By Gilbert Parker
BOOK I I. IN THE DAYS OF CHILDHOOD II. ELEVEN YEARS PASS III. CARNAC'S RETURN IV. THE HOUSE ON THE HILL V. CARNAC AS MANAGER VI. LUKE TARBOE HAS AN OFFER VII. "AT OUR PRICE" VIII. JOHN GRIER MAKES ANOTHER OFFER IX. THE PUZZLE X. DENZIL TELLS HIS STORY XI. CARNAC'S TALK WITH HIS MOTHER XII. CARNAC SAYS GOOD-BYE
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
BOOK III XVIII. A GREAT DECISION XIX. CARNAC BECOMES A CANDIDATE XX. JUNIA AND TARBOE HEAR THE NEWS XXI. THE SECRET MEETING XXII. POINT TO POINT XXIII. THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT XXIV. THE BLUE PAPER XXV. DENZIL TAKES A HAND IN THE GAME XXVI. THE CHALLENGE XXVII. EXIT XXVIII. A WOMAN WRITES A LETTER XXIX. CARNAC AND HIS MOTHER XXX. TARBOE HAS A DREAM XXXI. THIS WAY HOME XXXII. 'HALVES, PARDNER, HALVES'
IN THE DAYS OF CHILDHOOD
"Carnac! Carnac! Come and catch me, Carnac!" It was a day of perfect summer and hope and happiness in the sweet, wild world behind the near woods and the far circle of sky and pine and hemlock. The voice that called was young and vibrant, and had in it the simple, true soul of things. It had the clearness of a bugle-call-ample and full of life and all life's possibilities. It laughed; it challenged; it decoyed.
Carnac heard the summons and did his best to catch the girl in the wood by the tumbling stream, where he had for many an hour emptied out his wayward heart; where he had seen his father's logs and timbers caught in jams, hunched up on rocky ledges, held by the prong of a rock, where man's purpose could, apparently, avail so little. Then he had watched the black-bearded river-drivers with their pike-poles and their levers loose the key-logs of the bunch, and the tumbling citizens of the woods and streams toss away down the current to the wider waters below. He was only a lad of fourteen, and the girl was only eight, but she—Junia—was as spry and graceful a being as ever woke the echoes of a forest.
He was only fourteen, but already he had visions and dreamed dreams. His father—John Grier—was the great lumber-king of Canada, and Junia was the child of a lawyer who had done little with his life, but had had great joy of his two daughters, who were dear to him beyond telling.
Carnac was one of Nature's freaks or accidents. He was physically strong and daring, but, as a boy, mentally he lacked concentration and decision, though very clever. He was led from thing to thing like a ray of errant light, and he did not put a hand on himself, as old Denzil, the partly deformed servant of Junia's home, said of him on occasion; and Denzil was a man of parts.
Denzil was not far from the two when Junia made her appeal and challenge. He loved the girl exceedingly, and he loved Carnac little less, though in a different way. Denzil was French of the French, with habit of mind and character wholly his own.
Denzil's head was squat upon his shoulders, and his long, handsome body was also squat, because his legs were as short, proportionately, as his mind was long. His face was covered by a well-cared-for beard of dark brown, streaked with grey; his features were rugged and fine; and his eyes were like two coals burning under a gnarled headland; for his forehead, ample and full, had lines which were not lines of age, but of concentration. In his motions he was quiet and free, yet always there was a kind of stealthiness in his movements, which made him seem less frank than he really was.
For a time, with salient sympathy in his eyes, he watched the two children playing. The whisking of their forms among the trees and over the rocks was fine, gracious, and full of life-life without alarm. At length he saw the girl falter slightly, then make a swift deceptive movement to avoid the boy who pursued her. The movement did not delude the boy. He had quickness of anticipation. An instant later the girl was in his arms.
As Denzil gazed, it seemed she was in his arms too long, and a sudden anxiety took hold of him. That anxiety was deepened when he saw the boy kiss the girl on the cheek. This act seemed to discompose the girl, but not enough to make drama out of an innocent, yet sensuous thing. The boy had meant nothing more than he had shown, and Denzil traced the act to a native sense of luxury in his nature. Knowing the boy's father and mother as he did, it seemed strange that Carnac should have such demonstration in his character. Of all the women he knew, Carnac's mother was the most exact and careful, though now and again he thought of her as being shrouded, or apart; while the boy's father, the great lumber-king, cantankerous, passionate, perspicuous, seemed to have but one passion, and that was his business.
It was strange to Denzil that the lumber-king, short, thin, careless in his clothes but singularly clean in his person, should have a son so little like himself, and also so little like his mother. He, Denzil, was a Catholic, and he could not understand a man like John Grier who, being a member of the Episcopal Church, so seldom went to service and so defied rules of conduct suitable to his place in the world.
As for the girl, to him she was the seventh wonder of the earth. Wantonly alive, dexterously alert to all that came her way, sportive, indifferent, joyous, she had all the boy's sprightliness, but none of his weaknesses. She was a born tease; she loved bright and beautiful things; she was a keen judge of human nature, and she had buoyant spirits, which, however, were counterbalanced by moments of extreme timidity, or, rather, reserve and shyness. On a day like this, when everything in life was singing, she must sing too. Not a mile away was a hut by the river where her father had brought his family for the summer's fishing; not a half- mile away was a tent which Carnac Grier's father had set up as he passed northward on his tour of inspection. This particular river, and this particular part of the river, were trying to the river-man and his clans. It needed a dam, and the great lumber-king was planning to make one not three hundred yards from where they were.
The boy and the girl resting idly upon a great warm rock had their own business to consider. The boy kept looking at his boots with the brass- tipped toes. He hated them. The girl was quick to understand. "Why don't you like your boots?" she asked.
A whimsical, exasperated look came into his face. "I don't know why they brass a boy's toes like that, but when I marry I won't wear them—that's all," he replied.
"Why do you wear them now?" she asked, smiling.
"You don't know my father."
"He's got plenty of money, hasn't he?" she urged. "Plenty; and that's what I can't understand about him! There's a lot of waste in river- driving, timber-making, out in the shanties and on the river, but he don't seem to mind that. He's got fads, though, about how we are to live, and this is one of them." He looked at the brass-tipped boots carefully. A sudden resolve came into his face. He turned to the girl and flushed as he spoke. "Look here," he added, "this is the last day I'm going to wear these boots. He's got to buy me a pair without any brass clips on them, or I'll kick."
"No, it isn't the last day you're going to wear them, Carnac."
"It is. I wonder if all boys feel towards their father as I do to mine. He don't treat me right. He—"
"Oh, look," interrupted Junia. "Look-Carnac!" She pointed in dismay.
Carnac saw a portion of the bank of the river disappear with Denzil. He ran over to the bank and looked down. In another moment he had made his way to a descending path which led him swiftly to the river's edge. The girl remained at the top. The boy had said to her: "You stay there. I'll tell you what to do."
"Is-is he killed?" she called with emotion.
"Killed! No. He's all right," he called back to her. "I can see him move. Don't be frightened. He's not in the water. It was only about a thirty-foot fall. You stay there, and I'll tell you what to do," he added.
A few moments later, the boy called up: "He's all right, but his leg is broken. You go to my father's camp—it's near. People are sure to be there, and maybe father too. You bring them along."
In an instant the girl was gone. The boy, left behind, busied himself in relieving the deformed broken-legged habitant. He brought some water in his straw hat to refresh him. He removed the rocks and dirt, and dragged the little man out.
"It was a close call—bien sur," said Denzil, breathing hard. "I always said that place wasn't safe, but I went on it myself. That's the way in life. We do what we forbid ourselves to do; we suffer the shames we damn in others—but yes."
There was a pause, then he added: "That's what you'll do in your life, M'sieu' Carnac. That's what you'll do."
"Well, you never can tell—but no."
"But you always can tell," remarked the boy. "The thing is, do what you feel you've got to do, and never mind what happens."
"I wish I could walk," remarked the little man, "but this leg of mine is broke—ah, bah, it is!"
"Yes, you mustn't try to walk. Be still," answered the boy. "They'll be here soon." Slowly and carefully he took off the boot and sock from the broken leg, and, with his penknife, opened the seam of the corduroy trouser. "I believe I could set that leg myself," he added.
