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   Chapter 5 CARNAC AS MANAGER

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 18534

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


Carnac was installed in the office, and John Grier went to the Madawaska. Before he left, however, he was with Carnac for near a week, showing the procedure and the main questions that might arise to be solved.

"It's like this," said Grier in their last talk, "you've got to keep a stiff hand over the foremen and overseers, and have strict watch of Belloc & Co. Perhaps there will be trouble when I've gone, but, if it does, keep a stiff upper lip, and don't let the gang do you. You've got a quick mind and you know how to act sudden. Act at once, and damn the consequences! Remember, John Grier's firm has a reputation, and deal justly, but firmly, with opposition. The way it's organized, the business almost runs itself. But that's only when the man at the head keeps his finger on the piston-rod. You savvy, don't you?"

"I savvy all right. If the Belloc firm cuts up rusty, I'll think of what you'd do and try to do it in the same way."

The old man smiled. He liked the spirit in Carnac. It was the right kind for his business. "I predict this: if you have one fight with the Belloc lot, you'll hate them too. Keep the flag flying. Don't get rattled. It's a big job, and it's worth doing in a big way.

"Yes, it's a big job," said Carnac. "I hope I'll pull it off."

"You'll pull it off, if you bend your mind to it. But there won't be any time for your little pictures and statues. You'll have to deal with the real men, and they'll lose their glamour. That's the thing about business-it's death to sentimentality."

Carnac flushed with indignation. "So you think Titian and Velasquez and Goyot and El Greco and Watteau and Van Dyck and Rembrandt and all the rest were sentimentalists, do you? The biggest men in the world worship them. You aren't just to the greatest intellects. I suppose Shakespeare was a sentimentalist!"

The old man laughed and tapped his son on the shoulder.

"Don't get excited, Carnac. I'd rather you ran my business well, than be Titian or Rembrandt, whoever they were. If you do this job well, I'll think there's a good chance of our working together."

Carnac nodded, but the thought that he could not paint or sculp when he was on this work vexed him, and he only set his teeth to see it through. "All right, we'll see," he said, and his father went away.

Then Carnac's time of work and trial began. He was familiar with the routine of the business, he had adaptability, he was a quick worker, and for a fortnight things went swimmingly. There was elation in doing work not his regular job, and he knew the eyes of the commercial and river world were on him. He did his best and it was an effective best. Junia had been in the City of Quebec, but she came back at the end of a fortnight, and went to his office to get a subscription for a local charity. She had a gift in this kind of work.

It was a sunny day in the month of June, and as she entered the office a new spirit seemed to enter with her.

The place became distinguished. She stood in the doorway for a moment, radiant, smiling, half embarrassed, then she said: "Please may I for a moment, Carnac?"

Carnac was delighted. "For many moments, Junia."

"I'm not as busy as usual. I'm glad as glad to see you."

She said with restraint: "Not for many moments. I'm here on business. It's important. I wanted to get a subscription from John Grier for the Sailors' Hospital which is in a bad way. Will you give something for him?"

Carnac looked at the subscription list. "I see you've been to Belloc first and they've given a hundred dollars. Was that wise-going to them first? You know how my father feels about Belloc. And we're the older firm."

The girl laughed. "Oh, that's silly! Belloc's money is as good as John Grier's, and it only happened he was asked first because Fabian was present when I took the list, and it's Fabian's writing on the paper there."

Carnac nodded. "That's all right with me, for I'm no foe to Belloc, but my father wouldn't have liked it. He wouldn't have given anything in the circumstances."

"Oh, yes, he would! He's got sense with all his prejudices. I'll tell you what he'd have done: he'd have given a bigger subscription than Belloc."

Carnac laughed. "Well, perhaps you're right; it was clever planning it so."

"I didn't plan it. It was accident, but I had to consider everything and I saw how to turn it to account. So, if you are going to give a subscription for John Grier you must do as he would do."

Carnac smiled, put the paper on his desk, and took the pen.

"Make it measure the hate John Grier has to the Belloc firm," she said ironically.

Carnac chuckled and wrote. "Will that do?" He handed her the paper.

"One hundred and fifty dollars-oh, quite, quite good!" she said. "But it's only a half hatred after all. I'd have made it a whole one."

"You'd have expected John Grier to give two hundred, eh? But that would have been too plain. It looks all right now, and it must go at that."

She smiled. "Well, it'll go at that. You're a good business man. I see you've given up your painting and sculping to do this! It will please your father, but are you satisfied?"

"Satisfied-of course, I'm not; and you know it. I'm not a money-grabber. I'm an artist if I'm anything, and I'm not doing this permanently. I'm only helping my father while he's in a hole."

The girl suddenly grew serious. "You mean you're not going to stick to the business, and take Fabian's place in it? He's been for a week with Belloc and he's never coming back here. You have the brains for it; and you could make your father happy and inherit his fortune-all of it."

Carnac flushed indignantly. "I suppose I could, but it isn't big enough for me. I'd rather do one picture that the Luxembourg or the London National Gallery would buy than own this whole business. That's the turn of my mind."

"Yes, but if you didn't sell a picture to the Luxembourg or the National Gallery. What then?"

