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   Chapter 7 JEAN JACQUES AWAKES FROM SLEEP

The Money Master, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 10508

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


The pensiveness of a summer evening on the Beau Cheval was like a veil hung over all the world. While yet the sun was shining, there was the tremor of life in the sadness; but when the last glint of amethyst and gold died away behind Mont Violet, and the melancholy swish of the river against the osiered banks rose out of the windless dusk, all the region around Manor Cartier, with its cypresses, its firs, its beeches, and its elms, became gently triste. Even the weather-vane on the Manor-the gold Cock of Beaugard, as it was called-did not move; and the stamping of a horse in the stable was like the thunderous knock of a traveller from Beyond. The white mill and the grey manor stood out with ghostly vividness in the light of the rising moon. Yet there were times innumerable when they looked like cool retreats for those who wanted rest; when, in the summer solstice, they offered the pleasant peace of the happy fireside. How often had Jean Jacques stood off from it all of a summer night and said to himself: "Look at that, my Jean Jacques. It is all yours, Manor and mills and farms and factory-all."

"Growing, growing, fattening, while I drone in my feather bed," he had as often said, with the delighted observation of the philosopher. "And me but a young man yet-but a mere boy," he would add. "I have piled it up-I have piled it up, and it keeps on growing, first one thing and then another."

Could such a man be unhappy? Finding within himself his satisfaction, his fountain of appeasement, why should not his days be days of pleasantness and peace? So it appeared to him during that summer, just passed, when he had surveyed the World and his world within the World, and it seemed to his innocent mind that he himself had made it all. There he was, not far beyond forty, and eligible to become a member of Parliament, or even a count of the Holy Roman Empire! He had thought of both these honours, but there was so much to occupy him-he never had a moment to himself, except at night; and then there was planning and accounting to do, his foremen to see, or some knotty thing to disentangle. But when the big clock in the Manor struck ten, and he took out his great antique silver watch, to see if the two marched to the second, he would go to the door, look out into the night, say, "All's well, thank the good God," and would go to bed, very often forgetting to kiss Carmen, and even forgetting his darling little Zoe.

After all, a mind has to be very big and to have very many tentacles to hold so many things all at once, and also to remember to do the right thing at the right moment every time. He would even forget to ask Carmen to play on the guitar, which in the first days of their married life was the recreation of every evening. Seldom with the later years had he asked her to sing, because he was so busy; and somehow his ear had not that keenness of sound once belonging to it. There was a time when he himself was wont to sing, when he taught his little Zoe the tunes of the Chansons Canadiennes; but even that had dropped away, except at rare intervals, when he would sing Le Petit Roger Bontemps, with Petite Fleur de Bois, and a dozen others; but most he would sing-indeed there was never a sing-song in the Manor Cartier but he would burst forth with A la Claire Fontaine and its haunting refrain:

"Il y a longtemps que je t'aime,

Jamais je ne t'oublierai."

But this very summer, when he had sung it on the birthday of the little Zoe, his voice had seemed out of tune. At first he had thought that Carmen was playing his accompaniment badly on the guitar, but she had sharply protested against that, and had appealed to M. Fille, who was present at the pretty festivity. He had told the truth, as a Clerk of the Court should. He said that Jean Jacques' voice was not as he had so often heard it; but he would also frankly admit that he did not think madame played the song as he had heard her play it aforetime, and that covered indeed twelve years or more-in fact, since the birth of the renowned Zoe.

M. Fille had wondered much that night of June at the listless manner and listless playing of Carmen Barbille. For a woman of such spirit and fire it would seem as though she must be in ill-health to play like that. Yet when he looked at her he saw only the comeliness of a woman whom the life of the haut habitant had not destroyed or, indeed, dimmed. Her skin was smooth, she had no wrinkles, and her neck was a pillar of softly moulded white flesh, around which a man might well string unset jewels, if he had them; for the tint and purity of her skin would be a better setting than platinum or fine gold. But the Clerk of the Court was really unsophisticated, or he would have seen that Carmen played the guitar badly because she was not interested in Jean Jacques' singing. He would have known that she had come to that stage in her married life when the tenure is pitifully insecure. He would have seen that the crisis was near. If he had had any real observation he would have noticed that Carmen's eyes at once kindled, and that the guitar became a different thing, when M. Colombin, the young schoolmaster, one of the guests, caught up the refrain of A la Claire Fontaine, and in a so

ft tenor voice sang it with Jean Jacques to the end, and then sang it again with Zoe. Then Carmen's dark eyes deepened with the gathering light in them, her body seemed to vibrate and thrill with emotion; and when M. Colombin and Zoe ceased, with her eyes fixed on the distance, and as though unconscious of them all, she began to sing a song of Cadiz which she had not sung since boarding the Antoine at Bordeaux. Her mind had, suddenly flown back out of her dark discontent to the days when all life was before her, and, with her Gonzales, she had moved in an atmosphere of romance, adventure and passion.

