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´╗┐Title: Carnac's Folly, Volume 2.
Author: Parker, Gilbert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Carnac's Folly, Volume 2." ***

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CARNAC'S FOLLY

By Gilbert Parker



BOOK II

XIII.     CARNAC'S RETURN
XIV.      THE HOUSE OF THE THREE TREES
XV.       CARNAC AND JUNTA
XVI.      JOHN GRIER MAKES A JOURNEY
XVII.     THE READING OF THE WILL



CHAPTER XIII

CARNAC'S RETURN

"Well, what's happened since I've been gone, mother?" asked Carnac.  "Is
nobody we're interested in married, or going to be married?"

It was spring-time eight months after Carnac had vanished from Montreal,
and the sun of late April was melting the snow upon the hills, bringing
out the smell of the sprouting verdure and the exultant song of the
birds.

His mother replied sorrowfully: "Junia's been away since last fall.  Her
aunt in the West was taken ill, and she's been with her ever since.  Tell
me, dearest, is everything all right now?  Are you free to do what you
want?"

He shook his head morosely.  "No, everything's all wrong.  I blundered,
and I'm paying the price."

"You didn't find Luzanne Larue?"

"Yes, I found her, but it was no good.  I said there was divorce, and she
replied I'd done it with my eyes open, and had signed our names in the
book of the hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier and divorce would not be
possible.  Also, I'd let things go for a year, and what jury would give
me relief!  I consulted a lawyer.  He said she had the game in her hands,
and that a case could be put up that would discredit me with jury or
judge, so there it is.  .  .  .  Well, bad as she is, she's fond of me
in her way.  I don't think she's ever gone loose with any man; this is
only a craze, I'm sure.  She wanted me, and she meant to have me."

His mother protested: "No pure, straight, honest girl would--"

Carnac laughed bitterly, and interrupted.  "Don't talk that way, mother.
The girl was brought up among exiles and political criminals in the
purlieu of Montmartre.  What's possible in one place is impossible in
another.  Devil as she is, I want to do her justice."

"Did she wear a wedding-ring?"

"No, but she used my name as her own: I saw it on the paper door-plate.
She said she would wait awhile longer, but if at the end of six months I
didn't do my duty, she'd see the thing through here among my own people."

"Six months--it's overdue now!" she said in agitation.

He nodded helplessly.  "I'm in hell as things are.  There's only this to
be said: She's done naught yet, and she mayn't do aught!"

They were roused by the click of the gate.  "That's your father--that's
John Grier," she said.

They heard the front door open and shut, a footstep in the hall, then the
door opened and John Grier came into the room.

Preoccupation, abstraction, filled his face, as he came forward.  It was
as though he was looking at something distant that both troubled and
pleased him.  When he saw Carnac he stopped, his face flushed.  For an
instant he stood unmoving, and then he held out his hand.

"So you've come back, Carnac.  When did you get here?"

As Carnac released his hand from John Grier's cold clasp, he said: "A
couple of hours ago."

The old man scrutinized him sharply, carefully.  "Getting on--making
money?" he asked.  "Got your hand in the pocket of the world?"

Carnac shook his head.  "I don't care much about the pocket of the world,
but they like my work in London and New York.  I don't get Royal Academy
prices, but I do pretty well."

"Got some pride, eh?"

"I'm always proud when anybody outside Montreal mentions your name!
It makes me feel I have a place in the world."

"Guess you've made your own place," said the other, pleasure coming to
his cheek.  "You've got your own shovel and pick to make wealth."

"I care little about wealth.  All I want is enough to clothe and feed me,
and give me a little home."

"A little home!  Yes, it's time," remarked the other, as he seated
himself in his big chair by the table.  "Why don't you marry?"

The old man's eyes narrowed until there could only be seen a slit of fire
between the lids, and a bitter smile came to his lips.  He had told his
wife a year ago that he had cut Carnac out of all business consideration.
So now, he added:

"Tarboe's taken your place in the business, Carnac.  Look out he doesn't
take your little home too."

"He's had near a year, and he hasn't done it yet."

"Is that through any virtue of yours?"

"Probably not," answered Carnac ironically.  "But I've been away; he's
been here.  He's had everything with him.  Why hasn't he pulled it off
then?"

"He pulls off everything he plans.  He's never fallen over his own feet
since he's been with me, and, if I can help it, he won't have a fall when
I'm gone."

Suddenly he got to his feet; a fit of passion seized him.  "What's Junia
to me--nothing!  I've every reason to dislike her, but she comes and goes
as if the place belonged to her.  She comes to my office; she comes to
this house; she visits Fabian; she tries to boss everybody.  Why don't
you regularize it?  Why don't you marry her, and then we'll know where we
are?  She's got more brains than anybody else in our circle.  She's got
tact and humour.  Her sister's a fool; she's done harm.  Junia's got
sense.  What are you waiting for?  I wouldn't leave her for Tarboe!  Look
here, Carnac, I wanted you to do what Tarboe's doing, and you wouldn't.
You cheeked me--so I took him in.  He's made good every foot of the way.
He's a wonder.  I'm a millionaire.  I'm two times a millionaire, and I
got the money honestly.  I gave one-third of it to Fabian, and he left
us.  I paid him in cash, and now he's fighting me."