"I think you could—bagosh," answered Denzil heavily. "They'll bring a rope to haul me up?"
"Junia has a lot of sense, she won't forget anything."
"And if your father's there, he'll not forget anything," remarked Denzil.
"He'll forget to make me wear these boots tomorrow," said the boy stubbornly, his chin in his hands, his eyes fixed gloomily on the brass- headed toes.
There was a long silence. At last from the stricken Denzil came the words: "You'll have your own way about the boots."
Carnac murmured, and presently said:
"Lucky you fell where you did. Otherwise, you'd have been in the water, and then I couldn't have been of any use."
"I hear them coming—holy, yes!"
Carnac strained his ears. "Yes, you're right. I hear them too."
A few moments later, Carnac's father came sliding down the bank, a rope in his hands, some workmen remaining above.
"What's the matter here?" he asked. "A fall, eh! Dang little fool— now, you are a dang little fool, and you know it, Denzil."
He nodded to his boy, then he raised the wounded man's head and shoulders, and slipped the noose over until it caught under his arms.
The old lumber-king's movements were swift, sure and exact. A moment later he lifted Denzil in his arms, and carried him over to the steep path up which he was presently dragged.
At the top, Denzil turned to Carnac's father. "M'sieu', Carnac hates wearing those brass-toed boots," he said boldly.
The lumber-king looked at his boy acutely. He blew his nose hard, with a bandana handkerchief. Then he nodded towards the boy.
"He can suit himself about that," he said.
With accomplished deftness, with some sacking and two poles, a hasty but comfortable ambulance was made under the skilful direction of the river- master. He had the gift of outdoor life. He did not speak as he worked, but kept humming to himself.
"That's all right," he said, as he saw Denzil on the stretcher. "We'll get on home now."
"Home?" asked his son.
"Yes, Montreal—to-night," replied his father. "The leg has to be set."
"Why don't you set it?" asked the boy.
The river-master gazed at him attentively. "Well, I might, with your help," he said. "Come along."
ELEVEN YEARS PASS
Eleven years had passed since Denzil's fall, and in that time much history had been made. Carnac Grier, true to his nature, had travelled from incident to incident, from capacity to capacity, apparently without system, yet actually with the keenest desire to fulfil himself; with an honesty as inveterate as his looks were good and his character filled with dark recesses. In vain had his father endeavoured to induce him to enter the lumber business; to him it seemed too conventional and fixed.
Yet, in his way, he knew the business well. By instinct, over the twenty-five years of his life, he had observed and become familiar with the main features of the work. He had once or twice even buried himself in the shanties of the backwoods, there to inhale and repulse the fetid air, to endure the untoward, half-savage life, the clean, strong food, the bitter animosities and the savage friendships. It was a land where sunshine travelled, and in the sun the bright, tuneful birds made lively the responsive world. Sometimes an eagle swooped down the stream; again and again, hawks, and flocks of pigeons which frequented the lonely groves on the river-side, made vocal the world of air; flocks of wild ducks, or geese, went whirring down the long spaces of water between the trees on either bank; and some one with a fiddle or a concertina made musical the evening, while the singing voices of rough habitants rang through the air.
It was all spirited; it smelt good; it felt good; but it was not for Carnac. When he had a revolt against anything in life, the grim storm scenes of winter in the shanties under the trees and the snow-swept hills came to his mind's eye. The summer life of the river, and what is called "running the river," had for him great charms. The smell of hundreds of thousands of logs in the river, the crushed bark, the slimy ooze were all suggestive of life in the making. But the savage seclusion of the wild life in winter repelled his senses. Besides, the lumber business meant endless figures and measurements in stuffy offices and he retreated from it all.
He had an artistic bent. From a small child he had had it, and it grew with his years. He wanted to paint, and he painted; he wanted to sculp in clay, and he sculped in clay; but all the time he was conscious it was the things he had seen and the life he had lived which made his painting and his sculpture worth while. It was absurd that a man of his great outdoor capacity should be the slave of a temperamental quality, and yet it was so. It was no good for his father to condemn, or his mother to mourn, he went his own way.
He had seen much of Junia Shale in these years and had grown fond of her, but she was away much with an aunt in the West, and she was sent to boarding-school, and they saw each other only at intervals. She liked him and showed it, but he was not ready to go farther. As yet his art was everything to him, and he did not think of marriage. He was care- free. He had a little money of his own, left by an uncle of his mother, and he had also an allowance from his mother—none from his father—and he was satisfied with life.
His brother, Fabian, being the elder, by five years, had gone into his father's business as a partner, and had remained there. Fabian had at last married an elder sister of Junia Shale and settled down in a house on the hill, and the lumber-king, John Grier, went on building up his splendid business.
At last, Carnac, feeling he was making small headway with his painting, determined to go again to New York and Paris. He had already spent a year in each place and it had benefited him greatly. So, with that sudden decision which marked his life, he started for New York. It was immediately after the New Year and the ground was covered with snow. He looked out of the window of the train, and there was only the long line of white country broken by the leafless trees and rail-fences and the mansard-roofs and low cottages with their stoops, built up with earth to keep them warm; and the sheds full of cattle; and here and there a sawmill going hard, and factories pounding away and men in fur coats driving the small Indian ponies; and the sharp calls of the men with the sleigh bringing wood, or meat, or vegetables to market. He was by nature a queer compound of Radical and Conservative, a victim of vision and temperament. He was full of pride, yet fuller of humility of a real kind. As he left Montreal he thought of Junia Shale, and he recalled the day eleven years before when he had worn brass-toed boots, and he had caught Junia in his arms and kissed her, and Denzil had had his accident. Denzil had got unreasonably old since then; but Junia remained as she was the joyous day when boyhood took on the first dreams of manhood.
Life was a queer thing, and he had not yet got his bearings in it. He had a desire to reform the world and he wanted to be a great painter or sculptor, or both; and he entered New York with a new sense developed. He was keen to see, to do, and to feel. He wanted to make the world ring with his name and fame, yet he wanted to do the world good also, if he could. It was a curious state of mind for the English boy, who talked French like a native and loved French literature and the French people, and was angry with those English-Canadians who were so selfish they would never learn French.
Arrived in New York he took lodgings near old Washington Square, where there were a few studios near the Bohemian restaurants and a life as nearly continental as was possible in a new country. He got in touch with a few artists and began to paint, doing little scenes in the Bowery and of the night-life of New York, and visiting the Hudson River and Long Island for landscape and seascape sketches.
One day he was going down Broadway, and near Union Square he saved a girl from being killed by a street-car. She had slipped and fallen on the track and a car was coming. It was impossible for her to get away in time, and Carnac had sprung to her and got her free. She staggered to her feet, and he saw she was beautiful and foreign. He spoke to her in French and her eyes lighted, for she was French. She told him at once that her name was Luzanne Larue. He offered to get a cab and take her home, but she said no, she was fit to walk, so he went with her slowly to her home in one of the poor streets on the East side. They talked as they went, and Carnac saw she was of the lower middle-class, with more refinement than was common in that class, and more charm. She was a fascinating girl with fine black eyes, black hair, a complexion of cream, and a gift of the tongue. Carnac could not see that she was very subtle. She seemed a marvel of guilelessness. She had a wonderful head and neck, and as he was planning a picture of an early female martyr, he decided to ask her to sit to him.
Arrived at her humble home, he was asked to enter, and there he met her father, Isel Larue, a French monarchist who had been exiled from Paris for plotting against the Government. He was handsome with snapping black eyes, a cruel mouth and a droll and humorous tongue. He was grateful to Carnac for saving his daughter's life. Coffee and cigarettes were produced, and they chatted and smoked while Carnac took in the surroundings. Everything was plain, but spotlessly clean, and he learned that Larue made his living by doing odd jobs in an electric firm. He was just home from his work. Luzanne was employed every afternoon in a milliner's shop, but her evenings were free after the housework was done at nine o'clock. Carnac in a burst of enthusiasm asked if she would sit to him as a model in the mornings. Her father instantly said, of course she would.
