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- The Money Master, Volume 1. - 4/6 -


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--


The Money Master, Volume 1. - 4/6

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