Carnac bristled up: "What else could he do?  He might have lived on the
interest of the money, and done nothing.  You trained him for business,
and he's gone on with the business you trained him for.  There are other
lumber firms.  Why don't you quarrel with them?  Why do you drop on
Fabian as if he was dirt?"

"Belloc's a rogue and a liar."

"What difference does that make?  Isn't it a fair fight?  Don't you want
anybody to sit down or stand up till you tell them to?  Is it your view
you shall tyrannize, browbeat, batter, and then that everybody you love,
or pretend to love, shall bow down before you as though you were eternal
law?  I'm glad I didn't.  I'm making my own life.  You gave me a chance
in your business, and I tried it, and declined it.  You gave it to some
one else, and I approved of it.  What more do you want?"

Suddenly a new spirit of defiance awoke in him.  "What I owe you I don't
know, but if you'll make out what you think is due, for what you've done
for me in the way of food and clothes and education, I'll see you get it
all.  Meanwhile, I want to be free to move and do as I will."

John Grier sat down in his chair again, cold, merciless, with a scornful
smile.

"Yes, yes," he said slowly, "you'd have made a great business man if
you'd come with me.  You refused.  I don't understand you--I never did.
There's only one thing that's alike in us, and that's a devilish self-
respect, self-assertion, self-dependence.  There's nothing more to be
said between us--nothing that counts.  Don't get into a passion, Carnac.
It don't become you.  Good-night--good-night."

Suddenly his mother's face produced a great change in Carnac.  Horror,
sorrow, remorse, were all there.  He looked at John Grier; then at his
mother.  The spirit of the bigger thing crept into his heart.  He put his
arm around his mother and kissed her.

"Good-night, mother," he said.  Then he went to his father and held out a
hand.  "You don't mind my speaking what I think?" he continued, with a
smile.  "I've had a lot to try me.  Shake hands with me, father.  We
haven't found the way to walk together yet.  Perhaps it will come; I hope
so."

Again a flash of passion seized John Grier.  He got to his feet.  "I'll
not shake hands with you, not to night.  You can't put the knife in and
turn it round, and then draw it out and put salve on the wound and say
everything's all right.  Everything's all wrong.  My family's been my
curse.  First one, then another, and then all against me,--my whole
family against me!"

He dropped back in his chair sunk in gloomy reflection.

"Well, good-night," said Carnac.  "It will all come right some day."

A moment afterwards he was gone.  His mother sat down in her seat by the
window; his father sat brooding by the table.

Carnac stole down the hillside, his heart burning in him.  It had not
been a successful day.



CHAPTER XIV

THE HOUSE OF THE THREE TREES

During Carnac's absence, Denzil had lain like an animal, watching, as it
were, the doorway out of which Tarboe came and went.  His gloom at last
became fanaticism.  During all the eight months of Carnac's absence he
prowled in the precincts of memory.

While Junia was at home he had been watchfully determined to save her
from Tarboe, if possible.  He had an obsession of wrong-mindedness which
is always attached to crime.  Though Luke Tarboe had done him no wrong,
and was entitled, if he could, to win Junia for himself, to the mind of
Denzil the stain of his brother's past was on Tarboe's life.  He saw
Tarboe and Junia meet; he knew Tarboe put himself in her way, and he was
right in thinking that the girl, with a mind for comedy and coquetry, was
drawn instinctively to danger.

Undoubtedly the massive presence of Tarboe, his animal-like, bull-headed
persistency, the fun at his big mouth and the light in his bold eye had a
kind of charm for her.  It was as though she placed herself within the
danger zone to try her strength, her will; and she had done it without
real loss.  More than once, as she waited in the office for old John
Grier to come, she had a strange, intuitive feeling that Tarboe might
suddenly grip her in his arms.

She flushed at the thought of it; it seemed so absurd.  Yet that very
thought had passed through the mind of the man.  He was by nature a
hunter; he was self-willed and reckless.  No woman had ever moved him in
his life until this girl crossed his path, and he reached out towards her
with the same will to control that he had used in the business of life.
Yet, while this brute force suggested physical control of the girl, it
had its immediate reaction.  She was so fine, so delicate, and yet so
full of summer and the free unfettered life of the New World, so
unimpassioned physically, yet so passionate in mind and temperament,
that he felt he must atone for the wild moment's passion--the passion
of possession, which had made him long to crush her to his breast.  There
was nothing physically repulsive in it; it was the wild, strong life of
conquering man, of which he had due share.  For, as he looked at her
sitting in his office, her perfect health, her slim boyishness, her
exquisite lines and graceful turn of hand, arm and body, or the flower-
like turn of the neck, were the very harmony and poetry of life.  But she
was terribly provoking too; and he realized that she was an unconscious
coquette, that her spirit loved mastery as his did.