This she did for many days, and sat with her hair down and bared neck, as handsome and modest as a female martyr should. Carnac painted her with skill. Sometimes he would walk with her to lunch and make her eat something sustaining, and they talked freely then, though little was said while he was painting her. At last one day the painting was finished, and she looked up at him wistfully when he told her he would not need another sitting. Carnac, overcome by her sadness, put his arms round her and kissed her mouth, her eyes, her neck ravenously. She made only a slight show of resistance. When he stopped she said: "Is that the way you keep your word to my father? I am here alone and you embrace me— is that fair?"
"No, it isn't, and I promise I won't do it again, Luzanne. I am sorry. I wanted our friendship to benefit us both, and now I've spoiled it all."
"No, you haven't spoiled it all," said Luzanne with a sigh, and she buttoned up the neck of her blouse, flushing slightly as she did so. Her breast heaved and suddenly she burst into tears. It was evident she wanted Carnac to comfort her, perhaps to kiss her again, but he did not do so. He only stood over her, murmuring penance and asking her to forget it.
"I can't forget it—I can't. No man but my father has ever kissed me before. It makes me, oh! so miserable!" but she smiled through her tears. Suddenly she dried her eyes. "Once a man tried to kiss me—and something more. He was rich and he'd put money into Madame Margot's millinery business. He was brilliant, and married, but he had no rules for his morals—all he wanted was money and pleasures which he bought. I was attracted by him, but one day he tried to kiss me. I slapped his face, and then I hated him. So, when you kissed me to-day, I thought of that, and it made me unhappy—but yes."
"You did not slap my face, Luzanne?"
She blushed and hung her head. "No, I did not; you are not a bad man. He would have spoiled my life. He made it clear I could have all the luxuries money could buy—all except marriage!" She shrugged her shoulders.
Carnac was of an impressionable nature, but brought to face the possibility of marriage with Luzanne, he shrank. If ever he married it would be a girl like Junia Shale, beautiful, modest, clever and well educated. No, Luzanne could never be for him. So he forbore doing more than ask her to forgive him, and he would take her to lunch-the last lunch of the picture-if she would. With features in chagrin, she put on her hat, yet when she turned to him, she was smiling.
He visited her home occasionally, and Luzanne's father had a friend, Ingot by name, who was sometimes present. This man made himself almost unbearable at first; but Luzanne pulled Ingot up acridly, and he presently behaved well. Ingot disliked all men in better positions than himself, and was a revolutionary of the worst sort—a revolutionary and monarchist. He was only a monarchist because he loved conspiracy and hated the Republican rulers who had imprisoned him—"those bombastics," he called them. It was a constitutional quarrel with the world. However, he became tractable, and then he and Larue formed a plot to make Carnac marry Luzanne. It was hatched by Ingot, approved by Larue, and at length consented to by the girl, for so far as she could love anyone, she loved Carnac; and she made up her mind that if he married her, no matter how, she would make him so happy he would forgive all.
About four months after the incident in the studio, a picnic was arranged for the Hudson River. Only the four went. Carnac had just sold a picture at a good price—his Christian Martyr picture—and he was in high spirits. They arrived at the spot arranged for the picnic in time for lunch, and Luzanne prepared it. When the lunch was ready, they sat down. There was much gay talk, compliments to Carnac came from both Larue and Ingot, and Carnac was excited and buoyant. He drank much wine and beer, and told amusing stories of the French-Canadians which delighted them all. He had a gift of mimicry and he let himself go.
"You got a pretty fine tongue in your head—but of the best," said Ingot with a burst of applause. "You'd make a good actor, a holy good actor. You got a way with you. Coquelin, Salvini, Bernhardt! Voila, you're just as good! Bagosh, I'd like to see you on the stage."
"So would I," said Larue. "I think you could play a house full in no time and make much cash—I think you could. Don't you think so, Luzanne?"
Luzanne laughed. "He can act very first-class, I'm sure," she said, and she turned and looked Carnac in the eyes. She was excited, she was handsome, she was slim and graceful, and Carnac felt towards her as he did the day at the studio, as though he'd like to kiss her. He knew it was not real, but it was the man in him and the sex in her.
For an hour and a half the lunch went on, all growing gayer, and then at last Ingot said: "Well, I'm going to have a play now here, and Carnac Grier shall act, and we all shall act. We're going to have a wedding ceremony between M'sieu' Grier and Luzanne—but, hush, why not!" he added, when Luzanne shook her finger at him, and said she'd do nothing of the kind, having, however, agreed to it beforehand. "Why not! There's nothing in it. They'll both be married some day and it will be good practice for them. They can learn now how to do it. It's got to be done—but yes. I'll find a Judge in the village. Come now, hands up, those that will do it."
With a loud laugh Larue held up his hand, Carnac, who was half-drunk, did the same, and after a little hesitation Luzanne also.
"Good—a gay little comedy, that's what it is. I'm off for the Judge," and away went Ingot hard afoot, having already engaged a Judge, called Grimshaw, in the village near to perform the ceremony. When he had gone, Larue went off to smoke and Luzanne and Carnac cleared up the lunch- things and put all away in the baskets. When it was finished, Carnac and Luzanne sat down under a tree and talked cheerfully, and Luzanne was never so effective as she was that day. They laughed over the mock ceremony to be performed.
"I'm a Catholic, you know," said Luzanne, "and it isn't legal in my church with no dispensation to be married to a Protestant like you. But as it is, what does it matter!"
"Well, that's true," said Carnac. "I suppose I ought to be acting the lover now; I ought to be kissing you, oughtn't I?"
"As an actor, yes, but as a man, better not unless others are present. Wait till the others come. Wait for witnesses, so that it can look like the real thing.
"See, there they come now." She pointed, and in the near distance Ingot could be seen approaching with a short, clean-shaven, roly-poly sort of man who did not look legal, but was a real magistrate. He came waddling along in good spirits and rather pompously. At that moment Larue appeared. Presently Ingot presented the Judge to the would—be bride and bridegroom. "You wish to be married-you are Mr. Grier?" said Judge Grimshaw.
"That's me and I'm ready," said Carnac. "Get on with the show. What's the first thing?"
"Well, the regular thing is to sign some forms, stating age, residence, etc., and here they are all ready. Brought 'em along with me. Most unusual form of ceremony, but it'll do. It's all right. Here are the papers to sign."
Carnac hastily scratched in the needed information, and Luzanne doing the same, the magistrate pocketed the papers.
"Now we can perform the ceremony," said the Judge. "Mr. Larue, you go down there with the young lady and bring her up in form, and Mr. Carnac Grier waits here."
Larue went away with Luzanne, and presently turned, and she, with her arm in his, came forward. Carnac stood waiting with a smile on his face, for it seemed good acting. When Luzanne came, her father handed her over, and the marriage ceremony proceeded. Presently it concluded, and Grimshaw, who had had more drink than was good for him, wound up the ceremony with the words: "And may the Lord have mercy on you!"
Every one laughed, Carnac kissed the bride, and the Judge handed her the marriage certificate duly signed. It was now Carnac's duty to pay in the usual way for the ceremony, and he handed the Judge ten dollars; and Grimshaw rolled away towards the village, Ingot having also given him ten.
"That's as good a piece of acting as I've ever seen," said Larue with a grin. "It beats Coquelin and Henry Irving."
"I didn't think there was much in it," said Carnac, laughing, "though it was real enough to cost me ten dollars. One has to pay for one's fun. But I got a wife cheap at the price, and I didn't pay for the wedding ring."
"No, the ring was mine," said Larue. "I had it a long time. It was my engagement ring, and I want it back now."
Luzanne took it off her finger—it was much too large—and gave it to him. "It's easy enough to get another," she said in a queer voice.
"You did the thing in style, young man," said Ingot to Carnac with a nod.
"I'll do it better when it's the real thing," said Carnac. "I've had my rehearsal now, and it seemed almost real."
"It was almost real," said Ingot, with his head turned away from Carnac, but he winked at Larue and caught a furtive look from Luzanne's eye.
"I think we'd better have another hour hereabouts, then get back to New York," said Larue. "There's a circus in the village—let us go to that."
