HotFreeBooks.com
The Money Master
by Gilbert Parker
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE MONEY MASTER, Complete

By Gilbert Parker



CONTENTS

EPOCH THE FIRST I. THE GRAND TOUR OF JEAN JACQUES BARBILLE II. THE REST OF THE STORY "TO-MORROW" III. "TO-MORROW"

EPOCH THE SECOND IV. THIRTEEN YEARS AFTER AND THE CLERK OF THE COURT TELLS A STORY V. THE CLERK OF THE COURT ENDS HIS STORY VI. JEAN JACQUES HAD HAD A GREAT DAY VII. JEAN JACQUES AWAKES FROM SLEEP VIII. THE GATE IN THE WALL IX. "MOI-JE SUIS PHILOSOPHE" X. "QUIEN SABE"—WHO KNOWS! XI. THE CLERK OF THE COURT KEEPS A PROMISE XII. THE MASTER-CARPENTER HAS A PROBLEM

EPOCH THE THIRD XIII. THE MAN FROM OUTSIDE XIV. "I DO NOT WANT TO GO" XV. BON MARCHE

EPOCH THE FOURTH XVI. MISFORTUNES COME NOT SINGLY XVII. HIS GREATEST ASSET XVIII. JEAN JACQUES HAS AN OFFER XIX. SEBASTIAN DOLORES DOES NOT SLEEP XX. "AU 'VOIR, M'SIEU' JEAN JACQUES" XXI. IF SHE HAD KNOWN IN TIME

EPOCH THE FIFTH XXII. BELLS OF MEMORY XXIII. JEAN JACQUES HAS WORK TO DO XXIV. JEAN JACQUES ENCAMPED. XXV. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE

EPILOGUE



INTRODUCTION

This book is in a place by itself among the novels I have written. Many critics said that it was a welcome return to Canada, where I had made my first success in the field of fiction. This statement was only meagrely accurate, because since 'The Right of Way' was published in 1901 I had written, and given to the public, 'Northern Lights', a book of short stories, 'You Never Know Your Luck', a short novel, and 'The World for Sale', though all of these dealt with life in Western Canada, and not with the life of the French Canadians, in which field I had made my first firm impression upon the public. In any case, The Money Master was favourably received by the press and public both in England and America, and my friends were justified in thinking, and in saying, that I was at home in French Canada and gave the impression of mastery of my material. If mastery of material means a knowledge of the life, and a sympathy with it, then my friends are justified; for I have always had an intense sympathy with, and admiration for, French Canadian life. I think the French Canadian one of the most individual, original, and distinctive beings of the modern world. He has kept his place, with his own customs, his own Gallic views of life, and his religious habits, with an assiduity and firmness none too common. He is essentially a man of the home, of the soil, and of the stream; he has by nature instinctive philosophy and temperamental logic. As a lover of the soil of Canada he is not surpassed by any of the other citizens of the country, English or otherwise.

It would almost seem as though the pageantry of past French Canadian history, and the beauty and vigour of the topographical surroundings of French Canadian life, had produced an hereditary pride and exaltation— perhaps an excessive pride and a strenuous exaltation, but, in any case, there it was, and is. The French Canadian lives a more secluded life on the whole than any other citizen of Canada, though the native, adventurous spirit has sent him to the Eastern States of the American Union for work in the mills and factories, or up to the farthest reaches of the St. Lawrence, Ottawa, and their tributaries in the wood and timber trade.

Domestically he is perhaps the most productive son of the North American continent. Families of twenty, or even twenty-five, are not unknown, and, when a man has had more than one wife, it has even exceeded that. Life itself is full of camaraderie and good spirit, marked by religious traits and sacerdotal influence.

The French Canadian is on the whole sober and industrious; but when he breaks away from sobriety and industry he becomes a vicious element in the general organism. Yet his vices are of the surface, and do not destroy the foundations of his social and domestic scheme. A French Canadian pony used to be considered the most virile and lasting stock on the continent, and it is fair to say that the French Canadians themselves are genuinely hardy, long-lived, virile, and enduring.

It was among such people that the hero of The Money Master, Jean Jacques Barbille, lived. He was the symbol or pattern of their virtues and of their weaknesses. By nature a poet, a philosopher, a farmer and an adventurer, his life was a sacrifice to prepossession and race instinct; to temperament more powerful than logic or common sense, though he was almost professionally the exponent of both.

There is no man so simply sincere, or so extraordinarily prejudiced as the French Canadian. He is at once modest and vain; he is even lyrical in his enthusiasms; he is a child in the intrigues and inventions of life; but he has imagination, he has a heart, he has a love of tradition, and is the slave of legend. To him domestic life is the summum bonum of being. His four walls are the best thing which the world has to offer, except the cheerful and sacred communion of the Mass, and his dismissal from life itself under the blessing of his priest and with the promise of a good immortality.

Jean Jacques Barbille had the French Canadian life of pageant, pomp, and place extraordinarily developed. His love of history and tradition was abnormal. A genius, he was, within an inch, a tragedy to the last button. Probably the adventurous spirit of his forefathers played a greater part in his development and in the story of his days than anything else. He was wide-eyed, and he had a big soul. He trained himself to believe in himself and to follow his own judgment; therefore, he invited loss upon loss, he made mistake upon mistake, he heaped financial adventure upon financial adventure, he ran great risks; and it is possible that his vast belief in himself kept him going when other men would have dropped by the wayside. He loved his wife and daughter, and he lost them both. He loved his farms, his mills and his manor, and they disappeared from his control.

It must be remembered that the story of The Money Master really runs for a generation, and it says something for Jean Jacques Barbille that he could travel through scenes, many of them depressing, for long years, and still, in the end, provoke no disparagement, by marrying the woman who had once out of the goodness of her heart offered him everything— herself, her home, her honour; and it was to Jean Jacques's credit that he took neither until the death of his wife made him free; but the tremendous gift offered him produced a powerful impression upon his mind and heart.

One of the most distinguished men of the world to-day wrote me in praise and protest concerning The Money Master. He declared that the first half of the book was as good as anything that had been done by anybody, and then he bemoaned the fact, which he believed, that the author had sacrificed his two heroines without real cause and because he was tired of them. There he was wrong. In the author's mind the story was planned exactly as it worked out. He was never tired; he was resolute. He was intent to produce, if possible, a figure which would breed and develop its own disasters, which would suffer profoundly for its own mistakes; but which, in the end, would triumph over the disasters of life and time. It was all deliberate in the main intention and plan. Any failures that exist in the book are due to the faults of the author, and to nothing else.

Some critics have been good enough to call 'The Money Master' a beautiful book, and there are many who said that it was real, true, and faithful. Personally I think it is real and true, and as time goes on, and we get older, that is what seems to matter to those who love life and wish to see it well harvested.

I do not know what the future of the book may be; what the future of any work of mine will be; but I can say this, that no one has had the pleasure in reading my books which I have had in making them. They have been ground out of the raw material of the soul. I have a hope that they will outlast my brief day, but, in any case, it will not matter. They have given me a chance of showing to the world life as I have seen it, and indirectly, and perhaps indistinctly, my own ideas of that life. 'The Money Master' is a vivid and somewhat emotional part of it.



EPOCH THE FIRST

CHAPTER I

THE GRAND TOUR OF JEAN JACQUES BARBILLE

"Peace and plenty, peace and plenty"—that was the phrase M. Jean Jacques Barbille, miller and moneymaster, applied to his home-scene, when he was at the height of his career. Both winter and summer the place had a look of content and comfort, even a kind of opulence. There is nothing like a grove of pines to give a sense of warmth in winter and an air of coolness in summer, so does the slightest breeze make the pine-needles swish like the freshening sea. But to this scene, where pines made a friendly background, there were added oak, ash, and hickory trees, though in less quantity on the side of the river where were Jean Jacques Barbille's house and mills. They flourished chiefly on the opposite side of the Beau Cheval, whose waters flowed so waywardly—now with a rush, now silently away through long reaches of country. Here the land was rugged and bold, while farther on it became gentle and spacious, and was flecked or striped with farms on which low, white houses with dormer-windows and big stoops flashed to the passer-by the message of the pioneer, "It is mine. I triumph."

