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- The Money Master, Volume 2. - 5/15 -


The Judge reflected a moment, then said: "Tonight would be better, but--"

"I can do it better to-morrow morning," interposed M. Fille, "for George Masson has a meeting here at Vilray with the avocat Prideaux at ten o'clock to sign a contract, and I can ask him to step into my office on a little affair of business. He will not guess, and I shall be armed"--the Judge frowned--"with the book of the law on such misdemeanours, and the figures of the damages,"--the Judge smiled--"and I think perhaps I can frighten him as he has never been frightened before."

A courage and confidence had now taken possession of the Clerk in strange contrast to his timidity and childlike manner of a few minutes before. He was now as he appeared in court, clothed with an austere authority which gave him a vicarious strength and dignity. The Judge had done his work well, and he was of those folk in the world who are not content to do even the smallest thing ill.

Arm in arm they passed into the garden which fronted the vine-covered house, where Maitre Fille lived alone with his sister, a tiny edition of himself, who whispered and smiled her way through life.

She smiled and whispered now in welcome to the Judge; and as she did so, the three saw Jean Jacques, laughing, and cracking his whip, drive past with his daughter beside him, chirruping to the horses; while, moody and abstracted, his wife sat silent on the backseat of the red wagon.

CHAPTER VI

JEAN JACQUES HAD HAD A GREAT DAY

Jean Jacques was in great good humour as he drove away to the Manor Cartier. The day, which was not yet aged, had been satisfactory from every point of view. He had impressed the Court, he had got a chance to pose in the witness-box; he had been able to repeat in evidence the numerous businesses in which he was engaged; had referred to his acquaintance with the Lieutenant-Governor and a Cardinal; to his Grand Tour (this had been hard to do in the cross-examination to which he was subjected, but he had done it); and had been able to say at the very start in reply as to what was his occupation--"Moi je suis M'sieu' Jean Jacques, philosophe."

Also he had, during the day, collected a debt long since wiped off his books; he had traded a poor horse for a good cow; he had bought all the wheat of a Vilray farmer below market-price, because the poor fellow needed ready money; he had issued an insurance policy; his wife and daughter had conversed in the public streets with the great judge who was the doyen of the provincial Bench; and his daughter had been kissed by the same judge in the presence of at least a dozen people. He was, in fact, very proud of his Carmen and his Carmencita, as he called the two who sat in the red wagon sharing his glory--so proud that he did not extol them to others; and he was quite sure they were both very proud of him. The world saw what his prizes of life were, and there was no need to praise or brag. Dignity and pride were both sustained by silence and a wave of the hand, which in fact said to the world, "Look you, my masters, they belong to Jean Jacques. Take heed."

There his domestic scheme practically ended. He was so busy that he took his joys by snatches, in moments of suspension of actual life, as it were. His real life was in the eddy of his many interests, in the field of his superficial culture, in the eyes of the world. The worst of him was on the surface. He showed what other men hid, that was all. Their vanity was concealed, he wore it in his cap. They put on a manner as they put on their clothes, and wore it out in the world, or took it off in their own homes-behind the door of life; but he was the same vain, frank, cocksure fellow in his home as in the street. There was no difference at all. He was vain, but he had no conceit; and therefore he did not deceive, and was not tyrannous or dictatorial; in truth, if you but estimated him at his own value, he was the least insistent man alive. Many a debtor knew this; and, by asking Jean Jacques' advice, making an appeal to his logic, as it were--and it was always worth listening to, even when wrong or sadly obvious, because of the glow with which he declared things this or that--found his situation immediately eased. Many a hard-up countryman, casting about for a five-dollar bill, could get it of Jean Jacques by telling him what agreeable thing some important person had said about him; or by writing to a great newspaper in Montreal a letter, saying that the next candidate for the provincial legislature should be M. Jean Jacques Barbille, of St. Saviour's. This never failed to draw a substantial "bill" from the wad which Jean Jacques always carried in his pocket-loose, not tied up in a leather roll, as so many lesser men freighted the burdens of their wealth.

He had changed since the day he left Bordeaux on the Antoine; since he had first caught the flash of interest in Carmen Dolores' eyes--an interest roused from his likeness to a conspirator who had been shot for his country's good. He was no stouter in body, for he was of the kind that wear away the flesh by much doing and thinking; but there were occasional streaks of grey in his bushy hair, and his eye roamed less than it did once. In the days when he first brought Carmen home, his eye was like a bead of brown light on a swivel. It flickered and flamed; it saw here, saw there; it twinkled, and it pierced into life's mysteries; and all the while it was a good eye. Its whites never showed, as it were. As an animal, his eye showed a nature free from vice. In some respects he was easy to live with, for he never found fault with what was given him to eat, or the way the house was managed; and he never interfered with the "kitchen people," or refused a dollar or ten dollars to Carmen for finery. In fact, he was in a sense too lavish, for he used at one time to bring her home presents of silks and clothes and toilet things and stockings and hats, which were not in accord with her taste, and only vexed her. Indeed, she resented wearing them, and could hardly bring herself to thank him for them. At last, however, she induced him to let her buy what she wanted with the presents of money which he might give her.

