L. T. Meade.

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A LONDON BABY ***




Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England




A London Baby
The Story of King Roy
By L.T. Meade
Published by James Nisbet and Co, London.
This edition dated 1882.

A London Baby, by L.T. Meade.

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A LONDON BABY, BY L.T. MEADE.

PROLOGUE.

I first saw King Roy on a lovely summer's evening near Hyde Park. It
was a Sunday evening, and I recollect there was a light pleasant breeze,
which just tempered the heat, and once in a playful moment caught King
Roy's small velvet cap and tossed it off his curly head. Then ensued a
race, a scuffle, and a laugh, in which I, although a stranger to his
Majesty, joined. This induced me to consider him more attentively, and
thus to study well one of the bonniest baby faces it has ever been my
lot to behold. For - yes, it is true - King Roy was only a king in right
of his babyhood, being no higher up in this world's social scale than a
carpenter's son.

A brawny, large, and handsome man was the father, on whose shoulder the
little fellow was riding, while a demure, pale-faced sister of about
ten, walked by the side of the two. Father and little sister might have
been met with anywhere, any day, but the baby once in a lifetime.

He was a rounded and curved creature - not an angle anywhere about him;
his chin was a dimple, his lips rose-buds, his eyes sapphires; his
little head was a mass of tangled golden curls; sunshine seemed to kiss
him all over - hair, eyes, lips, even to the small pink toes - for he had
pulled off his shoes and stockings, which were held tightly in two fat
hands. He was full of heart-sunshine too, for his gay voice babbled
continually, saying words, to our deaf ears meaningless, but which,
doubtless, the angels understood very well.

"Ah boo!" was his remark to me, and he pointed with his small finger.
Following the direction of the tiny finger, I saw a fly sailing slowly
through space. Between King Roy and that fly there was doubtless some
untold sympathy. As though attracted by his admiration it came nearer.
Yes, he must have been giving it some message, for he babbled more
sweetly than before. The fly sailed away; it looked important with big
tidings, as it went higher into the blue, and the little group of three
turning Hyde Park Corner disappeared from my sight.

I never saw King Roy again, but afterwards I heard a story about him - a
story which so moved me that it may some others; so I tell it here.

CHAPTER ONE.

John Henry Warden was a carpenter by trade; he was a well-to-do workman,
employed constantly in a profitable and moneymaking business. God had
also endowed him with excellent mental and physical powers. Sickness
was unknown to this man, and as to the many heart-aches which come into
the daily measure of most other lives, they were strangers to his
nature. He did not understand moping; he had no sympathy with gloom.
He considered himself a successful man, he was also ambitious; he meant,
if he lived, to leave this world in a much higher position than when he
had entered it. He was very much respected by his neighbours, for he
was a strictly honourable, upright, and honest man. But though
respected he was not loved. It was his misfortune that never yet in all
his life had he either awakened or given love. And yet he was not
without those closest ties which knit hearts to hearts. He had been a
husband; he was now a widower and a father. He had married a young and
beautiful girl, a sensitive creature who needed love as the plants need
sunshine. She lived with him for a little over ten years, all the time,
year after year, fading slowly but surely. Then she died; no one said
she died of a broken heart - Warden least of all suspected it. He
regretted her loss, for he considered a mother the right person to bring
up her children, and he felt it a pity that she should have left all the
good things of this life, which by-and-by he might have provided for
her. He had even expressed this regret to her as she lay on her
death-bed, and her answer had surprised him.

"But there'll be love up in heaven. I'm so _hungry_ for love."

The wife and mother died, and Warden did not fret. It would have been
very sinful to fret, for although he scarcely considered himself
religious, yet he had a respect for God's dispensations. Yes, he was
outwardly a model character: he worked early and late; he saved money;
he was never in debt; he defrauded no man; his evenings were spent
either in attending lectures of working men like himself or studying the
subjects he loved at home; he never drank; he never swore; he was looked
up to, and brought forward as an example to follow for many a poor
drunken wretch. But yet in God's sight that poor drunkard, struggling,
though struggling feebly, to repent, was far nearer, far dearer than
this Pharisee, who had never yet known love, human or divine.

