THE SILVER LINING
A GUERNSEY STORY.
Guernsey: FREDERICK BLONDEL GUERIN, "THE SUN" OFFICE, HIGH STREET.
CHAPTER I.—THE RESULTS OF DISOBEDIENCE 3 II.—A LITTLE GIRL'S CHANGE OF LIFE 15 III.—THE BOARDING SCHOOL 24 IV.—THE INFLUENCES OF A GOOD HOME 33 V.—THE REWARD OF INORDINATE AMBITION 45 VI.—NEW ACQUAINTANCES 54 VII.—AN ABRUPT DISMISSAL 62 VIII.—AN UNPLEASANT VISIT 72 IX.—DECEPTIONS 79 X.—'TWIXT LOVE AND DUTY 84 XI.—BUSINESS 91 XII.—A STRANGE MEETING 96 XIII.—SUPERSTITION 102 XIV.—FAILURE 107 XV.—DARK DAYS 115 XVI.—SHADOW AND SUNSHINE 125 XVII.—THE EFFECTS OF A SERMON 130 XVIII.—SUCCESS AFTER SUCCESS 135 XIX.—TOM'S INTERVIEW WITH MRS. VIDOUX 143 XX.—TOM'S VISIT TO HIS UNCLE 148 XXI.—THE ENCOUNTER 153 XXII.—FATHER AND DAUGHTER 159 XXIII.—A SECRET CORRESPONDENCE 163 XXIV.—MR. ROUGEANT GOES TO CHURCH 169 XXV.—LOVE TRIUMPHS 173 XXVI.—WEDDED 183 XXVII.—RECONCILIATION 189 XXVIII.—A SAD END OF A MISPENT LIFE 197 XXIX.—DOMESTIC HAPPINESS 205
THE SILVER LINING.
A GUERNSEY STORY.
THE RESULTS OF DISOBEDIENCE.
One fine summer afternoon—it was the month of June—the sea was calm, the air was still, and the sun was warm.
The mackerel boats from Cobo (a bay in the island of Guernsey) were setting sail; an old woman was detaching limpets from the rocks, and slowly, but steadily, filling up her basket. On the west side of the bay, two air-starved Londoners were sitting on the sand, basking in the sunshine, determined to return home, if not invigorated, at least bronzed by the sea air. On the east side, a few little boys were bathing. A middle-aged man, engaged in searching for sand-eels, completed the picture.
A little boy, who might have been nine years of age, was standing in the road gazing upon this scene. The way in which he was clothed, betokened that he was not one of the lads that lived in the vicinity of that bay. He was dressed in a well-fitting knickerbocker suit, and his polished boots, his well combed hair, denoted that he was an object of especial care at home. He possessed a very intelligent air, a fine forehead, rather large eyes which were full of expression, and his frowning look, the way in which he stamped his little foot, denoted that he was of an impulsive temperament. This little fellow had some very good ideas. He had determined to be good, and unselfish; and he tried to learn as much as he possibly could. His mother had told him that later on this would help him in life.
Once, an inquisitive pedlar, noticing his intelligence, and his garrulous disposition, asked him jokingly if he ever intended to marry. Upon which Frank Mathers (this was the boy's name) assumed a serious air, and giving his head a little toss he answered, "I do not know yet, there are so many beautiful little girls everywhere, one does not know which one to choose."
A physiognomist might easily have seen that in this little boy's soul a struggle was going on. "Shall I go?" he was saying to himself; "shall I go and amuse myself?" His conscience had a great power over him; but the beautiful sea was tempting, each wave as it fell produced a sound which was sweeter to his ears than the sweetest music.
"Your mother has forbidden you to go;" said his conscience; "you must obey her."
He continued to remain undecided between pleasure and duty, the strife going on meanwhile within him. All at once, he espied on his extreme left four small boys about his size, who were coming out of the water. How they laughed; how joyful they seemed to be; how they made the water splash and foam around them. Frank immediately began to run at full speed towards them, and covered the space of sand which separated him from the little boys in two minutes. He arrived breathless near the group of children who were dressing themselves. He looked at them, and was asking himself if he must go nearer to them, when one of the group looked at him with a surly air. Little Frank translated this into: "What business have you here?" and retreated.
He began to examine the man who was looking for sand-eels. The fisherman was digging in the gravel with a spade, and now and then a few of the little fishes were dislodged from their hiding place. They wriggled in such a lively fashion that Frank was greatly amused, and forgot, for a time, all about his first desire of a run in the sea.
He laughed aloud when he saw a big sand-eel, bigger than any which the man had yet captured—for he took the trouble to go and see in his basket—escape into the water and swim out of the man's reach.
The fisherman was evidently annoyed at having lost this fine specimen, and when he saw this little fellow laughing, and standing quite close to his basket, he grew angry, and in a rough tone of voice, speaking in Guernsey French, he exclaimed: "Begone, you impudent little rascal."
Now, little Frank did not know French, and consequently did not understand a single word of what this man said, but he hastily retreated. "He must have uttered something terrible," he said to himself; "what an ugly face. Why is this man vexed with me? I have done nothing to grieve him; only bent over his basket and laughed when I saw that fish escape; but why did not the man laugh also? It was so amusing."
He looked round to see whether he could discover any of those little boys who had attracted his attention when he was in the road, but none of them were visible. There were a few persons here and there, but no one was near him. He made sure of this by directing his eyes successively in the direction of every point of the compass. The "sand-eel man" was still busy, but he was far enough. Frank hastened behind a small rock and began to undress. As he did so, he experienced a series of queer sensations. He was tasting pleasure at the expense of his conscience, and, struggle as he would, he felt unhappy. It was the first time that he thus openly disregarded his mother's commands, and it cost him something to do so.
It did not take him long to divest himself of his clothing. He was soon in the water, dancing and romping. The water around him resembled that of Lodore.
He now felt happy, having forgotten all about his mother and the errand which she had sent him to accomplish.
The water was warm; the little green crabs that walked sideways passing quite close to him, amused him considerably. He passed a portion of his time chasing them. Then he waded farther into the water till it came up to his hips. Ah, this was pleasure indeed! He would not have exchanged his place for a suite of rooms in Buckingham Palace.
He had been in the water for about a quarter of an hour. He glanced round to see if the fisherman was to be seen. No trace of him now.
"He has gone home," he thought. He began to feel cold. "I must go and dress," he said to himself, "or I shall catch cold, and then mamma will know that I have been bathing."
Frank proceeded towards the place where he had placed his clothes, but as he approached the shore, he found that the water seemed to be getting warmer. This discovery was the cause of his staying five minutes longer in the water than he would otherwise have done.
Then he again betook himself towards terra firma. "Hullo, what's this?" And he held up a boot. "How strange, it looks exactly like mine," he muttered. Then a thought—a flash shot through his brain, immediately followed by a pang through his heart. The thought—"where are my clothes?"—the pang—the result of his disappointing glance towards the place in which he had placed them. He was out of the water in the twinkling of an eye. The boot which he had found was in his hand. Where were his trousers? where was his coat? There was his shirt being knocked about by the waves! He rushed upon it, threw it on the gravel near his boot, and began tremblingly to search for his other garments. He at last succeeded in bringing together the following collection: One pair of trousers, one stocking, one boot, one shirt. That was all.
He was now shivering from head to foot, his teeth chattered in his mouth, his whole appearance was one of utter wretchedness. He did not cry; he was too miserable; he only kept muttering: "I will never disobey mamma any more; I will never do it, never, never."
He looked round to ascertain that no one was looking at him. What was his vexation to discover the man with the sand-eels eyeing him, a repulsive grin covering his whole face, and a small black pipe stuck between his teeth.
This sight, instead of discouraging Frank, made him assume an air of bravado. He took his shirt, wrung out the water, shook it and proceeded to put it on. How cold it was; how it stuck to his little body. It only made him shiver the more. He put his stocking on the left foot; then he put on his trousers, and lastly, his boot. This boot he put on the right foot so that his feet were both hidden from view. Then with a heavy and repentant heart—what person is not repentant when he sees himself in some nasty scrape caused by his own sinfulness?—he directed his irregular steps towards his home. A curious sight to gaze upon was this little fellow as he wearily plodded on his way.
He had not advanced twenty yards when he took off his boot and put it on the other foot. He could not endure the pain that it caused him. He had not been accustomed to go without stockings, he had never tried the experiment before, and he wondered why his feet were so tender. He rose and began to walk once more. It was an unequal walk, like that of a person with a short leg. He stopped again. Some gravel had found its way into his boot, and the torture which it caused him was unendurable. He carefully withdrew all the pain-inflicting pebbles, brushed off the gravel that adhered to his stocking, and resumed his laborious task of walking. When he came into the road, the people which he met laughed at him. "Ah; what nasty people there are in these places," he thought. He fancied he was being punished. He had hoped to have had a lot of fun. He would have returned home, invented some pretext for having been longer than usual; and now, what a wretched plight he was in. Why was he not punished in another way? this was too severe, he had never sinned at that amount, he was receiving extra payment.
Thus soliloquized our little man when he arrived near a farm-house called "Les Pins." He heard a pig squeak, and hastened along as fast as his naked and now sore foot would allow him.