At the Manor Cartier, not far from the town of Vilray, where Jean Jacques was master, and above it and below it, there had been battles and the ravages of war. At the time of the Conquest the stubborn habitants, refusing to accept the yielding of Quebec as the end of French power in their proud province, had remained in arms and active, and had only yielded when the musket and the torch had done their work, and smoking ruins marked the places where homes had been. They took their fortune with something of the heroic calm of men to whom an idea was more than aught else. Jean Jacques' father, grandfather, and great-great- grandfather had lived here, no one of them rising far, but none worthless or unnoticeable. They all had had "a way of their own," as their neighbours said, and had been provident on the whole. Thus it was that when Jean Jacques' father died, and he came into his own, he found himself at thirty a man of substance, unmarried, who "could have had the pick of the province." This was what the Old Cure said in despair, when Jean Jacques did the incomprehensible thing, and married l'Espagnole, or "the Spanische," as the lady was always called in the English of the habitant.

When she came it was spring-time, and all the world was budding, exuding joy and hope, with the sun dancing over all. It was the time between the sowing and the hay-time, and there was a feeling of alertness in everything that had life, while even the rocks and solid earth seemed to stir. The air was filled with the long happy drone of the mill-stones as they ground the grain; and from farther away came the soft, stinging cry of a saw-mill. Its keen buzzing complaint was harmonious with the grumble of the mill-stones, as though a supreme maker of music had tuned it. So said a master-musician and his friend, a philosopher from Nantes, who came to St. Saviour's in the summer just before the marriage, and lodged with Jean Jacques. Jean Jacques, having spent a year at Laval University at Quebec, had almost a gift of thought, or thinking; and he never ceased to ply the visiting philosopher and musician with questions which he proceeded to answer himself before they could do so; his quaint, sentimental, meretricious observations on life saddening while they amused his guests. They saddened the musician more than the other because he knew life, while the philosopher only thought it and saw it.

But even the musician would probably have smiled in hope that day when the young "Spanische" came driving up the river-road from the steamboat- landing miles away. She arrived just when the clock struck noon in the big living-room of the Manor. As she reached the open doorway and the wide windows of the house which gaped with shady coolness, she heard the bell summoning the workers in the mills and on the farm—yes, M. Barbille was a farmer, too—for the welcome home to "M'sieu' Jean Jacques," as he was called by everyone.

That the wedding had taken place far down in Gaspe and not in St. Saviour's was a reproach and almost a scandal; and certainly it was unpatriotic. It was bad enough to marry the Spanische, but to marry outside one's own parish, and so deprive that parish and its young people of the week's gaiety, which a wedding and the consequent procession and tour through the parish brings, was little less than treason. But there it was; and Jean Jacques was a man who had power to hurt, to hinder, or to help; for the miller and the baker are nearer to the hearthstone of every man than any other, and credit is a good thing when the oven is empty and hard times are abroad. The wedding in Gaspe had not been attended by the usual functions, for it had all been hurriedly arranged, as the romantic circumstances of the wooing required. Romance indeed it was; so remarkable that the master-musician might easily have found a theme for a comedy—or tragedy—and the philosopher would have shaken his head at the defiance it offered to the logic of things.

Now this is the true narrative, though in the parish of St. Saviour's it is more highly decorated and has many legends hanging to it like tassels to a curtain. Even the Cure of to-day, who ought to know all the truth, finds it hard to present it in its bare elements; for the history of Jean Jacques Barbille affected the history of many a man in St. Saviour's; and all that befel him, whether of good or evil, ran through the parish in a thousand invisible threads.

.......................

What had happened was this. After the visit of the musician and the philosopher, Jean Jacques, to sustain his reputation and to increase it, had decided to visit that Normandy from which his people had come at the time of Frontenac. He set forth with much 'eclat' and a little innocent posturing and ritual, in which a cornet and a violin figured, together with a farewell oration by the Cure.

In Paris Jean Jacques had found himself bewildered and engulfed. He had no idea that life could be so overbearing, and he was inclined to resent his own insignificance. However, in Normandy, when he read the names on the tombstones and saw the records in the baptismal register of other Jean Jacques Barbilles, who had come and gone generations before, his self-respect was somewhat restored. This pleasure was dashed, however, by the quizzical attitude of the natives of his ancestral parish, who walked round about inspecting him as though he were a zoological specimen, and who criticized his accent—he who had been at Laval for one whole term; who had had special instruction before that time from the Old Cure and a Jesuit brother; and who had been the friend of musicians and philosophers!

His cheerful, kindly self-assurance stood the test with difficulty, but it became a kind of ceremonial with him, whenever he was discomfited, to read some pages of a little dun-coloured book of philosophy, picked up on the quay at Quebec just before he sailed, and called, "Meditations in Philosophy." He had been warned by the bookseller that the Church had no love for philosophy; but while at Laval he had met the independent minds that, at eighteen to twenty-two, frequent academic groves; and he was not to be put off by the pious bookseller—had he not also had a philosopher in his house the year before, and was he not going to Nantes to see this same savant before returning to his beloved St. Saviour's parish.

But Paris and Nantes and Rouen and Havre abashed and discomfited him, played havoc with his self-esteem, confused his brain, and vexed him by formality, and, more than all, by their indifference to himself. He admired, yet he wished to be admired; he was humble, but he wished all people and things to be humble with him. When he halted he wanted the world to halt; when he entered a cathedral—Notre Dame or any other; or a great building—the Law Courts at Rouen or any other; he simply wanted people to say, wanted the cathedral, or at least the cloister, to whisper to itself, "Here comes Jean Jacques Barbille."

That was all he wanted, and that would have sufficed. He would not have had them whisper about his philosophy and his intellect, or the mills and the ash-factory which he meant to build, the lime-kilns he had started even before he left, and the general store he intended to open when he returned to St. Saviour's. Not even his modesty was recognized; and, in his grand tour, no one was impressed by all that he was, except once. An ancestor, a grandmother of his, had come from the Basque country; and so down to St. Jean Pied de Port he went; for he came of a race who set great store by mothers and grandmothers. At St. Jean Pied de Port he was more at home. He was, in a sense, a foreigner among foreigners there, and the people were not quizzical, since he was an outsider in any case and not a native returned, as he had been in Normandy. He learned to play pelota, the Basque game taken from the Spaniards, and he even allowed himself a little of that oratory which, as they say, has its habitat chiefly in Gascony. And because he had found an audience at last, he became a liberal host, and spent freely of his dollars, as he had never done either in Normandy, Paris, or elsewhere. So freely did he spend, that when he again embarked at Bordeaux for Quebec, he had only enough cash left to see him through the remainder of his journey in the great world. Yet he left France with his self-respect restored, and he even waved her a fond adieu, as the creaking Antoine broke heavily into the waters of the Bay of Biscay, while he cried:

"My little ship, It bears me far From lights of home To alien star. O vierge Marie, Pour moi priez Dieu! Adieu, dear land, Provence, adieu."

Then a further wave of sentiment swept over him, and he was vaguely conscious of a desire to share the pains of parting which he saw in labour around him—children from parents, lovers from loved. He could not imagine the parting from a parent, for both of his were in the bosom of heaven, having followed his five brothers, all of whom had died in infancy, to his good fortune, for otherwise his estate would now be only one-sixth of what it was. But he could imagine a parting with some sweet daughter of France, and he added another verse to the thrilling of the heart of Casimir Delavigne:

"Beloved Isaure, Her hand makes sign— No more, no more, To rest in mine. O vierge Marie, Pour moi priez Dieu! Adieu, dear land, Isaure, adieu!"

As he murmured with limpid eye the last words, he saw in the forecastle not far from him a girl looking at him. There was unmistakable sadness in her glance of interest. In truth she was thinking of just such a man as Jean Jacques, whom she could never see any more, for he had paid with his life the penalty of the conspiracy in which her father, standing now behind her on the leaky Antoine, had been a tool, and an evil tool. Here in Jean Jacques was the same ruddy brown face, black restless eye, and young, silken, brown beard. Also there was an air of certainty and universal comprehension, and though assertion and vanity were apparent, there was no self-consciousness. The girl's dead and gone conspirator had not the same honesty of face, the same curve of the ideal in the broad forehead, the same poetry of rich wavy brown hair, the same goodness of mind and body so characteristic of Jean Jacques—he was but Jean Jacques gone wrong at the start; but the girl was of a nature that could see little difference between things which were alike superficially, and in the young provincial she only saw one who looked like the man she had loved. True, his moustaches did not curl upwards at the ends as did those of Carvillho Gonzales, and he did not look out of the corner of his eyes and smoke black cigarettes; but there he was, her Carvillho with a difference—only such a difference that made him to her Carvillho II., and not the ghost of Carvillho I.

She was a maiden who might have been as good as need be for all life, so far as appearances went. She had a wonderful skin, a smooth, velvety cheek, where faint red roses came and went, as it might seem at will; with a deep brown eye; and eh, but she was grandly tall—so Jean Jacques thought, while he drew himself up to his full five feet, six and a half with a determined air. Even at his best, however, Jean Jacques could not reach within three inches of her height.