Warden's wife died, leaving to his care two children. Faith, the elder,
nine years of age at the time, was a pale, silent child. She knew
enough of her father's character to suppress all her real self before
him. Roy, the younger, aged three months when his mother left him,
showed from his earliest moments a disposition differing widely from
either father or mother. By-and-by that sweet soul would develop the
love of the one parent without her weakness, the strength of the other
without his hardness. Warden, in reality loving no one, having never in
all his existence experienced either the joy or the pain of true love,
yet believed that he had this feeling for his boy. He was undoubtedly
very proud of the little child; he was his son, he was beautiful.
Warden, when he looked at him, dreamed dreams, in which he saw himself
the founder of a house and a name. He would make his boy a gentleman;
he worked ever harder and harder as this thought grew and gathered
strength within him. As to Faith, she was useful in helping and
training Roy. For her own individual existence he had no special
thought. She was but a girl; she would grow up another weak, good,
loving creature like her mother. She might or might not marry. It did
not greatly matter. Of course he would do his duty by her - for whenever
had John Warden, in his own opinion, neglected that? She should be
educated; she should have her chance in life. But he had no high
opinion of women, and, though he thought he loved his son, he did not
even pretend to his own heart that he cared for little Faith.

It was to this man - this hard, hard man - who lived so uprightly in the
eyes of his fellow men, but so far from his God, that the same God of
love and pity and infinite compassion would yet reveal Himself. He must
hear the voice of God; but, alas! for his hardness of heart, it must be
in the whirlwind and the storm; not in the still small accents.

CHAPTER TWO.

It was a Sunday morning - nearly a year after my first and last sight of
King Roy. He was nearly two years old at the time, and his little
sister Faith was laboriously and with infinite care dressing him to
accompany her for a walk. Warden was out, and the two children had the
pleasant and cheerful sitting-room to themselves. The moments of
Warden's absence were the moments of Faith's sunshine. Her object now
was to get out before he returned, and take Roy with her. She thought
her father a very good and wonderful man; but it was quite impossible
for her to feel absolutely at home with him. She had a keen perception
of his real indifference to her; she was not surprised, for Faith
thought very humbly of herself. But his absence took away a sense of
restraint which she could not shake off, and now the glorious sunshine
of this autumn morning seemed to beckon her out, to beckon and lure her
into the fulness of its own beautiful life. No summer's day that ever
came was too hot for little Faith; she would get into the full power of
the sun herself, and Roy should have the shelter of the trees. Yes, it
was Sunday morning; there was nothing whatever to keep them at home;
they would go into Regent's Park, and sit under the trees, and be very,
very happy. "'Tis _such_ a lovely day, Roy," she said to her little
brother. Roy, seated on the floor, was rebelling at his shoes and
stockings being put on, and Faith had to use all her powers of
imagination in describing the outside world, to induce him to submit to
the process. At last, however, he was ready, and taking his hand, they
went down together into the street. Roy was such a lovely child that
people turned to look at him as he trotted along. Those who often saw
him have told me that he had by no means perfect features, but the
brightness and sweetness of the little face were simply indescribable.
He babbled as much as of old; but his babbling was now intelligible to
other creatures besides the flies. Faith looked nearly as happy as he
did as they walked together. In process of time, as fast as the little
legs would permit they arrived at Regent's Park, and Faith, choosing a
sheltering tree, placed her little brother in a shady corner, and came
close to his side. Roy picked bits of grass, which he flung into
Faith's lap. Faith laughed and caressed him. They were both in a most
blissful child-world, and thought of no darker days at hand.

"Please, I _should_ like to kiss the baby," said a voice suddenly quite
close 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 than
herself, 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, and
I'll be back in a jiffy."

The ragged girl flew across the grass, came to a woman who was seated
with 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 lips
enough, 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 little
rose-bud mouth to meet hers.

"Oh, but ain't he a real duck?" said the girl. "We 'ad a little 'un
somethink 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, and
folks dies from they h'all. I don't see the use o' naming 'em. They're
h'all certain sure to kill yer." Here the ragged girl seated herself on
the grass quite close to Faith. "You'll never guess where I'm a going
this afternoon," she said.

