Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Money Master, Volume 4. - 3/13 -
balancing now! Descartes, Kant, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, Hegel--he has an ear for them all. That is the intellectual side of him; and in business"--he threw up a hand--"there he views the landscape from the mountain-top. He has vision, strategy, executive. He is Napoleon and Anacreon in one. He is of the builders on the one hand, of the Illuminati and the Encyclopedistes on the other."
Even the Clerk of the Court, with his circumscribed range of thought and experience, in that moment saw Jean Jacques as he really was. Here was a man whose house of life was beginning to sway from an earthquake; who had been smitten in several deadly ways, and was about to receive buffetings beyond aught he had yet experienced, philosophizing on the tight-rope-- Blondin and Plato in one. Yet sardonically piteous as it was, the incident had shown Jean Jacques with the germ of something big in him. He had recognized in M. Mornay, who could level him to the dust tomorrow financially, a master of the world's affairs, a prospector of life's fields, who would march fearlessly beyond the farthest frontiers into the unknown. Jean Jacques' admiration of the lion who could, and would, slay him was the best tribute to his own character.
M. Fille's eyes moistened as he realized it; and he knew that nothing he could say or do would make this man accommodate his actions to the hard rules of the business of life; he must for ever be applying to them conceptions of a half-developed mind.
"Quite so, quite so, Jean Jacques," M. Fille responded gently, "but" --here came a firmer note to his voice, for he had taken to heart the lesson M. Mornay had taught him, and he was determined to do his duty now when the opportunity was in his hand--"but you have got to deal with things as they are; not as they might have been. If you cannot have the great men you have to deal with the little men like me. You have to prove yourself bigger than the rest of us by doing things better. A man doesn't fail only because of others, but also because of himself. You were warned that the chances were all against you in the case that's just been decided, yet you would go on; you were warned that your cousin, Auguste Charron, was in debt, and that his wife was mad to get away from the farm and go West, yet you would take no notice. Now he has gone, and you have to pay, and your case has gone against you in the Appellate Court besides. . . . I will tell you the truth, my friend, even if it cuts me to the heart. You have not kept your judgment in hand; you have gone ahead like a bull at a gate; and you pay the price. You listen to those who flatter, and on those who would go through fire and water for you, you turn your back--on those who would help you in your hour of trouble, in your dark day."
Jean Jacques drew himself up with a gesture, impatient, masterful and forbidding. "I have fought my fight alone in the dark day; I have not asked for any one's help," he answered. "I have wept on no man's shoulder. I have been mauled by the claws of injury and shame, and I have not flinched. I have healed my own wounds, and I wear my scars without--"
He stopped, for there came a sharp rat-tat-tat at the door which opened into the street. Somehow the commonplace, trivial interruption produced on both a strange, even startling effect. It suddenly produced in their minds a feeling of apprehension, as though there was whispered in their ears, "Something is going to happen--beware!"
Rat-tat-tat! The two men looked at each other. The same thought was in the mind of both. Jean Jacques clutched at his beard nervously, then with an effort he controlled himself. He took off his hat as though he was about to greet some important person, or to receive sentence in a court. Instinctively he felt the little book of philosophy which he always carried now in his breast-pocket, as a pietist would finger his beads in moments of fear or anxiety. The Clerk of the Court passed his thin hand over his hair, as he was wont to do in court when the Judge began his charge to the Jury, and then with an action more impulsive than was usual with him, he held out his hand, and Jean Jacques grasped it. Something was bringing them together just when it seemed that, in the storm of Jean Jacques' indignation, they were about to fall apart. M. Fille's eyes said as plainly as words could do, "Courage, my friend!"
Rat-tat-tat! Rat-tat-tat! The knocking was sharp and imperative now. The Clerk of the Court went quickly forward and threw open the door.
There stepped inside the widow of Palass Poucette. She had a letter in her hand. "M'sieu', pardon, if I intrude," she said to M. Fille; "but I heard that M'sieu' Jean Jacques was here. I have news for him."
"News!" repeated Jean Jacques, and he looked like a man who was waiting for what he feared to hear. "They told me at the post-office that you were here. I got the letter only a quarter of an hour ago, and I thought I would go at once to the Manor Cartier and tell M'sieu' Jean Jacques what the letter says. I wanted to go to the Manor Cartier for something else as well, but I will speak of that by and by. It is the letter now."
She pulled off first one glove and then the other, still holding the letter, as though she was about to perform some ceremony. "It was a good thing I found out that M'sieu' Jean Jacques was here. It saves a four- mile drive," she remarked.
"The news--ah, nom de Dieu, the slowness of the woman--like a river going uphill!" exclaimed Jean Jacques, who was finding it hard to still the trembling of his limbs.