Denzil could not know this, however.  It was impossible for him to
analyse the natures of these two people.  He had instinct, but not enough
to judge the whole situation, and so for two months after Carnac
disappeared he had lived a life of torture.  Again and again he had
determined to tell Junia the story of Tarboe's brother, but instinctive
delicacy stopped him.  He could not tell her the terrible story which
had robbed him of all he loved and had made him the avenger of the dead.
A half-dozen times after she came back from John Grier's office, with
slightly heightening colour, and the bright interest in her eyes, and had
gone about the garden fondling the flowers, he had started towards her;
but had stopped short before her natural modesty.  Besides, why should he
tell her?  She had her own life to make, her own row to hoe.  Yet, as the
weeks passed, it seemed he must break upon this dangerous romance; and
then suddenly she went to visit her sick aunt in the Far West.  Denzil
did not know, however, that, in John Grier's office as she had gone over
figures of a society in which she was interested, the big hand of Tarboe
had suddenly closed upon her fingers, and that his head bent down beside
hers for one swift instant, as though he would whisper to her.  Then she
quickly detached herself, yet smiled at him, as she said reprovingly:

"You oughtn't to do that.  You'll spoil our friendship."

She did not wait longer.  As he stretched out his hands to her, his face
had gone pale: she vanished through the doorway, and in forty-eight hours
was gone to her sick aunt.  The autumn had come and the winter and the
spring, and the spring was almost gone when she returned; and, with her
return, Catastrophe lifted its head in the person of Denzil.

Perhaps it was imperative instinct that brought Junia back in an hour
coincident with Carnac's return--perhaps.  In any case, there it was.
They had both returned, as it were, in the self-same hour, each having
endured a phase of emotion not easy to put on paper.

Denzil told her of Carnac's return, and she went to the house where
Carnac's mother lived, and was depressed at what she saw and felt.  Mrs.
Grier's face was not that of one who had good news.  The long arms almost
hurt when they embraced her.  Yet Carnac was a subject of talk between
them--open, clear eyed talk.  The woman did not know what to say, except
to praise her boy, and the girl asked questions cheerfully, unimportantly
as to sound, but with every nerve tingling.  There was, however, so much
of the comedienne in her, so much coquetry, that only one who knew her
well could have seen the things that troubled her behind all.  As though
to punish herself, she began to speak of Tarboe, and Mrs. Grier's face
clouded; she spoke more of Tarboe, and the gloom deepened.  Then, with
the mask of coquetry still upon her she left Carnac's mother abashed,
sorrowful and alone.

Tarboe had called in her absence.  Entering the garden, he saw Denzil at
work.  At the click of the gate Denzil turned, and came forward.

"She ain't home," he said bluntly.  "She's out.  She ain't here.  She's
up at Mr. Grier's house, bien sur."

To Tarboe Denzil's words were offensive.  It was none of Denzil's
business whether he came or went in this house, or what his relations
with Junia were.  Democrat though he was, he did not let democracy
transgress his personal associations.  He knew that the Frenchman was
less likely to say and do the crude thing than the Britisher.

Tarboe knew of the position held by Denzil in the Shale household; and
that long years of service had given him authority.  All this, however,
could not atone for the insolence of Denzil's words, but he had
controlled men too long to act rashly.

"When will Mademoiselle be back?" he asked, putting a hand on himself.

"To-night," answered Denzil, with an antipathetic eye.

"Don't be a damn fool.  Tell me the hour when you think she will be at
home.  Before dinner--within the next sixty minutes?"

"Ma'm'selle is under no orders.  She didn't say when she would be back--
but no!"

"Do you think she'll be back for dinner?" asked Tarboe, smothering his
anger, but get to get his own way.

"I think she'll be back for dinner!" and he drove the spade into the
ground.

"Then I'll sit down and wait."  Tarboe made for the verandah.

Denzil presently trotted after and said:  "I'd like a word with you."

Tarboe turned round.  "Well, what have you got to say?"

"Better be said in my house, not here," replied Denzil.  His face was
pale, but there was fire in his eyes.  There was no danger of violence,
and, if there were, Tarboe could deal with it.  Why should there be
violence?  Why should that semi-insanity in Denzil's eyes disturb him?
The one thing to do was to forge ahead.  He nodded.

"Where are you taking me?" he asked presently, as they passed through
the gate.

"To my little house by the Three Trees.  I've got things I'd like to show
you, and there's some things I'd like to say.  You are a big hulk of a
man, and I'm nobody, but yet I've been close to you and yours in my time
--that's so, for sure."

"You've been close to me and mine in your time, eh?  I didn't know that."

"No, you didn't know it.  Nobody knew it--I've kept it to myself.  Your
family wasn't all first-class--but no."

They soon reached the plain board-house, with the well-laid foundation of
stone, by the big Three Trees.  Inside the little spare, undecorated
room, Tarboe looked round.  It was all quiet and still enough.  It was
like a lodge in the wilderness.  Somehow, the atmosphere of it made him
feel apart and lonely.  Perhaps that was a little due to the timbered
ceiling, to the walls with cedar scantlings showing, to the crude look of
everything-the head of a moose, the skins hanging down the sides of the
walls, the smell of the cedar, and the swift movement of a tame red
squirrel, which ran up the walls and over the floor and along the
chimney-piece, for Denzil avoided the iron stove so common in these new
cold lands, and remained faithful to a huge old-fashioned mantel.