"I'd have a good try for it, that's all. Do you want me to give up Art and take to commerce? Is that your view?"

"I suggested to John Grier the day that Fabian sold his share that you might take his place; and I still think it a good thing, though, of course, I like your painting. But I felt sorry for your father with none of his own family to help him; and I thought you might stay with him for your family's sake."

"You thought I'd be a martyr for love of John Grier-and cold cash, did you? That isn't the way the blood runs in my veins. I think John Grier might get out of the business now, if he's tired, and sell it and let some one else run it. John Grier is not in want. If he were, I'd give up everything to help him, and I'd not think I was a martyr. But I've a right to make my own career. It's making the career one likes which gets one in the marrow. I'd take my chances of success as he did. He has enough to live on, he's had success; let him get down and out, if he's tired."

The girl held herself firmly. "Remember John Grier has made a great name for himself-as great in his way as Andrew Carnegie or Pierpont Morgan-and he's got pride in his name. He wants his son to carry it on, and in a way he's right."

"That's good argument," said Carnac, "but if his name isn't strong enough to carry itself, his son can't carry it for him. That's the way of life. How many sons have ever added to their father's fame? The instances are very few. In the modern world, I can only think of the Pitts in England. There's no one else."

The girl now smiled again. The best part in her was stirred. She saw. Her mind changed. After a moment she said: "I think you're altogether right about it. Carnac, you have your own career to make, so make it as it best suits yourself. I'm sorry I spoke to your father as I did. I pitied him, and I thought you'd find scope for your talents in the business. It's a big game, but I see now it isn't yours, Carnac."

He nodded, smiling. "That's it; that's it, I hate the whole thing."

She shook hands. As his hand enclosed her long slim fingers, he felt he wished never to let them go, they were so thrilling; but he did, for the thought of Luzanne came to his mind.

"Good-bye, Junia, and don't forget that John Grier's firm is the foe of the Belloc business," he said satirically.

She laughed, and went down the hill quickly, and as she went Carnac thought he had never seen so graceful a figure.

"What an evil Fate sent Luzanne my way!" he said.

Two days later there came an ugly incident on the river. There was a collision between a gang of John Grier's and Belloc's men and one of Grier's men was killed. At the inquest, it was found that the man met his death by his own fault, having first attacked a Belloc man and injured him. The Belloc man showed the injury to the jury, and he was acquitted. Carnac watched the case closely, and instructed his lawyer to contend that the general attack was first made by Belloc's men, which was true; but the jury decided that this did not affect the individual case, and that the John Grier man met his death by his own fault.

"A shocking verdict!" he said aloud in the Court when it was given.

"Sir," said the Coroner, "it is the verdict of men who use their judg

ment after hearing the evidence, and your remark is offensive and criminal."

"If it is criminal, I apologize," said Carnac.

"You must apologize for its offensiveness, or you will be arrested, sir."

This nettled Carnac. "I will not apologize for its offensiveness," he said firmly.

"Constable, arrest this man," said the Coroner, and the constable did so.

"May I be released on bail?" asked Carnac with a smile.

"I am a magistrate. Yes, you may be released on bail," said the Coroner.

Carnac bowed, and at once a neighbour became security for three thousand dollars. Then Carnac bowed again and left the Court with-it was plain-the goodwill of most people present.

Carnac returned to his office with angry feelings at his heart. The Belloc man ought to have been arrested for manslaughter, he thought. In any case, he had upheld the honour of John Grier's firm by his protest, and the newspapers spoke not unfavourably of him in their reports. They said he was a man of courage to say what he did, though it was improper, from a legal standpoint. But human nature was human nature!

The trial took place in five days, and Carnac was fined twenty-five cents, which was in effect a verdict of not guilty; and so the newspapers said. It was decided that the offence was only legally improper, and it was natural that Carnac expressed himself strongly.

Junia was present at the trial. After it was over, she saw Carnac for a moment. "I think your firm can just pay the price and exist!" she said. "It's a terrible sum, and it shows how great a criminal you are!"

"Not a 'thirty-cent' criminal, anyhow," said Carnac. "It is a moral victory, and tell Fabian so. He's a bit huffy because I got into the trouble, I suppose."

"No, he loathed it all. He's sorry it occurred."

There was no further talk between them, for a subordinate of Carnac's came hurriedly to him and said something which Junia did not hear. Carnac raised his hat to her, and hurried away.

"Well, it's not so easy as painting pictures," she said. "He gets fussed over these things."

It was later announced by the manager of the main mill that there was to be a meeting of workers to agitate for a strike for higher pay. A French-Canadian who had worked in the mills of Maine and who was a red-hot socialist was the cause of it. He had only been in the mills for about three months and had spent his spare time inciting well-satisfied workmen to strike. His name was Luc Baste-a shock-haired criminal with a huge chest and a big voice, and a born filibuster. The meeting was held and a deputation was appointed to wait on Carnac at his office. Word was sent to Carnac, and he said he would see them after the work was done for the day. So in the evening about seven o'clock the deputation of six men came, headed by Luc Baste.

"Well, what is it?" Carnac asked calmly.

