The Future of Gerard
THERE MAY have been happier young men in the province of Quebec at the moment, but it is doubtful. Certainly Gerard Fisette was the happiest young man in that lovely village of Montville.
“All the difficulties have been overcome,” said Pierre Labonne, the notary. “As you know, my good Gerard, it is a delicate matter, this business of collecting one’s winnings on a sweepstake ticket. There is a foolish law, the Informers Act, which permits any low scoundrel to claim your prize merely by informing the Government that you have won it. But everything has been managed very quietly. The secret has been well kept. The sum of five thousand dollars was deposited to your credit in the bank this morning, and I take pleasure in congratulating you on your good fortune.”
Gravely the plump, dignified little notary shook Gerard’s hand. Then he sat down again and said:
' “And now, Gerard, what are your plans? What do you desire to do with this remarkable nest egg?”
Gerard Fisette, a shy, sandy-haired little fellow, coughed doubtfully. He glanced at the door, then at the window, as if fearful of being overheard.
“M. Labonne, as you know, I was born in Montville.” “So was I.”
“I have lived in this village all my life.”
“I too. my good Gerard. It is a charming place.”
“M. Labonne, it is a dreadful thing to say, but I am sick of Montville.”
The notary raised his eyebrows in astonishment.
“For nine years, sir, I have assisted in my father’s tailoring shop. For nine years I have pressed the pants of Montville. And I am tired of it.”
“After all,” mused M. Labonne, “that is but natural. It is not always a good thing for a man to spend his entire life in the town of his birth.”
“What is there here for me? Nothing. I do not desire to spend the rest of my time pressing pants. It does not interest me. For a long time I have dreamed of living in the city, of having a little business of my own, repairing radios.” Gerard Fisette was one of those young fellows who cannot look upon an alarm clock, a sewing machine, a cream separator, a radio, without being seized by an irresistible desire to take it apart and put it together again.
“In my pocket, M. Labonne. I have a letter from a friend in Montreal. He has a radio-repairing business which he will sell for twenty-five hundred dollars. This miracle of the sweepstake ticket will enable me to buy it.”
“And Mademoiselle Servais—what does she think of this idea?”
Gerard looked doubtful.
“I have not yet mentioned the matter.” he confessed. “You are the only person in Montville who knows. But now, M. Labonne, I am a man of substance, a man of capital, a man with a future. This very evening I plan to propose to Madeline. Her parents have not regarded me favorably until I won this money, now the situation has altered.” “It will demand tact,” cautioned M. Labonne. “After all, Madeline was born here. She is doubtless very attached to Montville and she may not care tor the life of the city. It is no light thing to persuade a young girl to leave her native town.”
“If she loves me,” declared Gerard, “she will follow me to Africa.”
“You plan to go to Africa?” enquired Labonne.
“A figure of speech. No, merely Montreal.”
When the young man had gone, Pierre Labonne stood at the window of his office and looked down at the drowsy village street.
“You are a timid fellow, Gerard,” he said to himself. “And your Madeline has been under the thumb of her parents for a long time. Perhaps your little rebellion may succeed. But I doubt it. I doubt it. Five thousand dollars does not escape from Montville so easily.”
M. Labonne knew his townspeople.
rT"'HE LITTLE home of Gerard Fisette’s parents was crowded that night. It seemed that all Montville desired to shake the hero’s hand. It seemed that every relative within twenty miles had arrived to wish him well. Uncles and aunts, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, cousins, nephews and nieces. Their cars choked the roadway, their horses and buggies thronged the yard.
Friends and relatives crowded the dining room, the stairs, the hall, the bedrooms. Even the sacred front parlor had been thrown open. From their gilt frames a host of male and female ancestors gazed blankly upon a scene of merriment. The house echoed with a tumult of chatter and laughter; the air was heavy with the reek of shag tobacco. The kitchen was like a shooting gallery, so continuous was the popping of corks as bottle after bottle of Madame Fisette’s dandelion wine emerged from the cellar.
