The Money Master
By Gilbert Parker

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Public Domain Books

Chapter XX: “Au ’Voir, M’Sieu’ Jean Jacques”

It is seldom that Justice travels as swiftly as Crime, and it is also seldom that the luck is more with the law than with the criminal. It took the parish of St. Saviour’s so long to make up its mind who stole Jean Jacques’ six thousand dollars, that when the hounds got the scent at last the quarry had reached the water–in other words, Sebastian Dolores had achieved the St. Lawrence. The criminal had had near a day’s start before a telegram was sent to the police at Montreal, Quebec, and other places to look out for the picaroon who had left his mark on the parish of St. Saviour’s. The telegram would not even then have been sent had it not been for M. Fille, who, suspecting Sebastian Dolores, still refrained from instant action. This he did because he thought Jean Jacques would not wish his beloved Zoe’s grandfather sent to prison. But when other people at last declared that it must have been Dolores, M. Fille insisted on telegrams being sent by the magistrate at Vilray without Jean Jacques’ consent. He had even urged the magistrate to “rush” the wire, because it came home to him with stunning force that, if the money was not recovered, Jean Jacques would be a beggar. It was better to jail the father-in-law, than for the little money-master to take to the road a pauper, or stay on at St. Saviour’s as an underling where he had been overlord.

As for Jean Jacques, in his heart of hearts he knew who had robbed him. He realized that it was one of the radii of the comedy-tragedy which began on the Antoine, so many years before; and it had settled in his mind at last that Sebastian Dolores was but part of the dark machinery of fate, and that what was now had to be.

For one whole day after the robbery he was like a man paralysed– dispossessed of active being; but when his creditors began to swarm, when M. Mornay sent his man of business down to foreclose his mortgages before others could take action, Jean Jacques waked from his apathy. He began an imitation of his old restlessness, and made essay again to pull the strings of his affairs. They were, however, so confused that a pull at one string tangled them all.

When the constables and others came to him, and said that they were on the trail of the robber, and that the rogue would be caught, he nodded his head encouragingly; but he was sure in his own mind that the flight of Dolores would be as successful as that of Carmen and Zoe.

This is the way he put it: “That man–we will just miss finding him, as I missed Zoe at the railroad junction when she went away, as I missed catching Carmen at St. Chrisanthine. When you are at the shore, he will be on the river; when you are getting into the train, he will be getting out. It is the custom of the family. At Bordeaux, the Spanish detectives were on the shore gnashing their teeth, when he was a hundred yards away at sea on the Antoine. They missed him like that; and we’ll miss him too. What is the good! It was not his fault–that was the way of his bringing up beyond there at Cadiz, where they think more of a toreador than of John the Baptist. It was my fault. I ought to have banked the money. I ought not to have kept it to look at like a gamin with his marbles. There it was in the wall; and there was Dolores a long way from home and wanting to get back. He found the way by a gift of the tools; and I wish I had the same gift now; for I’ve got no other gift that’ll earn anything for me.”

These were the last dark or pessimistic words spoken at St. Saviour’s by Jean Jacques; and they were said to the Clerk of the Court, who could not deny the truth of them; but he wrung the hand of Jean Jacques nevertheless, and would not leave him night or day. M. Fille was like a little cruiser protecting a fort when gunboats swarm near, not daring to attack till their battleship heaves in sight. The battleship was the Big Financier, who saw that a wreck was now inevitable, and was only concerned that there should be a fair distribution of the assets. That meant, of course, that he should be served first, and then that those below the salt should get a share.

Revelation after revelation had been Jean Jacques’ lot of late years, but the final revelation of his own impotence was overwhelming. When he began to stir about among his affairs, he was faced by the fact that the law stood in his way. He realized with inward horror his shattered egotism and natural vanity; he saw that he might just as well be in jail; that he had no freedom; that he could do nothing at all in regard to anything he owned; that he was, in effect, a prisoner of war where he had been the general commanding an army.

Yet the old pride intervened, and it was associated with some innate nobility; for from the hour in which it was known that Sebastian Dolores had escaped in a steamer bound for France, and could not be overhauled, and the chances were that he would never have to yield up the six thousand dollars, Jean Jacques bustled about cheerfully, and as though he had still great affairs of business to order and regulate. It was a make-believe which few treated with scorn. Even the workmen at the mill humoured him, as he came several times every day to inspect the work of rebuilding; and they took his orders, though they did not carry them out. No one really carried out any of his orders except Seraphe Corniche, who, weeping from morning till night, protested that there never was so good a man as M’sieu’ Jean Jacques; and she cooked his favourite dishes, giving him no peace until he had eaten them.

