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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 1. - 3/17 -
Arrived at her humble home, he was asked to enter, and there he met her father, Isel Larue, a French monarchist who had been exiled from Paris for plotting against the Government. He was handsome with snapping black eyes, a cruel mouth and a droll and humorous tongue. He was grateful to Carnac for saving his daughter's life. Coffee and cigarettes were produced, and they chatted and smoked while Carnac took in the surroundings. Everything was plain, but spotlessly clean, and he learned that Larue made his living by doing odd jobs in an electric firm. He was just home from his work. Luzanne was employed every afternoon in a milliner's shop, but her evenings were free after the housework was done at nine o'clock. Carnac in a burst of enthusiasm asked if she would sit to him as a model in the mornings. Her father instantly said, of course she would.
This she did for many days, and sat with her hair down and bared neck, as handsome and modest as a female martyr should. Carnac painted her with skill. Sometimes he would walk with her to lunch and make her eat something sustaining, and they talked freely then, though little was said while he was painting her. At last one day the painting was finished, and she looked up at him wistfully when he told her he would not need another sitting. Carnac, overcome by her sadness, put his arms round her and kissed her mouth, her eyes, her neck ravenously. She made only a slight show of resistance. When he stopped she said: "Is that the way you keep your word to my father? I am here alone and you embrace me-- is that fair?"
"No, it isn't, and I promise I won't do it again, Luzanne. I am sorry. I wanted our friendship to benefit us both, and now I've spoiled it all."
"No, you haven't spoiled it all," said Luzanne with a sigh, and she buttoned up the neck of her blouse, flushing slightly as she did so. Her breast heaved and suddenly she burst into tears. It was evident she wanted Carnac to comfort her, perhaps to kiss her again, but he did not do so. He only stood over her, murmuring penance and asking her to forget it.
"I can't forget it--I can't. No man but my father has ever kissed me before. It makes me, oh! so miserable!" but she smiled through her tears. Suddenly she dried her eyes. "Once a man tried to kiss me--and something more. He was rich and he'd put money into Madame Margot's millinery business. He was brilliant, and married, but he had no rules for his morals--all he wanted was money and pleasures which he bought. I was attracted by him, but one day he tried to kiss me. I slapped his face, and then I hated him. So, when you kissed me to-day, I thought of that, and it made me unhappy--but yes."
"You did not slap my face, Luzanne?"
She blushed and hung her head. "No, I did not; you are not a bad man. He would have spoiled my life. He made it clear I could have all the luxuries money could buy--all except marriage!" She shrugged her shoulders.
Carnac was of an impressionable nature, but brought to face the possibility of marriage with Luzanne, he shrank. If ever he married it would be a girl like Junia Shale, beautiful, modest, clever and well educated. No, Luzanne could never be for him. So he forbore doing more than ask her to forgive him, and he would take her to lunch-the last lunch of the picture-if she would. With features in chagrin, she put on her hat, yet when she turned to him, she was smiling.
He visited her home occasionally, and Luzanne's father had a friend, Ingot by name, who was sometimes present. This man made himself almost unbearable at first; but Luzanne pulled Ingot up acridly, and he presently behaved well. Ingot disliked all men in better positions than himself, and was a revolutionary of the worst sort--a revolutionary and monarchist. He was only a monarchist because he loved conspiracy and hated the Republican rulers who had imprisoned him--"those bombastics," he called them. It was a constitutional quarrel with the world. However, he became tractable, and then he and Larue formed a plot to make Carnac marry Luzanne. It was hatched by Ingot, approved by Larue, and at length consented to by the girl, for so far as she could love anyone, she loved Carnac; and she made up her mind that if he married her, no matter how, she would make him so happy he would forgive all.
About four months after the incident in the studio, a picnic was arranged for the Hudson River. Only the four went. Carnac had just sold a picture at a good price--his Christian Martyr picture--and he was in high spirits. They arrived at the spot arranged for the picnic in time for lunch, and Luzanne prepared it. When the lunch was ready, they sat down. There was much gay talk, compliments to Carnac came from both Larue and Ingot, and Carnac was excited and buoyant. He drank much wine and beer, and told amusing stories of the French-Canadians which delighted them all. He had a gift of mimicry and he let himself go.
"You got a pretty fine tongue in your head--but of the best," said Ingot with a burst of applause. "You'd make a good actor, a holy good actor. You got a way with you. Coquelin, Salvini, Bernhardt! Voila, you're just as good! Bagosh, I'd like to see you on the stage."
"So would I," said Larue. "I think you could play a house full in no time and make much cash--I think you could. Don't you think so, Luzanne?"