But yes, it was a splendid party. And out on the gallery, in a dark corner. Gerard Fisette kissed his sweetheart once more and said blissfully:
“My angel! You have made me the happiest man in the world.”
“I adore you, my darling.”
She was a tiny little thing with great dark eyes. Very shy, very quiet. To Gerard Fisette she was incomparable.
“We must arrange our plans, my own,” whispered Gerard. “With five thousand dollars one can do a great deal.”
“But yes,” agreed Madeline Servais. “It is a fortune.” Inside the house someone began to play on the accordion. Someone began to sing “Alouette.” There was a great stamping of feet.
“With five thousand dollars,” said Gerard, “one might even buy a little business. One must look to the future.” He was proceeding cautiously. So far as Gerard was concerned, the picture of a little radio shop in the heart of the roaring city, the very thought of escape from Montville, represented a veritable paradise. But how would Madeline regard this?
“That is so, Gerard,” she answered.
“I do not care to remain in the tailoring business. I was never meant to be a presser of pants. My heart is not in that career. Now, I have a letter in my pocket—”
But one could not expect privacy at such a party. Around the corner of the gallery waddled Uncle Zotique Fisette, a vast, corpulent, hairy man whose countenance seemed to be all eyebrows and whiskers.
“Ho !” he gurgled. “But what is this? Love-making, aha !” “Uncle Zotique,” beamed Gerard. “Madeline has just done me the honor of promising to be my wife.”
Uncle Zotique let out a joyous whoop, clapped Gerard soundly upon the back, saluted Madeline with a hearty if hairy smack upon the cheek and galloped off, bellowing the glad news. Within a few moments a squad of Fisettes and
Servais had descended upon the pair and they were bundled helter-skelter into the house amid noisy and hearty acclaim.
AND NOW, you young people,” boomed Uncle Zotique while the uproar was still at its height, “it is time you were making plans.”
“But yes,” agreed Gerard, his face very red at the moment owing to excitement, embarrassment, dandelion wine and a tight collar. It was going to be a ticklish business breaking the news to these people that he did not plan to remain in Montville. They would be shocked and amazed. And, after all, he had not yet discussed the matter with Madeline. Still, he could pave the way. “You comprehend,” he said, “I do not intend to remain the tailoring shop.”
“Quite right. No future in it,” replied Uncle Zotique. “Five thousand dollars, my dear nephew, is a large sum of money.”
“A young man with five thousand dollars,” declared Uncle Zotique with the air of one imparting valuable information, “is not the same as a young man without five thousand dollars.”
Gerard thought it over and, after consideration, agreed that this was indeed so.
“We must consider your future, my dear boy.”
Gerard gulped. Yes, it was going to be difficult. These people were proud of Montville. They loved Montville. They would regard him as a lunatic. He began to appreciate the enormity of his treachery.
“Now I have been considering your interests, my good Gerard. And yours, my dear Madeline,” declaimed Uncle Zotique grandly. Madeline blushed. “And so, I am going to do you a great favor.”
“But thank you, Uncle Zotique.”
Zotique Fisette, one must know, was an important person in Montville. He realized it. He owned the creamery.
“Gerard,” said Uncle Zotique, “we need young men like you. ambitious young men with a little capital, in the creamery business. In short, Gerard,” and he paused for effect, “I am going to take you into partnership with me.”
Several assorted Fisettes who had been listening were convulsed with excitement. Gerard had been offered a partnership in the creamery business! Some applauded Uncle Zotique fervently. Some hastened to congratulate Gerard upon his good fortune. Others rushed to spread the news.
“But, of course I am very grateful, Uncle Zotique,” stammered Gerard, wondering how he could decline the magnificent offer without hurting the good man’s feelings. “I— you comprehend, I scarcely know how to thank you—it is a great honor—”
“Hold!” boomed a deep voice.
