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   Chapter 31 THIS WAY HOME

Carnac's Folly, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 8091

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


All Junia had ever felt of the soul of things was upon her as she arranged flowers and listened to the church bells ringing.

"They seem to be always ringing," she said to herself, as she lightly touched the roses. "It must be a Saint's Day-where's Denzil? Ah, there he is in the garden! I'll ask him."

Truth is, she was deceiving herself. She wanted to talk with Denzil about all that had happened of late, and he seemed, somehow, to avoid her. Perhaps he feared she had given her promise to Tarboe who had, as Denzil knew, spent an hour with her the night before. As this came to Denzil's brain, he felt a shiver go through him. Just then he heard Junia's footsteps, and saw her coming towards him.

"Why are the bells ringing so much, Denzil? Is it a Saint's Day?" she asked.

He took off his hat. "Yes, ma'm'selle, it is a Saint's Day," and he named it. "There were lots of neighbours at early Mass, and some have gone to the Church of St. Anne de Beaupre at Beaupre, them that's got sickness."

"Yes, Beaupre is as good as Lourdes, I'm sure. Why didn't you go, Denzil?"

"Why should I go, ma'm'selle-I ain't sick-ah, bah!"

"I thought you were. You've been in low spirits ever since our election, Denzil."

"Nothing strange in that, ma'm'selle. I've been thinking of him that's gone."

"You mean Monsieur Barouche, eh?"

"Not of M'sieu' Barouche, but of the father to the man that beat M'sieu' Barouche."

"Why should you be thinking so much of John Grier these days?"

"Isn't it the right time? His son that he threw off without a penny has proved himself as big a man as his father-ah, surelee! M'sieu' left behind him a will that gave all he had to a stranger. His own son was left without a sou. There he is now," he added, nodding towards the street.

Junia saw Carnac making his way towards her house. "Well, I'll talk with him," she said, and her face flushed. She knew she must give account of her doings with Luzanne Larue.

A few moments later in the house, her hand lay in that of Carnac, and his eyes met hers.

"It's all come our way, Junia," he remarked gaily, though there was sadness in his tone.

"It's as you wanted it. You won."

"Thanks to you, Junia," and he took from his pocket the blue certificate.

"That-oh, that was not easy to get," she said with agitation. "She had a bad purpose, that girl."

"She meant to announce it?"

"Yes, through Barode Barouche. He agreed to that."

Carnac flushed. "He agreed to that-you know it?"

"Yes. The day you were made candidate she arrived here; and the next morning she went to Barode Barouche and told her story. He bade her remain secret till the time was ripe, and he was to be the judge of that. He was waiting for the night before the election. Then he was going to strike you and win!"

"She told you that-Luzanne told you that?"

"And much else. Besides, she told me you had saved her life from the street-cars; that you had played fair at the start."

"First and last I played fair," he said indignantly.

Her eyes were shining. "Not from first to last, Carnac. You ought not to have painted her, or made much of her and then thrown her over. She knew-of course she knew, after a time, that you did not mean to propose to her, and all the evil in her came out. Then she willed to have you in spite of yourself, believing, if you were married, her affection would win you in the end. There it was-and you were to blame."

"But why should you defend her, Junia?"

Her tongue became bitter now. "Just as you would, if it was some one else and not yourself."

His head was sunk on his breast, his eyes were burning. "It was a horrible thing for Barouche to plan."

"Why so horrible? If you were hiding a marriage for whatever reason, it should be known to all whose votes you wanted."

"Barouche was the last man on earth to challenge me, for he had a most terrible secret."

"What was it?" Her voice had alarm, for she had never seen Carnac so disturbed.

"He was fighting his own son-and he knew it!" Th

e words came in broken accents.

"He was fighting his own son, and he knew it! You mean to say that!" Horror was in her voice.

"I mean that the summer before I was born-"

He told her the story as his mother had told it to him. Then at last he said:

"And now you know Barode Barouche got what he deserved. He ruined my mother's life; he died the easiest death such a man could die. He has also spoiled my life."

"Nothing can spoil your life except yourself," she declared firmly, and she laid a hand upon his arm. "Who told you all this-and when?"

"My mother in a letter last night. I had a talk with her afterwards."

"Who else knows?"

"Only you."

"And why did you tell me?"

"Because I want you to know why our ways must for ever lie apart."

"I don't grasp what you mean," she declared in a low voice.

"You don't grasp why, loving you, I didn't ask you to marry me long ago; but you found out for yourself from the one who was responsible, and freed me and saved me; and now you know I am an illegitimate son."

"And you want to cut me out of your life for a bad man's crime, not your own.... Listen, Carnac. Last night I told Mr. Tarboe I could not marry him. He is rich, he has control of a great business, he is a man of mark. Why do you suppose I did it, and for over two years have done the same?-for he has wanted me all that time. Does not a girl know when a real man wants her? And Luke Tarboe is a real man. He knows what he wants, and he goes for it, and little could stop him as he travels. Why do you suppose I did it?" Her face flushed, anger lit her eyes. "Because there was another man; but I've only just discovered he's a sham, with no real love for me. It makes me sorry I ever knew him."

"Me-no real love for you! That's not the truth: it's because I have no real name to give you-that's why I've spoken as I have. Never have I cared for anyone except you, Junia, and I could have killed anyone that wronged you-"

"Kill yourself then," she flashed.

"Have I wronged you, Junia?"

"If you kept me waiting and prevented me from marrying a man I could have loved, if I hated you-if you did that, and then at last told me to go my ways, don't you think it wronging me! Don't be a fool, Carnac. You're not the only man on earth a good girl could love. I tell you, again and again I have been moved towards Luke Tarboe, and if he had had understanding of women, I should now be his wife."

"You tell me what I have always known," he interposed. "I knew Tarboe had a hold on your heart. I'm not so vain as to think I've always been the one man for you. I lived long in anxious fear, and-"

"And now you shut the door in my face! Looked at from any standpoint, it's ugly."

"I want you to have your due," he answered with face paler. "You're a great woman-the very greatest, and should have a husband born in honest wedlock."

"I'm the best judge of what I want," she declared almost sharply, yet there was a smile at her lips. "Why, I suppose if John Grier had left you his fortune, you'd give it up; you'd say, 'I have no right to it,' and would give it to my brother-in-law, Fabian."

"I should."

"Yet Fabian had all he deserved from his father. He has all he should have, and he tried to beat his father in business. Carnac, don't be a bigger fool than there's any need to be. What is better than that John Grier's business should be in Tarboe's hands-or in yours? Remember, John Grier might have left it all to your mother, and, if he had, you'd have taken it, if she had left it to you. You'd have taken it even if you meant to give it away afterwards. There are hospitals to build. There are good and costly things to do for the State."

Suddenly she saw in his eyes a curious soft understanding, and she put her hand on his shoulder. "Carnac," she said gently, "great, great Carnac, won't you love me?"

For an instant he felt he must still put her from him, then he clasped her to his breast.

"But I really had to throw myself into your arms!" she said later.

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