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- The Money Master, Volume 3. - 2/8 -
could not speak to the child of the shame of her mother; she could not speak of that in him which had contributed to that mother's shame--the neglect which existed to some degree in her own life with him. This was chiefly so because his enterprises had grown to such a number and height, that he seemed ever to be counting them, ever struggling to the height, while none of his ventures ever reached that state of success when it "ran itself", although as years passed men called him rich, and he spent and loaned money so freely that they called him the Money Master, or the Money Man Wise, in deference to his philosophy.
Zoe was not beautiful, but there was a wondrous charm in her deep brown eyes and in the expression of her pretty, if irregular, features. Sometimes her face seemed as small as that of a young child, and alive with eerie fancies; and always behind her laughter was something which got into her eyes, giving them a haunting melancholy. She had no signs of hysteria, though now and then there came heart-breaking little outbursts of emotion which had this proof that they were not hysteria-- they were never seen by others. They were sacred to her own solitude. While in Montreal she had tasted for the first time the joys of the theatre, and had then secretly read numbers of plays, which she bought from an old bookseller, who was wise enough to choose them for her. She became possessed of a love for the stage even before Gerard Fynes came upon the scene. The beginning of it all was the rumour that her mother was now an actress; yet the root-cause was far down in a temperament responsive to all artistic things.
The coming of the Man from Outside acted on the confined elements of her nature like the shutter of a camera. It let in a world of light upon unexplored places, it set free elements of being which had not before been active. She had been instantly drawn to Gerard Fynes. He had the distance from her own life which provoked interest, and in that distance was the mother whom perhaps it was her duty to forget, yet for whom she had a longing which grew greater as the years went on.
Gerard Fynes could talk well, and his vivid pictures of his short play- acting career absorbed her; and all the time she was vigilant for some name, for the description of some actress which would seem to be a clue to the lost spirit of her life. This clue never came, but before she gave up hope of it, the man had got nearer to her than any man had ever done.
After meeting him she awoke to the fact that there was a difference between men, that it was not the same thing to be young as to be old; that the reason why she could kiss the old Judge and the little Clerk of the Court, and not kiss, say, the young manager of the great lumber firm who came every year for a fortnight's fishing at St. Saviour's, was one which had an understandable cause and was not a mere matter of individual taste. She had been good friends with this young manager, who was only thirty years of age, and was married, but when he had wanted to kiss her on saying good-bye one recent summer, she had said, "Oh, no, oh, no, that would spoil it all!" Yet when he had asked her why, and what she meant, she could not tell him. She did not know; but by the end of the first week after Gerard Fynes had been brought to the Manor Cartier by Louis Charron, she knew.
She had then been suddenly awakened from mere girlhood. Judge Carcasson saw the difference in her on a half-hour's visit as he passed westward, and he had said to M. Fille, "Who is the man, my keeper of the treasure?" The reply had been of such a sort that the Judge was startled:
"Tut, tut," he had exclaimed, "an actor--an actor once a lawyer! That's serious. She's at an age--and with a temperament like hers she'll believe anything, if once her affections are roused. She has a flair for the romantic, for the thing that's out of reach--the bird on the highest branch, the bird in the sky beyond ours, the song that was lost before time was, the light that never was on sea or land. Why, damn it, damn it all, my Solon, here's the beginning of a case in Court unless we can lay the fellow by the heels! How long is he here for?"
When M. Fille had told him that he would stay for another month for certain, and no doubt much longer, if there seemed a prospect of winning the heiress of the Manor Cartier, the Judge gave a groan.
"We must get him away, somehow," he said. "Where does he stay?"
"At the house of Louis Charron," was the reply. "Louis Charron--isn't he the fellow that sells whisky without a license?"
"It is so, monsieur."
The Judge moved his head from side to side like a bear in a cage. "It is that, is it, my Fille? By the thumb of the devil, isn't it time then that Louis Charron was arrested for breaking the law? Also how do we know but that the interloping fellow Fynes is an agent for a whisky firm perhaps? Couldn't he, then, on suspicion, be arrested with--"
The Clerk of the Court shook his head mournfully. His Judge was surely becoming childish in his old age. He looked again closely at the great man, and saw a glimmer of moisture in the grey eyes. It was clear that Judge Carcasson felt deeply the dangers of the crisis, and that the futile outburst had merely been the agitated protest of the helpless.
"The man is what he says he is--an actor; and it would be folly to arrest him. If our Zoe is really fond of him, it would only make a martyr of him."