Yet he did not regard her as at all overdone because of that. He thought her hair very fine, as it waved away from her low forehead in a grace which reminded him of the pictures of the Empress Eugenie, and of the sister of that monsieur le duc who had come fishing to St. Saviour's a few years before. He thought that if her hair was let down it would probably reach to her waist, and maybe to her ankles. She had none of the plump, mellow softness of the beauties he had seen in the Basque country. She was a slim and long limbed Diana, with fine lines and a bosom of extreme youth, though she must have been twenty-one her last birthday. The gown she wore was a dark green well-worn velvet, which seemed of too good a make and quality for her class; and there was no decoration about her anywhere, save at the ears, where two drops of gold hung on little links an inch and a half long.

Jean Jacques Barbille's eyes took it all in with that observation of which he was so proud and confident, and rested finally on the drops of gold at her ears. Instinctively he fingered the heavy gold watch-chain he had bought in Paris to replace the silver chain with a little crucifix dangling, which his father and even his great-grandfather had worn before him. He had kept the watch, however—the great fat-bellied thing which had never run down in a hundred years. It was his mascot. To lose that watch would be like losing his share in the promises of the Church. So his fingers ran along the new gold-fourteen-carat-chain, to the watch at the end of it; and he took it out a little ostentatiously, since he saw that the eyes of the girl were on him. Involuntarily he wished to impress her.

He might have saved himself the trouble. She was impressed. It was quite another matter however, whether he would have been pleased to know that the impression was due to his resemblance to a Spanish conspirator, whose object was to destroy the Monarchy and the Church, as had been the object of the middle-aged conspirator—the girl's father—who had the good fortune to escape from justice. It is probable that if Jean Jacques had known these facts, his story would never have been written, and he would have died in course of time with twenty children and a seat in the legislature; for, in spite of his ardent devotion to philosophy and its accompanying rationalism, he was a devout monarchist and a child of the Church.

Sad enough it was that, as he shifted his glance from the watch, which ticked loud enough to wake a farmhand in the middle of the day, he found those Spanish eyes which had been so lost in studying him. In the glow and glisten of the evening sun setting on the shores of Bordeaux, and flashing reflected golden light to the girl's face, he saw that they were shining with tears, and though looking at him, appeared not to see him. In that moment the scrutiny of the little man's mind was volatilized, and the Spanische, as she was ultimately called, began her career in the life of the money-master of St. Saviour's.

It began by his immediately resenting the fact that she should be travelling in the forecastle. His mind imagined misfortune and a lost home through political troubles, for he quickly came to know that the girl and her father were Spanish; and to him, Spain was a place of martyrs and criminals. Criminals these could not be—one had but to look at the girl's face; while the face of her worthless father might have been that of a friend of Philip IV. in the Escorial, so quiet and oppressed it seemed. Nobility was written on the placid, apathetic countenance, except when it was not under observation, and then the look of Cain took its place. Jean Jacques, however, was not likely to see that look; since Sebastian Dolores—that was his name—had observed from the first how the master-miller was impressed by his daughter, and he was set to turn it to account.

Not that the father entered into an understanding with the girl. He knew her too well for that. He had a wholesome respect, not to say fear, of her; for when all else had failed, it was she who had arranged his escape from Spain, and who almost saved Carvillho Gonzales from being shot. She could have saved Gonzales, might have saved him, would have saved him, had she not been obliged to save her father. In the circumstances she could not save both.

Before the week was out Jean Jacques was possessed of as fine a tale of political persecution as mind could conceive, and, told as it was by Sebastian Dolores, his daughter did not seek to alter it, for she had her own purposes, and they were mixed. These refugees needed a friend, for they would land in Canada with only a few dollars, and Carmen Dolores loved her father well enough not to wish to see him again in such distress as he had endured in Cadiz. Also, Jean Jacques, the young, verdant, impressionable French Catholic, was like her Carvillho Gonzales, and she had loved her Carvillho in her own way very passionately, and— this much to her credit—quite chastely. So that she had no compunction in drawing the young money-master to her side, and keeping him there by such arts as such a woman possesses. These are remarkable after their kind. They are combined of a frankness as to the emotions, and such outer concessions to physical sensations, as make a painful combination against a mere man's caution; even when that caution has a Norman origin.

More than once Jean Jacques was moved to tears, as the Ananias of Cadiz told his stories of persecution.

So that one day, in sudden generosity, he paid the captain the necessary sum to transfer the refugees from the forecastle to his own select portion of the steamer, where he was so conspicuous a figure among a handful of lower-level merchant folk and others of little mark who were going to Quebec. To these latter Jean Jacques was a gift of heaven, for he knew so much, and seemed to know so much more, and could give them the information they desired. His importance lured him to pose as a seigneur, though he had no claim to the title. He did not call himself Seigneur in so many words, but when others referred to him as the Seigneur, and it came to his ears, he did not correct it; and when he was addressed as such he did not reprove.

Thus, when he brought the two refugees from the forecastle and assured his fellow-passengers that they were Spanish folk of good family exiled by persecution, his generosity was acclaimed, even while all saw he was enamoured of Carmen. Once among the first-class passengers, father and daughter maintained reserve, and though there were a few who saw that they were not very far removed above peasants, still the dress of the girl, which was good—she had been a maid in a great nobleman's family —was evidence in favour of the father's story. Sebastian Dolores explained his own workman's dress as having been necessary for his escape.

Only one person gave Jean Jacques any warning. This was the captain of the Antoine. He was a Basque, he knew the Spanish people well—the types, the character, the idiosyncrasies; and he was sure that Sebastian Dolores and his daughter belonged to the lower clerical or higher working class, and he greatly inclined towards the former. In that he was right, because Dolores, and his father before him, had been employed in the office of a great commercial firm in Cadiz, and had repaid much consideration by stirring up strife and disloyalty in the establishment. But before the anarchist subtracted himself from his occupation, he had appropriated certain sums of money, and these had helped to carry him on, when he attached himself to the revolutionaries. It was on his daughter's savings that he was now travelling, with the only thing he had saved from the downfall, which was his head. It was of sufficient personal value to make him quite cheerful as the Antoine plunged and shivered on her way to the country where he could have no steady work as a revolutionist.

With reserve and caution the Basque captain felt it his duty to tell Jean Jacques of his suspicions, warning him that the Spaniards were the choicest liars in the world, and were not ashamed of it; but had the same pride in it as had their greatest rivals, the Arabs and the Egyptians.

His discreet confidences, however, were of no avail; he was not discreet enough. If he had challenged the bona fides of Sebastian Dolores only, he might have been convincing, but he used the word "they" constantly, and that roused the chivalry of Jean Jacques. That the comely, careful Carmen should be party to an imposture was intolerable. Everything about her gave it the lie. Her body was so perfect and complete, so finely contrived and balanced, so cunningly curved with every line filled in; her eye was so full of lustre and half-melancholy too; her voice had such a melodious monotone; her mouth was so ripe and yet so distant in its luxury, that imposture was out of the question.

Ah, but Jean Jacques was a champion worth while! He did nothing by halves. He was of the breed of men who grow more intense, more convinced, more thorough, as they talk. One adjective begets another, one warm allusion gives birth to a warmer, one flashing impulse evokes a brighter confidence, till the atmosphere is flaming with conviction. If Jean Jacques started with faint doubt regarding anything, and allowed himself betimes the flush of a declaration of belief, there could be but one end. He gathered fire as he moved, impulse expanded into momentum, and momentum became an Ariel fleeing before the dark. He would start by offering a finger to be pricked, and would end by presenting his own head on a charger. He was of those who hypnotize themselves, who glow with self-creation, who flower and bloom without pollen.

His rejection of the captain's confidence even had a dignity. He took out his watch which represented so many laborious hours of other Barbilles, and with a decision in which the strong pulse of chivalry was beating hard, he said:

"I can never speak well till I have ate. That is my hobby. Well, so it is. And I like good company. So that is why I sit beside Senor and Senorita Dolores at table—the one on the right, the other on the left, myself between, like this, like that. It is dinner-time now here, and my friends—my dear friends of Cadiz—they wait me. Have you heard the Senorita sing the song of Spain, m'sieu'? What it must be with the guitar, I know not; but with voice alone it is ravishing. I have learned it also. The Senorita has taught me. It is a song of Aragon. It is sung in high places. It belongs to the nobility. Ah, then, you have not heard it—but it is not too late! The Senorita, the unhappy ma'm'selle, driven from her ancestral home by persecution, she will sing it to you as she has sung it to me. It is your due. You are the master of the ship. But, yes, she shall of her kindness and of her grace sing it to you. You do not know how it runs? Well, it is like this—listen and tell me if it does not speak of things that belong to the old regime, the ancient noblesse—listen, m'sieu' le captaanne, how it runs:

"Have you not heard of mad Murcie? Granada gay and And'lousie? There's where you'll see the joyous rout, When patios pour their beauties out; Come, children, come, the night gains fast, And Time's a jade too fair to last. My flower of Spain, my Juanetta, Away, away to gay Jota! Come forth, my sweet, away, my queen, Though daybreak scorns, the night's between. The Fete's afoot—ah! ah! ah! ah! De la Jota Ar'gonesa. Ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! De la Jota Ar'gonesa."

