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- The Money Master, Volume 3. - 1/8 -


By Gilbert Parker





"Oh, who will walk the wood with me, I fear to walk alone; So young am I, as you may see; No dangers have I known. So young, so small--ah, yes, m'sieu', I'll walk the wood with you!"

In the last note of the song applause came instantaneously, almost impatiently, as it might seem. With cries of "Encore! Encore!" it lasted some time, while the happy singer looked around with frank pleasure on the little group encircling her in the Manor Cartier.

"Did you like it so much?" she asked in a general way, and not looking at any particular person. A particular person, however, replied, and she had addressed the question to him, although not looking at him. He was the Man from Outside, and he sat near the bright wood-fire; for though it was almost June the night was cool and he was delicate.

"Ah, but splendid, but splendid--it got into every corner of every one of us," the Man from Outside responded, speaking his fluent French with a slight English accent, which had a pleasant piquancy--at least to the ears of the pretty singer, Mdlle. Zoe Barbille. He was a man of about thirty-three, clean-shaven, dark-haired, with an expression of cleverness; yet with an irresponsible something about him which M. Fille had reflected upon with concern. For this slim, eager, talkative, half- invalid visitor to St. Saviour's had of late shown a marked liking for the presence and person of Zoe Barbille; and Zoe was as dear to M. Fille as though she were his own daughter. He it was who, in sarcasm, had spoken of this young stranger as "The Man from Outside."

Ever since Zoe's mother had vanished--alone--seven years before from the Manor Cartier, or rather from his office at Vilray, M. Fille had been as much like a maiden aunt or a very elder brother to the Spanische's daughter as a man could be. Of M. Fille's influence over his daughter and her love of his companionship, Jean Jacques had no jealousy whatever. Very often indeed, when he felt incompetent to do for his child all that he wished--philosophers are often stupid in human affairs--he thought it was a blessing Zoe had a friend like M. Fille. Since the terrible day when he found that his wife had gone from him--not with the master- carpenter who only made his exit from Laplatte some years afterwards--he had had no desire to have a woman at the Manor to fill her place, even as housekeeper. He had never swerved from that. He had had a hard row to hoe, but he had hoed it with a will not affected by domestic accidents or inconveniences. The one woman from outside whom he permitted to go and come at will--and she did not come often, because she and M. Fille agreed it would be best not to do so--was the sister of the Cure. To be sure there was Seraphe Corniche, the old cook, but she was buried in her kitchen, and Jean Jacques treated her like a man.

When Zoe was confirmed, and had come back from Montreal, having spent two years in a convent there--the only time she had been away from her father in seven years--having had her education chiefly from a Catholic "brother," the situation developed in a new way. Zoe at once became as conspicuous in the country-side as her father had been over so many years. She was fresh, volatile, without affectation or pride, and had a temperament responsive to every phase of life's simple interests. She took the attention of the young men a little bit as her due, but yet without conceit. The gallants had come about her like bees, for there was Jean Jacques' many businesses and his reputation for wealth; and there was her own charm, concerning which there could be far less doubt than about Jean Jacques' magnificent solvency.

Zoe had gone heart-whole and with no especial preference for any young man, until the particular person came, the Man from Outside.

His name was Gerard Fynes, and his business was mumming. He was a young lawyer turned actor, and he had lived in Montreal before he went on the stage. He was English--that was a misfortune; he was an actor--that was a greater misfortune, for it suggested vagabondage of morals as well as of profession; and he was a Protestant, which was the greatest misfortune of all. But he was only at St. Saviour's for his convalescence after a so-called attack of congestion of the lungs; and as he still had a slight cough and looked none too robust, and as, more than all, he was simple in his ways, enjoying the life of the parish with greater zest than the residents, he found popularity. Undoubtedly he had a taking way with him. He was lodging with Louis Charron, a small farmer and kinsman of Jean Jacques, who sold whisky--"white whisky"--without a license. It was a Charron family habit to sell liquor illegally, and Louis pursued the career with all an amateur's enthusiasm. He had a sovereign balm for "colds," composed of camomile flowers, boneset, liquorice, pennyroyal and gentian root, which he sold to all comers; and it was not unnatural that a visitor with weak lungs should lodge with him.