The days, the weeks went on, with Jean Jacques growing thinner and thinner, but going about with his head up like the gold Cock of Beaugard, and even crowing now and then, as he had done of yore. He faced the inevitable with something of his old smiling volubility; treating nothing of his disaster as though it really existed; signing off this asset and that; disposing of this thing and that; stripping himself bare of all the properties on his life’s stage, in such a manner as might have been his had he been receiving gifts and not yielding up all he owned. He chatted as his belongings were, figuratively speaking, being carried away–as though they were mechanical, formal things to be done as he had done them every day of a fairly long life; as a clerk would check off the boxes or parcels carried past him by the porters. M. Fille could hardly bear to see him in this mood, and the New Cure hovered round him with a mournful and harmlessly deceptive kindness. But the end had to come, and practically all the parish was present when it came. That was on the day when the contents of the Manor were sold at auction by order of the Court. One thing Jean Jacques refused absolutely and irrevocably to do from the first–refused it at last in anger and even with an oath: he would not go through the Bankruptcy Court. No persuasion had any effect. The very suggestion seemed to smirch his honour. His lawyer pleaded with him, said he would be able to save something out of the wreck, and that his creditors would be willing that he should take advantage of the privileges of that court; but he only said in reply:

“Thank you, thank you altogether, monsieur, but it is impossible–’non possumus, non possumus, my son,’ as the Pope said to Bonaparte. I owe and I will pay what I can; and what I can’t pay now I will try to pay in the future, by the cent, by the dollar, till all is paid to the last copper. It is the way with the Barbilles. They have paid their way and their debts in honour, and it is in the bond with all the Barbilles of the past that I do as they do. If I can’t do it, then that I have tried to do it will be endorsed on the foot of the bill.”

No one could move him, not even Judge Carcasson, who from his armchair in Montreal wrote a feeble-handed letter begging him to believe that it was “well within his rights as a gentleman"–this he put in at the request of M. Mornay–to take advantage of the privileges of the Bankruptcy Court. Even then Jean Jacques had only a few moments’ hesitation. What the Judge said made a deep impression; but he had determined to drink the cup of his misfortune to the dregs. He was set upon complete renunciation; on going forth like a pilgrim from the place of his troubles and sorrows, taking no gifts, no mercies save those which heaven accorded him.

When the day of the auction came everything went. Even his best suit of clothes was sold to a blacksmith, while his fur-coat was bought by a horse-doctor for fifteen dollars. Things that had been part of his life for a generation found their way into hands where he would least have wished them to go–of those who had been envious of him, who had cheated or deceived him, of people with whom he had had nothing in common. The red wagon and the pair of little longtailed stallions, which he had driven for six years, were bought by the owner of a rival flour-mill in the parish of Vilray; but his best sleigh, with its coon-skin robes, was bought by the widow of Palass Poucette, who bought also the famous bearskin which Dolores had given her at Jean Jacques’ expense, and had been returned by her to its proper owner. The silver fruitdish, once (it was said) the property of the Baron of Beaugard, which each generation of Barbilles had displayed with as much ceremony as though it was a chalice given by the Pope, went to Virginie Poucette. Virginie also bought the furniture from Zoe’s bedroom as it stood, together with the little upright piano on which she used to play. The Cure bought Jean Jacques’ writing-desk, and M. Fille purchased his armchair, in which had sat at least six Barbilles as owners of the Manor. The beaver-hat which Jean Jacques wore on state occasions, as his grandfather had done, together with the bonnet rouge of the habitant, donned by him in his younger days –they fell to the nod of Mere Langlois, who declared that, as she was a cousin, she would keep the things in the family. Mere Langlois would have bought the fruit-dish also if she could have afforded to bid against Virginie Poucette; but the latter would have had the dish if it had cost her two hundred dollars. The only time she had broken bread in Jean Jacques’ house, she had eaten cake from this fruit-dish; and to her, as to the parish generally, the dish so beautifully shaped, with its graceful depth and its fine-chased handles, was symbol of the social caste of the Barbilles, as the gold Cock of Beaugard was sign of their civic and commercial glory.