Before he had finished, the captain was more than ready to go, for he had no patience with such credulity, simplicity and sentimentalism. He was Basque, and to be Basque is to lack sentiment and feel none, to play ever for the safe thing, to get without giving, and to mind your own business. It had only been an excessive sense of duty which had made the captain move in this, for he liked Jean Jacques as everyone aboard his Antoine did; and he was convinced that the Spaniards would play the "Seigneur" to the brink of disaster at least, though it would have been hard to detect any element of intrigue or coquetry in Carmen Dolores.

That was due partly to the fact that she was still in grief for her Gonzales, whose heart had been perforated by almost as many bullets as the arrows of Cupid had perforated it in his short, gay life of adventure and anarchy; also partly because there was no coquetry needed to interest Jean Jacques. If he was interested it was not necessary to interest anyone else, nor was it expedient to do so, for the biggest fish in the net on the Antoine was the money-master of St. Saviour's.

Carmen had made up her mind from the first to marry Jean Jacques, and she deported herself accordingly—with modesty, circumspection and skill. It would be the easiest way out of all their difficulties. Since her heart, such as it was, fluttered, a mournful ghost, over the Place d'Armes, where her Gonzales was shot, it might better go to Jean Jacques than anyone else; for he was a man of parts, of money, and of looks, and she loved these all; and to her credit she loved his looks better than all the rest. She had no real cupidity, and she was not greatly enamoured of brains. She had some real philosophy of life learned in a hard school; and it was infinitely better founded than the smattering of conventional philosophy got by Jean Jacques from his compendium picked up on the quay at Quebec.

Yet Jean Jacques' cruiser of life was not wholly unarmed. From his Norman forebears he had, beneath all, a shrewdness and an elementary alertness not submerged by his vain, kind nature. He was quite a good business man, and had proved himself so before his father died—very quick to see a chance, and even quicker to see where the distant, sharp corners in the road were; though not so quick to see the pitfalls, for his head was ever in the air. And here on the Antoine, there crossed his mind often the vision of Carmen Dolores and himself in the parish of St. Saviour's, with the daily life of the Beau Cheval revolving about him. Flashes of danger warned him now and then, just at the beginning of the journey, as it were; just before he had found it necessary to become her champion against the captain and his calumnies; but they were of the instant only. But champion as he became, and worshipping as his manner seemed, it all might easily have been put down to a warm, chivalrous, and spontaneous nature, which had not been bitted or bridled, and he might have landed at Quebec without committing himself, were it not for the fact that he was not to land at Quebec.

That was the fact which controlled his destiny. He had spent many, many hours with the Dona Dolores, talking, talking, as he loved to talk, and only saving himself from the betise of boring her by the fact that his enthusiasm had in it so fresh a quality, and because he was so like her Gonzales that she could always endure him. Besides, quick of intelligence as she was, she was by nature more material than she looked, and there was certainly something physically attractive in him—some curious magnetism. She had a well of sensuousness which might one day become sensuality; she had a richness of feeling and a contour in harmony with it, which might expand into voluptuousness, if given too much sun, or if untamed by the normal restraints of a happy married life. There was an earthquake zone in her being which might shake down the whole structure of her existence. She was unsafe, not because she was deceiving Jean Jacques now as to her origin and as to her feelings for him; she was unsafe because of the natural strain of the light of love in her, joined to a passion for comfort and warmth and to a natural self- indulgence. She was determined to make Jean Jacques offer himself before they landed at Quebec.

But they did not land at Quebec.



CHAPTER II

"THE REST OF THE STORY TO-MORROW"

The journey wore on to the coast of Canada. Gaspe was not far off when, still held back by the constitutional tendency of the Norman not to close a bargain till compelled to do so, Jean Jacques sat with Carmen far forward on the deck, where the groaning Antoine broke the waters into sullen foam. There they silently watched the sunset, golden, purple and splendid—and ominous, as the captain knew.

"Look, the end of life—like that!" said Jean Jacques oratorically with a wave of the hand towards the prismatic radiance.

"All the way round, the whole circle—no, it would be too much," Carmen replied sadly. "Better to go at noon—or soon after. Then the only memory of life would be of the gallop. No crawling into the night for me, if I can help it. Mother of Heaven, no! Let me go at the top of the flight."

"It is all the same to me," responded Jean Jacques, "I want to know it all—to gallop, to trot, to walk, to crawl. Me, I'm a philosopher. I wait."

"But I thought you were a Catholic," she replied, with a kindly, lurking smile, which might easily have hardened into scoffing.

"First and last," he answered firmly.

"A Catholic and a philosopher—together in one?" She shrugged a shoulder to incite him to argument, for he was interesting when excited; when spurting out little geysers of other people's cheap wisdom and philosophy, poured through the kind distortion of his own intelligence.

He gave a toss of his head. "Ah, that is my hobby—I reconcile, I unite, I adapt! It is all the nature of the mind, the far-look, the all-round sight of the man. I have it all. I see."

He gazed eloquently into the sunset, he swept the horizon with his hand. "I have the all-round look. I say the Man of Calvary, He is before all, the sun; but I say Socrates, Plato, Jean Jacques—that is my name, and it is not for nothing, that—Jean Jacques Rousseau, Descartes, Locke, they are stars that go round the sun. It is the same light, but not the same sound. I reconcile. In me all comes together like the spokes to the hub of a wheel. Me—I am a Christian, I am philosophe, also. In St. Saviour's, my home in Quebec, if the crops are good, what do men say? 'C'est le bon Dieu—it is the good God,' that is what they say. If the crops are bad, what do they say? 'It is the good God'—that is what they say. It is the good God that makes crops good or bad, and it is the good God that makes men say, 'C'est le bon Dieu.' The good God makes the philosophy. It is all one."

She appeared to grow agitated, and her voice shook as she spoke. "Tsh, it is only a fool that says the good God does it, when the thing that is done breaks you or that which you love all to pieces. No, no, no, it is not religion, it is not philosophy that makes one raise the head when the heart is bowed down, when everything is snatched away that was all in all. That the good God does it is a lie. Santa Maria, what a lie!"

"Why 'Santa Maria,' then, if it is a lie?" he asked triumphantly. He did not observe how her breast was heaving, how her hands were clenched; for she was really busy with thoughts of her dead Carvillho Gonzales; but for the moment he could only see the point of an argument.

She made a gesture of despair. "So—that's it. Habit in us is so strong. It comes through the veins of our mothers to us. We say that God is a lie one minute, and then the next minute we say, 'God guard you!' Always—always calling to something, for something outside ourselves. That is why I said Santa Maria, why I ask her to pray for the soul of my friend, to pray to the God that breaks me and mine, and sends us over the seas, beggars without a home."

Now she had him back out of the vanities of his philosophy. He was up, inflamed, looking at her with an excitement on which she depended for her future. She knew the caution of his nature, she realized how he would take one step forward and another step back, and maybe get nowhere in the end, and she wanted him—for a home, for her father's sake, for what he could do for them both. She had no compunctions. She thought herself too good for him, in a way, for in her day men of place and mark had taken notice of her; and if it had not been for her Gonzales she would no doubt have listened to one of them sometime or another. She knew she had ability, even though she was indolent, and she thought she could do as much for him as any other girl. If she gave him a handsome wife and handsome children, and made men envious of him, and filled him with good things, for she could cook more than tortillas-she felt he would have no right to complain. She meant him to marry her—and Quebec was very near!

"A beggar in a strange land, without a home, without a friend—oh, my broken life!" she whispered wistfully to the sunset.

It was not all acting, for the past reached out and swept over her, throwing waves of its troubles upon the future. She was that saddest of human beings, a victim of dual forces which so fought for mastery with each other that, while the struggle went on, the soul had no firm foothold anywhere. That, indeed, was why her Carvillho Gonzales, who also had been dual in nature, said to himself so often, "I am a devil," and nearly as often, "I have the heart of an angel."