M. Hector Servais, uncle of Madeline, came waddling up. He was quite as hairy, quite as fat and quite as important as Uncle Zotique. Did he not own a flourishing poultry farm just south of the town? Did he not ship thousands of eggs and chickens to Montreal every year?
“Hold!” he cried, all out of breath. “What is this I hear? The creamery business! Pardon, my good Zotique! Not so fast. I, too, have the interests of these young people at heart. I, too, wish to do our good Gerard and my niece, Madeline, a favor. And I say the poultry business is the thing for them. It too offers a bright future to an ambitious young fellow with a little capital.”
The delightfully humorous story of a young FrenchCanadian suddenly beset by wealth, romance, and a rush of relatives
And he glared at Uncle Zotique. It was well known in Montville that little love was lost between them.
Uncle Zotique’s eyebrows waggled portentously.
“My nephew,” he said, “is doubtless very grateful. It is for him to decide whether he wishes to gamble his capital in the poultry business or whether he desires to invest it in a sound, respectable, profitable creamery.”
Uncle Hector became crimson. Gerard exchanged a distressed glance with Madeline.
“But my dear Uncle Zotique—my dear M. Servais—” he stammered.
He was ignored.
“Ha!” snorted Uncle Hector. “He would be gambling, eh? You would hint that the poultry business is not sound, is not respectable, is not profitable? I would have you understand, M. Fisette, that my poultry business is as solid as a brewery.”
“And as fragrant,” returned Uncle Zotique icily. “But you have interrupted a business conversation. Gerard and I are discussing arrangements for our partnership.”
“Then I too am offering him a partnership,” bellowed
Uncle Hector. “In the poultry business, you comprehend. After all, my niece Madeline may have a word or two to say.”
Madeline, who had seldom been permitted to have a word or two to say and who would have been stricken dumb at the very thought of contradicting any member of the clan Servais, looked unhappy. Gerard gulped:
“It is, after all, a matter which demands thought.”
“Thought?” yelped Uncle Zotique, scandalized. "I offer you a partnership in my creamery business and you say you must think about it ! Most young men would leap at the opportunity.”
He eyed Gerard as if doubting his nephew’s sanity.
“The boy is quite right,” Uncle Hector said. “And if he thinks sufficiently he will remain out of the creamery business.”
“What is it that you mean by that?” demanded Uncle Zotique, bristling.
“What is it that you think I mean? It is notorious that your creamery is losing money, the price of butter being what it is—”
“Gentlemen—gentlemen !” pleaded Gerard weakly.
“You suggest that his money would not be safe in my creamery?” howled Uncle Zotique, outraged. “When it is known the length and breadth of the township that the poultry market is in a deplorable state, that eggs are not what they were—”
“M. Fisette, my eggs are always what they were. Have a care. You go too far. The people of Montreal will always desire fresh eggs. And the hens of Hector Servais will always be prepared to supply that demand, sir!”
Uncle Hector slapped himself proudly on the chest, with the air of a poultry raiser who has but to snap his fingers at a hen to prompt the obedient bird into production of an immediate and immaculate egg.
HERE WAS a tremendous hubbub. Not a Fisette in the house but felt in his secret heart that it would be an abominable scandal to let $5,000 get out of the family. Not a Servais but felt the same. Arguments broke out spontaneously all over the house, Fisette against Servais and Servais against Fisette. The French-Canadian, you comprehend, is a gay and laughter-loving soul, but on the other hand he is passionately fond of argument. And where the honor of his family is threatened he will talk until his voice becomes a whisper.
It was bedlam. "... Madeline would not like the creamery business. . .” “After all, my friend, it is Gerard’s money. . .” “A partnership is not to be sneezed at. . .” “And what do you know about raising poultry. . .” “I tell you, Zotique Fisette is attempting to swindle him. . . ” “I would not trust Hector Servais any farther than I could hurl a bull by the tail. . .” “Zotique Fisette, I tell you, is an honest man...” “Zotique Fisette sells bad butter. He is an old scoundrel. . .” “Come out into the backyard, sir. . .” “I defy you to repeat that remark. .
