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THE marriage of Gilbert Penmore with Gabrielle
Descartes was certainly an imprudent one,
and threatened, at the time of the opening of
this story, to turn out very ill for both the one
and the other.

Gilbert Penmore was the youngest son of his
Excellency Thomas Gilbert Penmore, who, in
consideration of great losses incurred at the
time of that swift depreciation in West Indian
property, by which so many unoffending persons
were suddenly reduced to comparative poverty,
was entrusted by the Colonial Office with the
governorship of one of our West Indian Islands.
Soon after the birth of his youngest boy, Mr.
Penmore had the misfortune to lose his wife,
and then it was that he determined upon keeping
his last-born son and one daughter with him
in the West Indies, while he sent his other
children to be educated in England. Our
governor's appointment was not a good one, and
the facilities for educating children in the West
Indies are but few, so that when it was proposed
to him by his old friend and distant connexion,
Monsieur Descartes, who was governor of one
of the French West Indian Islands, that the boy
Gilbert should be sent over to be brought up
along with his own sons, Mr. Penmore determined,
though much against his will, to let the
lad go, and kept only his daughter, to be his
little housekeeper and companion. "The boy
will have an opportunity of getting instruction,
which it would be impossible for me to afford
him," Mr. Penmore said to himself; "and he
will pick up a knowledge of French into the
bargain." And he did pick up a knowledge of French
with a vengeance, as will be hereafter seen.

The family of Monsieur and Madame Descartes
consisted of two boys and a girl, and their
education was conducted, in the first instance, by a
governess, and subsequently by a learned young
Frenchman, whom M. Descartes caused to be
exported from St. Omer, and who was ready to
make himself useful, partly as secretary to the
governor, and partly as tutor to his children.
These boys of M. Descartes were stupid idle lads
enough, and it was partly perhaps with a view
of stimulating them to exertion, that the French
governor had proposed that young Penmore
should be associated with them in their studies.
The lads, however, were not to be dealt with so
easily, and were more ready to avail themselves
of their young friend's good example in their
hours of play, than in those devoted to study.
Gilbert himself was an industrious youngster
enough, and very often had to prepare his
companions' lessons as well as his own.

I have spoken of Mademoiselle Gabrielle, the
daughter of Governor Descartes, as being
associated with her brothers in their studies, and,
indeed, to a considerable extent this was the
case, nor is it necessary to conceal the fact, that
in many branches of education this young lady
managed quite to outdo her indolent brothers,
and almost to keep pace with Gilbert himself.
Between these two, as might rationally be
expected, a wonderful attachment was not long in
springing up. They were continually together.
They helped each other with their lessons, and
when these were over, and the time came for
such play as the climate permitted, or for an
evening ramble by the sea-shore, Mademoiselle
Gabrielle was sure to be of the party. Nobody
interfered much with the young lady's liberty.
Her papa was always busy with his duties as
governor, and her mamma was simply a fine
lady, a petite maîtresse, who was ready to depute
the care of her family to anybody who would
mercifully relieve her of it. In the time of the
governess our young lady was certainly more
looked after, but when that lady was superseded
by the ex-pensioner of St. Omer, Mademoiselle
Gabrielle was left pretty much to her own devices
and to the following of her own instincts.

Luckily, these were in the main excellent.
She had inherited her father's rather than her
mother's nature, and Governor Descartes was as
fine a gentleman, and as good a fellow into the
bargain, as ever governed an island, Sancho
Panza himself not excluded. He was impulsive
and affectionate, with rather a warm temper, and
a very warm heart. And in these qualities his
daughter certainly took after him. Both of them
were sound in the great things, and if the
governor was a little irritable at times when his
liver was affected, and if Mademoiselle Gabrielle
was during the earlier years of her life a bit of
a tom-boy, there was not much harm done after
all. She was not what would be called a pretty
child. She was thin and sallow, this last quality
being, perhaps, the effect of the climate, but
there was a certain innocence and unworldliness