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   Chapter 8 JOHN GRIER MAKES ANOTHER OFFER

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 11235

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"I've been keeping my eye on you, Tarboe," John Grier said presently, his right hand clutching unconsciously the statue which his boy had left with him.

"I didn't suppose you'd forget me when I was making or breaking you."

"You're a winner, Tarboe. You've got sense and judgment, and you ain't afraid to get your own way by any route."

He paused, and gripped the statue closely in his hands.

Tarboe nodded. In the backwoods he had been without ambition save to be master of what he was doing and of the men who were part of his world of responsibility. Then John Grier had pulled him back into industry and he had since desired to ascend, to "make good." Also, he had seen Junia often, and for her an aspiration had sprung up in him like a fire in a wild place.

When he first saw her, she was standing in the doorway through which Carnac had just passed. The brightness of her face, the wonder of her eyes, the glow of her cheek, had made his pulses throb as they had never throbbed before. He had put the thought of her away from him, but it had come back constantly until he had found himself looking for her in the street, and on the hill that led to John Grier's house.

Tarboe realized that the girl was drawn towards Carnac, and that Carnac was drawn towards the girl, but that some dark depths lay between. The letter Carnac had just received seemed to him the plumbline of that abyss. Carnac and the girl were suited to each other-that was clear; and the girl was enticing, provoking and bewildering-that was the modelling fact. He had satisfaction that he had displaced Carnac in this great business, and there was growing in him a desire to take away the chances of the girl from Carnac also. With his nature it was inevitable. Life to him was now a puzzle towards the solution of which he moved with conquering conviction.

From John Grier's face now, he realized that something was to be said affecting his whole career. It would, he was sure, alter his foot-steps in the future. He had a profound respect for the little wiry man, with the firm body and shrivelled face.

Tarboe watched the revealing expression of the old man's face and the motions of his body. He noticed that the tight grip of the hand on the little statue of the riverman had made the fingers pale. He realized how absorbed was the lumber-king, who had given him more confidence than he had given to anyone else in the world. As near as he could come to anyone, he had come to John Grier. There had been differences between them, but he, Tarboe, fought for his own idea, and, in nine cases out of ten, had conquered. John Grier had even treated Tarboe's solutions as though they were his own. He had a weird faith in the young giant. He saw now Tarboe's eyes fixed on his fingers, and he released his grip.

"That's the thing between him and me, Tarboe," he said, nodding towards the virile bronze. "Think of my son doing that when he could do all this!" He swept his arm in a great circle which included the horizon beyond the doors and the windows. "It beats me, and because it beats me, and because he defies me, I've made up my mind what to do."

"Don't do anything you'd be sorry for, boss. He ain't a fool because he's not what you are." He nodded towards the statue. "You think that's pottering. I think it's good stuff. It will last, perhaps, when what you and I do is forgotten."

There was something big and moving in Tarboe. He was a contradiction. A lover of life, he was also reckless in how he got what he wanted. If it could not be got by the straight means, then it must be by the crooked, and that was where he and Grier lay down together, as it were. Yet he had some knowledge that was denied to John Grier. The soul of the greater things was in him.

"Give the boy a chance to work out his life in his own way," he said manfully. "You gave him a chance to do it in your way, and you were turned down. Have faith in him. He'll probably come out all right in the end.

"You mean he'll come my way?" asked the old man almost rabidly. "You mean he'll do the things I want him to do here, as you've done?"

"I guess so," answered Tarboe, but without conviction in his tone. "I'm not sure whether it will be like that or not, but I know you've got a son as honest as the stars, and the honest man gets his own in the end."

There was silence for some time, then the old man began walking up and down the room, softly, noiselessly.

"You talk sense," he said. "I care for that boy, but I care for my life's work more. Day in, day out, night in, night out, I've slaved for it, prayed for it, believed in it, and tried to make my wife and my boys feel as I do about it, and none of them cares as I care. Look at Fabian-over with the enemy, fighting his own father; look at Carnac, out in the open, taking his own way." He paused.

"And your wife?" asked Tarboe almost furtively, because it seemed to him that the old man was most unhappy in that particular field.

"She's been a good wife, but she don't care as I do for success and money."

"Perhaps you never taught her," remarked Tarboe with silky irony.

"Taught her! What was there to teach? She saw me working; she knew the life I had to live; she was lifted up with me. I was giving her everything in me to give."

"You mean money and a big house and servants and comfort," said Tarboe sardonically.

"Well, ain't that right?" snapped the other.

"Yes, it's all right, but it don't always bring you what you want. It's right, but it's wrong too. Women want more than that, boss. Women want to be loved-sky high."

