He got no return as yet from his investment, indeed. But that would come all right in time, and the more shares he could get hold of the larger the ultimate return would be. And so he stinted himself and his family, and mortgaged his future, in hopes of wealth which he would not have known how to enjoy if he had succeeded in getting it.
So possessed was he with the desire for gain that when young Tom came home from sea he left the farming to him, and took to the mining himself, and worked harder than he had ever worked in his life before.
He was a sturdy, middle-sized man, with a grizzled bullet head and rounded beard, of a dogged and pertinacious disposition, but capable, when stirred out of his usual phlegm, of fiery outbursts which overbore all argument and opposition. His wife died when his boy Tom was three, and after two years of lonely discomfort he married Nancy Poidestre of Petit Dixcart, whose people looked upon it as something of a mesalliance that she should marry out of her own country into Little Sark.
Nancy was eminently good-looking and a notable housewife, and she went into Tom Hamon’s house of La Closerie with every hope and intention of making him happy.
But, from the very first, little Tom set his face against her.
It would be hard to say why. Nancy racked her brain for reasons, and could find none, and was miserable over it.
His father thrashed him for his rudeness and insolence, which only made matters worse.
His own mother had given way to him in everything, and spoiled him completely. After her death his father out of pity for his forlorn estate, had equally given way to him, and only realised, too late, when he tried to bring him to with a round turn, how thoroughly out of hand he had got.
When little Tom found, as one consequence of the new mother’s arrival, that his father thrashed instead of humouring him, he put it all down to the new-comer’s account, and set himself to her discomfiture in every way his barbarous little wits could devise.
He never forgot one awful week he passed in his grandmother’s care—a week that terminated in the arrival of still another new-comer, who, in course of time, developed into little Nance. It is not impossible that the remembrance of that black week tended to colour his after-treatment of his little half-sister. In spite of her winsomeness he hated her always, and did his very best to make life a burden to her.
When, on that memorable occasion, he was hastily flung by his father into his grandmother’s room, as the result of some wickedness which had sorely upset his stepmother, and the door was, most unusually, closed behind him, his first natural impulse was to escape as quickly as possible.
But he became aware of something unusual and discomforting in the atmosphere, and when his grandmother said sternly, “Sit down!” and he turned on her to offer his own opinion on the matter, he found the keen dark eyes gazing out at him from under the shadowy penthouse of the great black sun-bonnet, with so intent and compelling a stare that his mouth closed without saying a word. He climbed up on to a chair and twisted his feet round the legs by way of anchorage.