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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER V. THE TIN BOX AND ITS TREASURE.
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 Cecile and Maurice D'Albert were the orphan children of a French father and a Spanish mother. Somewhere in the famous valleys of the Pyrenees these two had loved each other, and married. Maurice D'Albert, the father, was a man of a respectable class and for that class of rather remarkable culture. He owned a small vineyard, and had a picturesque chateau, which he inherited from his ancestors, among the hills. Pretty Rosalie was without money. She had neither fortune nor education. She sprang from a lower class than her husband; but her young and childish face possessed so rare an order of beauty that it would be impossible for any man to ask her where she came from, or what she did. Maurice D'Albert loved her at once. He married her when she was little more than a child; and for four years the young couple lived happily among their native mountains; for Rosalie's home had been only as far away as the Spanish side of the Pyrenees.  
But at the end of four years clouds came. The vine did not bear; a blight seemed to rest on all vegetation of the prosperous little farm. D'Albert, for the first time in his life, was short of money for his simple needs. This was an anxiety; but worse troubles were to follow. Pretty Rosalie bore him a son; and then, when no one even apprehended danger, suddenly died. This death completely broke down the poor man. He had loved Rosalie so well that when she left him the sun seemed absolutely withdrawn from his life. He lived for many more years, but he never really held up his head again. Rosalie was gone! Even his children now could scarcely make him care for life. He began to hate the place where he had been so happy with his young wife. And when a distant cousin, who had long desired the little property, came and offered to buy it, D'Albert sold the home of his ancestors. The cousin gave him a small sum of money down for the pretty chateau and vineyard, and agreed to pay the rest in yearly instalments, extending over twelve years.
With money in his purse, and secure in a small yearly property for at least some years to come, D'Albert came to England. He had been in London once for a fortnight, when quite a little lad; and it came into his head that the English children looked healthy and happy, and he thought it might give him pleasure to bring up his little son and daughter as English children. He took the baby of three months, and the girl of a little over two years, to England; and, in a poor and obscure corner of the great world of London, established himself with his babies. Poor man! the cold and damp English climate proved anything but the climate of his dreams. He caught one cold, then another, and after two or three years entered a period of confirmed ill-health, which was really to end in rapid consumption. His children, however, throve and grew strong. They both inherited their young mother's vigorous life. The English climate mattered nothing to them, for they remembered no other. They learned to speak the English tongue, and were English in all but their birth. When they were babies their father stayed at home, and nursed them as tenderly as any woman, allowing no hired nurse to interfere. But when they were old enough to be left, and that came before long, Cecile growing so wise and sensible, so dependable, as her father said, D'Albert went out to look for employment.
He was, as I have said, a man of some culture for his class. As he knew Spanish fluently, he obtained work at a school, as teacher, of Spanish, and afterward he further added to his little income by giving lessons on the guitar. The money too came in regularly from the French chateau, and D'Albert was able to put by, and keep his children in tolerable comfort.
He never forgot his young wife. All the love he had to bestow upon woman lay in her Pyrenean grave. But nevertheless, when Cecile was six years old, and Maurice four, he asked another woman to be his wife. His home was neglected; his children, now that he was out so much all day, pined for more care. He married, but not loving his wife, he did not add to his happiness. The woman who came into the house came with a sore and broken heart. She brought no love for either father or children. All the love in her nature was centered on her own lost child. She came and gave no love, and received none, except from Cecile. Cecile loved everybody. There was that in the little half-French, half-Spanish girl's nature—a certain look in her long almond-shaped blue eyes, a melting look, which could only be caused by the warmth of a heart brimful of loving kindness. Woe be to anyone who could hurt the tender heart of this little one! Cecile's stepmother had often pained her, but Cecile still loved on.
Two years after his second marriage D'Albert died. He died after a brief fresh cold, rather suddenly at the end, although he had been ill for years.
To his wife he explained all his worldly affairs, He received fifty pounds a year from his farm in France. This would continue for the next few years. There was also a small sum in hand, enough for his funeral and present expenses. To Cecile he spoke of other things than money—of his early home in the sunny southern country, of her mother, of little Maurice. He said that perhaps some day Cecile could go back and take Maurice with her to see with her own eyes the sunny vineyards of the south, and he told her what the child had never learned before, that she had a grandmother living in the Pyrenees, a very old woman now, old and deaf, and knowing not a single word of the English tongue. "But with a loving heart, Cecile," added her father, "with a loving mother's heart. If ever you could find your grandmother, you would get a kiss from her that would be like a mother's kiss."