Jean Jacques, who had moved about all day with an almost voluble affability, seeming not to realize the tragedy going on, or, if he realized it, rising superior to it, was noticed to stand still suddenly when the auctioneer put up the fruit-dish for sale. Then the smile left his face, and the reddish glow in his eyes, which had been there since the burning of the mill, fled, and a touch of amazement and confusion took its place. All in a moment he was like a fluttered dweller of the wilds to whom comes some tremor of danger.

His mouth opened as though he would forbid the selling of the heirloom; but it closed again, because he knew he had no right to withhold it from the hammer; and he took on a look like that which comes to the eyes of a child when it faces humiliating denial. Quickly as it came, however, it vanished, for he remembered that he could buy the dish himself. He could buy it himself and keep it. . . . Yet what could he do with it? Even so, he could keep it. It could still be his till better days came.

The auctioneer’s voice told off the value of the fruitdish–"As an heirloom, as an antique; as a piece of workmanship impossible of duplication in these days of no handicraft; as good pure silver, bearing the head of Louis Quinze–beautiful, marvellous, historic, honourable," and Jean Jacques made ready to bid. Then he remembered he had no money– he who all his life had been able to take a roll of bills from his pocket as another man took a packet of letters. His glance fell in shame, and the words died on his lips, even as M. Manotel, the auctioneer, was about to add another five-dollar bid to the price, which already was standing at forty dollars.

It was at this moment Jean Jacques heard a woman’s voice bidding, then two women’s voices. Looking up he saw that one of the women was Mere Langlois and the other was Virginie Poucette, who had made the first bid. For a moment they contended, and then Mere Langlois fell out of the contest, and Virginie continued it with an ambitious farmer from the next county, who was about to become a Member of Parliament. Presently the owner of a river pleasure-steamer entered into the costly emulation also, but he soon fell away; and Virginie Poucette stubbornly raised the bidding by five dollars each time, till the silver symbol of the Barbilles’ pride had reached one hundred dollars. Then she raised the price by ten dollars, and her rival, seeing that he was face to face with a woman who would now bid till her last dollar was at stake, withdrew; and Virginie was left triumphant with the heirloom.

At the moment when Virginie turned away with the handsome dish from M. Manotel, and the crowd cheered her gaily, she caught Jean-Jacques’ eye, and she came straight towards him. She wanted to give the dish to him then and there; but she knew that this would provide annoying gossip for many a day, and besides, she thought he would refuse. More than that, she had in her mind another alternative which might in the end secure the heirloom to him, in spite of all. As she passed him, she said:

“At least we keep it in the parish. If you don’t have it, well, then...”

She paused, for she did not quite know what to say unless she spoke what was really in her mind, and she dared not do that.

“But you ought to have an heirloom,” she added, leaving unsaid what was her real thought and hope. With sudden inspiration, for he saw she was trying to make it easy for him, he drew the great silver-watch from his pocket, which the head of the Barbilles had worn for generations, and said:

“I have the only heirloom I could carry about with me. It will keep time for me as long as I’ll last. The Manor clock strikes the time for the world, and this watch is set by the Manor clock.”

“Well said–well and truly said, M’sieu’ Jean Jacques,” remarked the lean watchmaker and so-called jeweller of Vilray, who stood near. “It is a watch which couldn’t miss the stroke of Judgment Day.”

It was at that moment, in the sunset hour, when the sale had drawn to a close, and the people had begun to disperse, that the avocat of Vilray who represented the Big Financier came to Jean Jacques and said:

“M’sieu’, I have to say that there is due to you three hundred and fifty dollars from the settlement, excluding this sale, which will just do what was expected of it. I am instructed to give it to you from the creditors. Here it is.”

He took out a roll of bills and offered it to Jean Jacques.

“What creditors?” asked Jean Jacques.

“All the creditors,” responded the other, and he produced a receipt for Jean Jacques to sign. “A formal statement will be sent you, and if there is any more due to you, it will be added then. But now–well, there it is, the creditors think there is no reason for you to wait.”

Jean Jacques did not yet take the roll of bills. “They come from M. Mornay?” he asked with an air of resistance, for he did not wish to be under further obligations to the man who would lose most by him.

The lawyer was prepared. M. Mornay had foreseen the timidity and sensitiveness of Jean Jacques, had anticipated his mistaken chivalry–for how could a man decline to take advantage of the Bankruptcy Court unless he was another Don Quixote! He had therefore arranged with all the creditors for them to take responsibility with ’himself, though he provided the cash which manipulated this settlement.

