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Title: Adventures of a Sixpence in Guernsey by A Native
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Adventures of a Sixpence in Guernsey by A Native" ***







Printed by G. BARCLAY, Castle St. Leicester Sq.

[Illustration: Frontispiece]


The breakfast was ready laid on the table, and a gentleman was standing
by the fire waiting for the rest of the family, when the door burst
open, and two little girls ran in.

"A happy new year, papa!--a happy new year!" shouted each as she was
caught up to be kissed, and found herself on the floor once more after a
sudden whirl to the ceiling.

"Now catch," said their father, as he started aside and flung a sixpence
to each.

Of course they did not catch, for little girls have a strange
propensity for turning just the wrong way on such occasions; but the
bright new sixpences were none the duller for their fall, and called
forth none the less admiration from their proud owners.

Many were the calculations which passed through those curly heads during
breakfast-time as to what a sixpence could buy; and it was with many
bright visions that they darted away to be dressed to go into the town
with their mother.

It was New-year's day; but there was no snow, no bitter cold wind, no
beggars shivering in their scanty clothing, none of the scenes of
poverty which those accustomed only to an English winter might expect to
cast a gloom over the enjoyment of the day. It was a bright sunny
morning, every leaf sparkling with dew-drops; groups of neatly-dressed
people were to be seen flocking in from the country in every direction;
and though the air was fresh enough to incline them to walk briskly
along, their hands were not hidden away in muffs and coat-pockets, but
were ready for the friendly shake which, with "all the good wishes of
the season," awaited them at every step.

Mrs. Campbell and her little girls, after many a greeting of this kind,
found their way into the town at last; and the children soon forgot
everything in the twelfth-cakes which adorned the pastry-cooks' windows,
till the sixpence, which was tightly clasped in each little hand,
recalled them to their errand, and they joined the busy crowd in the
toy-shop. Who does not know what it is to take a child into these abodes
of Noah's arks, cats, dogs, mice, and dolls, and all that is so
charming? How each toy is seized on in its turn, to be relinquished in a
moment for one more beautiful! It was no easy task that Mrs. Campbell
had undertaken; but at last, in a moment of ecstasy over two blue-eyed
dolls, the sixpences were paid, and the young purchasers drawn away from
further temptation. And we, too, must wish them good-by, with the hope
that the next new year may find them bright and happy still, and that
before many more have passed over them they will have learnt a wiser and
a better way of spending their father's gift; a way in which their
sixpence, though it be but a sixpence, will be returned in tenfold
blessings on their heads.

It is with one of the little pieces of silver which have just rung in
the till that we have to do. It had lain there for about two hours, the
same scenes going on around it which we have witnessed with its owner of
the morning, when a tall moustachioed young man entered the shop, which
was not exclusively devoted to toys, and asked to be shown some gold
pencil-cases. His choice was soon made, the money paid, and our friend
the Sixpence received in change. Ah, Sixpence! what sort of hands have
you fallen into now? We have undertaken to follow your fortunes for a
time, and therefore, uncomfortable as our quarters may be, we must take
up our abode with you in Captain Crawford's waistcoat-pocket, and go
where he pleases to lead us. Up High Street and Smith Street to Grange
Road, where we mount and away from houses and streets and the
fashionable world; among the fields and hedges, just decking themselves
with Daisies and Celandines, and every now and then, at the top of the
many little hills which the road crosses, comes a peep of the bright
blue sea, from which, go where we will, we can never get very far away
in Guernsey. After a short ride, Captain Crawford pulled up his horse,
and giving it into the care of a boy who answered his call, he walked
down an avenue to a pretty rose-covered house, which he entered, and
made his way to the drawing-room.

"Well, my little one, what have you been about all the morning?" was his
greeting as he opened the door to a delicate-looking girl who lay on the

"Oh, Edward!" she answered, "I was just wishing for you. I feel rather
better than usual to-day, and mamma says I may take a turn in the
garden. I was only waiting for your arm. Will you ring for my bonnet?"

"Look, here is a New-year's gift for you, Ellen," said her brother,
taking the gold pencil-case out of his pocket and hanging it on her

"Oh! thanks--thanks, Edward!" she said warmly, as she pulled his head
down to her, and threw her arms round his neck; "My own brother, how
good of you! this is just what I wanted."

