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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 2. - 1/5 -
By Gilbert Parker
XIII. CARNAC'S RETURN XIV. THE HOUSE OF THE THREE TREES XV. CARNAC AND JUNTA XVI. JOHN GRIER MAKES A JOURNEY XVII. THE READING OF THE WILL
"Well, what's happened since I've been gone, mother?" asked Carnac. "Is nobody we're interested in married, or going to be married?"
It was spring-time eight months after Carnac had vanished from Montreal, and the sun of late April was melting the snow upon the hills, bringing out the smell of the sprouting verdure and the exultant song of the birds.
His mother replied sorrowfully: "Junia's been away since last fall. Her aunt in the West was taken ill, and she's been with her ever since. Tell me, dearest, is everything all right now? Are you free to do what you want?"
He shook his head morosely. "No, everything's all wrong. I blundered, and I'm paying the price."
"You didn't find Luzanne Larue?"
"Yes, I found her, but it was no good. I said there was divorce, and she replied I'd done it with my eyes open, and had signed our names in the book of the hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier and divorce would not be possible. Also, I'd let things go for a year, and what jury would give me relief! I consulted a lawyer. He said she had the game in her hands, and that a case could be put up that would discredit me with jury or judge, so there it is. . . . Well, bad as she is, she's fond of me in her way. I don't think she's ever gone loose with any man; this is only a craze, I'm sure. She wanted me, and she meant to have me."
His mother protested: "No pure, straight, honest girl would--"
Carnac laughed bitterly, and interrupted. "Don't talk that way, mother. The girl was brought up among exiles and political criminals in the purlieu of Montmartre. What's possible in one place is impossible in another. Devil as she is, I want to do her justice."
"Did she wear a wedding-ring?"
"No, but she used my name as her own: I saw it on the paper door-plate. She said she would wait awhile longer, but if at the end of six months I didn't do my duty, she'd see the thing through here among my own people."
"Six months--it's overdue now!" she said in agitation.
He nodded helplessly. "I'm in hell as things are. There's only this to be said: She's done naught yet, and she mayn't do aught!"
They were roused by the click of the gate. "That's your father--that's John Grier," she said.
They heard the front door open and shut, a footstep in the hall, then the door opened and John Grier came into the room.
Preoccupation, abstraction, filled his face, as he came forward. It was as though he was looking at something distant that both troubled and pleased him. When he saw Carnac he stopped, his face flushed. For an instant he stood unmoving, and then he held out his hand.
"So you've come back, Carnac. When did you get here?"
As Carnac released his hand from John Grier's cold clasp, he said: "A couple of hours ago."
The old man scrutinized him sharply, carefully. "Getting on--making money?" he asked. "Got your hand in the pocket of the world?"
Carnac shook his head. "I don't care much about the pocket of the world, but they like my work in London and New York. I don't get Royal Academy prices, but I do pretty well."
"Got some pride, eh?"
"I'm always proud when anybody outside Montreal mentions your name! It makes me feel I have a place in the world."
"Guess you've made your own place," said the other, pleasure coming to his cheek. "You've got your own shovel and pick to make wealth."
"I care little about wealth. All I want is enough to clothe and feed me, and give me a little home."
"A little home! Yes, it's time," remarked the other, as he seated himself in his big chair by the table. "Why don't you marry?"
The old man's eyes narrowed until there could only be seen a slit of fire between the lids, and a bitter smile came to his lips. He had told his wife a year ago that he had cut Carnac out of all business consideration. So now, he added:
"Tarboe's taken your place in the business, Carnac. Look out he doesn't take your little home too."
"He's had near a year, and he hasn't done it yet."
"Is that through any virtue of yours?"
"Probably not," answered Carnac ironically. "But I've been away; he's been here. He's had everything with him. Why hasn't he pulled it off then?"
"He pulls off everything he plans. He's never fallen over his own feet since he's been with me, and, if I can help it, he won't have a fall when I'm gone."
Suddenly he got to his feet; a fit of passion seized him. "What's Junia to me--nothing! I've every reason to dislike her, but she comes and goes as if the place belonged to her. She comes to my office; she comes to this house; she visits Fabian; she tries to boss everybody. Why don't you regularize it? Why don't you marry her, and then we'll know where we are? She's got more brains than anybody else in our circle. She's got tact and humour. Her sister's a fool; she's done harm. Junia's got sense. What are you waiting for? I wouldn't leave her for Tarboe! Look here, Carnac, I wanted you to do what Tarboe's doing, and you wouldn't. You cheeked me--so I took him in. He's made good every foot of the way. He's a wonder. I'm a millionaire. I'm two times a millionaire, and I got the money honestly. I gave one-third of it to Fabian, and he left us. I paid him in cash, and now he's fighting me."
Carnac bristled up: "What else could he do? He might have lived on the interest of the money, and done nothing. You trained him for business, and he's gone on with the business you trained him for. There are other lumber firms. Why don't you quarrel with them? Why do you drop on Fabian as if he was dirt?"
"Belloc's a rogue and a liar."
"What difference does that make? Isn't it a fair fight? Don't you want anybody to sit down or stand up till you tell them to? Is it your view you shall tyrannize, browbeat, batter, and then that everybody you love, or pretend to love, shall bow down before you as though you were eternal law? I'm glad I didn't. I'm making my own life. You gave me a chance in your business, and I tried it, and declined it. You gave it to some one else, and I approved of it. What more do you want?"
Suddenly a new spirit of defiance awoke in him. "What I owe you I don't know, but if you'll make out what you think is due, for what you've done for me in the way of food and clothes and education, I'll see you get it all. Meanwhile, I want to be free to move and do as I will."
John Grier sat down in his chair again, cold, merciless, with a scornful smile.
"Yes, yes," he said slowly, "you'd have made a great business man if you'd come with me. You refused. I don't understand you--I never did. There's only one thing that's alike in us, and that's a devilish self- respect, self-assertion, self-dependence. There's nothing more to be said between us--nothing that counts. Don't get into a passion, Carnac. It don't become you. Good-night--good-night."
Suddenly his mother's face produced a great change in Carnac. Horror, sorrow, remorse, were all there. He looked at John Grier; then at his mother. The spirit of the bigger thing crept into his heart. He put his arm around his mother and kissed her.
"Good-night, mother," he said. Then he went to his father and held out a hand. "You don't mind my speaking what I think?" he continued, with a smile. "I've had a lot to try me. Shake hands with me, father. We haven't found the way to walk together yet. Perhaps it will come; I hope so."
Again a flash of passion seized John Grier. He got to his feet. "I'll not shake hands with you, not to night. You can't put the knife in and turn it round, and then draw it out and put salve on the wound and say everything's all right. Everything's all wrong. My family's been my curse. First one, then another, and then all against me,--my whole family against me!"
He dropped back in his chair sunk in gloomy reflection.
"Well, good-night," said Carnac. "It will all come right some day."
A moment afterwards he was gone. His mother sat down in her seat by the window; his father sat brooding by the table.
Carnac stole down the hillside, his heart burning in him. It had not been a successful day.
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