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   Chapter 9 THE PUZZLE

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 9142

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


On his way home, with Luzanne's disturbing letter in his pocket, Carnac met Junia. She was supremely Anglo-Saxon; fresh, fervid and buoyant with an actual buoyancy of the early spring. She had tact and ability, otherwise she could never have preserved peace between the contending factions, Belloc and Fabian, old John Grier, the mother and Carnac. She was as though she sought for nothing, wished nothing but the life in which she lived. Yet her wonderful pliability, her joyful boyishness, had behind all a delicate anxiety which only showed in flashes now and then, fully understood by no one except Carnac's mother and old Denzil. These two having suffered strangely in life had realized that the girl was always waiting for a curtain to rise which did not rise, for a voice to speak which gave no sound.

Yet since Carnac's coming back there had appeared a slight change in her, a bountiful, eager alertness, a sense of wonder and experiment, adding new interest to her personality. Carnac was conscious of this increased vitality, was impressed and even provoked by it. Somehow he felt-for he had the telepathic mind-that the girl admired and liked Tarboe. He did not stop to question how or why she should like two people so different as Tarboe and himself.

The faint colour of the crimsoning maples was now in her cheek; the light of the autumn evening was in her eyes; the soft vitality of September was in her motions. She was attractively alive. Her hair waved back from her forehead with natural grace; her small feet, with perfect ankles, made her foothold secure and sedately joyous. Her brown hand-yet not so brown after all-held her hat lightly, and was, somehow, like a signal out of a world in which his hopes were lost for the present.

She was dearer to him than all the rest of the world; and he had in his hand what kept them apart-a sentence of death, unless he escaped from the wanton calling him to fulfil duties into which he had been tricked. Luzanne Larue had a terrible hold over him. He gripped the letter in his pocket as a Hopi Indian does the body of a poisonous snake. The rosy sunset gave the girl's face a reflected spiritual glamour; it made her, suddenly, a bewildering figure. Somehow, she seemed a great distance from him-as one detached and unfamiliar.

He suddenly felt she knew more than it was possible she should know. As she flashed an inquiry into his eyes, it was as though she said: "Why don't you tell me everything, and I will help you?" Or, was it: "Why don't you tell me everything and end it all?" He longed to press her to his breast, as he had once done in the woods when Denzil had been injured, but that was not possible. The thought of that far-off day made him say to her, rather futilely:

"How is Denzil? How is Denzil?"

There was swift surprise in her face. She seemed dumbfounded, and then she said:

"Denzil! He's all right, but he does not like your Mr. Tarboe."

"My Mr. Tarboe! Where do I come in?"

"Well, he's got what you ought to have had," was the reply. "What you would have had, weren't you a foolish fellow."

"I still don't understand how he is my Mr. Tarboe."

"Well, he wouldn't have been in your father's life if it weren't for you; if you had done what your father wished you to do, had-"

"Had sold myself for gold-my freedom, my health, everything to help my father's business! I don't see why he should expect that what he's doing some one else should do-"

"That Belloc would do, that Belloc and Fabian would do," said the girl.

"Yes, that's it-what they two would do. There's no genius in it, though my father comes as near being a genius as any man alive. But there's a screw loose somewhere.... It wasn't good enough for me. It didn't give me a chance-in things that are of the mind, the spirit-my particular gifts, whatever they are. They would have chafed against that life."

"In other words, you're a genius, which your father isn't," the girl said almost sarcastically.

A disturbed look came into Carnac's eyes. "I'd have liked my father to be a genius. Then we'd have hit it off together. I don't ever feel the things he does are the things I want to do; or the things he says are those I'd like to say. He's a strange man. He lives alone. He never was really near Fabian or me. We were his sons, but though Fabian is a little bit like him in appearance, I'm not, and never was. I always feel that-" He paused, and she took up the tale:

"That he wasn't the father you'd have made for yourself, eh!"

