The Money Master
By Gilbert Parker

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Chapter VI: Jean Jacques Had Had a Great Day

Jean Jacques was in great good humour as he drove away to the Manor Cartier. The day, which was not yet aged, had been satisfactory from every point of view. He had impressed the Court, he had got a chance to pose in the witness-box; he had been able to repeat in evidence the numerous businesses in which he was engaged; had referred to his acquaintance with the Lieutenant-Governor and a Cardinal; to his Grand Tour (this had been hard to do in the cross-examination to which he was subjected, but he had done it); and had been able to say at the very start in reply as to what was his occupation–"Moi je suis M’sieu’ Jean Jacques, philosophe.”

Also he had, during the day, collected a debt long since wiped off his books; he had traded a poor horse for a good cow; he had bought all the wheat of a Vilray farmer below market-price, because the poor fellow needed ready money; he had issued an insurance policy; his wife and daughter had conversed in the public streets with the great judge who was the doyen of the provincial Bench; and his daughter had been kissed by the same judge in the presence of at least a dozen people. He was, in fact, very proud of his Carmen and his Carmencita, as he called the two who sat in the red wagon sharing his glory–so proud that he did not extol them to others; and he was quite sure they were both very proud of him. The world saw what his prizes of life were, and there was no need to praise or brag. Dignity and pride were both sustained by silence and a wave of the hand, which in fact said to the world, “Look you, my masters, they belong to Jean Jacques. Take heed.”

There his domestic scheme practically ended. He was so busy that he took his joys by snatches, in moments of suspension of actual life, as it were. His real life was in the eddy of his many interests, in the field of his superficial culture, in the eyes of the world. The worst of him was on the surface. He showed what other men hid, that was all. Their vanity was concealed, he wore it in his cap. They put on a manner as they put on their clothes, and wore it out in the world, or took it off in their own homes-behind the door of life; but he was the same vain, frank, cocksure fellow in his home as in the street. There was no difference at all. He was vain, but he had no conceit; and therefore he did not deceive, and was not tyrannous or dictatorial; in truth, if you but estimated him at his own value, he was the least insistent man alive. Many a debtor knew this; and, by asking Jean Jacques’ advice, making an appeal to his logic, as it were–and it was always worth listening to, even when wrong or sadly obvious, because of the glow with which he declared things this or that–found his situation immediately eased. Many a hard-up countryman, casting about for a five-dollar bill, could get it of Jean Jacques by telling him what agreeable thing some important person had said about him; or by writing to a great newspaper in Montreal a letter, saying that the next candidate for the provincial legislature should be M. Jean Jacques Barbille, of St. Saviour’s. This never failed to draw a substantial “bill” from the wad which Jean Jacques always carried in his pocket-loose, not tied up in a leather roll, as so many lesser men freighted the burdens of their wealth.

He had changed since the day he left Bordeaux on the Antoine; since he had first caught the flash of interest in Carmen Dolores’ eyes–an interest roused from his likeness to a conspirator who had been shot for his country’s good. He was no stouter in body, for he was of the kind that wear away the flesh by much doing and thinking; but there were occasional streaks of grey in his bushy hair, and his eye roamed less than it did once. In the days when he first brought Carmen home, his eye was like a bead of brown light on a swivel. It flickered and flamed; it saw here, saw there; it twinkled, and it pierced into life’s mysteries; and all the while it was a good eye. Its whites never showed, as it were. As an animal, his eye showed a nature free from vice. In some respects he was easy to live with, for he never found fault with what was given him to eat, or the way the house was managed; and he never interfered with the “kitchen people,” or refused a dollar or ten dollars to Carmen for finery. In fact, he was in a sense too lavish, for he used at one time to bring her home presents of silks and clothes and toilet things and stockings and hats, which were not in accord with her taste, and only vexed her. Indeed, she resented wearing them, and could hardly bring herself to thank him for them. At last, however, she induced him to let her buy what she wanted with the presents of money which he might give her.

On the whole Carmen fared pretty well, for he would sometimes give her a handful of bills from his pocket, bidding her take ten dollars, and she would coolly take twenty, while he shrugged his shoulders and declared she would be his ruin. He had never repented of marrying her, in spite of the fact that she did not always keep house as his mother and grandmother had kept it; that she was gravely remiss in going to mass; and that she quarrelled with more than one of her neighbours, who had an idea that Spain was an inferior country because it was south of France, just as the habitants regarded the United States as a low and inferior country because it was south of Quebec. You went north towards heaven and south towards hell, in their view; but when they went so far as to patronize or slander Carmen, she drove her verbal stilettos home without a button; so that on one occasion there would have been a law-suit for libel if the Old Cure had not intervened. To Jean Jacques’ credit, be it said, he took his wife’s part on this occasion, though in his heart he knew that she was in the wrong.

