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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 1. - 6/17 -
There was interested reflection in his eye. With his habit of visualization, he saw behind John Grier, as he came on now, the long procession of logs and timbers which had made his fortune, stretch back on the broad St. Lawrence, from the Mattawan to the Madawaska, from the Richelieu to the Marmora. Yet, what was it John Grier had done? In a narrow field he had organized his life perfectly, had developed his opportunities, had safeguarded his every move. The smiling inquiry in his face was answered by the old man saying abruptly:
"Fabian's gone. He's deserted the ship."
The young man had the wish to say in reply, "At last, eh!" but he avoided it.
"Where has he gone?"
"I bought him out to-day, and I hear he's going to join Belloc."
"Belloc! Belloc! Who told you that?" asked the young man.
"Junia Shale--she told me."
Carnac laughed. "She knows a lot, but how did she know that?"
"Sheer instinct, and I believe she's right."
"Right--right--to fight you, his own father!" was the inflammable reply.
"Why, that would be a lowdown business!"
"Would it be lower down than your not helping your father, when you can?"
Somehow he yearned over his wayward, fantastic son. The wilful, splendid character of the youth overcame the insistence in the other's nature.
"You seem to be getting on all right," remarked Carnac with the faint brown moustache, the fine, showy teeth, the clean-shaven cheeks, and auburn hair hanging loosely down.
"You're wrong. Things aren't doing as well with me as they might. Belloc and the others make difficult going. I've got too much to do myself. I want help."
"You had it in Fabian," remarked Carnac dryly. "Well, I've lost it, and it never was enough. He hadn't vision, sense and decision."
"And so you come to me, eh? I always thought you despised me," said Carnac.
A half-tender, half-repellent expression came into the old man's face. He spoke bluntly. "I always thought you had three times the brains of your brother. You're not like me, and you're not like your mother; there's something in you that means vision, and seeing things, and doing them. If fifteen thousand dollars a year and a share in the business is any good to you--"
For an instant there had been pleasure and wonder in the young man's eyes, but at the sound of the money and the share in the business he shrank back.
"I don't think so, father. I'm happy enough. I've got all I want."
"What the devil are you talking about!" the other burst out. "You've got all you want! You've no home; you've no wife; you've no children; you've no place. You paint, and you sculp, and what's the good of it all? Have you ever thought of that? What's there in it for you or anyone else? Have you no blood and bones, no sting of life in you? Look what I've done. I started with little, and I've built up a business that, if it goes all right, will be worth millions. I say, if it goes all right, because I've got to carry more than I ought."
Carnac shook his head. "I couldn't be any help to you. I'm not a man of action. I think, I devise, but I don't act. I'd be no good in your business no, honestly, I'd be no good. I don't think money is the end of life. I don't think success is compensation for all you've done and still must do. I want to stand out of it. You've had your life; you've lived it where you wanted to live it. I haven't, and I'm trying to find out where my duty and my labour lies. It is Art; no doubt. I don't know for sure."
"Good God!" broke in the old man. "You don't know for sure--you're twenty-five years old, and you don't know where you're going!"
"Yes, I know where I'm going--to Heaven by and by!" This was his satirical reply.
"Oh, fasten down; get hold of something that matters. Now, listen to me. I want you to do one thing--the thing I ought to do and can't. I must stay here now that Fabian's gone. I want you to go to the Madawaska River."
"No, I won't go to the Madawaska," replied Carnac after a long pause, "but"--with sudden resolution--"if it's any good to you, I'll stay here in the business, and you can go to the Madawaska. Show me what to do here; tell me how to do it, and I'll try to help you out for a while-- if it can be done," he added hastily. "You go, but I'll stay. Let's talk it over at supper."
He sighed, and turned and gazed warmly at the sunset on the roofs of the city; then turned to his father's face, but it was not the same look in his eyes.
CARNAC AS MANAGER
Carnac was installed in the office, and John Grier went to the Madawaska. Before he left, however, he was with Carnac for near a week, showing the procedure and the main questions that might arise to be solved.
"It's like this," said Grier in their last talk, "you've got to keep a stiff hand over the foremen and overseers, and have strict watch of Belloc & Co. Perhaps there will be trouble when I've gone, but, if it does, keep a stiff upper lip, and don't let the gang do you. You've got a quick mind and you know how to act sudden. Act at once, and damn the consequences! Remember, John Grier's firm has a reputation, and deal justly, but firmly, with opposition. The way it's organized, the business almost runs itself. But that's only when the man at the head keeps his finger on the piston-rod. You savvy, don't you?"
"I savvy all right. If the Belloc firm cuts up rusty, I'll think of what you'd do and try to do it in the same way."
The old man smiled. He liked the spirit in Carnac. It was the right kind for his business. "I predict this: if you have one fight with the Belloc lot, you'll hate them too. Keep the flag flying. Don't get rattled. It's a big job, and it's worth doing in a big way.
"Yes, it's a big job," said Carnac. "I hope I'll pull it off."
"You'll pull it off, if you bend your mind to it. But there won't be any time for your little pictures and statues. You'll have to deal with the real men, and they'll lose their glamour. That's the thing about business--it's death to sentimentality."
Carnac flushed with indignation. "So you think Titian and Velasquez and Goyot and El Greco and Watteau and Van Dyck and Rembrandt and all the rest were sentimentalists, do you? The biggest men in the world worship them. You aren't just to the greatest intellects. I suppose Shakespeare was a sentimentalist!"
The old man laughed and tapped his son on the shoulder.
"Don't get excited, Carnac. I'd rather you ran my business well, than be Titian or Rembrandt, whoever they were. If you do this job well, I'll think there's a good chance of our working together."
Carnac nodded, but the thought that he could not paint or sculp when he was on this work vexed him, and he only set his teeth to see it through. "All right, we'll see," he said, and his father went away.
Then Carnac's time of work and trial began. He was familiar with the routine of the business, he had adaptability, he was a quick worker, and for a fortnight things went swimmingly. There was elation in doing work not his regular job, and he knew the eyes of the commercial and river world were on him. He did his best and it was an effective best. Junia had been in the City of Quebec, but she came back at the end of a fortnight, and went to his office to get a subscription for a local charity. She had a gift in this kind of work.
It was a sunny day in the month of June, and as she entered the office a new spirit seemed to enter with her.
The place became distinguished. She stood in the doorway for a moment, radiant, smiling, half embarrassed, then she said: "Please may I for a moment, Carnac?"
Carnac was delighted. "For many moments, Junia."
"I'm not as busy as usual. I'm glad as glad to see you."
She said with restraint: "Not for many moments. I'm here on business. It's important. I wanted to get a subscription from John Grier for the Sailors' Hospital which is in a bad way. Will you give something for him?"
Carnac looked at the subscription list. "I see you've been to Belloc first and they've given a hundred dollars. Was that wise-going to them first? You know how my father feels about Belloc. And we're the older firm."
The girl laughed. "Oh, that's silly! Belloc's money is as good as John Grier's, and it only happened he was asked first because Fabian was present when I took the list, and it's Fabian's writing on the paper there."
Carnac nodded. "That's all right with me, for I'm no foe to Belloc, but my father wouldn't have liked it. He wouldn't have given anything in the circumstances."
"Oh, yes, he would! He's got sense with all his prejudices. I'll tell you what he'd have done: he'd have given a bigger subscription than Belloc."
Carnac laughed. "Well, perhaps you're right; it was clever planning it so."
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