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- The Money Master, Volume 2. - 6/15 -
she never came to confession, and indeed, since the Old Cure died, she had seldom gone to mass. Yet when, with accumulated reproof on his tongue, M. Savry did come to the Manor Cartier, he felt the inherent supremacy of beauty, not the less commanding because it had not the refinement of the duchess or the margravine.
Once M. Savry ventured to do what the Old Cure would never have done--he spoke to Jean Jacques concerning Carmen's neglect of mass and confession, and he received a rebuff which was almost au seigneur; for in Jean Jacques' eyes he was now the figure in St. Saviour's; and this was an occasion when he could assert his position as premier of the secular world outside the walls of the parish church. He did it in good style for a man who had had no particular training in the social arts.
This is how he did it and what he said:
"There have been times when I myself have thought it would be a good thing to have a rest from the duties of a Catholic, m'sieu' le cure," he remarked to M. Savry, when the latter had ended his criticism. He said it with an air of conflict, and with full intent to make his supremacy complete.
"No Catholic should speak like that," returned the shocked priest.
"No priest should speak to me as you have done," rejoined Jean Jacques. "What do you know of the reasons for the abstention of madame? The soul must enjoy rest as well as the body, and madame has a--mind which can judge for itself. I have a body that is always going, and it gets too little rest, and that keeps my soul in a flutter too. It must be getting to mass and getting to confession, and saying aves and doing penance, it is such a busy little soul of mine; but we are not all alike, and madame's body goes in a more stately way. I am like a comet, she is like the sun steady, steady, round and round, with plenty of sleep and the comfortable darkness. Sometimes madame goes hard; so does the sun in summer-shines, shines, shines like a furnace. Madame's body goes like that--at the dairy, in the garden, with the loom, among the fowls, growing her strawberries, keeping the women at the beating of the flax; and then again it is all still and idle like the sun on a cloudy day; and it rests. So it is with the human soul--I am a philosopher--I think the soul goes hard the same as the body, churning, churning away in the heat of the sun; and then it gets quiet and goes to sleep in the cloudy day, when the body is sick of its bouncing, and it has a rest--the soul has a rest, which is good for it, m'sieu'. I have worked it all out so. Besides, the soul of madame is her own. I have not made any claim upon it, and I will not expect you to do more, m'sieu' le cure."
"It is my duty to speak," protested the good priest. "Her soul is God's, and I am God's vicar--"
Jean Jacques waved a hand. "T'sh, you are not the Pope. You are not even an abbe. You were only a deacon a few years ago. You did not know how to hold a baby for the christening when you came to St. Saviour's first. For the mass, you have some right to speak; it is your duty perhaps; but the confession, that is another thing; that is the will of every soul to do or not to do. What do you know of a woman's soul-well, perhaps, you know what they have told you; but madame's soul--"
"Madame has never been to confession to me," interjected M. Savry indignantly. Jean Jacques chuckled. He had his New Cure now for sure.
"Confession is for those who have sinned. Is it that you say one must go to confession, and in order to go to confession it is needful to sin?"
M. Savry shivered with pious indignation. He had a sudden desire to rend this philosophic Catholic--to put him under the thumb-screw for the glory of the Lord, and to justify the Church; but the little Catholic miller- magnate gave freely to St. Saviour's; he was popular; he had a position; he was good to the poor; and every Christmas-time he sent a half-dozen bags of flour to the presbytery!
All Pere Savry ventured to say in reply was: "Upon your head be it, M. Jean Jacques. I have done my duty. I shall hope to see madame at mass next Sunday."
Jean Jacques had chuckled over that episode, for he had conquered; he had shown M. Savry that he was master in his own household and outside it. That much his philosophy had done for him. No other man in the parish would have dared to speak to the Cure like that. He had never scolded Carmen when she had not gone to church. Besides, there was Carmen's little daughter always at his side at mass; and Carmen always insisted on Zoe going with him, and even seemed anxious for them to be off at the first sound of the bells of St. Saviour's. Their souls were busy, hers wanted rest; that was clear. He was glad he had worked it out so cleverly to the Cure--and to his own mind. His philosophy surely had vindicated itself.
But Jean Jacques was far from thinking of these things as he drove back from Vilray and from his episode in Court to the Manor Cartier. He was indeed just praising himself, his wife, his child, and everything that belonged to him. He was planning, planning, as he talked, the new things to do--the cheese-factory, the purchase of a steam-plough and a steam- thresher which he could hire out to his neighbours. Only once during the drive did he turn round to Carmen, and then it was to ask her if she had seen her father of late.
