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   Chapter 27 EXIT

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 9591

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"Grier's in-Carnac's in-Carnac's got the seat!" This was the cry heard in the streets at ten-thirty at night when Carnac was found elected by a majority of one hundred and ten.

Carnac had not been present at the counting of the votes until the last quarter-hour, and then he was told by his friends of the fluctuations of the counting-how at one time his defeat seemed assured, since Barode Barouche was six hundred ahead, and his own friends had almost given up hope. One of his foes, however, had no assurance of Carnac's defeat. He was too old an agent to believe in returns till all were in, and he knew of the two incidents by which Carnac had got advantage-at the Island over Eugene Grandois, and at the Mill over Roudin the very day of polling; and it was at these points he had hoped to score for Barouche a majority. He watched Barouche, and he deplored the triumph in his eye, for there was no surety of winning; his own was the scientific mind without emotions or passions. He did not "enthuse," and he did not despair; he kept his head.

Presently there were fluctuations in favour of Carnac, and the six hundred by which Barouche led were steadily swallowed up; he saw that among the places which gave Carnac a majority were the Island and the Mill. He was also nonplussed by Carnac's coolness. For a man with an artist's temperament, he was well controlled. When he came into the room, he went straight to Barouche and shook hands with him, saying they'd soon offer congratulations to the winner. As the meeting took place the agent did not fail to note how alike in build and manner were the two men, how similar were their gestures.

When at last the Returning Officer announced the result, the agent dared not glance at his defeated chief. Yet he saw him go to Carnac and offer a hand.

"We've had a straight fight, Grier, and I hope you'll have luck in Parliament. This is no place for me. It's your game, and I'll eat my sour bread alone."

He motioned to the window with a balcony, beyond which were the shouting thousands. Then he smiled at Carnac, and in his heart he was glad he had not used the facts about Luzanne before the public. The boy's face was so glowing that his own youth came back, and a better spirit took residence in him. He gave thanks to the Returning Officer, and then, with his agent, left the building by the back door. He did not wait for the announcement of Carnac's triumph, and he knew his work was done for ever in public life.

Soon he had said his say at the club where his supporters, discomfited, awaited him. To demands for a speech, he said he owed to his workers what he could never repay, and that the long years they had kept him in Parliament would be the happiest memory of his life.

"We'll soon have you back," shouted a voice from the crowd.

"It's been a good fight," said Barode Barouche. Somehow the fact he had not beaten his son by the story of his secret marriage was the sole comfort he had. He advised his followers to "play the game" and let the new member have his triumph without belittlement.

"It's the best fight I've had in thirty years," he said at last, "and I've been beaten fairly."

In another hour he was driving into the country on his way to visit an old ex-Cabinet Minister, who had been his friend through all the years of his Parliamentary life. It did not matter that the hour was late. He knew the veteran would be waiting for him, and unprepared for the bad news he brought. The night was spent in pain of mind, and the comfort the ex-Minister gave him, that a seat would be found for him by the Government, gave him no thrill. He knew he had enemies in the Government, that the Prime Minister was the friend of the successful only, and that there were others, glad of his defeat, who would be looking for his place. Also he was sure he had injured the chances of the Government by the defeat of his policy.

As though Creation was in league against him, a heavy storm broke about two o'clock, and he went to bed cursed by torturing thoughts. "Chickens come home to roost-" Why did that ancient phrase keep ringing in his ears when he tried to sleep? Beaten by his illegitimate son at the polls, the victim of his own wrong-doing-the sacrifice of penalty! He knew that his son, inheriting his own political gifts, had done what could have been done by no one else. All the years passed since Carnac was begotten laid their deathly hands upon him, and he knew he could never recover from this defeat. How much better it would have been if he had been struck twenty-seven years ago!