There, in the farmyard, was a sight which he had never before witnessed. One man, a butcher, was pulling on a rope which was tied around a porker's snout. Three other men were forcibly pushing the animal along. They made but little progress however, for master piggy placed his feet so firmly on the ground that it required all the efforts of the four men to make him move.
At last he was with difficulty brought near the scaffold; the altar upon which he was to be sacrificed to supply the voracious appetites of man.
He was forcibly lifted upon the wooden bench and firmly held down. Then the butcher twisted the piece of rope around his hand and the pig's snout, and unsheathing a sharp knife, he plunged it in the animal's throat. The porker's life-blood gushed out in a red stream. Frank fairly danced with joy. He forgot all his troubles while witnessing those of the pig. The latter tried to shake himself free. He filled the air with protestations against the treatment to which he was being subjected, he invoked his gods, but all in vain. Firmly held down by the four men he soon ceased to struggle and lay quite still.
"It does not seem to me," Frank heard one of the men remark, "that he has given a very violent shake before dying, as porkers generally do." "Oh, he is dead enough," said the butcher, "fetch the water and let us make haste." The men obeyed the order which was given rather peremptorily and the half drunk butcher followed them, so did a lad of fourteen years (the heir to the estate), who, according to a Guernsey custom, had been holding the pig's tail.
Frank was just considering whether he would go nearer to the animal when the latter gave a jump. In a moment piggy got down and galloped in an awkward fashion straight in the direction of Frank, who uttered a cry of terror and ran away as fast as his legs would carry him. He forgot all about his exposed foot, and received a few nasty bruises and cuts against the sharp stones that were placed in the road for macadamizing purposes.
He cast an anxious glance behind him to see if the porker was following him, for he had now no other idea but that the pig was being sent to complete the punishment which he thought had been dealt out to him for his disobedience. But the porker was not to be seen. He had fallen dead after having run a few yards. When Frank came higher up the road, he proceeded to examine his foot. It hurt him considerably. He tied his handkerchief around it and resumed his walk. Seeing a great gap in the hedge he looked through it and saw that the men were plunging the porker in a great tub full of steaming water. Then followed a scraping with ormer shells, and, in a few minutes, the black pig was divested of his hairy coat. His skin was white and smooth, like those which Frank had seen at the meat market.
Not caring to see more, and feeling very cold, he resumed his journey homewards. He was so excited with what he had witnessed, that he did not think so much about his wretched condition as he would otherwise have done, and when he arrived in front of his father's house, at the Rohais, he was almost cheerful.
But he suddenly stopped short. "If I go inside with this countenance on, mamma will punish me severely," he thought.
He therefore called to his aid all the hypocrisy which his years were able to muster, and assumed a most miserable expression. But this was not enough to satisfy Frank's idea of the exigencies of the present situation. He doubled his fists, rubbed his eyes vigorously, and uttered a very plaintive and doleful cry.
Thus prepared, he entered the house by the back door, keeping a sharp look out through the corner of his eyes for his mother. She was not in the kitchen; he opened the door of the parlour; his eyes reddened and moistened by the friction to which they were being subjected, while his cries were heart-rending. Mrs. Mathers was not in the parlour. He stopped his sham crying, sat himself on a chair and listened eagerly for the sound of approaching footsteps; ready to recommence his little game as soon as his mother entered the house.
No sound of approaching footsteps were however heard. Frank Mathers was now quite chilled, although the weather was very warm. His excitement had abated and he was feeling down-hearted. There was no fire in the room. Frank fetched a large coat (his father's) and wrapped it around him. He was busily engaged in this operation when his mother suddenly appeared upon the scene.
She wore slippers, which accounted for his not having heard her footsteps.
"Well?" she said, wondering what her son was about, "what are you wrapping yourself up for?"
Frank was taken by surprise. He looked up with a very confused air. His mother misinterpreted his look. "Don't be silly, child," she said, "have you carried that letter to Mr. Gavet."
"Yes, mamma," mumbled the little fellow, "but——" and he unbuttoned his coat and exhibited his dilapidated state before the eyes of his astonished mother. "What have you been doing?" she questioned anxiously. "My clothes were caught by the sea," he sobbed, and genuine tears flowed down his cheeks.
Then he confessed everything to his mother; how he had been tempted to enjoy himself despite her orders; how he had watched a man who was catching sand-eels; and, finally, how his clothes had been washed away by the rising tide.
When he had finished speaking, he raised his eyes to see what kind of look his mother wore. Perceiving a cloud of sadness hanging over her brow, he jumped up and exclaimed: "Oh, mamma, do not look at me so; I will never disobey you any more."
The mother took the now repentant son upon her knees, and, after having shown him the consequences of disobedience; after having spoken to him of the pain which he caused her through showing a disposition to do wrong and of the sin which he committed, she instructed him tenderly, and made an impression on his soft heart, such as a mother alone knows how to make. Then she kissed her son. "You forgive me, then?" said the boy. "Yes, my dear, I forgive you."
Frank Mathers was so impressed with his mother's love that he silently determined never again to grieve her. "Now let me change your clothes. You might catch a severe cold and perhaps be ill for weeks after this. Do you feel ill?"
"No, mamma, I am cold, that is all."
When Frank was eating his supper that evening, his heart was full of thankfulness. "What a good mother I have," he thought, "I will never do anything contrary to her orders any more." He suddenly stopped eating. The thought of the porker struck him and he called out gently: "Mamma."
"What is it my dear?"
"A dead pig came running after me."
Mrs. Mathers looked somewhat anxiously at her son. Was his mind going out?
"They had killed a pig at a farm, and when they were gone to fetch some water, the porker jumped down and came running after me," said the little boy.
The slight shock which the mother had received, had sufficed to flush her cheek.
There was something strange in that bright tint on her face, it glowed with a strange light. Her eye had a kind, but far away glance; an almost divine expression. It was full of tenderness and melancholy. She seemed to belong to some other world then; her whole soul seemed to shine in that sweet face. This was how she looked as she gazed upon her son that evening, while he was finishing his supper, seemingly not at all astonished at his mother's silence. He had grown accustomed to these moments of pensiveness on his mother's part. Of late, she often fell into a strange reverie, and little Frank was yet too young to understand these symptoms always followed by a short, hollow cough. His mother was attacked with phthisis.
When he had finished his supper, Frank again turned towards his mother.
"How can a dead pig run?" he asked.
"The pig was not dead," said his mother; "now make haste and go to bed. I don't want to have to nurse you to-morrow."
The little boy obeyed, muttering to himself: "The pig was dead. I believe what I have seen. Mamma must have misunderstood me."
A LITTLE GIRL'S CHANGE OF LIFE.
Miss Rader was a tall, stiff, sour-faced lady of four-and-fifty. She kept a school for young country ladies at a place called "Fardot," in one of the parishes adjoining the Forest.
Among the pupils who were unfortunate enough to fall under her harsh rule was a certain little girl whose name was Adele Rougeant. She was the daughter of an avaricious farmer who lived at "Les Marches," in the parish of the Forest.
This little girl's mother had now been dead three years. Adele was then only four years of age.
"You will place our daughter at Miss Rader's school till she is seven years of age," were the instructions of Mrs. Rougeant to her husband on her death-bed.
This was not all; Mr. Rougeant was solicited by his wife to place Adele for ten years at a boarding-school in "the town," where she would receive an education such as pertained to her rank and fortune.
Mr. Rougeant would gladly have sent his daughter to the parish school, till the age of fourteen. Afterwards, he would have had her taught to work. He would have had to pay only one penny a week at the parish school, whereas he now paid five pence. Soon, he would have to disburse from fifty to sixty pounds a year for Adele's sake. "What extravagance," he muttered between his teeth. But he dared not go against his promises to his dying wife. Mr. Rougeant was superstitious. "If I fail to fulfil my promises to my dying wife, I shall most certainly see her ghost;" he said to himself. So he preferred to part with a portion of his income in exchange for a life unmolested by apparitions.
It was the month of August of the same year in which the events narrated in the preceding chapter occurred. The pupils of Miss Rader were all assembled to receive the prizes which they were supposed to have won.
The reward-books were handed to the pupils by an elderly lady—Mrs. Lebours. She was standing in front of the row of young girls, surrounded by half-a-dozen satellites of her own sex. Miss Rader was sitting near the group of "young ladies."
Mrs. Lebours began: "First prize for French has been won by Adele Rougeant, but the committee of ladies have decided that as she is about to pursue her studies elsewhere, she will not receive the prize. It will be given to the one next to her, who is going to remain under Miss Rader's excellent tuition."
This little speech having been delivered by Mrs. Lebours, who meanwhile flourished the reward-book; Miss Rader approached Adele, and tapping her unkindly on the shoulder, she whispered to her in a whistling tone, her snaky eyes expressing the kindliness of a tiger: "You see what you gain through wanting to leave my school; you lose a beautiful book."
Adele was not unhappy. On the contrary; she experienced an elevating, martyr-like sensation. She turned towards Miss Rader.
"I have earned it?" she questioned.
"I am satisfied," she said; then, quoting as near as she could a phrase which had attracted her attention in one of the rare books which she had cast her childish eyes upon, she added, "We do not go to school to obtain prizes, but to acquire knowledge."