Luc Baste began, not a statement of facts, but an oration on the rights of workers, their downtrodden condition and their beggarly wages. He said they had not enough to keep body and soul together, and that right well did their employers know it. He said there should be an increase of a half-dollar a day, or there would be a strike.

Carnac dealt with the matter quickly and quietly. He said Luc Baste had not been among them a long time and evidently did not know what was the cost of living in Montreal. He said the men got good wages, and in any case it was not for him to settle a thing of such importance. This was for the head of the firm, John Grier, when he returned. The wages had been raised two years before, and he doubted that John Grier would consent to a further rise. All other men on the river seemed satisfied and he doubted these ought to have a cent more a day. They were getting the full value of the work. He begged all present to think twice before they brought about catastrophe. It would be a catastrophe if John Grier's mills should stop working and Belloc's mills should go on as before. It was not like Grier's men to do this sort of thing.

The men seemed impressed, and, presently, after one of them thanking him, the deputation withdrew, Luc Baste talking excitedly as they went. The manager of the main mill, with grave face, said:

"No, Mr. Grier, I don't think they'll be satisfied. You said all that could be said, but I think they'll strike after all."

"Well, I hope it won't occur before John Grier gets back," said Carnac.

That night a strike was declared.

Fortunately, only about two-thirds of the men came out, and it could not be called a complete success. The Belloc people were delighted, but they lived in daily fear of a strike in their own yards, for agitators were busy amongst their workmen. But the workers waited to see what would happen to Grier's men.

Carnac declined to reconsider. The wages were sufficient and the strike unwarranted! He kept cool, even good-natured, and with only one-third of his men at work, he kept things going, and the business went on with regularity, if with smaller output. The Press unanimously supported him, for it was felt the strike had its origin in foreign influence, and as French Canada had no love for the United States there was journalistic opposition to the strike. Carnac had telegraphed to his father when the strike started, but did not urge him to come back. He knew that Grier could do nothing more than he himself was doing, and he dreaded new influence over the strikers. Grier happened to be in the backwoods and did not get word for nearly a week; then he wired asking Carnac what the present situation was. Carnac replied he was standing firm, that he would not yield a cent increase in wages, and that, so far, all was quiet.

It happened, however, that on the day he wired, the strikers tried to prevent the non-strikers from going to work and there was a collision. The police and a local company of volunteers intervened and then the Press condemned unsparingly the whole affair. This outbreak did good, and Luc Baste was arrested for provoking disorder. No one else was arrested, and this was a good thing, for, on the whole, even the men that followed Luc did not trust him. His arrest cleared the air and the strike broke. The next day, all the strikers returned, but Carnac refused their wages for the time they were on strike, and he had triumphed.

On that very day John Grier started back to Montreal. He arrived in about four days, and when he came, found everything in order. He went straight from his home to the mill and there found Carnac in control.

"Had trouble, eh, Carnac?" he asked with a grin, after a moment of greeting. Carnac shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing.

"It's the first strike I ever had in my mills, and I hope it will be the last. I don't believe in knuckling down to labour tyranny, and I'm glad you kept your hand steady. There'll be no more strikes in my mills-I'll see to that!"

"They've only just begun, and they'll go on, father. It's the influence of Canucs who have gone to the factories of Maine. They get bitten there with the socialistic craze, and they come back and make trouble. This strike was started by Luc Baste, a French-Canadian, who had been in Maine. You can't stop these things by saying so. There was no strike among Belloc's men!"

"No, but did you have no trouble with Belloc's men?"

Carnac told him of the death of the Grier man after the collision, of his own arrest and fine of twenty-five cents and of the attitude of the public and the Press. The old man was jubilant. "Say, you did the thing in style. It was the only way to do it. You landed 'em with the protest fair and easy. You're going to be a success in the business, I can see that."

Carnac for a moment looked at his father meditatively. Then, seeing the surprise in John Grier's face, he said: "No, I'm not going to be a success in it, for I'm not going on with it. I've had enough. I'm through."

"You've had enough-you're through-just when you've proved you can do things as well as I can do them! You ain't going on! Great Jehoshaphat!"

"I mean it; I'm not going on. I'm going to quit in another month. I can't stick it. It galls me. It ain't my job. I do it, but it's artificial, it ain't the real thing. My heart isn't in it as yours is, and I'd go mad if I had to do this all my life. It's full of excitement at times, it's hard work, it's stimulating when you're fighting, but other times it's deadly dull and bores me stiff. I feel as though I were pulling a train of cars."

Slowly the old man's face reddened with anger. "It bores you stiff, eh? It's deadly dull at times! There's only interest in it when there's a fight on, eh? You're right; you're not fit for the job, never was and never will be while your mind is what it is. Don't take a month to go, don't take a week, or a day, go this morning after I've got your report on what's been done. It ain't the real thing, eh? No, it ain't. It's no place for you. Tell me all there is to tell, and get out; I've had enough too, I've had my fill. 'It bores me stiff'!"

John Grier was in a rage, and he would listen to no explanation. "Come now, out with your report."

Carnac was not upset. He kept cool. "No need to be so crusty," he said.

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