“No, M’sieu’ Jean Jacques,” the lawyer replied, this comes from all the creditors, as the sum due to you from all the transactions, so far as can be seen as yet. Further adjustment may be necessary, but this is the interim settlement.”

Jean Jacques was far from being ignorant of business, but so bemused was his judgment and his intelligence now, that he did not see there was no balance which could possibly be his, since his liabilities vastly exceeded his assets. Yet with a wave of the hand he accepted the roll of bills, and signed the receipt with an air which said, “These forms must be observed, I suppose.”

What he would have done if the three hundred and fifty dollars had not been given him, it would be hard to say, for with gentle asperity he had declined a loan from his friend M. Fille, and he had but one silver dollar in his pocket, or in the world. Indeed, Jean Jacques was living in a dream in these dark days–a dream of renunciation and sacrifice, and in the spirit of one who gives up all to some great cause. He was not yet even face to face with the fulness of his disaster. Only at moments had the real significance of it all come to him, and then he had shivered as before some terror menacing his path. Also, as M. Mornay had said, his philosophy was now in his bones and marrow rather than in his words. It had, after all, tinctured his blood and impregnated his mind. He had babbled and been the egotist, and played cock o’ the walk; and now at last his philosophy was giving some foundation for his feet. Yet at this auction-sale he looked a distracted, if smiling, whimsical, rather bustling figure of misfortune, with a tragic air of exile, of isolation from all by which he was surrounded. A profound and wayworn loneliness showed in his figure, in his face, in his eyes.

The crowd thinned in time, and yet very many lingered to see the last of this drama of lost fortunes. A few of the riff-raff, who invariably attend these public scenes, were now rather the worse for drink, from the indifferent liquor provided by the auctioneer, and they were inclined to horseplay and coarse chaff. More than one ribald reference to Jean Jacques had been checked by his chivalrous fellow-citizens; indeed, M. Fille had almost laid himself open to a charge of assault in his own court by raising his stick at a loafer, who made insulting references to Jean Jacques. But as the sale drew to a close, an air of rollicking humour among the younger men would not be suppressed, and it looked as though Jean Jacques’ exit would be attended by the elements of farce and satire.

In this world, however, things do not happen logically, and Jean Jacques made his exit in a wholly unexpected manner. He was going away by the train which left a new railway junction a few miles off, having gently yet firmly declined M. Fille’s invitation, and also the invitations of others–including the Cure and Mere Langlois–to spend the night with them and start off the next day. He elected to go on to Montreal that very night, and before the sale was quite finished he prepared to start. His carpet-bag containing a few clothes and necessaries had been sent on to the junction, and he meant to walk to the station in the cool of the evening.

M. Manotel, the auctioneer, hoarse with his heavy day’s work, was announcing that there were only a few more things to sell, and no doubt they could be had at a bargain, when Jean Jacques began a tour of the Manor. There was something inexpressibly mournful in this lonely pilgrimage of the dismantled mansion. Yet there was no show of cheap emotion by Jean Jacques; and a wave of the hand prevented any one from following him in his dry-eyed progress to say farewell to these haunts of childhood, manhood, family, and home. There was a strange numbness in his mind and body, and he had a feeling that he moved immense and reflective among material things. Only tragedy can produce that feeling. Happiness makes the universe infinite and stupendous, despair makes it small and even trivial.

It was when he had reached the little office where he had done the business of his life–a kind of neutral place where he had ever isolated himself from the domestic scene–that the final sensation, save one, of his existence at the Manor came to him. Virginie Poucette had divined his purpose when he began the tour of the house, and going by a roundabout way, she had placed herself where she could speak with him alone before he left the place for ever–if that was to be. She was not sure that his exit was really inevitable–not yet.

When Jean Jacques saw Virginie standing beside the table in his office where he lead worked over so many years, now marked Sold, and waiting to be taken away by its new owner, he started and drew back, but she held out her hand and said:

“But one word, M’sieu’ Jean Jacques; only one word from a friend–indeed a friend.”

“A friend of friends,” he answered, still in abstraction, his eyes having that burnished light which belonged to the night of the fire; but yet realizing that she was a sympathetic soul who had offered to lend him money without security.

“Oh, indeed yes, as good a friend as you can ever have!” she added.

Something had waked the bigger part of her, which had never been awake in the days of Palass Poucette. Jean Jacques was much older than she, but what she felt had nothing to do with age, or place or station. It had only to do with understanding, with the call of nature and of a motherhood crying for expression. Her heart ached for him.

