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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 1. - 4/17 -
When he did it, he saw a furtive glance pass from Luzanne's eyes to her father. It was disconcerting to him. Presently the two adjourned to the sitting-room, and there he saw that the table was only laid for two. That opened his eyes. The men had disappeared and he and Luzanne were alone. She was sitting on a sofa near the table, showing to good advantage. She was composed, while Carnac was embarrassed. Carnac began to take a grip on himself.
The waiter entered. "When shall I serve dinner, sir?" he said.
Carnac realized that the dinner had been ordered by the two men, and he said quietly: "Don't serve it for a half-hour yet--not till I ring, please. Make it ready then. There's no hurry. It's early."
The waiter bowed and withdrew with a smile, and Carnac turned to Luzanne. She smiled, got up, came over, laid a hand on his arm, and said: "It's quiet and nice here, Carnac dear," and she looked up ravishingly in his face.
"It's too quiet and it's not at all nice," he suddenly replied. "Your father and Ingot have gone. They've left us alone on purpose. This is a dirty game and I'm not going to play it any longer. I've had enough of it. I've had my fill. I'm going now. Come, let's go together."
She looked a bit smashed and overdone. "The dinner!" she said in confusion.
"I'll pay for that. We won't wait any longer. Come on at once, please."
She put on her things coolly, and he noticed a savage stealthiness as she pushed the long pins through her hat and hair. He left the room. Outside the hotel, Carnac held out his hand.
"Good night and good-bye, Luzanne," he said huskily. "You can get home alone, can't you?"
She laughed a little, then she said: "I guess so. I've lived in New York some years. But you and I are married, Carnac, and you ought to take me to your home."
There was something devilish in her smile now. Then the whole truth burst upon Carnac. "Married--married! When did I marry you? Good God!" "You married me this afternoon after lunch at Shipton. I have the certificate and I mean to hold you to it."
"You mean to hold me to it--a real marriage to-day at Shipton! You and your father and Ingot tricked me into this."
"He was a real Judge, and it was a real marriage."
"It is a fraud, and I'll unmask it," Carnac declared in anger.
"It would be difficult to prove. You signed our names in the hotel register as Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier. I mean to stick to that name-- Mrs. Carnac Grier. I'll make you a good wife, Carnac--do believe it.
"I'll believe nothing but the worst of you ever. I'll fight the thing out, by God!"
She shook her head and smiled. "I meant you to marry me, when you saved my life from the streetcar. I never saw but one man I wanted to marry, and you are that man, Carnac. You wouldn't ask me, so I made you marry me. You could go farther and fare worse. Come, take me home--take me home, my love. I want you to love me."
"You little devil!" Carnac declared. "I'd rather cut my own throat. I'm going to have a divorce. I'm going to teach you and the others a lesson you won't forget."
"There isn't a jury in the United States you could convince after what you've done. You've made it impossible. Go to Judge Grimshaw and see what he will say. Go and ask the hotel people and see what they will say. You're my husband, and I mean you shall live with me, and I'll love you better than any woman on earth can love you. . . . Won't you?" She held out her hand.
With an angry exclamation, Carnac refused it, and then she suddenly turned on her heel, slipped round a corner and was gone.
Carnac was dumbfounded. He did not know what to do. He went dazedly home, and slept little that night. The next day he went out to Shipton and saw Judge Grimshaw and told him the whole tale. The Judge shook his head.
"It's too tall a story. Why, you went through the ceremony as if it was the real thing, signed the papers, paid my fee, and kissed the bride. You could not get a divorce on such evidence. I'm sorry for you, if you don't want the girl. She's very nice, and 'd make a good wife. What does she mean to do?"
"I don't know. She left me in the street and went back to her home. I won't live with her."
"I can't help you anyhow. She has the certificate. You are validly married. If I were you, I'd let the matter stand."
So they parted, and Carnac sullenly went back to his apartments. The next day he went to see a lawyer, however. The lawyer opened his eyes at the story. He had never heard anything like it.
