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A London Baby: The Story of King Roy, Page 2

L. T. Meade

quiteclose to Faith's ear.

  It was a thin, high-pitched voice, and raising her head at the sound,Faith saw a very white-faced, very ragged girl, a little older thanherself, standing near.

  "I'm so afraid as you mayn't be clean enough," she answered anxiously.

  "Oh, but I'll run to mother, and she'll wash my lips. Just wait, andI'll be back in a jiffy."

  The ragged girl flew across the grass, came to a woman who was seatedwith some other children round her, stayed away for a very short time,and quickly returned.

  "Now, ain't I h'all right?" she said, showing a pair of pretty rosy lipsenough, in the midst of an otherwise black and dirty little face."You'll kiss me now, pretty, dear little boy?" she said.

  "I tiss 'oo once," replied King Roy solemnly, and allowing his littlerose-bud mouth to meet hers.

  "Oh, but ain't he a real duck?" said the girl. "We 'ad a little 'unsomethink like him wid us once. Yes, he wor _werry_ like him."

  "Ain't he with you now?" asked Faith.

  "No, no; you mustn't speak o' it to mother, but he died; he tuk the'fecti'n, and he died."

  "Wor it fever?" asked Faith.

  "Yes, perhaps that wor the name. There's a many kinds o' 'fecti'n, andfolks dies from they h'all. I don't see the use o' naming 'em. They'reh'all certain sure to kill yer." Here the ragged girl seated herself onthe grass quite close to Faith. "You'll never guess where I'm a goingthis afternoon," she said.

  "No; how could I guess?" replied Faith.

  "Well, now, you're _werry_ neat dressed, and folks like you have akinder right to be there. But for h'all that, though I'm desperateragged, I'm goin'. You're sure you can't guess, can you?"

  "No, I can't guess," answered Faith. "I ain't going nowhere particularmyself, and I never wor good at guessing."

  "Well, now, ain't it queer?--I thought h'all the 'spectable folks went.Why, I'm going to Sunday-school--'tis to Ragged Sunday-school, to besure; but I like it. I ha' gone twice now, and I like it wonderfulwell."

  "I know now what you mean," replied Faith. "I often wished to go toSunday-school, but father don't like it; he'd rayther I stayed to takecare o' Roy."

  "I guess as my father wouldn't wish it neither. But, Lor' bless yer! Idon't trouble to obey him. 'Tis werry nice in Sunday-school. Would youlike to hear wot they telled us last Sunday?"

  "Yes, please," answered Faith, opening her eyes with some curiosity.

  "Well, it wor a real pretty tale--it wor 'bout a man called Jesus. Alot o' women brought their babies to Jesus and axed Him to fondle of'em, and take 'em in His arms; and there wor some men about--ugh! Iguess as _they_ wor some'ut like father--and they said to the women,`Take the babies away as fast as possible; Jesus is a great, great man,and He can't no way be troubled.' And the mothers o' the babies worgoing off, when Jesus said--I remember the exact words, for we was gotto larn 'em off book--`Suffer the little children to come unto Me, anddon't forbid 'em;' and He tuk them 'ere little babies in His arms andkissed 'em. I guess as some of 'em worn't too clean neither."

  "I wish ever so as I could take Roy to him," answered Faith. "That's areal lovely story. Mother, afore she died, telled me 'bout Jesus; but Idon't remember 'bout Him and the babies. Now I must be going home.Thank you, little ragged girl. If you like you may kiss Roy once again,and me too."


  Faith and Roy were late, and their father was waiting for them. He wasvery particular about his meals, which were never entrusted to Faith'syoung efforts at cooking, but were sent from a cook-shop close by. Nowthe potatoes and a little piece of roast beef smoked on the table, andWarden, considerably put out, walked up and down. When the childrenentered, Roy ran up to his father confidently--he had never been afraidof any one in his life--and wanted a ride now on the tall, strongshoulder.

  "Up, up," said the little fellow, raising his arms and pointing to hisfavourite perch.

  Warden endeavoured to get out of his way, but Roy clasped his littlearms round his knees.

