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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 2. - 5/5 -
THE READING OF THE WILL
As Tarboe stood in the church alone at the funeral, in a pew behind John Grier's family, sadness held him. He had known, as no one else knew, that the business would pass into his own hands. He suddenly felt his task too big for him, and he looked at Carnac now with sympathy. Carnac had brains, capacity, could almost take his father's place; he was tactful, intuitive, alert. Yet Carnac, at present, was out of the question. He knew the stress of spirit which had turned Carnac from the opportunity lying at his feet.
In spite of himself there ran through his mind another thought. Near by, at the left, dressed in mourning also, was Junia. He had made up his mind that Junia should be his, and suddenly the usefulness of the business about to fall into his hands became a weapon in the field of Love. He was physically a finer man than Carnac; he had capacity; he had personality; and he would have money and position--for a time at least. In that time, why should he not win this girl with the wonderful eyes and hair, with the frankness and candour of unspoiled girlhood in her face? Presently he would be in the blare of sensation, in the height of as dramatic an episode as comes to the lives of men; and in the episode he saw advantages which should weigh with any girl.
Then had come the reading of the will after the funeral rites were over, and he, with the family, were gathered in the dining-room of the House on the Hill.
He was scarcely ready, however, for the prodigious silence following the announcement read by the lawyer. He felt as though life was suspended for many minutes, when it was proclaimed that he, Luke Tarboe, would inherit the property. Although he knew of the contents of the will his heart was thumping like a sledge-hammer.
He looked round the room slowly. The only embarrassment to be seen was on the faces of Fabian and his wife. Mrs. Grier and Carnac showed nothing. Carnac did not even move; by neither gesture nor motion of body did he show aught. At the close of it all, he came to Tarboe and held out a hand.
"Good luck to you, Tarboe!" he said. "You'll make a success, and that's what he wanted more than anything else. Good luck to you!" he said again and turned away. . . .
When John Grier's will was published in the Press consternation filled the minds of all. Tarboe had been in the business for under two years, yet here he was left all the property with uncontracted power. Mrs. John Grier was to be paid during her life a yearly stipend of twenty thousand dollars from the business; she also received a grant of seventy thousand dollars. Beyond that, there were a few gifts to hospitals and for the protection of horses, while to the clergyman of the parish went one thousand dollars. It certainly could not be called a popular will, and, complimentary as the newspapers were to the energy and success of John Grier, few of them called him public-spirited, or a generous-hearted citizen. In his death he paid the price of his egotism.
The most surprised person, however, was Junia Shale.
To her it was shameful that Carnac should be eliminated from all share in the abundant fortune John Grier had built up. It seemed fantastic that the fortune and the business--and the business was the fortune--should be left to Tarboe. Had she known the contents of the will before John Grier was buried, she would not have gone to the funeral. Egotistic she had known Grier to be, and she imagined the will to be a sudden result of anger. He was dead and buried. The places that knew him knew him no more. All in an hour, as it were, the man Tarboe--that dominant, resourceful figure--had come into wealth and power.
After Junia read the substance of the will, she went springing up the mountain-side, as it were to work off her excitement by fatigue. At the mountain-top she gazed over the River St. Lawrence with an eye blind to all except this terrible distortion of life. Yet through her obfuscation, there ran admiration for Tarboe. What a man he was! He had captured John Grier as quickly and as securely as a night fisherman spears a sturgeon in the flare at the bow of the boat. Tarboe's ability was as marked as John Grier's mad policy. It was strange that Tarboe should have bewildered and bamboozled--if that word could be used--the old millowner. It was as curious and thrilling as John Grier's fanaticism.
Already the pinch of corruption had nipped his flesh; he was useless, motionless in his narrow house, and yet, unseen but powerful, his influence went on. It shamed a wife and son; it blackened the doors of a home; it penalized a family.
Indeed he had been a bad man, and yet she could not reconcile it all with a wonderful something in him, a boldness, a sense of humour, an everlasting energy, an electric power. She had never seen anyone vitalize everything round him as John Grier had done. He threw things from him like an exasperated giant; he drew things to him like an Angel of the Covenant. To him life was less a problem than an experiment, and this last act, this nameless repudiation of the laws of family life, was like the sign of a chemist's activity. As she stood on the mountain-top her breath suddenly came fast, and she caught her bosom with angry hands.
"Carnac--poor Carnac!" she exclaimed.
What would the world say? There were those, perhaps, who thought Carnac almost a ne'er-do-well, but they were of the commercial world where John Grier had been supreme.
At the same moment, Carnac in the garden of his old home beheld the river too and the great expanse of country, saw the grey light of evening on the distant hills, and listened to Fabian who condoled with him. When Fabian had gone, Carnac sat down on a bench and thought over the whole thing. Carnac had no quarrel with his fate. When in the old home on the hill he had heard the will, it had surprised him, but it had not shocked him. He had looked to be the discarded heir, and he knew it now without rebellion. He had never tried to smooth the path to that financial security which his father could give. Yet now that disaster had come, there was a glimmer of remorse, of revolt, because there was some one besides himself who might think he had thrown away his chances. He did not know that over on the mountain-side, vituperating the memory of the dead man, Junia was angry only for Carnac's sake.
With the black storm of sudden death roaring in his ears, he had a sense of freedom, almost of licence. Nothing that had been his father's was now his own, or his mother's, except the land and house on which they were. All the great business John Grier had built up was gone into the hands of the usurper, a young, bold, pestilent, powerful, vigorous man. It seemed suddenly horrible that the timber-yards and the woods and the offices, and the buildings of John Grier's commercial business were not under his own direction, or that of his mother, or brother. They had ceased to be factors in the equation; they were 'non est' in the postmortem history of John Grier. How immense a nerve the old man had to make such a will, which outraged every convention of social and family life; which was, in effect, a proclamation that his son Carnac had no place in John Grier's scheme of things, while John Grier's wife was rewarded like some faithful old servant. Yet some newspapers had said he was a man of goodwill, and had appreciation of talent, adding, however, the doubtful suggestion that the appreciation stopped short of the prowess of his son Carnac in the field of Art. It was evident John Grier's act was thought by the conventionalist to be a wicked blunder.
As Carnac saw the world where there was not a single material thing that belonged to him, he had a sudden conviction that his life would run in other lines than those within which it had been drawn to the present time. Looking over this wonderful prospect of the St. Lawrence, he had an insistent feeling that he ought to remain in the land where he was born, and give of whatever he was capable to its life. It was all a strenuous problem. For Carnac there was, duly or unduly, fairly or unfairly, a fate better than that of John Grier. If he died suddenly, as his father had died, a handful of people would sorrow with excess of feeling, and the growing world of his patrons would lament his loss. No one really grieved for John Grier's departure, except--strange to say --Tarboe.
*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS*Ver.02/11/02*END*
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