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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Money Master - Chapter 2. "The Rest Of The Story To-Morrow"
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The Money Master - Chapter 2. 'The Rest Of The Story To-Morrow' Post by :pegasus Category :Long Stories Author :Gilbert Parker Date :May 2012 Read :965

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The Money Master - Chapter 2. "The Rest Of The Story To-Morrow"

CHAPTER II. "THE REST OF THE STORY TO-MORROW"

The journey wore on to the coast of Canada. Gaspe was not far off when, still held back by the constitutional tendency of the Norman not to close a bargain till compelled to do so, Jean Jacques sat with Carmen far forward on the deck, where the groaning Antoine broke the waters into sullen foam. There they silently watched the sunset, golden, purple and splendid--and ominous, as the captain knew.

"Look, the end of life--like that!" said Jean Jacques oratorically with a wave of the hand towards the prismatic radiance.

"All the way round, the whole circle--no, it would be too much," Carmen replied sadly. "Better to go at noon--or soon after. Then the only memory of life would be of the gallop. No crawling into the night for me, if I can help it. Mother of Heaven, no! Let me go at the top of the flight."

"It is all the same to me," responded Jean Jacques, "I want to know it all--to gallop, to trot, to walk, to crawl. Me, I'm a philosopher. I wait."

"But I thought you were a Catholic," she replied, with a kindly, lurking smile, which might easily have hardened into scoffing.

"First and last," he answered firmly.

"A Catholic and a philosopher--together in one?" She shrugged a shoulder to incite him to argument, for he was interesting when excited; when spurting out little geysers of other people's cheap wisdom and philosophy, poured through the kind distortion of his own intelligence.

He gave a toss of his head. "Ah, that is my hobby--I reconcile, I unite, I adapt! It is all the nature of the mind, the far-look, the all-round sight of the man. I have it all. I see."

He gazed eloquently into the sunset, he swept the horizon with his hand. "I have the all-round look. I say the Man of Calvary, He is before all, the sun; but I say Socrates, Plato, Jean Jacques--that is my name, and it is not for nothing, that--Jean Jacques Rousseau, Descartes, Locke, they are stars that go round the sun. It is the same light, but not the same sound. I reconcile. In me all comes together like the spokes to the hub of a wheel. Me--I am a Christian, I am philosophe, also. In St. Saviour's, my home in Quebec, if the crops are good, what do men say? 'C'est le bon Dieu--it is the good God,' that is what they say. If the crops are bad, what do they say? 'It is the good God'--that is what they say. It is the good God that makes crops good or bad, and it is the good God that makes men say, 'C'est le bon Dieu.' The good God makes the philosophy. It is all one."

She appeared to grow agitated, and her voice shook as she spoke. "Tsh, it is only a fool that says the good God does it, when the thing that is done breaks you or that which you love all to pieces. No, no, no, it is not religion, it is not philosophy that makes one raise the head when the heart is bowed down, when everything is snatched away that was all in all. That the good God does it is a lie. Santa Maria, what a lie!"

"Why 'Santa Maria,' then, if it is a lie?" he asked triumphantly. He did not observe how her breast was heaving, how her hands were clenched; for she was really busy with thoughts of her dead Carvillho Gonzales; but for the moment he could only see the point of an argument.

She made a gesture of despair. "So--that's it. Habit in us is so strong. It comes through the veins of our mothers to us. We say that God is a lie one minute, and then the next minute we say, 'God guard you!' Always--always calling to something, for something outside ourselves. That is why I said Santa Maria, why I ask her to pray for the soul of my friend, to pray to the God that breaks me and mine, and sends us over the seas, beggars without a home."

Now she had him back out of the vanities of his philosophy. He was up, inflamed, looking at her with an excitement on which she depended for her future. She knew the caution of his nature, she realized how he would take one step forward and another step back, and maybe get nowhere in the end, and she wanted him--for a home, for her father's sake, for what he could do for them both. She had no compunctions. She thought herself too good for him, in a way, for in her day men of place and mark had taken notice of her; and if it had not been for her Gonzales she would no doubt have listened to one of them sometime or another. She knew she had ability, even though she was indolent, and she thought she could do as much for him as any other girl. If she gave him a handsome wife and handsome children, and made men envious of him, and filled him with good things, for she could cook more than tortillas-she felt he would have no right to complain. She meant him to marry her--and Quebec was very near!