  "Fader, up, up," he said.

  "No; I can't, Roy. Don't be troublesome. Faith, that child is in everyone's way. Take him and put him in the bedroom until his dinner isready."

  Little Roy was very hungry, and there was that in his father's hard tonewhich caused him to raise his baby-blue eyes in wonder and some shadowyalarm. Faith took him, sobbing, into the bedroom, from which shereturned with a very sad heart to her own dinner. Warden helped hersullenly; but to eat while her little brother was alone seemed to chokeher. She found she could not swallow her nice Sunday dinner. She wasalways terrified of her stern father, but now for Roy's sake she mustbrave his anger.

  "Please, father, may little Roy have his dinner first? He's se'ch ababy, and he's so hungry."

  "No, Faith; I make a rule, and I won't break it. 'Tis a very properpunishment for you for being so late."

  Roy's little sobbing voice at the other side of the door, for thebedroom was inside the sitting-room, saying "Open, open," made it almostimpossible for Faith to sit quiet, and she was much relieved when herfather rose from the table and went out. Then what petting followed forlittle Roy! what feeding him with the choicest bits! until at last thelittle fellow, worn out from his walk and fit of crying, fell asleep inhis sister's arms.

  Faith laid him tenderly on the horse-hair sofa, covered him over, andsat down by his side. She sat on a low seat, and, folding her hands onher lap, gazed straight before her. Faith was nearly eleven years oldnow, but she was small for her age--small, thin, and very sad-looking.Only when playing with Roy, or tending Roy, did her little sallow facegrow childish and happy in expression. Faith possessed her mother'ssensitive temperament. Love alone could make this child bright andhappy; without love she must pine and die, perhaps as her mother died.Tears gathered slowly in her eyes as she recalled the little scenebetween her father and Roy. After a time, hearing steps in the street,she rose and went to the window. Some children, with their parents,were walking up the street--happy children in their Sunday best, andhappy parents, caring for and loving them. Faith watched one littlegroup with special interest. There were four in this group--a fatherand mother, and boy and girl. The girl held her father's hand, anddanced as she walked. The boy, a very little child, was led mosttenderly by his mother. Faith turned away with a great sigh, and thetears now rolled slowly down her cheeks.

  "Ain't it a hard, hard thing when a little child loses of his mother?"she said to herself. "Oh! my little darlin' Roy, if mother had beenthere he wouldn't a been kep' waiting fur his dinner."

  She went over, knelt down by her little brother, and kissed his softcheek. Then a further thought occurred to her. That was a pretty storythe ragged girl in Regent's Park had told her to-day. She had neverheard it before, though her mother, when alive, had often spoken to herabout Jesus, but somehow this story, the sweetest of all, had neverreached her ears before to-day.

  "I wish as Jesus wor alive now, and I could take Roy to him," she saidto herself. She felt that if Jesus took Roy in his arms and blessedhim, that then he might not miss his mother so much; that the great factof his having received the blessing of Jesus would make up to him forthe loss of his mother.

  "But wot's the use," continued Faith very sadly to herself, "when Jesusbe dead years ago?"

  At this juncture in the little girl's thoughts, the room-door wasopened, and a neighbour, who had often been kind to both the children,came in. She had come to borrow a saucepan, and was in a hurry; butseeing the tears on Faith's cheeks, she stopped to inquire the cause.

  "There be nothink wrong wid the little 'un, I 'ope, Faith," she said.

  "Oh, no," answered Faith. "Roy's well enough. 'Tis only as I'm sosorry as Jesus is dead."

  Mrs Mason, the neighbour, stepped back a pace or so in someastonishment.

  "Bless us and save us!" she exclaimed. "Wot a queer child! But itain't true, Faith, fur Jesus ain't dead. He's as alive as possible!"

  "Do the Bible say that?" asked Faith.

  "Yes, the Bible says it h'over and h'over."

  "And could I go to him, and take Roy? Could I, Mrs Mason?"

  "Bless us, child, you're a queer 'un; but the Bible sartin' do say asHe'll receive all as come to Him. Yes, in course you can