On the whole Carmen fared pretty well, for he would sometimes give her a handful of bills from his pocket, bidding her take ten dollars, and she would coolly take twenty, while he shrugged his shoulders and declared she would be his ruin. He had never repented of marrying her, in spite of the fact that she did not always keep house as his mother and grandmother had kept it; that she was gravely remiss in going to mass; and that she quarrelled with more than one of her neighbours, who had an idea that Spain was an inferior country because it was south of France, just as the habitants regarded the United States as a low and inferior country because it was south of Quebec. You went north towards heaven and south towards hell, in their view; but when they went so far as to patronize or slander Carmen, she drove her verbal stilettos home without a button; so that on one occasion there would have been a law-suit for libel if the Old Cure had not intervened. To Jean Jacques' credit, be it said, he took his wife's part on this occasion, though in his heart he knew that she was in the wrong.

He certainly was not always in the right himself. If he had been told that he neglected his wife he would have been justly indignant. Also, it never occurred to him that a woman did not always want to talk philosophy or discuss the price of wheat or the cost of flour-barrels; and that for a man to be stupidly and foolishly fond was dearer to a woman than anything else. How should he know--yet he ought to have done so, if he really was a philosopher--that a woman would want the cleverest man in the world to be a boy and play the fool sometimes; that she would rather, if she was a healthy woman, go to a circus than to a revelation of the mysteries of the mind from an altar of culture, if her own beloved man was with her.

Carmen had been left too much alone, as M. Fille had said to Judge Carcasson. Her spirits had moments of great dullness, when she was ready to fling herself into the river--or the arms of the schoolmaster or the farrier. When she first came to St. Saviour's, the necessity of adapting herself to the new conditions, of keeping faith with herself, which she had planned on the Antoine, and making a good wife to the man who was to solve all her problems for her, prevailed. She did not at first miss so much the life of excitement, of danger, of intrigue, of romance, of colour and variety, which she had left behind in Spain. When her child was born, she became passionately fond of it; her maternal spirit smothered it. It gave the needed excitement in the routine of life at St. Saviour's.

Yet the interest was not permanent. There came a time when she resented the fact that Jean Jacques made more of the child than he did of herself. That was a bad day for all concerned, for dissimulation presently became necessary, and the home of Jean Jacques was a home of mystery which no philosophy could interpret. There had never been but the one child. She was not less handsome than when Jean Jacques married her and brought her home, though the bloom of maiden youthfulness was no longer there; and she certainly was a cut far above the habitant women or even the others of a higher social class, in a circle which had an area equal to a principality in Europe.

The old cure, M. Langon, had had much influence over her, for few could resist the amazing personal influence which his rare pure soul secured over the worst. It was a sad day to her when he went to his long home; and inwardly she felt a greater loss than she had ever felt, save that once when her Carvillho Gonzales went the way of the traitor. Memories of her past life far behind in Madrid did not grow fainter; indeed, they grew more distinct as the years went on. They seemed to vivify, as her discontent and restlessness grew.

Once, when there had come to St. Saviour's a middle-aged baron from Paris who had heard the fishing was good at St. Saviour's, and talked to her of Madrid and Barcelona, of Cordova and Toledo, as one who had seen and known and (he declared) loved them; who painted for her in splashing impressionist pictures the life that still eddied in the plazas and dreamed in the patios, she had been almost carried off her feet with longing; and she nearly gave that longing an expression which would have brought a tragedy, while still her Zoe was only eight years old. But M. Langon, the wise priest whose eyes saw and whose heart understood, had intervened in time; and she never knew that the sudden disappearance of the Baron, who still owed fifty dollars to Jean Jacques, was due to the practical wisdom of a great soul which had worked out its own destiny in a little back garden of the world.

When this good priest was alive she felt she had a friend who was as large of heart as he was just, and who would not scorn the fool according to his folly, or chastise the erring after his deserts. In his greatness of soul Pere Langon had shut his eyes to things that pained him more than they shocked him, for he had seen life in its most various and demoralized forms, and indeed had had his own temptations when he lived in Belgium and France, before he had finally decided to become a priest. He had protected Carmen with a quiet persistency since her first day in the parish, and had had a saving influence over her. Pere Langon reproved those who criticized her and even slandered her, for it was evident to all that she would rather have men talk to her than women; and any summer visitor who came to fish, gave her an attention never given even to the youngest and brightest in the district; and the eyes of the habitant lass can be very bright at twenty. Yet whatever Carmen's coquetry and her sport with fire had been, her own emotions had never been really involved till now.

The new cure, M. Savry, would have said they were involved now because


The Money Master, Volume 2. - 5/15

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