Louis and his wife had only good things to say about Gerard Fynes; for the young man lived their life as though he was born to it. He ate the slap-jacks, the buttermilk-pop, the pork and beans, the Indian corn on the cob, the pea-soup, and the bread baked in the roadside oven, with a relish which was not all pretence; for indeed he was as primitive as he was subtle. He himself could not have told how much of him was true and how much was make-believe. But he was certainly lovable, and he was not bad by nature. Since coming to St. Saviour's he had been constant to one attraction, and he had not risked his chances with Zoe by response to the shy invitations of dark eyes, young and not so young, which met his own here and there in the parish.

Only M. Fille and Jean Jacques himself had feelings of real antagonism to him. Jean Jacques, though not naturally suspicious, had, however, seen an understanding look pass between his Zoe and this stranger--this Protestant English stranger from the outer world, to which Jean Jacques went less frequently since his fruitless search for his vanished Carmen. The Clerk of the Court saw that Jean Jacques had observed the intimate glances of the two young people, and their eyes met in understanding. It was just before Zoe had sung so charmingly, 'Oh, Who Will Walk the Wood With Me'.

At first after Carmen's going Jean Jacques had found it hard to endure singing in his house. Zoe's trilling was torture to him, though he had never forbidden her to sing, and she had sung on to her heart's content. By a subtle instinct, however, and because of the unspoken sorrow in her own heart, she never sang the songs like 'La Manola'. Never after the day Carmen went did Zoe speak of her mother to anyone at all. It was worse than death; it was annihilation, so far as speech was concerned. The world at large only knew that Carmen Barbille had run away, and that even Sebastian Dolores her father did not know where she was. The old man had not heard from her, and he seldom visited at the Manor Cartier or saw his grand-daughter. His own career of late years had been marked by long sojourns in Quebec, Montreal and even New York; yet he always came back to St. Saviour's when he was penniless, and was there started afresh by Jean Jacques. Some said that Carmen had gone back to Spain, but others discredited that, for, if she had done so, certainly old Sebastian Dolores would have gone also. Others continued to insist that she had gone off with a man; but there was George Masson at Laplatte living alone, and never going twenty miles away from home, and he was the only person under suspicion. Others again averred that since her flight Carmen had become a loose woman in Montreal; but the New Cure came down on that with a blow which no one was tempted to invite again.

M. Savry's method of punishing was of a kind to make men shrink. If Carmen Barbille had become a loose woman in Montreal, how did any member of his flock know that it was the case? What company had he kept in Montreal that he could say that? Did he see the woman--or did he hear about her? And if he heard, what sort of company was he keeping when he went to Montreal without his wife to hear such things? That was final, and the slanderer was under a cloud for a time, by reason of the anger of his own wife. It was about this time that the good priest preached from the text, "Judge not that ye be not judged," and said that there were only ten commandments on the tables of stone; but that the ten included all the commandments which the Church made for every man, and which every man, knowing his own weakness, must also make for himself.

His flock understood, though they did refrain, every one, from looking towards the place where Jean Jacques sat with Ma'm'selle--she was always called that, as though she was a great lady; or else she was called "the little Ma'm'selle Zoe," even when she had grown almost as tall as her mother had been.

Though no one looked towards the place where Jean Jacques and his daughter sat when this sermon was preached, and although Zoe seemed not to apprehend personal reference in the priest's words, when she reached home, after talking to her father about casual things all the way, she flew to her room, and, locking the door, flung herself on her bed and cried till her body felt as though it had been beaten by rods. Then she suddenly got up and, from a drawer, took out two things--an old photograph of her mother at the time of her marriage, and Carmen's guitar, which she had made her own on the day after the flight, and had kept hidden ever since. She lay on the bed with her cheek pressed to the guitar, and her eyes hungrily feeding on the face of a woman whose beauty belonged to spheres other than where she had spent the thirteen years of her married life.

Zoe had understood more even at the time of the crisis than they thought she did, child though she was; and as the years had gone on she had grasped the meaning of it all more clearly perhaps than anyone at all except her adored friends Judge Carcasson, at whose home she had visited in Montreal, and M. Fille.

The thing last rumoured about her mother in the parish was that she had become an actress. To this Zoe made no protest in her mind. It was better than many other possibilities, and she fixed her mind on it, so saving herself from other agonizing speculations. In a fixed imagination lay safety. In her soul she knew that, no matter what happened, her mother would never return to the Manor Cartier.

The years had not deepened confidence between father and daughter. A shadow hung between them. They laughed and talked together, were even boisterous in their fun sometimes, and yet in the eyes of both was the forbidden thing--the deserted city into which they could not enter. He

The Money Master, Volume 3. - 1/8

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