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People in the town often said to Richard Garman, "How can you endure
that lonely life out there in your lighthouse?" The old gentleman always
answered, "Well, you see, one never feels lonely by the sea when once
one has made its acquaintance; and besides, I have my little Madeleine."
And that was the feeling of his heart. The ten years he had passed out
there on the lonely coast were among the best of his life, and that life
had been wild and adventurous enough; so, whether he was now weary of
the world, or whether it was his little daughter, or whether it was the
sea that attracted him, or whether it was something of all three, he had
quieted down, and never once thought of leaving the lighthouse of
Bratvold. This was what no one could have credited; and when it was
commercial family of the town, was seeking the simple post of
lighthouse-keeper, most people were inclined to laugh heartily at this
new fancy of "the mad student." "The mad student" was a nickname in the
town for Richard Garman, which was doubtless well earned; for although
he had been but little at home since he had grown to manhood, enough was
known of his wild and pleasure-seeking career to make folks regard him
with silent wonder.
To add to this, too, the visits he paid to his home were generally
coincident with some remarkable event or another. Thus it was when, as a
young student, he was present at his mother's funeral; and even more so
when he came at a break-neck pace from Paris to the death-bed of the old
Consul, in a costume and with an air which took away the breath of the
ladies, and caused confusion among the men. Since then Richard had been
but little seen. Rumour, however, was busy with him. At one time some
commercial traveller had seen him at Zinck's Hotel at Hamburg; now he
was living in a palace; and now the story was that he was existing in
the docks, and writing sailors' letters for a glass of beer.
One fine day Garman and Worse's heavy state carriage was seen on its way
to the quay. Inside sat the head of the firm, Consul C.F. Garman, and
his daughter Rachel, while little Gabriel, his younger son, was sitting
by the side of the coachman. An unbearable curiosity agitated the groups
on the quay.
The state carriage was seldom to be seen in the town, and now at this
the firm came to the carriage window, and, after a few irrelevant
remarks, ventured to ask who was coming.
Consul Garman, while with a movement peculiar to himself he adjusted his
smoothly shaven chin in his stiff neckcloth.
This information increased the excitement. Richard Garman was coming,
a daughter, too! But how could they belong to each other? Could he ever
have been really married? It was hardly likely.
The steamer came. Consul Garman went on board, and returned shortly
after with his brother and a little dark-haired girl, who doubtless was
Richard Garman was soon recognized, although he had grown somewhat
stouter: but the upright, elegant bearing and the striking black
moustache were still the same; while the hair, though crisp and curling
as in the old days, was now slightly necked with grey at the temples. He
greeted them all with a friendly smile as he passed to the carriage, and
there was more than one lady who felt that the glance of his bright
brown eye rested smilingly on her for a moment.
The carriage rolled off through the town, and away down the long avenue
which led to the large family mansion of Sandsgaard.
The town gossipped itself nearly crazy, but without any satisfactory
result. The house of Garman took good care of its secrets.
So much was, however, clear: that Richard Garman had dissipated the
whole of his large fortune, or else he would never have consented to
come home and eat the bread of charity in his brother's house.
On the other hand, the relation between the brothers was, at least as
far as appearances went, a most cordial one. The Consul gave a grand
dinner, at which he drank his brother's health, adding at the same time
the hope that he might find himself happy in his old home.
There is nothing so irritating as a half-fulfilled scandal, and when
Richard Garman a short time afterwards calmly received the post of
lighthouse-keeper at Bratvold, and lived there year after year without a
sign of doing anything worthy of remark, each one in the little town
felt himself personally affronted, and it was a source of wonder to all
how little the Garmans seemed to realize what they owed to society.
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