I must keep my promise."
"Can you bear a bit o' pine?" said Pickles suddenly.
"Pain?" said Connie. "I've had a good deal lately. Yes, I think—I think I can bear it."
"Mind yer," said Pickles, "it's this w'y. I know w'y Sue left yer, and I know w'y she ain't come back. It's true she 'aven't give herself hup yet, although she guv me to understand as she were 'bout to go to prison."
"To prison?" said Connie, springing forward and putting her hand on Pickles's shoulder. "Sue—the most honest gel in all the world—go to prison?"
"Oh yes," said Pickles, "yer might call her honest; but w'en she goes into a pawnshop an' comes hout agin wid a golden dimant locket a-hid in her pocket, there are people as won't agree wid yer, an' that's the solemn truth, Connie."
Connie's face was very white.
"I don't believe it," she said.
"Yer don't?" cried Pickles. "But I were there at the time. But for me she would ha' been locked up long ago. But I tuk pity on her—'avin' my own suspicions. I hid her and disguised her. Wot do yer think I come 'ere for so often but jest to comfort the poor thing an' bring her news o' Giles? Then146 all of a suddn't my suspicions seemed confirmed. I guessed wot I see is workin' in your mind—that some one else done it an' putt the blame on 'er. Oh, I'm a born detective. I putt my wits in soak, an' soon I spotted the guilty party. Bless yer, Connie! ye're right—Sue be honest—honest as the day—noble, too—more nobler nor most folk. Pore Sue! Pore, plain Cinderella! Oh, my word! it's beauteous inside she be—an' you're beauteous outside. Outside beauty is captiwatin', but the hinner wears best."
"Go on," said Connie; "tell me wot else you 'ave in yer mind."
"It's this: yer may own up to it, an' there's no use beatin' about the bush. The guilty party wot stole the locket an' transferred it by sleight-of-'and to poor Sue is no less a person than yer own father, Connie Harris."
Connie fell back, deadly pale.
"No—no!" she said. "No—no! I am sartin sure 'tain't that way."
"Yus, but it be that way—I tell yer it be. You ax 'im yerself; there's no time for muddlin' and a-hidin' o' the truth. You ax the man hisself."
"Father!" said Connie. "Father!"
Harris, wrangling with another workman, was now seen approaching. When he perceived his daughter and Pickles, his first impulse was to dart away down a side-street; but Pickles, that most astute young detective, was too sharp for him.
"No," he said, rushing at the man and laying his hand on his shoulder. "Giles is bad, an' we can't find Sue no'ow, and yer must tell the truth."
Harris did not know why his heart thumped so heavily, and why a sort of wild terror came over him; but when Connie also joined Pickles, and raising her eyes to the rough man's face, said, "Be it true or be it lies, you are my own father and I'll niver turn agin yer," her words had a most startling effect.
Harris trembled from head to foot.
"S'y that agin, wench," he muttered.
"You're mine—I'll not turn agin yer," said Connie.
"Then why—wot 'ave I done to deserve a child like this? There, Pickles! you know—and you ha' told Connie—it's all the truth. There come a day w'en I wanted money, an' I were met by sore temptation. I tuk the dimant locket w'en the pawnbroker 'ad 'is back turned on me; but as I were leavin' the shop—Sue bein' by my side—I suddenly saw him pokin' his finger into the place where it had been. I knew it were all up. I managed to slip the locket into Sue's pocket, and made off. I ha' been near mad since—near mad since!"
"Small wonder!" said Pickles. "An' do yer know that she 'ad made up her mind to go to prison 'stead o' you?"
"You told me so," said Harris—"at least you told me that she was goin' to prison instead o' the guilty party."147
"Wull," said Pickles, "yer own 'eart told yer 'oo was the guilty party."
"That's true, youngster."
"Father," said Connie, "we can't find Sue anywhere, and Giles is dying, and we must get her, and you must help."
"Help?" said Harris. "Yes, I'll help. I won't leave a stone unturned. She wanted to save me, knowing the truth. Wull, I'll save and find her, knowin' the truth."
"I will come with you," said Connie. "I want to go wid yer; only wot am I to do with Giles?"
"Don't worrit 'bout him," said Pickles. "I'm 'ere to be o' sarvice to............
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