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

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

"No, I can't guess," answered Faith. "I ain't going nowhere particular
myself, 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 be
sure; but I like it. I ha' gone twice now, and I like it wonderful
well."

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

"I guess as my father wouldn't wish it neither. But, Lor' bless yer! I
don't trouble to obey him. 'Tis werry nice in Sunday-school. Would you
like 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. A
lot 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! I
guess 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 wor
going off, when Jesus said - I remember the exact words, for we was got
to larn 'em off book - `Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and
don't forbid 'em;' and He tuk them 'ere little babies in His arms and
kissed '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 a
real lovely story. Mother, afore she died, telled me 'bout Jesus; but I
don'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."

CHAPTER THREE.

Faith and Roy were late, and their father was waiting for them. He was
very particular about his meals, which were never entrusted to Faith's
young efforts at cooking, but were sent from a cook-shop close by. Now
the potatoes and a little piece of roast beef smoked on the table, and
Warden, considerably put out, walked up and down. When the children
entered, Roy ran up to his father confidently - he had never been afraid
of any one in his life - and wanted a ride now on the tall, strong
shoulder.

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

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

"Fader, up, up," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

Faith laid him tenderly on the horse-hair sofa, covered him over, and
sat down by his side. She sat on a low seat, and, folding her hands on
her lap, gazed straight before her. Faith was nearly eleven years old
now, 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 face
grow childish and happy in expression. Faith possessed her mother's
sensitive temperament. Love alone could make this child bright and
happy; without love she must pine and die, perhaps as her mother died.
Tears gathered slowly in her eyes as she recalled the little scene
between 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, and
happy parents, caring for and loving them. Faith watched one little
group with special interest. There were four in this group - a father
and mother, and boy and girl. The girl held her father's hand, and
danced as she walked. The boy, a very little child, was led most
tenderly by his mother. Faith turned away with a great sigh, and the
tears 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 been
there he wouldn't a been kep' waiting fur his dinner."

She went over, knelt down by her little brother, and kissed his soft
cheek. Then a further thought occurred to her. That was a pretty story
the ragged girl in Regent's Park had told her to-day. She had never
heard it before, though her mother, when alive, had often spoken to her
about Jesus, but somehow this story, the sweetest of all, had never
reached her ears before to-day.

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

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

At this juncture in the little girl's thoughts, the room-door was
opened, 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; but
seeing 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 so
sorry as Jesus is dead."

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

"Bless us and save us!" she exclaimed. "Wot a queer child! But it
ain'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 as
He'll receive all as come to Him. Yes, in course you can go; but I
can't tell you the exact way. There, Faith, child, why don't you go to
Sunday-school, same as the other little lads and lasses about? They
teach everythink about coming to Jesus in Sunday-school."

"I wish with h'all my heart I could go," answered Faith.

"Well, child, I see nothink agen it. There's one jest round the corner,
and the bell's a-ringing now; but there, I can't stay another moment."

Mrs Mason hurried away, and Faith still sat still; but a devouring wish
was now possessing her. If she only could just once go to Sunday-school
and hear about Jesus, and learn that He was really alive, and that she
could take Roy to Him! Oh! if only it were possible that Roy might
receive this great and wonderful blessing, why it would be worth even
her father's great anger, should he learn that she had disobeyed him.
Faith trembled and hesitated, and finally rose to her feet. If only Roy
would awake, she could take him with her. But no; Roy was very tired
and very sound asleep. By the time little Roy awoke, Sunday-school
would be over, and she would have lost all hope of hearing of Jesus for
another week.

Suppose she left Roy just for once - just for the first and last time in
all her life - she would only be an hour away, and in that hour what
possible harm could happen to the little child? and she would learn so
much, oh! so much, which could help him by-and-by.

Yes; she thought she might venture. She would have returned long before
her father came back, most likely long before Roy awoke. It was worth
the little risk for the sake of the great gain. She placed the
fireguard carefully before the fire, kissed her little brother, and with
a beating heart slipped out.

No; there was no possible fear for little Roy.

CHAPTER FOUR.