A

ll at once Grier felt himself as far removed from Tarboe as he had ever been from Carnac, or his wife. Why was it? Suddenly Tarboe understood that between him and John Grier there must always be a flood. He realized that there was in Grier some touch of the insane thing; something apart, remote and terrible. He was convinced of it, when he saw Grier suddenly spring up, and pace the room again like a tortured animal.

"You've got great influence with me," he said. "I was just going to tell you something that'd give you pleasure, but what you've said about my boy coming back has made me change what I was going to do. I don't need to say I like you. We were born in the same nest almost. We've got the same ideas."

"Almost," intervened Tarboe. "Not quite, but almost."

"Well, this is what I've got to say. You've got youth, courage, and good sense, and business ability, and what more does a man want in life, I ask you that?" Tarboe nodded, but made no reply.

"Well, I don't feel as strong as I used to do. I've been breaking up this last year, just when we've been knitting the cracks in the building. What was in my mind is this-to leave you when I die the whole of my business to keep it a success, and get in the way of Belloc, and pay my wife so much a year to live on."

"That wouldn't be fair to your wife or your sons."

"As for Carnac, if I left him the business it'd be dead in two years. Nothing could save it. He'd spoil it, because he don't care for it. I bought Fabian out. As for my wife, she couldn't run it, and-"

"You could sell it," interrupted Tarboe.

"Sell it! Sell it!" said Grier wildly. "Sell it to whom?"

"To Belloc," was the malicious reply. The demon of anger seized the old man.

"You say that to me-you-that I should sell to Belloc! By hell, I'd rather burn every stick and board and tree I've got-sweep it out of existence, and die a beggar than sell it to Belloc!" Froth gathered at the corners of his mouth, there was tumult in his eyes. "Belloc! Knuckle down to him! Sell out to him!"

"Well, if you got a profit of twenty per cent. above what it's worth it might be well. That'd be a triumph, not a defeat."

"I see what you mean," said John Grier, the passion slowly going from his eyes. "I see what you mean, but that ain't my way. I want this business to live. I want Grier's business to live long after John Grier has gone. That's why I was going to say to you that in my will I'm going to leave you this business, you to pay my wife every year twenty thousand dollars."

"And your son, Carnac?"

"Not a sou-not a sou-not a sou-nothing-that's what I meant at first. But I've changed my mind now. I'm going to leave you the business, if you'll make a bargain with me. I want you to run it for three years, and take for yourself all the profits over the twenty thousand dollars a year that goes to my wife. There's a lot of money in it, the way you'd work it."

"I don't understand about the three years," said Tarboe, with rising colour.

"No, because I haven't told you, but you'll take it in now. I'm going to leave you the business as though you were going to have it for ever, but I'll make another will dated a week later, in which I leave it to Carnac. Something you said makes me think he might come right, and it will be playing fair to him to let him run himself alone, maybe with help from his mother, for three years. That's long enough, and perhaps the thought of what he might have had will work its way with him. If it don't-well, it won't; that's all; but I want you to have the business long enough to baulk Belloc and Fabian the deserter. I want you for three years to fight this fight after I'm gone. In that second secret will, I'll leave you two hundred thousand dollars. Are you game for it? Is it worthwhile?"

The old man paused, his head bent forward, his eyes alert and searching, both hands gripping the table. There was a long silence, in which the ticking of the clock upon the wall seemed unduly loud and in which the buzz of cross-cut saws came sounding through the evening air. Yet Tarboe did not reply.

"Have you nothing to say?" asked Grier at last. "Won't you do it-eh?"

"I'm studying the thing out," answered Tarboe quietly. "I don't quite see about these two wills. Why shouldn't the second will be found first?"

"Because you and I will be the only ones that'll know of it. That shows how much I trust you, Tarboe. I'll put it away where nobody can get it except you or me."

"But if anything should happen to me?"

"Well, I'd leave a letter with my bank, not to be opened for three years, or unless you died, and it would say that the will existed, where it was, and what its terms were."

"That sounds all right," but there was a cloud on Tarboe's face.

"It's a great business," said Grier, seeing Tarboe's doubt. "It's the biggest thing a man can do-and I'm breaking up."

The old man had said the right thing-"It's a great business!" It was the greatness of the thing that had absorbed Tarboe. It was the bigness made him feel life could be worth living, if the huge machinery were always in his fingers. Yet he had never expected it, and life was a problem. Who could tell? Perhaps-perhaps, the business would always be his in spite of the second will! Perhaps, he would have his chance to make good. He got to his feet; he held out his hand.

"I'll do it."

"Ain't it worth any thanks?"

"Not between us," declared Tarboe.

"When are you going to do it?"

"To-night-now." He drew out some paper and sat down with a pen in his hand.

"Now," John Grier repeated.

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