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   Chapter 12 CARNAC SAYS GOOD-BYE

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 12117

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


Fabian Grier's house was in a fashionable quarter of a fashionable street, the smallest of all built there; but it was happily placed, rather apart from others, at the very end of the distinguished promenade. Behind it, a little way up the hill, was a Roman Catholic chapel.

The surroundings of the house were rural for a city habitation. Behind it were commendable trees, from one of which a swing was hung. In a corner, which seemed to catch the sun, was a bird-cage on a pole, sought by pigeons and doves. In another corner was a target for the bow and arrow-evidence of the vigorous life of the owners of the house.

On the morning after Carnac told his mother he was going away, the doors of the house were all open. Midway between breakfast and lunch, the voices of children sang through the dining-room bright with the morning sun. The children were going to the top of the mountain-the two youngsters who made the life of Fabian and his wife so busy. Fabian was a man of little speech. He was slim and dark and quiet, with a black moustache and smoothly brushed hair, with a body lithe and composed, yet with hands broad, strong, stubborn.

As Junia stood by the dining-room table and looked at the alert, expectant children, she wished she also was going now to the mountain-top. But that could not be-not yet. Carnac had sent a note saying he wished to see her, and she had replied through Denzil that her morning would be spent with her sister. "What is it?" she remarked to herself. "What is it? There's nothing wrong. Yet I feel everything upside down."

Her face turned slowly towards the wide mountain; it caught the light upon the steeple of the Catholic chapel. She shuddered slightly, and an expression came into her shadowed eyes not belonging to her personality, which was always buoyant.

As she stood absorbed, her mind in a maze of perplexity, a sigh broke from her lips. She suddenly had a conviction about Carnac; she felt his coming might bring a crisis; that what he might say must influence her whole life. Carnac-she threw back her head. Suddenly a sweet, appealing, intoxicating look crossed her face. Carnac! Yes, there was a man, a man of men.

Tarboe got his effects by the impetuous rush of a personality; Carnac by something that haunted, that made him more popular absent than present. Carnac compelled thought. When he was away she wanted him; when he was near she liked to quarrel with him. When they were together, one moment she wanted to take his hands in her hands, and in the next she wanted to push him over some great cliff-he was so maddening. He provoked the devil in her; yet he made her sing the song of Eden. What was it?

As she asked the question she heard a firm step on the path. It was Carnac. She turned and stood waiting, leaning against the table, watching the door through which he presently came. He was dressed in grey. His coat was buttoned. He carried a soft grey hat, and somehow his face gave her a feeling that he had come to say good-bye. It startled her; and yet, though she was tempted to grip her breast, she did not. Presently she spoke.

"I think you're a very idle man. Why aren't you at work?"

"I am at work," Carnac said cheerfully.

"Work is not all paint and canvas of course. There has to be the thinking beforehand. Well, of what are you thinking now?"

"Of the evening train to New York."

His face was turned away from her at the instant, because he did not wish to see the effect of his words. He would have seen that apprehension came to her eyes. Her mouth opened in quick amazement. It was all too startling. He was going-for how long?

"Why are you going?" she asked, when she had recovered her poise.

"Well, you see I haven't quite learned my painting yet, and I must study in great Art centres where one isn't turned down by one's own judgment."

"Ananias!" she said at last. "Ananias!"

"Why do you say I'm a liar?" he asked, flushing a little, though there was intense inquiry in his eyes. "Because I think it. It isn't your work only that's taking you away." Suddenly she laughed. "What a fool you are, Carnac! You're not a good actor. You're not going away for work's sake only."

"Not for work's sake only-that's true."

"Then why do you go?"

"I'm in a mess, Junia. I've made some mistakes in my life, and I'm going to try and put one of them right."

"Is anybody trying to do you harm?" she asked gently.

"Yes, somebody's trying to hurt me."

"Hurt him," she rejoined sharply, and her eyes fastened his.

He was about to say there was no him in the matter, but reason steadied him, and he said:

"I'll do my best, Junia. I wish I could tell you, but I can't. What's to be done must be done by myself alone."

"Then it ought to be done well."

With an instant's impulse he moved towards her. She went to the window, however, and she said: "Here's Fabian. You'll be glad of that. You'll want to say good-bye to him and Sibyl." She ran from him to the front door. "Fabian-Fabian, here's a bad boy who wants to tell you things he won't tell me." With these words she went into the garden.

"I don't think he'll tell me," came Fabian's voice. "Why should he?"

A moment afterwards the two men met.

"Well, what's the trouble, Carnac?" asked Fabian in a somewhat challenging voice.

"I'm going away."

"Oh-for how long?" Fabian asked quizzically. "I don't know-a year, perhaps. I want to make myself a better artist, and also free myself."

Now his eyes were on Junia in her summer-time recreation, and her voice, humming a light-opera air, was floating to him through the autumn morning.

"Has something got you in its grip, then?"

"I'm the victim of a reckless past, like you." Something provocative was in his voice and in his words.

"Was my past reckless?" asked Fabian with sullen eyes.

"Never so reckless as mine. You fought, quarrelled, hit, sold and bought again, and now you're out against your father, fighting him."

"I had to come out or be crushed."

