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   Chapter 3 JUNIA AND TARBOE HEAR THE NEWS

Carnac's Folly, Volume 3_ By Gilbert Parker Characters: 15772

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


To most people Carnac's candidature was a surprise; to some it was a bewilderment, and to one or two it was a shock. To the second class belonged Fabian Grier and his wife; to the third class belonged Luke Tarboe. Only one person seemed to understand it-by intuition: Junia.

Somehow, nothing Carnac did changed Junia's views of him, or surprised her, though he made her indignant often enough. To her mind, however, in the big things, his actions always had reasonableness. She had never felt his artist-life was to be the only note of his career. When, therefore, in the West she read a telegram in a newspaper announcing his candidature, she guessed the suddenness of his decision. When she read it, she spread the paper on the table, smoothed it as though it were a beautiful piece of linen, then she stretched out her hands in happy benediction. Like most of her sex, she loved the thrill of warfare. There flashed the feeling, however, that it would be finer sport if Carnac and Tarboe were to be at war, instead of Carnac and Barouche. It was curious she never thought of Carnac but the other man came throbbing into sight-the millionaire, for he was that now.

In one way, this last move of Carnac's had the elements of a master- stroke. She knew how strange it would seem to the rest of the world, yet it did not seem strange to her. No man she had ever seen had been so at home in the world of men, and also at home in the secluded field of the chisel and the brush as Carnac.

She took the newspaper over to her aunt, holding it up. The big headlines showed like semaphores on the page. As the graceful figure of Junia drew to her aunt-her slim feet, in the brown, well-polished boots, the long, full neck, and then the chin, Grecian, shapely and firm, the straight, sensitive nose, the wonderful eyes under the well-cut, broad forehead, with the brown hair, covering it like a canopy-the old lady reached out and wound her arms round the lissome figure. Situated so, she read the telegram, and then the old arms gripped her tighter.

Presently, the whistle of a train sounded. The aunt stretched out an approving finger to the sound. She realized that the figure round which her arms hung trembled, for it was the "through" daily train for Montreal.

"I'm going back at once, aunty," Junia said.

……………………..

"Well, I'm jiggered!"

These were Tarboe's words when Carnac's candidature came first to him in the press.

"He's 'broke' out in a new place," he added.

Tarboe loved the spectacular, and this was indeed spectacular. Yet he had not the mental vision of Junia who saw how close, in one intimate sense, was the relation between the artist life and the political life. To him it was a gigantic break from a green pasture into a red field of war. To her, it was a resolution which, in anyone else's life, would have seemed abnormal; in Carnac's life it had naturalness.

Tarboe had been for a few months only the reputed owner of the great business, and he had paid a big price for his headship in the weighty responsibility, the strain of control; but it had got into his blood, and he felt life would not be easy without it now.

Besides, there was Junia. To him she was the one being in the world worth struggling for; the bird to be caught on the wing, or coaxed into the nest, or snared into the net; and two of the three things he had tried without avail. The third-the snaring? He would not stop at that, if it would bring him what he wanted. How to snare her! He surveyed himself in the mirror.

"A great hulking figure like that!" he said in disapproval. "All bone and muscle and flesh and physical show! It wouldn't weigh with her. She's too fine. It isn't the animal in a man she likes. It's what he can do, and what he is, and where he's going."

Then he thought of Carnac's new outburst, and his veins ran cold. "She'll like that-but yes, she'll like that: and if he succeeds she'll think he's great. Well, she'd be right. He'll beat Barouche. He's young and brave, careless and daring. Now where am I in this fight? I belong to Barouche's party and my vote ought to go for him."

For some minutes he sat in profound thought. What part should he play? He liked Carnac, he owed him a debt which he could never repay. Carnac had saved him from killing Denzil. If that had happened, he himself might have gone to the gallows.

He decided. Sitting down, he wrote Carnac the following letter:

DEAR CARNAC GRIER,

I see you're beginning a new work. You now belong to a party that I am opposed to, but that doesn't stop me offering you support. It's not your general policy, but it is you, the son of your father, that I mean to work for. If you want financial help for your campaign- or after it is over-come and get it here-ten thousand or more if you wish. Your father, if he knew-and perhaps he does know-would be pleased that you, who could not be a man of business in his world, are become a man of business in the bigger world of law- making. You may be right or wrong in that policy, but that don't weigh with me. You've taken on as big a job as ever your father did. What's the use of working if you don't try to do the big thing that means a lot to people outside yourself! If you make new good laws, if you do something for the world that's wonderful, it's as much as your father did, or, if he was alive, could do now. Whatever there is here is yours to use. When you come back here to play your part, you'll make it a success-the whole blessed thing. I don't wish you were here now, except that it's yours-all of it- but I wish you to beat Barode Barouche.