Before Faith had been gone quite half an hour her father returned. This
was an unusual proceeding, for generally he spent his Sunday afternoons
in a working men's club round the corner. He was one of the most
influential members of this club - its most active and stirring
representative. He organised meetings, got up debates, and did, in
short, those thousand and one things which an energetic, clever man can
do to put fire and life into such proceedings. He had come home now to
draw up the minutes of a new organisation which he and a few other
kindred spirits were about to form.

It was to be a society in every way based on the laws of justice and
reason. Religious, and yet allowing all harmless and innocent
amusements both for Sundays and weekdays; temperate, but permitting the
use of beer and wine in moderation.

Warden felt very virtuous and very useful as he sat down with pen and
paper before him. No one could say of him that he spent his time for
nought. How blameless and good and excellent was his life! Never,
never would it be necessary for those lips to cry to his Maker, "God be
merciful to me a sinner!"

A little restless movement, and faint, satisfied baby sigh from the
sofa, interrupted these self-satisfied meditations. He looked round and
saw little Roy. "Bless us! is the child there? and wherever is Faith?"
he said to himself.

He got up and approached his little boy. The child was looking as
beautiful as such a lovely creature would look in his sleep. Warden
went on his knees to watch him more earnestly. Yes; the golden-brown
eyelashes, the tangled mass of bright hair, the full pouting lips, the
rounded limbs, made up a picture which might well cause any father's
heart to beat with love and pride; and doubtless there was much of both
in Warden's soul just then. He gazed long and earnestly. Before he
rose to his feet he even bent and kissed the little flushed cheek.

"Yes," he said to himself; "he's a very, very lovely boy. If ever a man
had cause for ambition I have. With God's help, that boy shall take his
place with any gentleman in the land before I die."

He sat down again by his table, but instead of continuing his work he
remained for a time, one hand partly shading his eyes, while he indulged
in a meditation. Yes; he must save as much money as possible; for Roy's
education must begin early. Roy must have this, Roy must have that. He
did not think of Faith at all. Faith was but a girl. He began to
consider by what means he could add to his earnings, by what means he
could retrench his present expenses. The rooms they now lived in were
comfortable, but far from cheap. Ought they not to go into poorer
lodgings? for now they spent all he earned, and where, if that was so,
would be the money to put little Roy to school by-and-by?

In the midst of these thoughts, the door was pushed softly open, and a
man's face appeared. It just appeared above the frame of the door, and
looked in with timid, bloodshot eyes.

"I cannot assist you, Peter Davis," called out Warden in his full, loud
tones. "There's no manner of use in your waiting here. You know my
opinion of such conduct as yours."

"Yes; but I means to reform - I do indeed," replied Davis. He had so far
gathered courage now as to advance a step or two into the room. "'Tis
h'all so 'ard on a feller. When he's down h'every one throws a stone at
him. I'm h'ever so sorry fur givin' way to the drink, and I'm goin' to
take the pledge - I am indeed."

"It is disgusting, any man drinking himself into the condition of a
beast - lower, far lower than a beast," answered Warden, in his most
bitter tones. "There now, Davis, you know my opinion. I am pleased,
however, to hear you mean to change your ways."

"Yes, indeed, indeed I do - Mr - Mr Warden; and wot I made bold to come
yere fur were to axe ef you'd may be help me. I don't mean fur myself,
but fur the poor wife. The wife, her 'ad a little 'un last night, and
we h'an't never a sup nor a bite in the house. I thought, may be, Mr -
Mr Warden, as seeing we belonged to the werry same club, as you'd may
be let me have the loan of five shillings, or even harf-a-crown, jest
one harf-crown, and returned most faithful, Mr Warden."

Warden laughed loudly.

"No; not a shilling, nor a sixpence," he said. "I never encourage
drunkards; and as to your belonging to our club, you won't have that to
say long unless you mend yer ways."

"But 'tis fur the wife," continued Davis. "The wife, as honest a body
as h'ever breathed, and she's starving. No, no, it h'aint, h'indeed it
ain't, to spend on drink. I'm none so low as that comes to. I won't
spend a penny of it on drink. Oh! Mr Warden, the wife and the


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