Chapter 160164045

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter TitleANTOINE MEETS A KIND LITTLE STRANGER.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160164045
Full Date1882-11-25
Page Number43
Corrections0
Word Count1667
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Blind Fiddler. A Tale for Children
article text

CHAPTER V.

ANTOIKE MEETS A KIND LITTLE STRANGER.

Things went on in this way for a little while, but presently the mason thought that the conduct of the young man who had been placed under his charge was so bad that it was his duty to tell Antoine of it. Jdrdme, hearing of his intention, took steps accord

next day, without wasting time, after he had taken his uncle to his place, Jerome returned to the room, broke open the drawer in which Antoine kept his money, and took what he supposed to he all, not knowing that, since the theft of the watch, the blind man had, from time to time, got Francois to change ins silver into gold, and had then hid his treasure in a place which only the two brothers knew of. The little libertine filled his puree, and then made a hig bundle of the beBt linen, took the gold watch from its hiding-place, and went and joined a number ?of young thieves, of whom he was a worthy companion, and left his paternal roof for

ever.

It was then the end of October, and it became dark early,'so that Jerome usually went to fetch his uncle at about six o'clock, after which the poor fiddler dined with a good appetite, having had nothing to eat since the morning, and then .only a piece of bread. Although poor Antoine could not see, he still knew whether it was day or night, even when the carriages made such a noise that he could not hear the clock strike. On this night especially, when it became cold, he

began to notice that nobody passed him ; j besides which his empty stomach told him I that it was very late. He was not surprised wbcn he heard the clock strike eight o clock,

and, although he had suffered from the uon- i arrival of his nephew, he took patience, say ing to himself that very likely his nephew, after leaving his work, was amusing himself

by the way. |

Then it struck nine o clock, and the poor man began to feel seriously uneasy, more for Jerome's sake thou his own. All around him was silent. The idea struck him that the mischievous little rascal might be playing Ijim a trick, and might have hidden himself in a corner not far otfj so the old man rose to hiB feet and called Jerome in a loud voice, hut nobody answered him.

It is impossible to describe the anxiety of the unhappy man when he found himself abandoned in that place, without the means of getting home. In a weak voice, he addressed two or three people who passed him, imploring their assistance; but these people, thinking that he was asking for money, only said, "Cod help you, mygood man, or else passed on in silence. Antoine fell back on his seat, despairing of making himself understood and afraid of confiding

himself to a thief, against whom he coula

neither defend his money or his life. He j .remained some time plunged in affliction, then in a fit of despair lie began calling Jerome with all his might.

" Where is your Jer6me, my brave man," said a little boy who was passing, and who stopped in front of him, " I am the only

person here; don't make yourself hoarse by , screaming like that."

, "My child! my child!" cried Antoine. tirying to find the nand of the speaker, " will you save the life of a poor old blind man ?"

"Certainly I will," replied the little boy, " but I have no money to give you." .

"I do not want any money; quite the reverse. Will you take me to the second street on the left from here? I live in the

fifth house on the righthaud side, only I I cannot go there alone." j

'' I should think not, indeed!" said the child,

"and it is very strange that you are out all ! alone like thiB without baring any one to accompany you. If you had a dog—I have known blind men like you to have dogs."

" Aias," said Antoiue," I have a nephew— a nephew whom I regard as my son: it is he who comes and fetches me every evening, but to-night he has not come. I am afraid some

accident lias happened to him, and that is why I am so anxious to get home."

" Very well, then, come along, I will lead yon," replied the boy. " I know you very well, for I stop every day and listen to your beautiful music. ? You said the second street on the left and the fifth liouEe to the right, did you not?"

" That is it."

And the two went off, the one carrying the fiddle and the other the stooh

There was something so sweet and frank in the voice of this hoy that the blind man did not hesitate a moment in going with him, being quite sure that his little guide was in capable of injuring him by taking a wrong road or by leaving him in the street.

" What is your name, little friend ?" asked Antoiue as soon as they were out of the

square.

"Victor Durand," replied the little hoy." " Y ou seem to be very young ?"

" I was twelve at Easter, and took my first communion at Pentecost."

" What is your father's trade ?"

" I have neither father nor mother; but one of my cousins placed me with M. Moreau, the large pastrycook in the Rue Saint AonortS, who teaches me hiB trade."

" That explains to me how it is you are out so late,"

"Yes; IhavejusttakenatartandaSavoy cake to the house of the Director of the Museum of Painting. I was going home when I met you. It is fortunate that I passed by there, for you would not have been warm in the square all night."

" No; I thank God from the bottom of my heart," said the blind man, pressing the hand of Victor, " for all blessings come irom Him; and, if it pleases Him that nothing bad has befallen my poor Jerome, I shall have reason to thank Him for two things instead of only one."

Talking thus they had arrived in front of the house. Antoine had in his pocket one of the two master-keys which he always took about with him in case of accident; lie gave it to the boy, asking him to open the door.

"And how can you go upstairs without a light, aud all alone ?" said victor.

In spite of the lively anxiety which tor

mented Antoine, he could not help smiling.

" I do everything by the beBt, beBt light, my dear child. Since 1 hare been blind my hands do duty for my eyes," he replied ; " and if I once get hold of the banister I am sure to get safe upstairs to bed. May heaven reward you for the service yon have done me, and take this: it is all a poor old blind man can offer you.

So saying, Antoine tried to put a franc into Victor's hand.

"I do not want your money," said the little boy, pushing away the arm of the old man. "You want it more than I do. I only came upstairs because I wanted to know whether your nephew was here, and, if not, how coulu you do without him."

" You are a good and worthy boy," said the old man, touched by the boy's disinterested ness. "I hope that we shall meet again. I am afraid that they will scold you at the shop for being late."

" bah! I ran so quick, because 1 was cold, that I have yet a quarter of an hour to get ? home in."

" Come, then, my little friend, I shall not be longer than that in finding the banister after I have shut you out of the house. I have a kind neighbour who does our house keeping, and she will sec you out of the house

for me.

When they had arrived at the fifth floor the old man stopped, and said, " My room is in front of us."

He had scarcely said this when a door opened, and an old woman came out with a

candle m her hand.

"Is it yon, Monsieur Antoine," said she. " I have been very uneasy, I assure you.'

"Is Jerome there, Mme. Dubois?"asked the old man in a trembling voice."

" J«'rAme !" replied the old woman, "I have not seen him since midday, when I met him on the stairs with a large bundle of linen, which he told me he was taking to the washerwoman."

Antoine at once perceived a part of the sad truth; for the washerwoman had called the day before, and he was not wrong in coming to the conclusion that he had been abandoned and robbed by the son of his brother. In spite of his emotion at this terrible dis covery, he controlled himself so as not to lose his presence of mind in this great misfortune.

"Yes; I know, I know, he said to the old wcinau, " I did not expect him to return to-night. I am going to bed, please to see this good little boy who brought me home downstairs and lock the door."

Victor approached the old man and whis pered in his ear, "Thisgood woman will take care of you, will she not ?"

Touelied by the interest shown liirn by a strange child, Antoine felt inclined to weep. " Good-night, my friend," he said embracing Victor. "If you pas3 near here one of these days come in and see me."

" I often pass," replied Victor. " and I will speak to you when you have finished your