What his father wanted to marry again for, Tom never could make out. His lack of training and limited powers of expression did not indeed permit him any distinct reasoning on the matter, but the feeling was there—a dull resentment which found its only vent and satisfaction in stolid rudeness to his stepmother and the persecution of Nance and Bernel whenever occasion offered.
The household was not therefore on too happy a footing.
It consisted, at the time when our story opens, of—Old Mrs. Hamon—Grannie—half of whose life had been lived in the nineteenth century and half in the eighteenth. She had seen all the wild doings of the privateering and free-trading days, and recalled as a comparatively recent event the raiding of the Island by the men of Herm, though that happened forty years before.
She was for the most part a very reserved and silent old lady, but her tongue could bite like a whip when the need arose.
She occupied her own dower-rooms in the house, and rarely went outside them. All day long she sat in her great arm-chair by the window in her sitting-room, with the door wide open, so that she could see all that went on in the house and outside it; and in the sombre depths of her great black silk sun-bonnet—long since turned by age and weather to dusky green—her watchful eyes had in them something of the inscrutable and menacing.
Her wants were very few, and as her income from her one-third of the farm had far exceeded her expenses for more than twenty years, she was reputed as rich in material matters as she undoubtedly was in common-sense and worldly wisdom. Even young Tom was sulkily silent before her on the rare occasions when they came into contact.
Next in the family came the nominal head of it, “Old Tom” Hamon, to distinguish him from young Tom, his son; a rough, not ill-natured man, until the money-getting fever seized him, since which time his home-folks had found in him changes that did not make for their comfort.
The discovery of silver in Sark, the opening of the mines, and the coming of the English miners—with all the very problematical benefits of a vastly increased currency of money, and the sudden introduction of new ideas and standards of life and living into a community which had hitherto been contented with the order of things known to its forefathers—these things had told upon many, but on none more than old Tom Hamon.
Suspicious at first of the meaning and doings of these strangers, he very soon found them advantageous. He got excellent prices for his farm produce, and when his horses and carts were not otherwise engaged he could always turn them to account hauling for the mines.
As the silver-fever grew in him he became closer in his dealings both abroad and at home. With every pound he could scrimp and save he bought shares in the mines and believed in them absolutely. And he went on scrimping and saving and buying shares so as to have as large a stake in the silver future as possible.