At the village, they did the circus, called out praise to the clown, gave the elephant some buns, and at five o'clock started back to New York. Arrived at New York, they went to a hotel off Broadway for dinner, and Carnac signed names in the hotel register as "Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier." When he did it, he saw a furtive glance pass from Luzanne's eyes to her father. It was disconcerting to him. Presently the two adjourned to the sitting-room, and there he saw that the table was only laid for two. That opened his eyes. The men had disappeared and he and Luzanne were alone. She was sitting on a sofa near the table, showing to good advantage. She was composed, while Carnac was embarrassed. Carnac began to take a grip on himself.
The waiter entered. "When shall I serve dinner, sir?" he said.
Carnac realized that the dinner had been ordered by the two men, and he said quietly: "Don't serve it for a half-hour yet—not till I ring, please. Make it ready then. There's no hurry. It's early."
The waiter bowed and withdrew with a smile, and Carnac turned to Luzanne. She smiled, got up, came over, laid a hand on his arm, and said: "It's quiet and nice here, Carnac dear," and she looked up ravishingly in his face.
"It's too quiet and it's not at all nice," he suddenly replied. "Your father and Ingot have gone. They've left us alone on purpose. This is a dirty game and I'm not going to play it any longer. I've had enough of it. I've had my fill. I'm going now. Come, let's go together."
She looked a bit smashed and overdone. "The dinner!" she said in confusion.
"I'll pay for that. We won't wait any longer. Come on at once, please."
She put on her things coolly, and he noticed a savage stealthiness as she pushed the long pins through her hat and hair. He left the room. Outside the hotel, Carnac held out his hand.
"Good night and good-bye, Luzanne," he said huskily. "You can get home alone, can't you?"
She laughed a little, then she said: "I guess so. I've lived in New York some years. But you and I are married, Carnac, and you ought to take me to your home."
There was something devilish in her smile now. Then the whole truth burst upon Carnac. "Married—married! When did I marry you? Good God!" "You married me this afternoon after lunch at Shipton. I have the certificate and I mean to hold you to it."
"You mean to hold me to it—a real marriage to-day at Shipton! You and your father and Ingot tricked me into this."
"He was a real Judge, and it was a real marriage."
"It is a fraud, and I'll unmask it," Carnac declared in anger.
"It would be difficult to prove. You signed our names in the hotel register as Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier. I mean to stick to that name— Mrs. Carnac Grier. I'll make you a good wife, Carnac—do believe it.
"I'll believe nothing but the worst of you ever. I'll fight the thing out, by God!"
She shook her head and smiled. "I meant you to marry me, when you saved my life from the streetcar. I never saw but one man I wanted to marry, and you are that man, Carnac. You wouldn't ask me, so I made you marry me. You could go farther and fare worse. Come, take me home—take me home, my love. I want you to love me."
"You little devil!" Carnac declared. "I'd rather cut my own throat. I'm going to have a divorce. I'm going to teach you and the others a lesson you won't forget."
"There isn't a jury in the United States you could convince after what you've done. You've made it impossible. Go to Judge Grimshaw and see what he will say. Go and ask the hotel people and see what they will say. You're my husband, and I mean you shall live with me, and I'll love you better than any woman on earth can love you. . . . Won't you?" She held out her hand.
With an angry exclamation, Carnac refused it, and then she suddenly turned on her heel, slipped round a corner and was gone.
Carnac was dumbfounded. He did not know what to do. He went dazedly home, and slept little that night. The next day he went out to Shipton and saw Judge Grimshaw and told him the whole tale. The Judge shook his head.
"It's too tall a story. Why, you went through the ceremony as if it was the real thing, signed the papers, paid my fee, and kissed the bride. You could not get a divorce on such evidence. I'm sorry for you, if you don't want the girl. She's very nice, and 'd make a good wife. What does she mean to do?"
"I don't know. She left me in the street and went back to her home. I won't live with her."
"I can't help you anyhow. She has the certificate. You are validly married. If I were you, I'd let the matter stand."
So they parted, and Carnac sullenly went back to his apartments. The next day he went to see a lawyer, however. The lawyer opened his eyes at the story. He had never heard anything like it.
"It doesn't sound as if you were sober when you did it. Were you, sir? It was a mad prank, anyhow!"
"I had been drinking, but I wasn't drunk. I'd been telling them stories and they used them as a means of tempting me to act in the absurd marriage ceremony. Like a fool I consented. Like a fool—but I wasn't drunk."
"No, but when you were in your right mind and sober you signed your names as Mr. and Mrs. Carnac Grier in the register of a hotel. I will try to win your case for you, but it won't be easy work. You see the Judge himself told you the same thing. But it would be a triumph to expose a thing of that kind, and I'd like to do it. It wouldn't be cheap, though. You'd have to foot the bill. Are you rich?"
"No, but my people are," said Carnac. "I could manage the cash, but suppose I lost!"
"Well, you'd have to support the woman. She could sue you for cruelty and desertion, and the damages would be heavy."
Carnac shook his head, paid his fee and left the office.
He did not go near Luzanne. After a month he went to Paris for eight months, and then back to Montreal.
Arrived in Montreal, there were attempts by Carnac to settle down to ordinary life of quiet work at his art, but it was not effective, nor had it been in Paris, though the excitement of working in the great centre had stimulated him. He ever kept saying to himself, "Carnac, you are a married man—a married man, by the tricks of rogues!" In Paris, he could more easily obscure it, but in Montreal, a few hundred miles from the place of his tragedy, pessimism seized him. He now repented he did not fight it out at once. It would have been courageous and perhaps successful. But whether successful or not, he would have put himself right with his own conscience. That was the chief thing. He was straightforward, and back again in Canada, Carnac flung reproaches at himself.
He knew himself now to be in love with Junia Shale, and because he was married he could not approach her. It galled him. He was not fond of Fabian, for they had little in common, and he had no intimate friends. Only his mother was always sympathetic to him, and he loved her. He saw much of her, but little of anyone else. He belonged to no clubs, and there were few artists in Montreal. So he lived his own life, and when he met Junia he cavilled at himself for his madness with Luzanne. The curious thing was he had not had a word from her since the day of the mock marriage. Perhaps she had decided to abandon the thing! But that could do no good, for there was the marriage recorded in the registers of New York State.
Meanwhile, things were not going well with others. There befell a day when matters came to a crisis in the Grier family. Since Fabian's marriage with Junia Shale's sister, Sybil, he had become discontented with his position in his father's firm. There was little love between him and his father, and that was chiefly the father's fault. One day, the old man stormed at Fabian because of a mistake in the management, and was foolish enough to say that Fabian had lost his grip since his marriage.
Fabian, enraged, demanded freedom from the partnership, and offered to sell his share. In a fit of anger, the old man offered him what was at least ten per cent more than the value of Fabian's share. The sombre Fabian had the offer transferred to paper at once, and it was signed by his father—not without compunction, because difficult as Fabian was he might go further and fare worse. As for Fabian's dark-haired, brown- faced, brown-eyed wife, to John Grier's mind, it seemed a good thing to be rid of her.
When Fabian left the father alone in his office, however, the stark temper of the old man broke down. He had had enough. He muttered to himself. Presently he was roused by a little knock at the door. It was Junia, brilliant, buoyant, yellow haired, with bright brown eyes, tingling cheeks, and white laughing teeth that showed against her red lips. She held up a finger at him.
"I know what you've done, and it's no good at all. You can't live without us, and you mustn't," she said. The old man glowered still, but a reflective smile crawled to his lips. "No, it's finished," he replied.
"It had to come, and it's done. It can't be changed. Fabian wouldn't alter it, and I shan't."
His face was stern and dour. He tangled his short fingers in the hair on top of his head.
"I wouldn't say that, if I were you," she responded cheerily. "Fabian showed me the sum you offered for his share. It's ridiculous. The business isn't worth it."
"What do you know about the business?" remarked the other.
"Well, whatever it was worth an hour ago, it's worth less now," she answered with suggestion. "It's worth much less now," she added.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked sharply, sitting upright, his hands clasping his knees almost violently, his clean-shaven face showing lines of trouble.
"I mean he's going to join the enemy," she answered quickly.
"Join the enemy!" broke from the old man's lips with a startled accent.
"Yes, the firm of Belloc."
The old man did not speak, but a curious whiteness stole over his face. "What makes you say that!" he exclaimed, anger in his eyes.
