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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 3. - 2/18 -
She clutched his arm. "Carnac--Carnac! You don't know what you're doing."
"Well, I will pretty quick," he replied stoutly. "I'm out after him, if they'll have me."
CARNAC BECOMES A CANDIDATE
That night Carnac mapped out his course, carefully framed the policy to offset that of Barode Barouche, and wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Opposition at Montreal offering to stand, and putting forward an ingenious policy. He asked also for an interview; and the interview was granted by telegram--almost to his surprise. He was aware, however, of the discontent among the English members of the Opposition, and of the wish of the French members to find a good compromise.
He had a hope that his singular position--the notoriety which his father's death and his own financial disfranchisement had caused--would be a fine card in his favour. He was not mistaken. His letter arrived at Headquarters when there were difficulties concerning three candidates who were pressing their claims. Carnac Grier, the disinherited son of the great lumber-king, who had fame as an artist, spoke French as though it were his native tongue, was an element of sensation which, if adroitly used, could be of great service. It might even defeat Barode Barouche. In the first place, Carnac was young, good-looking, personable, and taking in his manner. Barouche was old, experienced, with hosts of enemies and many friends, but with injurious egotism. An interview was, therefore, arranged at Headquarters.
On the morning of the day it took place, Carnac's anguished mother went with him to the little railway station of Charlemont. She had slept little the night before; her mind was in an eddy of emotions. It seemed dreadful that Carnac should fight his own father, repeating what Fabian had done in another way. Yet at the bottom of her heart there was a secret joy. Some native revolt in her had joy in the thought that the son might extort a price for her long sorrow and his unknown disgrace.
As she had listened to Barouche at the meeting, she realized how sincere yet insincere he was; how gifted and yet how ungracious was his mind. Her youth was over; long pain and regret had chastened her. She was as lonely a creature as ever the world knew; violence was no part of her equipment; and yet terrible memories made her assent to this new phase of Carnac's life. She wondered what Barouche would think. There was some ancient touch of war in her which made her rejoice that after long years the hammer should strike.
Somehow the thing's tremendous possibilities thrilled her. Carnac had always been a politician--always. She remembered how, when he was a boy, he had argued with John Grier on national matters, laid down the law with the assurance of an undergraduate, and invented theories impossible of public acceptance. Yet in every stand he had taken, there had been thought, logic and reasoning, wrongly premised, but always based on principles. On paper he was generally right; in practice, generally wrong. His buoyant devotion to an idea was an inspiration and a tonic. The curious thing was that, while still this political matter was hanging fire, he painted with elation.
His mother knew he did not see the thousand little things which made public life so wearying; that he only realized the big elements of national policy. She understood how those big things would inspire the artist in him. For, after all, there was the spirit of Art in framing a great policy which would benefit millions in the present and countless millions in the future. So, at the railway station, as they waited for the train, with an agitation outwardly controlled, she said:
"The men who have fought before, will want to stand, so don't be surprised if--"
"If they reject me, mother?" interrupted Carnac. No, I shan't be surprised, but I feel in my bones that I'm going to fight Barode Barouche into the last corner of the corral."
"Don't be too sure of that, my son. Won't the thing that prevents your marrying Junia be a danger in this, if you go on?"
Sullen tragedy came into his face, his lips set. The sudden paleness of his cheek, however, was lost in a smile.
"Yes, I've thought of that; but if it has to come, better it should come now than later. If the truth must be told, I'll tell it--yes, I'll tell it!"
"Be bold, but not reckless, Carnac," his mother urged.
Just then the whistling train approached. She longed to put a hand out and hold him back, and yet she ached to let him go. Yet as Carnac mounted the steps of the car, a cry went out from her heart: "My son, stay with me here--don't go." That was only in her heart, however; with her lips she said: "Good luck! God bless you, Carnac!" and then the train rolled away, leaving her alone in the bright, bountiful morning.
Before the day was done, Headquarters had accepted Carnac, in part, as the solution of their own difficult problem. The three applicants for the post each hated the other; but all, before the day was over, agreed to Carnac as an effective opponent of Barouche.
One thing seemed clear--Carnac's policy had elements of seduction appealing to the selfishness of all sections, and he had an eloquence which would make Barouche uneasy. That eloquence was shown in a speech Carnac made in the late evening to the assembled executive. He spoke for only a quarter of an hour, but it was long enough to leave upon all who heard him an impression of power, pertinacity, picturesqueness and appeal. He might make mistakes, but he had qualities which would ride over errors with success.