He certainly was not always in the right himself. If he had been told that he neglected his wife he would have been justly indignant. Also, it never occurred to him that a woman did not always want to talk philosophy or discuss the price of wheat or the cost of flour-barrels; and that for a man to be stupidly and foolishly fond was dearer to a woman than anything else. How should he know–yet he ought to have done so, if he really was a philosopher–that a woman would want the cleverest man in the world to be a boy and play the fool sometimes; that she would rather, if she was a healthy woman, go to a circus than to a revelation of the mysteries of the mind from an altar of culture, if her own beloved man was with her.

Carmen had been left too much alone, as M. Fille had said to Judge Carcasson. Her spirits had moments of great dullness, when she was ready to fling herself into the river–or the arms of the schoolmaster or the farrier. When she first came to St. Saviour’s, the necessity of adapting herself to the new conditions, of keeping faith with herself, which she had planned on the Antoine, and making a good wife to the man who was to solve all her problems for her, prevailed. She did not at first miss so much the life of excitement, of danger, of intrigue, of romance, of colour and variety, which she had left behind in Spain. When her child was born, she became passionately fond of it; her maternal spirit smothered it. It gave the needed excitement in the routine of life at St. Saviour’s.

Yet the interest was not permanent. There came a time when she resented the fact that Jean Jacques made more of the child than he did of herself. That was a bad day for all concerned, for dissimulation presently became necessary, and the home of Jean Jacques was a home of mystery which no philosophy could interpret. There had never been but the one child. She was not less handsome than when Jean Jacques married her and brought her home, though the bloom of maiden youthfulness was no longer there; and she certainly was a cut far above the habitant women or even the others of a higher social class, in a circle which had an area equal to a principality in Europe.

The old cure, M. Langon, had had much influence over her, for few could resist the amazing personal influence which his rare pure soul secured over the worst. It was a sad day to her when he went to his long home; and inwardly she felt a greater loss than she had ever felt, save that once when her Carvillho Gonzales went the way of the traitor. Memories of her past life far behind in Madrid did not grow fainter; indeed, they grew more distinct as the years went on. They seemed to vivify, as her discontent and restlessness grew.

Once, when there had come to St. Saviour’s a middle-aged baron from Paris who had heard the fishing was good at St. Saviour’s, and talked to her of Madrid and Barcelona, of Cordova and Toledo, as one who had seen and known and (he declared) loved them; who painted for her in splashing impressionist pictures the life that still eddied in the plazas and dreamed in the patios, she had been almost carried off her feet with longing; and she nearly gave that longing an expression which would have brought a tragedy, while still her Zoe was only eight years old. But M. Langon, the wise priest whose eyes saw and whose heart understood, had intervened in time; and she never knew that the sudden disappearance of the Baron, who still owed fifty dollars to Jean Jacques, was due to the practical wisdom of a great soul which had worked out its own destiny in a little back garden of the world.

When this good priest was alive she felt she had a friend who was as large of heart as he was just, and who would not scorn the fool according to his folly, or chastise the erring after his deserts. In his greatness of soul Pere Langon had shut his eyes to things that pained him more than they shocked him, for he had seen life in its most various and demoralized forms, and indeed had had his own temptations when he lived in Belgium and France, before he had finally decided to become a priest. He had protected Carmen with a quiet persistency since her first day in the parish, and had had a saving influence over her. Pere Langon reproved those who criticized her and even slandered her, for it was evident to all that she would rather have men talk to her than women; and any summer visitor who came to fish, gave her an attention never given even to the youngest and brightest in the district; and the eyes of the habitant lass can be very bright at twenty. Yet whatever Carmen’s coquetry and her sport with fire had been, her own emotions had never been really involved till now.

The new cure, M. Savry, would have said they were involved now because she never came to confession, and indeed, since the Old Cure died, she had seldom gone to mass. Yet when, with accumulated reproof on his tongue, M. Savry did come to the Manor Cartier, he felt the inherent supremacy of beauty, not the less commanding because it had not the refinement of the duchess or the margravine.