And so on. Zotique Fisette and Hector Servais were hard at it, each shaking a fist beneath the other’s nose. Epithets such as “Dolt” and “Poltroon” flew freely. Graruipère Servais, out in the kitchen, passionately recounted details of an ancient horse trade in which he had been worsted by a deadand-gone Fisette. He vowed:
“I will see my granddaughter dead at my feet before she marries any youth imbecile enough to be swindled by a rascally buttermaker.”
A Fisette cousin and a .Servais cousin who happened to be courting the same girl began to insult each other hotly. A Fisette aunt and a Servais aunt who had despised and sniffed at each other for years raised shrill voices.
And in the midst of this dreadful uproar Gerard and Madeline stood aghast, frightened and bewildered. Vainly they attempted to restore peace. They insisted upon their
gratitude toward both uncles. They pleaded for time in which to make a choice.
“Perhaps it is that Gerard does not plan to remain in Montville at all.”
But this idea was received with hoots of scorn. The notion that any son of Montville should ever wish to leave that lovely village was regarded as preposterous.
“Not remain in Montville !” shouted Uncle Zotique. “Bah ! That is the remark of an imbecile. Why, where would he go? Leave Montville. after I have offered him a partnership in my creamery!”
“Leave Montville when I am permitting him an interest in my poultry business!” jeered Uncle Hector. “The boy would be a fool.”
“My Madeline would never consent to leave Montville!” shrieked Madeline’s mother.
Upon this question alone everyone was in agreement. Gerard, now in rank panic, saw that it would indeed be an unpropitious time to mention his plans regarding the little radio business in the city. All about him raged the furious debate. Servais was arrayed against Fisette: even his own father and the father of Madeline were insulting each other elaborately in the kitchen. Out in the backyard the two cousins were settling their private differences and enthusiastically blackening each other’s eyes.
Had it continued for long the regrettable affair might have ended in a riot. And then a voice cried:
“Hold, my friends!”
Upon a chair stood M. Gabriel Potvin, the hay and feed merchant, wealthiest citizen of Montville.
INSTANTLY there was silence, save for the sounds of combat drifting through the screen door, indicating that the embattled cousins were hard at it.
Whack! "Take that, pig!”
“Ug!” Whack! “How do you like that, skunk?”
But M. Gabriel Potvin commanded the situation indoors. And with good reason. He was a wizened, shrivelled little man, the most grasping, tight-fisted old curmudgeon in the township, but he was worth $50,000. When $50,000 gets up on a chair in Montville it is greeted with proper awe and respect.
"Mesdames et messieurs,” said Gabriel Potvin in his piping voice. "This is most deplorable. I am sure our good Gerard has been overwhelmed by the handsome offers that have been made to him. But it is a delicate and embarrassing situation in which he has been placed.”
“But yes,” agreed Gerard. “Overwhelmed—that is the word.”
“It is but natural,” said Gabriel Potvin, “that our good friend Zotique Fisette should be concerned for his nephew’s future. And it is likewise natural that our good friend Hector Servais should be concerned for the future of his niece. But may I remind you that I am concerned for their welfare also.
I am related to both of them.”
“But yes, that is so,” declared old M. Fisette. A brother of Gabriel Potvin had married a Fisette.
“Of a certainty, it is a fact,” agreed old M. Servais. A sister of Gabriel Potvin had married a Servais.
“And now I wish to claim the privilege of making my dear young relative an offer. Gerard, my boy,” cried Gabriel Potvin emotionally. “I offer you a partnership, a future in my hay and feed business.”
A stunned silence. Then:
“Hooray for Gabriel Potvin!” roared Madeline’s father, immensely relieved by this happy compromise.
“Hooray for Cousin Gabriel!” shrieked the father of Gerard, mindful of a little sum he owed his respected relative on a mortgage.
