Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The shy, reclusive Gilliatt and his mother arrive on the Isle of Guernsey. From where they came, no one knows. They settle in an isolated house by the shore. The mother dies when Gilliatt is still a young man, and he remains alone. His superstitious neighbors fear him because of his uncanny skills at fishing, farming, and mechanics, and because of his extensive knowledge of medicinal plants. They believe he can communicate with evil spirits and can cure mysterious illness.
Meanwhile, based on Guernsey, the enterprising businessman Mess Lethierry loses his fortune when his partner, Rantaine, absconds with it. To recoup his losses, Lethierry establishes the first steamboat service in the English Channel. Although the local fishermen think the steam engine is an invention of the Devil, Lethierry nevertheless prospers by transporting passengers and goods and by shore-trading along the northern French coast. He loves two things above all else: the steamboat La Durande and Déruchette, the shallow, pretty, orphaned niece who is his ward.
On Christmas Day, Gilliatt sees Déruchette tracing some letters in the snow. When he reaches the spot, he sees his own name. Because she has already publicly defended Gilliatt against the false accusations of his neighbors, he thinks she must care about him, and he falls in love with her. He goes to her garden by night and serenades her with his bagpipes, but he lacks the courage to approach her or her...
(The entire section is 964 words.)
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