"I'm not so sure you w

on't be crushed now you're out. He plays boldly, and he knows his game. One or the other of you must prevail, and I think it won't be you, Fabian. John Grier does as much thinking in an hour as most of us do in a month, and with Tarboe he'll beat you dead. Tarboe is young; he's got the vitality of a rhinoceros. He knows the business from the bark on the tree. He's a flyer, is Tarboe, and you might have been in Tarboe's place and succeeded to the business."

Fabian threw out his arms. "But no! Father might live another ten years-though I don't think so-and I couldn't have stood it. He was lapping me in the mud."

"He doesn't lap Tarboe in the mud."

"No, and he wouldn't have lapped you in the mud, because you've got imagination, and you think wide and long when you want to. But I'm middle-class in business. I've got no genius for the game. He didn't see my steady qualities were what was needed. He wanted me to be like himself, an eagle, and I was only a robin red-breast."

Suddenly his eyes flashed and his teeth set. "You couldn't stand him, wouldn't put up with his tyranny. You wanted to live your own life, and you're doing it. When he bought me out, what was there for me to do but go into the only business I knew, with the only big man in the business, besides John Grier. I've as good blood as he's got in his veins. I do business straight.

"He didn't want me to do it straight. That's one of the reasons we fell out. John Grier's a big, ruthless trickster. I wasn't. I was for playing the straight game, and I played it."

"Well, he's got his own way now. He's got a man who wouldn't blink at throttling his own brother, if it'd do him any good. Tarboe is iron and steel; he's the kind that succeeds. He likes to rule, and he's going to get what he wants mostly."

"Is that why you're going away?" asked Fabian. "Don't you think it'll be just as well not to go, if Tarboe is going to get all he wants?"

"Does Tarboe come here?"

"He's been here twice."

"Visiting?"

"No. He came on urgent business. There was trouble between our two river-driving camps. He wanted my help to straighten things out, and he got it. He's pretty quick on the move."

"He wanted you to let him settle it?"

"He settled it, and I agreed. He knows how to handle men; I'll say that for him. He can run reckless on the logs like a river-driver; he can break a jam like an expert. He's not afraid of man, or log, or devil. That's his training. He got that training from John Grier's firm under another name. I used to know him by reputation long before he took my place in the business-my place and yours. You got loose from the business only to get tied up in knots of your own tying," he added. "What it is I don't know, but you say you're in trouble and I believe you." Suddenly a sharp look came to his face. "Is it a woman?"

"It's not a man."

"Well, you ought to know how to handle a woman. You're popular with women. My wife'll never hear a word against you. I don't know how you do it. We're so little alike, it makes me feel sometimes we're not brothers. I don't know where you get your temperament from."

"It doesn't matter where I got it, it's mine. I want to earn my own living, and I'm doing it." Admiration came into Fabian's face. "Yes," he said, "and you don't borrow-"

"And don't beg or steal. Mother has given me money, and I'm spending my own little legacy, all but five thousand dollars of it."

Fabian came up to his brother slowly. "If you know what's good for you, you'll stay where you are. You're not the only man that ought to be married. Tarboe's a strong man, and he'll be father's partner. He's handsome in his rough way too, is Tarboe. He knows what he wants, and means to have it, and this is a free country. Our girls, they have their own way. Why don't you settle it now? Why don't you marry Junia, and take her away with you-if she'll have you?"

"I can't-even if she'll have me."

"Why can't you?"

"I'm afraid of the law."

An uneasy smile hung at Carnac's lips. He suddenly caught Fabian's shoulder in a strong grip. "We've never been close friends, Fabian. We've always been at sixes and sevens, and yet I feel you'd rather do me a good turn than a bad one. Let me ask you this-that you'll not believe anything bad of me till you've heard what I've got to say. Will you do that?"

Fabian nodded. "Of course. But if I were you, I wouldn't bet on myself, Carnac. Junia's worth running risks for. She's got more brains than my wife and me together, and she bosses us; but with you, it's different. I think you'd boss her. You're unexpected; you're daring; and you're reckless."

"Yes, I certainly am reckless."

"Then why aren't you reckless now? You're going away. Why, you haven't even told her you love her. The other man-is here, and-I've seen him look at her? I know by the way she speaks of him how she feels. Besides, he's a great masterful creature. Don't be a fool! Have a try ... Junia-Junia," he called.

The figure in the garden with the flowers turned. There was a flicker of understanding in the rare eyes. The girl held up a bunch of flowers high like a torch.

"I'm coming, my children," she called, and, with a laugh, she ran forward through the doorway.

"What is it you want, Fabian?" she asked, conscious that in Carnac's face was consternation. "What can I do for you?" she added, with a slight flush.

"Nothing for me, but for Carnac-" Fabian stretched out a hand.

She laughed brusquely. "Oh, Carnac! Carnac! Well, I've been making him this bouquet." She held it out towards him. "It's a farewell bouquet for his little journey in the world. Take it, Carnac, with everybody's love-with Fabian's love, with Sibyl's love, with my love. Take it, and good-bye."

With a laugh she caught up her hat from the table, and a moment later she was in the street making for the mountain-side up which the children had gone.

Carnac placed the bouquet upon the table. Then he turned to his brother.

"What a damn mess you make of things, Fabian!"

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