Not a Fisette, not a Servais who owed money or hoped to owe money to the great man but was prepared to applaud his slightest utterance. The cheers were deafening.
The great dispute was over. The future of Gerard Fisette was assured.
“One moment!” continued Gabriel Potvin, quelling the outburst of joy. “I will do more. To show my high regard for this young couple I wish to give them a wedding present. The vacant lot beside my store. It is a desirable property. It is theirs,” cried Potvin handsomely, “upon which to build themselves a house.”
More cheers. Never before in the history of Montville had Gabriel Potvin been known to give anything away. This was an occasion. It was generally felt that enthusiasm and dandelion wine had caused him to lose his head.
As for Uncle Zotique and Uncle Hector, their hopes of attracting $5,000 into the creamery business and poultry business respectively were crushed in a twinkling. Servais and Fisettes forgot their differences and rushed forward to congratulate the young couple upon their good fortune. Corks once more began to pop in the kitchen. Madeline was smiling with relief.
Gerard stammered unhappily:
“But yes—yes—it is very generous of M. Potvin. I am so grateful, I scarcely know what to say.”
But in his heart was panic and defeat. He told himself: “This is dreadful. It means that I must spend the rest of my life in this desolate town. In the hay and feed business.”
Continued on page 81
The Future of Gerard
Continued from page 11—Starts on page 10
Had Gerard been a strong, determined man he would have said loudly but firmly: “My friends, I regret that I cannot accept these generous offers. I have already arranged to purchase a little radio business in the city. It desolates me to go away from Montville, but one must consider one’s future and one’s own wishes.”
But it would have taken a man much stronger, much more determined than Gerard Fisette. He held his tongue. There was Madeline to' consider. She might have consented to leave Montville half an hour ago; there was no future for him then; now the situation had altered itself, a future had been contrived for him, and a partnership in the hay and feed business with the wealthy Potvin was not to be lightly cast aside.
Up bustled Cousin Dieudonne Villemaire —lanky, energetic, bald, bespectacled.
M. Villemaire was a contractor and builder. By necessity he specialized in barns and silos, for no new house had been built in Montville for twenty years. Ever since he had entered the contracting business he had seethed with ambition to t build a house. Dieudonne Villemaire was positively gurgling with excitement.
“My good Gerard !” he cried. “You must leave everything to me. Everything.” And he whipped out an envelope and pencil. “I have the very house for you.”
“I would not care for a large house,” interjected Madeline faintly. “Just a small cottage. After all, if Gerard is going to enter the hay and feed business—”
“Precisely! Precisely! I have been discussing that matter with M. Potvin. Twentyfive hundred dollars for your interest in the business, five hundred dollars for furniture, two thousand dollars for your new house.” Gerard listened in dismay.
“And for our honeymoon, I suppose,” he reflected moodily, “we shall enjoy a stroll down to the railway bridge and back.”
“For two thousand dollars,” declared Dieudonne Villemaire, “I can build for you the finest cottage in Montville.” He began to sketch swiftly on the back of the envelope. “Now regard this plan. Voilà! The hall, the parlor on the left, the sitting room here, the bedroom there, the bathroom here, the kitchen there. A gallery at the front and side. The woodshed here. The house will be set well back from the street thus. You will have a large lawn, a flower garden perhaps.” “I do not like this arrangement of a large lawn and flower beds,” objected Uncle Phileas Fisette, who had been scrutinizing the plan sourly. “One should not waste good land in that manner. A lawn is all very well if one is a millionaire. Now I plan to give Gerard and Madeline a calf for a wedding present. The calf,” he explained, “will grow up and become a cow. It will give milk and butter,” he added, as if this particular calf were possessed of unusual gifts. “But there should be a stable for the calf and a pasture at the back, thus.”
Whereupon he took the pencil and the plan from Dieudonne Villemaire and in a few strokes eradicated the lawn and the flower beds, replacing them with a stable and a pasture in the rear.
