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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 1. - 2/17 -
life. We do what we forbid ourselves to do; we suffer the shames we damn in others--but yes."
There was a pause, then he added: "That's what you'll do in your life, M'sieu' Carnac. That's what you'll do."
"Well, you never can tell--but no."
"But you always can tell," remarked the boy. "The thing is, do what you feel you've got to do, and never mind what happens."
"I wish I could walk," remarked the little man, "but this leg of mine is broke--ah, bah, it is!"
"Yes, you mustn't try to walk. Be still," answered the boy. "They'll be here soon." Slowly and carefully he took off the boot and sock from the broken leg, and, with his penknife, opened the seam of the corduroy trouser. "I believe I could set that leg myself," he added.
"I think you could--bagosh," answered Denzil heavily. "They'll bring a rope to haul me up?"
"Junia has a lot of sense, she won't forget anything."
"And if your father's there, he'll not forget anything," remarked Denzil.
"He'll forget to make me wear these boots tomorrow," said the boy stubbornly, his chin in his hands, his eyes fixed gloomily on the brass- headed toes.
There was a long silence. At last from the stricken Denzil came the words: "You'll have your own way about the boots."
Carnac murmured, and presently said:
"Lucky you fell where you did. Otherwise, you'd have been in the water, and then I couldn't have been of any use."
"I hear them coming--holy, yes!"
Carnac strained his ears. "Yes, you're right. I hear them too."
A few moments later, Carnac's father came sliding down the bank, a rope in his hands, some workmen remaining above.
"What's the matter here?" he asked. "A fall, eh! Dang little fool-- now, you are a dang little fool, and you know it, Denzil."
He nodded to his boy, then he raised the wounded man's head and shoulders, and slipped the noose over until it caught under his arms.
The old lumber-king's movements were swift, sure and exact. A moment later he lifted Denzil in his arms, and carried him over to the steep path up which he was presently dragged.
At the top, Denzil turned to Carnac's father. "M'sieu', Carnac hates wearing those brass-toed boots," he said boldly.
The lumber-king looked at his boy acutely. He blew his nose hard, with a bandana handkerchief. Then he nodded towards the boy.
"He can suit himself about that," he said.
With accomplished deftness, with some sacking and two poles, a hasty but comfortable ambulance was made under the skilful direction of the river- master. He had the gift of outdoor life. He did not speak as he worked, but kept humming to himself.
"That's all right," he said, as he saw Denzil on the stretcher. "We'll get on home now."
"Home?" asked his son.
"Yes, Montreal--to-night," replied his father. "The leg has to be set."
"Why don't you set it?" asked the boy.
The river-master gazed at him attentively. "Well, I might, with your help," he said. "Come along."
ELEVEN YEARS PASS
Eleven years had passed since Denzil's fall, and in that time much history had been made. Carnac Grier, true to his nature, had travelled from incident to incident, from capacity to capacity, apparently without system, yet actually with the keenest desire to fulfil himself; with an honesty as inveterate as his looks were good and his character filled with dark recesses. In vain had his father endeavoured to induce him to enter the lumber business; to him it seemed too conventional and fixed.
Yet, in his way, he knew the business well. By instinct, over the twenty-five years of his life, he had observed and become familiar with the main features of the work. He had once or twice even buried himself in the shanties of the backwoods, there to inhale and repulse the fetid air, to endure the untoward, half-savage life, the clean, strong food, the bitter animosities and the savage friendships. It was a land where sunshine travelled, and in the sun the bright, tuneful birds made lively the responsive world. Sometimes an eagle swooped down the stream; again and again, hawks, and flocks of pigeons which frequented the lonely groves on the river-side, made vocal the world of air; flocks of wild ducks, or geese, went whirring down the long spaces of water between the trees on either bank; and some one with a fiddle or a concertina made musical the evening, while the singing voices of rough habitants rang through the air.