"Tell me all about your life, my friend," Jean Jacques said eagerly. Now his eyes no longer hurried here and there, but fastened on hers and stayed thereabouts—ah, her face surely was like pictures he had seen in the Louvre that day when he had ambled through the aisles of great men's glories with the feeling that he could not see too much for nothing in an hour.

"My life? Ah, m'sieu', has not my father told you of it?" she asked.

He waved a hand in explanation, he cocked his head quizzically. "Scraps —like the buttons on a coat here and there—that's all," he answered. "Born in Andalusia, lived in Cadiz, plenty of money, a beautiful home," —Carmen's eyes drooped, and her face flushed slightly—"no brothers or sisters—visits to Madrid on political business—you at school—then the going of your mother, and you at home at the head of the house. So much on the young shoulders, the kitchen, the parlour, the market, the shop, society—and so on. That is the way it was, so he said, except in the last sad times, when your father, for the sake of Don Carlos and his rights, near lost his life—ah, I can understand that: to stand by the thing you have sworn to! France is a republic, but I would give my life to put a Napoleon or a Bourbon on the throne. It is my hobby to stand by the old ship, not sign on to a new captain every port."

She raised her head and looked at him calmly now. The flush had gone from her face, and a light of determination was in her eyes. To that was added suddenly a certain tinge of recklessness and abandon in carriage and manner, as one flings the body loose from the restraints of clothes, and it expands in a free, careless, defiant joy.

Jean Jacques' recital of her father's tale had confused her for a moment, it was so true yet so untrue, so full of lies and yet so solid in fact. "The head of the house—visits to Madrid on political business—the parlour, the market, society—all that!" It suggested the picture of the life of a child of a great house; it made her a lady, and not a superior servant as she had been; it adorned her with a credit which was not hers; and for a moment she was ashamed. Yet from the first she had lent herself to the general imposture that they had fled from Spain for political reasons, having lost all and suffered greatly; and it was true while yet it was a lie. She had suffered, both her father and herself had suffered; she had been in danger, in agony, in sorrow, in despair— it was only untrue that they were of good birth and blood, and had had position and comfort and much money. Well, what harm did that do anybody? What harm did it do this little brown seigneur from Quebec? Perhaps he too had made himself out to be more than he was. Perhaps he was no seigneur at all, she thought. When one is in distant seas and in danger of his life, one will hoist any flag, sail to any port, pay homage to any king. So would she. Anyhow, she was as good as this provincial, with his ancient silver watch, his plump little hands, and his book of philosophy.

What did it matter, so all came right in the end! She would justify herself, if she had the chance. She was sick of conspiracy, and danger, and chicanery—and blood. She wanted her chance. She had been badly shaken in the last days in Spain, and she shrank from more worry and misery. She wanted to have a home and not to wander. And here was a chance—how good a chance she was not sure; but it was a chance. She would not hesitate to make it hers. After all, self-preservation was the thing which mattered. She wanted a bright fire, a good table, a horse, a cow, and all such simple things. She wanted a roof over her and a warm bed at night. She wanted a warm bed at night—but a warm bed at night alone. It was the price she would have to pay for her imposture, that if she had all these things, she could not be alone in the sleep-time. She had not thought of this in the days when she looked forward to a home with her Gonzales. To be near him was everything; but that was all dead and done for; and now—it was at this point that, shrinking, she suddenly threw off all restraining thoughts. With abandon of the mind came a recklessness of body, which gave her, all at once, a voluptuousness more in keeping with the typical maid of Andalusia. It got into the eyes and senses of Jean Jacques, in a way which had nothing to do with the philosophy of Descartes, or Kant, or Aristotle, or Hegel.

"It was beautiful in much—my childhood," she said in a low voice, dropping her eyes before his ardent gaze, "as my father said. My mother was lovely to see, but not bigger than I was at twelve—so petite, and yet so perfect in form—like a lark or a canary. Yes, and she could sing—anything. Not like me with a voice which has the note of a drum or an organ—"

"Of a flute, bright Senorita," interposed Jean Jacques.

"But high, and with the trills in the skies, and all like a laugh with a tear in it. When she went to the river to wash—"

She was going to say "wash the clothes," but she stopped in time and said instead, "wash her spaniel and her pony"—her face was flushed again with shame, for to lie about one's mother is a sickening thing, and her mother never had a spaniel or a pony—" the women on the shore wringing their clothes, used to beg her to sing. To the hum of the river she would make the music which they loved—"

"La Manola and such?" interjected Jean Jacques eagerly. "That's a fine song as you sing it."

"Not La Manola, but others of a different sort—The Love of Isabella, The Flight of Bobadil, Saragosse, My Little Banderillero, and so on, and all so sweet that the women used to cry. Always, always she was singing till the time when my father became a rebel. Then she used to cry too; and she would sing no more; and when my father was put against a wall to be shot, and fell in the dust when the rifles rang out, she came at the moment, and seeing him lying there, she threw up her hands, and fell down beside him dead—"

"The poor little senora, dead too—"

"Not dead too—that was the pity of it. You see my father was not dead. The officer"—she did not say sergeant—"who commanded the firing squad, he was what is called a compadre of my father—"

"Yes, I understand—a made-brother, sealed with an oath, which binds closer than a blood-brother. It is that, is it not?"

"So—like that. Well, the compadre had put blank cartridges in their rifles, and my father pretended to fall dead; and the soldiers were marched away; and my father, with my mother, was carried to his home, still pretending to be dead. It had been all arranged except the awful thing, my mother's death. Who could foresee that? She ought to have been told; but who could guess that she would hear of it all, and come at the moment like that? So, that was the way she went, and I was left alone with my father." She had told the truth in all, except in conveying that her mother was not of the lower orders, and that she went to the river to wash her spaniel and her pony instead of her clothes.

"Your father—did they not arrest him again? Did they not know?"

She shrugged her shoulders. That is not the way in Spain. He was shot, as the orders were, with his back to the wall by a squad of soldiers with regulation bullets. If he chose to come to life again, that was his own affair. The Government would take no notice of him after he was dead. He could bury himself, or he could come alive—it was all the same to them. So he came alive again."

"That is a story which would make a man's name if he wrote it down," said Jean Jacques eloquently. "And the poor little senora, but my heart bleeds for her! To go like that in such pain, and not to know—If she had been my wife I think I would have gone after her to tell her it was all right, and to be with her—"

He paused confused, for that seemed like a reflection on her father's chivalry, and for a man who had risked his life for his banished king— what would he have thought if he had been told that Sebastian Dolores was an anarchist who loathed kings!—it was an insult to suggest that he did not know the right thing to do, or, knowing, had not done it.

She saw the weakness of his case at once. "There was his duty to the living," she said indignantly.

"Ah, forgive me—what a fool I am!" Jean Jacques said repentantly at once. "There was his little girl, his beloved child, his Carmen Dolores, so beautiful, with the voice like a flute, and—"

He drew nearer to her, his hand was outstretched to take hers; his eyes were full of the passion of the moment; pity was drowning all caution, all the Norman shrewdness in him, when the Antoine suddenly stopped almost dead with a sudden jolt and shock, then plunged sideways, jerked, and trembled.

"We've struck a sunk iceberg—the rest of the story to-morrow, Senorita," he cried, as they both sprang to their feet.

"The rest of the story to-morrow," she repeated, angry at the stroke of fate which had so interrupted the course of her fortune. She said it with a voice also charged with fear; for she was by nature a landfarer, not a sea-farer, though on the rivers of Spain she had lived almost as much as on land, and she was a good swimmer.

"The rest to-morrow," she repeated, controlling herself.



CHAPTER III

"TO-MORROW"

The rest came to-morrow. When the Antoine struck the sunken iceberg she was not more than one hundred and twenty miles from the coast of Gaspe. She had not struck it full on, or she would have crumpled up, but had struck and glanced, mounting the berg, and sliding away with a small gaping wound in her side, broken internally where she had been weakest. Her condition was one of extreme danger, and the captain was by no means sure that he could make the land. If a storm or a heavy sea came on, they were doomed.

As it was, with all hands at the pumps the water gained on her, and she moaned and creaked and ached her way into the night with no surety that she would show a funnel to the light of another day. Passengers and crew alike worked, and the few boats were got ready to lower away when the worst should come to the worst. Below, with the crew, the little moneymaster of St. Saviour's worked with an energy which had behind it some generations of hardy qualities; and all the time he refused to be downcast. There was something in his nature or in his philosophy after all. He had not much of a voice, but it was lusty and full of good feeling; and when cursing began, when a sailor even dared to curse his baptism—the crime of crimes to a Catholic mind—Jean Jacques began to sing a cheery song with which the habitants make vocal their labours or their playtimes:

"A Saint-Malo, beau port de mer, Trois gros navir's sont arrives, Trois gros navir's sont arrives Charges d'avoin', charges de ble. Charges d'avoin', charges de ble: Trois dam's s'en vont les marchander."