"Well, Fabian has to put money into something," she answered, "and the only business he knows is lumber business. Don't you think it's natural he should go to Belloc?"
"Did he ever say so?" asked the old man with savage sullenness. "Tell me. Did he ever say so?"
The girl shook back her brave head with a laugh. "Of course he never said so, but I know the way he'll go."
The old man shook his head. "I don't believe it. He's got no love for Belloc."
The girl felt like saying, "He's got no love for you," but she refrained. She knew that Fabian had love for his father, but he had inherited a love for business, and that would overwhelm all other feelings. She therefore said: "Why don't you get Carnac to come in? He's got more sense than Fabian—and he isn't married!"
She spoke boldly, for she knew the character of the man. She was only nineteen. She had always come in and gone out of Grier's house and office freely and much more since her sister had married Fabian.
A storm gathered between the old man's eyes; his brow knitted. "Carnac's got brains enough, but he goes monkeying about with pictures and statues till he's worth naught in the business of life."
"I don't think you understand him," the girl replied. "I've been trying to understand him for twenty-five years," the other said malevolently. "He might have been a big man. He might have bossed this business when I'm gone. It's in him, but he's a fly-away—he's got no sense. The ideas he's got make me sick. He talks like a damn fool sometimes."
"But if he's a 'damn fool'—is it strange?" She gaily tossed a kiss at the king of the lumber world. "The difference between you and him is this: he doesn't care about the things of this world, and you do; but he's one of the ablest men in Canada. If Fabian won't come back, why not Carnac?"
"We've never hit it off."
Suddenly he stood up, his face flushed, his hands outthrust themselves in rage, his fingers opened and shut in abandonment of temper.
"Why have I two such sons!" he exclaimed. "I've not been bad. I've squeezed a few; I've struck here and there; I've mauled my enemies, but I've been good to my own. Why can't I run square with my own family?" He was purple to the roots of his hair.
Savagery possessed him. Life was testing him to the nth degree. "I've been a good father, and a good husband! Why am I treated like this?"
She watched him silently. Presently, however, the storm seemed to pass. He appeared to gain control of himself.
"You want me to have in Carnac?" he asked, with a little fleck of foam at the corners of his mouth.
"If you could have Fabian back," she remarked, "but you can't! It's been coming for a long time. He's got your I.O.U. and he won't return; but Carnac's got plenty of stuff in him. He never was afraid of anything or anybody, and if he took a notion, he could do this business as well as yourself by and by. It's all a chance, but if he comes in he'll put everything else aside."
"Where is he?" the old man asked. "He's with his mother at your home."
The old man took his hat from the window-sill. At that moment a clerk appeared with some papers. "What have you got there?" asked Grier sharply. "The Belloc account for the trouble on the river," answered the clerk.
"Give it me," Grier said, and he waved the clerk away. Then he glanced at the account, and a grim smile passed over his face. "They can't have all they want, and they won't get it. Are you coming with me?" he asked of the girl, with a set look in his eyes. "No. I'm going back to my sister," she answered.
"If he leaves me—if he joins Belloc!" the old man muttered, and again his face flushed.
A few moments afterwards the girl watched him till he disappeared up the hill.
"I don't believe Carnac will do it," she said to herself. "He's got the sense, the brains, and the energy; but he won't do it."
She heard a voice behind her, and turned. It was the deformed but potent Denzil. He was greyer now. His head, a little to one side, seemed sunk in his square shoulders, but his eyes were bright.
"It's all a bad scrape—that about Fabian Grier," he said. "You can't ever tell about such things, how they'll go—but no, bagosh!"
THE HOUSE ON THE HILL
John Grier's house had a porch with Corinthian pillars. Its elevation was noble, but it was rather crudely built, and it needed its grove of maples to make it pleasant to the eye. It was large but not too ample, and it had certain rooms with distinct character.
Inside the house, John Grier paused a moment before the door of the sitting-room where his wife usually sat. All was silent. He opened the door. A woman rose to meet him. She was dressed in black. Her dark hair, slightly streaked with grey, gave her distinction. Her eyes had soft understanding; her lips had a reflective smile. There was, however, uneasiness in her face; her fingers slightly trembled on the linen she was holding.
"You're home early, John," she said in a gentle, reserved voice.
He twisted a shoulder. "Yes, I'm home early," he snapped. "Your boy Fabian has left the business, and I've bought his share." He named the sum. "Ghastly, ain't it? But he's gone, and there's no more about it. It's a bad thing to marry a woman that can't play fair."
He noted the excessive paleness of his wife's face; the bright eyes stared and stared, and the lips trembled. "Fabian—Fabian gone!" she said brokenly.
"Yes, and he ain't coming back."
"What's he going to do?" she asked in a bitter voice.
"Join Belloc—fight his own father—try to do me in the race," growled the old man.
"Who told you that?" "Junia, she told me."
"What does she know about it? Who told her that?" asked the woman with faded lips.
"She always had sense, that child. I wish she was a man."
He suddenly ground his heel, and there was distemper in face and voice; his shoulders hunched; his hands were thrust down in his pockets. He wheeled on her. "Where's your other boy? Where's Carnac?"
The woman pointed to the lawn. "He's catching a bit of the city from the hill just beyond the pear-tree."
"Painting, eh? I heard he was here. I want to talk to him."
"I don't think it will do any good," was the sad reply. "He doesn't think as you do."
"You believe he's a genius," snarled the other.
"You know he is."
"I'll go and find him."
She nodded. "I wish you luck," she said, but there was no conviction in her tone. Truth was, she did not wish him luck in this. She watched him leave by the French window and stride across the lawn. A strange, troubled expression was in her face.
"They can't pull it off together," she said to herself, and Carnac is too full of independence. He wants nothing from anybody. He needs no one; he follows no one—except me. Yes, he follows—he loves me.
She watched her husband till he almost viciously thrust aside the bushes staying his progress, and broke into the space by the pear-tree where Carnac sat with palette and brush, gazing at the distant roofs on which the sun was leaving its last kiss.
Carnac got to his feet with a smile, and with a courage in his eye equal to that which had ever been in his father's face—in the face of John Grier. It was strange that the other's presence troubled him, that even as a small child, to be in the same room for any length of time vexed him. Much of that had passed away. The independence of the life he lived, the freedom from resting upon the financial will of the lumber king had given him light, air and confidence. He loved his mother. What he felt for John Grier was respect and admiration. He knew he was not spoken to now with any indolent purpose.
They had seen little of each other of late years. His mother had given him the money to go to New York and Paris, which helped out his own limited income. He wondered what should bring his father to him now. There was interested reflection in his eye. With his habit of visualization, he saw behind John Grier, as he came on now, the long procession of logs and timbers which had made his fortune, stretch back on the broad St. Lawrence, from the Mattawan to the Madawaska, from the Richelieu to the Marmora. Yet, what was it John Grier had done? In a narrow field he had organized his life perfectly, had developed his opportunities, had safeguarded his every move. The smiling inquiry in his face was answered by the old man saying abruptly:
"Fabian's gone. He's deserted the ship."
The young man had the wish to say in reply, "At last, eh!" but he avoided it.
"Where has he gone?"
"I bought him out to-day, and I hear he's going to join Belloc."
"Belloc! Belloc! Who told you that?" asked the young man.
"Junia Shale—she told me."
Carnac laughed. "She knows a lot, but how did she know that?"
"Sheer instinct, and I believe she's right."
"Right—right—to fight you, his own father!" was the inflammable reply.
"Why, that would be a lowdown business!"
"Would it be lower down than your not helping your father, when you can?"
Somehow he yearned over his wayward, fantastic son. The wilful, splendid character of the youth overcame the insistence in the other's nature.
"You seem to be getting on all right," remarked Carnac with the faint brown moustache, the fine, showy teeth, the clean-shaven cheeks, and auburn hair hanging loosely down.
"You're wrong. Things aren't doing as well with me as they might. Belloc and the others make difficult going. I've got too much to do myself. I want help."
"You had it in Fabian," remarked Carnac dryly. "Well, I've lost it, and it never was enough. He hadn't vision, sense and decision."
