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   Chapter 6 THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT

Carnac's Folly, Volume 3_ By Gilbert Parker Characters: 9895

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


"No, I can't tell you-yet," answered Carnac. "You ought to know; though you can't put things right."

"Don't forget you are a public man, and what might happen if things went wrong. There are those who would gladly roast you on a gridiron for what you are in politics."

"I never forget it. I've no crime to repent of, and I'm afraid of nothing in the last resort. Look, we're nearing the Island."

"It's your worst place in the constituency, and I'm not sure of your reception. Oh, but yes, I am," she added hastily. "You always win good feeling. No one really hates you. You're on the way to big success."

"I've had some unexpected luck. I've got Tarboe on my side. He's a member of Barouche's party, but he's coming with me."

"Did he tell you so?" she asked with apparent interest.

"I've had a letter from him, and in it he says he is with me 'to the knife!' That's good. Tarboe has a big hold on rivermen, and he may carry with him some of the opposition. It was a good letter-if puzzling."

"How, puzzling?"

"He said in one part of it: 'When you come back here to play your part you'll make it a success, the whole blessed thing.' I've no idea what he meant by that. I don't think he wants me as a partner, and I'll give him no chance of it. I don't want now what I could have had when Fabian left. That's all over, Junia."

"He meant something by it; he's a very able man," she replied gravely.

"He's a huge success."

"And women love success more than all else," he remarked a little cynically.

"You're unjust, Carnac. Of course, women love success; but they'd not sell their souls for it-not the real women-and you ought to know it."

"I ought to know it, I suppose," he answered, and he held her eyes meaningly. He was about to say something vital, but Fabian and his wife came.

Fabian said to him: "Don't be surprised if you get a bad reception here, Carnac. It's the worst place on the river, and I've no influence over the men-I don't believe Tarboe could have. They're a difficult lot. There's Eugene Grandois, he's as bad as they make 'em. He's got a grudge against us because of some act of father, and he may break out any time. He's a labour leader too, and we must be vigilant."

Carnac nodded. He made no reply in words. They were nearing the little dock, and men were coming to the point where the launch would stop.

"There's Grandois now!" said Fabian with a wry smile, for he had a real fear of results. He had, however, no idea how skilfully Carnac would handle the situation-yet he had heard much of his brother's adaptability. He had no psychological sense, and Carnac had big endowment of it. Yet Carnac was not demonstrative. It was his quiet way that played his game for him. He never spoke, if being could do what he wanted. He had the sense of physical speech with out words. He was a bold adventurer, but his methods were those of the subtlest. If a motion of the hand was sufficient, then let it go at that.

"You people after our votes never come any other time," sneeringly said Eugene Grandois, as Carnac and Fabian landed. "It's only when you want to use us."

"Would you rather I didn't come at all?" asked Carnac with a friendly smile. "You can't have it both ways. If I came here any other time you'd want to know why I didn't stay away, and I come now because it's good you should know if I'm fit to represent you in Parliament."

"There's sense, my bonny boy," said an English-Canadian labourer standing near. "What you got to say to that, little skeezicks?" he added teasingly to Eugene Grandois.

"He ain't got more gifts than his father had, and we all know what he was-that's so, bagosh!" remarked Grandois viciously.

"Well, what sort of a man was he?" asked Carnac cooly, with a warning glance at Fabian, who was resentful. Indeed, Fabian would have struck the man if his brother had not been present, and then been torn to pieces himself.

"What sort-don't you know the kind of things he done? If you don't, I do, and there's lots of others know, and don't you forget it, mon vieux."

"That's no answer, Monsieur Grandois-none at all. It tells nothing," remarked Carnac cheerily.

"You got left out of his will, m'sieu', you talk as if he was all right -that's blither."

"My father had a conscience. He gave me chance to become a partner in the business, and I wouldn't, and he threw me over-what else was there to do? I could have owned the business to-day, if I'd played the game as he thought it ought to be played. I didn't, and he left me out-that's all."

"Makin' your own way, ain't you?" said the English labourer. "That's hit you where you're tender, Grandois. What you got to say to that?"

The intense black eyes of the habitant sparkled wickedly, his jaws set with passion, and his sturdy frame seemed to fasten to the ground. His gnarled hands now shot out fiercely.