“The house, then, will be right on the street,” he said proudly, “and you will be able to sit on your gallery in the evening and talk to the people passing by.”
Aunt Mathilde Servais, who had invaded the group, peered at the plan through her spectacles and snorted.
“A house? You call that a house?” she demanded of Villemaire. “How many rooms are there upstairs?”
“There is no upstairs, madame. This, you see, is a cottage—”
“No upstairs?” shouted Aunt Mathilde. “Of course there is an upstairs. When relatives come to visit—and relatives always come to visit all of us every summer—where will they sleep? In the parlor? On the gallery? In the woodshed?”
“Oh, but yes, there must be an upstairs,” declared Madeline’s mother firmly. “Dieudonne, you are not very practical. Draw an upstairs at once.”
M. VILLEMAIRE, chastened, began to sketch the desired upper story. Madame Servais turned to Gabriel Potvin, who was craning his neck to see.
“Imagine! Dieudonne was about to build a house without an upstairs. Mathilde and I soon put a stop to that. He is building an upstairs now.”
“Of a certainty there must be an upstairs,” declared Gabriel Potvin. “Why, where would I .sleep?”
“You, M. Potvin?”
“But yes. I meant to discuss that with you. It will be agreeable, I hope, if I come and board with you. As you know, my living quarters above the store are not very convenient.”
Gerard knew that very well. For reasons of economy, Gabriel Potvin lived, in two stuffy little rooms that would have been despised by a Hottentot. Madeline stifled a gasp of dismay. The prospect of Potvin as a boarder was even less agreeable than the prospect of Potvin as a partner. But what could one say? Already Madame Fisette. under the impression that the hay and feed magnate planned to make Gerard his heir, was assuring him that the arrangement was ideal. Various members of the Servais family were assuring him that it was a sensible plan indeed.
Gerard began to see why Potvin had donated the lot.
“But there will still be plenty of room.” cried Aunt Mathilde, who had her own reasons for desiring an upstairs to the house. “It brings me to a matter I have had on my mind. As you know, my two girls—the twins Antoinette and Fleurette—will be commencing to go to school in September. As we live ten miles out in the country, it will be a long distance for them to go every day.”
“Yes, indeed, Aunt Mathilde,” said Madeline despairingly. She knew what was coming.
“It will be fine if they can find a good home in Montville and go back to the farm every Friday night. It would be a comfortable arrangement for them and they will be good company for Madeline, the angels. We will be glad to pay a small sum for their board, of course. It is a shame to have empty rooms going to waste when one can have a small income from them.”
Gerard’s brain was reeling. This little cottage was becoming transformed. This cosy little bower which might make Montville and the hay-and-feed business more endurable had already been supplied with a second story, Gabriel Potvin, a stable, a pasture, a calf and a pair of twins, besides being robbed almost entirely of its lawn and flower beds.
“Now I have a suggestion to make,” announced M. Paul Lillivert, the mayor of Montville. He was a dignified old party with a black beard and a white waistcoat. Whenever he spoke, even to say “Bon jour" to a neighbor on the street, it was as if he addressed a multitude. Mayor Lillivert, beaming with benevolence, thrust his thumbs into his waistcoat pockets and rocked slowly on his heels.
“As you know, my friends,” he declaimed, “I have some small political influence in this constituency. It has occurred to me that within the next few months, Madame Belisle, who has had the postoffice and telephone exchange in her home for many years, will be retired on a pension. Now then, there is a tidy little income from that. On this plan”—and he took the envelope from Dieudonne Villemaire—“let us say we remove the front gallery, let the postoffice and the telephone switchboard occupy the room that ! was to be the parlor, add a summer kitchen at the back—-voilà!”
Rapidly, he made the alterations.
“Through my influence with our local Member of Parliament I think I can safely say the thing is as good as done,” declared Mayor Lillivert. “I shall write to him in the morning.”
