Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo
Book II. Gratitude and Despotism.
II. The Leathern Trunk.
AT break of day St. Sampson was on foot, and all the people of St. Peter's Port began to flock there. The resurrection of the Durande caused a commotion in the island not unlike what was caused by the Salette in the south of France. There was a crowd on the quay staring at the funnel standing erect in the sloop. They were anxious to see and handle the machinery; but Lethierry, after making a new and triumphant survey of the whole by daylight, had placed two sailors aboard with instructions to prevent any one approaching it. The funnel, however, furnished food enough for contemplation. The crowd gaped with astonishment. They talked of nothing but Gilliatt. They remarked on his surname of "Malicious Gilliatt;" and their admiration wound up with the remark, "It is not pleasant to have people in the island who can do things like that."
Mess Lethierry was seen from outside the house, seated at a table before the window, writing, with one eye on the paper and another on the sloop. He was so completely absorbed that he had only once stopped to call Douce and ask after Deruchette. Douce replied, "Mademoiselle has risen and is gone out." Mess Lethierry replied, "She is right to take the air. She was a little unwell last night, owing to the heat. There was a crowd in the room. This, and her surprise and joy, and the windows being all closed, overcame her. She will have a husband to be proud of." And he had gone on with his writing. He had already finished and sealed two letters, addressed to the most important shipbuilders at Breme. He now finished the sealing of the third.
The noise of a wheel upon the quay induced him to look up. He leaned out of the window, and observed coming from the path which led to the Mu de la Rue a boy pushing a wheelbarrow. The boy was going towards St. Peter's Port. In the barrow was a portmanteau of brown leather studded with nails of brass and white metal.
Mess Lethierry called to the boy,-
"Where are you going my lad?"
The boy stopped and replied,-
"To the Cashmere."
"To take this trunk aboard."
"Very good; you shall take these three letters too."
Mess Lethierry opened the drawer of his table, took a piece of string, tied the three letters which he had just written across and across, and threw the packet to the boy, who caught it between his hands.
"Tell the captain of the Cashmere they are my letters, and to take care of them. They are for Germany-Breme, via London."
"I can't speak to the captain, Mess Lethierry."
"The Cashmere is not at the quay."
"She is in the roads."
"Ay, true; on account of the sea."
"I can only speak to, the man who takes the things aboard."
"You will tell him, then, to look to the letters."
"Very well, Mess Lethierry."
"At what time does the Cashmere sail?"
"The tide will flow at noon; she will have it against her."
"But she will have the wind," answered the lad.
"Boy," said Mess Lethierry, pointing with his forefinger at the engine in the sloop, "do you see that? There is something which laughs at winds and tides."
The boy put the letters in his pocket, took up the handles of the barrow again, and went on his way towards the town. Mess Lethierry called, "Douce, Grace!"
Grace opened the door a little way.
"What is it, Mess?"
"Come in and wait a moment."
Mess Lethierry took a sheet of paper and began to write. If Grace, standing behind him, had been curious, and had leaned forward while he was writing, she might have read as follows,-
"I have written to Breme for the timber. I have appointments all the morning with carpenters for the estimate. The rebuilding will go on fast. You must go yourself to the Deanery for a licence. It is my wish that the marriage should take place as soon as possible; immediately would be better. I am busy about the Durande. Do you be busy about Deruchette."
He dated it and signed "Lethierry." He did not take the trouble to seal it, but merely folded it in four. and handed it to Grace, saying,-
"Take that to Gilliatt."
"To the Bu de la Rue?"
"To the Bu de la Rue."