"What I got to say! Only this: John Grier played the d

evil's part. He turned me and my family out into the streets in winter-time, and the law upheld him, old beast that he was-sacre diable!"

"Beast-devil! Grandois, those are hard words about a man in his son's presence, and they're not true. You think you can say such things because I'm standing for Parliament. Beast, devil, eh? You've got a free tongue, Grandois; you forgot to say that my father paid the doctor's bill for your whole family when they were taken down with smallpox; and he kept them for weeks afterwards. You forgot to recall that when he turned you out for being six months behind with your rent and making no effort to pay up! Who was the devil and beast then, Grandois? Who spat upon his own wife and children then? You haven't a good memory. . . . Come, I think your account with my father is squared; and I want you to vote to put my father's son in Parliament, and to put out Barode Barouche, who's been there too long. Come, come, Grandois, isn't it a bargain? Your tongue's sharp, but your heart's in the right place-is it a bargain?"

He held out his hand with applause from the crowd, but Grandois was not to be softened. His anger, however, had behind it some sense of caution, and what Carnac said about the smallpox incident struck him hard. It was the first time he had ever been hit between the eyes where John Grier was concerned. His prestige with the men was now under a shadow, yet he dared not deny the truth of the statement. It could be proved. His braggart hatred of John Grier had come home to roost. Carnac saw that, and he was glad he had challenged the man. He believed that in politics, as in all other departments of life, candour and bold play were best in the long run. Yet he would like to see the man in a different humour, and with joy he heard Junia say to Grandois.

"How is the baby boy, and how is madame, Monsieur Grandois?"

It came at the right moment, for only two days before had Madame Grandois given her husband the boy for which he had longed. Junia had come to know of it through a neighbour and had sent jellies to the sick woman. As she came forward now, Grandois, taken aback, said:

"Alors, they're all right, ma'm'selle, thank you. It was you sent the jellies, eh?"

She nodded with a smile. "Yes, I sent them, Grandois. May I come and see madame and the boy to-morrow?"

The incident had taken a favourable turn.

"It's about even-things between us, Grandois?" asked Carnac, and held out his hand. "My father hit you, but you hit him harder by forgetting about the smallpox and the rent, and also by drinking up the cash that ought to have paid the rent. It doesn't matter now that the rent was never paid, but it does that you recall the smallpox debt. Can't you say a word for me, Grandois? You're a big man here among all the workers. I'm a better Frenchman than the man I'm trying to turn out. Just a word for a good cause.

"They're waiting for you, and your hand on it! Here's a place for you on the roost. Come up."

The "roost" was an upturned tub lying face down on the ground, and in the passion of the moment, the little man gripped Carnac's hand and stood on the tub to great cheering; for if there was one thing the French- Canadians love, it is sensation, and they were having it. They were mostly Barouche's men, but they were emotional, and melodrama had stirred their feelings.

Besides, like the Irish, they had a love of feminine nature, and in all the river-coves Junia was known by sight at least, and was admired. She had the freshness of face and mind which is the heart of success with the habitants. With Eugene Grandois on his feet, she heard a speech which had in it the best spirit of Gallic eloquence, though it was crude. But it was forcible and adroit.

"Friends and comrades," said Eugene Grandois, with his hands playing loosely, "there's been misunderstandings between me and the Grier family, and I was out against it, but I see things different since M'sieu' Carnac has spoke-and I'm changing my mind-certainlee. That throwing out of my house hit me and my woman and little ones hard, and I've been resentin' it all these years till now; but I'm weighin' one thing agin another, and I'm willing to forget my wrongs for this young man's sake. He's for us French. Alors, some of you was out to hurt our friend M'sieu' Carnac here, and I didn't say no to it; but you'd better keep your weapons for election day and use them agin Barode Barouche.

"I got a change of heart. I've laid my plate on the table with a prayer that I get it filled with good political doctrine, and I've promise that the food I'm to get is what's best for all of us. M'sieu' Carnac Grier's got the right stuff in him, and I'm for him both hands up-both hands way up high, nom de pipe!"

At that he raised both hands above his head with a loud cheer, and later Carnac Grier was carried to the launch in the arms of Eugene Grandois' friends.

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