Miss Rader was seated in her former place when Adele finished. Her upper lip was slightly curled up, she was gazing upon Adele with a look of supreme contempt.
The distribution of prizes was soon finished. The children were dismissed for the holidays and sent home. Adele bore her little head up proudly. She had been wronged. She felt a thrill of pleasure as she entered her home at "Les Marches."
In acting as they had done, the committee of ladies had placed themselves lower than her. She felt it, and prided herself upon being ever so much better than they were. When her father came in she called out to him: "I earned a prize, but they would not give it me as I was going to leave school."
"Humph!" he said moodily, "I am afraid you over-estimate your intellectual capacities. Carry this letter to your uncle Tom at the 'Prenoms.'"
And he handed his daughter a scrap of paper.
Adele did immediately as she was bid, not daring to speak when she heard her father's gruff tone.
The farm of the "Prenoms" was only half a mile distant from "Les Marches," and Adele did the distance in ten minutes.
She gave the letter to her uncle. "You will have to wait for a reply," he said.
Her uncle was a man who never said more than was absolutely necessary.
"Seat yourself; here is a chair for you," said her aunt.
Adele took the preferred chair, and her aunt began to question her.
"So you are going to a boarding school," she said; and Adele felt that there was something sarcastic in her tone.
"Papa wants me to," she mumbled timidly.
"Oh, it is not so much Alfred's wish," significantly said Mrs. Soher (Adele's aunt), as she turned towards her step-mother who was seated on a "jonquiere," engaged in mending a pair of stockings.
Near her sat a young boy who looked a little older than Adele. He was mischievously occupied in knotting the skein of thread which his grandmother was using.
Adele resented what she knew to be a slight cast upon her dead mother's memory, but she did not speak. Her aunt had always been hostile to her, she knew not why.
Old Mrs. Soher raised her hoary head and remarked: "In my time, young girls like Adele used to learn to read and write,—and work."
Adele felt very uncomfortable. She wished her uncle would make haste and write his reply; but he sat at his desk, passing his fingers through his hair; a method with which he was familiar when puzzled. Then he rose and cast a significant glance at his wife who followed him out of the room.
The old woman espied her prankish grandson. She immediately broke out into a violent fit of scolding: too animated to be serious. "Ah! but what next, you wicked little rascal. Knotting my thread; but I'm sure. I have a mind to slap your face. Just look at what you have done. Why did you do it?"
Tommy—the little boy—giggled. "I was tired of sitting here doing nothing," he answered impudently; "why don't you tell me a story."
"Well, now, be a good boy; do you know where the bad boys will go?"
"With the devil."
"Quite right; now, you will be good."
"Tell me a tale; you know, something about the old witches," said Tommy. "How do they make people ill?" he questioned pulling impatiently at his grandmother's shawl.
"They give themselves to Satan," answered the grandmother.
"They sign their name, writing it backwards with their own blood."
Adele shuddered; although she was a country girl, she had never heard anything of the sort before. She listened attentively.
"You told me they were given books; did you not?" questioned the lad.
"Yes they receive one or two infamous books, which they cannot destroy after they have taken them, neither can anyone else do away with these bad books. Yet, I remember quite well when there was one completely annihilated.
"It was when one of my aunt's died. She was a terrible witch; alas, the chairs; and all the cups and saucers, bowls and plates on the dresser danced when they carried her body out of the house."
Tommy looked at her. "Oh, it's true," he said, "you can laugh if you like—ain't it grand'ma?"
Mrs. Soher went on: "When we cleaned out the house, we found one of those awful books. No one dared to open it, yet everyone knew by its funny covers, its queer print and its yellow paper, that it was one of the 'devil's own.' My sister, who, by the way, was not very superstitious took——"
"Superlicious! what's that?" questioned the boy.
"People who don't believe in all sorts," immediately explained grandmamma.
"Now where was I? ah, my sister took the book and threw it into the fire but it did not burn!"
"Oo-oo," ejaculated Tommy.
Adele began to be credulous. It must be borne in mind that she was only seven years old.
Grand'ma proceeded: "She snatched it again from the fire and put it on the table. Now it happened that on that very day, my brother was going to seek for shell-fish at a place called La Banque au Mouton. He said that he would take the book and place it under a big stone; then, when the tide rose, it would be covered over, and, we all hoped, altogether destroyed.
"He took it as he had promised to do (we were gone home to dinner then, for we did not care to eat in the house of a witch), and placed it, so he told us, under a big stone which he could hardly lift."
"Ah, the Evil One was caught," remarked Tommy.
"He is not caught so easily as all that," said his grandmother. "When we returned to our work, do you know what we saw?"
"We beheld the book laid upon the table."
Tommy opened his mouth wide enough as to be in danger of dislocation, then he closed it with an exclamation: "Ah-a!"
Adele dared scarcely breathe.
"That's not all," continued Mrs. Soher, "we were determined to get rid of the book. This is what we did.
"My brother spoke to the minister about it. The clergyman declared that the book could only be stamped out of existence by a special process. He went to what had been my aunt's house, and summoned my brother and those who were there into the kitchen. Then one man thrust a bundle of furze into the oven and set it alight. Another one threw the book amongst the flames and firmly secured the door.
"'Down on your knees,' commanded the minister. Everyone obeyed. The clergyman prayed aloud, when in a few moments, piercing shrieks were heard issuing from the oven. The whole company were in a state of horripilation. The clergyman ceased praying. He simply said with quivering and pale lips: 'The book is burning.'
"The cries ceased. The door of the oven was opened. The book was reduced to ashes."
The two children were awe-stricken.
They sat as still as two mice, breathing only as much as was absolutely necessary. It was Tommy who first broke the silence.
He was more accustomed to hear these strange tales than his cousin, and, consequently, got over his fright sooner.
"How did the book shriek," questioned the boy.
The entrance of Mr. Soher and his spouse disturbed the proceedings. Adele was very glad of it, for she was anxious to be back home before dusk.
Handing her a piece of paper, Adele's uncle bade her be sure to give it to her father. He enjoined her not to lose it, but to hold it tightly all the way home. "Don't put it in your pocket," he added as the little girl was preparing to leave.
Adele did as she was bid; she could not put the missive in her pocket, because—there was no pocket to the dress which she wore.
She hastened home. The story which Mrs. Soher had recited had shaken her nerves.
As she neared her father's house, she was tempted to look at the writing on the paper. There was a brief struggle within her. At last her conscience prevailed over her curiosity.
She met her father who was waiting for her on the threshold and handed him the paper. He ran his eyes over it and muttered audibly: "Let him go to the dogs, then, if he wishes to do so."
As soon as Adele was out of the "Prenoms" the two garrulous women began to talk about their little visitor. As was their wont, they (especially the younger Mrs. Soher) cast upon Adele all the slander and scandal which they were capable of. Their epigrams were as devoid of wit as they were coarse.
Mr. Soher, who sat near, did not join in the conversation. He professed to be a very religious man, but he rarely occupied himself about his household duties. His wife was just saying: "When one thinks that if that little brat of a girl had not been born, we should inherit all my brother's property," when the man rose from his chair. "I am going to the prayer-meeting," he said abruptly, and his puritanical form as suddenly left the room.
"Now, it is time for you to go to bed," said Mrs. Soher to her son, when her husband was gone.
"I don't want to go yet," replied Tommy.
"But you must go, and you will go now; I'll not listen to your nonsense; come, do your hear."
"Ah! let me stay a little longer, ma."
"No, not one moment; come along."
"Only one minute," pleaded the spoilt child.
"Bah! what do you want to stay for?" said his mother, re-seating herself.
The minute passed away, so did many other minutes, but Tom did not stir.
After again trying in vain the power of her pleadings and commands, the weak-minded mother took her son by the sleeve of his coat. "Come," she said, "to bed with you."
Tommy began to cry.
She dragged him out of the room and up the stairs. He screamed and kicked, but was finally placed in his cot. Mrs. Soher had hardly stepped into the kitchen, when her son was heard crying.
"I am frightened," he bawled; "the fire—the witches—the book."
"Bah!" said his mother, "he'll go to sleep soon." And so he did.
Mr. Rougeant had returned early from "the town" on that Saturday afternoon. He was now perusing the Gazette Officielle, the only newspaper which he ever cast his eyes upon. The servant—a good old Guernsey soul, who had been in the service of the family for ten years—was busily engaged in preparing the dinner. Contrary to the farmer's orders, Adele had been sent by Lizette (the servant) to fetch the cider.
Unluckily for the little girl, Mr. Rougeant did not care to go to the expense of buying a tap. In its stead he had a number of small holes bored in one end of the cask. In these holes, which were placed vertically, one above the other, tight fitting wooden pegs had been driven. One of these pegs he drew out when he required some cider.
When Adele entered the cellar, mug in hand, she examined the cask. She did not know which peg to take out, neither did she care to return into the kitchen with an empty vessel. She ventured cautiously to pull out one of the pins. It fitted tightly. She jerked on it. The peg came out; so did the cider. She hastily replaced the peg in its place, but the cider spurted all over her clean white pinafore. Timidly, she went back to the kitchen.