“Well, good-bye, my friend,” he said, and held out his hand. “I must be going now.”

“Wait,” she said, and there was something insistent and yet pleading in her voice. “I’ve got something to say. You must hear it. . . . Why should you go? There is my farm–it needs to be worked right. It has got good chances. It has water-power and wood and the best flax in the province–they want to start a flax-mill on it–I’ve had letters from big men in Montreal. Well, why shouldn’t you do it instead? There it is, the farm, and there am I a woman alone. I need help. I’ve got no head. I have to work at a sum of figures all night to get it straight. . . . Ah, m’sieu’, it is a need both sides! You want someone to look after you; you want a chance again to do things; but you want someone to look after you, and it is all waiting there on the farm. Palass Poucette left behind him seven sound horses, and cows and sheep, and a threshing- machine and a fanning-mill, and no debts, and two thousand dollars in the bank. You will never do anything away from here. You must stay here, where–where I can look after you, Jean Jacques.”

The light in his eyes flamed up, died down, flamed up again, and presently it covered all his face, as he grasped what she meant.

“Wonder of God, do you forget?” he asked. “I am married–married still, Virginie Poucette. There is no divorce in the Catholic Church–no, none at all. It is for ever and ever.”

“I said nothing about marriage,” she said bravely, though her face suffused.

“Hand of Heaven, what do you mean? You mean to say you would do that for me in spite of the Cure and–and everybody and everything?”

“You ought to be taken care of,” she protested. “You ought to have your chance again. No one here is free to do it all but me. You are alone. Your wife that was–maybe she is dead. I am alone, and I’m not afraid of what the good God will say. I will settle with Him myself. Well, then, do you think I’d care what–what Mere Langlois or the rest of the world would say? . . . I can’t bear to think of you going away with nothing, with nobody, when here is something and somebody–somebody who would be good to you. Everybody knows that you’ve been badly used– everybody. I’m young enough to make things bright and warm in your life, and the place is big enough for two, even if it isn’t the Manor Cartier.”

“Figure de Christ, do you think I’d let you do it–me?” declared Jean Jacques, with lips trembling now and his shoulders heaving. Misfortune and pain and penalty he could stand, but sacrifice like this and–and whatever else it was, were too much for him. They brought him back to the dusty road and everyday life again; they subtracted him from his big dream, in which he had been detached from the details of his catastrophe.

“No, no, no,” he added. “You go look another way, Virginie. Turn your face to the young spring, not to the dead winter. To-morrow I’ll be gone to find what I’ve got to find. I’ve finished here, but there’s many a good man waiting for you–men who’ll bring you something worth while besides themselves. Make no mistake, I’ve finished. I’ve done my term of life. I’m only out on ticket-of-leave now–but there, enough, I shall always want to think of you. I wish I had something to give you–but yes, here is something.” He drew from his pocket a silver napkin-ring. “I’ve had that since I was five years old. My uncle Stefan gave it to me. I’ve always used it. I don’t know why I put it in my pocket this morning, but I did. Take it. It’s more than money. It’s got something of Jean Jacques about it. You’ve got the Barbille fruit-dish-that is a thing I’ll remember. I’m glad you’ve got it, and–”

“I meant we should both eat from it,” she said helplessly.

“It would cost too much to eat from it with you, Virginie–”

He stopped short, choked, then his face cleared, and his eyes became steady.

“Well then, good-bye, Virginie,” he said, holding out his hand.

“You don’t think I’d say to any other living man what I’ve said to you?" she asked.

He nodded understandingly. “That’s the best part of it. It was for me of all the world,” he answered. “When I look back, I’ll see the light in your window–the light you lit for the lost one–for Jean Jacques Barbille.”

Suddenly, with eyes that did not see and hands held out before him, he turned, felt for the door and left the room.

She leaned helplessly against the table. “The poor Jean Jacques–the poor Jean Jacques!” she murmured. “Cure or no Cure, I’d have done it," she declared, with a ring to her voice. “Ah, but Jean Jacques, come with me!” she added with a hungry and compassionate gesture, speaking into space. “I could make life worth while for us both.”

A moment later Virginie was outside, watching the last act in the career of Jean Jacques in the parish of St. Saviour’s.

This was what she saw.

The auctioneer was holding up a bird-cage containing a canary-Carmen’s bird-cage, and Zoe’s canary which had remained to be a vocal memory of her in her old home.