Presently Denzil faced him, having closed the door.  "I said I'd been
near to your family and you didn't believe me.  Sit down, please to, and
I'll tell you my story."

Seating himself with a little curt laugh, Tarboe waved a hand as though
to say: "Go ahead.  I'm ready."

It was difficult for Denzil to begin.  He walked up and down the room,
muttering and shaking his head.  Presently, however, he made the Sign of
the Cross upon himself, and, leaning against the wall, and opposite to
Tarboe, he began the story he had told Carnac.

His description of his dead fiancee had flashes of poetry and
excruciating touches of life:

"She had no mother, and there was lots of things she didn't know because
of that--ah, plenty!  She had to learn, and she brought on her own
tragedy by not knowing that men, even when good to look at, can't be
trusted; that every place, even in the woods and the fields where every
one seems safe to us outdoor people, ain't safe--but no.  So she trusted,
and then one day--"

For the next five minutes the words poured from him in moroseness.  He
drew a picture of the lonely wood, of the believing credulous girl and
the masterful, intellectual, skilful man.  In the midst of it Tarboe
started.  The description of the place and of the man was familiar.  He
had a vision of a fair young girl encompassed by clanger; he saw her in
the man's arms; the man's lips to hers, and--

"Good God--good God!" he said twice, for a glimmer of the truth struck
him.  He knew what his brother had done.  He could conceive the revenge
to his brother's amorous hand.  He listened till the whole tale was told;
till the death of the girl in the pond at home--back in her own little
home.  Then the rest of the story shook him.

"The verdict of the coroner's court was that he was shot by his own hand
--by accident," said Denzil.  "That was the coroner's verdict, but yes!
Well, he was shot by his own gun, but not by his own hand.  There was
some one who loved the girl, took toll.  The world did not know, and does
not know, but you know--you--you, the brother of him that spoiled a
woman's life!  Do you think such a man should live?  She was the sweetest
girl that ever lived, and she loved me!  She told me the truth--and he
died by his own gun--in the woods; but it wasn't accident--it wasn't
accident--but no!  The girl had gone, but behind her was some one that
loved her, and he settled it once for all."

As he had told the story, Denzil's body seemed to contract; his face took
on an insane expression.  It was ghastly pale, but his eyes ware aflame.
His arms stretched out with grim realism as he told of the death of
Almeric Tarboe.

"You've got the whole truth, m'sieu'.  I've told it you at last.  I've
never been sorry for killing him--never--never--never.  Now, what are you
going to do about it--you--his brother--you that come here making love
too?"

As the truth dawned upon Tarboe, his great figure stretched itself.  A
black spirit possessed him.

When Denzil had finished, Tarboe stood up.  There was dementia, cruelty,
stark purpose in his eyes, in every movement.

"What am I going to do?  You killed my brother!  Well, I'm going to kill
you.  God blast your soul--I'm going to kill you!"

He suddenly swooped upon Denzil, his fingers clenched about the thick
throat, insane rage was on him.

At that moment there was a knock at the door, it opened, and Carnac
stepped inside.  He realized the situation and rushed forward.  There was
no time to struggle.

"Let him go," he cried.  "You devil--let him go."  Then with all his
might, he struck Tarboe in the face.  The blow brought understanding back
to Tarboe.  His fingers loosed from the Frenchman's throat, and Carnac
caught Denzil as he fell backwards.

"Good God!" said Carnac.  "Good God, Tarboe!  Wasn't it enough for your
brother to take this man's love without your trying to take his life?"

Carnac's blow brought conviction to Tarboe, whose terrible rage passed
away.  He wiped the blood from his face.

"Is the little devil all right?" he whispered.

Denzil spoke: "Yes.  This is the second time M'sieu' Carnac has saved my
life."

Carnac intervened.  "Tell me, Tarboe, what shall you do, now you know the
truth?"

At last Tarboe thrust out a hand.  "I don't know the truth," he said.

By this Carnac knew that Denzil was safe from the law.



CHAPTER XV

CARNAC AND JUNIA

Tarboe did not see Junia that evening nor for many evenings, but Carnac
and Junia met the next day in her own house.  He came on her as she was
arranging the table for midday dinner.  She had taken up again the
threads of housekeeping, cheering her father, helping the old French-
woman cook--a huge creature who moved like a small mountain, and was a
tyrant in her way to the old cheerful avocat, whose life had been a
struggle for existence, yet whose one daughter had married a rich
lumberman, and whose other daughter could marry wealth, handsomeness
and youth, if she chose.

When Carnac saw Junia she was entering the dining-room with flowers and
fruit, and he recalled the last time they met, when she had thrust the
farewell bouquet of flowers into his hand.  That was in the early autumn,
and this was in late spring, and the light in her face was as glowing as
then.  A remembrance of the scene came to the minds of both, and the girl
gave a little laugh.

"Well, well, Carnac," she said gaily, her cheek flushing, her eyes warm
with colour: "well, I sent you away with flowers.  Did they bring you
luck?"  She looked him steadily in the eyes.

"Yes, they brought me a perfect remembrance--of one who has always been
to me like the balm of Gilead."