"And so you come to me, eh? I always thought you despised me," said Carnac.
A half-tender, half-repellent expression came into the old man's face. He spoke bluntly. "I always thought you had three times the brains of your brother. You're not like me, and you're not like your mother; there's something in you that means vision, and seeing things, and doing them. If fifteen thousand dollars a year and a share in the business is any good to you—"
For an instant there had been pleasure and wonder in the young man's eyes, but at the sound of the money and the share in the business he shrank back.
"I don't think so, father. I'm happy enough. I've got all I want."
"What the devil are you talking about!" the other burst out. "You've got all you want! You've no home; you've no wife; you've no children; you've no place. You paint, and you sculp, and what's the good of it all? Have you ever thought of that? What's there in it for you or anyone else? Have you no blood and bones, no sting of life in you? Look what I've done. I started with little, and I've built up a business that, if it goes all right, will be worth millions. I say, if it goes all right, because I've got to carry more than I ought."
Carnac shook his head. "I couldn't be any help to you. I'm not a man of action. I think, I devise, but I don't act. I'd be no good in your business no, honestly, I'd be no good. I don't think money is the end of life. I don't think success is compensation for all you've done and still must do. I want to stand out of it. You've had your life; you've lived it where you wanted to live it. I haven't, and I'm trying to find out where my duty and my labour lies. It is Art; no doubt. I don't know for sure."
"Good God!" broke in the old man. "You don't know for sure—you're twenty-five years old, and you don't know where you're going!"
"Yes, I know where I'm going—to Heaven by and by!" This was his satirical reply.
"Oh, fasten down; get hold of something that matters. Now, listen to me. I want you to do one thing—the thing I ought to do and can't. I must stay here now that Fabian's gone. I want you to go to the Madawaska River."
"No, I won't go to the Madawaska," replied Carnac after a long pause, "but"—with sudden resolution—"if it's any good to you, I'll stay here in the business, and you can go to the Madawaska. Show me what to do here; tell me how to do it, and I'll try to help you out for a while— if it can be done," he added hastily. "You go, but I'll stay. Let's talk it over at supper."
He sighed, and turned and gazed warmly at the sunset on the roofs of the city; then turned to his father's face, but it was not the same look in his eyes.
CARNAC AS MANAGER
Carnac was installed in the office, and John Grier went to the Madawaska. Before he left, however, he was with Carnac for near a week, showing the procedure and the main questions that might arise to be solved.
"It's like this," said Grier in their last talk, "you've got to keep a stiff hand over the foremen and overseers, and have strict watch of Belloc & Co. Perhaps there will be trouble when I've gone, but, if it does, keep a stiff upper lip, and don't let the gang do you. You've got a quick mind and you know how to act sudden. Act at once, and damn the consequences! Remember, John Grier's firm has a reputation, and deal justly, but firmly, with opposition. The way it's organized, the business almost runs itself. But that's only when the man at the head keeps his finger on the piston-rod. You savvy, don't you?"
"I savvy all right. If the Belloc firm cuts up rusty, I'll think of what you'd do and try to do it in the same way."
The old man smiled. He liked the spirit in Carnac. It was the right kind for his business. "I predict this: if you have one fight with the Belloc lot, you'll hate them too. Keep the flag flying. Don't get rattled. It's a big job, and it's worth doing in a big way.
"Yes, it's a big job," said Carnac. "I hope I'll pull it off."
"You'll pull it off, if you bend your mind to it. But there won't be any time for your little pictures and statues. You'll have to deal with the real men, and they'll lose their glamour. That's the thing about business—it's death to sentimentality."
Carnac flushed with indignation. "So you think Titian and Velasquez and Goyot and El Greco and Watteau and Van Dyck and Rembrandt and all the rest were sentimentalists, do you? The biggest men in the world worship them. You aren't just to the greatest intellects. I suppose Shakespeare was a sentimentalist!"
The old man laughed and tapped his son on the shoulder.
"Don't get excited, Carnac. I'd rather you ran my business well, than be Titian or Rembrandt, whoever they were. If you do this job well, I'll think there's a good chance of our working together."
Carnac nodded, but the thought that he could not paint or sculp when he was on this work vexed him, and he only set his teeth to see it through. "All right, we'll see," he said, and his father went away.
Then Carnac's time of work and trial began. He was familiar with the routine of the business, he had adaptability, he was a quick worker, and for a fortnight things went swimmingly. There was elation in doing work not his regular job, and he knew the eyes of the commercial and river world were on him. He did his best and it was an effective best. Junia had been in the City of Quebec, but she came back at the end of a fortnight, and went to his office to get a subscription for a local charity. She had a gift in this kind of work.
It was a sunny day in the month of June, and as she entered the office a new spirit seemed to enter with her.
The place became distinguished. She stood in the doorway for a moment, radiant, smiling, half embarrassed, then she said: "Please may I for a moment, Carnac?"
Carnac was delighted. "For many moments, Junia."
"I'm not as busy as usual. I'm glad as glad to see you."
She said with restraint: "Not for many moments. I'm here on business. It's important. I wanted to get a subscription from John Grier for the Sailors' Hospital which is in a bad way. Will you give something for him?"
Carnac looked at the subscription list. "I see you've been to Belloc first and they've given a hundred dollars. Was that wise-going to them first? You know how my father feels about Belloc. And we're the older firm."
The girl laughed. "Oh, that's silly! Belloc's money is as good as John Grier's, and it only happened he was asked first because Fabian was present when I took the list, and it's Fabian's writing on the paper there."
Carnac nodded. "That's all right with me, for I'm no foe to Belloc, but my father wouldn't have liked it. He wouldn't have given anything in the circumstances."
"Oh, yes, he would! He's got sense with all his prejudices. I'll tell you what he'd have done: he'd have given a bigger subscription than Belloc."
Carnac laughed. "Well, perhaps you're right; it was clever planning it so."
"I didn't plan it. It was accident, but I had to consider everything and I saw how to turn it to account. So, if you are going to give a subscription for John Grier you must do as he would do."
Carnac smiled, put the paper on his desk, and took the pen.
"Make it measure the hate John Grier has to the Belloc firm," she said ironically.
Carnac chuckled and wrote. "Will that do?" He handed her the paper.
"One hundred and fifty dollars—oh, quite, quite good!" she said. "But it's only a half hatred after all. I'd have made it a whole one."
"You'd have expected John Grier to give two hundred, eh? But that would have been too plain. It looks all right now, and it must go at that."
She smiled. "Well, it'll go at that. You're a good business man. I see you've given up your painting and sculping to do this! It will please your father, but are you satisfied?"
"Satisfied—of course, I'm not; and you know it. I'm not a money- grabber. I'm an artist if I'm anything, and I'm not doing this permanently. I'm only helping my father while he's in a hole."
The girl suddenly grew serious. "You mean you're not going to stick to the business, and take Fabian's place in it? He's been for a week with Belloc and he's never coming back here. You have the brains for it; and you could make your father happy and inherit his fortune—all of it."
Carnac flushed indignantly. "I suppose I could, but it isn't big enough for me. I'd rather do one picture that the Luxembourg or the London National Gallery would buy than own this whole business. That's the turn of my mind."
"Yes, but if you didn't sell a picture to the Luxembourg or the National Gallery. What then?"
"I'd have a good try for it, that's all. Do you want me to give up Art and take to commerce? Is that your view?"
"I suggested to John Grier the day that Fabian sold his share that you might take his place; and I still think it a good thing, though, of course, I like your painting. But I felt sorry for your father with none of his own family to help him; and I thought you might stay with him for your family's sake."
"You thought I'd be a martyr for love of John Grier—and cold cash, did you? That isn't the way the blood runs in my veins. I think John Grier might get out of the business now, if he's tired, and sell it and let some one else run it. John Grier is not in want. If he were, I'd give up everything to help him, and I'd not think I was a martyr. But I've a right to make my own career. It's making the career one likes which gets one in the marrow. I'd take my chances of success as he did. He has enough to live on, he's had success; let him get down and out, if he's tired."
The girl held herself firmly. "Remember John Grier has made a great name for himself—as great in his way as Andrew Carnegie or Pierpont Morgan— and he's got pride in his name. He wants his son to carry it on, and in a way he's right."