“Here,” said the rhetorical, inflammable auctioneer, “here is the choicest lot left to the last. I put it away in the bakery, meaning to sell it at noon, when everybody was eating-food for the soul and food for the body. I forgot it. But here it is, worth anything you like to anybody that loves the beautiful, the good, and the harmonious. What do I hear for this lovely saffron singer from the Elysian fields? What did the immortal poet of France say of the bird in his garret, in ’L’Oiseau de Mon Crenier’? What did he say:

                   ’Sing me a song of the bygone hour,
                    A song of the stream and the sun;
                    Sing of my love in her bosky bower,
                    When my heart it was twenty-one.’

“Come now, who will renew his age or regale her youth with the divine notes of nature’s minstrel? Who will make me an offer for this vestal virgin of song–the joy of the morning and the benediction of the evening? What do I hear? The best of the wine to the last of the feast! What do I hear?–five dollars–seven dollars–nine dollars–going at nine dollars–ten dollars–Well, ladies and gentlemen, the bird can sing–ah, voila !”

He stopped short for a moment, for as the evening sun swept its veil of rainbow radiance over the scene, the bird began to sing. Its little throat swelled, it chirruped, it trilled, it called, it soared, it lost itself in a flood of ecstasy. In the applausive silence, the emotional recess of the sale, as it were, the man to whom the bird and the song meant most, pushed his way up to the stand where M. Manotel stood. When the people saw who it was, they fell back, for there was that in his face which needed no interpretation. It filled them with a kind of awe.

He reached up a brown, eager, affectionate hand–it had always been that –fat and small, but rather fine and certainly emotional, though not material or sensual.

“Go on with your bidding,” he said.

He was going to buy the thing which had belonged to his daughter, was beloved by her–the living oracle of the morning, the muezzin of his mosque of home. It had been to the girl who had gone as another such a bird had been to the mother of the girl, the voice that sang, “Praise God,” in the short summer of that bygone happiness of his. Even this cage and its homebird were not his; they belonged to the creditors.

“Go on. I buy–I bid,” Jean Jacques said in a voice that rang. It had no blur of emotion. It had resonance. The hammer that struck the bell of his voice was the hammer of memory, and if it was plaintive it also was clear, and it was also vibrant with the silver of lost hopes.

M. Manotel humoured him, while the bird still sang. “Four dollars–five dollars: do I hear no more than five dollars?–going once, going twice, going three times–gone!” he cried, for no one had made a further bid; and indeed M. Manotel would not have heard another voice than Jean Jacques’ if it had been as loud as the falls of the Saguenay. He was a kind of poet in his way, was M. Manotel. He had been married four times, and he would be married again if he had the chance; also he wrote verses for tombstones in the churchyard at St. Saviour’s, and couplets for fetes and weddings.

He handed the cage to Jean Jacques, who put it down on the ground at his feet, and in an instant had handed up five dollars for one of the idols of his own altar. Anyone else than M. Manotel, or perhaps M. Fille or the New Cure, would have hesitated to take the five dollars, or, if they had done so, would have handed it back; but they had souls to understand this Jean Jacques, and they would not deny him his insistent independence. And so, in a moment, he was making his way out of the crowd with the cage in his hand, the bird silent now.

As he went, some one touched his arm and slipped a book into his hand. It was M. Fille, and the book was his little compendium of philosophy which his friend had retrieved from his bedroom in the early morning.

“You weren’t going to forget it, Jean Jacques?” M. Fille said reproachfully. “It is an old friend. It would not be happy with any one else.”

Jean Jacques looked M. Fille in the eyes. “Moi–je suis philosophe,” he said without any of the old insistence and pride and egotism, but as one would make an affirmation or repeat a creed.

“Yes, yes, to be sure, always, as of old,” answered M. Fille firmly; for, from that formula might come strength, when it was most needed, in a sense other and deeper far than it had been or was now. “You will remember that you will always know where to find us–eh?” added the little Clerk of the Court.

The going of Jean Jacques was inevitable; all persuasion had failed to induce him to stay–even that of Virginie; and M. Fille now treated it as though it was the beginning of a new career for Jean Jacques, whatever that career might be. It might be he would come back some day, but not to things as they were, not ever again, nor as the same man.

“You will move on with the world outside there,” continued M. Fille, “but we shall be turning on the same swivel here always; and whenever you come–there, you understand. With us it is semper fidelis, always the same.”