"I did not know how to——"
She did not finish. The servant perceived her plight, and, with a gesture, silenced her. She bustled her out into the vestibule, threw her a clean apron, bade her put it on, and proceeded to the cellar. She speedily caused—or thought she caused—all traces of the little girl's blunder to disappear.
When she returned, Mr. Rougeant was talking to his daughter. He was saying: "Listen, Adele. Miss Euston's collegiate school for ladies will re-open on Tuesday next, September the 13th, at half-past two o'clock. A few boarders received."
"How would you like to go there?" he asked of his daughter; merely for form's sake, however, for he had already resolved that this would be, if possible, Adele's future home, for some ten years at least.
"I don't know," said the little girl, placing her thumb in her mouth;—a sure sign of mingled deep-thought and puzzlement—a mode of expression which, by the bye, she was not to enjoy much longer. These gesticulations are not in harmony with boarding-school etiquette.
Her father did not make any other remark. He placed the newspaper on one side, and fell to work with his dinner.
This important piece of business having been accomplished, he started to go to town on foot.
His interview with Miss Euston resulted in Adele being accepted as a boarder. She was to be entirely entrusted to the care of Miss Euston, and, lastly, Mr. Rougeant was to pay an annual stipend of fifty guineas.
When he came back home, Adele's father sank in a chair. He was tired. Moreover, he was annoyed. The fifty guineas which he had promised to pay each year vexed him.
He said to himself: "This daughter of mine will run away with all the profit which I am making out of my newly-opened quarry. But, since it must be, I cannot allow myself to violate the promises made to the dying. I must try and see if I cannot save a little more than I have done lately. This servant costs me too much. I must get rid of her somehow. Another one, a French one for example, would work for four or five pounds less a year."
In this puzzled state he descended to the cellar. He had an implicit belief in cider as a general restorative. His scrutinizing glance soon detected the ravages caused by Adele's blunder. "What a fine excuse," he mumbled—and he grinned.
He entered the parlour where Lizette was setting things to rights and demanded in an imperative and angry tone: "Who has done that mess in the cellar?"
"I did," quietly answered the servant, anxious to shield Adele.
That fib she soon repented to have uttered.
"I give you a month's notice," said Mr. Rougeant, and he was about to disappear when Lizette, feeling that she was not required any more, and moved to the quick, turned towards her master.
"I can go now," she said.
"Well, go; so much the better."
That same evening, Mait. Jacques (Mr. Rougeant's workman) drove Lizette in the "spring cart" to her mother's cottage.
Adele wept. Her father silenced her with a frown. "You will commence school on Tuesday next," he said.
The little girl looked at her father in surprise, and, an inward emotion completely mastering her, she recommenced crying.
"How shall I be able to speak to those English people?" she sobbed.
"You can talk English, can't you?" was her father's not over-consoling remark.
"The person to whom I spoke is a nice lady; now, don't be silly, child."
"The little girls will laugh at me," she said, drying her tears with her pinafore.
Her father did not answer her, but sat meditatively pulling on his enormous nose.
It was nearly midnight when Adele managed to drop to sleep.
Tuesday came. Her father drove her to town in his old phaeton. Then, taking her by the hand, he led her at No. ——, Grange. The two were ushered into a small, but prettily furnished drawing-room.
After a few moments, Mdlle. Parmier entered the room, and after having conversed in French for a few minutes with Mr. Rougeant, the latter withdrew, bidding good-bye to his daughter who watched him disappear with a dazed and stupefied air. "Is this a dream?" she thought. "Ah! would that it were." Never before had she spoken to a lady from town. She listened to hear Mdlle. Parmier's harsh voice bid her follow her, but, instead of doing so, the little French lady advanced towards her and in a gentle tone of voice (so soft, that Adele stared at her in astonishment) said: "Miss Euston va bientot venir. Croyez-vous, ma chere, que cette nouvelle demeure vous conviendra?"
"Oui," answered Adele, greatly relieved that there was at least one person here who could talk in French.
Then, while the lady occupied herself with a book, Adele was busy picturing to herself the dreadful Miss Euston. Her father had said that she was a nice lady; but, alas, how could she? Did she not speak in English? How was she going to answer her? "She will certainly laugh at my bad English," Adele thought; and her lips moved about uneasily, and her eyes were moist.
She looked towards Mdlle. Parmier. She saw four or five ladies in a confused group; she wiped away the tears that obscured her vision.
"Ah! if this lady were head mistress?" she went on thinking. "Oh! my clothes, they are not so pretty as those which the little girls who were in the playground wore." She listened tremblingly for the sounds of approaching footsteps. How she wished that the ordeal of the first interview would be passed. She grew so excited that she would have given anything to be out of that room. Any sudden catastrophe which would have averted the terrible ordeal of confronting Miss Euston would have been welcomed by her. Had she been alone, she would have tried her voice to see how it sounded in English, but Mdlle. Parmier was there; so she only coughed a little to clear her throat. She tried to cough softly, as she had heard Mdlle. Parmier do; but she fancied her voice sounded hoarse and vulgar. She cast a gaze towards a mirror placed at one end of the room. What a plebeian figure!
Hark! what was that? a soft tread was heard approaching. The French lady looked up from her book, and fixing her eyes encouragingly on the little girl, she said: "Miss Euston sera bien aise de vous voir; parlez-vous l'anglais?"
"Un peu, mademoiselle," said Adele, and the door opened.
The dreaded form of Miss Euston entered the room.
"Dis is de yong Ma'm'sel Rougeant," said the French lady, introducing Adele to the newly-arrived lady.
The latter, a tall, refined and amiable lady, advanced towards Adele with a pleasant air, and such a kind smile lighting up her intelligent features that the little girl felt immediately drawn towards her.
Miss Euston at once saw that Adele was timid and feeling very uncomfortable.
She took the child's hand in her own and said kindly: "I am very glad you have come, Adele; but, your hands are quite cold; come nearer to the fire."
Adele stood up. Miss Euston put the chair nearer to the fire, placed the child upon it, and began to chat in quite a friendly way.
Mdlle. Parmier retired. Adele's fears had vanished like a cloud of smoke. She felt more than simple admiration for Miss Euston; she experienced a kind of veneration for her.
Had an angel from heaven entered the room instead of this lady, Adele would not have been much more dazzled than she now was.
"Do you understand English?" inquired Miss Euston while helping her pupil to warm her hands.
"Not much, ma'am."
"Then you shall soon learn, for I can see a pair of intelligent eyes beaming under those chestnut curls."
Adele smiled. She felt a kind of bitter and sweet happiness. The dreaded introduction was over, but now there were the little girls to encounter. What kind of reception would they give her?
"I am going to have two new dresses for you to try on presently," said Miss Euston; "now, come, let me show you your bed chamber."
Adele was delighted with her bedroom. How neat the little crib looked. Miss Rader had told her that the people from town never had white linen; they knew not how to wash, and, besides, the smoke caused their once white linen to look grimy.
After having asked Adele if she was pleased with her room, and the little child having answered: "Yes, ma'am, very much," Miss Euston led her into the schoolroom where about twenty young girls were assembled. They were being directed to their respective places by Mdlle. Parmier.
Miss Euston told Adele that she would not do anything that day but familiarize herself with her new surroundings.
She gave her a nice book full of beautiful pictures to look at. Then she began to attend to a class of the bigger girls.
Adele felt her heart sink a little when Miss Euston left her, but she managed to pluck up courage and was soon absorbed looking at the beautiful pictures in her book. She timidly raised her eyes from time to time and gazed upon the young group of girls who were near her. Two of them she perceived were looking at her, and exchanging glances, after which they tittered.
This made Adele's blood rush to her face. She knew they were laughing at her and she felt uneasy. "I am as good as they are. Just let them wait till I have my new dresses," she thought.
She made up her mind not to look at them and kept steadily looking at her book. But the pictures had lost their charm. Her little soul revolted against the treatment to which she was being subjected by these two little girls.
When the time for recreation arrived, Miss Euston took Adele by the hand and led her up to two other girls; one about Adele's age, the other two years older. She told them to take care of their new and future companion. She was sure, she added, that they would make things pleasant for her. "Yes, ma'am,—come," they said to their new acquaintance. They led her out of the schoolroom and amused her during the whole time that was set apart for recreation purposes. By the time the bell rang for the pupils to form classes, the three little girls were as friendly as could be. Adele forgot all about the little girls that had laughed at her.
Later on in the evening, she discovered that her two little companions were the only boarders beside herself.
The day after her entrance, an event occurred which deserves perhaps to be narrated.
Adele walked alone down the Grange, turned to the right, and not knowing where she was going, found herself in a lane called George Street.
She was busily engaged contemplating a poor little crippled girl, when the latter's crutch slipped and she fell prone on the road.
She got up quickly, however, seized her crutch and looked anxiously round to see if someone had perceived her.
Adele stood near, smiling.
The girl in rags went up to her. "What'r'yer laughin' at, yer dressed up doll?" she said. (Adele had one of her new dresses on.) "If you don't stop it," she continued threateningly, "I'll give yer such a bloomin' smack as 'l' make you think you're in the beginnin' o' next week."
Adele did "stop it," and hastily walked away.