"I suppose that's it. Conceit, ain't

it? Perhaps the facts are, I'm one of the most useless people that ever wore a coat. Perhaps the things I do aren't going to live beyond me."

"It seems as though your father's business is going to live after him, doesn't it?" the girl asked mockingly. "Where are you going now?" she added.

"Well, I'm going to take you home," he said, as he turned and walked by her side down the hill.

"Denzil will be glad to see you. He almost thinks I'm a curse."

Carnac smiled. "All genius is at once a blessing or a curse. And what does Denzil think of me?"

"Oh-a blessing and a curse!" she said whimsically.

"I don't honestly think I'm a blessing to anybody in this world. There's no one belonging to me who believes in me."

"There's Denzil," she said. "He believes in you."

"He doesn't belong to me; he isn't my family."

"Who are your family? Is it only those who are bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh? Your family is much wider, because you're a genius. It's worldwide-of all kinds. Denzil belongs to you, because you helped to save him years ago; the Catholic Archbishop belongs to you, because he's got brains and a love of literature and art; Barode Barouche belongs to you, because he's almost a genius too."

"Barouche is a politician," said Carnac with slight derision.

"That's no reason why he shouldn't be a genius."

"He's a Frenchman."

"Haven't Frenchmen genius?" asked the girl.

Carnac laughed. "Why, of course. Barode Barouche-yes, he's a great one: he can think, he can write, and he can talk; and the talking's the best that he does-though I've not heard him speak, but I've read his speeches."

"Doesn't he make good laws at Ottawa?"

"He makes laws at Ottawa-whether they're good or not is another question. I shouldn't be a follower of his, if I had my chance though."

"That's because you're not French."

"Oh yes, I'm as French as can be! I felt at home with the French when I was in France. I was all Gallic. When I'm here I'm more Gallic than Saxon.

"I don't understand it. Here am I, with all my blood for generations Saxon, and yet I feel French. If I'd been born in the old country, it would have been in Limerick or Tralee. I'd have been Celtic there."

"Yet Barode Barouche is a great man. He gets drunk sometimes, but he's great. He gets hold of men like Denzil."

"Denzil has queer tastes."

"Yes-he worships you."

"That's not queer, it's abnormal," said Carnac with gusto.

"Then I'm abnormal," she said with a mocking laugh, and swung her hat on her fingers like a wheel. Something stormy and strange swam in Carnac's eyes. All his trouble rushed back on him; the hand in his pocket crushed the venomous letter he had received, but he said:

"No, you don't worship me!"

"Who was it said all true intelligence is the slave of genius?" she questioned, a little paler than usual, her eye on the last gleam of the sun.

"I don't know who said it, but if that's why you worship me, I know how hollow it all is," he declared sullenly, for she was pouring carbolic acid into a sore.

He wanted to drag the letter from his pocket and hand it her to read; to tell her the whole distressful story: but he dared not. He longed for her, and yet he dared not tell her so. He half drew the letter from his pocket, but thrust it back again. Tell this innocent girl the whole ugly story? It could not be done. There was but one thing to do-to go away, to put this world of French Canada behind him, and leave her free to follow her fancy, or some one else's fancy.

Or some one else's fancy? There was Tarboe. Tarboe had taken from him the place in the business which should be his; he had displaced him in his father's affections... and now Junia!

He held out a hand to the girl. "I must go and see my mother."

His eyes abashed her. She realized there was trouble in the face of the man who all her life had been strangely near and dear to her. With impulsiveness, she said "You're in trouble, Carnac. Let me help you."

For one swift instant he almost yielded. Then he gripped her hand and said: "No-no-no. It can't be done-not yet."

"Then let Denzil help you. Here he is," she remarked, and she glanced affectionately at the greyish, tousled head of the habitant who was working in the garden of her father's house.

Carnac was master of himself again. "Not a bad idea," he said. "Denzil! Denzil!" he called.

The little man looked up. An instant later the figure of the girl fluttered through the doorway of her home, and Carnac stopped beside Denzil in the garden.

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