"Not for ten months," was her reply. "Why do you ask?"
"Wouldn't he like to be nearer you and Zoe? It's twelve miles to Beauharnais," he replied.
"Are you thinking of offering him another place at the Manor?" she asked sharply.
"Well, there is the new cheese-factory--not to manage, but to keep the books! He's doing them all right for the lumber-firm. I hear that he--"
"I don't want it. No good comes from relatives working together. Look at the Latouche farm where your cousin makes his mess. My father is well enough where he is."
"But you'd like to see him oftener--I was only thinking of that," said Jean Jacques in a mollifying voice. It was the kind of thing in which he showed at once the weakness and the kindness of his nature. He was in fact not a philosopher, but a sentimentalist.
"If mother doesn't think it's sensible, why do it, father?" asked Zoe anxiously, looking up into her father's face.
She had seen the look in her mother's eyes, and also she had no love for her grandfather. Her instinct had at one time wavered regarding him; but she had seen an incident with a vanished female cook, and though she had not understood, a prejudice had been created in her mind. She was always contrasting him with M. Fille, who, to her mind, was what a grandfather ought to be.
"I won't have him beholden to you," said Carmen, almost passionately.
"He is of my family," said Jean Jacques firmly and chivalrously. "There is no question of being beholden."
"Let well enough alone," was the gloomy reply. With a sigh, Jean Jacques turned back to the study of the road before him, to gossip with Zoe, and to keep on planning subconsciously the new things he must do.
Carmen sighed too, or rather she gave a gasp of agitation and annoyance. Her father? She had lost whatever illusion once existed regarding him. For years he had clung to her--to her pocket. He was given to drinking in past years, and he still had his sprees. Like the rest of the world, she had not in earlier years seen the furtiveness in his handsome face; but at last, as his natural viciousness became stereotyped, and bad habits matured and emphasized, she saw beneath his mask of low-class comeliness. When at last she had found it necessary to dismiss the best cook she ever had, because of him, they saw little of each other. This was coincident with his failure at the ash-factory, where he mismanaged and even robbed Jean Jacques right and left; and she had firmly insisted on Jean Jacques evicting him, on the ground that it was not Sebastian Dolores' bent to manage a business.
This little episode, as they drove home from Vilray, had an unreasonable effect upon her.
It was like the touch of a finger which launches a boat balancing in the ways onto the deep. It tossed her on a sea of agitation. She was swept away on a flood of morbid reflection.
Her husband and her daughter, laughing and talking in the front seat of the red wagon, seemed quite oblivious of her, and if ever there was a time when their influence was needed it was now. George Masson was coming over late this afternoon to inspect the work he had been doing; and she was trembling with an agitation which, however, did not show upon the surface. She had not seen him for two days--since the day after the Clerk of the Court had discovered her in the arms of a man who was not her husband; but he was coming this evening, and he was coming to-morrow for the last time; for the repair work on the flume of the dam would all be finished then.
But would the work he had been doing all be finished then? As she thought of that incident of three days ago and of its repetition on the following day, she remembered what he had said to her as she snatched herself almost violently from his arms, in a sudden access of remorse. He had said that it had to be, that there was no escape now; and at his words she had felt every pulse in her body throbbing, every vein expanding with a hot life which thrilled and tortured her. Life had been so meagre and so dull, and the man who had worshipped her on the Antoine now worshipped himself only, and also Zoe, the child, maybe; or so she thought; while the man who had once possessed her whole mind and whole heart, and never her body, back there in Spain, he, Carvillho Gonzales, would have loved her to the end, in scenes where life had colour and passion and danger and delightful movement.
She was one of those happy mortals who believe that the dead and gone lover was perfect, and that in losing him she was losing all that life had in store; but the bare, hard truth was that her Gonzales could have been true neither to her nor to any woman in the world for longer than one lingering year, perhaps one lunar month. It did not console her-- she did not think of it-that the little man on the seat of the red wagon, chirruping with their daughter, had been, would always be, true to her. Of what good was fidelity if he that was faithful desired no longer as he once did?
A keen observer would have seen in the glowing, unrestful look, in the hot cheek, in the interlacing fingers, that a contest was going on in the woman's soul, as she drove homeward with all that was her own in the world. The laughter of her husband and child grated painfully on her ears. Why should they be mirthful while her life was being swept by a storm of doubt, temptation, and dark passion? Why was it?
Yet she smiled at Jean Jacques when he lifted her down from the red wagon at the door of the Manor Cartier, even though he lifted his daughter down first.
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