"It doesn't sound as if you were sober when you did it. Were you, sir? It was a mad prank, anyhow!"
"I had been drinking, but I wasn't drunk. I'd been telling them stories and they used them as a means of tempting me to act in the absurd marriage ceremony. Like a fool I consented. Like a fool--but I wasn't drunk."
"No, but when you were in your right mind and sober you signed your names as Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier in the register of a hotel. I will try to win your case for you, but it won't be easy work. You see the Judge himself told you the same thing. But it would be a triumph to expose a thing of that kind, and I'd like to do it. It wouldn't be cheap, though. You'd have to foot the bill. Are you rich?"
"No, but my people are," said Carnac. "I could manage the cash, but suppose I lost!"
"Well, you'd have to support the woman. She could sue you for cruelty and desertion, and the damages would be heavy."
Carnac shook his head, paid his fee and left the office.
He did not go near Luzanne. After a month he went to Paris for eight months, and then back to Montreal.
Arrived in Montreal, there were attempts by Carnac to settle down to ordinary life of quiet work at his art, but it was not effective, nor had it been in Paris, though the excitement of working in the great centre had stimulated him. He ever kept saying to himself, "Carnac, you are a married man--a married man, by the tricks of rogues!" In Paris, he could more easily obscure it, but in Montreal, a few hundred miles from the place of his tragedy, pessimism seized him. He now repented he did not fight it out at once. It would have been courageous and perhaps successful. But whether successful or not, he would have put himself right with his own conscience. That was the chief thing. He was straightforward, and back again in Canada, Carnac flung reproaches at himself.
He knew himself now to be in love with Junia Shale, and because he was married he could not approach her. It galled him. He was not fond of Fabian, for they had little in common, and he had no intimate friends. Only his mother was always sympathetic to him, and he loved her. He saw much of her, but little of anyone else. He belonged to no clubs, and there were few artists in Montreal. So he lived his own life, and when he met Junia he cavilled at himself for his madness with Luzanne. The curious thing was he had not had a word from her since the day of the mock marriage. Perhaps she had decided to abandon the thing! But that could do no good, for there was the marriage recorded in the registers of New York State.
Meanwhile, things were not going well with others. There befell a day when matters came to a crisis in the Grier family. Since Fabian's marriage with Junia Shale's sister, Sybil, he had become discontented with his position in his father's firm. There was little love between him and his father, and that was chiefly the father's fault. One day, the old man stormed at Fabian because of a mistake in the management, and was foolish enough to say that Fabian had lost his grip since his marriage.
Fabian, enraged, demanded freedom from the partnership, and offered to sell his share. In a fit of anger, the old man offered him what was at least ten per cent more than the value of Fabian's share. The sombre Fabian had the offer transferred to paper at once, and it was signed by his father--not without compunction, because difficult as Fabian was he might go further and fare worse. As for Fabian's dark-haired, brown- faced, brown-eyed wife, to John Grier's mind, it seemed a good thing to be rid of her.
When Fabian left the father alone in his office, however, the stark temper of the old man broke down. He had had enough. He muttered to himself. Presently he was roused by a little knock at the door. It was Junia, brilliant, buoyant, yellow haired, with bright brown eyes, tingling cheeks, and white laughing teeth that showed against her red lips. She held up a finger at him.
"I know what you've done, and it's no good at all. You can't live without us, and you mustn't," she said. The old man glowered still, but a reflective smile crawled to his lips. "No, it's finished," he replied.
"It had to come, and it's done. It can't be changed. Fabian wouldn't alter it, and I shan't."
His face was stern and dour. He tangled his short fingers in the hair on top of his head.
"I wouldn't say that, if I were you," she responded cheerily. "Fabian showed me the sum you offered for his share. It's ridiculous. The business isn't worth it."
"What do you know about the business?" remarked the other.
"Well, whatever it was worth an hour ago, it's worth less now," she
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