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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 167 pages of information about At a Winter's Fire.

Plancine knew how to act.  She put her hand over the frantic eyes, and led the old man stumbling up the garden path.  She was going to sing to him from the little sweet folk-ballads of the old gay France before the trouble came—­

"The king would wed his daughter
  Over the English sea;
But never across the water
  Shall a husband come to me."

Love floated on the freshet of her voice straight into the heart of the young man who stood without.

II

Perhaps at first it had not been the least of the bitterness in M. De Jussac’s cup of calamity that his mere pride of name must adjust itself to its altered conditions.  That the Vicomte De Jussac should have been expatriated because he declined when called upon to contribute his heart’s blood to the red conduit in the Faubourg St. Antoine was certainly an infamy, but one of which the very essence was that unquestioning acknowledgment of his rank.  That the land of his adoption should have dubbed him Mr. Jussuks—­in stolid unconsciousness, too, of the solecism—­was an outrage of a totally different order—­an outrage only to be condoned on the score that an impenetrable insular gaucherie, and not a malicious impertinence, was responsible for it.

Mr. Jussuks had, however, outlived his sense of the injurious appellation; had outlived much prejudice, the wear of poverty, his memory of many things, and, very early, his scorn of the plebeian processes that to the impecunious are a condition of living at all.  He was certainly a man of courageous independence, inasmuch as from the hour of his setting foot in England—­and that was at the outset of the century—­he had controlled his own little fortunes without a hand to help him over the deep places.

Of his first struggles little is known but this—­that for years, turning to account some small knowledge of draughtsmanship he had acquired, he found employment in ladies’ academies, of which there was a plenitude at that date in King’s Cobb.

That, however, which brought him eventually into a modest prominence—­not only in that same beautiful but indifferently known watering-place (upon which he had happened, it would appear, fortuitously), but elsewhere and amongst men of a certain mark—­was a discovery—­or the practical application of one—­which in its result procured him a definite object in life, together with the means to pursue it.

Ammonites, and such small geological fry, were to be found by the thousand in the petrified mud beds of the Cobb region; but it was left to the ingenuity, aided by good fortune, of the foreigner to unearth from the flaking and perishing cliffs of lias some of the earliest and finest specimens of the ichthyo- and plesio-saurus that a past world has yielded to the naturalists.

Out of these the emigre made money, and so was enabled to pursue and enlarge upon his researches.  Presently he prospered into a competence, married (poor Mademoiselle Belleville, of the Silver Street Academy, who died of typhoid at the end of a couple of summers), and so grew into the kindly old age of the absorbed and gentle naturalist, with his Plancine budding at his side.

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