"Soothing and stimulating, eh?" she asked, as she put the flowers on the
table and gave him her hand--no, she suddenly gave him both hands with a
rush of old-time friendship, which robbed it of all personal emotion.

For a moment he held her hands.  He felt them tremble in his warm clasp,
the delicate, shivering pulsation of youth, the womanly feeling.  It was
for an instant only, because she withdrew her fingers.  Then she caught
up an apple from the dish she had brought in, and tossed it to him.

"For a good boy," she said.  "You have been a good boy, haven't you?"

"I think so, chiefly by remembering a good girl."

"That's a pretty compliment--meant for me?"

"Yes, meant for you.  I think you understand me better than anyone else."

He noticed her forehead wrinkle slightly, and a faint, incredulous smile
come to her lips.

"I shouldn't think I understand you, Carnac," she said, over her
shoulder, as she arranged dishes on the sideboard.  "I shouldn't think I
know you well.  There's no Book of Revelations of your life except in
your face."

She suddenly turned full on him, and held his eyes.  "Carnac, I think
your face looks honest.  I've always thought so, and yet I think you're
something of a scamp, a rogue and a thief."

There was determination at her lips, through which, though only slightly
apart, her beautiful teeth, so straight, so regular, showed.  "You don't
play fair.  What's the good of having a friend if you don't tell your
friend your troubles?  And you've been in trouble, Carnac, and you're
fighting it through alone.  Is that wise?  You ought to tell some bad
man, or some good woman--if they're both clever--what's vexing you.

"You see the bad clever man would probably think out something that would
have the same effect as the good clever woman.  They never would think
out the same thing, but each 'd think out what would help you."

"But you've just said I'm a bad clever man.  Why shouldn't I work out my
own trouble?"

"Oh, you're bad enough," she answered, "but you're not clever enough."

He smiled grimly.  "I'm not sure though about the woman.  Perhaps I'll
tell the good clever woman some day and let her help me, if she can.
But I'd warn her it won't be easy."

"Then there's another woman in it!"

He did not answer.  He could not let her know the truth, yet he was sure
she would come to know it one way or another.

At that moment she leaned over the table and stretched a hand to arrange
something.  The perfection of her poise, the beauty of her lines, the
charm of her face seized Carnac, and, with an impulse, he ran his arm
around her waist.

"Junia--Junia!" he said in a voice of rash, warm feeling.

She was like a wild bird caught in its flight.  A sudden stillness held
her, and then she turned her head towards him, subdued inquiry in her
eyes.  For a moment only she looked--and then she said:

"Take your arm away, please."

The conviction that he ought not to make any sign of love to her broke
his sudden passion.  He drew back ashamed, yet defiant, rebuked, yet
rebellious.  It was like a challenge to her.  A sarcastic smile crossed
her lips.

"What a creature of impulses you are, Carnac!  When we were children the
day you saved Denzil years ago you flung your arms around me and kissed
me.  I didn't understand anything then, and what's more I don't think you
did.  You were a wilful, hazardous boy, and went your way taking the
flowers in the garden that didn't belong to you.  Yet after all these
years, with an impulse behind which there is nothing--nothing at all,
you repeat that incident."

Suddenly passion seemed to possess her.  "How dare you trifle with things
that mean so much!  Have you learned nothing since I saw you last?  Can
nothing teach you, Carnac?  Can you not learn how to play the big part?
If you weren't grown up, do you know what I would do?  I would slap the
face of an insolent, thoughtless, hopeless boy."  Then her temper seemed
to pass.  She caught up an apple again and thrust it into his hand.  "Go
and eat that, Adam.  Perhaps it'll make you wise like the old Adam.  He
put his faults upon a woman."

"So do I," said Carnac.  "So do I."

"That's what you would do, but you mustn't play that sort of game with a
good woman."  She burst out laughing.  "For a man you're a precious fool!
I don't think I want to see you again.  You don't improve.  You're full
of horrid impulses."  Her indignation came back.  "How dare you put your
arm around me!"

"It was the impulse of my heart.  I can say no more; if I could I would.
There's something I should like to tell you, but I mustn't."  He put the
apple down.

"About the other woman, I suppose," she said coldly, the hot indignation
gone from her lips.

He looked her steadfastly in the eyes.  "If you won't trust me--if you
won't trust me--"

"I've always trusted you," she replied, "but I don't trust you now.
Don't you understand that a good girl hates conduct like yours?"

Suddenly with anger he turned upon her.  "Yes, I understand everything,
but you don't understand.  Why won't you believe that the reason I won't
tell you my trouble is that it's best you shouldn't know?  You're a young
girl; you don't know life; you haven't seen it as I've seen it--in the
sewage, in the ditch, on the road, on the mountain and in the bog.  I
want you to keep faith with your old friend who doesn't care what the
rest of the world thinks, but who wants your confidence.  Trust me--don't
condemn me.  Believe me, I haven't been wanton.  Won't you trust me?"