"I never yet knew you have anything which was not _just_ what you
wanted, Ellen. Is there anything in the world you wish for now?"

"No, I am very happy. You none of you give me an opportunity of wishing
for anything; as soon as I wish, I have it. You all spoil me."

"I know what I wish," said her brother; "and that is, that I had your
secret of finding everything so very comfortable. What is it, little

He had seated himself by her side, and was stroking the hair back from
her forehead, while she lay in quiet enjoyment of his gentle touch; but
on hearing his last question she raised her large dark eyes, fixing them
earnestly on his face for one moment, but without speaking. She was soon
ready for her walk, and, leaning on her brother's arm, let him half
carry half lead her out.

"Let us go to the gate, Edward," she said, when they reached the door;
"the children will be coming out of school, and I may see some of my
little friends."

They walked very slowly, and neither spoke for a few moments, till Ellen
said, in rather a hurried tone, "I was wrong just now when I told you I
never wished for anything; there is one thing I want very much, and
which you can never give me."

"What is it?" asked her brother.

"To be able to live over again the twenty years of health which have
just passed from me, and to have again all the money I spent in that

"Why, my dear Ellen," said Captain Crawford gaily, "you are the last
person in the world to say anything of the sort. I am sure the greatest
pleasure of your days of health was to take puddings and sixpences to
old women; and if that is not a satisfactory way of spending one's time
and money, I don't know what is. But really, Ellen," he said, more
seriously, as he saw her grave face, "I do not see what reason you have
to blame yourself, after such a life as yours has been. I should have
thought the recollection of it would now have been your greatest
comfort; and that, after taking care of others for so long, you might
enjoy being taken care of yourself now. But, my little one! what is the

Ellen had stopped, and, with her head resting on his shoulder, was
sobbing violently.

"Edward, don't!" she said, as soon as she could command herself; "I
can't bear it! Think of the handsome allowance papa makes me, and how
little of it has been well spent! And then, what was given away did not
do a quarter of the good it might have done, because I did not go and
give it myself, and kind words with it, which are far more comforting
than food or money. And if you will believe me, Edward, extravagance
has become such a habit with me, that though I resolved last quarter to
be economical and save up something for the new church, I had hardly
anything left at the end of it. It is true I did teach at the school a
little, and visit a few people, but what is that compared to what I
ought to have done?"

By this time they had reached the gate, and Ellen, drying her tears, was
soon talking almost merrily with the children, who ran up eagerly at the
sight of their former teacher. Edward had forgotten the little Guernsey
French he had once known, and stood by, glad to see his favourite sister
so happy; but wondering what pleasure she could find in talking to a set
of dirty little things like those. Captain Crawford called them dirty,
because most officers in her Majesty's service, if they think on the
subject at all, think rags and dirtiness necessary attendants on poor
children; but if Captain Crawford had looked, he would have seen as
clean and _neat_ a flock of little ones around his sister as the United
Kingdom could produce.

Just as they were going to return to the house a man passed by, and
touched his hat to Miss Crawford in the somewhat off-hand manner which
(we must confess it) our fellow-countrymen usually employ. Ellen stopped
a moment to make some inquiries of him about his wife and children, and
then turned home-wards, saying, as she took her brother's arm,--

"I dare say a good dinner would do that man's daughter a world of good;
she is ill, and they are very poor: but then there is no way of sending

"Where do they live?" asked Edward.

"Oh, it is half-an-hour's walk: they live close to the beach."

"I'll take it," said he; and added, by way of apology, "I should rather
like a walk before dinner."

A happy gleam passed over Ellen's face, but she only said,--

"Thank you, Edward," and gave him one very bright look, when he left her
on her sofa and went to fetch some meat for the sick girl.