Youth, ambition and resolve would have saved him from the worst then. Age has its powers, but it has its defects, and he had no hope that his own defects would be wiped out by luck at the polls. Sp

irit was gone out of him, longing for the future had no place in his mind; in the world of public work he was dead and buried. How little he had got from all his life! How few friends he had, and how few he was entitled to have! This is one of the punishments that selfishness and wrong-doing brings; it gives no insurance for the hours of defeat and loss. Well, wealth and power, the friends so needed in dark days, had not been made, and Barode Barouche realized he had naught left. He had been too successful from the start; he had had all his own way; and he had taken no pains to make or keep friends. He well knew there was no man in the Cabinet or among his colleagues that would stir to help him-he had stirred to help no man in all the years he had served the public. It was no good only to serve the public, for democracy is a weak stick on which to lean. One must stand by individuals or there is no defence against the malicious foes that follow the path of defeat, that ambush the way. It is the personal friends made in one's own good days that watch the path and clear away the ambushers. It is not big influential friends that are so important-the little unknown man may be as useful as the big boss in the mill of life; and if one stops to measure one's friends by their position, the end is no more sure than if one makes no friends at all.

"There's nothing left for me in life-nothing at all," he said as he tossed in bed while the thunder roared and the storm beat down the shrubs. "How futile life is-'Youth's a dream, middle age a delusion, old age a mistake!'" he kept repeating to himself in quotation. "What does one get out of it? Nothing-nothing-nothing! It's all a poor show at the best, and yet-is it? Is it all so bad? Is it all so poor and gaunt and hopeless? Isn't there anything in it for the man who gives and does his best?"

Suddenly there came upon him the conviction that life is only futile to the futile, that it is only a failure to those who prove themselves incompetent, selfish and sordid; but to those who live life as it ought to be lived, there is no such thing as failure, or defeat, or penalty, or remorse or punishment. Because the straight man has only good ends to serve, he has no failures; though he may have disappointments, he has no defeats; for the true secret of life is to be content with what is decreed, to earn bread and make store only as conscience directs, and not to set one's heart on material things.

He got out of bed soon after daylight, dressed, and went to the stable and hitched his horse to the buggy. The world was washed clean, that was sure. It was muddy under foot, but it was a country where the roads soon dried, and he would suffer little inconvenience from the storm. He bade his host good-bye and drove away intent to reach the city in time for breakfast. He found the roads heavy, and the injury of the storm was everywhere to be seen. Yet it all did not distract him, for he was thinking hard of the things that lay ahead of him to do-the heart-breaking things that his defeat meant to him.

At last he approached a bridge across a stream which had been badly swept by the storm. It was one of the covered bridges not uncommon in Canada. It was not long, as the river was narrow, and he did not see that the middle pier of the bridge had been badly injured. Yet as he entered the bridge, his horse still trotting, he was conscious of a hollow, semi-thunderous noise which seemed not to belong to the horse's hoofs and the iron wheels of the carriage. He raised his eyes to see that the other end of the bridge was clear, and at that moment he was conscious of an unsteady motion of the bridge, of a wavering of the roof, and then, before he had time to do aught, he saw the roof and the sides and the floor of the bridge collapse and sink slowly down.

With a cry, he sprang from the carriage to retrace his way; but he only climbed up a ladder that grew every instant steeper; and all at once he was plunged downwards after his horse and carriage into the stream. He could swim, and as he swept down this thought came to him-that he might be able to get the shore, as he heard the cries of people on the bank. It was a hope that died at the moment of its birth, however, for he was struck by a falling timber on the head.

When, an hour later, he was found in an eddy of the river by the shore, he was dead, and his finders could only compose his limbs decently. But in the afternoon, the papers of Montreal had the following head-lines; DEFEAT AND DEATH OF BARODE BAROUCHE THE END OF A LONG AND GREAT CAREER

As soon as Carnac Grier heard the news, he sent a note to his mother telling her all he knew. When she read the letter, she sank to the floor, overcome. Her son had triumphed indeed.

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