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her country and station, with a snow-white cap, and a pair of long dangling gold ear - rings. „Oh, mother, , dear mother ! “ exclaimed the child, „look, see what I've got,“ and she held out a crimson silk purse, apparently well filled. How didst thou come by this?" said the mother; „surely thou didst not steal
„Oh, no," answered the child, „I should be sorry to do such a wicked thing as that: I found it. Just now, as I was clambering up the cliff to see if father's boat was coming, I happened to see something fine and red lying on the sands, just by the great stone that is made into a seat.
So with a hop,
and two jumps, down I came, and here it is. Ah, what a pretty purse it is ! and so full ! "
Katrine had by this time emptied it of its contents, and counted forty-nine gold Napoleons, a coin smaller than an English sovereign, and in value sixteen shillings and eight pence of our money, and fifteen or sixteen francs. The franc is a silver coin resembling our shilling but worth only ten pence. There were a few English half-crowns and shillings besides; and these, and the appearance of the purse,
which was certainly any thing rather than French, indicated it to have belonged to some English person.
Katrine, who had never before seen so much money together, could scarcely believe her eyes, and counted it over a dozen times to be quite sure she was not dreaming
a good honest creature in her own way, and would not have absolutely stole any thing on any account. But the close connection between stealing and finding she did not understand. It never occurred to her that the money was not become her own lawful possession, and she accordingly began to dispose of it in imagination to the supply of the manifold wants of the family. The first thing, and the most necessary, was a new boat; then fine new clothes for herself and children; then a bed, then a table, then a picture of St. Nicholas with a gilt frame, a gridiron, a cow, and, at last a better and a larger house. Her busy fancy ran over all the things she wanted, and whatever it was possible to want. The money seemed to her inexhaustible, and in ten minutes she had spent it ten times over.
In the midst of these pleasant cogitations, Pierre and his sons returned, wet, tired, cold, and hungry, and the father out of spirits at the bad success he had had. Never mind a few. fish,“ said his wife; „I have something here that's worth all the fish you'll catch in a twelvemonth. Look what I've got!" At the sight of the purse, Pierre looked both astonished and alarmed. How did you come by it?" said he.
„It's honestly come by, I promise you, said Katrine; » Janneton picked it up on the sands: somebody dropped it I suppose.
And what do you mean to do with it?" replied her husband.
Do with it! why buy what we want with it, to be sure. Thou shalt have half the money to get thee a new boat; and I'll keep the rest to buy some new clothes, and whatever else we want. mised Janneton a new petticoat ever since last new year's day, but never could get the money for it: but now the poor little one shall have her petticoat, and a fine scarlet one too." „Katrine," said Pierre, with earnestness, .
this money is not ours. We have no business to meddle with it.“ Not ours!“ replied Katrine; whose is it then? 66
Pierre. It is the owner's, the person's who has lost it.
Katrine. But we don't know who that is.
Pierre. We must endeavour to find him out. If we keep it, we are no better than thieves.
Katrine. I should be sorry to be a thief; but surely there can be no harm in keeping what we find.
Pierre. If I had lost my nets or fishing - tackle, would any man who found them have a right to keep them for his own, without trying to find out to whom they belonged ?
Katrine. Oh, no; but then you are only a fisherman; and it would be shocking to take any thing away that belonged to a poor man like you. But this purse must belong, to some rich person, some English milord, perhaps, who, I dare say, can afford to lose it; and that, you know, makes a great difference.
Pierre. It may make a difference as regards him, but it makes none as regards us. Our fault would be just the same.
Katrine now shifted her battery. She represented to her husband the deplorable state of his boat, and that he was risking his own life, and his children's, every time he ventured to sea in it. Poor Pierre sighed. She spread the money on the table. Pierre looked at it, then at his children, who were with famished appetites devouring their coarse and scanty supper. He felt his resolution give way: the stout arguments with which he had strengthened it seemed weak by the side of the powerful temptation. His wife saw him waver, and proceeded :
How can you be so foolish as to refuse this God - send, which
has doubtless been thrown in our way by the blessed Virgin, or some of the holy saints, in pity to our poverty?“
At the name of God, Pierre started from the reverie into which he had fallen, and fresh courage came into his heart. „No," said he, » God and the saints never send us temptations to do wrong. When temptations do come, they come from another quarter. So, if you love me, dear Katrine, put the money out of my sight, and
more about it.
Katrine obeyed the first part of her husband's entreaty, and deposited the purse in a chest. But as to the second part, she found that impossible. Pierre complained of being tired, and went to bed; but little sleep could he get; and in his dreams, first the purse, then his old boat with her sides stove in, then a fine new boat as full of fish as it could hold, flitted by turns across his fancy, and he awoke early, uneasy and unrefreshed, „I'll bear this no longer,“ said he; while this vile purse stays in the house, what be
wife and my dreams, I shall have no peace night or day.“ So saying, or rather thinking, for he uttered not a word, lest he should awaken his wife, he took the purse out of the chest, and, silently stealing out of the cabin, bent his steps towards the préfet's house, with the intention of delivering it up to him, and leaving it to him to find the right owner.
When he reached the préfet's, he found it was so early that none of the family were up. So he determined to wait in the street till the préfet should be stirring. Here, alone, and with the purse in his hand, temptation again assailed him. „Who knows,“ thought he, „, but that my not being able to see his
worship may be a sign from Heaven that I am to keep this money?" The more he thought of it, the more plausible this reasoning seemed. Ah," said he at
this will never do. I must not wait idle here. I must go and set about some employment, or there is no knowing how this may end.“ Saying this, he walked down to the quay where his boat was lying, and began to busy himself with preparing his nets and his baits. But his nets were out of repair, and his tackle defective, and, in short, all things seemed to be wrong; and the state of his worn out bark pressed more heavily than ever on his spirits.
„Ah," thought he, „, if only half this money were mine, how rich I should be! I would put my boat in thorough repair: I would get some new nets; and then I should not go out day after day, as I do, and come back empty, all for want of better tackle. Now, if I only took two Napoleons, that would do
a world of good. The owner may perhaps not miss them: the préfet does not know what's in the purse: nobody would be the wiser, or much the worse and I should be so much the better. But, said he, recovering himself, „I shall know all about it, though the préfet may not.
And can I expect that the prayers I offer up for a safe and lucky voyage will ever be granted, if I have any thing that is not honestly got in my boat? No; I must then expect her to founder in the first squall. His honour the préfet must be up by this time; so I'll e’en go and get rid of this plaguy purse, before I am tempted by it any more."
He found the préfet just risen, and sitting giving audience in his robe de chambre, and his hair en