It was with feelings of amusement, rather than anything else, that
Edward set out on what was probably the first errand of mercy he had
ever undertaken. He had done it merely to please his sister, and could
not help laughing at the idea of what some of his brother-officers would
say if they could see Crawford of the ---- Regiment carrying food to a
sick girl. But his conversation with Ellen soon returned to his mind,
and the thought struck him, "If my good, unselfish little sister, thinks
her time and money have been wasted, what have mine been? According to
her, the sixpence which I have occasionally thrown to a beggar to quiet
my conscience was only half charity, because I did not add 'kind words,'
as she would say. But I wonder what people would say if I were to
inquire after the birth, parentage, and education of every
street-sweeper I came across? No, my vocation is to defend my Queen and
country, and not to act the charitable." Something whispered, "Cannot
you do both?" but Edward would not listen, and soon arrived at his
destination. The door was opened by the sick girl's mother, who, with
her "_Bon jour, monsieur! Entrez, s'il vous plait_," took Edward rather
by surprise, and would by no means hear of receiving the gift outside
the door. This was more than he had bargained for; he had come on a
message from Ellen, not for a charitable visit on her own account: but
there was no alternative, and go in he must. The woman spoke a little
English; and while she poured forth her gratitude to Miss Crawford,
together with a long account of her daughter's maladies, saying so much
in one breath that it became a question whether she would ever breathe
again, Captain Crawford looked at the sick girl lying pale and thin by
the fire; and when he thought how miserable her lot was compared even
with his sister's, whose sufferings were soothed by all that affection
could suggest or that money could buy, his heart--for he had a heart,
and a warm one too--was touched, and his hand went to the waistcoat
pocket where the sixpence had been deposited in the morning. He was
disappointed to find so little there, and wondered whether it was worth
giving her. "If Ellen were here to add some of her 'kind words,'" he
thought, it might do very well; "however, I'll try."

Next time Mrs. Tourtel stopped to take breath he went and stood by the
poor girl, and said,--

"Miss Crawford is ill too and cannot come to see you, but she often
thinks of you. Perhaps this will buy you a small loaf of white bread, as
your mother says you cannot eat brown."

She only said, "_Mercie, monsieur_;" but the bright colour, which spread
itself over her pale face at the mention of Ellen's thought of her, told
Edward that he had said the right thing; and with a gentle "Good-by, I
hope you will soon be better," he left the cottage. He walked fast with
his head bent, as if to hide his face; but we must run after him, and
have a peep at it. He is smiling, and--can it be?--he is blushing!
Captain Crawford, who never turned pale before the Russians at Alma or
Inkermann, is now blushing scarlet before his own approving conscience
and the gratitude of a sick girl. The smile and blush were not gone when
he reached home, and Ellen saw both and smiled too, but wisely said
nothing. The ice on Edward's heart was broken; a few "kind words" had
flowed out and melted it. He went to sleep that night, and dreamed that
angels were saying "kind words" to him; Ellen went to sleep, too, and
dreamed of her brother reading the Bible to the dying on a battle-field;
and the sick girl lay awake all night, thinking how good it was of Miss
Crawford to think of her, and how good of the Captain to tell her so.

The Sixpence had done a good day's work; had a shilling been in its
place, it would probably have failed in accomplishing it; and Captain
Crawford, thinking money the best way to the heart of the poor, would
never have tasted the joy of soothing sad hearts by kindness. Alas!
little Sixpence, that you who have been such a blessing to-day, should
become a curse to-morrow; that you who have gone forth on errands of
mercy to-day, should dwell in scenes of drunkenness and theft to-morrow!

Early next morning Mrs. Tourtel went to market, and left the Sixpence
at a baker's shop in payment for a white loaf for her daughter. There it
spent the day--a quiet day--broken by few events. It might have seen the
fresh bread taken out of the oven, and packed in the cart which waited
at the door to receive it; and it might have seen many people bustle in
and out of the shop, from the little child to buy a penny loaf, to the
gentleman's housekeeper to pay the week's bill; but it remained
undisturbed till the shutters were taken down on the following morning,
when a man came to buy a small loaf for his breakfast, and received the
Sixpence in change. Appearances were far more against it this time than
they had been before. John Barker had an unshaved beard, a scowling eye,
and a red face; his dress consisted of a blue woollen shirt, coarse blue
trousers grimed in mud, and a low-crowned black hat; on his shoulder he
carried a spade and pickaxe. As he walked along he was joined by others
of an equally unprepossessing appearance, and found many more already
assembled at the scene of their labours--the new harbour.

