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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER IX. O MINE ENEMY!
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 Whatever good Cecile's purse of gold might be to her ultimately, at present it was but a source of peril and danger.  
Had anyone suspected the child of carrying about so large a treasure, her life even might have been the forfeit. Joe Barnes knew this well, and he was most careful that no hint as to the existence of the purse should pass his lips.
During the week the children spent at the happy Norman farm all indeed seemed very safe, and yet even there, there was a secret, hidden danger. A danger which would reveal itself by and by.
As I have said, it was arranged that the little party should go to Paris in M. Dupois' wagons; and the night before their departure Joe had come to Cecile, and begged her during their journey, when it would be impossible for them to be alone, and when they must be at all times more or less in the company of the men who drove and managed the wagons, to be most careful not to let anyone even suspect the existence of the purse. He even begged of her to let him take care of it for her until they reached Paris. But when she refused to part with it, he got her to consent that he should keep enough silver out of its contents to pay their slight expenses on the road.
Very slight these expenses would be, for kind M. Dupois had provisioned the wagons with food, and at night they would make a comfortable shelter. Still Cecile so far listened to Joe as to give him some francs out of her purse.
She had an idea that it was safest in the hiding place next her heart, where her stepmother had seen her place it, and she had made a firm resolve that, if need be, her life should be taken before she parted with this precious purse of gold. For the Russia-leather purse represented her honor to the little girl.
But, as I said, an unlooked-for danger was near—a danger, too, which had followed her all the way from Warren's Grove. Lydia Purcell had always been very particular whom she engaged to work on Mrs. Bell's farm, generally confining herself to men from the same shire. But shortly before the old lady's death, being rather short of hands to finish the late harvest, a tramp from some distant part of the country had offered his services. Lydia, driven to despair to get a certain job finished before the weather finally broke, had engaged him by the week, had found him an able workman, and had not ever learned to regret her choice. The man, however, was disliked by his fellow-laborers. They called him a foreigner, and accused him of being a sneak and a spy. All these charges he denied stoutly; nevertheless they were true. The man was of Norman-French birth. He had drifted over to England when a lad. His parents had been respectable farmers in Normandy. They had educated their son; he was clever, and had the advantage of knowing both French and English thoroughly. Nevertheless he was a bad fellow. He consorted with rogues; he got into scrapes; many times he saw the inside of an English prison. But so plausible was Simon Watts—as he called himself on the Warren's Grove farm—that Aunt Lydia was completely taken in by him. She esteemed him a valuable servant, and rather spoiled him with good living. Simon, keeping his own birth for many reasons a profound secret, would have been more annoyed than gratified had he learned that the children on the farm were also French. He heard this fact through an accident on the night of their departure. It so happened that Simon slept in a room over the stable where the pony was kept; and Jane Parsons, in going for this pony to harness him to the light cart, awoke Simon from his light slumber. He came down to find her harnessing Bess; and on his demanding what she wanted with the pony at so very early an hour, she told him in her excitement rather more of the truth than was good for him to know.
"Those blessed children were being robbed of quite a large sum of money. They wanted the money to carry them back to France. It had been left to the little girl for a certain purpose by one who was dead. They were little French children, bless them! Lydia Purcell had a heart of stone, but she, Jane, had outwitted her. The children had got back their money, and Jane was about to drive them over to catch the night mail for London, where they should be well received and cared for by a friend of her own."
So explained Jane Parsons, and Simon Watts had listened; he wished for a few moments that he had known about this money a little sooner, and then, seeing that there seemed no help for it, as the children were being moved absolutely out of his reach, had dismissed the matter from his mind.
But, see! how strange are the coincidences of life! Soon after, Simon not only learned that all the servants on the farm were to change hands, that many of them would be dismissed, but he also learned some very disagreeable news in connection with the police, which would make it advisable for him to make himself sc............
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