"That's good argument," said Carnac, "but if his name isn't strong enough to carry itself, his son can't carry it for him. That's the way of life. How many sons have ever added to their father's fame? The instances are very few. In the modern world, I can only think of the Pitts in England. There's no one else."
The girl now smiled again. The best part in her was stirred. She saw. Her mind changed. After a moment she said: "I think you're altogether right about it. Carnac, you have your own career to make, so make it as it best suits yourself. I'm sorry I spoke to your father as I did. I pitied him, and I thought you'd find scope for your talents in the business. It's a big game, but I see now it isn't yours, Carnac."
He nodded, smiling. "That's it; that's it, I hate the whole thing."
She shook hands. As his hand enclosed her long slim fingers, he felt he wished never to let them go, they were so thrilling; but he did, for the thought of Luzanne came to his mind.
"Good-bye, Junia, and don't forget that John Grier's firm is the foe of the Belloc business," he said satirically.
She laughed, and went down the hill quickly, and as she went Carnac thought he had never seen so graceful a figure.
"What an evil Fate sent Luzanne my way!" he said.
Two days later there came an ugly incident on the river. There was a collision between a gang of John Grier's and Belloc's men and one of Grier's men was killed. At the inquest, it was found that the man met his death by his own fault, having first attacked a Belloc man and injured him. The Belloc man showed the injury to the jury, and he was acquitted. Carnac watched the case closely, and instructed his lawyer to contend that the general attack was first made by Belloc's men, which was true; but the jury decided that this did not affect the individual case, and that the John Grier man met his death by his own fault.
"A shocking verdict!" he said aloud in the Court when it was given.
"Sir," said the Coroner, "it is the verdict of men who use their judgment after hearing the evidence, and your remark is offensive and criminal."
"If it is criminal, I apologize," said Carnac.
"You must apologize for its offensiveness, or you will be arrested, sir."
This nettled Carnac. "I will not apologize for its offensiveness," he said firmly.
"Constable, arrest this man," said the Coroner, and the constable did so.
"May I be released on bail?" asked Carnac with a smile.
"I am a magistrate. Yes, you may be released on bail," said the Coroner.
Carnac bowed, and at once a neighbour became security for three thousand dollars. Then Carnac bowed again and left the Court with—it was plain— the goodwill of most people present.
Carnac returned to his office with angry feelings at his heart. The Belloc man ought to have been arrested for manslaughter, he thought. In any case, he had upheld the honour of John Grier's firm by his protest, and the newspapers spoke not unfavourably of him in their reports. They said he was a man of courage to say what he did, though it was improper, from a legal standpoint. But human nature was human nature!
The trial took place in five days, and Carnac was fined twenty-five cents, which was in effect a verdict of not guilty; and so the newspapers said. It was decided that the offence was only legally improper, and it was natural that Carnac expressed himself strongly.
Junia was present at the trial. After it was over, she saw Carnac for a moment. "I think your firm can just pay the price and exist!" she said. "It's a terrible sum, and it shows how great a criminal you are!"
"Not a 'thirty-cent' criminal, anyhow," said Carnac. "It is a moral victory, and tell Fabian so. He's a bit huffy because I got into the trouble, I suppose."
"No, he loathed it all. He's sorry it occurred."
There was no further talk between them, for a subordinate of Carnac's came hurriedly to him and said something which Junia did not hear. Carnac raised his hat to her, and hurried away.
"Well, it's not so easy as painting pictures," she said. "He gets fussed over these things."
It was later announced by the manager of the main mill that there was to be a meeting of workers to agitate for a strike for higher pay. A French-Canadian who had worked in the mills of Maine and who was a red- hot socialist was the cause of it. He had only been in the mills for about three months and had spent his spare time inciting well-satisfied workmen to strike. His name was Luc Baste—a shock-haired criminal with a huge chest and a big voice, and a born filibuster. The meeting was held and a deputation was appointed to wait on Carnac at his office. Word was sent to Carnac, and he said he would see them after the work was done for the day. So in the evening about seven o'clock the deputation of six men came, headed by Luc Baste.
"Well, what is it?" Carnac asked calmly.
Luc Baste began, not a statement of facts, but an oration on the rights of workers, their downtrodden condition and their beggarly wages. He said they had not enough to keep body and soul together, and that right well did their employers know it. He said there should be an increase of a half-dollar a day, or there would be a strike.
Carnac dealt with the matter quickly and quietly. He said Luc Baste had not been among them a long time and evidently did not know what was the cost of living in Montreal. He said the men got good wages, and in any case it was not for him to settle a thing of such importance. This was for the head of the firm, John Grier, when he returned. The wages had been raised two years before, and he doubted that John Grier would consent to a further rise. All other men on the river seemed satisfied and he doubted these ought to have a cent more a day. They were getting the full value of the work. He begged all present to think twice before they brought about catastrophe. It would be a catastrophe if John Grier's mills should stop working and Belloc's mills should go on as before. It was not like Grier's men to do this sort of thing.
The men seemed impressed, and, presently, after one of them thanking him, the deputation withdrew, Luc Baste talking excitedly as they went. The manager of the main mill, with grave face, said:
"No, Mr. Grier, I don't think they'll be satisfied. You said all that could be said, but I think they'll strike after all."
"Well, I hope it won't occur before John Grier gets back," said Carnac.
That night a strike was declared.
Fortunately, only about two-thirds of the men came out, and it could not be called a complete success. The Belloc people were delighted, but they lived in daily fear of a strike in their own yards, for agitators were busy amongst their workmen. But the workers waited to see what would happen to Grier's men.
Carnac declined to reconsider. The wages were sufficient and the strike unwarranted! He kept cool, even good-natured, and with only one-third of his men at work, he kept things going, and the business went on with regularity, if with smaller output. The Press unanimously supported him, for it was felt the strike had its origin in foreign influence, and as French Canada had no love for the United States there was journalistic opposition to the strike. Carnac had telegraphed to his father when the strike started, but did not urge him to come back. He knew that Grier could do nothing more than he himself was doing, and he dreaded new influence over the strikers. Grier happened to be in the backwoods and did not get word for nearly a week; then he wired asking Carnac what the present situation was. Carnac replied he was standing firm, that he would not yield a cent increase in wages, and that, so far, all was quiet.
It happened, however, that on the day he wired, the strikers tried to prevent the non-strikers from going to work and there was a collision. The police and a local company of volunteers intervened and then the Press condemned unsparingly the whole affair. This outbreak did good, and Luc Baste was arrested for provoking disorder. No one else was arrested, and this was a good thing, for, on the whole, even the men that followed Luc did not trust him. His arrest cleared the air and the strike broke. The next day, all the strikers returned, but Carnac refused their wages for the time they were on strike, and he had triumphed.
On that very day John Grier started back to Montreal. He arrived in about four days, and when he came, found everything in order. He went straight from his home to the mill and there found Carnac in control.
"Had trouble, eh, Carnac?" he asked with a grin, after a moment of greeting. Carnac shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing.
"It's the first strike I ever had in my mills, and I hope it will be the last. I don't believe in knuckling down to labour tyranny, and I'm glad you kept your hand steady. There'll be no more strikes in my mills—I'll see to that!"
"They've only just begun, and they'll go on, father. It's the influence of Canucs who have gone to the factories of Maine. They get bitten there with the socialistic craze, and they come back and make trouble. This strike was started by Luc Baste, a French-Canadian, who had been in Maine. You can't stop these things by saying so. There was no strike among Belloc's men!"
"No, but did you have no trouble with Belloc's men?"
Carnac told him of the death of the Grier man after the collision, of his own arrest and fine of twenty-five cents and of the attitude of the public and the Press. The old man was jubilant. "Say, you did the thing in style. It was the only way to do it. You landed 'em with the protest fair and easy. You're going to be a success in the business, I can see that."
Carnac for a moment looked at his father meditatively. Then, seeing the surprise in John Grier's face, he said: "No, I'm not going to be a success in it, for I'm not going on with it. I've had enough. I'm through."
"You've had enough—you're through—just when you've proved you can do things as well as I can do them! You ain't going on! Great Jehoshaphat!"