And so on through many verses, with a heartiness that was a good antidote to melancholy, even though it was no specific for a shipwreck. It played its part, however; and when Jean Jacques finished it, he plunged into that other outburst of the habitant's gay spirits, 'Bal chez Boule':

"Bal chez Boule, bal chez Boule, The vespers o'er, we'll away to that; With our hearts so light, and our feet so gay, We'll dance to the tune of 'The Cardinal's Hat' The better the deed, the better the day Bal chez Boule, bal chez Boule!"

And while Jean Jacques worked "like a little French pony," as they say in Canada of every man with the courage to do hard things in him, he did not stop to think that the scanty life-belts had all been taken, and that he was a very poor swimmer indeed: for, as a child, he had been subject to cramp, and so had made the Beau Cheval River less his friend than would have been useful now.

He realized it, however, soon after daybreak, when, within a few hundred yards of the shores of Gaspe, to which the good Basque captain had been slowly driving the Antoine all night, there came the cry, "All hands on deck!" and "Lower the boats!" for the Antoine's time had come, and within a hand-reach of shore almost she found the end of her rickety life. Not more than three-fourths of the passengers and crew were got into the boats. Jean Jacques was not one of these; but he saw Carmen Dolores and her father safely bestowed, though in different boats. To the girl's appeal to him to come he gave a nod of assent, and said he would get in at the last moment; but this he did not do, pushing into the boat instead a crying lad of fifteen, who said he was afraid to die.

So it was that Jean Jacques took to the water side by side with the Basque captain, when the Antoine groaned and shook, and then grew still, and presently, with some dignity, dipped her nose into the shallow sea and went down.

"The rest of the story to-morrow," Jean Jacques had said when the vessel struck the iceberg the night before; and so it was.

The boat in which Carmen had been placed was swamped not far from shore, but she managed to lay hold of a piece of drifting wreckage, and began to fight steadily and easily landward. Presently she was aware, however, of a man struggling hard some little distance away to the left of her, and from the tousled hair shaking in the water she was sure that it was Jean Jacques.

So it proved to be; and thus it was that, at his last gasp almost, when he felt he could keep up no longer, the wooden seat to which Carmen clung came to his hand, and a word of cheer from her drew his head up with what was almost a laugh.

"To think of this!" he said presently when he was safe, with her swimming beside him without support, for the wooden seat would not sustain the weight of two. "To think that it is you who saves me!" he again declared eloquently, as they made the shore in comparative ease, for she was a fine swimmer.

"It is the rest of the story," he said with great cheerfulness and aplomb as they stood on the shore in the morning sun, shoeless, coatless, but safe: and she understood.

There was nothing else for him to do. The usual process of romance had been reversed. He had not saved her life, she had saved his. The least that he could do was to give her shelter at the Manor Cartier yonder at St. Saviour's, her and, if need be, her father. Human gratitude must have play. It was so strong in this case that it alone could have overcome the Norman caution of Jean Jacques, and all his worldly wisdom (so much in his own eyes). Added thereto was the thing which had been greatly stirred in him at the instant the Antoine struck; and now he kept picturing Carmen in the big living-room and the big bedroom of the house by the mill, where was the comfortable four-poster which had come from the mansion of the last Baron of Beaugard down by St. Laurent.

Three days after the shipwreck of the Antoine, and as soon as sufficient finery could be got in Quebec, it was accomplished, the fate of Jean Jacques. How proud he was to open his cheque-book before the young Spanish maid, and write in cramped, characteristic hand a cheque for a hundred dollars or so at a time! A moiety of this money was given to Sebastian Dolores, who could scarcely believe his good fortune. A situation was got for him by the help of a good abbe at Quebec, who was touched by the tale of the wreck of the Antoine, and by the no less wonderful tale of the refugees of Spain, who naturally belonged to the true faith which "feared God and honoured the King." Sebastian Dolores was grateful for the post offered him, though he would rather have gone to St. Saviour's with his daughter, for he had lost the gift of work, and he desired peace after war. In other words, he had that fatal trait of those who strive to make the world better by talk and violence, the vice of indolence.

But when Jean Jacques and his handsome bride started for St. Saviour's, the new father-in-law did not despair of following soon. He would greatly have enjoyed the festivities which, after all, did follow the home-coming of Jean Jacques Barbille and his Spanische; for while they lacked enthusiasm because Carmen was a foreigner, the romance of the story gave the whole proceedings a spirit and interest which spread into adjoining parishes: so that people came to mass from forty miles away to see the pair who had been saved from the sea.

And when the Quebec newspapers found their way into the parish, with a thrilling account of the last hours of the Antoine; and of Jean Jacques' chivalrous act in refusing to enter a boat to save himself, though he was such a bad swimmer and was in danger of cramp; and how he sang Bal chez Boule while the men worked at the pumps; they permitted the apres noces of M'sieu' and Madame Jean Jacques Barbille to be as brilliant as could be, with the help of lively improvisation. Even speech-making occurred again in an address of welcome some days later. This was followed by a feast of Spanish cakes and meats made by the hands of Carmen Dolores, "the lady saved from the sea"—as they called her; not knowing that she had saved herself, and saved Jean Jacques as well. It was not quite to Jean Jacques' credit that he did not set this error right, and tell the world the whole exact truth.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Air of certainty and universal comprehension Always calling to something, for something outside ourselves Came of a race who set great store by mothers and grandmothers Grove of pines to give a sense of warmth in winter Grow more intense, more convinced, more thorough, as they talk He admired, yet he wished to be admired Inclined to resent his own insignificance Lyrical in his enthusiasms No man so simply sincere, or so extraordinarily prejudiced Of those who hypnotize themselves, who glow with self-creation Spurting out little geysers of other people's cheap wisdom Untamed by the normal restraints of a happy married life



THE MONEY MASTER

By Gilbert Parker



EPOCH THE SECOND

IV. THIRTEEN YEARS AFTER AND THE CLERK OF THE COURT TELLS A STORY V. THE CLERK OF THE COURT ENDS HIS STORY VI. JEAN JACQUES HAD HAD A GREAT DAY VII. JEAN JACQUES AWAKES FROM SLEEP VIII. THE GATE IN THE WALL IX. "MOI-JE SUIS PHILOSOPHE" X. "QUIEN SABE"—WHO KNOWS! XI. THE CLERK OF THE COURT KEEPS A PROMISE XII. THE MASTER-CARPENTER HAS A PROBLEM



CHAPTER IV

THIRTEEN YEARS AFTER AND THE CLERK OF THE COURT TELLS A STORY

It was hard to say which was the more important person in the parish, the New Cure or M'sieu' Jean Jacques Barbille. When the Old Cure was alive Jean Jacques was a lesser light, and he accepted his degree of illumination with content. But when Pere Langon was gathered to his fathers, and thousands had turned away from the graveyard, where he who had baptised them, confirmed them, blessed them, comforted them, and firmly led them was laid to rest, they did not turn at once to his successor with confidence and affection. The new cure, M. Savry, was young; the Old Cure had lived to be eighty-five, bearing wherever he went a lamp of wisdom at which the people lighted their small souls. The New Cure could command their obedience, but he could not command their love and confidence until he had earned them.

So it was that, for a time, Jean Jacques took the place of the Old Cure in the human side of the life of the district, though in a vastly lesser degree. Up to the death of M. Langon, Jean Jacques had done very well in life, as things go in out-of-the-way places of the world. His mill, which ground good flour, brought him increasing pence; his saw-mill more than paid its way; his farms made a small profit, in spite of a cousin who worked one on halves, but who had a spendthrift wife; the ash-factory which his own initiative had started made no money, but the loss was only small; and he had even made profit out of his lime-kilns, although Sebastian Dolores, Carmen's father, had at one time mismanaged them—but of that anon. Jean Jacques himself managed the business of money-lending and horse-dealing; and he also was agent for fire insurance and a dealer in lightning rods.

In the thirteen years since he married he had been able to keep a good many irons in the fire, and also keep them more or less hot. Many people in his and neighbouring parishes were indebted to him, and it was worth their while to stand well with him. If he insisted on debts being paid, he was never exacting or cruel. If he lent money, he never demanded more than eight per cent.; and he never pressed his debtors unduly. His cheerfulness seldom deserted him, and he was notably kind to the poor. Not seldom in the winter time a poor man, here and there in the parish, would find dumped down outside his door in the early morning a half-cord of wood or a bag of flour.

