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   Chapter 3 CARNAC’S RETURN

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 8351

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


Arrived in Montreal, there were attempts by Carnac to settle down to ordinary life of quiet work at his art, but it was not effective, nor had it been in Paris, though the excitement of working in the great centre had stimulated him. He ever kept saying to himself, "Carnac, you are a married man-a married man, by the tricks of rogues!" In Paris, he could more easily obscure it, but in Montreal, a few hundred miles from the place of his tragedy, pessimism seized him. He now repented he did not fight it out at once. It would have been courageous and perhaps successful. But whether successful or not, he would have put himself right with his own conscience. That was the chief thing. He was straightforward, and back again in Canada, Carnac flung reproaches at himself.

He knew himself now to be in love with Junia Shale, and because he was married he could not approach her. It galled him. He was not fond of Fabian, for they had little in common, and he had no intimate friends. Only his mother was always sympathetic to him, and he loved her. He saw much of her, but little of anyone else. He belonged to no clubs, and there were few artists in Montreal. So he lived his own life, and when he met Junia he cavilled at himself for his madness with Luzanne. The curious thing was he had not had a word from her since the day of the mock marriage. Perhaps she had decided to abandon the thing! But that could do no good, for there was the marriage recorded in the registers of New York State.

Meanwhile, things were not going well with others. There befell a day when matters came to a crisis in the Grier family. Since Fabian's marriage with Junia Shale's sister, Sybil, he had become discontented with his position in his father's firm. There was little love between him and his father, and that was chiefly the father's fault. One day, the old man stormed at Fabian because of a mistake in the management, and was foolish enough to say that Fabian had lost his grip since his marriage.

Fabian, enraged, demanded freedom from the partnership, and offered to sell his share. In a fit of anger, the old man offered him what was at least ten per cent more than the value of Fabian's share. The sombre Fabian had the offer transferred to paper at once, and it was signed by his father-not without compunction, because difficult as Fabian was he might go further and fare worse. As for Fabian's dark-haired, brown-faced, brown-eyed wife, to John Grier's mind, it seemed a good thing to be rid of her.

When Fabian left the father alone in his office, however, the stark temper of the old man broke down. He had had enough. He muttered to himself. Presently he was roused by a little knock at the door. It was Junia, brilliant, buoyant, yellow haired, with bright brown eyes, tingling cheeks, and white laughing teeth that showed against her red lips. She held up a finger at him.

"I know what you've done, and it's no good at all. You can't live without us, and you mustn't," she said. The old man glowered still, but a reflective smile crawled to his lips. "No, it's finished," he replied.

"It had to come, and it's done. It can't be changed. Fabian wouldn't alter it, and I shan't."

His face was stern and dour. He tangled his short fingers in the hair on top of his head.

"I wouldn't say that, if I were you," she responded cheerily. "Fabian showed me the sum you offered for his share. It's ridiculous. The business isn't worth it."

"What do you know about the business?" remarked the other.

"Well, whatever it was worth an hour ago, it's worth less now," she answered with suggestion. "It's worth much less now," she added.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked sharply, sitting upright, his hands clasping his knees almost violently, his clean-shaven face showing lines of trouble.

"I mean he's going to join the enemy," she answered quickly.

"Join the enemy!" broke from the old man's lips with a startled accent.

"Yes, the firm of Belloc."

The old man did not speak, but a curious whiteness stole over his face. "What makes you say that!" he exclaimed, anger in his eyes.

"Well, Fabian has to put money into something," s

he answered, "and the only business he knows is lumber business. Don't you think it's natural he should go to Belloc?"

"Did he ever say so?" asked the old man with savage sullenness. "Tell me. Did he ever say so?"

The girl shook back her brave head with a laugh. "Of course he never said so, but I know the way he'll go."

The old man shook his head. "I don't believe it. He's got no love for Belloc."

The girl felt like saying, "He's got no love for you," but she refrained. She knew that Fabian had love for his father, but he had inherited a love for business, and that would overwhelm all other feelings. She therefore said: "Why don't you get Carnac to come in? He's got more sense than Fabian-and he isn't married!"

She spoke boldly, for she knew the character of the man. She was only nineteen. She had always come in and gone out of Grier's house and office freely and much more since her sister had married Fabian.

A storm gathered between the old man's eyes; his brow knitted. "Carnac's got brains enough, but he goes monkeying about with pictures and statues till he's worth naught in the business of life."

"I don't think you understand him," the girl replied. "I've been trying to understand him for twenty-five years," the other said malevolently. "He might have been a big man. He might have bossed this business when I'm gone. It's in him, but he's a fly-away-he's got no sense. The ideas he's got make me sick. He talks like a damn fool sometimes."

"But if he's a 'damn fool'-is it strange?" She gaily tossed a kiss at the king of the lumber world. "The difference between you and him is this: he doesn't care about the things of this world, and you do; but he's one of the ablest men in Canada. If Fabian won't come back, why not Carnac?"

"We've never hit it off."

Suddenly he stood up, his face flushed, his hands outthrust themselves in rage, his fingers opened and shut in abandonment of temper.

"Why have I two such sons!" he exclaimed. "I've not been bad. I've squeezed a few; I've struck here and there; I've mauled my enemies, but I've been good to my own. Why can't I run square with my own family?" He was purple to the roots of his hair.

Savagery possessed him. Life was testing him to the nth degree. "I've been a good father, and a good husband! Why am I treated like this?"

She watched him silently. Presently, however, the storm seemed to pass. He appeared to gain control of himself.

"You want me to have in Carnac?" he asked, with a little fleck of foam at the corners of his mouth.

"If you could have Fabian back," she remarked, "but you can't! It's been coming for a long time. He's got your I.O.U. and he won't return; but Carnac's got plenty of stuff in him. He never was afraid of anything or anybody, and if he took a notion, he could do this business as well as yourself by and by. It's all a chance, but if he comes in he'll put everything else aside."

"Where is he?" the old man asked. "He's with his mother at your home."

The old man took his hat from the window-sill. At that moment a clerk appeared with some papers. "What have you got there?" asked Grier sharply. "The Belloc account for the trouble on the river," answered the clerk.

"Give it me," Grier said, and he waved the clerk away. Then he glanced at the account, and a grim smile passed over his face. "They can't have all they want, and they won't get it. Are you coming with me?" he asked of the girl, with a set look in his eyes. "No. I'm going back to my sister," she answered.

"If he leaves me-if he joins Belloc!" the old man muttered, and again his face flushed.

A few moments afterwards the girl watched him till he disappeared up the hill.

"I don't believe Carnac will do it," she said to herself. "He's got the sense, the brains, and the energy; but he won't do it."

She heard a voice behind her, and turned. It was the deformed but potent Denzil. He was greyer now. His head, a little to one side, seemed sunk in his square shoulders, but his eyes were bright.

"It's all a bad scrape-that about Fabian Grier," he said. "You can't ever tell about such things, how they'll go-but no, bagosh!"

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