Luzanne laughed. "He can act very first-class, I'm sure," she said, and she turned and looked Carnac in the eyes. She was excited, she was handsome, she was slim and graceful, and Carnac felt towards her as he did the day at the studio, as though he'd like to kiss her. He knew it was not real, but it was the man in him and the sex in her.
For an hour and a half the lunch went on, all growing gayer, and then at last Ingot said: "Well, I'm going to have a play now here, and Carnac Grier shall act, and we all shall act. We're going to have a wedding ceremony between M'sieu' Grier and Luzanne--but, hush, why not!" he added, when Luzanne shook her finger at him, and said she'd do nothing of the kind, having, however, agreed to it beforehand. "Why not! There's nothing in it. They'll both be married some day and it will be good practice for them. They can learn now how to do it. It's got to be done--but yes. I'll find a Judge in the village. Come now, hands up, those that will do it."
With a loud laugh Larue held up his hand, Carnac, who was half-drunk, did the same, and after a little hesitation Luzanne also.
"Good--a gay little comedy, that's what it is. I'm off for the Judge," and away went Ingot hard afoot, having already engaged a Judge, called Grimshaw, in the village near to perform the ceremony. When he had gone, Larue went off to smoke and Luzanne and Carnac cleared up the lunch- things and put all away in the baskets. When it was finished, Carnac and Luzanne sat down under a tree and talked cheerfully, and Luzanne was never so effective as she was that day. They laughed over the mock ceremony to be performed.
"I'm a Catholic, you know," said Luzanne, "and it isn't legal in my church with no dispensation to be married to a Protestant like you. But as it is, what does it matter!"
"Well, that's true," said Carnac. "I suppose I ought to be acting the lover now; I ought to be kissing you, oughtn't I?"
"As an actor, yes, but as a man, better not unless others are present. Wait till the others come. Wait for witnesses, so that it can look like the real thing.
"See, there they come now." She pointed, and in the near distance Ingot could be seen approaching with a short, clean-shaven, roly-poly sort of man who did not look legal, but was a real magistrate. He came waddling along in good spirits and rather pompously. At that moment Larue appeared. Presently Ingot presented the Judge to the would--be bride and bridegroom. "You wish to be married-you are Mr. Grier?" said Judge Grimshaw.
"That's me and I'm ready," said Carnac. "Get on with the show. What's the first thing?"
"Well, the regular thing is to sign some forms, stating age, residence, etc., and here they are all ready. Brought 'em along with me. Most unusual form of ceremony, but it'll do. It's all right. Here are the papers to sign."
Carnac hastily scratched in the needed information, and Luzanne doing the same, the magistrate pocketed the papers.
"Now we can perform the ceremony," said the Judge. "Mr. Larue, you go down there with the young lady and bring her up in form, and Mr. Carnac Grier waits here."
Larue went away with Luzanne, and presently turned, and she, with her arm in his, came forward. Carnac stood waiting with a smile on his face, for it seemed good acting. When Luzanne came, her father handed her over, and the marriage ceremony proceeded. Presently it concluded, and Grimshaw, who had had more drink than was good for him, wound up the ceremony with the words: "And may the Lord have mercy on you!"
Every one laughed, Carnac kissed the bride, and the Judge handed her the marriage certificate duly signed. It was now Carnac's duty to pay in the usual way for the ceremony, and he handed the Judge ten dollars; and Grimshaw rolled away towards the village, Ingot having also given him ten.
"That's as good a piece of acting as I've ever seen," said Larue with a grin. "It beats Coquelin and Henry Irving."
"I didn't think there was much in it," said Carnac, laughing, "though it was real enough to cost me ten dollars. One has to pay for one's fun. But I got a wife cheap at the price, and I didn't pay for the wedding ring."
"No, the ring was mine," said Larue. "I had it a long time. It was my engagement ring, and I want it back now."
Luzanne took it off her finger--it was much too large--and gave it to him. "It's easy enough to get another," she said in a queer voice.
"You did the thing in style, young man," said Ingot to Carnac with a nod.
"I'll do it better when it's the real thing," said Carnac. "I've had my rehearsal now, and it seemed almost real."
"It was almost real," said Ingot, with his head turned away from Carnac, but he winked at Larue and caught a furtive look from Luzanne's eye.
"I think we'd better have another hour hereabouts, then get back to New York," said Larue. "There's a circus in the village--let us go to that."
At the village, they did the circus, called out praise to the clown, gave the elephant some buns, and at five o'clock started back to New York. Arrived at New York, they went to a hotel off Broadway for dinner, and Carnac signed names in the hotel register as "Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier."
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