Yours to the knife,

LUKE TARBOE.

He read the letter through, and coming to the words, "When you come back here to play your part, you'll make it a success-the whole blessed thing," he paused, reflecting . . . He wondered what Carnac would think the words meant, and he felt it was bold, and, maybe, dangerous play; but it was not more dangerous than facts he had dealt with often in the last two years. He would let it stand, that phrase of the hidden meaning. He did not post the letter yet.

Four days later he put on his wide-brimmed panama hat and went out into the street leading to the centre of the city. There was trouble in the river reaches between his men and those of Belloc-Grier, and he was keeping an appointment with Belloc at Fabian Grier's office, where several such meetings had taken place.

He had not gone far, however, when he saw a sprightly figure in light- brown linen cutting into his street from a cross-road. He had not seen that figure for months-scarcely since John Grier's death, and his heart thumped in his breast. It was Junia. How would she greet him?

A moment later he met her. Raising his hat, he said: "Back to the firing-line, Miss Shale! It'll make a big difference to every one concerned."

"Are you then concerned?" she asked, with a faint smile.

"One of the most concerned," he answered with a smile not so composed as her own. "It's the honour of the name that's at stake."

"You want to ruin Mr. Grier's chances in the fight?"

"I didn't say that. I said, 'the honour of the name,' and the name of my firm is 'Grier's Company of Lumbermen.' So I'm in it with all my might, and here's a letter-I haven't posted it yet-saying to Carnac Grier where I stand. Will you read it? There's no reason why you shouldn't." He tore open the envelope and took the letter out.

Junia took it, after hesitation, and read it till she came to the sentence about Carnac returning to the business. She looked up, startled.

"What does that mean?" she asked, pointing to the elusive sentence.

"He might want to come into the business some day, and I'll give him his chance. Nothing more than that."

"Nothing more than that!" she said cynically. "It's bravely said, but how can he be a partner if

he can't buy the shares?"

"That's a matter to be thought out," he answered with a queer twist to his mouth.

"I see you've offered to help him with cash for the election," she said, handing back the letter.

"I felt it had to be done. Politics are expensive they sap the purse.

That's why."

"You never thought of giving him an income which would compensate a little for what his father failed to do for him?"

There was asperity in her tone.

"He wouldn't take from me what his father didn't give him." Suddenly an idea seized him. "Look here," he said, "you're a friend of the Griers, why don't you help keep things straight between the two concerns? You could do it. You have the art of getting your own way. I've noticed that."

"So you'd like me to persuade Fabian Grier to influence Belloc, because I'd make things easy for you!" she said briskly. "Do you forget I've known Fabian since I was a baby, that my sister is his wife, and that his interests are near to me?"

He did not knuckle down. "I think it would be helping Fabian's interests. Belloc and Fabian Grier are generally in the wrong, and to keep them right would be good business-policy. When I've trouble with Belloc's firm it's because they act like dogs in the manger. They seem to hate me to live."

She laughed-a buoyant, scornful laugh. "So all the fault is in Belloc and Fabian, is it?" She was impressed enormously by his sangfroid and will to rule the roost. "I think you're clever, and that you've got plenty of horse-sense, as they say in the West, but you'll be beaten in the end. How does it feel"-she asked it with provoking candour-"to be the boss of big things?"

"I know I'm always settling troubles my business foes make for me. I have to settle one of them now, and I'm glad I've met you, for you can help me. I want some new river-rules made. If Belloc and Grier'll agree to them, we'll do away with this constant trouble between our gangs."

"And you'd like me to help you?"

He smiled a big riverman's smile down at her, full of good-humour and audacity.

"If you could make it clear to Fabian that all I'm after is peace on the river, it'd do a lot of good."

"Well, do you know," she said demurely, "I don't think I'll take a hand in this game, chiefly because-" she paused.

"Yes: chiefly because-"

"Because you'll get your own way without help. You get everything you want," she added with a little savage comment.

A flood of feeling came into his eyes, his head jerked like that of a bull-moose. "No, I don't get everything I want. The thing I want most in the world doesn't come to me." His voice grew emotional. She knew what he was trying to say, and as the idea was not new she kept composure. "I'm not as lucky as you think me," he added.