The spirit of egotism was alive in her.  She knew how much she had denied
herself in the past months.  She did not know whether she loved him, but
injured pride tortured her.  Except in a dance and in sports at a picnic
or recreation-ground no man had ever put his arms around her.  No man
except Carnac, and that he had done it was like a lash upon the raw
skinless flesh.  If she had been asked by the Almighty whether she loved
Carnac, she would have said she did not know.  This was not a matter of
love; but of womanhood, of self-respect, of the pride of one who cannot
ask for herself what she wants in the field of love, who must wait to be
wooed and won.

"You don't think I'm straight," he said in protest.  "You think I'm no
good, that I'm a fraud.  You're wrong.  Believe me, that is the truth."
He came closer up to her.  "Junia, if you'll stand by me, I'm sure I'll
come out right.  I've been caught in a mesh I can't untangle yet, but it
can be untangled, and when it is, you shall know everything, because then
you'll understand.  I can free myself from the tangle, but it could never
be explained--not so the world would believe.  I haven't trifled with
you.  I would believe in you even if I saw, or thought I saw, the signs
of wrong in you.  I would know that at heart you were good.  I put my
faith in you long ago--last year I staked all on your friendship, and I
haven't been deceived."

He smiled at her, his soul in his eyes.  There was truth in his smile,
and she realized it.

After a moment, she put out a hand and pushed him gently from her.  "Go
away, Carnac, please--now," she said softly.

A moment afterwards he was gone.



CHAPTER XVI

JOHN GRIER MAKES A JOURNEY

John Grier's business had beaten all past records.  Tarboe was
everywhere: on the river, in the saw-mills, in the lumber-yards, in the
office.  Health and strength and goodwill were with him, and he had the
confidence of all men in the lumber-world.  It was rumoured that he was a
partner of John Grier, and it was a good thing for him as well as for the
business.  He was no partner, however; he was on a salary with a bonus
percentage of the profits; but that increased his vigour.

There were times when he longed for the backwoods life; when the smell of
the pines and the firs and the juniper got into his nostrils; when he
heard, in imagination, the shouts of the river-men as they chopped down
the trees, sawed the boles into standard lengths, and plunged the big
timbers into the stream, or round the fire at night made call upon the
spirit of recreation.  In imagination, he felt the timbers creaking and
straining under his feet; he smelt the rich soup from the cook's caboose;
he drank basins of tea from well-polished metal; he saw the ugly rows in
the taverns, where men let loose from river duty tried to regain civilian
life by means of liquor and cards; he heard the stern thud of a hard fist
against a piece of wood; he saw twenty men spring upon another twenty
with rage in their faces; he saw hundreds of men arrived in civilization
once again striking for their homes and loved ones, storming with life.
He saw the door flung open, and the knee-booted, corduroyed river-man,
with red sash around his waist and gold rings in his ears, seize the
woman he called wife and swing her to him with a hungry joy; he saw the
children pushed gently here, or roughly, but playfully, tossed in the air
and caught again; but he also saw the rough spirits of the river march
into their homes like tyrants returned, as it were, cursing and banging
their way back to their rightful nests.

Occasionally he would wish to be in it all again, out in the wild woods
and on the river and in the shanty, free and strong and friendly and a
bit ferocious.  All he had known of the backwoods life filled his veins,
tortured him at times.

From the day that both wills were made and signed, no word had been
spoken concerning them between him and John Grier.  He admired certain
characteristics of John Grier; some secret charities, some impulsive
generosity, some signs of public spirit.  The old man was fond of
animals, and had given water-troughs to the town; and his own horses and
the horses he used in the woods were always well fed.  Also, in all his
arrangements for the woods, he was generous.  He believed in feeding his
men well.  It was rough food--beans, potatoes, peas, lentils, pork in
barrels-salted pork; but there was bread of the best, rich soup, pork
well boiled and fried, with good tea, freshly made.  This was the regular
fare, and men throve on it.

One day, however, shortly after Carnac's return home, there came a change
in the scene.  Things had been going badly for a couple of days and the
old man had been seriously overworked.  He had not listened to the
warnings of Tarboe, or to the hints thrown out by his own punished
physique.  He was not a man to take hints.  Everything that vexed his
life roused opposition.  This Tarboe knew, but he also knew that the
business must suffer, if the old man suffered.

When John Grier left the office it was with head bowed and mind
depressed.  Nothing had happened to cause him grave anxiety, yet he had
been below par for several hours.  Why was he working so hard?  Why was
life to him such a concentration?  Why did he seek for more money and to
get more power?  To whom could it go?  Not to Fabian; not to his wife.
To Tarboe--well, there was not enough in that!  This man had only lately
come into his life, and was only near to him in a business sense.  Carnac
was near in every sense that really mattered, and Carnac was out of it
all.

He was not loved, and in his heart of hearts he knew it, but he had had
his own way, and he loved himself.  No one seemed to care for him, not
even his wife.  How many years was it since they had roomed together?
Yet as he went towards his own home now, he recalled the day they were
married, and for the first time had drawn as near to each other as life
could draw.  He had thought her wonderful then, refined, and oh! so rich
in life's gifts.  His love had almost throttled her.  She was warm and
bountiful and full of temperament.  So it went for three years, and then
slowly he drew away from her until at last, returning from the backwoods,
he had gone to another room, and there had stayed.  Very occasionally he
had smothered her with affection, but that had passed, until now, middle-
aged, she seemed to be not a room away from him, but a thousand rooms
away.  He saw it with no reproach to himself.  He forgot it was he who
had left her room, and had set up his own tabernacle, because his hours
differed from hers, and because she tossed in her bed at nights, and that
made him restless too.