“But—but,” gibbered Gerard, “it is most kind of you, M. Lillivert—but I fear it will mean a great deal of extra work for Madeline.”
Mayor Lillivert shrugged.
“Pooh ! A mere trifle. With a girl to help her, the matter will be easily arranged. The extra income is three hundred dollars a year and that is not to be despised, let me remind you.”
“No, indeed !” clamored various relatives.
“I declare, my son,” said Gerard’s father, “you are the luckiest young fellow in Montville. You win five thousand dollars on a sweepstake, you are given a partnership in the hay and feed business, a free lot, paying boarders, a calf, the telephone exchange and the postoffice. Why, you will be rolling in wealth. Your future is assured.”
And then a deep voice broke in—a deep, sad, sympathetic voice, freighted with sorrow.
“My dear Gerard! My poor fellow! It is a deplorable errand upon which I arrive. I trust you have not gone too far in your plans.”
THE NEWCOMER was that worthy notary, M. Pierre Labonne, who had entered the room unnoticed. In his hand he grasped a paper. The countenance of Pierre Labonne was grave.
“But what is it that has happened now?” squeaked Madame Fisette.
“That which I feared has made itself to occur,” Pierre Labonne said heavily. “I gave our good Gerard the best advice I knew, the money was collected in secrecy, every precaution was taken—”
“Mon dieu!” ejaculated Madeline’s father in a voice of horror. “Do not tell us the money has been taken away from him.” Pierre Labonne sighed, shook his head sadly and began to read from the paper. Vaguely, his brain by this time in a fog, Gerard heard him intoning:
“. . . under the Informers Act ... do hereby claim. . . sum of five thousand dollars. . . proceeds of a sweepstakes. . . illegal under the law...”
It terminated with the name of the informer, Osias Perron. A stranger, a total stranger, his address given as Montreal.
The whole room was hushed. Every Servais, every Fisette was stunned.
They realized only too well what had happened.
That ridiculous law against sweepstakes and lotteries, that law which allows a common informer, a scoundrel, to claim a man’s winnings! Even the shrewd Labonne had been powerless to protect Gerard against such rascality.
“My dear fellow,” said Pierre Labonne sympathetically, laying a hand on Gerard’s shoulder. “It is a distressing shock. A grievous blow. You must bear up. Courage, my boy. We will fight this villain. We will fight him through every court in the land. It maybe an expensive business, no doubt.
Everyone groaned. Indeed, yes. Even if Gerard won, how much would be left of his five thousand dollars?
The party broke up very quickly.
Gerard received many condolences, many handshakes of regret. But Madame Servais regarded him grimly. Madeline’s father wagged his head dubiously. Gerard was no longer a young man with a future.
Gabriel Potvin scuttled out after expressing regret that Gerard would be unable to enter the hay and feed business after all. Of course, unless one had capital it would be impossible. Uncle Zotique vanished without further references to the creamery business, and Uncle Hector said nothing more about the poultry business. A few assorted uncles and cousins hastily finished up the last of the dandelion wine and decamped. Dieudonne Villemaire sadly tore up the plan of the house and said, “It would have been a
remarkable structure.” Then he, too, vanished. Madame Fisette wept in the kitchen. M. Fisette went out and kicked the cat off the back porch.
Gerard and Madeline were left alone.
“I am desolate, my angel,” said Gerard. “I have nothing. I have no future. I cannot hold you to our engagement now. I give you up. Farewell!”
It was, he felt, the proper thing to say and he put a great deal of emotion into it.
“Foolish one!” reproached Madeline softly. “What does it matter? I did not agree to marry five thousand dollars. I agreed to marry Gerard Fisette.”
“My Gerard !”
I FEEL so sorry for you, Gerard,” she said a little later when they were sitting out on the gallery in the moonlight. “The money does not matter to me. But it would have meant so much to you. Your future in Montville was settled. The hay and feed business—”
“Bah !” roared Gerard, so loudly and so scornfully that she jumped. “The hay and feed business! Poof! My future in Montville! I snap my fingers at it.”