"You're pretty lucky. You've done it all as easy as clasping your fingers. If I had your luck-!" she paused.

"I don't know about that, but if I could reach out and touch you at any time, as it were, I think it'd bring me permanent good luck. You'll find out one day that my luck is only a bubble the prick of a pin'll destroy. I don't misunderstand it. I've been left John Grier's business by Grier himself, and he's got a son that ought to have it, and maybe will have it, when the time is ripe."

Suddenly an angry hand flashed out towards him. "When the time is ripe! Does that mean, when you've made all you want, you'll give up to Carnac what isn't yours but his? Why don't you do it now?"

"Well, because, in the first place, I like my job and he doesn't want it; in the second place, I promised his father I'd run the business as he wished it run; and in the third place, Carnac wouldn't know how to use the income the business brings."

She laughed in a mocking, challenging way. "Was there ever a man didn't know how to use an income no matter how big it was! You're talking enigmas, and I think we'd better say good-bye. Your way to the Belloc offices is down that street." She pointed.

"And you won't help me? You won't say a word to Fabian?"

She shrugged a shoulder. "If I were a man like you, who's so big, so lucky, and so dominant, I wouldn't ask a woman to help me. I'd do the job myself. I'd keep faith with my reputation. But there's one nice thing about you: you're going to help Carnac to beat Barode Barouche. You've made a gallant offer. If you'd gone against him, if you'd played Barouche's game, I-"

The indignation which came to her face suddenly fled, and she said:

"Honestly, I'd never speak to you again, and I always keep my word.

Carnac'll see it through. He's a man of mark, Mr. Tarboe, and he'll be

Prime Minister of the whole country one day. I don't think you'll like

it."

"You hit hard, but if I hadn't taken the business, Carnac Grier wouldn't have got it. If it hadn't been me, it would have been some one else."

"Well, why don't you live like a rich man and not like a foreman?"

"I've been too busy to change my mode of living. I only want enough to eat and drink and wear, and that's not costly." Suddenly an idea came to him. "Now, if that business had been left to you, you'd be building a stone house somewhere; and you'd have horses and carriages, and lots of servants, and you'd swing along like a pretty coloured bird in the springtime, wouldn't you?"

"If I had wealth, I'd make it my servant. I'd give it its chance; but as

I haven't got it, I live as I do-poor and unknown."

"Not unknown. See, you could control what belonged to John Grier, if you would. I need some one to show me how to spend the money coming from the business. What is wealth unless you buy things that give pleasure to life? Do you know-"

He got no further. "I don't know anything you're trying to tell me, and anyhow this is not the place-" With that she hastened from him up the street. Tarboe had a pang, and yet her very last words gave him hope. "I may be a bit sharp in business," he said to himself, "but I certainly am a fool in matters of the heart. Yet what she said at last had something in it for me. Every woman has an idea where a man ought to make love to her, and this open road certainly ain't the place. If Carnac wins this game with Barouche I don't know where I'll be with her- maybe I'm a fool to help him." He turned the letter over and over in his hand. "No, I'm not. I ought to do it, and I will."

Then he fell to brooding. He remembered about the second hidden will. There came upon him a wild wish to destroy it. He loved controlling John Grier's business. Never had anything absorbed him so. Life seemed a new thing. The idea of disappearing from the place where, with a stroke of his fingers, he moved five thousand men, or swept a forest into the great river, or touched a bell which set going a saw-mill with its many cross- cut saws, or filled a ship to take the pine, cedar, maple, ash or elm boards to Europe, or to the United States, was terrible to him. He loved the smell of the fresh-cut wood. The odour of the sawdust as he passed through a mill was sweeter than a million bunches of violets. Many a time he had caught up a handful of the damp dust and smelt it, as an expert gardener would crumble the fallen flowers of a fruittree and sniff the sweet perfume. To be master of one of the greatest enterprises of the New World for three years, and then to disappear! He felt he could not do it.

His feelings shook his big frame. The love of a woman troubled his spirit. Suppose the will were declared and the girl was still free, what would she do?

As he set foot in the office of the firm of Belloc, however, he steeled himself to composure.

His task well accomplished, he went back to his own office, and spent the day like a racehorse under the lash, restive, defiant, and reckless. When night and the shadows came, he sat alone in his office with drawn blinds, brooding, wondering.

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