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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER XXVIII. THE STORY AND ITS LISTENERS.
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 It was neither at the fainting mother nor at Joe that Cecile now looked. With eyes opening wide with astonishment and hope, she ran forward, caught Miss Smith's two hands in her own, and exclaimed in a voice rendered unsteady with agitation:  
"Oh! have you got my purse? Is Lovedy's Russia-leather purse quite, quite safe?"
Busy as young Mme. Malet was at that moment, at the word "Lovedy" she started and turned round. But Cecile was too absorbed in Miss Smith's answer to notice anyone else.
"Is Lovedy's purse quite, quite safe?" asked her trembling lips.
"The purse is safe," answered Miss Smith; and then Joe, who had as yet not even glanced at Cecile, also raised his head and added:
"Yes, Cecile, the Russia-leather purse is safe."
"Then I must thank Jesus now at once," said Cecile.
With her weak and tottering steps she managed to leave the room to gain her own little chamber, where, if ever a full heart offered itself up to the God of Mercy, this child's did that night.
It was a long time before Cecile reappeared, and when she did so order was restored to the Malet's parlor. Old Mme. Malet was seated in her own easy-chair by the fire; one trembling hand rested on Joe's neck; Joe knelt at her feet, and the eyes of this long-divided mother and son seemed literally to drink in love and blessing the one from the other.
All the anxiety, all the sorrow seemed to have left the fine old face of the Frenchwoman. She sat almost motionless, in that calm which only comes of utter and absolute content.
Miss Smith was sitting by the round table in the center of the room, partaking of a cup of English tea. Big brother Jean was bustling in and out, now and then laying a great and loving hand on his old mother's head, now and then looking at the lost Alphonse with a gaze of almost incredulous wonder.
Young Mme. Malet had retired to put her child to bed, but when Cecile entered she too came back to the room.
Had anyone had time at such a moment to particularly notice this young woman, they would have seen that her face now alone of all that group retained its pain. Such happiness beamed on every other face that the little cloud on hers must have been observed, though she tried hard to hide it.
As she came into the room now, her husband came forward and put his arm round her waist.
"You are just in time, Suzanne," he said; "the English lady is going to tell the story of the purse, and you shall translate it to the mother and me."
"Yes, Cecile," said Miss Smith, taking the little girl's hand and seating her by her side, "if I had been the shrewd old English body I am, you would never have seen your purse again; but here it is at last, and I am not sorry to part with it."
Here Miss Smith laid the Russia-leather purse on the table by Cecile's side.
At sight of this old-fashioned and worn purse, young Mme. Malet started so violently that her husband said: "What ails thee, dear heart?"
With a strong effort she controlled herself, and with her hands locked tightly together, with a tension that surely meant pain.
"The day before yesterday," continued Miss Smith, "I was sitting in my little parlor, in the very house where you found me out, Cecile; I was sitting there and, strange to say, thinking of you, and of the purse of gold you intrusted to me, a perfect stranger, when there came a ring to my hall door. In a moment in came Molly and said that a man wanted to see me on very particular business. She said the man spoke English. That was the reason I consented to see him, my dear; for I must say that, present company excepted, I do hate foreigners. However, I said I would see the man, and Molly showed him in, a seedy-looking fellow he was, with a great cut over his eye. I knew at a glance he was not English-born and I wished I had refused to see him; he had, however, a plausible tongue, and was quite quiet and *well-behaved.
"How astonished I was when he asked for your purse of gold, Cecile, and showed me the little bit of paper, in my own writing, promising to resign the purse at any time to bearer.
"I was puzzled, I can tell you. I thoroughly distrusted the man, but I scarcely knew how to get out of my own promise. He had his tale, too, all ready enough. You had found the girl you were looking for: she was in great poverty, and very ill; you were also ill, and could not come to fetch the purse; you therefore had sent him, and he must go back to the south of France without delay to you. He said he had been kept on the road by an accident which had caused that cut over his eye.
"I don't know that I should have given him the purse,—I don't believe I should,—but, at any rate, before I had made up my mind to any line of action, again Molly put in an appearance, saying that a ragged boy seemed in great distress outside, and wanted to see me immediately; 'and he too can speak English,' she continued with a smile.
"I saw the man start and look uneasy when the ragged boy was mentioned, and I instantly resolved to see him, and in the man's presence.
"'Show him in,' I said to my little servant.
"The next instant in came your poor Joe, Cecile. Oh! how wild and pitiful he looked.
"'You h............
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