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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 3. - 1/18 -


CARNAC'S FOLLY

By Gilbert Parker

BOOK III

XVIII. A GREAT DECISION XIX. CARNAC BECOMES A CANDIDATE XX. JUNIA AND TARBOE HEAR THE NEWS XXI. THE SECRET MEETING XXII. POINT TO POINT XXIII. THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT XXIV. THE BLUE PAPER XXV. DENZIL TAKES A HAND IN THE GAME XXVI. THE CHALLENGE XXVII. EXIT XXVIII. A WOMAN WRITES A LETTER XXIX. CARNAC AND HIS MOTHER XXX. TARBOE HAS A DREAM XXXI. THIS WAY HOME XXXII. 'HALVES, PARDNER, HALVES'

CHAPTER XVIII

A GREAT DECISION

Months went by. In them Destiny made new drawings. With his mother, Carnac went to paint at a place called Charlemont. Tarboe pursued his work at the mills successfully; Junia saw nothing of Carnac, but she had a letter from him, and it might have been written by a man to his friend, yet with an undercurrent of sadness that troubled her.

She might, perhaps, have yielded to the attentions of Tarboe, had not an appealing message come from her aunt, and at an hour's notice went West again on her mission of sick-service.

Politically the Province of Quebec was in turmoil. The time was drawing near when the Dominion Government must go to the polls, and in the most secluded cottage on the St. Lawrence, the virtues and defects of the administration were vital questions. Voters knew as much of technical law-making as the average voter everywhere, but no more, and sometimes less. Yet there was in the mind of the French-Canadian an intuition, which was as valuable as the deeper knowledge of a trained politician. The two great parties in the Province were led by Frenchmen. The English people, however, were chiefly identified with the party opposed to Barode Barouche, the Secretary of State.

As the agitation began in the late spring, Carnac became suddenly interested in everything political.

He realized what John Grier had said concerning politics--that, given other characteristics, the making of laws meant success or failure for every profession or trade, for every interest in the country. He had known a few politicians; though he had never yet met the most dominant figure in the Province--Barode Barouche, who had a singular fascination for him. He seemed a man dominant and plausible, with a right-minded impulsiveness. Things John Grier had said about Barouche rang in his ears.

As the autumn drew near excitement increased. Political meetings were being held everywhere. There was one feature more common in Canada than in any other country; opposing candidates met on the same platform and fought their fight out in the hearing of those whom they were wooing. One day Carnac read in a newspaper that Barode Barouche was to speak at St. Annabel. As that was not far from Charlemont he determined to hear Barouche for the first time. He had for him a sympathy which, to himself, seemed a matter of temperament.

"Mother," he said, "wouldn't you like to go and hear Barode Barouche at St. Annabel? You know him--I mean personally?"

"Yes, I knew him long ago," was the scarcely vocal reply.

"He's a great, fine man, isn't he? Wrong-headed, wrong-purposed, but a big fine fellow."

"If a man is wrong-headed and wrong-purposed, it isn't easy for him to be fine, is it?"

"That depends. A man might want to save his country by making some good law, and be mistaken both as to the result of that law and the right methods in making it. I'd like you to be with me when I hear him for the first time. I've got a feeling he's one of the biggest men of our day. Of course he isn't perfect. A man might want to save another's life, but he might choose the wrong way to do it, and that's wrongheaded; and perhaps he oughtn't to save the man's life, and that's wrong-purposed. There's no crime in either. Let's go and hear Monsieur Barouche."

He did not see the flush which suddenly filled her face; and, if he had, he would not have understood. For her a long twenty-seven years rolled back to the day when she was a young neglected wife, full of life's vitalities, out on a junction of the river and the wild woods, with Barode Barouche's fishing-camp near by. She shivered now as she thought of it. It was all so strange, and heart-breaking. For long years she had paid the price of her mistake. She knew how eloquent Barode Barouche could be; she knew how his voice had all the ravishment of silver bells to the unsuspecting. How well she knew him; how deeply she realized the darkness of his nature! Once she had said to him:

"Sometimes I think that for duty's sake you would cling like a leech."