The sun was not yet risen, and a mist hung over the sea, through which
the signal-post at Castle Cornet, and the masts of the vessels in the
roads, were the only objects visible; but there was a faint red streak
in the sky, which grew brighter and brighter every moment, till the
sunrise gun fired; and then the mist changed into a golden veil, which
floated insensibly away, leaving every geranium-leaf outside the windows
white with hoar-frost, just to tantalise the townsfolk more distant
islands became just visible, mingling the blue of the sea and the violet
of the sky so mysteriously in their delicate colouring, that they were
scarcely distinguishable from either. And then the carts began to roll
along the quay, and work commenced on board the ships in the harbour,
and the sailors' cry as they hoisted the sails, mingled with the
rattling of chains and the creaking of the cranes outside the stores. At
about nine o'clock up ran the ball at the signal-post, which announced
the approach of the mail-boat, and as she steamed behind the Castle, and
anchored in the roads, there were hasty embraces and shakes of the hand
on the pier, and the passengers were rowed out to embark. A few minutes,
and the tinkling of a bell was heard from the shore; another--one more;
her wheels were turning, she was off for Southampton, and the passengers
from Jersey were landing at the quay.

All this, and much more, might John Barker have seen, and probably he
did see it, but found nothing beautiful or exciting in it. He did not
hold his breath as that cutter approached and ran between the
pier-heads, her sail dipping in the wave which bore her in. He saw it a
dozen times that day, and had seen it a hundred times before, but never
cared to see it again. He worked sullenly on, exchanging few words with
his fellow-labourers, till the twilight compelled them to shoulder their
tools; and they then made their way, alas! to the many public-houses
near, and one of them we must enter with John Barker, and see the
Sixpence, that little messenger of good--that talent committed to his
care--far worse than wasted by its responsible owner. Happily, the
payment was not long delayed, and glad shall we be to hide our eyes and
stop our ears from all that goes on without in the till with our little

It is about midnight, the noisy guests are gone, the people of the house
are in bed, and we may now venture forth from our hiding-place to look
through the chink in the door. It is a clear frosty night. The moon,
just rising, is brightly reflected in the water. The stars are looking
silently down on the sleeping town. Castle Cornet rises gloomily out of
the sea. The moonlit sky, which shows us its outline only, leaves much
to the imagination. We may fancy it a frowning fortress of modern days;
or we may go back two hundred years, and think we see the ruin which
told of its nine-years' siege. But we would rather think of Castle
Cornet as we know it now, with its old keep standing as a monument of
bygone days; or better still, we would thank the rising moon for veiling
it in such solemn mystery, and would let our fancy share the rest which
seems to pervade all around, while we enjoy the perfect stillness. There
is not a sound, except the ripple of the water. Houses, streets, ships,
men, women, and children, all seem resting peacefully in the silent
night. But, hark! there was a sound of cracking from the window! Again
and again we hear it, and whispering too outside. A few moments more,
and the window is opened, and two men have crept in. They are some of
the guests of the evening come to recover thus what they and their
companions have wasted here to-night, that they may have it to waste
once more. The till was quickly rifled, and at a slight noise overhead
the thieves beat a precipitate retreat, and, in their haste, dropped our
Sixpence in the street outside. Happy little Sixpence! to have escaped
such hands; better to lie on the cold, hard pavement, curtained by the
freezing air, than stay to be used as the fruits of theft invariably

It was only just light when a little girl, whose rosy cheeks told that
the country air had kissed them that morning, passed by with a basket on
her arm nearly as big as herself. Her bright eyes soon spied the little
piece of money, and with a dart she caught it up; but, like an honest
girl, looked round to see if any one had dropped it. There was nobody
near but a dirty, good-tempered-looking coalheaver, who, seeing her
perplexity, said, "It must have been there all night, for nobody but me
has passed this morning; so you may keep it, if you like." Quite
content, she tripped away with her basket to join her mother in the
market, and tell of her good fortune.

