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- The Money Master, Volume 1. - 5/6 -


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 Money Master, Volume 1. - 5/6

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