It could not be said that Jean Jacques did not enjoy his own generosity. His vanity, however, did not come from an increasing admiration of his own personal appearance, a weakness which often belongs to middle age; but from the study of his so-called philosophy, which in time became an obsession with him. In vain the occasional college professors, who spent summer months at St. Saviour's, sought to interest him in science and history, for his philosophy had large areas of boredom; but science marched over too jagged a road for his tender intellectual feet; the wild places where it led dismayed him. History also meant numberless dates and facts. Perhaps he could have managed the dates, for he was quick at figures, but the facts were like bees in their hive,—he could scarcely tell one from another by looking at them.

So it was that Jean Jacques kept turning his eyes, as he thought, to the everlasting meaning of things, to "the laws of Life and the decrees of Destiny." He was one of those who had found, as he thought, what he could do, and was sensible enough to do it. Let the poor fellows, who gave themselves to science, trouble their twisted minds with trigonometry and the formula of some grotesque chemical combination; let the dull people rub their noses in the ink of Greek and Latin, which was no use for everyday consumption; let the heads of historians ache with the warring facts of the lives of nations; it all made for sleep. But philosophy—ah, there was a field where a man could always use knowledge got from books or sorted out of his own experiences!

It happened, therefore, that Jean Jacques, who not too vaguely realized that there was reputation to be got from being thought a philosopher, always carried about with him his little compendium from the quay at Quebec, which he had brought ashore inside his redflannel shirt, with the antique silver watch, when the Antoine went down.

Thus also it was that when a lawyer in court at Vilray, four miles from St. Saviour's, asked him one day, when he stepped into the witness-box, what he was, meaning what was his occupation, his reply was, "Moi-je suis M'sieu' Jean Jacques, philosophe—(Me—I am M'sieu' Jean Jacques, philosopher)."

A little later outside the court-house, the Judge who had tried the case —M. Carcasson—said to the Clerk of the Court:

"A curious, interesting little man, that Monsieur Jean Jacques. What's his history?"

"A character, a character, monsieur le juge," was the reply of M. Amand Fille. "His family has been here since Frontenac's time. He is a figure in the district, with a hand in everything. He does enough foolish things to ruin any man, yet swims along—swims along. He has many kinds of business—mills, stores, farms, lime-kilns, and all that, and keeps them all going; and as if he hadn't enough to do, and wasn't risking enough, he's now organizing a cheese-factory on the co-operative principle, as in Upper Canada among the English."

"He has a touch of originality, that's sure," was the reply of the Judge.

The Clerk of the Court nodded and sighed. "Monseigneur Giron of Laval, the greatest scholar in Quebec, he said to me once that M'sieu' Jean Jacques missed being a genius by an inch. But, monsieur le juge, not to have that inch is worse than to be an ignoramus."

Judge Carcasson nodded. "Ah, surely! Your Jean Jacques lacks a balance- wheel. He has brains, but not enough. He has vision, but it is not steady; he has argument, but it breaks down just where it should be most cohesive. He interested me. I took note of every turn of his mind as he gave evidence. He will go on for a time, pulling his strings, doing this and doing that, and then, all at once, when he has got a train of complications, his brain will not be big enough to see the way out. Tell me, has he a balance-wheel in his home—a sensible wife, perhaps?"

The Clerk of the Court shook his head mournfully and seemed to hesitate. Then he said, "Comme ci, comme ca—but no, I will speak the truth about it. She is a Spaniard—the Spanische she is called by the neighbours. I will tell you all about that, and you will wonder that he has carried on as well as he has, with his vanity and his philosophy."

"He'll have need of his philosophy before he's done, or I don't know human nature; he'll get a bad fall one of these days," responded the Judge. "'Moi-je suis M'sieu' Jean Jacques, philosophe'—that is what he said. Bumptious little man, and yet—and yet there's something in him. There's a sense of things which everyone doesn't have—a glimmer of life beyond his own orbit, a catching at the biggest elements of being, a hovering on the confines of deep understanding, as it were. Somehow I feel almost sorry for him, though he annoyed me while he was in the witness-box, in spite of myself. He was as the English say, so 'damn sure.'"

"So damn sure always," agreed the Clerk of the Court, with a sense of pleasure that his great man, this wonderful aged little judge, should have shown himself so human as to use such a phrase.

"But, no doubt, the sureness has been a good servant in his business," returned the Judge. "Confidence in a weak world gets unearned profit often. But tell me about his wife—the Spanische. Tell me the how and why, and everything. I'd like to trace our little money-man wise to his source."

Again M. Fille was sensibly agitated. "She is handsome, and she has great, good gifts when she likes to use them," he answered. "She can do as much in an hour as most women can do in two; but then she will not keep at it. Her life is but fits and starts. Yet she has a good head for business, yes, very good. She can see through things. Still, there it is—she will not hold fast from day to day."

"Yes, yes, but where did she come from? What was the field where she grew?"

"To be sure, monsieur. It was like this," responded the other.

Thereupon M. Fille proceeded to tell the history, musical with legend, of Jean Jacques' Grand Tour, of the wreck of the Antoine, of the marriage of the "seigneur," the home-coming, and the life that followed, so far as rumour, observation, and a mind with a gift for narrative, which was not to be incomplete for lack of imagination, could make it. It was only when he offered his own reflections on Carmen Dolores, now Carmen Barbille, and on women generally, that Judge Carcasson pulled him up.

"So, so, I see. She has temperament and so on, but she's unsteady, and regarded by her neighbours not quite as one that belongs. Bah, the conceit of every race! They are all the same. The English are the worst—as though the good God was English. But the child—so beautiful, you say, and yet more like the father than the mother. He is not handsome, that Jean Jacques, but I can understand that the little one should be like him and yet beautiful too. I should like to see the child."

Suddenly the Clerk of the Court stopped and touched the arm of his distinguished friend and patron. "That is very easy, monsieur," he said eagerly, "for there she is in the red wagon yonder, waiting for her father. She adores him, and that makes trouble sometimes. Then the mother gets fits, and makes things hard at the Manor Cartier. It is not all a bed of roses for our Jean Jacques. But there it is. He is very busy all the time. Something doing always, never still, except when you will find him by the road-side, or in a tavern with all the people round him, talking, jesting, and he himself going into a trance with his book of philosophy. It is very strange that everlasting going, going, going, and yet that love of his book. I sometimes think it is all pretence, and that he is all vanity—or almost so. Heaven forgive me for my want of charity!"

The little round judge cocked his head astutely. "But you say he is kind to the poor, that he does not treat men hardly who are in debt to him, and that he will take his coat off his back to give to a tramp—is it so?"

"As so, as so, monsieur."

"Then he is not all vanity, and because of that he will feel the blow when it comes—alas, so much he will feel it!"

"What blow, monsieur le juge?—but ah, look, monsieur!" He pointed eagerly. "There she is, going to the red wagon—Madame Jean Jacques. Is she not a figure of a woman? See the walk of her—is it not distinguished? She is half a hand-breadth taller than Jean Jacques. And her face, most sure it is a face to see. If Jean Jacques was not so busy with his farms and his mills and his kilns and his usury, he would see what a woman he has got. It is his good fortune that she has such sense in business. When Jean Jacques listens to her, he goes right. She herself did not want her father to manage the lime-kilns—the old Sebastian Dolores. She was for him staying at Mirimachi, where he kept the books of the lumber firm. But no, Jean Jacques said that he could make her happy by having her father near her, and he would not believe she meant what she said. He does not understand her; that is the trouble. He knows as much of women or men as I know of—"

"Of the law—hein?" laughed the great man.

"Monsieur—ah, that is your little joke! I laugh, yes, but I laugh," responded the Clerk of the Court a little uncertainly. "Now once when she told him that the lime-kilns—"

The Judge, who had retraced his steps down the street of the town—it was little more than a large village, but because it had a court-house and a marketplace it was called a town—that he might have a good look at Madame Jean Jacques and her child before he passed them, suddenly said:

"How is it you know so much about it all, Maitre Fille—as to what she says and of the inner secrets of the household? Ah, ha, my little Lothario, I have caught you—a bachelor too, with time on his hands, and the right side of seventy as well! The evidence you have given of a close knowledge of the household of our Jean Jacques does not have its basis in hearsay, but in acute personal observation. Tut-tut! Fie-fie! my little gay Clerk of the Court. Fie! Fie!"