It was true. For thirty long years he had been in one sense homeless, his wife having lost her reason three years after they were married. In that time he had faithfully visited the place of her confinement every month of his life, sobered, chastened, at first hopeful, defiant. At the bottom of his heart Barode Barouche did not want marital freedom. He had loved the mad woman. He remembered her in the glory of her youth, in the splendour of her beauty. The insane asylum did not destroy his memory.

Mrs. Grier remembered too, but in a different way. Her relations with him had been one swift, absorbing fever--a mad dream, a moment of rash impulse, a yielding to the natural feeling which her own husband had aroused: the husband who now neglected her while Barode Barouche treated her so well, until a day when under his beguilement a stormy impulse gave--Carnac. Then the end came, instant and final; she bolted, barred and locked the door against Barode and he had made little effort to open it. So they had parted, and had never clasped hands or kissed again. To him she was a sin of which he never repented. He had watched the growth and development of Carnac with a sharp sympathy. He was not a good man; but in him were seeds of goodness. To her he was the lash searing her flesh, day in day out, year in year out, which kept her sacred to her home. For her children's sake she did not tell her husband, and she had emptied out her heart over Carnac with overwhelming fondness.

"Yes, I'll go, Carnac," she said at last, for it seemed the easier way. "I haven't been to a political meeting for many years."

"That's right. I like your being with me."

The meeting was held in what had been a skating-rink and drill-hall. On the platform in the centre was the chairman, with Barode Barouche on his right. There was some preliminary speech-making from the chairman. A resolution was moved supporting Barouche, his party and policy, and there were little explosions of merriment at strokes of unconscious humour made by the speakers; and especially by one old farmer who made his jokes on the spot, and who now tried to embalm Barouche with praise. He drew attention to Barouche's leonine head and beard, to his alert eyes and quizzical face, and said he was as strong in the field of legislation as he was in body and mind. Carnac noticed that Barouche listened good- naturedly, and now and then cocked his head and looked up at the ceiling as though to find something there.

There was a curious familiarity in the action of the head which struck Carnac. He and his mother were seated about five rows back from the front row on the edge of the aisle. As the meeting progressed, Barouche's eyes wandered slowly over the faces of his audience. Presently he saw Carnac and his mother. Mrs. Grier was conscious of a shock upon the mind of Barouche. She saw his eyes go misty with feeling. For him the world was suddenly shut out, and he only saw the woods of a late summer's afternoon, a lonely tent--and a woman. A flush crept up his face. Then he made a spasmodic gesture of the hand, outward, which again Carnac recognized as familiar. It was the kind of thing he did himself.

So absorbed was Barode Barouche that he only mechanically heard the chairman announce himself, but when he got to his feet his full senses came back. The sight of the woman to whom he had been so much, and who had been so much to him for one short month, magnetized him; the face of the boy, so like his own as he remembered it thirty years ago, stirred his veins. There before him was his own one unacknowledged child--the only child ever born to him. His heart throbbed. Then he began to speak. Never in all his life had he spoken as he did this day. It was only a rural audience; there was not much intelligence in it; but it had a character all its own. It was alive to its own interests, chiefly of agriculture and the river. It was composed of both parties, and he could stimulate his own side, and, perhaps, win the other.

Thus it was that, with the blood pounding through his veins, the inspired sensualist began his speech. It was his duty to map out a policy for the future; to give the people an idea of what his party meant to do; to guide, to inspire, to inflame.

As Carnac listened he kept framing the words not yet issued, but which did issue from Barouche's mouth; his quick intelligence correctly imagined the line Barouche would take; again and again Barouche made a gesture, or tossed his head, or swung upon his feet to right and left in harmony with Carnac's own mind. Carnac would say to himself: "Why, that's what I'd have done--that's what I'd have said, if I had his policy." More than once, in some inspired moment of the speech, he caught his mother's hand, and he did not notice that her hand trembled.

But as for one of Barouche's chapter of policy Carnac almost sprang to his feet in protest when Barouche declared it. To Carnac it seemed fatal to French Canada, though it was expounded with a taking air; yet as he himself had said it was "wrong-headed and wrong-purposed."

When the speech had finished to great cheering, Carnac suddenly turned to his mother:

"He's on the wrong track. I know the policy to down his. He's got no opponent. I'm going to stand against him at the polls."


Carnac's Folly, Volume 3. - 1/18

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