"A beggar in a strange land, without a home, without a friend--oh, my broken life!" she whispered wistfully to the sunset.

It was not all acting, for the past reached out and swept over her, throwing waves of its troubles upon the future. She was that saddest of human beings, a victim of dual forces which so fought for mastery with each other that, while the struggle went on, the soul had no firm foothold anywhere. That, indeed, was why her Carvillho Gonzales, who also had been dual in nature, said to himself so often, "I am a devil," and nearly as often, "I have the heart of an angel."

"Tell me all about your life, my friend," Jean Jacques said eagerly. Now his eyes no longer hurried here and there, but fastened on hers and stayed thereabouts--ah, her face surely was like pictures he had seen in the Louvre that day when he had ambled through the aisles of great men's glories with the feeling that he could not see too much for nothing in an hour.

"My life? Ah, m'sieu', has not my father told you of it?" she asked.

He waved a hand in explanation, he cocked his head quizzically. "Scraps--like the buttons on a coat here and there--that's all," he answered. "Born in Andalusia, lived in Cadiz, plenty of money, a beautiful home,"--Carmen's eyes drooped, and her face flushed slightly--"no brothers or sisters--visits to Madrid on political business--you at school--then the going of your mother, and you at home at the head of the house. So much on the young shoulders, the kitchen, the parlour, the market, the shop, society--and so on. That is the way it was, so he said, except in the last sad times, when your father, for the sake of Don Carlos and his rights, near lost his life--ah, I can understand that: to stand by the thing you have sworn to! France is a republic, but I would give my life to put a Napoleon or a Bourbon on the throne. It is my hobby to stand by the old ship, not sign on to a new captain every port."

She raised her head and looked at him calmly now. The flush had gone from her face, and a light of determination was in her eyes. To that was added suddenly a certain tinge of recklessness and abandon in carriage and manner, as one flings the body loose from the restraints of clothes, and it expands in a free, careless, defiant joy.

Jean Jacques' recital of her father's tale had confused her for a moment, it was so true yet so untrue, so full of lies and yet so solid in fact. "The head of the house--visits to Madrid on political business--the parlour, the market, society--all that!" It suggested the picture of the life of a child of a great house; it made her a lady, and not a superior servant as she had been; it adorned her with a credit which was not hers; and for a moment she was ashamed. Yet from the first she had lent herself to the general imposture that they had fled from Spain for political reasons, having lost all and suffered greatly; and it was true while yet it was a lie. She had suffered, both her father and herself had suffered; she had been in danger, in agony, in sorrow, in despair--it was only untrue that they were of good birth and blood, and had had position and comfort and much money. Well, what harm did that do anybody? What harm did it do this little brown seigneur from Quebec? Perhaps he too had made himself out to be more than he was. Perhaps he was no seigneur at all, she thought. When one is in distant seas and in danger of his life, one will hoist any flag, sail to any port, pay homage to any king. So would she. Anyhow, she was as good as this provincial, with his ancient silver watch, his plump little hands, and his book of philosophy.

What did it matter, so all came right in the end! She would justify herself, if she had the chance. She was sick of conspiracy, and danger, and chicanery--and blood. She wanted her chance. She had been badly shaken in the last days in Spain, and she shrank from more worry and misery. She wanted to have a home and not to wander. And here was a chance--how good a chance she was not sure; but it was a chance. She would not hesitate to make it hers. After all, self-preservation was the thing which mattered. She wanted a bright fire, a good table, a horse, a cow, and all such simple things. She wanted a roof over her and a warm bed at night. She wanted a warm bed at night--but a warm bed at night alone. It was the price she would have to pay for her imposture, that if she had all these things, she could not be alone in the sleep-time. She had not thought of this in the days when she looked forward to a home with her Gonzales. To be near him was everything; but that was all dead and done for; and now--it was at this point that, shrinking, she suddenly threw off all restraining thoughts. With abandon of the mind came a recklessness of body, which gave her, all at once, a voluptuousness more in keeping with the typical maid of Andalusia. It got into the eyes and senses of Jean Jacques, in a way which had nothing to do with the philosophy of Descartes, or Kant, or Aristotle, or Hegel.

