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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 3. - 3/18 -
shocked, whose self-respect has been shamed.
It had been as though she thrust out arms of infinite length to push him away, such had been the storm of her remorse, such the revulsion against herself and him. So they had fallen apart, and he had seen his boy grow up independent, original, wilful, capable--a genius. He read the newspaper reports of what had happened the day before with senses greatly alive.
After all, politics was unlike everything else. It was a profession recruited from all others. The making of laws was done by all kinds of men. One of the wisest advisers in river-law he had ever known was a priest; one of the best friends of the legislation of the medical profession was a woman; one of the bravest Ministers who had ever quarrelled with and conquered his colleagues had been an insurance agent; one of the sanest authorities on maritime law had been a man with a greater pride in his verses than in his practical capacity; and here was Carnac, who had painted pictures and made statues, plunging into politics with a policy as ingenious as his own, and as capable of logical presentation. This boy, who was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, meant to fight him. He threw back his head and laughed. His boy, his son, meant to fight him, did he? Well, so be it! He got to his feet, and walked up and down the room.
"God, what an issue this!" he said. "It would be terrific, if he won. To wipe me out of the life where I have flourished--what a triumph for him! And he would not know how great the triumph would be. She has not told him. Yet she will urge him on. Suppose it was she put the idea into his head!"
Then he threw back his head, shaking the long brown hair, browner than Carnac's, from his forehead. "Suppose she did this thing--she who was all mine for one brief moment! Suppose she--"
Every nerve tingled; every drop of blood beat hard against his walls of flesh; his every vicious element sprang into life.
"But no--but no, she would not do it. She would not teach her son to destroy his own father. But something must have told him to come and listen to me, to challenge me in his own mind, and then--then this thing!"
He stared at the paper, leaning over the table, as though it were a document of terror.
"I must go on: I must uphold the policy for which I've got the assent of the Government." Suddenly his hands clenched. "I will beat him. He shall not bring me to the dust. I gave him life, and he shall not take my life from me. He's at the beginning; I'm going towards the end. I wronged his mother--yes, I wronged him too! I wronged them both, but he does not know he's wronged. He'll live his own life; he has lived it--"
There came a tap at the door. Presently it opened and a servant came in. He had in his hand a half-dozen telegrams.
"All about the man that's going to fight you, I expect, m'sieu'," said the servant as he handed the telegrams.
Barode Barouche did not reply, but nodded a little scornfully.
"A woman has called," continued the servant. "She wants to see you, m'sieu'. It's very important, she says."
Barouche shook his head in negation. "No, Gaspard."
"It ain't one of the usual kind, I think, m'sieu'," protested Gaspard. "It's about the election. It's got something to do with that--" he pointed to the newspaper propped against the teapot.
"It's about that, is it? Well, what about that?" He eyed the servant as though to see whether the woman had given any information.
"I don't know. She didn't tell me. She's got a mind of her own. She's even handsome, and she's well-dressed. All she said was: 'Tell m'sieu' I want to see him. It's about the election-about Mr. Grier.'"
Barode Barouche's heart stopped. Something about Carnac Grier--something about the election--and a woman! He kept a hand on himself. It must not be seen that he was in any way moved.
"Is she English?"
"She's French, m'sieu'."
"You think I ought to see her, Gaspard?" said Barouche.
"Sure," was the confident reply. "I guess she's out against whoever's against you."
"You never saw her before."
"Not to my sense."
"But I haven't finished my breakfast."
"Well, if it's anything important that'll help you, m'sieu'. It's like whittling. If you can do things with your hands while you're talking and thinking, it's a great help. You go on eating. I'll show her up!"
Barouche smiled maliciously. "Well, show her up, Gaspard."
The servant laughed. "Perhaps she'll show herself up after I show her in," he said, and he went out hastily.
Presently the door opened again, and Gaspard stepped inside.
"A lady to see you, m'sieu'," he said.
Barouche rose from the table, but he did not hold out his hand. The woman was young, good looking, she seemed intelligent. There was also a latent cruelty in her face which only a student of human nature could have seen quickly. She was a woman with a grievance--that was sure. He knew the passionate excitement, fairly well controlled; he saw her bitterness at a glance. He motioned her to a chair.
"It's an early call," he said with a smile. Smiling was one of his serviceable assets; it was said no man could so palaver the public with his cheerful goodnature.
"Yes, it's an early call," she replied, "but I wish not to wait till you go to your office. I wanted you to know something. It has to do with Mr. Carnac Grier."
"It's something you've got to know. If I give you the sure means to win your election, it would be worth while--eh?"
The beating of Barouche's heart was hard, but nothing showed in his face. There he had control.
"I like people who know their own minds," he said, "but I don't believe anything till I study what I hear. Is it something to injure Mr. Grier?"
"If a married man went about as a single man and stood up for Parliament against you, don't you think you could spoil him?"
For a moment Barouche was silent. Here was an impeachment of his own son, but this son was out to bring his own father to the ground. There were two ways to look at it. There was the son's point of view, and there was his own. If he loved his son he ought to know the thing that threatened him; if he hated his son he ought to know. So, after a moment's study of the face with the fiery eyes and a complexion like roses touched with frost, he said slowly:
"Well, have I the honour of addressing Carnac Grier's wife?"
Barouche had had many rewards in his life, but the sweetest reward of all was now his own. As events proved, he had taken a course which, if he cared for his son, was for that son's well-being, and if he cared for himself most, was essential to his own well-being.
Relief crossed the woman's face. "I'll tell you everything," she said.
Then Luzanne told her story, avoiding the fact that Carnac had been tricked into the marriage. At last she said: "Now I've come here to make him acknowledge me. He's ruined my life, broken my hopes, and--"
"Broken your hopes!" interrupted Barode Barouche. "How is that?"
"I might have married some one else. I could have married some one else."
"Well, why don't you? There's the Divorce Court. What's to prevent it?"
"You ask me that--you a Frenchman and a Roman Catholic! I'm French. I was born in Paris."
"When will you let me see your papers?"
"When do you want to see them?"
"To-day-if possible to-day," he answered. Then he held her eyes. "To whom else here have you told this story?"
"No one--no one. I only came last night, and when I took up the paper this morning, I saw. Then I found out where you lived, and here I am, bien sur. I'm here under my maiden name, Ma'm'selle Luzanne Larue."
"That's right. That's right. Now, until we meet again, don't speak of this to anyone. Will you give me your word?"
"Absolutely," she said, and there was revenge and passion in her eyes. Suddenly a strange expression crept over her face. She was puzzled.
"There's something of him about you," she said, and her forehead gathered. "There's some look! Well, there it is, but it's something-- I don't know what."
A moment later she was gone. As the door closed, he stretched his hands above his head.
"Nom de Dieu, what a situation!" he remarked.
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