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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 3. - 10/18 -
was not so deliberate as her actions had indicated. She had been under the malicious influence of her father and her father's friend. She was like one possessed of a spirit that would not be deterred from its purpose. Junia saw the impression she had made, and set it down to her last words.
"Where did you first meet him? What was the way of it?" she added.
Suddenly Junia came forward and put her hands on Luzanne's shoulders. "I think you loved Carnac once, and perhaps you love him now, and are only trying to hurt him out of anger. If you destroy him, you will repent of it--so soon! I don't know what is behind these things you are doing, but you'll be sorry for it when it is too late. Yes, I know you have loved Carnac, for I see all the signs--"
"Do you love him then, ma'm'selle?" asked Luzanne exasperated. "Do you love him?"
"He has never asked me, and I have never told him that; and I don't know, but, if I did, I would move heaven and earth to help him, and if he didn't love me I'd help him just the same. And so, I think, should you. If you ever loved him, then you ought to save him from evil. Tell me, did Carnac ever do you a kind act, one that is worth while in your life?"
For a moment Luzanne stood dismayed, then a new expression drove the dark light from her eyes. It was as though she had found a new sense.
"He saved my life the day we first met," she said at last under Junia's hypnotic influence.
"And now you would strike him when he is trying to do the big thing. You threaten to declare his marriage, in the face of those who can elect him to play a great part for his country."
Junia saw the girl was in emotional turmoil, was obsessed by one idea, and she felt her task had vast difficulty. That Carnac should have married the girl was incredible, that he had played an unworthy part seemed sure; yet it was in keeping with his past temperament. The girl was the extreme contrast of himself, with dark--almost piercing-eyes, and a paleness which was physically constitutional--the joy of the artistic spirit. It was the head of a tragedienne or a martyr, and the lean, rather beautiful body was eloquent of life.
Presently Junia said: "To try to spoil him would be a crime against his country, and I shall tell him you are here."
"He'll do nothing at all." The French girl's words were suddenly biting, malicious and defiant. The moment's softness she had felt was gone, and hardness returned. "If he hasn't moved against me since he married me, he wouldn't dare do so now."
"Why hasn't he moved? Because you're a woman, and also he'd believe you'd repent of your conduct. But I believe he will act sternly against you at once. There is much at stake."
"You want it for your own sake," said Luzanne sharply. "You think he'd marry you if I gave him up."
"Perhaps he'd ask me to marry him, if you weren't in the way, but I'd have my own mind about that, and knowing what you've told me--truth or lie--I'd weigh it all carefully. Besides, he's not the only man. Doesn't that ever strike you? Why try to hold him by a spurious bond when there are other men as good-looking, as clever? Is your world so bare of men--no, I'm sure it isn't," she added, for she saw anger rising in the impulsive girl. "There are many who'd want to marry you, and it's better to marry some one who loves you than to hold to one who doesn't love you at all. Is it hate? He saved your life--and that's how you came to know him first, and now you would destroy him! He's a great man. He would not bend to his father's will, and so he was left without a sou of his father's money. All because he has a conscience, and an independence worthy of the best that ever lived. . . . That's the soul of the man you are trying to hurt. If you had a real soul, there wouldn't be even the thought of this crime. Do you think he wouldn't loathe you, if you do this ghastly thing? Would any real man endure it for an hour? What do you expect to get but ugly revenge on a man who never gave anything except friendship?"
"Friendship--friendship-yes, he gave that, but emotion too."
"You think that real men marry women for whom they only have emotion. You think that he--Carnac Grier--would marry any woman on that basis? Come, ma'm'selle, the truth! He didn't know he was being married, and when you told him it was a real marriage he left you at once. You and yours tricked him--the man you'd never have known if he hadn't saved your life. You thought that with your beauty--yes, you are beautiful--you'd conquer him, and that he'd give in, and become a real husband in a real home. Come now, isn't that it?"
The other did not reply. Her face was alive with memories. The lower things were flying from it, a spirit of womanhood was living in her-- feebly, but truly, living. She was now conscious of the insanity of her pursuit of Carnac. For a few moments she stood silent, and then she said with agitation:
"If I give this up"--she took from her breast the blue document--"he'd be safe in his election, and he'd marry you: is it not so, ma'm'selle?"