Jean Jacques looked at M. Fille again as though to ask him a question, but presently he shook his head in negation to his thought.

“Well, good-bye,” he said cheerfully–"A la bonne heure!”

By that M. Fille knew that Jean Jacques did not wish for company as he went–not even the company of his old friend who had loved the bright whimsical emotional Zoe; who had hovered around his life like a protecting spirit.

“A bi’tot,” responded M. Fille, declining upon the homely patois.

But as Jean Jacques walked away with his little book of philosophy in his pocket, and the bird-cage in his hand, someone sobbed. M. Fille turned and saw. It was Virginie Poucette. Fortunately for Virginie other women did the same, not for the same reason, but out of a sympathy which was part of the scene.

It had been the intention of some friends of Jean Jacques to give him a cheer when he left, and even his sullen local creditors, now that the worst had come, were disposed to give him a good send-off; but the incident of the canary in its cage gave a turn to the feeling of the crowd which could not be resisted. They were not a people who could cut and dry their sentiments; they were all impulse and simplicity, with an obvious cocksure shrewdness too, like that of Jean Jacques–of the old Jean Jacques. He had been the epitome of all their faults and all their virtues.

No one cheered. Only one person called, “Au ’voir, M’sieu’ Jean Jacques!” and no one followed him–a curious, assertive, feebly-brisk, shock-headed figure in the brown velveteen jacket, which he had bought in Paris on his Grand Tour.

“What a ridiculous little man!” said a woman from Chalfonte over the water, who had been buying freely all day for her new “Manor,” her husband being a member of the provincial legislature.

The words were no sooner out of her mouth than two women faced her threateningly.

“For two pins I’d slap your face,” said old Mere Langlois, her great breast heaving. “Popinjay–you, that ought to be in a cage like his canary.”

But Virginie Poucette also was there in front of the offender, and she also had come from Chalfonte–was born in that parish; and she knew what she was facing.

“Better carry a bird-cage and a book than carry swill to swine,” she said; and madame from Chalfonte turned white, for it had been said that her father was once a swine-herd, and that she had tried her best to forget it when, with her coarse beauty, she married the well-to-do farmer who was now in the legislature.

“Hold your tongues, all of you, and look at that,” said M. Manotel, who had joined the agitated group. He was pointing towards the departing Jean Jacques, who was now away upon his road.

Jean Jacques had raised the cage on a level with his face, and was evidently speaking to the bird in the way birds love–that soft kissing sound to which they reply with song.

Presently there came a chirp or two, and then the bird thrust up its head, and out came the full blessedness of its song, exultant, home-like, intimate.

Jean Jacques walked on, the bird singing by his side; and he did not look back.


Epilogue: Introduction  •  Chapter I: The Grand Tour of Jean Jacques Barbille  •  Chapter II: “The Rest of the Story To-Morrow”  •  Chapter III: “To-Morrow”  •  Chapter IV: Thirteen Years After and the Clerk of the Court Tells a Story  •  Chapter V: The Clerk of the Court Ends His Story  •  Chapter VI: Jean Jacques Had Had a Great Day  •  Chapter VII: Jean Jacques Awakes From Sleep  •  Chapter VIII: The Gate in the Wall  •  Chapter IX: “Moi-Je Suis Philosophe”  •  Chapter X: “Quien Sabe"–who Knows!  •  Chapter XI: The Clerk of the Court Keeps a Promise  •  Chapter XII: The Master-Carpenter Has a Problem  •  Chapter XIII: The Man From Outside  •  Chapter XIV: “I Do Not Want to Go”  •  Chapter XV: Bon Marche  •  Chapter XVI: Misfortunes Come Not Singly  •  Chapter XVII: His Greatest Asset  •  Chapter XVIII: Jean Jacques Has An Offer  •  Chapter XIX: Sebastian Dolores Does Not Sleep  •  Chapter XX: “Au ’Voir, M’Sieu’ Jean Jacques”  •  Chapter XXI: If She Had Known in Time  •  Epilogue - Chapter XXII: Bells of Memory  •  Chapter XXIII: Jean Jacques Has Work to Do  •  Chapter XXIV: Jean Jacques Encamped  •  Chapter XXV: What Would You Have Done?  •  Etext Editor’s Bookmarks For “The Money Master”, Complete:

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The money master;: Being the curious history of Jean Jacques Barbille, his labours, his loves, and his ladies,
By Gilbert Parker
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