Once M. Savry ventured to do what the Old Cure would never have done–he spoke to Jean Jacques concerning Carmen’s neglect of mass and confession, and he received a rebuff which was almost au seigneur; for in Jean Jacques’ eyes he was now the figure in St. Saviour’s; and this was an occasion when he could assert his position as premier of the secular world outside the walls of the parish church. He did it in good style for a man who had had no particular training in the social arts.

This is how he did it and what he said:

“There have been times when I myself have thought it would be a good thing to have a rest from the duties of a Catholic, m’sieu’ le cure,” he remarked to M. Savry, when the latter had ended his criticism. He said it with an air of conflict, and with full intent to make his supremacy complete.

“No Catholic should speak like that,” returned the shocked priest.

“No priest should speak to me as you have done,” rejoined Jean Jacques. “What do you know of the reasons for the abstention of madame? The soul must enjoy rest as well as the body, and madame has a–mind which can judge for itself. I have a body that is always going, and it gets too little rest, and that keeps my soul in a flutter too. It must be getting to mass and getting to confession, and saying aves and doing penance, it is such a busy little soul of mine; but we are not all alike, and madame’s body goes in a more stately way. I am like a comet, she is like the sun steady, steady, round and round, with plenty of sleep and the comfortable darkness. Sometimes madame goes hard; so does the sun in summer-shines, shines, shines like a furnace. Madame’s body goes like that–at the dairy, in the garden, with the loom, among the fowls, growing her strawberries, keeping the women at the beating of the flax; and then again it is all still and idle like the sun on a cloudy day; and it rests. So it is with the human soul–I am a philosopher–I think the soul goes hard the same as the body, churning, churning away in the heat of the sun; and then it gets quiet and goes to sleep in the cloudy day, when the body is sick of its bouncing, and it has a rest–the soul has a rest, which is good for it, m’sieu’. I have worked it all out so. Besides, the soul of madame is her own. I have not made any claim upon it, and I will not expect you to do more, m’sieu’ le cure.”

“It is my duty to speak,” protested the good priest. “Her soul is God’s, and I am God’s vicar–”

Jean Jacques waved a hand. “T’sh, you are not the Pope. You are not even an abbe. You were only a deacon a few years ago. You did not know how to hold a baby for the christening when you came to St. Saviour’s first. For the mass, you have some right to speak; it is your duty perhaps; but the confession, that is another thing; that is the will of every soul to do or not to do. What do you know of a woman’s soul-well, perhaps, you know what they have told you; but madame’s soul–”

“Madame has never been to confession to me,” interjected M. Savry indignantly. Jean Jacques chuckled. He had his New Cure now for sure.

“Confession is for those who have sinned. Is it that you say one must go to confession, and in order to go to confession it is needful to sin?”

M. Savry shivered with pious indignation. He had a sudden desire to rend this philosophic Catholic–to put him under the thumb-screw for the glory of the Lord, and to justify the Church; but the little Catholic miller- magnate gave freely to St. Saviour’s; he was popular; he had a position; he was good to the poor; and every Christmas-time he sent a half-dozen bags of flour to the presbytery!

All Pere Savry ventured to say in reply was: “Upon your head be it, M. Jean Jacques. I have done my duty. I shall hope to see madame at mass next Sunday.”

Jean Jacques had chuckled over that episode, for he had conquered; he had shown M. Savry that he was master in his own household and outside it. That much his philosophy had done for him. No other man in the parish would have dared to speak to the Cure like that. He had never scolded Carmen when she had not gone to church. Besides, there was Carmen’s little daughter always at his side at mass; and Carmen always insisted on Zoe going with him, and even seemed anxious for them to be off at the first sound of the bells of St. Saviour’s. Their souls were busy, hers wanted rest; that was clear. He was glad he had worked it out so cleverly to the Cure–and to his own mind. His philosophy surely had vindicated itself.

But Jean Jacques was far from thinking of these things as he drove back from Vilray and from his episode in Court to the Manor Cartier. He was indeed just praising himself, his wife, his child, and everything that belonged to him. He was planning, planning, as he talked, the new things to do–the cheese-factory, the purchase of a steam-plough and a steam- thresher which he could hire out to his neighbours. Only once during the drive did he turn round to Carmen, and then it was to ask her if she had seen her father of late.

“Not for ten months,” was her reply. “Why do you ask?”

“Wouldn’t he like to be nearer you and Zoe? It’s twelve miles to Beauharnais,” he replied.

“Are you thinking of offering him another place at the Manor?” she asked sharply.