"What!" she said to herself, "can these little girls from town beat you soundly enough to make you think you are in the beginning of the week to come? They must be clever. I will ask Miss Euston about it."
THE INFLUENCES OF A GOOD HOME.
Ten years have elapsed. On a stormy September afternoon, in a room of a two-storeyed cottage, situate at the bottom of the Rohais, a woman lay dying. Her husband knelt beside her bed, holding his wife's hand.
The stillness that prevailed was only disturbed by an occasional sob from the husband, and the short irregular breathing of the dying woman.
The breathing suddenly became more regular. The husband looked at his wife. He saw that she wanted to speak to him, and immediately approached his head nearer to her.
"I am going, John," said the woman in a faint tone; "I feel that I am rapidly drawing nearer the end. I know you will take care of our son, and—if ever you marry——"
Here she paused as if unable to go on.
"Oh! don't mention that, I will never marry again, dearest. I will look forward with eagerness to our second meeting. I shall meet you there, Annie," he said, and, pressing her hand between both his own, he gazed earnestly into his wife's half-closed eyes.
Mrs. Mathers sank back on her pillow, exhausted with the effort which she had made to speak those few words. Presently a change came over her face. Her husband beckoned to Marie, the servant, who hardly dared to approach, awed as she was at having to witness a person in the grip of death.
The end came, swift and pangless. The soul passed from the body to its eternal resting place.
Marie stood beside the bed, her big eyes fixed on the corpse, hardly able to believe her senses.
"But, I thought Madame was better, much better," she said, half aloud, half to herself.
"Ah! unfortunately," said the widower, "'twas only the lull before the storm—a state which is common to people dying from consumption. Make haste," he continued to the bewildered Abigail, "put the blinds down."
Marie did as she was told and the man proceeded downstairs.
In the kitchen, seated on a chair, a boy was sobbing. His father had just told him that death had visited them. And the boy felt completely weighed down with grief. His mother had been so good to him. "Such an excellent mother," he said to himself; "ah, how I shall miss her."
He sobbed silently; the hot tears were few and far between. His grief was too intense to be demonstrative.
He stayed there for fully an hour, in the same attitude, bowed down as it were by this heavy load which had fallen upon him.
Let us go back into Frank Mathers' history—for Frank Mathers it was who mourned his mother's loss—for a few years.
Mr. Mathers, his wife and only son were seated round the fire one evening.
"You will be fourteen years of age to-morrow," said Frank's father, "it is time for me to think of finding you a situation."
Frank did not answer, the idea of leaving school did not please him; he looked up from his book for an instant, then pretended to resume his reading.
"I shall talk to Mr. Baker, the grain merchant; as you have a liking for books, I think you would do well in his office. Would you like to go?" said his father.
"If you think I am old enough to leave school," mumbled Frank.
"Certainly you are old enough," said his father, "we can't afford to keep you at school all your life."
Mrs. Mathers looked at her son sympathetically, she knew he loved his school immensely.
"You will only have to be at the office from nine till five, and, if you are diligent, you shall be able to study a few hours every day," she said.
"Yes," said the boy reluctantly.
In less than a week after this, Frank had left school and was settled in Mr. Baker's employment.
The winter was beginning to make itself felt, and the days were growing shorter and shorter. Ah! how Frank liked these winter evenings. He took his books, and, drawing his chair near a small table close to the fire, he kept plodding on, evening after evening, educating himself constantly.
At the age of nineteen, he obtained a situation as clerk in a bank. He possessed a good knowledge of English and French. He was also acquainted with German, Latin and Mathematics.
He had learnt unaided two systems of shorthand: one English and one French.
Neither was he ignorant of other useful sciences, of which he had striven to acquire at least a few elements.
Thus armed for the world's battle, he thought himself almost invulnerable. "I am bound to succeed," he sometimes said to himself. "I have done all that I possibly could do towards that end. I don't believe in chance. 'What a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'"
If ever a youth deserved to succeed, it certainly was Frank Mathers. He had sacrificed many pleasures for the sake of better fitting himself for life's struggle. Often, when his companions invited him to spend an evening in questionable pleasures; "No, he would answer, I have no time for that." At last, they ceased to torment him.
He liked these evenings spent at home, quietly, near the fire, alone with his mother, who sometimes lifted her eyes from her knitting or sewing, and affectionately gazed for a few moments upon her son.
They were nearly always alone, mother and son; for the father, who was a carpenter, spent his evenings in the workshop.
As her son neared his twentieth birthday, Mrs. Mathers felt that she would never live to see it. She was very anxious for her son's future. After all, would he always keep in the path in which he was now walking?
One evening when she felt worse than usual, her anxiousness for her son's welfare rose to such a pitch that she ventured to speak a few words to him.
"Frank," she began, "you know that I am not in very good health."
"I don't think I shall live long," continued she, "and, I should so much like to know if you have formed a decision to be a noble, good, and upright man."
"You are not going to die," said the youth in a half-frightened tone, "you will be better soon, I hope."
"No," she said, "I am slowly but steadily declining;" then she added in a very affectionate tone: "Will you promise me, Frank, that you will always strive to do what is right?"
"Mother," replied the son, his voice quivering with emotion: "I will be good."
Neither of them said another word for a few minutes. Their hearts were too full. Affectionate love, grief and resignation were filling their souls.
Soon, the father entered and the family retired.
Next day Mrs. Mather's prophecies were fulfilled. She felt much worse and stayed in bed. In less than a week, she was dead and buried.
Thus deprived of his mother, Frank Mathers felt intensely lonely. He suppressed his grief as much as possible, but it could be seen that he suffered.
He had his father, 'tis true, but Mr. Mathers was a man of a gloomy temperament. But a young man of nineteen ought not to be attached to his mother's pinafore! The house seemed so empty, it seemed quite large now, a roomy house with no furniture. The air he breathed was not perfumed with the sweet breath of love as it was wont to be.
He grew melancholy. He had never been of a very bright temperament, and the life of self-sacrifice which he had hitherto led, had not helped him towards being cheerful.
Besides, there was no one to cheer him now, no kind word to spur him on. "Ah! life without love," he sighed, "life without love is hardly worth living."
From bad he went to worse. He almost ceased to eat. He lost a great deal of his former activity and was often absent-minded. His employers noticed this, for he often made false entries in the books.
One morning, the manager of the bank thought fit to speak to him. "I cannot make out what ails you," he said, "but you will have to be more careful in the future."
"Pull yourself up, Mr. Mathers, try and take more interest in your work, or I shall feel obliged to dispense with your services altogether."
"I must try," answered Frank. "I will try, Sir."
And try he did, but all to no purpose.
A cloud seemed to hang over him; he was in a state of lethargy. "Am I going mad?" he said to himself more than once. No! he was not insane, not yet at any rate; he simply took no interest in life. Nothing seemed to distract him; he cared for nothing, spoke to no one except when questioned.
His father and Marie often tried to coax him into conversation.
In answer he sometimes said "Bah! life is but an empty bubble," oftener, he said nothing at all, but gazed fixedly at the floor all the time.
A few days after the manager had spoken to him, he ceased to go to work altogether. He did not send a letter to his employers, telling them of his intention to leave; of what use was it? everything was nothing to him.
It was not for his departed mother that he grieved. He grieved not. He hardly gave her a thought now, and, when he did, his eyes seemed to brighten up and his lips muttered: "Thou art happy."
The doctor who examined him shrugged his shoulders. "Hypochondria," he said as he met the enquiring glance of Mr. Mathers; then he added: "He will probably be better in a few weeks."
The neighbours, without being consulted, said: "He is mad."
The days came and went, and after a few months of melancholiness he grew a little bit better. His father noticed that he began to take an interest in the culture of the garden.
"I shall have to find work for him," thought Mr. Mathers, and, one day, when his son seemed in a more joyous mood than usual, he spoke to him.
"Do you think that if I built a greenhouse you could take care of it?" he questioned.
"I think so," said his son.
"Work is slack just now," went on Mr. Mathers, "I might as well put up one in the garden as do nothing."
"I think I should very much like to grow tomatoes and grapes," Frank remarked.
"You feel better now, then," said the father. These were the first words which he ventured to speak to his son about his health, now that the latter's senses seemed to have returned to him.
"Have I been ill?" said Frank; and then after a pause——"Of course, I have not been very well lately,—yes, I am better, I think I am myself again."
"Well;" said his father, "it is agreed, we shall have a greenhouse. I think you had better go in the garden and see if you can find something to do there."
Frank did as he was requested. The garden at the back of the house was a small one, covering some twenty-five perches; of these eight were to be blessed, or cursed, with a glass covering.
While Frank was engaged in tying up some Chrysanthemums, he was joined by Marie, the servant.
"Doin' a bit o' work, Master Frank," she said.
"Yes, a little," he replied.
"Well, that's better than mopin' about doing nothing," was the not over-particular rejoinder.
Frank smiled. "Well," he said, "a fellow must do something when he can, but there are times when he cannot."
"Perhaps," said Marie, rather absent-mindedly, as if she had not understood the meaning of his words.
She glanced around her, to make sure that there was no one about; then she came quite close to Frank. "Have you heard the news?" she said.
