HOW GARD REFUSED AN OFFER AND MADE AN ENEMY
They had been most gratefully and graciously free from Tom since his father’s death, but he reappeared a day or two before the end of the six weeks, and brought with him a wife from Guernsey—not even a Guernsey woman, however, but a Frenchwoman from the Cotentin—black-haired, black-eyed, good-looking, after the type that would please such an one as Tom Hamon—somewhat over-bold of face and manner for the rest of the family.
Philip Tanquerel had had to bring all his sagacity to bear on his difficult task of apportioning the lots, and Tom, who knew every inch of the ground and all its capacities, grinned viciously now and again at the acumen displayed in the divisions.
The allotment of the house-room had presented difficulties.
The great kitchen at La Closerie occupied the whole centre third of the ground floor, the remaining thirds of the space on each side being taken up with the rarely-used best room and three bedrooms, all pretty much of a size, and all opening into the kitchen. Up above, under the sloping thatch was the great solie or loft, entered from the outside through the door-window in the gable by means of a short wooden ladder.
Grannie’s dower rights, when Tom’s grandfather died, had obtained for her the two rooms constituting one-third of the house on the south side of the kitchen, and certain rights of use of the kitchen itself. As she needed only one room, she had bartered off the other and her kitchen rights to her son and his wife in exchange for food and attendance, and the arrangement had worked excellently.
But, on her first glimpse of young Tom’s quick-eyed, bold-faced Frenchwoman, she had vowed she would have none of her; and in the end, as the result of some chaffering, it was arranged that Tom and his wife should have the kitchen and all the rooms north of it, while Mrs. Hamon and Nance and Bernel had the room next Grannie’s for a kitchen, and the great loft for bedrooms, all the necessary and duly specified alterations to be made at Tom’s expense, and Mr. Tanquerel to see them carried out at once. Grannie’s other room was to become their sitting-room also and they were to provide for her as hitherto. By boarding up the doors leading to the kitchen, and making a new entrance to their own rooms, the families were therefore entirely separated, to every one’s complete satisfaction.
The division of the furniture and kitchen utensils gave Mrs. Hamon all she needed. Tom, of course, took as droit d’ainesse, before the division, the family clock—which still bore signs of strife, and had refused to go since that night when Gard’s buffet had sent him headlong into it; and the farm-ladders and the pilotins—the stone props on which the haystacks were built; and in addition to his own full share, as between himself and Nance and Bernel, he exacted from them to the uttermost farthing the extra seventh part of the value of all they received—an Island right, but honoured more in the breach than in the observance, and one which, in its exercise, tended to label the exerciser as unduly mean and grasping.