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   Chapter 30 TARBOE HAS A DREAM

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 10326

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


The day Carnac was elected it was clear to Tarboe that he must win Junia at once, if he was ever to do so, for Carnac's new honours would play a great part in influencing her. In his mind, it was now or never for himself; he must bring affairs to a crisis.

Junia's father was poor, but the girl had given their home an air of comfort and an art belonging to larger spheres. The walls were covered with brown paper, and on it were a few of her own water-colour drawings, and a few old engravings of merit. Chintz was the cover on windows and easy chairs, and in a corner of the parlour was a chintz-covered lounge where she read of an evening. So it was that, with Carnac elected and Barode Barouche buried, she sat with one of Disraeli's novels in her hand busy with the future. She saw for Carnac a safe career, for his two chief foes were gone-Luzanne Larue and Barode Barouche. Now she understood why Carnac had never asked her to be his wife. She had had no word with Carnac since his election-only a letter to thank her for the marriage certificate and to say that after M. Barouche was buried he would come to her, if he might. He did say, however, in the letter that he owed her his election.

"You've done a great, big thing for me, dearest friend, and I am your ever grateful Carnac"-that was the way he had put it. Twice she had gone to visit his mother, and had been told that Mrs. Grier was too ill to see her-overstrain, the servant had said. She could not understand being denied admittance; but it did not matter, for one day Mrs. Grier should know how she-Junia-had saved her son's career.

So she thought, as she gazed before her into space from the chintz-covered lounge on the night of the day Barode Barouche was buried. There was a smell of roses in the room. She had gathered many of them that afternoon. She caught a bud from a bunch on a table, and fastened it in the bosom of her dress. Somehow, as she did it, she had a feeling she would like to clasp a man's head to her breast where the rose was-one of those wild thoughts that come to the sanest woman at times. She was captured by the excitement in which she had moved during the past month-far more now than she had been in all the fight itself.

There came a knock at the outer door, and before that of her own room opened, she recognized the step of the visitor. So it was Tarboe had come. He remembered that day in the street when he met Junia, and was shown there were times when a woman could not be approached with emotion. He had waited till the day he knew she was alone, for he had made a friend of her servant by judicious gifts of money.

"I hope you're glad to see me," he said with an uncertain smile, as he saw her surprise.

"I hope I am," she replied, and motioned him to a seat. He chose a high-backed chair with a wide seat near the lounge. He made a motion of humorous dissent to her remark, and sat down.

"Well, we pulled it off somehow, didn't we?" she said. "Carnac Grier is M.P."

"And his foe is in his grave," remarked Tarboe dryly. "Providence pays debts that ought to be paid. This election has settled a lot of things," she returned with a smile.

"I suppose it has, and I've come here to try and find one of the settlements."

"Well, find them," she retorted.

"I said one of the settlements only. I have to be accurate in my life."

"I'm glad to hear of it. You helped Mr. Grier win his election. It was splendid of you. Think of it, Mr. Tarboe, Carnac Grier is beginning to get even with his foes."

"I'm not a foe-if that's what you mean. I've proved it."

She smiled provokingly. "You've proved only you're not an absolute devil, that's all. You've not proved yourself a real man-not yet. Do you think it paid your debt to Carnac Grier that you helped get him into Parliament?"

His face became a little heated. "I'll prove to you and to the world that I'm not an absolute devil in the Grier interests. I didn't steal the property. I tried to induce John Grier to leave it to Carnac or his mother, for if he'd left it to Mrs. Grier it would have come to Carnac. He did not do it that way, though. He left it to me. Was I to blame for that?"

"Perhaps not, but you could have taken Carnac in, or given up the property to him-the rightful owner. You could have done that. But you were thinking of yourself altogether."

"Not altogether. In the first place, I am bound to keep my word to John Grier. Besides, if Carnac had inherited, the property would have got into difficulties-there were things only John Grier and I understood, and Carnac would have been floored."

"Wouldn't you still have been there?"

"Who knows! Who can tell! Maybe not!"

"Carnac Grier is a very able man."

"But of the ablest. He'll be a success in Parliament. He'll play a big part; he won't puddle about. I meant there was a risk in letting Carnac run the business at the moment, and-"

"And there never was with you!"

"None. My mind had grasped all John Grier intended, and I have the business at my fingers' ends. There was no risk with me. I've proved it. I've added five per cent to the value of the business since John

Grier died. I can double the value of it in twenty years-and easy at that."