"What news?" questioned Frank.
"Why, they say your father is goin' to marry; didn't you know?"
Frank's face became livid, his lips tightened, his pruning knife dropped from his hand.
"What?" he exclaimed, as if he had not fully understood.
"Your father's going to marry again," said the servant in an undertone, "and I'll tell you who told me so, it was Jim Tozer, her brother; he ought to know."
"The brother of whom?" questioned Frank mechanically.
"The brother of Miss Tozer," informed Marie.
"I should have thought that your father would have stuck a little more to his word, for when your poor, dear mother was dying, she mentioned something to your father about marrying. He pretended to cry, and bawled out: 'Don't mention it, I'll never marry again; I'll never marry again.'"
"And mother been dead only five months," said Frank, more to himself than otherwise.
"But it won't be yet, you know," said Marie. "Jim Tozer told me they would probably wait till next year."
Then seeing Mr. Mathers coming towards them, she pretended to gather some parsley close by, and quickly re-entered the house.
Frank's father did not talk to his son then, but began taking measures for the greenhouse.
As for Frank, he was extremely angry with his father. He thought that his mother's memory was being slighted; but he resolved not to say a word about it to his father, and to let matters stand as they were.
Time passed on. The winter was over. It was the month of April. The birds sang in the trees, the grass was springing up, the fields were being clothed in verdure. Nature, which had lain so long dormant, was awakening. From the trees which looked dead a few weeks ago little buds were peeping forth, taking their first view of the world.
Frank Mathers was filled with delight as he watched this development of nature.
One evening when he had just finished planting some tomatoes, he was surprised to see his father enter the greenhouse.
Mr. Mathers' face was rather pale. He looked agitated.
"They look well," said the father, meaning the tomato plants.
"Yes, they do look well," answered his son; "I was just thinking as much before you came in."
There was a long silence here. Frank knew that his father had something to communicate to him, and he guessed what it was. However, he did not help him out of his embarrassment.
Finally, after several preliminary hems to clear his throat, Mr. Mathers began: "It is a good thing that the tomatoes are planted; to-morrow you will not work, I suppose."
"I hope I shall, I have all these boxes to clear away."
"Yes, yes, but to-morrow I am going to be married."
Frank did not answer. He raised his eyes and looked straight at his father. His lips quivered and refused to utter a sound.
The son's gaze was more than a match for the father's. Mr. Mathers was not yet so hardened as to laugh and look back defiantly at his son. He, however, recovered his self-composure, tried to make himself believe that he was in his perfect right, and in a well-feigned voice—"Well?" he said interrogatively.
Not a word came from the son's lips; a deep sigh escaped him. He stepped forward and walked out of the greenhouse, leaving his father there—alone.
The couple were quietly married at the Greffe the next day.
Frank went about his work as usual, and when he came in to dine, his step-mother was awaiting him, her face beaming with smiles.
When Frank found himself thus confronted by Mrs. Mathers No. 2, he did not feel nearly so hostile to her as he had felt towards his father.
He could not however welcome her warmly when his heart clamoured otherwise. He was not a hypocrite.
When the husband advanced with his wife, the youth took the outstretched hand and in a cold tone, his lips still uttering what his heart did not inspire, he said, as if welcoming a stranger: "I am happy to make your acquaintance, madam."
He soon perceived that he had gone rather too far. He had acted on the impulse of the moment. In fact, he had dug the abyss that was ever to lie between his step-mother and himself.
"After all," he said to himself, "it is better to obey one's heart." He did not even stop to think that there were two powers at work.
He was more to be pitied than blamed. He had loved his mother dearly, and now that she was dead, he revered her memory.
He now perceived the influence of a good home. It had rescued him from a life of idleness and perhaps of vice. The genial atmosphere of their little parlour had kept him at home even more than his books, which he, however, cared a good deal for.
But now, it was all finished. This place would no more be home. It was a house, a comfortable dwelling place; that was all. He would now have to live amongst unattractive and semi-hostile surroundings.
Through his own fault, he would suffer. One thought however strengthened him. Thousands of others had suffered for conscience's sake. He remembered how his blood rushed to his face, when he read about the tortures of the martyrs of religion; or the driving into exile of the patriots of Poland.
Strengthened with these thoughts, he rose, more determined than ever to do right; to champion the good; to work; to study; to strive to acquire wisdom.
THE REWARD OF INORDINATE AMBITION.
Frank Mathers had hours of dejection. Like every other person, he had his faults. In one of these fits of depression he grew impatient. Then, his ambition turned in the wrong direction. He was seized with a mania for getting rich quickly.
How to proceed, he did not know.
At last he thought that if he could invent something useful, and patent it, he would soon acquire what he so much desired to possess. Now, there are thousands who are constantly trying to do as much, but they are as likely to succeed as they were when they first began.
Frank was one day walking along a country lane when he perceived a cow which had broken loose.
She galloped about, her tail erect, her head lowered.
He pursued the animal, and after a prolonged chase and much dodging and capering on the part of both, he managed to grasp the rope which was tied round the brute's horns. He held it tightly and proceeded to tether his captive. But when he had driven the peg in the ground, he noticed that it was very easily pulled up.
He pondered over this as he proceeded towards his home. Suddenly, he slapped his forehead. "I have it," he said to himself. "I will have a peg, which, when being driven, will go all right, but when pulled about, will release two small prongs at the sides. This will make it impossible for anyone to pull it up; a small knob will be affixed which, when turned, will replace the prongs, and the peg will come out in a jiffy."
"Ah!" he went on thinking, "this would be a useful thing, an article which would command a ready sale. Besides, it would be used wherever a good gripping peg would be necessary."
He was enthusiastic. His mind was already full of different schemes which he would start when he had acquired fame and riches.
When he came home, he was so sure of success that he imparted his idea to his step-mother, with whom he was not generally very confidant.
Poor Frank! the volley of mockery which he received quite baffled him.
"So you think to make your fortune in that way," she said. "No, no, my boy, you never will."
"But don't you see that it's a most useful thing, that——"
"Stop, stop," she interrupted, "don't make me laugh. Do you think that people are going to listen to your nonsense? Why! your peg would get clogged with earth and would not act."
"Wouldn't it though, at any rate, it's worth thinking over, so I'll do that."
"If you choose to spend your money in that fashion, you can do so," retorted the lady, smiling contemptuously.
"You won't laugh at me this day month," thought Frank as he made his exit.
Once alone again, he grew more determined than ever. His mind was completely dazzled with the bright future before him.
Next morning, he posted a letter to an inventor's agency in London. He stated that he had invented something he knew would be useful, and very much in demand if manufactured. The letter went on to detail in full length the "safety peg." Then he went on to say that he would very much like to have it patented and if they would kindly send terms and advice in the course of a mail or two, he would be thankful.
Two days afterwards, he hoped to receive the joyful news. "They will certainly write soon,—such a valuable article—besides, they have an interest in its being patented," he said to himself.
He accordingly watched for the postman, and as soon as he saw him, his heart beat wildly. To think that he had the precious missive. He approaches, and now he is going to open the gate,—no, he passes without even looking in the direction of the house.
"Surely he must be forgetting," thought Frank, and he shouted: "Mr. Pedvin, have you any letter for me?"
"No; not to day," said the postman—and he went on his way.
"What are they up to now?" thought the youth, "they ought to make haste. I'll wait till to-morrow, and if I don't receive any news, I'll send them a note, and a pretty sharp one too."
Next day he again watched for the postman's arrival. He felt miserable; the state of uncertainty in which he was, caused him to be depressed. Still he could not imagine that the letter would contain anything contrary to his hopes.
The idea was so far from his wishes that he shook it away at once; he could not even bear to think of it.
But the postman came not, and it was now ten o'clock. He remembered with pain that the day before he had passed by at half-past nine.
"I must attend to my work," he thought, "he will come presently." He went about the greenhouse, watering his plants, but every other minute he opened the door and anxiously watched for the bringer of good news to put in an appearance.
He came at last. He handed a letter to Frank who ran towards him to receive it.
"You seem very much in earnest," remarked the postman, "maybe it's a love-letter. And from London too," he added noticing the post mark.
"I'm not so foolish as that," said Frank; as if such letters were below his dignity; "this is about an invention which I am going to have patented."
The postman showed the whites of his eyes, then turned on his heels and continued his journey.
Frank tore open the envelope, unfolded the letter and read:—
"We are in receipt of your letter of the 3rd instant, and have much pleasure in informing you that your invention has not, to our best knowledge, been patented or manufactured.
"We think it would prove very well in rural districts.
"The best way for you, would be to secure it by provisional protection for nine months.
"Please forward us L2 10s., and we will send you, at our earliest possible convenience, the necessary documents."
"Hurrah!" shouted Frank joyfully. "I'll send them the money as soon as I can."
He read the letter a second time to make sure that his eyes had not deceived him. Suddenly he stopped reading. No, it was not in the letter. A thought had struck him. "I will have to mention the money matter to my step-mother, for she keeps the keys of my drawer," he said in a soliloquy.
He went into the kitchen. Mr. and Mrs. Mathers were there. Frank flourished the letter in his hand and exclaimed: "My invention is likely to be a success." And, holding the letter in both his hands, he read it to his parents.