Being a wise little maiden, Mary Falla did not spend her money that day,
but took it home all safe and sound, to gain time for consideration on
so important a subject. No selfish thoughts mingled with her
calculations, and therefore she very soon came to the decision that it
should go towards a pair of stockings for her grandmother; and happy in
the hope of giving pleasure, she only longed for the accumulation of a
little store sufficient to buy the necessary materials, and enable her
to begin her work. But even sixpences are not to be picked up every day,
and when a month had passed, only one penny had been added to the fund.
Just at this time there was a sermon one Sunday morning for the same new
church of which Miss Crawford had spoken to her brother. Mrs. Falla was
one of the few who were to be found regularly in their places in
church; and Mary, who was always with her mother, heard the sermon. We
cannot boast of our little heroine that she always listened to the
sermon; sometimes she did not understand it, sometimes she did not find
it interesting; but this sermon she did find interesting, and liked very
much, for it was about a church which she saw every day of her life; and
it told how much the church was wanted by sick and old people who could
not reach the parish church; and Mary knew she liked to go to church,
and was very sorry for her old grandmother, and many others whom she had
heard regret the distance. As they walked home she seemed to have
something very interesting to think about, for she dropped behind, and
kept her eyes fixed on the ground in a manner most unusual with this
merry little maiden; at last, however, she settled the question to her
own satisfaction, and ran up to her mother,--

"_Ma mère_, don't you think I had better give my sixpence to the new
church? Grandmother would rather have a church near to go to, than a
pair of stockings next winter, I'm sure; and it would do good to so many
other people besides."

"As you like, _ma chère_," answered her mother: "it is your own money."

Not many days after this, there was a knock at the door after Mary had
returned from school, and Captain Crawford entered, now no stranger in
the cottages round, for the last few weeks had worked a wonderful change
in this respect. The first time he did a kindness to the poor, it was
because he could not help it; the second time it was because he had
found it pleasant; but the third time there was a shade of another
motive mingling with it. Ellen had told him why she was always happy;
she had told him where he might learn the way to be happy too better
than she could teach him. He had taken her advice, had read the Bible,
and now was humbly endeavouring to obey its commands; and in conformity
to his sister's entreaty, not to misspend his days of health, scarcely a
day was now permitted to pass without his doing something for the good
of his fellow-creatures. He always told the poor that he was come on a
message from his sister, lest they should be inclined to be grateful to
him, and make him blush, as the sick girl had done. Some questioned,
however, whether Miss Crawford told him always to add a franc or two to
the gift which she sent; or whether Miss Crawford dictated to him all
the "kind words" which now made him so welcome a visitor; and when the
old blind man complained of having no one to read to him, and Captain
Crawford took the Bible and read him "_deux superbes chapitres_," he was
quite sure that Miss Crawford had nothing at all to do with it.

His present visit to Mary's grandmother was to tell her that ten pounds
had been collected the Sunday before for the new church; and that as
some handsome contributions had been since received, he hoped she would
soon see it finished. Mary ran away as soon as she had let him in, and
soon came back with cheeks as red as fire, eyes cast down, and something
clasped very tight in her hand, looking altogether much more like a
thief than the good, honest little Mary that she was. But when Captain
Crawford got up to go away, she went to him, and as he stooped to hear
what she had to say, she repeated very quick, in a very low voice, the
little speech she had prepared in her best English: "Please to give dat
to Miss Crawford, to go for the new church dat's being builded." Happy
Mary! how full of love that little heart was! how it rejoiced in giving
pleasure! and how she did wish that she was rich, that she might make
everybody comfortable!

"Here is a contribution to the church, my little one," said Edward, when
he reached home, "which I think you will agree with me is worth more
than all the five-pound notes we have received. Sixpence from Mary

"Dear little Mary! Put it into the church-bag, Edward. If our church
could be all built with such sixpences as those--"

And in the church-bag we must leave the Sixpence, resting a little while
before it goes forth again on its errands of joy and sorrow, of blessing
and cursing.

There was a little stone in the church-tower far more precious than all
the rest. It was not a cut stone; it did not sparkle in the bright sun
which shone on the consecration-day; none of the colours of the ruby,
emerald, or amethyst, beamed from it; it was a richer gem than they--the
gift of a willing heart.

London:--Printed by G. BARCLAY, Castle St. Leicester Sq.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Adventures of a Sixpence in Guernsey by A Native" ***

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