Yet, if his love had been the real thing, he would have stayed, because
their lives were so similar, and the rules of domestic life in French
Canada were so fixed.  He had spoiled his own household, destroyed his
own peace, forsaken his own nest, outlived his hope and the possibility
of further hope, except more business success, more to leave behind him.

That was the stern truth.  Had he been a different man the devotion his
wife had shown would have drawn him back to her; had she been a different
woman, unvexed by a horrible remembrance, she would have made his soul
her own and her soul his own once again.  She had not dared to tell him
the truth; afraid more for her boy's sake than for her own.  She had been
glad that Tarboe had helped to replace the broken link with Fabian, that
he had taken the place which Carnac, had he been John Grier's son, ought
to have taken.  She could not blame Carnac, and she could not blame her
husband, but the thing ate into her heart.

John Grier found her sitting by her table in the great living-room,
patient and grave, and yet she smiled at him, and rose as he came into
the room.  His troubled face brought her forward quickly.  She stretched
out a hand appealingly to him.

"What's the matter, John?  Has anything upset you?"

"I'm not upset."

"Yes you are," she urged, "but, yes, you are!  Something has gone wrong."

"Nothing's gone wrong that hasn't been wrong for many a year," he said.

"What's been wrong for many a year?"

"The boys you brought into this world--your sons!" he burst out.  "Why
isn't Carnac working with me?  There must have been something damned bad
in the bringing up of those boys.  I've not, got the love of any of you,
and I know it.  Why should I be thrown over by every one?"

"Every one hasn't thrown you over.  Mr. Tarboe hasn't.  You've been in
great spirits about him.  What's the matter?"

He waved a hand savagely at her, with an almost insane look in his eyes.

"What's he to me!  He's a man of business.  In a business way I like him,
but I want my own flesh and blood by me in my business.  I wanted Carnac,
and he wouldn't come--a few weeks only he came.  I had Fabian, and he
wouldn't stay.  If I'd had a real chance--"

He broke off, with an outward savage protest of his hands, his voice
falling.

"If you'd had your chance, you'd have made your own home happy," she said
sadly.  "That was your first duty, not your business--your home--your
home!  You didn't care about it.  There were times when for months you
forgot me; and then--then--"

Suddenly a dreadful suspicion seized his brain.  His head bent forward,
his shoulders thrust out, he stumbled towards her.

"Then--well, what then!" he gasped.  "Then--you--forgot--"

She realized she had gone too far, saw the storm in his mind.

"No--no--no, I didn't forget you, John.  Never--but--"

She got no farther.  Suddenly his hands stretched out as if to seize her
shoulders, his face became tortured--he swayed.  She caught him.  She
lowered him to the floor, and put a hassock under his head.  Then she
rang the bell--rang it--and rang again.

When help came, all was too late.  John Grier had gone for ever.



CHAPTER XVII

THE READING OF THE WILL

As Tarboe stood in the church alone at the funeral, in a pew behind John
Grier's family, sadness held him.  He had known, as no one else knew,
that the business would pass into his own hands.  He suddenly felt his
task too big for him, and he looked at Carnac now with sympathy.  Carnac
had brains, capacity, could almost take his father's place; he was
tactful, intuitive, alert.  Yet Carnac, at present, was out of the
question.  He knew the stress of spirit which had turned Carnac from
the opportunity lying at his feet.

In spite of himself there ran through his mind another thought.  Near by,
at the left, dressed in mourning also, was Junia.  He had made up his
mind that Junia should be his, and suddenly the usefulness of the
business about to fall into his hands became a weapon in the field of
Love.  He was physically a finer man than Carnac; he had capacity; he had
personality; and he would have money and position--for a time at least.
In that time, why should he not win this girl with the wonderful eyes and
hair, with the frankness and candour of unspoiled girlhood in her face?
Presently he would be in the blare of sensation, in the height of as
dramatic an episode as comes to the lives of men; and in the episode he
saw advantages which should weigh with any girl.

Then had come the reading of the will after the funeral rites were over,
and he, with the family, were gathered in the dining-room of the House on
the Hill.

He was scarcely ready, however, for the prodigious silence following the
announcement read by the lawyer.  He felt as though life was suspended
for many minutes, when it was proclaimed that he, Luke Tarboe, would
inherit the property.  Although he knew of the contents of the will his
heart was thumping like a sledge-hammer.

He looked round the room slowly.  The only embarrassment to be seen was
on the faces of Fabian and his wife.  Mrs. Grier and Carnac showed
nothing.  Carnac did not even move; by neither gesture nor motion of body
did he show aught.  At the close of it all, he came to Tarboe and held
out a hand.

"Good luck to you, Tarboe!" he said.  "You'll make a success, and that's
what he wanted more than anything else.  Good luck to you!" he said
again and turned away.  .  .  .