He emphasized the points that were in his favour, with all the force which he was capable of displaying.
Mrs. Mathers looked satisfied enough till her step-son came to the money matter. Here her face lengthened and as soon as he had finished reading she said: "Clever people; they think they are going to pocket all this money with a few words of flattering."
"Someone must pay for the one pound stamp and other expenses," answered Frank.
"After all this spending of money, perhaps it would not prove," rejoined Mrs. Mathers.
"We won't know if we don't try," retorted Frank; "people don't make fortunes staring about them with their hands in their pockets."
"But you don't mean to say," almost angrily said Mrs. Mathers, "that you would send them your money in that fashion?"
"I do," answered the young man in a decided tone. He was growing impatient at what he thought to be a wanton check of progress on his step-mother's part.
Here, Mr. Mathers left the room without having said a word.
Frank watched him disappear and then remarked: "Do you think these people are going to work for nothing? They would be fools."
"Oh! 'tis not they who are fools," sarcastically remarked his step-mother.
The young man waxed hot. His whole being was rising in wrath within him. He, however, mastered his passions. It was his duty to bend, and he did so. "If I could convince her, if I could make her feel as I myself feel," he thought.
For one minute he was silent, not knowing how to begin the speech that was to bring conviction into her soul.
"Ah!" he thought as he looked at his step-mother who had resumed her work as if the debate was settled, "she checks me when I try to push myself; she tries to nip my plans in the bud. When, with a few words of encouragement, I might soon be a rising man. But I must convince her—I must. If I don't succeed in doing it, I will act alone. The money is mine, why should I not be able to do what I like with it. If, however, I could bring her to think as I do."
"I have always tried to push myself," he began in a somewhat tender and pleading tone, "and you never give me one word of encouragement or praise."
Mrs. Mathers looked up: "You try in the wrong direction," she said, "earn money by all means, but don't throw it away like a simpleton."
Unheeding this, Frank resumed: "If I do not try and make life a success I don't know anyone who will do it for me. I have studied. Many an evening have I sat up with my books thinking of the use my knowledge would be to me in future life; many an outing have I denied myself for the sake of studying; many a pleasure have I sacrificed for the sake of acquiring knowledge. I did not care, work did not seem heavy, because it carried with it a hope of future happiness. I worked on till late in the evening. I rose early in the morning to resume my studies. And, if sometimes I felt discouraged, worn out by the ceaseless toil, I said to myself: 'Take courage—science is bitter but its fruit is sweet.' I have tried to cultivate myself as much as possible, to fill my mind with all that is noble, pure, and elevating—to acquire good habits by shunning bad society and by reading good books—in short, I have sacrificed my past self for the sake of my future self.
"And now (his tone grew inexpressibly sad), when I try to gather a few of the fruits which I have grown, you throw yourself between fortune and me.
"It is exactly as I was reading in a book the other day, in which the writer said: 'The cause of many failures is that men wait for something to turn up instead of turning up something for themselves'——"
"You and your books," ejaculated Mrs. Mathers,—"but I'll have no more of this begging and grumbling; do as you like, throw your money to the dogs, give it to whomsoever you choose. Perhaps, when you know the value of money, you will learn to appreciate it more. For my part, I will have nothing more to do about this tomfoolery."
Frank left the room with a light heart. He was free, at liberty to do whatever he chose. He chuckled to himself: "Liberty is sweet. I will now show them what I can do when I have no one to hinder me. However, I will wait a day or two before sending the money. I must not act too quickly,—I will think it over."
He went about his work. He felt that manual labour was almost below his dignity now. What! he, an inventor—a benefactor of mankind—the probable millionaire of years to come—he, who would soon be looked upon as the foremost man of the island, pointed at and envied by everyone—watering tomatoes. Oh! it certainly was below his rank. However, he would work yet for a few days and then, well then he would appear in his proper sphere.
Poor fellow, he had yet another of life's lessons to learn. He little imagined the crushing blow that was to fall on him and scatter all his hopes.
That evening he went to bed with his head brim full of ideas and plans for the future. His heart overflowed with delight. He dreamt of nothing but inventions, huge fortunes and fame.
Next morning, when he awoke, his head had cleared, but his ideas were the same. He never doubted for a moment the certainty of his success.
During the course of the morning there were instants in which he felt less confident. What if he did not succeed—what would his step-mother say—what would he himself do, he who had made this scheme part of his being. But he would prosper, why, here (looking at the letter) was the opinion of people who had been amongst inventions for years.
A shadow seemed to cross the path of the greenhouse. "I think someone has passed by," he thought, "I will go and see." Suiting the action to the thought, he sprang at the door and opened it. What was his astonishment to see the postman. Two days following! it was an event, for they seldom received letters.
On hearing the noise which Frank made on opening the door, the postman turned round and handed him a letter. He was agreeably surprised to see that it was from the inventors' agency, but his delight was soon changed into bitter anger and bitterest disappointment when he had read its contents. It was worded thus:
"DEAR SIR,—We are sorry to inform you that the invention we were about to patent for you, had, we have just found out, been patented before.
"The inventor, we have learned, ruined himself in trying to push it."
He read it twice over. Alas! it was too true. Sadly and mournfully he went into the house, there to think of his misfortune.
He entered the little parlour, threw himself on a chair, took the letter from his pocket and re-read it.
He crumpled the letter in his hand and exclaimed: "'Tis too true, there is not the slightest hope; ah! this is indeed a cloud with no silver lining."
He rose, paced the room in an agitated state and muttered: "But yesterday, I thought myself a rising man, now, I have utterly failed; that upon which I had set my heart, upon which my thoughts had dwelt and upon which my hopes had been built, has fallen to the ground."
"Such joy ambition finds," something seemed to echo within him.
For a week or so Frank Mathers grieved about his misfortune. At the end of that time, an event occurred which completely distracted him.
He was taking a walk a few miles from his home, not far from the Forest Church. When he came near the farm of "Les Marches," he perceived a man, who, seated on a branch, was sawing it. This branch projected over a quarry which was filled with water.
Suddenly, the branch gave way, and Mr. Rougeant (such was this man's name), fell into the water.
Frank at once ran towards the spot, taking off his coat as he hastened along. He was a good and plucky swimmer. When he came near the quarry, the drowning man was struggling for dear life. Frank seized the position in a moment. He saw that it would be useless to jump into the water, because, when once in, he would not be able to reach the edge of the quarry, for the water's surface was quite four feet below that of the ground. There was not a moment to lose. The man had already gone down twice; he was coming up for the second time. Frank took his coat in one hand, and, leaning over the edge of the quarry at the risk of falling in himself, he caught hold of a tuft of grass with the other hand, and awaited the drowning man's appearance.
The farmer rose to the surface, struggling. His eyes were dilated, his whole countenance presented a frightened and imploring appearance.
He uttered a cry, 'twas a cry in which he poured forth all his soul; his last and supreme appeal to heaven and earth; but one word, but ah! what a deep prayer to one, what an earnest appeal to the other, were centred in that word: "Help."
"Seize this, seize this," cried Frank.
The drowning man saw the dangling sleeve, his last chance of salvation. Frantically he clutched at it. Ah! he has missed it. No, as he was going down for the third time he threw out his arm once more. It was a forlorn hope, but it was successful. He caught hold of the coat with both his hands and raised himself. He found a creek in which he placed his foot, and with Frank's manly help, was soon extricated from his perilous position.
Mr. Rougeant was panting for breath, and exhausted, but saved from a watery grave.
Frank bent over the man he had rescued, dried his face and took off his boots, examining him meanwhile. Mr. Rougeant, whom we did not describe when we first met him, was a man of medium height. He had broad shoulders, a powerful chest, an almost square head and a formidable nose. Under his nasal organ, there bristled a short moustache.
When he had partly recovered his senses, he looked around him. "Where is my saw?" he questioned, then he added: "My hat, where is it?"
The hat, probably a leaky one, had gone to the bottom.
Frank was as much amused as he was astonished to hear him. He replied: "I suppose they must both be given up as lost."
"It is a pity," said the prostrate man, "it was a good saw, and a brand new one too."
The man spoke in the patois of the island, a kind of old Norman French which the young man understood very well. He, therefore, answered in the same language.
"Shall I go and call your people?" Frank said after a while.
"No, thank you, I think I can walk home."
He stood up and they both proceeded towards the farm-house.
"Not a word of thanks," soliloquized Frank, as he surveyed the strong frame and the powerful limbs of his companion.
Just then the farmer turned abruptly to him: "A good thing you were passing near at the time of the accident. I might have been drowned," he said.
"I am very glad of having been of service to you," answered Frank.
"You're a good fellow," resumed the farmer looking at him and nodding. "It's not everybody," he continued, "who would have had the sense to do as you have done."
They arrived at the farm-house, a two-storeyed house, without any pretence at architecture, and with a slate covering: the house was surrounded by stables, pig-sties, a small garden and a conservatory. In front of the house was a parterre, most tastefully arranged with flowers which surrounded an immense fuschia, five feet in height and covering an area of about fifty square feet.
The two men entered by the front door. Mr. Rougeant led his rescuer into the kitchen. Here was Jeanne, a French servant, occupied in poking the fire.