“Well, there is the new cheese-factory–not to manage, but to keep the books! He’s doing them all right for the lumber-firm. I hear that he–”

“I don’t want it. No good comes from relatives working together. Look at the Latouche farm where your cousin makes his mess. My father is well enough where he is.”

“But you’d like to see him oftener–I was only thinking of that,” said Jean Jacques in a mollifying voice. It was the kind of thing in which he showed at once the weakness and the kindness of his nature. He was in fact not a philosopher, but a sentimentalist.

“If mother doesn’t think it’s sensible, why do it, father?” asked Zoe anxiously, looking up into her father’s face.

She had seen the look in her mother’s eyes, and also she had no love for her grandfather. Her instinct had at one time wavered regarding him; but she had seen an incident with a vanished female cook, and though she had not understood, a prejudice had been created in her mind. She was always contrasting him with M. Fille, who, to her mind, was what a grandfather ought to be.

“I won’t have him beholden to you,” said Carmen, almost passionately.

“He is of my family,” said Jean Jacques firmly and chivalrously. “There is no question of being beholden.”

“Let well enough alone,” was the gloomy reply. With a sigh, Jean Jacques turned back to the study of the road before him, to gossip with Zoe, and to keep on planning subconsciously the new things he must do.

Carmen sighed too, or rather she gave a gasp of agitation and annoyance. Her father? She had lost whatever illusion once existed regarding him. For years he had clung to her–to her pocket. He was given to drinking in past years, and he still had his sprees. Like the rest of the world, she had not in earlier years seen the furtiveness in his handsome face; but at last, as his natural viciousness became stereotyped, and bad habits matured and emphasized, she saw beneath his mask of low-class comeliness. When at last she had found it necessary to dismiss the best cook she ever had, because of him, they saw little of each other. This was coincident with his failure at the ash-factory, where he mismanaged and even robbed Jean Jacques right and left; and she had firmly insisted on Jean Jacques evicting him, on the ground that it was not Sebastian Dolores’ bent to manage a business.

This little episode, as they drove home from Vilray, had an unreasonable effect upon her.

It was like the touch of a finger which launches a boat balancing in the ways onto the deep. It tossed her on a sea of agitation. She was swept away on a flood of morbid reflection.

Her husband and her daughter, laughing and talking in the front seat of the red wagon, seemed quite oblivious of her, and if ever there was a time when their influence was needed it was now. George Masson was coming over late this afternoon to inspect the work he had been doing; and she was trembling with an agitation which, however, did not show upon the surface. She had not seen him for two days–since the day after the Clerk of the Court had discovered her in the arms of a man who was not her husband; but he was coming this evening, and he was coming to-morrow for the last time; for the repair work on the flume of the dam would all be finished then.

But would the work he had been doing all be finished then? As she thought of that incident of three days ago and of its repetition on the following day, she remembered what he had said to her as she snatched herself almost violently from his arms, in a sudden access of remorse. He had said that it had to be, that there was no escape now; and at his words she had felt every pulse in her body throbbing, every vein expanding with a hot life which thrilled and tortured her. Life had been so meagre and so dull, and the man who had worshipped her on the Antoine now worshipped himself only, and also Zoe, the child, maybe; or so she thought; while the man who had once possessed her whole mind and whole heart, and never her body, back there in Spain, he, Carvillho Gonzales, would have loved her to the end, in scenes where life had colour and passion and danger and delightful movement.

She was one of those happy mortals who believe that the dead and gone lover was perfect, and that in losing him she was losing all that life had in store; but the bare, hard truth was that her Gonzales could have been true neither to her nor to any woman in the world for longer than one lingering year, perhaps one lunar month. It did not console her– she did not think of it-that the little man on the seat of the red wagon, chirruping with their daughter, had been, would always be, true to her. Of what good was fidelity if he that was faithful desired no longer as he once did?

A keen observer would have seen in the glowing, unrestful look, in the hot cheek, in the interlacing fingers, that a contest was going on in the woman’s soul, as she drove homeward with all that was her own in the world. The laughter of her husband and child grated painfully on her ears. Why should they be mirthful while her life was being swept by a storm of doubt, temptation, and dark passion? Why was it?

Yet she smiled at Jean Jacques when he lifted her down from the red wagon at the door of the Manor Cartier, even though he lifted his daughter down first.

Did she smile at Jean Jacques because, as they came toward the Manor, she saw George Masson in the distance by the flume, and in that moment decided to keep her promise and meet him at a secluded point on the river-bank at sunset after supper?


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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