When John Grier's will was published in the Press consternation filled
the minds of all.  Tarboe had been in the business for under two years,
yet here he was left all the property with uncontracted power.  Mrs. John
Grier was to be paid during her life a yearly stipend of twenty thousand
dollars from the business; she also received a grant of seventy thousand
dollars.  Beyond that, there were a few gifts to hospitals and for the
protection of horses, while to the clergyman of the parish went one
thousand dollars.  It certainly could not be called a popular will, and,
complimentary as the newspapers were to the energy and success of John
Grier, few of them called him public-spirited, or a generous-hearted
citizen.  In his death he paid the price of his egotism.

The most surprised person, however, was Junia Shale.

To her it was shameful that Carnac should be eliminated from all share in
the abundant fortune John Grier had built up.  It seemed fantastic that
the fortune and the business--and the business was the fortune--should be
left to Tarboe.  Had she known the contents of the will before John Grier
was buried, she would not have gone to the funeral.  Egotistic she had
known Grier to be, and she imagined the will to be a sudden result of
anger.  He was dead and buried.  The places that knew him knew him no
more.  All in an hour, as it were, the man Tarboe--that dominant,
resourceful figure--had come into wealth and power.

After Junia read the substance of the will, she went springing up the
mountain-side, as it were to work off her excitement by fatigue.  At the
mountain-top she gazed over the River St. Lawrence with an eye blind to
all except this terrible distortion of life.  Yet through her
obfuscation, there ran admiration for Tarboe.  What a man he was!  He
had captured John Grier as quickly and as securely as a night fisherman
spears a sturgeon in the flare at the bow of the boat.  Tarboe's ability
was as marked as John Grier's mad policy.  It was strange that Tarboe
should have bewildered and bamboozled--if that word could be used--the
old millowner.  It was as curious and thrilling as John Grier's
fanaticism.

Already the pinch of corruption had nipped his flesh; he was useless,
motionless in his narrow house, and yet, unseen but powerful, his
influence went on.  It shamed a wife and son; it blackened the doors
of a home; it penalized a family.

Indeed he had been a bad man, and yet she could not reconcile it all
with a wonderful something in him, a boldness, a sense of humour, an
everlasting energy, an electric power.  She had never seen anyone
vitalize everything round him as John Grier had done.  He threw things
from him like an exasperated giant; he drew things to him like an Angel
of the Covenant.  To him life was less a problem than an experiment, and
this last act, this nameless repudiation of the laws of family life, was
like the sign of a chemist's activity.  As she stood on the mountain-top
her breath suddenly came fast, and she caught her bosom with angry hands.

"Carnac--poor Carnac!" she exclaimed.

What would the world say?  There were those, perhaps, who thought Carnac
almost a ne'er-do-well, but they were of the commercial world where John
Grier had been supreme.

At the same moment, Carnac in the garden of his old home beheld the river
too and the great expanse of country, saw the grey light of evening on
the distant hills, and listened to Fabian who condoled with him.  When
Fabian had gone, Carnac sat down on a bench and thought over the whole
thing.  Carnac had no quarrel with his fate.  When in the old home on the
hill he had heard the will, it had surprised him, but it had not shocked
him.  He had looked to be the discarded heir, and he knew it now without
rebellion.  He had never tried to smooth the path to that financial
security which his father could give.  Yet now that disaster had come,
there was a glimmer of remorse, of revolt, because there was some one
besides himself who might think he had thrown away his chances.  He did
not know that over on the mountain-side, vituperating the memory of the
dead man, Junia was angry only for Carnac's sake.

With the black storm of sudden death roaring in his ears, he had a sense
of freedom, almost of licence.  Nothing that had been his father's was
now his own, or his mother's, except the land and house on which they
were.  All the great business John Grier had built up was gone into the
hands of the usurper, a young, bold, pestilent, powerful, vigorous man.
It seemed suddenly horrible that the timber-yards and the woods and the
offices, and the buildings of John Grier's commercial business were not
under his own direction, or that of his mother, or brother.  They had
ceased to be factors in the equation; they were 'non est' in the
postmortem history of John Grier.  How immense a nerve the old man had to
make such a will, which outraged every convention of social and family
life; which was, in effect, a proclamation that his son Carnac had no
place in John Grier's scheme of things, while John Grier's wife was
rewarded like some faithful old servant.  Yet some newspapers had said he
was a man of goodwill, and had appreciation of talent, adding, however,
the doubtful suggestion that the appreciation stopped short of the
prowess of his son Carnac in the field of Art.  It was evident John
Grier's act was thought by the conventionalist to be a wicked blunder.

As Carnac saw the world where there was not a single material thing that
belonged to him, he had a sudden conviction that his life would run in
other lines than those within which it had been drawn to the present
time.  Looking over this wonderful prospect of the St. Lawrence, he had
an insistent feeling that he ought to remain in the land where he was
born, and give of whatever he was capable to its life.  It was all a
strenuous problem.  For Carnac there was, duly or unduly, fairly or
unfairly, a fate better than that of John Grier.  If he died suddenly,
as his father had died, a handful of people would sorrow with excess of
feeling, and the growing world of his patrons would lament his loss.
No one really grieved for John Grier's departure, except--strange to say
--Tarboe.





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