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   Chapter 19 SEBASTIAN DOLORES DOES NOT SLEEP

The Money Master, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 8788

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


But Jean Jacques did sleep well that night; though it would have been better for him if he had not done so. The contractor's workmen had arrived in the early afternoon, he had seen the first ton of debris removed from the ruins of the historic mill, and it was crowned by the gold Cock of Beaugard, all grimy with the fire, but jaunty as of yore. The cheerfulness of the workmen, who sang gaily an old chanson of mill-life as they tugged at the timbers and stones, gave a fillip to the spirits of Jean Jacques, to whom had come a red-letter day.

Like Mirza on the high hill of Bagdad he had had his philosophic meditations; his good talk with Virginie Poucette had followed; and the woman of her lingered in the feeling of his hand all day, as something kind and homelike and true. Also in the evening had come M. Fille, who brought him a message from Judge Carcasson, that he must make the world sing for himself again.

Contrary to what Mere Langlois had thought, he had not been perturbed by the parish noise about the savage incident at "The Red Eagle," and the desperate affair which would cause the arrest of his father-in-law. He was at last well inclined to be rid of Sebastian Dolores, who had ceased to be a comfort to him, and who brought him hateful and not kindly memories of his lost women, and the happy hours of the past they represented.

M. Fille had come to the Manor in much alarm, lest the news of the miserable episode at "The Red Eagle" should bring Jean Jacques down again to the depths. He was infinitely relieved, however, to find that the lord of the Manor Cartier seemed only to be grateful that Sebastian Dolores did not return, and nodded emphatically when M. Fille remarked that perhaps it would be just as well if he never did return.

As M. Fille sat with his host at the table in the sunset light, Jean Jacques seemed quieter and steadier of body and mind than he had been for a long, long time. He even drank three glasses of the cordial which Mere Langlois had left for him, with the idea that it might comfort him when he got the bad news about Sebastian Dolores; and parting with M. Fille at the door, he waved a hand and said: "Well, good-night, master of the laws. Safe journey! I'm off to bed, and I'll sleep without rocking, that's very sure and sweet."

He stood and waved his hand several times to M. Fille-till he was out of sight indeed; and the Clerk of the Court smiled to himself long afterwards, recalling Jean Jacques' cheerful face as he had seen it at their parting in the gathering dusk. As for Jean Jacques, when he locked up the house at ten o'clock, with Dolores still absent, he had the air of a man from whose shoulders great weights had fallen.

"Now I've shut the door on him, it'll stay shut," he said firmly. "Let him go back to work. He's no good here to me, to himself, or to anyone. And that business of the fur-robe and Virginie Poucette-ah, that!"

He shook his head angrily, then seeing the bottle of cordial still uncorked on the sideboard, he poured some out and drank it very slowly, till his eyes were on the ceiling above him and every drop had gone home. Presently, with the bedroom lamp in his hand, he went upstairs, humming to himself the chanson the workmen had sung that afternoon as they raised again the walls of the mill:

"Distaff of flax flowing behind her

Margatton goes to the mill

On the old grey ass she goes,

The flour of love it will blind her

Ah, the grist the devil will grind her,

When Margatton goes to the mill!

On the old grey ass she goes,

And the old grey ass, he knows!"

He liked the sound of his own voice this night of his Reconstruction Period-or such it seemed to him; and he thought that no one heard his singing save himself. There, however, he was mistaken. Someone was hidden in the house-in the big kitchen-bunk which served as a bed or a seat, as needed. This someone had stolen in while Jean Jacques and M. Fille were at supper. His name was Dolores, and he had a horse just over the hill near by, to serve him when his work was done, and he could get away.

The constables of Vilray had twice visited the Manor to arrest him that day, but they had been led in another direction by a clue which he had provided; and afterwards in the dusk he had doubled back and hid himself under Jean Jacques' roof. He had very important business at the M

anor Cartier.

Jean Jacques' voice ceased one song, and then, after a silence, it took up another, not so melodious. Sebastian Dolores had impatiently waited for this later "musicale" to begin-he had heard it often before; and when it was at last a regular succession of nasal explosions, he crawled out and began to do the business which had brought him to the Manor Cartier.

He did it all alone and with much skill; for when he was an anarchist in Spain, those long years ago, he had learned how to use tools with expert understanding. Of late, Spain had been much in his mind. He wanted to go back there. Nostalgia had possessed him ever since he had come again to the Manor Cartier after Zoe had left. He thought much of Spain, and but little of his daughter. Memory of her was only poignant, in so far as it was associated with the days preceding the wreck of the Antoine. He had had far more than enough of the respectable working life of the New World; but there never was sufficient money to take him back to Europe, even were it safe to go. Of late, however, he felt sure that he might venture, if he could only get cash for the journey. He wanted to drift back to the idleness and adventure and the "easy money" of the old anarchist days in Cadiz and Madrid. He was sick for the patio and the plaza, for the bull-fight, for the siesta in the sun, for the lazy glamour of the gardens and the red wine of Valladolid, for the redolent cigarette of the roadside tavern. This cold iron land had spoiled him, and he would strive to get himself home again before it was too late. In Spain there would always be some woman whom he could cajole; some comrade whom he could betray; some priest whom he could deceive, whose pocket he could empty by the recital of his troubles. But if, peradventure, he returned to Spain with money to spare in his pocket, how easy indeed it would all be, and how happy he would find himself amid old surroundings and old friends!

The way had suddenly opened up to him when Jean Jacques had brought home in hard cash, and had locked away in the iron-doored cupboard in the officewall, his last, his cherished, eight thousand dollars. Six thousand of that eight were still left, and it was concern for this six thousand which had brought Dolores to the Manor this night when Jean Jacques snored so loudly. The events of the day at "The Red Eagle" had brought things to a crisis in the affairs of Carmen's father. It was a foolish business that at the tavern-so, at any rate, he thought, when it was all over, and he was awake to the fact that he must fly or go to jail. From the time he had, with a bottle of gin, laid Valescure low, Spain was the word which went ringing through his head, and the way to Spain was by the Six Thousand Dollar Route, the New World terminal of which was the cupboard in the wall at the Manor Cartier.

Little cared Sebastian Dolores that the theft of the money would mean the end of all things for Jean Jacques Barbille-for his own daughter's husband. He was thinking of himself, as he had always done.

He worked for two whole hours before he succeeded in quietly forcing open the iron door in the wall; but it was done at last. Curiously enough, Jean Jacques' snoring stopped on the instant that Sebastian Dolores' fingers clutched the money; but it began cheerfully again when the door in the wall closed once more.

Five minutes after Dolores had thrust the six thousand dollars into his pocket, his horse was galloping away over the hills towards the River St. Lawrence. If he had luck, he would reach it by the morning. As it happened, he had the luck. Behind him, in the Manor Cartier, the man who had had no luck and much philosophy, snored on till morning in unconscious content.

It was a whole day before Jean Jacques discovered his loss. When he had finished his lonely supper the next evening, he went to the cupboard in his office to cheer himself with the sight of the six thousand dollars. He felt that he must revive his spirits. They had been drooping all day, he knew not why.

When he saw the empty pigeon-hole in the cupboard, his sight swam. It was some time before it cleared, but, when it did, and he knew beyond peradventure the crushing, everlasting truth, not a sound escaped him. His heart stood still. His face filled with a panic confusion. He seemed like one bereft of understanding.

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