M. Fille was greatly disconcerted. He had never been a Lothario. In forty years he had never had an episode with one of "the other sex," but it was not because he was impervious to the softer emotions. An intolerable shyness had ever possessed him when in the presence of women, and even small girl children had frightened him, till he had made friends with little Zoe Barbille, the daughter of Jean Jacques. Yet even with Zoe, who was so simple and companionable and the very soul of childish confidence, he used to blush and falter till she made him talk. Then he became composed, and his tongue was like a running stream, and on that stream any craft could sail. On it he became at ease with madame the Spanische, and he even went so far as to look her full in the eyes on more than one occasion.

"Answer me—ah, you cannot answer!" teasingly added the Judge, who loved his Clerk of the Court, and had great amusement out of his discomfiture. "You are convicted. At an age when a man should be settling down, you are gallivanting with the wife of a philosopher."

"Monsieur—monsieur le juge!" protested M. Fille with slowly heightening colour. "I am innocent, yes, altogether. There is nothing, believe me. It is the child, the little Zoe—but a maid of charm and kindness. She brings me cakes and the toffy made by her own hands; and if I go to the Manor Cartier, as I often do, it is to be polite and neighbourly. If Madame says things to me, and if I see what I see, and hear what I hear, it is no crime; it is no misdemeanour; it is within the law—the perfect law."

Suddenly the Judge linked his arm within that of the other, for he also was little, and he was fat and round and ruddy, and even smaller than M. Fille, who was thin, angular and pale.

"Ah, my little Confucius," he said gently, "have you seen and heard me so seldom that you do not know me yet, or what I really think? Of course it is within the law—the perfect law—to visit at m'sieu' the philosopher's house and talk at length also to m'sieu' the philosopher's wife; while to make the position regular by friendship with the philosopher's child is a wisdom which I can only ascribe to"—his voice was charged with humour and malicious badinage "to an extended acquaintance with the devices of human nature, as seen in those episodes of the courts with which you have been long familiar."

"Oh, monsieur, dear monsieur!" protested the Clerk of the Court, "you always make me your butt."

"My friend," said the Judge, squeezing his arm, "if I could have you no other way, I would make you my butler!"

Then they both laughed at the inexpensive joke, and the Clerk of the Court was in high spirits, for on either side of the street were people with whom he lived every day, and they could see the doyen of the Bench, the great Judge Carcasson, who had refused to be knighted, arm in arm with him. Aye, and better than all, and more than all, here was Zoe Barbille drawing her mother's attention to him almost in the embrace of the magnificent jurist.

The Judge, with his small, round, quizzical eyes which missed nothing, saw too; and his attention was strangely arrested by the faces of both the mother and the child. His first glance at the woman's face made him flash an inward light on the memory of Jean Jacques' face in the witness- box, and a look of reflective irony came into his own. The face of Carmen Dolores, wife of the philosophic miller and money-master, did not belong to the world where she was placed—not because she was so unlike the habitant women, or even the wives of the big farmers, or the sister of the Cure, or the ladies of the military and commercial exiles who lived in that portion of the province; but because of an alien something in her look—a lonely, distant sense of isolation, a something which might hide a companionship and sympathy of a rare kind, or might be but the mask of a furtive, soulless nature. In the child's face was nothing of this. It was open as the day, bright with the cheerfulness of her father's countenance, alive with a humour which that countenance did not possess. The contour was like that of Jean Jacques, but with a fineness and delicacy to its fulness absent from his own; and her eyes were a deep and lustrous brown, under a forehead which had a boldness of gentle dignity possessed by neither father nor mother. Her hair was thick, brown and very full, like that of her father, and in all respects, save one, she had an advantage over both her parents. Her mouth had a sweetness which might not unfairly be called weakness, though that was balanced by a chin of commendable strength.

But the Judge's eyes found at once this vulnerable point in her character as he had found that of her mother. Delightful the child was, and alert and companionable, with no remarkable gifts, but with a rare charm and sympathy. Her face was the mirror of her mind, and it had no ulterior thought. Her mother's face, the Judge had noted, was the foreground of a landscape which had lonely shadows. It was a face of some distinction and suited to surroundings more notable, though the rural life Carmen had led since the Antoine went down and her fortunes came up, had coarsened her beauty a very little.

"There's something stirring in the coverts," said the Judge to himself as he was introduced to the mother and child. By a hasty gesture Zoe gave a command to M. Fille to help her down. With a hand on his shoulder she dropped to the ground. Her object was at once apparent. She made a pretty old-fashioned curtsey to the Judge, then held out her hand, as though to reassert her democratic equality.

As the Judge looked at Madame Barbille, he was involuntarily, but none the less industriously, noting her characteristics; and the sum of his reflections, after a few moments' talk, was that dangers he had seen ahead of Jean Jacques, would not be averted by his wife, indeed might easily have their origin in her.

"I wonder it has gone on as long as it has," he said to himself; though it seemed unreasonable that his few moments with her, and the story told him by the Clerk of the Court, should enable him to come to any definite conclusion. But at eighty-odd Judge Carcasson was a Solon and a Solomon in one. He had seen life from all angles, and he was not prepared to give any virtue or the possession of any virtue too much rope; while nothing in life surprised him.

"How would you like to be a judge?" he asked of Zoe, suddenly taking her hand in his. A kinship had been at once established between them, so little has age, position, and intellect to do with the natural gravitations of human nature.

She did not answer direct, and that pleased him. "If I were a judge I should have no jails," she said. "What would you do with the bad people?" he asked.

"I would put them alone on a desert island, or out at sea in a little boat, or out on the prairies without a horse, so that they'd have to work for their lives."

"Oh, I see! If M. Fille here set fire to a house, you would drop him on the prairie far away from everything and everybody and let him 'root hog or die'?"

"Don't you think it would kill him or cure him?" she asked whimsically.

The Judge laughed, his eyes twinkling. "That's what they did when the world was young, dear ma'm'selle. There was no time to build jails. Alone on the prairie—a separate prairie for every criminal—that would take a lot of space; but the idea is all right. It mightn't provide the proper degree of punishment, however. But that is being too particular. Alone on the prairie for punishment—well, I should like to see it tried."

He remembered that saying of his long after, while yet he was alive, and a tale came to him from the prairies which made his eyes turn more intently towards a land that is far off, where the miserable miscalculations and mistakes of this world are readjusted. Now he was only conscious of a primitive imagination looking out of a young girl's face, and making a bridge between her understanding and his own.

"What else would you do if you were a judge?" he asked presently.

"I would make my father be a miller," she replied. "But he is a miller, I hear."

"But he is so many other things—so many. If he was only a miller we should have more of him. He is at home only a little. If I get up early enough in the morning, or if I am let stay up at night late enough, I see him; but that is not enough—is it, mother?" she added with a sudden sense that she had gone too far, that she ought not to say this perhaps.

The woman's face had darkened for an instant, and irritation showed in her eyes, but by an effort of the will she controlled herself.

"Your father knows best what he can do and can't do," she said evenly.

"But you would not let a man judge for himself, would you, ma'm'selle?" asked the old inquisitor. "You would judge for the man what was best for him to do?"

"I would judge for my father," she replied. "He is too good a man to judge for himself."

"Well, there's a lot of sense in that, ma'm'selle philosophe," answered Judge Carcasson. "You would make the good idle, and make the bad work. The good you would put in a mill to watch the stones grind, and the bad you would put on a prairie alone to make the grist for the grinding. Ma'm'selle, we must be friends—is it not so?"

"Haven't we always been friends?" the young girl asked with the look of a visionary suddenly springing up in her eyes.

Here was temperament indeed. She pleased Judge Carcasson greatly. "But yes, always, and always, and always," he replied. Inwardly he said to himself, "I did not see that at first. It is her father in her.

"Zoe!" said her mother reprovingly.



CHAPTER V

THE CLERK OF THE COURT ENDS HIS STORY

A moment afterwards the Judge, as he walked down the street still arm in arm with the Clerk of the Court, said: "That child must have good luck, or she will not have her share of happiness. She has depths that are not deep enough." Presently he added, "Tell me, my Clerk, the man—Jean Jacques—he is so much away—has there never been any talk about—about."

"About—monsieur le juge?" asked M. Fille rather stiffly. "For instance —about what?"

"For instance, about a man—not Jean Jacques."

The lips of the Clerk of the Court tightened. "Never at any time—till now, monsieur le juge."

"Ah—till now!"

The Clerk of the Court blushed. What he was about to say was difficult, but he alone of all the world guessed at the tragedy which was hovering over Jean Jacques' home. By chance he had seen something on an afternoon of three days before, and he had fled from it as a child would fly from a demon. He was a purist at law, but he was a purist in life also, and not because the flush of youth had gone and his feet were on the path which leads into the autumn of a man's days. The thing he had seen had been terribly on his mind, and he had felt that his own judgment was not sufficient for the situation, that he ought to tell someone.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse