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- The Money Master, Volume 5. - 8/8 -


"Ah, Fille--ah, dear Fille!" said the little fragment of an antique day, as the Clerk of the Court--rather, he that had been for so many years Clerk of the Court--stepped from the boat. "I can scarce believe that you are here once more. Have you good news?"

"It was to come back with good news that I went," her brother answered smiling, his face lighted by an inner exaltation.

"Dear, dear Fille!" She always called him that now, and not by his Christian name, as though he was a peer. She had done so ever since the Government had made him a magistrate, and Laval University had honoured him with the degree of doctor of laws.

She was leading him to the pony-carriage in which she had come to meet him, when he said:

"Do you think you could walk the distance, my dear? . . . It would be like old times," he added gently.

"I could walk twice as far to-day," she answered, and at once gave directions for the young coachman to put "His Honour's" bag into the carriage. In spite of Fille's reproofs she insisted in calling him that to the servants. They had two servants now, thanks to the legacy left them by the late Judge Carcasson. Presently M. Fille took her by the hand. "Before we start--one look yonder," he murmured, pointing towards the mill which had once belonged to Jean Jacques, now rebuilt and looking almost as of old. "I promised Jean Jacques that I would come and salute it in his name, before I did aught else, and so now I do salute it."

He waved a hand and made a bow to the gold Cock of Beaugard, the pride of all the vanished Barbilles. "Jean Jacques Barbille says that his head is up like yours, M. le Coq, and he wishes you many, many winds to come," he recited quite seriously, and as though it was not out of tune with the modern world.

The gold Cock of Beaugard seemed to understand, for it swung to the left, and now a little to the right, and then stood still, as if looking at the little pair of exiles from an ancient world--of which the only vestiges remaining may be found in old Quebec.

This ceremony over, they walked towards Mont Violet, averting their heads as they passed the Manor Cartier, in a kind of tribute to its departed master--as a Stuart Legitimist might pass the big palace at the end of the Mall in London. In the wood-path, Fille took his sister's hand.

"I will tell you what you are so trembling to hear," he said. "There they are at peace, Jean Jacques and Virginie--that best of best women."

"To think--married to Virginie Poucette--to think of that!" His sister's voice fluttered as she spoke. "But entirely. There was nothing in the way--and she meant to have him, the dear soul! I do not blame her, for at bottom he is as good a man as lives. Our Judge called him 'That dear fool, Jean Jacques, a man of men in his way, after all,' and our Judge was always right--but yes, nearly always right."

After a moment of contented meditation he resumed. "Well, when Virginie sold her place here and went to live with her sister out at Shilah in the West, she said, 'If Jean Jacques is alive, he will be on the land which was Zoe's, which he bought for her. If he is alive--then!' So it was, and by one of the strange accidents which chance or women like Virginie, who have plenty of courage in their simpleness, arrange, they met on that three hundred and sixty acres. It was like the genius of Jean Jacques to have done that one right thing which would save him in the end--a thing which came out of his love for his child--the emotion of an hour. Indeed, that three hundred and sixty acres was his salvation after he learned of Zoe's death, and the other little Zoe, his grandchild, was denied to him--to close his heart against what seemed that last hope, was it not courage? And so, and so he has the reward of his own soul--a home at last once more."

"With Virginie Poucette--Fille, Fille, how things come round!" exclaimed the little lady in the tiny bonnet with the mauve strings.

"More than Virginie came round," he replied almost oracularly. "Who, think you, brought him the news that coal was found on his acres--who but the husband of Virginie's sister! Then came Virginie. On the day Jean Jacques saw her again, he said to her, 'What you would have given me at such cost, now let me pay for with the rest of my life. It is the great thought which was in your heart that I will pay for with the days left to me.'"

A flickering smile brightened the sensitive ascetic face, and humour was in the eyes. "What do you think Virginie said to that? Her sister told me. Virginie said to that, 'You will have more days left, Jean Jacques, if you have a better cook. What do you like best for supper?' And Jean Jacques laughed much at that. Years ago he would have made a speech at it!"

"Then he is no more a philosopher?"

"Oh always, always, but in his heart, and not with his tongue. I cried, and so did he, when we met and when we parted. I think I am getting old, for indeed I could not help it: yet there was peace in his eyes--peace."

"His eyes used to rustle so."

"Rustle--that is the word. Now, that is what, he has learned in life-- the way to peace. When I left him, it was with Virginie close beside him, and when I said to him, 'Will you come back to us one day, Jean Jacques?' he said, 'But no, Fille, my friend; it is too far. I see it-- it is a million miles away--too great a journey to go with the feet, but with the soul I will visit it. The soul is a great traveller. I see it always--the clouds and the burnings and the pitfalls gone--out of sight-- in memory as it was when I was a child. Well, there it is, everything has changed, except the child-memory. I have had, and I have had not; and there it is. I am not the same man--but yes, in my love just the same, with all the rest--' He did not go on, so I said, 'If not the same, then what are you, Jean Jacques?'"

"Ah, Fille, in the old days he would have said that he was a philosopher" --said his sister interrupting. "Yes, yes, one knows--he said it often enough and had need enough to say it. Well, said he to me, 'Me, I am a' --then he stopped, shook his head, and so I could scarcely hear him, murmured, 'Me--I am a man who has been a long journey with a pack on his back, and has got home again.' Then he took Virginie's hand in his."

The old man's fingers touched the corner of his eye as though to find something there; then continued. "'Ah, a pedlar!' said I to him, to hear what he would answer. 'Follies to sell for sous of wisdom,' he answered. Then he put his arm around Virginie, and she gave him his pipe."

"I wish M. Carcasson knew," the little grey lady remarked.

"But of course he knows," said the Clerk of the Court, with his face turned to the sunset.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Courage which awaits the worst the world can do Good thing for a man himself to be owed kindness I can't pay you for your kindness to me, and I don't want to No past that is hidden has ever been a happy past She was not to be forced to answer his arguments directly That iceberg which most mourners carry in their breasts The soul is a great traveller You can't take time as the measure of life

*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS*Ver.02/11/02*END*


The Money Master, Volume 5. - 8/8

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