It was all spirited; it smelt good; it felt good; but it was not for Carnac. When he had a revolt against anything in life, the grim storm scenes of winter in the shanties under the trees and the snow-swept hills came to his mind's eye. The summer life of the river, and what is called "running the river," had for him great charms. The smell of hundreds of thousands of logs in the river, the crushed bark, the slimy ooze were all suggestive of life in the making. But the savage seclusion of the wild life in winter repelled his senses. Besides, the lumber business meant endless figures and measurements in stuffy offices and he retreated from it all.
He had an artistic bent. From a small child he had had it, and it grew with his years. He wanted to paint, and he painted; he wanted to sculp in clay, and he sculped in clay; but all the time he was conscious it was the things he had seen and the life he had lived which made his painting and his sculpture worth while. It was absurd that a man of his great outdoor capacity should be the slave of a temperamental quality, and yet it was so. It was no good for his father to condemn, or his mother to mourn, he went his own way.
He had seen much of Junia Shale in these years and had grown fond of her, but she was away much with an aunt in the West, and she was sent to boarding-school, and they saw each other only at intervals. She liked him and showed it, but he was not ready to go farther. As yet his art was everything to him, and he did not think of marriage. He was care- free. He had a little money of his own, left by an uncle of his mother, and he had also an allowance from his mother--none from his father--and he was satisfied with life.
His brother, Fabian, being the elder, by five years, had gone into his father's business as a partner, and had remained there. Fabian had at last married an elder sister of Junia Shale and settled down in a house on the hill, and the lumber-king, John Grier, went on building up his splendid business.
At last, Carnac, feeling he was making small headway with his painting, determined to go again to New York and Paris. He had already spent a year in each place and it had benefited him greatly. So, with that sudden decision which marked his life, he started for New York. It was immediately after the New Year and the ground was covered with snow. He looked out of the window of the train, and there was only the long line of white country broken by the leafless trees and rail-fences and the mansard-roofs and low cottages with their stoops, built up with earth to keep them warm; and the sheds full of cattle; and here and there a sawmill going hard, and factories pounding away and men in fur coats driving the small Indian ponies; and the sharp calls of the men with the sleigh bringing wood, or meat, or vegetables to market. He was by nature a queer compound of Radical and Conservative, a victim of vision and temperament. He was full of pride, yet fuller of humility of a real kind. As he left Montreal he thought of Junia Shale, and he recalled the day eleven years before when he had worn brass-toed boots, and he had caught Junia in his arms and kissed her, and Denzil had had his accident. Denzil had got unreasonably old since then; but Junia remained as she was the joyous day when boyhood took on the first dreams of manhood.
Life was a queer thing, and he had not yet got his bearings in it. He had a desire to reform the world and he wanted to be a great painter or sculptor, or both; and he entered New York with a new sense developed. He was keen to see, to do, and to feel. He wanted to make the world ring with his name and fame, yet he wanted to do the world good also, if he could. It was a curious state of mind for the English boy, who talked French like a native and loved French literature and the French people, and was angry with those English-Canadians who were so selfish they would never learn French.
Arrived in New York he took lodgings near old Washington Square, where there were a few studios near the Bohemian restaurants and a life as nearly continental as was possible in a new country. He got in touch with a few artists and began to paint, doing little scenes in the Bowery and of the night-life of New York, and visiting the Hudson River and Long Island for landscape and seascape sketches.
One day he was going down Broadway, and near Union Square he saved a girl from being killed by a street-car. She had slipped and fallen on the track and a car was coming. It was impossible for her to get away in time, and Carnac had sprung to her and got her free. She staggered to her feet, and he saw she was beautiful and foreign. He spoke to her in French and her eyes lighted, for she was French. She told him at once that her name was Luzanne Larue. He offered to get a cab and take her home, but she said no, she was fit to walk, so he went with her slowly to her home in one of the poor streets on the East side. They talked as they went, and Carnac saw she was of the lower middle-class, with more refinement than was common in that class, and more charm. She was a fascinating girl with fine black eyes, black hair, a complexion of cream, and a gift of the tongue. Carnac could not see that she was very subtle. She seemed a marvel of guilelessness. She had a wonderful head and neck, and as he was planning a picture of an early female martyr, he decided to ask her to sit to him.
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