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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 1. - 5/17 -
answered with suggestion. "It's worth much less now," she added.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked sharply, sitting upright, his hands clasping his knees almost violently, his clean-shaven face showing lines of trouble.
"I mean he's going to join the enemy," she answered quickly.
"Join the enemy!" broke from the old man's lips with a startled accent.
"Yes, the firm of Belloc."
The old man did not speak, but a curious whiteness stole over his face. "What makes you say that!" he exclaimed, anger in his eyes.
"Well, Fabian has to put money into something," she answered, "and the only business he knows is lumber business. Don't you think it's natural he should go to Belloc?"
"Did he ever say so?" asked the old man with savage sullenness. "Tell me. Did he ever say so?"
The girl shook back her brave head with a laugh. "Of course he never said so, but I know the way he'll go."
The old man shook his head. "I don't believe it. He's got no love for Belloc."
The girl felt like saying, "He's got no love for you," but she refrained. She knew that Fabian had love for his father, but he had inherited a love for business, and that would overwhelm all other feelings. She therefore said: "Why don't you get Carnac to come in? He's got more sense than Fabian--and he isn't married!"
She spoke boldly, for she knew the character of the man. She was only nineteen. She had always come in and gone out of Grier's house and office freely and much more since her sister had married Fabian.
A storm gathered between the old man's eyes; his brow knitted. "Carnac's got brains enough, but he goes monkeying about with pictures and statues till he's worth naught in the business of life."
"I don't think you understand him," the girl replied. "I've been trying to understand him for twenty-five years," the other said malevolently. "He might have been a big man. He might have bossed this business when I'm gone. It's in him, but he's a fly-away--he's got no sense. The ideas he's got make me sick. He talks like a damn fool sometimes."
"But if he's a 'damn fool'--is it strange?" She gaily tossed a kiss at the king of the lumber world. "The difference between you and him is this: he doesn't care about the things of this world, and you do; but he's one of the ablest men in Canada. If Fabian won't come back, why not Carnac?"
"We've never hit it off."
Suddenly he stood up, his face flushed, his hands outthrust themselves in rage, his fingers opened and shut in abandonment of temper.
"Why have I two such sons!" he exclaimed. "I've not been bad. I've squeezed a few; I've struck here and there; I've mauled my enemies, but I've been good to my own. Why can't I run square with my own family?" He was purple to the roots of his hair.
Savagery possessed him. Life was testing him to the nth degree. "I've been a good father, and a good husband! Why am I treated like this?"
She watched him silently. Presently, however, the storm seemed to pass. He appeared to gain control of himself.
"You want me to have in Carnac?" he asked, with a little fleck of foam at the corners of his mouth.
"If you could have Fabian back," she remarked, "but you can't! It's been coming for a long time. He's got your I.O.U. and he won't return; but Carnac's got plenty of stuff in him. He never was afraid of anything or anybody, and if he took a notion, he could do this business as well as yourself by and by. It's all a chance, but if he comes in he'll put everything else aside."
"Where is he?" the old man asked. "He's with his mother at your home."
The old man took his hat from the window-sill. At that moment a clerk appeared with some papers. "What have you got there?" asked Grier sharply. "The Belloc account for the trouble on the river," answered the clerk.
"Give it me," Grier said, and he waved the clerk away. Then he glanced at the account, and a grim smile passed over his face. "They can't have all they want, and they won't get it. Are you coming with me?" he asked of the girl, with a set look in his eyes. "No. I'm going back to my sister," she answered.
"If he leaves me--if he joins Belloc!" the old man muttered, and again his face flushed.
A few moments afterwards the girl watched him till he disappeared up the hill.
"I don't believe Carnac will do it," she said to herself. "He's got the sense, the brains, and the energy; but he won't do it."
She heard a voice behind her, and turned. It was the deformed but potent Denzil. He was greyer now. His head, a little to one side, seemed sunk in his square shoulders, but his eyes were bright.
"It's all a bad scrape--that about Fabian Grier," he said. "You can't ever tell about such things, how they'll go--but no, bagosh!"
THE HOUSE ON THE HILL
John Grier's house had a porch with Corinthian pillars. Its elevation was noble, but it was rather crudely built, and it needed its grove of maples to make it pleasant to the eye. It was large but not too ample, and it had certain rooms with distinct character.
Inside the house, John Grier paused a moment before the door of the sitting-room where his wife usually sat. All was silent. He opened the door. A woman rose to meet him. She was dressed in black. Her dark hair, slightly streaked with grey, gave her distinction. Her eyes had soft understanding; her lips had a reflective smile. There was, however, uneasiness in her face; her fingers slightly trembled on the linen she was holding.
"You're home early, John," she said in a gentle, reserved voice.
He twisted a shoulder. "Yes, I'm home early," he snapped. "Your boy Fabian has left the business, and I've bought his share." He named the sum. "Ghastly, ain't it? But he's gone, and there's no more about it. It's a bad thing to marry a woman that can't play fair."
He noted the excessive paleness of his wife's face; the bright eyes stared and stared, and the lips trembled. "Fabian--Fabian gone!" she said brokenly.
"Yes, and he ain't coming back."
"What's he going to do?" she asked in a bitter voice.
"Join Belloc--fight his own father--try to do me in the race," growled the old man.
"Who told you that?" "Junia, she told me."
"What does she know about it? Who told her that?" asked the woman with faded lips.
"She always had sense, that child. I wish she was a man."
He suddenly ground his heel, and there was distemper in face and voice; his shoulders hunched; his hands were thrust down in his pockets. He wheeled on her. "Where's your other boy? Where's Carnac?"
The woman pointed to the lawn. "He's catching a bit of the city from the hill just beyond the pear-tree."
"Painting, eh? I heard he was here. I want to talk to him."
"I don't think it will do any good," was the sad reply. "He doesn't think as you do."
"You believe he's a genius," snarled the other.
"You know he is."
"I'll go and find him."
She nodded. "I wish you luck," she said, but there was no conviction in her tone. Truth was, she did not wish him luck in this. She watched him leave by the French window and stride across the lawn. A strange, troubled expression was in her face.
"They can't pull it off together," she said to herself, and Carnac is too full of independence. He wants nothing from anybody. He needs no one; he follows no one--except me. Yes, he follows--he loves me.
She watched her husband till he almost viciously thrust aside the bushes staying his progress, and broke into the space by the pear-tree where Carnac sat with palette and brush, gazing at the distant roofs on which the sun was leaving its last kiss.
Carnac got to his feet with a smile, and with a courage in his eye equal to that which had ever been in his father's face--in the face of John Grier. It was strange that the other's presence troubled him, that even as a small child, to be in the same room for any length of time vexed him. Much of that had passed away. The independence of the life he lived, the freedom from resting upon the financial will of the lumber king had given him light, air and confidence. He loved his mother. What he felt for John Grier was respect and admiration. He knew he was not spoken to now with any indolent purpose.
They had seen little of each other of late years. His mother had given him the money to go to New York and Paris, which helped out his own limited income. He wondered what should bring his father to him now.
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