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- The Money Master, Volume 1. - 3/6 -
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
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