"It was beautiful in much--my childhood," she said in a low voice, dropping her eyes before his ardent gaze, "as my father said. My mother was lovely to see, but not bigger than I was at twelve--so petite, and yet so perfect in form--like a lark or a canary. Yes, and she could sing--anything. Not like me with a voice which has the note of a drum or an organ--"

"Of a flute, bright Senorita," interposed Jean Jacques.

"But high, and with the trills in the skies, and all like a laugh with a tear in it. When she went to the river to wash--"

She was going to say "wash the clothes," but she stopped in time and said instead, "wash her spaniel and her pony"--her face was flushed again with shame, for to lie about one's mother is a sickening thing, and her mother never had a spaniel or a pony--"the women on the shore wringing their clothes, used to beg her to sing. To the hum of the river she would make the music which they loved--"

"La Manola and such?" interjected Jean Jacques eagerly. "That's a fine song as you sing it."

"Not La Manola, but others of a different sort--The Love of Isabella, The Flight of Bobadil, Saragosse, My Little Banderillero, and so on, and all so sweet that the women used to cry. Always, always she was singing till the time when my father became a rebel. Then she used to cry too; and she would sing no more; and when my father was put against a wall to be shot, and fell in the dust when the rifles rang out, she came at the moment, and seeing him lying there, she threw up her hands, and fell down beside him dead--"

"The poor little senora, dead too--"

"Not dead too--that was the pity of it. You see my father was not dead. The officer"--she did not say sergeant--"who commanded the firing squad, he was what is called a compadre of my father--"

"Yes, I understand--a made-brother, sealed with an oath, which binds closer than a blood-brother. It is that, is it not?"

"So--like that. Well, the compadre had put blank cartridges in their rifles, and my father pretended to fall dead; and the soldiers were marched away; and my father, with my mother, was carried to his home, still pretending to be dead. It had been all arranged except the awful thing, my mother's death. Who could foresee that? She ought to have been told; but who could guess that she would hear of it all, and come at the moment like that? So, that was the way she went, and I was left alone with my father." She had told the truth in all, except in conveying that her mother was not of the lower orders, and that she went to the river to wash her spaniel and her pony instead of her clothes.

"Your father--did they not arrest him again? Did they not know?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "That is not the way in Spain. He was shot, as the orders were, with his back to the wall by a squad of soldiers with regulation bullets. If he chose to come to life again, that was his own affair. The Government would take no notice of him after he was dead. He could bury himself, or he could come alive--it was all the same to them. So he came alive again."

"That is a story which would make a man's name if he wrote it down," said Jean Jacques eloquently. "And the poor little senora, but my heart bleeds for her! To go like that in such pain, and not to know--If she had been my wife I think I would have gone after her to tell her it was all right, and to be with her--"

He paused confused, for that seemed like a reflection on her father's chivalry, and for a man who had risked his life for his banished king--what would he have thought if he had been told that Sebastian Dolores was an anarchist who loathed kings!--it was an insult to suggest that he did not know the right thing to do, or, knowing, had not done it.

She saw the weakness of his case at once. "There was his duty to the living," she said indignantly.

"Ah, forgive me--what a fool I am!" Jean Jacques said repentantly at once. "There was his little girl, his beloved child, his Carmen Dolores, so beautiful, with the voice like a flute, and--"

He drew nearer to her, his hand was outstretched to take hers; his eyes were full of the passion of the moment; pity was drowning all caution, all the Norman shrewdness in him, when the Antoine suddenly stopped almost dead with a sudden jolt and shock, then plunged sideways, jerked, and trembled.

"We've struck a sunk iceberg--the rest of the story to-morrow, Senorita," he cried, as they both sprang to their feet.

"The rest of the story to-morrow," she repeated, angry at the stroke of fate which had so interrupted the course of her fortune. She said it with a voice also charged with fear; for she was by nature a landfarer, not a sea-farer, though on the rivers of Spain she had lived almost as much as on land, and she was a good swimmer.

"The rest to-morrow," she repeated, controlling herself.

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