"Ah, but dear me," she exclaimed as she caught sight of the pair, "what has Mr. Rougeant been doing now?"
"I fell in the quarry," said the farmer gruffly, "go and prepare some dry clothing, be quick, make haste."
Jeanne immediately did as she was bid. She did not leave the room, however, without casting an inquisitive glance at Frank.
"Adele," shouted Mr. Rougeant in a voice of thunder, "where are you?"
"Miss Rougeant is gone, she told me she would not be long," answered the servant from upstairs.
"Oh, yes, always gone," said the father of Adele, in none too pleasant a tone; "those young girls are always out when most wanted."
Then he began to talk about his quarry. "Only a year ago that quarry was being worked. There were twenty men employed in it. It paid well then. But it's all over now. The man who worked it found a little bit of rubbish in his way, and, like a fool, he got frightened and left working it, and now you see it's full of water. Are the clothes ready?" This was said, or rather shouted to the servant.
"Yes, Sir, they're ready; I'm coming," said Jeanne.
"It's time," said Mr. Rougeant rising, "I am trembling all over now." He had been shivering for the last quarter of an hour.
When he was half way up the stairs he called out: "Of course you will wait till I come down again, I shall not be long Mr. ——."
"All right, Sir, don't hurry," answered Frank.
Left alone in the kitchen, the young man had time to examine the room. He had never been in a farm-house before.
On one side, ranged along the wall, was an oblong table which was bare. Above it, against the wall, was a shelf on which Frank could discern three or four big home-made loaves of bread.
On the opposite side, was a deal dresser on which were ranged saucers and plates, while cups and mugs were hung upon nails driven into the edge of the shelves; He was in the midst of his examination when someone entered the house by a back door. "Is it the girl of whom Mr. Rougeant spoke?" he wondered. Then he pictured her to himself: a tall overgrown country-lass, with hands like a working man's, and feet! well, one might just as well not think about them, they were repulsively large; it was a blessing that they were hidden from view.
He was in the midst of his imaginations when Adele Rougeant stepped into the kitchen. On perceiving Frank she was a little astonished, but soon recovered her self-control and assumed a well-bred smile.
The young man immediately hastened to explain the cause of his presence. He was greatly astonished. Here, then, was the corpulent country-girl his imagination had fancied! Before him stood a young lady altogether different to anything he had pictured her to be. "A girl of about seventeen," he tells himself, but later on he discovered that she was one year older than that; plainly, but well dressed. Her gown fitted her slender form to perfection. Every detail in her dress was arranged with such taste, her small shoes, the exquisite lace round her throat and such a charming face peeping out of it all. She was not beautiful, but she was pretty and attractive, she opened her mouth when she smiled as well as when she spoke.
"Pray be seated," said the young lady to Frank who had risen on her approach.
Frank sat down, quite confused and ready to run out of the room. He felt very timid, so far, as to be uncivil; in the presence of Adele. A young man who has spent most of his time alone, studying, will be timid when he meets a representative of the softer sex.
He scarcely lifted his eyes from the floor. He knew she would think him ill-bred, he was ashamed of himself, but he could not help it. He was full of bashfulness. Now, bashfulness is almost always a sure sign of amour-propre.
He scolded himself, but his red face grew redder. It was soon of a colour resembling peacock-blue.
Noticing his discomposure, Miss Rougeant could not help sharing some of it, and, doubtless, things would soon have come to an awkward point for both, if Mr. Rougeant had not put in an appearance.
"So this is the gentleman who saved your life?" said his daughter, speaking in English.
In the same language Mr. Rougeant replied: "Yes, this is he."
She had now regained all her former ease, and knowing her father's manners, thanked Frank most cordially.
He stammered out a few words of acknowledgement.
Seeing that her visitor cast glances at the quaint furniture, and anxious to break the confusing silence, Adele went on: "Doubtless you had not seen a kitchen like this before Mr. ——."
"My name is Frank Mathers," interposed the young man.
"And mine is Adele Rougeant," said she.
"Fancy, putting you in such a kitchen. We must go into the parlour directly."
"This is indeed very quaint and certainly primitive furniture. I must explain the use of——, that is if——."
"I should be greatly obliged," said Frank, "but it really is giving yourself too much trouble."
"On the contrary, it gives me pleasure. This"—pointing to a low kind of bedstead—"was the sofa of our forefathers. We call it a jonquiere. It was formerly stuffed with a weed which still grows near the coast; called jonquier—hence its name. These rods were used to hang the craseaux on them. A crase, the singular of craseaux, is a lamp of the most primitive type."
"A vessel with a beak in which some oil is poured, and in the beak is placed a wick, while underneath the vessel another one is suspended as a receptacle for the oil which falls from the upper one. Only ten years ago we still used them. I remember it quite well."
"And these are what we call 'lattes,'" she said, pointing to a wooden rack which hung suspended from the ceiling and parallel to it. "As you see, the bacon is kept there."
She stopped here, and looked anxiously at her father. He was pale and trembling. "Are you ill, father?" questioned his daughter.
"No, I'm not ill, although I do not feel quite well. Make me a totaie," he said, "then I'll go to bed and try to sleep off my indisposition."
His daughter did as her father requested.
When she was out of the room, Frank asked Mr. Rougeant what he meant by a totaie.
"Oh, it's a capital thing," responded the latter, "toasted bread soaked in warm cider. You swallow cider and all; if that does not drive a cold away, nothing will."
While the young lady was busily engaged in toasting the bread, Frank thought it best to take his leave.
Mr. Rougeant asked him to pay them a visit on the morrow. The young man promised to call. He managed to overcome his timidity sufficiently to raise his eyes as he took leave of Adele. Her eyes met his, she blushed and immediately dropped her eyelids.
Through the eyes the souls had spoken.
AN ABRUPT DISMISSAL.
Next day Frank Mathers prepared to pay his promised visit.
He fancied that he felt very much like William the Conqueror when he set out from Normandy to fight against the English. And probably he did.
While he was dressing with more than ordinary care, his thoughts were all about Adele.
"'Tis strange," he soliloquized, "such a well-bred, educated and refined young lady in this strange place. She is a rose among thistles,"—he had already formed his opinion of the master of "Les Marches."
"How lonely she must feel living with these two people, one a big-headed, and in proportion bigger-nosed man, the other, an old ignorant hag, her face of a dirty yellow, and her jaw! it reminds me of a species of fish which have a mouth that opens vertically—'Melanocetus Johnstoni'—I think the name is."
Here he finished soliloquizing and dressing.
He cast a glance over his clothes. "They don't appear to fit very well," he thought. "How strange that I had not noticed this before. I feel disposed to put on my best coat instead of this one."
Then he tried to scoff these thoughts away and when they would not leave him, he called himself a simpleton, scolded himself for his fastidious taste, and resolved to start as he was.
It was two o'clock when he called out to his step-mother: "Mother!" (this was a delicate piece of flattery); "I am going to see how the man I saved from drowning yesterday is getting on."
"Oh, all right, Frank," answered Mrs. Mathers, pleased to hear him calling her "mother."
The young man stepped out into the open air with a decided gait. After an hour's walk he arrived at the farm-house, heated by his rapid journey.
He was courteously received by Adele at the door. On her devolved the duties of hostess, which she endeavoured to discharge conscientiously.
She led her guest into the parlour where Mr. Rougeant was seated before a fire in an easy-chair. Frank shook hands with him and inquired how he felt.
"Not too bad, thank you," he replied, and beckoning Frank to a chair close to him, he began to converse about his farm.
Frank listened and answered as well as he could, making a remark now and then about agriculture which astonished the farmer considerably. He had the tact to respect Mr. Rougeant's feelings, and the latter was not slow in showing his appreciation of it.
"You seem to know more about farming than I do," remarked Mr. Rougeant.
Frank felt flattered. He began to talk about agricultural chemistry, but he was soon stopped by his host.
"I don't believe in theory," interrupted Mr. Rougeant, "give me facts, show me results. A great many people write about farming who can hardly distinguish a parsnip from a carrot."
The young man dared not go against the farmer. He saw, by his manner, that he was not a man to be contradicted. He looked at Adele. She was smiling, but directly her father looked round towards her, her face became as grave as a nun's.
Mr. Rougeant continued triumphantly to talk about his farm. It was all the world to him, and almost the only thing about which he could converse.
He never read a book.
During the conversation Frank learnt that he had about one hundred vergees of land, one fifth of which he kept, the remainder was let to other farmers. He had but one workman, a man about sixty years old, who had worked for the Rougeants for more than forty years. His name was Jacques Dorant. Then, there was his horse; it was old now, but still good. Ah! when he was younger, he was a splendid horse, such strength, such form, such a fast trotter, frisky, but as gentle as a lamb.
Thought Frank: "If he is to be credited, there has never been such a horse since the days of Bucephalus, the famous horse of Alexander."
During the whole time that they had been in the parlour, the young man had not found courage to address a word to Adele. He was very careful about his tenure. He spoke in a voice which he endeavoured to soften; he uttered the best English which he could frame,—for Mr. Rougeant spoke in English this time—and when there was an opportunity of displaying his talents, he availed himself of it with eagerness.