The widow of Palass Poucette flushed, but she had some sense in her head, and she realized that Jean Jacques was a little unbalanced at the moment. Indeed, Jean Jacques was not so old that she would have found it difficult to take a well-defined and warm interest in him, were circumstances propitious. She held out the letter to him at once. "It is from my sister in the West--at Shilah," she explained. "There is nothing in it you can't read, and most of it concerns you." Jean Jacques took the letter, but he could not bring himself to read it, for Virginie Poucette's manner was not suggestive of happy tidings. After an instant's hesitation he handed the letter to M. Fille, who pressed his lips with an air of determination, and put on his glasses.
Jean Jacques saw the face of the Clerk of the Court flush and then turn pale as he read the letter. "There, be quick!" he said before M. Fille had turned the first page.
Then the widow of Palass Poucette came to him and, in a simple harmless way she had, free from coquetry or guile, stood beside him, took his hand and held it. He seemed almost unconscious of her act, but his fingers convulsively tightened on hers; while she reflected that here was one who needed help sorely; here was a good, warm-hearted man on whom a woman could empty out affection like rain and get a good harvest. She really was as simple as a child, was Virginie Poucette, and even in her acquaintance with Sebastian Dolores, there had only been working in her the natural desire of a primitive woman to have a man saying that which would keep alive in her the things that make her sing as she toils; and certainly Virginie toiled late and early on her farm. She really was concerned for Jean Jacques. Both wife and daughter had taken flight, and he was alone and in trouble. At this moment she felt she would like to be a sister to him--she was young enough to be his daughter almost. Her heart was kind.
"Now!" said Jean Jacques at last, as the Clerk of the Court's eyes reached the end of the last page. "Now, speak! It is--it is my Zoe?"
"It is our Zoe," answered M. Fille.
"Figure de Christ, what do you wait for--she is not dead?" exclaimed Jean Jacques with a courage which made him set his feet squarely.
The Clerk of the Court shook his head and began. "She is alive. Madame Poucette's sister saw her by chance. Zoe was on her way up the Saskatchewan River to the Peace River country with her husband. Her husband's health was bad. He had to leave the stage in the United States where he had gone after Winnipeg. The doctors said he must live the open-air life. He and Zoe were going north, to take a farm somewhere."
"Somewhere! Somewhere!" murmured Jean Jacques. The farther away from Jean Jacques the better--that is what she thinks."
"No, you are wrong, my friend," rejoined M. Fille. "She said to Madame Poucette's sister"--he held up the letter--"that when they had proved they could live without anybody's help they would come back to see you. Zoe thought that, having taken her life in her own hands, she ought to justify herself before she asked your forgiveness and a place at your table. She felt that you could only love her and be glad of her, if her man was independent of you. It is a proud and sensitive soul--but there it is!"
"It is romance, it is quixotism--ah, heart of God, what quixotism!" exclaimed Jean Jacques.
"She gets her romance and quixotism from Jean Jacques Barbille," retorted the Clerk of the Court. "She does more feeling than thinking--like you."
Jean Jacques' heart was bleeding, but he drew himself up proudly, and caught his hand away from the warm palm of Poucette's widow. As his affairs crumbled his pride grew more insistent. M. Fille had challenged his intellect--his intellect!
"My life has been a procession of practical things," he declared oracularly. "I have been a man of business who designs. I am no dreamer. I think. I act. I suffer. I have been the victim of romance, not its interpreter. Mercy of God, what has broken my life, what but romance--romance, first with one and then with another! More feeling than thinking, Maitre Fille--you say that? Why the Barbilles have ever in the past built up life on a basis of thought and action, and I have added philosophy--the science of thought and act. Jean Jacques Barbille has been the man of design and the man of action also. Don Quixote was a fool, a dreamer, but Jean Jacques is no Don Quixote. He is a man who has done things, but also he is a man who has been broken on the wheel of life. He is a man whose heart-strings have been torn--"
He had worked himself up into a fit of eloquence and revolt. He was touched by the rod of desperation, which makes the soul protest that it is right when it knows that it is wrong.
Suddenly, breaking off his speech, he threw up his hands and made for the door.
"I will fight it out alone!" he declared with rough emotion, and at the door he turned towards them again. He looked at them both as though he would dare them to contradict him. The restless fire of his eyes seemed to dart from one to the other.
"That's the way it is," said the widow of Palass Poucette coming quickly forward to him. "It's always the way. We must fight our battles alone, but we don't have to bear the wounds alone. In the battle you are alone, but the hand to heal the wounds may be another's. You are a philosopher --well, what I speak is true, isn't it?"
Virginie had said the one thing which could have stayed the tide of Jean Jacques' pessimism and broken his cloud of gloom. She appealed to him in the tune of an old song. The years and the curses of years had not dispelled the illusion that he was a philosopher. He stopped with his
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 13
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything