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- The Money Master, Volume 4. - 2/13 -

If they listened to him talk philosophy, encouraged him to do it, and told him they liked it, when the bargain was being made, the chances are the security is inadequate."

The Clerk of the Court bridled up. "Monsieur, you are very hard on a man who for twenty-five years has been a figure and a power in this part of the province. You sneer at one who has been a benefactor to the place where he lives; who has given with the right hand and the left; whose enterprise has been a source of profit to many; and who has got a savage reward for the acts of a blameless and generous life. You know his troubles, monsieur, and we who have seen him bear them with fortitude and Christian philosophy, we resent--"

"You need resent nothing, Maitre Fille," interrupted the Big Financier, not unkindly. "What I have said has been said to his friend and the friend of my own great friend, Judge Carcasson; and I am only anxious that he should be warned by someone whose opinions count with him; whom he can trust--"

"But, monsieur, alas!" broke in the Clerk of the Court, "that is the trouble; he does not select those he can trust. He is too confiding. He believes those who flatter him, who impose on his good heart. It has always been so."

"I judge it is so still in the case of Monsieur Dolores, his daughter's grandfather?" the Big Financier asked quizzically.

"It is so, monsieur," replied M. Fille. "The loss of his daughter shook him even more than the flight of his wife; and it is as though he could not live without that scoundrel near him--a vicious man, who makes trouble wherever he goes. He was a cause of loss to M. Barbille years ago when he managed the ash-factory; he is very dangerous to women--even now he is a danger to the future of a young widow" (he meant the widow of Palass Poucette); "and he has caused a scandal by perjury as a witness, and by the consequences--but I need not speak of that here. He will do Jean Jacques great harm in the end, of that I am sure. The very day Mademoiselle Zoe left the Manor Cartier to marry the English actor, Jean Jacques took that Spanish bad-lot to his home; and there he stays, and the old friends go--the old friends go; and he does not seem to miss them."

There was something like a sob in M. Fille's voice. He had loved Zoe in a way that in a mother would have meant martyrdom, if necessary, and in a father would have meant sacrifice when needed; and indeed he had sacrificed both time and money to find Zoe. He had even gone as far as Winnipeg on the chance of finding her, making that first big journey in the world, which was as much to him in all ways as a journey to Bagdad would mean to most people of M. Mornay's world. Also he had spent money since in corresponding with lawyers in the West whom he engaged to search for her; but Zoe had never been found. She had never written but one letter to Jean Jacques since her flight. This letter said, in effect, that she would come back when her husband was no longer "a beggar" as her father had called him, and not till then. It was written en route to Winnipeg, at the dictation of Gerard Fynes, who had a romantic view of life and a mistaken pride, but some courage too--the courage of love.

"He thinks his daughter will come back--yes?" asked M. Mornay. "Once he said to me that he was sorry there was no lady to welcome me at the Manor Cartier, but that he hoped his daughter would yet have the honour. His talk is quite spacious and lofty at times, as you know."

"So--that is so, monsieur . . . Mademoiselle Zoe's room is always ready for her. At time of Noel he sent cards to all the families of the parish who had been his friends, as from his daughter and himself; and when people came to visit at the Manor on New Year's Day, he said to each and all that his daughter regretted she could not arrive in time from the West to receive them; but that next year she would certainly have the pleasure."

"Like the light in the window for the unreturning sailor," somewhat cynically remarked the Big Financier. "Did many come to the Manor on that New Year's Day?"

"But yes, many, monsieur. Some came from kindness, and some because they were curious--"

"And Monsieur Dolores?"

The lips of the Clerk of the Court curled, "He went about with a manner as soft as that of a young cure. Butter would not melt in his mouth. Some of the women were sorry for him, until they knew he had given one of Jean Jacques' best bear-skin rugs to Madame Palass Poucette for a New Year's gift."

The Big Financier laughed cheerfully. "It's an old way to popularity-- being generous with other people's money. That is why I am here. The people that spend your Jean Jacques' money will be spending mine too, if I don't take care."

M. Fille noted the hard look which now settled in M. Mornay's face, and it disturbed him. He rose and leaned over the table towards his visitor anxiously.

"Tell me, if you please, monsieur, is there any real and immediate danger of the financial collapse of Jean Jacques?"