In a second she was transformed from the wife of the brown money-master to the girl she was when she came to St. Saviour's from the plaza, where her Carvillho Gonzales was shot, with love behind her and memory blazoned in the red of martyrdom. She sang now as she had not sung for some years. Her guitar seemed to leap into life, her face shone with the hot passion of memory, her voice rang with the pain of a disappointed life:

"Granada, Granada, thy gardens are gay,

And bright are thy stars, the high stars above;

But as flowers that fade and are gray,

But as dusk at the end of the day,

Are ye to the light in the eyes of my love

In the eyes, in the soul, of my love.

"Granada, Granada, oh, when shall I see

My love in thy gardens, there waiting for me?

"Beloved, beloved, have pity, and make

Not the sun shut its eyes, its hot, envious eyes,

And the world in the darkness of night

Be debtor to thee for its light.

Turn thy face, turn thy face from the skies

To the love, to the pain in my eyes.

"Granada, Granada, oh, when shall I see

My love in thy gardens, there waiting for me!"

From that night forward she had been restless and petulant and like one watching and waiting. It seemed to her that she must fly from the life which was choking her. It was all so petty and so small. People went about sneaking into other people's homes like detectives; they turned yellow and grew scrofulous from too much salt pork, green tea, native tobacco, and the heat of feather beds. The making of a rag carpet was an event, the birth of a baby every year till the woman was forty-five was a commonplace; but the exit of a youth to a seminary to become a priest, or the entrance to the novitiate of a young girl, were matters as important as a battle to Napoleon the Great.

How had she gone through it all so long, she asked herself? The presence of Jean Jacques had become almost unbearable when, the day done, he retired to the feather bed which she loathed, though he would have looked upon discarding it like the abdication of his social position. A feather bed was a sign of social position; it was as much the dais to his honour as is the woolsack to the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords.

She was waiting for something. There was a restless, vagrant spirit alive in her now. She had been so long inactive, tied by the leg, with wings clipped; now her mind roamed into pleasant places of the imagination where life had freedom, where she could renew the impulses of youth. A true philosopher-a man of the world-would have known for what she was waiting with that vague, disordered expectancy and yearning; but there was no man of the world to watch and guide her this fateful summer, when things began to go irretrievably wrong.

Then George Masson came. He was a man of the world in his way; he saw and knew better than the philosopher of the Manor Cartier. He grasped the situation with the mind of an artist in his own sphere, and with the knowledge got by experience. Thus there had been the thing which the Clerk of the Court saw from Mont Violet behind the Manor; and so it was that as Jean Jacques helped Carmen down from the red wagon on their return from Vilray, she gave him a smile which was meant to deceive; for though given to him it was really given to another man in her mind's eye. At sunset she gave it again to George Masson on the river-bank, only warmer and brighter still, with eyes that were burning, with hands that trembled, and with an agitated bosom more delicately ample than it was on the day the Antoine was wrecked.

Neither of these two adventurers into a wild world of feeling noticed that a man was sitting on a little knoll under a tree, not far away from their meeting-place, busy with pencil and paper.

It was Jean Jacques, who had also come to the river-bank to work out a business problem which must be settled on the morrow. He had stolen out immediately after supper from neighbours who wished to see him, and had come here by a roundabout way, because he wished to be alone.

George Masson and Carmen were together for a few moments only, but Jean Jacques heard his wife say, "Yes, to-morrow-for sure," and then he saw her kiss the master-carpenter-kiss him twice, thrice. After which they vanished, she in one direction, and the invader and marauder in another.

If either of these two had seen the face of the man with a pencil and paper under the spreading beechtree, they would not have been so impatient for tomorrow, and Carmen would not have said "for sure."

Jean Jacques was awake at last, man as well as philosopher.

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