"If you make up your mind to do it, you will," she said with admiration, for the man was persuasive, and he was playing a game in which he was a master.

Her remarks were alive with banter, for Tarboe's humour was a happiness to her.

"How did I buy your approval?" he questioned alertly.

"By ability to put a bad case in a good light. You had your case, and you have made a real success. If you keep on you may become a Member of Parliament some day!"

He laughed. "Your gifts have their own way of stinging. I don't believe I could be elected to Parliament. I haven't the trick of popularity of that kind."

Many thoughts flashed through Tarboe's mind. If he married her now, and the truth was told about the wills and the law gave Carnac his rights, she might hate him for not having told her when he proposed. So it was that in his desire for her life as his own, he now determined there should be no second will. In any case, Carnac had enough to live on through his mother. Also, he had capacity to support himself. There was a touch of ruthlessness in Tarboe. No one would ever guess what the second will contained-no one. The bank would have a letter saying where the will was to be found, but if it was not there!

He would ask Junia to be his wife now, while she was so friendly. Her eyes were shining, her face was alive with feeling, and he was aware that the best chances of his life had come to win her. If she was not now in the hands of Carnac, his chances were good. Yet there was the tale of the secret marriage-the letter he saw Carnac receive in John Grier's office! The words of the ancient Greek came to him as he looked at her: "He who will not strike when the hour comes shall wither like a flower, and his end be that of the chaff of the field."

His face flushed with feeling, his eyes grew bright with longing, his tongue was loosed to the enterprise. "Do you dream, and remember your dreams?" he asked with a thrill in his voice. "Do you?"

"I don't dream often, but I sometimes remember my dreams."

"I dream much, and one dream I have constantly."

"What is it?" she asked with anticipation.

"It is the capture of a wild bird in a garden-in a cultivated garden where there are no nests, no coverts for the secret invaders. I dream that I pursue the bird from flower-bed to flower-bed, from bush to bush, along paths and the green-covered walls; and I am not alone in my chase, for there are others pursuing. It is a bitter struggle to win the wild thing. And why? Because there is pursuing one of the pursuers another bird of red plumage. Do you understand?"

He paused, and saw her face was full of colour and her eyes had a glow. Every nerve in her was pulsing hard.

"Tell me," she said presently, "whom do you mean by the bird of red plumage? Is it a mere figure of speech? Or has it a real meaning?"

"It has a real meaning."

He rose to his feet, bent over her and spoke hotly. "Junia, the end of my waiting has come. I want you as I never wanted anything in my life. I must know the truth. I love you, Junia. I have loved you from the first moment I saw you, and nothing is worth while with you not in it. Let us work together. It is a big, big game I'm playing."

"Yes, it's a big game you're playing," she said with emotion. "It is a big, big game, and, all things considered, you should win it, but I doubt you will. I feel there are matters bigger than the game, or than you, or me, or anyone else. And I do not believe in your bird of red plumage; I don't believe it exists. It may have done so, but it doesn't now."

She also got to her feet, and Tarboe was so near her she could feel his hot breath on her cheek.

"No, it doesn't exist now," she repeated, "and the pursuer is not pursued. You have more imagination than belongs to a mere man of business-you're an inexperienced poet."

He caught her hand and drew it to his breast. "The only poetry I know is the sound of your voice in the wind, the laughter of your lips in the sun, the delight of your body in the heavenly flowers. Yes, I've drunk you in the wild woods; I've trailed you on the river; I've heard you in the grinding storm-always the same, the soul of all beautiful things. Junia, you shall not put me away from you. You shall be mine, and you and I together shall win our way to great ends. We will have opportunity, health, wealth and prosperity. Isn't it worth while?"

"Yes," she answered after a moment, "but it cannot be with you, my friend."

She withdrew her fingers and stepped back; she made a gesture of friendly repulsion. "You have said all that can be said, you have gifts greater than you yourself believe; and I have been tempted; but it is no use, there are deeper things than luxuries and the magazines of merchandise-much deeper. No, no, I cannot marry you; if you were as rich as Midas, as powerful as Caesar, I would not marry you-never, never, never."

"You love another," he said boldly. "You love Carnac Grier."

"I do not love you-isn't that enough?"

"Almost-almost enough," he said, embarrassed.

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