The other regarded M. Fille with a look of consideration. He liked this Clerk of the Court, but he liked Jean Jacques for the matter of that, and away now from the big financial arena where he usually worked, his natural instincts had play. He had come to St. Saviour's with a bigger thing in his mind than Jean Jacques and his affairs; he had come on the matter of a railway, and had taken Jean Jacques on the way, as it were. The scheme for the railway looked very promising to him, and he was in good humour; so that all he said about Jean Jacques was free from that general irritation of spirit which has sacrificed many a small man on a big man's altar. He saw the agitation he had caused, and he almost repented of what he had already said; yet he had acted with a view to getting M. Fille to warn Jean Jacques.

"I repeat what I said," he now replied. "Monsieur Jean Jacques' affairs are too nicely balanced. A little shove one way or another and over goes the whole caboose. If anyone here has influence over him, it would be a kindness to use it. That case before the Court of Appeal, for instance; he'd be better advised to settle it, if there is still time. One or two of the mortgages he holds ought to be foreclosed, so that he may get out of them all the law will let him. He ought to pouch the money that's owing him; he ought to shave away his insurance, his lightning-rod, and his horsedealing business; and he ought to sell his farms and his store, and concentrate on the flour-mill and the saw-mill. He has had his warnings generally from my lawyers, but what he wants most is the gentle hand to lead him; and I should think that yours, M. Fille, is the hand the Almighty would choose if He was concerned with what happens at St. Saviour's and wanted an agent."

The Clerk of the Court blushed greatly. This was a very big man indeed in the great commercial world, and flattery from him had unusual significance; but he threw out his hands with a gesture of helplessness, and said: "Monsieur, if I could be of use I would; but he has ceased to listen to me; he--"

He got no further, for there was a sharp knock at the street door of the outer office, and M. Fille hastened to the other room. After a moment he came back, a familiar voice following him.

"It is Monsieur Barbille, monsieur," M. Fille said quietly, but with apprehensive eyes.

"Well--he wants to see me?" asked M. Mornay. "No, no, monsieur. It would be better if he did not see you. He is in some agitation."

"Fille! Maitre Fille--be quick now," called Jean Jacques' voice from the other room.

"What did I say, monsieur?" asked the Big Financier. "The mind that's received a blow must be moving--moving; the man with the many irons must be flying from bellows to bellows!"

"Come, come, there's no time to lose," came Jean Jacques' voice again, and the handle of the door of their room turned.

M. Fille's hand caught the handle. "Excuse me, Monsieur Barbille, --a minute please," he persisted almost querulously. "Be good enough to keep your manners . . . monsieur!" he added to the Financier, "if you do not wish to speak with him, there is a door"--he pointed--"which will let you into the side-street."

"What is his trouble?" asked M. Mornay.

M. Fille hesitated, then said reflectively: "He has lost his case in the Appeal Court, monsieur; also, his cousin, Auguste Charron, who has been working the Latouche farm, has flitted, leaving--"

"Leaving Jean Jacques to pay unexpected debts?"

"So, monsieur."

"Then I can be of no use, I fear," remarked M. Mornay dryly.

"Fille! Fille !" came the voice of Jean Jacques insistently from the room.

"And so I will say au revoir, Monsieur Fille," continued the Big Financier.

A moment later the great man was gone, and M. Fille was alone with the philosopher of the Manor Cartier.

"Well, well, why do you keep me waiting! Who was it in there--anyone that's concerned with my affairs?" asked Jean Jacques.

In these days he was sensitive when there was no cause, and he was credulous where he ought to be suspicious. The fact that the little man had held the door against him made him sure that M. Fille had not wished him to see the departed visitor.

"Come, out with it--who was it making fresh trouble for me?" persisted Jean Jacques.

"No one making trouble for you, my friend," answered the Clerk of the Court, "but someone who was trying to do you a good turn."

"He must have been a stranger then," returned Jean Jacques bitterly. "Who was it?"

M. Fille, after an instant's further hesitation, told him.

"Oh, him--M. Momay !" exclaimed Jean Jacques, with a look of relief, his face lighting. "That's a big man with a most capable and far-reaching mind. He takes a thing in as the ocean mouths a river. If I had had men like that to deal with all my life, what a different ledger I'd be

The Money Master, Volume 4. - 2/13

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