It was a wonderful book, even to look at. When I grew learned enough to read it aloud to him and my mother and Krok of a winter’s night, I came by degrees, though not by any means at first, to understand what a very wonderful book it was.
When one’s reading is limited to four books it is well that they should be good books. Every one of those books I read through aloud from beginning to end, not once, but many times, except indeed the long lists of names in the Bible, which my grandfather said were of no profit to us, and some other portions which he said were beyond me, and which I therefore made a point of reading to myself, but got little benefit from.
But to these books, and to the habit of reading them aloud, which impressed them greatly on my memory, and to my own observation of men and things and places through the eyes which these books helped to open, and to the wise words of my grandfather, and the quiet faithful teaching of my mother, and to all that old Krok taught me without ever speaking one word—I know that I owe everything, and that is why it was necessary to tell you so much about them.
If the telling has wearied you, I am sorry. For myself, I like to think back upon it all, and to trace the beginnings of some things of which I have seen the endings, and of some which are not ended yet, thank God!—and to find, in all that lies between, the signs of a Power that is beyond any power of man’s, and is, indeed, and rightly I think, beyond even the power of any man’s full understanding.
HOW CARETTE CAME BY HER GOLDEN BRIDGE
I recall her in those days in a thousand different circumstances, and always like the sunlight or the lightning, gleaming, sparkling, flashing. For she could be as steadily radiant as the one and as unexpectedly fickle as the other, and I do not know that I liked her any the less on that account, though truly it made her none too easy to deal with at times. Her quick changes and childish vagaries kept one, at all events, very much alive and in a state of constant expectation. And whenever I think of her I thank God for Jeanne Falla, and all that that wisest and sharpest and tenderest of women was able to do for her.
For, you see, Carette was peculiarly circumstanced, and might have gone to waste but for her aunt Jeanne.
Her mother died when she was six years old, after four years’ life on Brecqhou, and Carette was left to be utterly spoiled by her father and six big brothers, wild and reckless men all of them, but all, I am sure, with tender spots in their hearts for the lovely child who seemed so out of place among them, though for anyone outside they had little thought or care.
My own thoughts delight to linger back among these earlier scenes before the more trying times came. If you will let me, I will try to picture Carette to you as I see her in my mind’s eye, and I can see her as she was then as clearly as though it were yesterday.