"I'm not French," he said at last in his speech, "but I used to think and write in French as though I'd been born in Normandy. I'm English by birth and breeding, but I've always gone to French schools and to a French University, and I know what New France means. I stand to my English origin, but I want to see the French develop here as they've developed in France, alive to all new ideas, dreaming good dreams. I believe that Frenchmen in Canada can, and should, be an inspiration to the whole population. Their great qualities should be the fibre in the body of public opinion. I will not pander to the French; I will not be the slave of the English; I will be free, and I hope I shall be successful at the polls."
This was a small part of the speech which caused much enthusiasm, and was the beginning of a movement, powerful, and as time went on, impetuous.
He went to bed with the blood of battle throbbing in his veins. In the morning he had a reasonable joy in seeing the headlines of his candidature in the papers.
At first he was almost appalled, for never since life began had his personality been so displayed. It seemed absurd that before he had struck a blow he should be advertised like a general in the field. Yet common sense told him that in standing against Barouche, he became important in the eyes of those affected by Barouche's policy. He had had luck, and it was for him to justify that luck. Could he do it? His first thought, however, as his eyes fell on the headlines--he flushed with elation so that he scarcely saw--was for the thing itself. Before him there flashed a face, however, which at once sobered his exaltation. It was the face of Junia.
"I wonder what she will think," he said to himself, with a little perplexity.
He knew in his heart of hearts she would not think it incongruous that he, an artist, should become a politician. Good laws served to make life beautiful, good pictures ministered to beauty; good laws helped to tell the story of human development; good sculpture strengthened the soul; good laws made life's conveniences greater, enlarged activity, lessened the friction of things not yet adjusted; good laws taught their framers how to balance things, how to make new principles apply without disturbing old rights; good pictures increased the well-balanced harmony of the mind of the people. Junia would understand these things. As he sat at his breakfast, with the newspaper spread against the teapot and the milk-pitcher, he felt satisfied he had done the bold and right, if incomprehensible, thing.
But in another hotel, at another breakfast, another man read of Carnac's candidature with sickening surprise. It was Barode Barouche.
So, after twenty-seven long years, this was to be the issue! His own son, whom he had never known, was to fight him at the polls! Somehow, the day when he had seen Carnac and his mother at the political meeting had given him new emotions. His wife, to whom he had been so faithful in one sense since she had passed into the asylum, had died, and with her going, a new field of life seemed to open up to him. She had died almost on the same day as John Grier. She had been buried secludedly, piteously, and he had gone back to his office with the thought that life had become a preposterous freedom.
So it was that, on the day when he spoke at the political meeting, his life's tragedy became a hammer beating every nerve into emotion. He was like one shipwrecked who strikes out with a swimmer's will to reach his goal. All at once, on the platform, as he spoke, when his eyes saw the faces of Carnac and his mother the catastrophe stunned him like a huge engine of war. There had come to him at last a sense of duty where Alma Grier was concerned. She was nearly fifty years of age, and he was fifty-nine; she was a widow with this world's goods; she had been to him how near and dear! for a brief hour, and then--no more. He knew the boy was his son, because he saw his own face, as it had been in his youth, though his mother's look was also there-transforming, illumining.
He had a pang as he saw the two at the close of his meeting filtering out into the great retort of the world. Then it was that he had the impulse to go to the woman's home, express his sorrow, and in some small sense wipe out his wrong by offering her marriage. He had not gone.
He knew of Carnac's success in the world of Art; and how he had alienated his reputed father by an independence revolting to a slave of convention. He had even bought, not from Carnac, but from a dealer, two of Carnac's pictures and a statue of a riverman. Somehow the years had had their way with him. He had at long last realized that material things were not the great things of life, and that imagination, however productive, should be guided by uprightness of soul.
One thing was sure, the boy had never been told who his father was. That Barouche knew. He had the useful gift of reading the minds of people in their faces. From Carnac's face, from Carnac's mother's face, had come to him the real story. He knew that Alma Grier had sinned only once and with him. In the first days after that ill-starred month, he had gone to her, only to be repelled as a woman can repel whose soul has been
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