Author of "The Heart of Penelope"
B. W. DODGE AND COMPANY
"Have regard to thy name; for that shall continue with thee above a thousand great treasures of gold."
Ecclesiasticus xl. 12.
Barbara Rebell's tenth birthday,—that is the ninth of June, 1870,—was destined to be long remembered by her as a day of days; both as having seen the first meeting with one who, though unknown till then, had occupied a great place in her imagination, if only because the name of this lady, her godmother, had been associated every night and morning with that of her father and mother in her prayers, and as having witnessed the greatest of her childish disappointments.
Certain dates to most of us become in time retrospectively memorable, and doubtless this sunny, fragrant June day would in any case have been remembered by Barbara as the last of a long series of high days and holidays spent by her in her French home during the first few years of her life. Barbara Rebell left St. Germains two months after her tenth birthday; but the town which has seen so few changes in its stately, ordered beauty, since it afforded a magnificent hospitality to the last Stuart King and Queen of England, always remained to her "home," in the dear and intimate sense of the word, and that for many years after everything save the actual roof and walls of the villa where Mr. and Mrs. Rebell had lived such long, and on the whole such peaceful years, had been destroyed—overwhelmed with locust-like destruction—by the passage of an alien soldiery.
But early in the June of 1870 there was nothing to show what July and August were to bring to France, and the various incidents which so much impressed the child's imagination, and made the day memorable, were almost wholly connected with that solitary inner life which is yet so curiously affected by material occurrences.
Barbara's birthday began very differently from what she had thought it would do. The little girl had pleasant recollections of the fashion in which her last fête day, "la Sainte Barbe," had been celebrated. She remembered vividly the white bouquets brought by the tradespeople, the cakes and gifts offered by her little French friends, they who dwelt in Legitimist seclusion in the old town—for St. Germains was at that time a Royalist stronghold—far from the supposed malign influence of the high forest trees, and broad, wind-swept Terrace, which had first attracted Barbara's parents, and caused them to choose St. Germains as their place of retreat.
And so Barbara had looked forward very eagerly to her tenth birthday, but by eleven o'clock what, so far, had it brought her? No bouquets, no cakes, no trifling gifts of the kind she loved! As she sat out in her little chair on the balcony of which the gilt balustrade was now concealed by festoons of green leaves and white roses, and from which opened the windows of her mother's drawing-room, the child's conscience pricked her somewhat. Had not her parents early called her into their room and presented her with a beautiful little gold watch—a gift, too, brought specially from London by Mr. Daman, a Queen's Messenger, who was one of her father's oldest friends, and one of the very few English-speaking folk who ever sought out Mr. and Mrs. Rebell in their seclusion?
"You may wear it all to-day," her mother had said with some solemnity, "but after to-night I will put it away until you are old enough to take care of a watch." In time the little watch became a cherished possession, a dear familiar friend, but on this first day of ownership Barbara took small pleasure in her gift.
The child had not liked to ask if any further birthday treat was in contemplation. She stood in great awe of her quiet-mannered, preoccupied father: and, while loving her gentle, kind mother with all her eager passionate little heart, she did not at that time understand how tenderly she herself was loved in return by the fragile, pensive looking woman, who seemed to those about her absorbed rather in her husband than in her daughter.
And so, after having been dismissed rather curtly by her father, Barbara had made her way disconsolately out to the balcony which was in a sense her play-room, for there she spent many of her solitary hours. Sitting in her own little wicker chair, with The Fairchild Family lying on the osier table by her side, and Les Malheurs de Sophie on her lap, she wondered rather wistfully what the day to which she had so much looked forward was likely to bring forth.
Dressed in a white India muslin frock, her long dark hair curled, as was the fashion in those days, and tied neatly out of the way with a pale blue ribbon, her unseeing eyes gazing at one of the most beautiful views in the world, little Barbara Rebell, not for the first time, fell to wondering why her life was so different from that of the English children of whom she read in the books her mother had lately sent for from the home of her own childhood. Even the Fairchilds were a family, not a solitary little girl; each of the French children she knew had at least one brother or sister apiece to bear them company, and all through her thoughts—her disconnected, discontented birthday thoughts—there ran a thread of uneasy wonder as to why she and her parents were living here in France instead of in far away England.
Barbara had of late become dimly aware that her mother made no effort to enter into the eager, cheerful life about her; even after many years spent entirely in France Mrs. Rebell still spoke French with a certain difficulty, and she had tacitly refused to form any tie but one of courteous acquaintance with the few French families with whom—entirely for the sake of her child, but Barbara did not know that—she had entered into social relation, using a Protestant banker as a connecting link.
The summer before her tenth birthday Barbara had overheard some fragments of a conversation held between two mothers of some of her little French friends; and the few words, so carelessly uttered, had roused a passion of emotion in the innocent eavesdropper: the feeling which most predominated being the unreasoning, pathetic surprise felt by a childish mind when brought suddenly across anything in the nature of a masked attack.
"Enfin qu'est que ce Monsieur Rebell a bien pu faire de si terrible? Pour moi il a un air sinistre, cet homme-là!"
"Peut-être a-t-il tué quelqu'un en duel! Il parait qu'en Angleterre on est devenu féroce sur ce châpitre-là."
"En tous cas, cette pauvre Madame Rebell est bien jolie, et bien à plaindre!"
The effect of these few carelessly uttered words had been to transform