As he made this reply M. Fille looked furtively at the other--out of the corner of his eye, as it were. The reply of the Judge was impatient, almost peevish and rough. "Did you think I was in earnest, my punchinello? Surely I don't look so young as all that. I am over sixty- five, and am therefore mentally developed!"
M. Fille was exactly sixty-five years of age, and the blow was a shrewd one. He drew himself up with rigid dignity.
"You must feel sorry sometimes for those who suffered when your mind was undeveloped, monsieur," he answered. "You were a judge at forty-nine, and you defended poor prisoners for twenty years before that."
The Judge was conquered, and he was never the man to pretend he was not beaten when he was. He admired skill too much for that. He squeezed M. Fille's arm and said:
"I've been quick with my tongue myself, but I feel sure now, that it's through long and close association with my Clerk of the Court."
"Ah, monsieur, you are so difficult to understand!" was the reply. "I have known you all these years, and yet--"
"And yet you did not know how much of the woman there was in me! . . . But yes, it is that. It is that which I fear with our Zoe. Women break out--they break out, and then there is the devil to pay. Look at her mother. She broke out. It was not inevitable. It was the curse of opportunity, the wrong thing popping up to drive her mad at the wrong moment. Had the wrong thing come at the right time for her, when she was quite sane, she would be yonder now with our philosopher. Perhaps she would not be contented if she were there, but she would be there; and as time goes on, to be where we were in all things which concern the affections, that is the great matter."
"Ah, yes, ah, yes," was the bright-eyed reply of that Clerk, "there is no doubt of that! My sister and I there, we are fifty years together, never with the wrong thing at the wrong time, always the thing as it was, always to be where we were."
The Judge shook his head. "There is an eternity of difference, Fille, between the sister and brother and the husband and wife. The sacredness of isolation is the thing which holds the brother and sister together. The familiarity of--but never mind what it is that so often forces husband and wife apart. It is there, and it breaks out in rebellion as it did with the wife of Jean Jacques Barbille. As she was a strong woman in her way, it spoiled her life, and his too when it broke out."
M. Fille's face lighted with memory and feeling. "Ah, a woman of powerful emotions, monsieur, that is so! I think I never told you, but at the last, in my office, when she went, she struck George Masson in the face. It was a blow that--but there it was; I have never liked to think of it. When I do, I shudder. She was a woman who might have been in other circumstances--but there!"
The Judge suddenly stopped in his walk and faced round on his friend. "Did you ever know, my Solon," he said, "that it was not Jean Jacques who saved Carmen at the wreck of the Antoine, but it was she who saved him; and yet she never breathed of it in all the years. One who was saved from the Antoine told me of it. Jean Jacques was going down. Carmen gave him her piece of wreckage to hang on to, and swam ashore without help. He never gave her the credit. There was something big in the woman, but it did not come out right."
M. Fille threw up his hands. "Grace de Dieu, is it so that she saved Jean Jacques? Then he would not be here if it had not been for her?"
"That is the obvious deduction, Maitre Fille," replied the Judge.
The Clerk of the Court seemed moved. "He did not treat her ill. I know that he would take her back to-morrow if he could. He has never forgotten. I saw him weeping one day--it was where she used to sing to the flax-beaters by the Beau Cheval. I put my hand on his shoulder, and said, 'I know, I comprehend; but be a philosopher, Jean Jacques.'"
"What did he say?" asked the Judge.
"He drew himself up. 'In my mind, in my soul, I am philosopher always,' he said, 'but my eyes are the windows of my heart, m'sieu'. They look out and see the sorrow of one I loved. It is for her sorrow that I weep, not for my own. I have my child, I have money; the world says to me, "How goes it, my friend?" I have a home--a home; but where is she, and what does the world say to her?'"
The Judge shook his head sadly. "I used to think I knew life, but I come to the belief in the end that I know nothing. Who could have guessed that he would have spoken like that!"
"He forgave her, monsieur."
The Judge nodded mournfully. "Yes, yes, but I used to think it is such men who forgive one day and kill the next. You never can tell where they will explode, philosophy or no philosophy."
The Judge was right. After all the years that had passed since his wife had left him, Jean Jacques did explode. It was the night of his birthday party at which was present the Man from Outside. It was in the hour when he first saw what the Clerk of the Court had seen some time before--the understanding between Zoe and Gerard Fynes. It had never occurred to him that there was any danger. Zoe had been so indifferent to the young men of St. Saviour's and beyond, had always been so much his friend and the friend of those much older than himself, like Judge Carcasson and M. Fille, that he had not yet thought of her electing to go and leave him alone.
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