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- Carnac's Folly, Volume 3. - 4/18 -


JUNIA AND TARBOE HEAR THE NEWS

To most people Carnac's candidature was a surprise; to some it was a bewilderment, and to one or two it was a shock. To the second class belonged Fabian Grier and his wife; to the third class belonged Luke Tarboe. Only one person seemed to understand it--by intuition: Junia.

Somehow, nothing Carnac did changed Junia's views of him, or surprised her, though he made her indignant often enough. To her mind, however, in the big things, his actions always had reasonableness. She had never felt his artist-life was to be the only note of his career. When, therefore, in the West she read a telegram in a newspaper announcing his candidature, she guessed the suddenness of his decision. When she read it, she spread the paper on the table, smoothed it as though it were a beautiful piece of linen, then she stretched out her hands in happy benediction. Like most of her sex, she loved the thrill of warfare. There flashed the feeling, however, that it would be finer sport if Carnac and Tarboe were to be at war, instead of Carnac and Barouche. It was curious she never thought of Carnac but the other man came throbbing into sight--the millionaire, for he was that now.

In one way, this last move of Carnac's had the elements of a master- stroke. She knew how strange it would seem to the rest of the world, yet it did not seem strange to her. No man she had ever seen had been so at home in the world of men, and also at home in the secluded field of the chisel and the brush as Carnac.

She took the newspaper over to her aunt, holding it up. The big headlines showed like semaphores on the page. As the graceful figure of Junia drew to her aunt--her slim feet, in the brown, well-polished boots, the long, full neck, and then the chin, Grecian, shapely and firm, the straight, sensitive nose, the wonderful eyes under the well-cut, broad forehead, with the brown hair, covering it like a canopy--the old lady reached out and wound her arms round the lissome figure. Situated so, she read the telegram, and then the old arms gripped her tighter.

Presently, the whistle of a train sounded. The aunt stretched out an approving finger to the sound. She realized that the figure round which her arms hung trembled, for it was the "through" daily train for Montreal.

"I'm going back at once, aunty," Junia said.

..........................

"Well, I'm jiggered!"

These were Tarboe's words when Carnac's candidature came first to him in the press.

"He's 'broke' out in a new place," he added.

Tarboe loved the spectacular, and this was indeed spectacular. Yet he had not the mental vision of Junia who saw how close, in one intimate sense, was the relation between the artist life and the political life. To him it was a gigantic break from a green pasture into a red field of war. To her, it was a resolution which, in anyone else's life, would have seemed abnormal; in Carnac's life it had naturalness.

Tarboe had been for a few months only the reputed owner of the great business, and he had paid a big price for his headship in the weighty responsibility, the strain of control; but it had got into his blood, and he felt life would not be easy without it now.

Besides, there was Junia. To him she was the one being in the world worth struggling for; the bird to be caught on the wing, or coaxed into the nest, or snared into the net; and two of the three things he had tried without avail. The third--the snaring? He would not stop at that, if it would bring him what he wanted. How to snare her! He surveyed himself in the mirror.

"A great hulking figure like that!" he said in disapproval. "All bone and muscle and flesh and physical show! It wouldn't weigh with her. She's too fine. It isn't the animal in a man she likes. It's what he can do, and what he is, and where he's going."

Then he thought of Carnac's new outburst, and his veins ran cold. "She'll like that--but yes, she'll like that: and if he succeeds she'll think he's great. Well, she'd be right. He'll beat Barouche. He's young and brave, careless and daring. Now where am I in this fight? I belong to Barouche's party and my vote ought to go for him."

For some minutes he sat in profound thought. What part should he play? He liked Carnac, he owed him a debt which he could never repay. Carnac had saved him from killing Denzil. If that had happened, he himself might have gone to the gallows.