"He'd be safe for his election, but he has never asked me to marry him, and there are others besides him.--She was thinking of Tarboe. "Tell me," she added suddenly, "to whom have you told this thing in Montreal? Did you mean to challenge him yourself?"
"I told it only to M'sieu' Barouche, and he said he would use it at the right moment--and the right moment has come," she added. "He asked me for a copy of it last night, and I said I'd give it to him to-day. It's because of him I've been here quiet all these weeks as Ma'm'selle Larue."
"He is worse than you, mademoiselle, for he has known Carnac's family, and he has no excuse. If a man can't win his fight fairly, he oughtn't to be in public life."
After a few dark moments, with a sudden burst of feeling, Luzanne said: "Well, Carnac won't be out of public life through me!"
She took the blue certificate from her breast and was about to tear it up, when Junia stopped her.
"Don't do that," Junia said, "don't tear it up yet, give it to me. I'll tear it up at the right moment. Give it to me, my dear."
She held out her hand, and the blue certificate was presently in her fingers. She felt a sudden weakness in her knees, for it seemed she held the career of Carnac Grier, and it moved her as she had never been moved.
With the yielding of the certificate, Luzanne seemed suddenly to lose self-control. She sank on the bed beside the wall with a cry of distress.
"Mon Dieu--oh, Mon Dieu!" Then she sprang to her feet. "Give it back, give it back tome," she cried, with frantic pain. "It's all I have of him--it's all I have."
"I won't give it back," declared Junia quietly. "It's a man's career, and you must let it go. It's the right thing to do. Let it stand, mademoiselle."
She fully realized the half-insane mind and purpose of the girl, and she wrapped her arms around the stricken figure.
"See, my dear," she said, "it's no use. You can't have it back. Your soul is too big for that now. You can be happy in the memory that you gave Carnac back his freedom."
"But the record stands," said the girl helplessly. "Tell the truth and have it removed. You owe that to the man who saved your life. Have it done at once at Shipton."
"What will you do with the certificate?" She glanced at Junia's bosom where the paper was hidden. "I will give it to Carnac, and he can do what he likes with it."
By now the tears were streaming down the face of Luzanne Larue, and hard as it was for Junia, she tried to comfort her, for the girl should be got away at once, and only friendliness could achieve that. She would see Denzil--he was near by, waiting.
There would be a train in two hours for New York and the girl must take it-she must.
DENZIL TAKES A HAND IN THE GAME
Barode Baruche was excited. He had sure hope of defeating Carnac with the help of Luzanne Larue. The woman had remained hidden since her coming, and the game was now in his hands. On the night before the poll he could declare the thing, not easy to be forgiven by the French- Canadian public, which has a strong sense of domestic duty. Carnac Grier was a Protestant, and that was bad, and if there was added an offence against domestic morality, he would be beaten at the polls as sure as the river ran. He had seen Luzanne several times, and though he did not believe in her, he knew the marriage certificate was real. He had no credence in Carnac's lack of honour, yet it was strange he had not fought his wife, if his case was a good one.
Day by day he had felt Carnac's power growing, and he feared his triumph unless some sensation stopped it. Well, he had at hand the sufficient sensation. He would produce both the certificate of marriage and the French girl who was the legal wife of Carnac Grier. That Luzanne was French helped greatly, for it would be used by Carnac's foes as an insult to French Canada, and his pulses throbbed as he thought of the possible turmoil in the constituency.
Fortunately the girl was handsome, had ability, and spoke English with a French accent, and she was powerful for his purposes. He was out to prevent his own son from driving himself into private life, and he would lose no trick in the game, if he could help it.
Sentimental feeling--yes, he had it, but it did not prevent him from saving his own skin. Carnac had come out against him, and he must hit as hard as he could. It was not as though Carnac had been guilty of a real crime and was within the peril of the law. His offence was a personal one, but it would need impossible defence at the moment of election. In any case, if Carnac was legally married, he should assume the responsibilities of married life; and if he had honest reason for not recognizing the marriage, he should stop the woman from pursuing him. If the case kept Carnac out of public life and himself in, then justice
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