She regarded him in astonishment.
“But, my angel, do you not feel badly because you have lost everything?”
“What have *1 lost? What was being arranged for me? The hay and feed business, which I detest. A house to which relatives would come every summer. Gabriel Potvin boarding with us. A pair of twins in the spare room, and not our own. A calf. A pasture. No lawn. No (lower beds. The postoffice. The telephone exchange. And I understand that Omer Fisette planned to give us five gallons of pink paint, left over from the time he painted his barn. Pink paint!”
“But no !” exclaimed Madeline in horror. She had seen Omer Fisette’s barn. Well she remembered it. Beyond all doubt it was the most dreadful atrocity in the countryside.
“The hay and feed business, the twins, the calf, the post-office!” choked Gerard. “And then that! But I would not have allowed it, Madeline. There are limits. There are some things which I will not permit. I would not have lived in a house painted the color of Omer Fisette’s barn.” “You are so independent, my darling!” breathed Madeline. “I adore a man who is independent.”
Gerard thought it over. Why, in that case—well, he would show her how independent he could be.
“Do you know what I had planned to do with that money? I desired to go to Montreal and buy a little business. The radio repairing business. It would be a great sacrifice for you, I realize—”
“But, Gerard, why did you not tell me?” “It was because—I know how attached you are to Montville—how difficult it would be for you to appreciate the city—but I still think I could obtain work there in the radio business if you—”
Madeline flung her arms around his neck. “Gerard!” she cried joyously. “If you only knew, if you could only imagine how I have wished to live in the city. I have dreamed of it for years. The crowds, the noise, the excitement. It is a dreadful thing to say, but I am so tired of Montville. It is so quiet here, so dull.”
Gerard was speechless for a moment. “But why didn’t you tell me?” he demanded when he could find voice.
“I thought you were so attached to Montville,” she confessed. “I thought you wished to buy a little business here and settle down. For your sake, darling, I would have stayed—”
“Then, by smoke!” vowed Gerard Fisette. “Then, by smoke, we shall go to the city. Even without my five thousand dollars I can surely get work. We will be very poor at first—”
“What will that matter? We will have each other.”
“Very true,” said a familiar voice.
They turned quickly. Around the corner of the gallery came a bulky, dignified figure. It was that worthy notary, M. Pierre Labonne.
He advanced toward them in the moonlight, and in a confidential whisper he said: “My good Gerard ! My dear Madeline ! A thousand pardons. I have played a despicable trick upon you. I beg your forgiveness, but it seemed necessary at the time.”
“But what do you mean, M. Labonne.''” demanded Gerard.
“Your five thousand dollars. There is no Osias Perron. There was no informer. Your money is safe. It was a cruel joke on my part, but my motives were of the best. Do you think I have forgotten what you told me about the little business you wished to purchase in Montreal? Do you think I do not know how you wish to leave Montville?” In the moonlight they saw the bland attorney wink.
“When they told me tonight that Potvin, the old rogue, was trying to get you into his hay and feed business which has not earned a cent in three years—well then, young fellow, I decided to take steps,”
“But—but M. Labonne—this is marvellous--it is incredible ”
"A little joke upon Montville,” said Pierre Labonne. “Go to Montreal, get married, go into the radio business, rent an apartment so small that no relative will desire to visit you, but take my advice, which is free. Say not a word to Montville until the matter is settled. Montville is too fond of arranging one’s future.”
Pierre Labonne bowed to Madeline and retreated. Near the corner of the gallery he stopped.
“When I was a young fellow.” he observed “when my poor father sent me to school and I inherited his practice—do you know, in those days I desired nothing better than to run away and become a lumberjack.” He wagged his head regretfully. “I really think I would have been a success in the timber business. You see, my dear young people, I comprehend. Au ’voir!”
And Pierre Labonne vanished from the gallery. After a while they heard him whistling as he walked down the street.