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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Children's Pilgrimage - Part 3. The Great Journey - Chapter 8. A Farm In Normandy
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The Children's Pilgrimage - Part 3. The Great Journey - Chapter 8. A Farm In Normandy Post by :jensrsa Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1868

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The Children's Pilgrimage - Part 3. The Great Journey - Chapter 8. A Farm In Normandy

THIRD PART. THE GREAT JOURNEY
CHAPTER VIII. A FARM IN NORMANDY


A Norman gentleman farmer and his wife sat together in their snug parlor. Their children had all gone to bed an hour ago. Their one excellent servant was preparing supper in the kitchen close by. The warmly-curtained room had a look of almost English comfort. Children's books and toys lay scattered about. The good house-mother, after putting these in order, sat down by her husband's side to enjoy the first quiet half hour of the day.

"What a fall of snow we have had, Marie," said M. Dupois, "and how bitterly cold it is! Why, already the thermometer is ten degrees below zero. I hate such deep snow. I must go out with the sledge the first thing in the morning and open a road."

Of course this husband and wife conversed in French, which is here translated.

"Hark!" said Mme. Dupois, suddenly raising her forefinger, "is not that something like a soft knocking? Can anyone have fallen down in this deep snow at our door?"

M. Dupois rose at once and pushed aside the crimson curtain from one of the windows.

"Yes, yes," he exclaimed quickly, "you are right, my good wife; here is a lad lying on the ground. Run and get Annette to heat blankets and make the kitchen fire big. I will go round to the poor boy."

When M. Dupois did at last reach Joe Barnes, he had only strength to murmur in his broken French, "Go and save the others under the old wall--two children and dog"--before he fainted away.

But his broken words were enough; he had come to people who had the kindest hearts in the world.

It seemed but a moment before he himself was reviving before the blazing warmth of a great fire, while the good farmer with three of his men was searching for the missing children.

They were not long in discovering them, with the dog himself, now nearly frozen, stretched across Cecile's body.

Poor little starving lambs! they were taken into warmth and shelter, though it was a long time before either Cecile or Maurice showed the faintest signs of life.

Maurice came to first, Cecile last. Indeed so long was she unconscious, so unavailing seemed all the warm brandy that was poured between her lips, that Mme. Dupois thought she must be dead.

The farmer's children, awakened by the noise, had now slipped downstairs in their little nightdresses. And when at last Cecile's blue eyes opened once more on this world, it was to look into the bright black orbs of a little Norman maiden of about her own age.

"Oh, look, mamma! Look! her eyes open, she sees! she lives! she moves! Ah, mother! how pleased I am."

The little French girl cried in her joy, and Cecile watched her wonderingly, After a time she asked in a feeble, fluttering voice:

"Please is this heaven? Have we two little children really got to heaven?"

Her English words were only understood by Mme. Dupois, and not very perfectly by her. She told the child that she was not in heaven, but in a kind earthly home, where she need not think, but just eat something and then go to sleep.

"And oh, mamma! How worn her little shoes are! and may I give her my new hat, mamma?" asked the pretty and pitying little Pauline.

"In the morning, my darling. In the morning we will see to all that. Now the poor little wanderers must have some nice hot broth, and then they shall sleep here by the kitchen fire,"

Strange to say, notwithstanding the terrible hardships they had undergone, neither Cecile nor Maurice was laid up with rheumatic fever. They slept soundly in the warmth and comfort of the delicious kitchen, and awoke the next morning scarcely the worse for their grave danger and peril.

And now followed what might have been called a week in the Palace Beautiful for these little pilgrims. For while the snow lasted, and the weather continued so bitterly cold, neither M. nor Mme. Dupois would hear of their leaving them. With their whole warm hearts these good Christian people took in the children brought to them by the snow. Little Pauline and her brother Charles devoted themselves to Cecile and Maurice, and though their mutual ignorance of the only language the others could speak was owned to be a drawback, yet they managed to play happily and to understand a great deal; and here, had Cecile confided as much of her little story to kind Mme. Dupois as she had done to Joe Barnes, all that follows need never have been written. But alas! again that dread, that absolute terror that her purse of gold, if discovered, might be taken from her, overcame the poor little girl; so much so that, when Madame questioned her in her English tone as to her life's history, and as to her present pilgrimage, Cecile only replied that she was going through France on her way to the South, that she had relations in the South. Joe, when questioned, also said that he had a mother and a brother in the South, and that he was taking care of Cecile and Maurice on their way there.

Mme. Dupois did not really know English well, and Cecile's reserve, joined to her few words of explanation, only puzzled her. As both she and her husband were poor, and could not, even if it were desirable, adopt the children, there seemed nothing for it but, when the weather cleared, to let them continue on their way.

"There is one thing, however, we can do to help them," said M. Dupois. "I have decided to sell that corn and hay in Paris, and as the horses are just eating their heads off with idleness just now in their stables, the men shall take the wagons there instead of having the train expenses; the children therefore can ride to Paris in the wagons."

"That will take nearly a week, will it not, Gustave?" asked Mme. Dupois.

"It will take three or four days, but I will provision the men. Yes, I think it the best plan, and the surest way of disposing advantageously of the hay and corn. The children may be ready to start by Monday. The roads will be quite passable then."

So it was decided, and so it came to pass; Charles and Pauline assuring Joe, who in turn informed Cecile and Maurice, that the delights of riding in one of their papa's wagons passed all description. Pauline gave Cecile not only a new hat but new boots and a new frock. Maurice's scanty and shabby little wardrobe was also put in good repair, nor was poor Joe neglected, and with tears and blessing on both sides, these little pilgrims parted from those who had most truly proved to them good Samaritans.

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