Shortly after Maurice D'Albert died, and the children lived on with their stepmother. Without loving them, the second Mrs. D'Albert was good to her little stepchildren. She religiously spent all their father's small income on them, and when she died, she had so arranged money matters that her sister Lydia would be well paid with the fifty pounds a year for supporting them at her farm in the country.
This fifty pounds still came regularly every half-year from the French farm. It would continue to be paid for the next four years, and the next half-year's allowance was about due when the children left London and went to the farm in Kent.
The few days that immediately followed Mrs. D'Albert's death were dull and calm. No one loved the poor woman well enough to fret really for her. The child she had lost was far away and knew nothing, and Lydia Purcell shed few tears for her sister. True, Cecile cried a little, and went into the room where the dead woman lay, and kissed the cold lips, registering again, as she did so, a vow to find Lovedy, but even Cecile's loving heart was only stirred on the surface by this death. The little girl, too, was so oppressed, so overpowered by the care of the precious purse of money, she lived even already in such hourly dread of Aunt Lydia finding it, that she had no room in her mind for other sensations; there was no place in the lodgings in which they lived to hide the purse of bank notes and gold. Aunt Lydia seemed to be a woman who had eyes in the back of her head, she saw everything that anyone could see; she was here, there, and everywhere at once. Cecile dared not take the bag from inside the bosom of her frock, and its weight, physical as well as mental, brought added pallor to her thin cheeks. The kind young doctor, who had been good to Mrs. D'Albert, and had written to her sister to come to her, paid the children a hasty visit. He noticed at once Cecile's pale face and languid eyes.
"This child is not well," he said to Lydia Purcell. "What is wrong, my little one?" he added, drawing the child forward tenderly to sit on his knee.
"Please, I'm quite well," answered Cecile, "'tis only as father did say as I was a very dependable little girl. I think being dependable makes you feel a bit old—don't it, doctor?"
"I have no doubt it does," answered the doctor, laughing. And he went away relieved about the funny, old-fashioned little foreign girl, and from that moment Cecile passed out of his busy and useful life.
The next day the children, Toby, and Aunt Lydia went down to the farm in Kent. Neither Cecile, Maurice, nor their town-bred dog had ever seen the country, to remember it before, and it is not too much to say that all three went nearly wild with delight. Not even Aunt Lydia's sternness could quench the children's mirth when they got away into the fields, or scrambled over stiles into the woods. Beautiful Kent was then rich in its autumn tints. The children and dog lived out from morning to night. Provided they did not trouble her, Lydia Purcell was quite indifferent as to how the little creatures committed to her care passed their time. At Cecile's request she would give her some broken provisions in a basket, and then never see or think of the little trio again until, footsore and weary after their day of wandering, they crept into their attic bedroom at night.
It was there and then, during those two delicious months, before the winter came with its cold and dreariness, that Cecile lost the look of care which had made her pretty face old before its time. She was a child again—rather she was a child at last. Oh! the joy of gathering real, real flowers with her own little brown hands. Oh! the delight of sitting under the hedges and listening to the birds singing. Maurice took it as a matter of course; Toby sniffed the country air solemnly, but with due and reasonable appreciation; but to Cecile these two months in the country came as the embodiment of the babyhood and childhood she had never known.
In the country Cecile was only ten years old.
When first they had arrived at the old farm she had discovered a hiding place for her purse. Back of the attic, were she had and Maurice and Toby slept, was a little chamber, so narrow—running so completely away into the roof—that even Cecile could only explore it on her hands and knees.
This little room she did examine carefully, holding a candle in her hand, in the dead of night, when every soul on the busy farm was asleep.
Woe for Cecile had Aunt Lydia heard a sound; but Aunt Lydia Purcell slept heavily, and the child's movements were so gentle and careful that they would scarcely have aroused a wakeful mouse. Cecile found in the extreme corner of this tiny attic in the roof an old broken wash-hand-stand lying on its back. In the wash-hand-stand was a drawer, and inside the drawer again a tidy little tin box. Cecile seized the box, sat down on the floor, and taking the purse from the bosom of her frock, found that it fitted it well. She gave a sigh of relief; the tin box shut with a click; who would guess that there was a purse of gold and notes inside!
Now, where should she put it? Back again into the old drawer of the old wash-stand? No; that hiding place was not safe enough. She explored a little further, almost lying down now, the roof was so near her head. Here she found what she had little expected to see—a cupboard cunningly contrived in the wall. She pushed it open. It was full, but not quite full, of moldy and forgotten books. Back of the books the tin box might lie hidden, lie secure; no human being would ever guess that a treasure lay here.
With trembling hands she pushed it far back into the cupboard, covered it with some books, and shut the door securely.
Then she crept back to bed a light-hearted child. For the present her secret was safe and she might be happy.

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