He decided. Sitting down, he wrote Carnac the following letter:

DEAR CARNAC GRIER,

I see you're beginning a new work. You now belong to a party that I am opposed to, but that doesn't stop me offering you support. It's not your general policy, but it is you, the son of your father, that I mean to work for. If you want financial help for your campaign-- or after it is over--come and get it here--ten thousand or more if you wish. Your father, if he knew--and perhaps he does know--would be pleased that you, who could not be a man of business in his world, are become a man of business in the bigger world of law- making. You may be right or wrong in that policy, but that don't weigh with me. You've taken on as big a job as ever your father did. What's the use of working if you don't try to do the big thing that means a lot to people outside yourself! If you make new good laws, if you do something for the world that's wonderful, it's as much as your father did, or, if he was alive, could do now. Whatever there is here is yours to use. When you come back here to play your part, you'll make it a success--the whole blessed thing. I don't wish you were here now, except that it's yours--all of it-- but I wish you to beat Barode Barouche.

Yours to the knife,

LUKE TARBOE.

He read the letter through, and coming to the words, "When you come back here to play your part, you'll make it a success--the whole blessed thing," he paused, reflecting . . . He wondered what Carnac would think the words meant, and he felt it was bold, and, maybe, dangerous play; but it was not more dangerous than facts he had dealt with often in the last two years. He would let it stand, that phrase of the hidden meaning. He did not post the letter yet.

Four days later he put on his wide-brimmed panama hat and went out into the street leading to the centre of the city. There was trouble in the river reaches between his men and those of Belloc-Grier, and he was keeping an appointment with Belloc at Fabian Grier's office, where several such meetings had taken place.

He had not gone far, however, when he saw a sprightly figure in light- brown linen cutting into his street from a cross-road. He had not seen that figure for months-scarcely since John Grier's death, and his heart thumped in his breast. It was Junia. How would she greet him?

A moment later he met her. Raising his hat, he said: "Back to the firing-line, Miss Shale! It'll make a big difference to every one concerned."

"Are you then concerned?" she asked, with a faint smile.

"One of the most concerned," he answered with a smile not so composed as her own. "It's the honour of the name that's at stake."

"You want to ruin Mr. Grier's chances in the fight?"

"I didn't say that. I said, 'the honour of the name,' and the name of my firm is 'Grier's Company of Lumbermen.' So I'm in it with all my might, and here's a letter--I haven't posted it yet--saying to Carnac Grier where I stand. Will you read it? There's no reason why you shouldn't." He tore open the envelope and took the letter out.

Junia took it, after hesitation, and read it till she came to the sentence about Carnac returning to the business. She looked up, startled.

"What does that mean?" she asked, pointing to the elusive sentence.

"He might want to come into the business some day, and I'll give him his chance. Nothing more than that."

"Nothing more than that!" she said cynically. "It's bravely said, but how can he be a partner if he can't buy the shares?"

"That's a matter to be thought out," he answered with a queer twist to his mouth.

"I see you've offered to help him with cash for the election," she said, handing back the letter.

"I felt it had to be done. Politics are expensive they sap the purse. That's why."

"You never thought of giving him an income which would compensate a little for what his father failed to do for him?"

There was asperity in her tone.

"He wouldn't take from me what his father didn't give him." Suddenly an idea seized him. "Look here," he said, "you're a friend of the Griers, why don't you help keep things straight between the two concerns? You could do it. You have the art of getting your own way. I've noticed that."

"So you'd like me to persuade Fabian Grier to influence Belloc, because I'd make things easy for you!" she said briskly. "Do you forget I've known Fabian since I was a baby, that my sister is his wife, and that his interests are near to me?"

He did not knuckle down. "I think it would be helping Fabian's interests. Belloc and Fabian Grier are generally in the wrong, and to keep them right would be good business-policy. When I've trouble with Belloc's firm it's because they act like dogs in the manger. They seem to hate me to live."

She laughed--a buoyant, scornful laugh. "So all the fault is in Belloc and Fabian, is it?" She was impressed enormously by his sangfroid and will to rule the roost. "I think you're clever, and that you've got plenty of horse-sense, as they say in the West, but you'll be beaten in the end. How does it feel"--she asked it with provoking candour--"to be the boss of big things?"


Carnac's Folly, Volume 3. - 4/18

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