"I mean it; I'm not going on. I'm going to quit in another month. I can't stick it. It galls me. It ain't my job. I do it, but it's artificial, it ain't the real thing. My heart isn't in it as yours is, and I'd go mad if I had to do this all my life. It's full of excitement at times, it's hard work, it's stimulating when you're fighting, but other times it's deadly dull and bores me stiff. I feel as though I were pulling a train of cars."
Slowly the old man's face reddened with anger. "It bores you stiff, eh? It's deadly dull at times! There's only interest in it when there's a fight on, eh? You're right; you're not fit for the job, never was and never will be while your mind is what it is. Don't take a month to go, don't take a week, or a day, go this morning after I've got your report on what's been done. It ain't the real thing, eh? No, it ain't. It's no place for you. Tell me all there is to tell, and get out; I've had enough too, I've had my fill. 'It bores me stiff'!"
John Grier was in a rage, and he would listen to no explanation. "Come now, out with your report."
Carnac was not upset. He kept cool. "No need to be so crusty," he said.
LUKE TARBOE HAS AN OFFER
Many a man behind his horses' tails on the countryside has watched the wild reckless life of the water with wonder and admiration. He sees a cluster of logs gather and climb, and still gather and climb, and between him and that cluster is a rolling waste of timber, round and square.
Suddenly, a being with a red shirt, with loose prairie kind of hat, knee- boots, having metal clamps, strikes out from the shore, running on the tops of the moving logs till he reaches the jam. Then the pike-pole, or the lever, reaches the heart of the difficulty, and presently the jam breaks, and the logs go tumbling into the main, while the vicious-looking berserker of the water runs back to the shore over the logs, safe and sound. It is a marvel to the spectator, that men should manipulate the river so. To him it is a life apart; not belonging to the life he lives -a passing show.
It was a stark surprise of the river which makes this story possible. There was a strike at Bunder's Boom—as it was called—between Bunder and Grier's men. Some foreman of Grier's gang had been needlessly offensive. Bunder had been stupidly resentful. When Grier's men had tried to force his hand also, he had resisted. It chanced that, when an impasse seemed possible to be broken only by force, a telegram came to John Grier at Montreal telling him of the difficulty. He lost no time in making his way northwards.
But some one else had come upon the scene. It was Luke Tarboe. He had arrived at a moment when the Belloc river crowd had almost wrecked Bunder's Boom, and when a collision between the two gangs seemed inevitable. What he did remained a river legend. By good temper and adroitness, he reconciled the leaders of the two gangs; he bought the freedom of the river by a present to Bunder's daughter; he won Bunder by four bottles of "Three Star" brandy. When the police from a town a hundred miles away arrived at the same time as John Grier, it was to find the Grier and Belloc gangs peacefully prodding side by side.
When the police had gone, John Grier looked Tarboe up and down. The brown face, the clear, strong brown eyes and the brown hatless head rose up eighteen inches above his own, making a gallant summit to a robust stalk.
"Well, you've done easier things than that in your time, eh?" John Grier asked.
Tarboe nodded. "It was touch and go. I guess it was the hardest thing I ever tried since I've been working for you, but it's come off all right, hasn't it?" He waved a hand to the workmen on the river, to the tumbling rushes of logs and timber. Then he looked far up the stream, with hand shading his brown eyes to where a crib-or raft-was following the eager stream of logs. "It's easy going now," he added, and his face had a look of pleasure.
"What's your position, and what's your name?" asked John Grier.
"I'm head-foreman of the Skunk Nest's gang—that's this lot, and I got here—just in time! I don't believe you could have done it, Mr. Grier. No master is popular in the real sense with his men. I think they'd have turned you down. So it was lucky I came."
A faint smile hovered at his lips, and his eyes brooded upon the busy gangs of men. "Yes, I've had a lot of luck this time. There's nothing like keeping your head cool and your belly free from drink." Now he laughed broadly. "By gosh, it's all good! Do you know, Mr. Grier, I came out here a wreck eight years ago. I left Montreal then with a spot in my lungs, that would kill me, they said. I've never seen Montreal since, but I've had a good time out in the woods, in the shanties in the winters; on the rivers in the summer. I've only been as far East as this in eight years."
"What do you do in the winter, then?"
"Shanties-shanties all the time. In the summer this; in the Fall taking the men back to the shanties. Bossing the lot; doing it from love of the life that's been given back to me. Yes, this is the life that makes you take things easy. You don't get fussed out here. The job I had took a bit of doing, but it was done, and I'm lucky to have my boss see the end of it."
He smiled benignly upon John Grier. He knew he was valuable to the Grier organization; he knew that Grier had heard of him under another name. Now Grier had seen him, and he felt he would like to tell John Grier some things about the river he ought to know. He waved a hand declining the cigar offered him by his great chief.
"Thanks, I don't smoke, and I don't drink, and I don't chew; but I eat —by gosh, I eat! Nothing's so good as good food, except good reading."
"Good reading!" exclaimed John Grier. "Good reading—on the river!"
"Well, it's worked all right, and I read a lot. I get books from Montreal, from the old library at the University."
"At what University?" struck in the lumber-king. "Oh, Laval! I wouldn't go to McGill. I wanted to know French, so I went to Laval. There I came to know Father Labasse. He was a great man, Father Labasse. He helped me. I was there three years, and then was told I was going to die. It was Labasse who gave me this tip. He said, 'Go into the woods; put your teeth into the trees; eat the wild herbs, and don't come back till you feel well.' Well, I haven't gone back, and I'm not going back."
"What do you do with your wages?" asked the lumber-king.
"I bought land. I've got a farm of four hundred acres twenty miles from here. I've got a man on it working it."
"Does it pay?"
"Of course. Do you suppose I'd keep a farm that didn't pay?"
"Who runs it?"
"A man that broke his leg on the river. One of Belloc's men. He knows all about farming. He brought his wife and three children up, and there he is—making money, and making the land good. I've made him a partner at last. When it's good enough by and by, I'll probably go and live there myself. Anybody ought to make farming a success, if there's water and proper wood and such things," he added.
There was silence for a few moments. Then John Grier looked Tarboe up and down sharply again, noting the splendid physique, the quizzical, mirth-provoking eye, and said: "I can give you a better job if you'll come to Montreal."
Tarboe shook his head. "Haven't had a sick day for eight years; I'm as hard as nails; I'm as strong as steel. I love this wild world of the woods and fields and—"
"And the shebangs and grog-shops and the dirty, drunken villages?" interrupted the old man.
"No, they don't count. I take them in, but they don't count."
"Didn't you have hard times when you first came?" asked John Grier. "Did you get right with the men from the start?"
"A little bit of care is a good thing in any life. I told them good stories, and they liked that. I used to make the stories up, and they liked that also. When I added some swear words they liked them all the better. I learned how to do it."
"Yes, I've heard of you, but not as Tarboe."
"You heard of me as Renton, eh?"
"Yes, as Renton. I wonder I never came across you till to-day."
"I kept out of your way; that was the reason. When you came north, I got farther into the backwoods."
"Are you absolutely straight, Tarboe?" asked John Grier eagerly. "Do you do these things in the Garden of Eden way, or can you run a bit crooked when it's worth while?"
"If I'd ever seen it worth while, I'd say so. I could run a bit crooked if I was fighting among the big ones, or if we were at war with—Belloc, eh!" A cloud came into the eyes of Tarboe. "If I was fighting Belloc, and he used a weapon to flay me from behind, I'd never turn my back on him!"
A grim smile came into Tarboe's face. His jaw set almost viciously, his eyes hardened. "You people don't play your game very well, Mr. Grier. I've seen a lot that wants changing."
"Why don't you change it, then?"
Tarboe laughed. "If I was boss like you, I'd change it, but I'm not, and I stick to my own job."
The old man came close to him, and steadily explored his face and eyes. "I've never met anybody like you before. You're the man can do things and won't do them."
"I didn't say that. I said what I meant—that good health is better than everything else in the world, and when you've got it, you should keep it, if you can. I'm going to keep mine."
"Well, keep it in Montreal," said John Grier. "There's a lot doing there worth while. Is fighting worth anything to one that's got aught in him? There's war for the big things. I believe in war." He waved a hand. "What's the difference between the kind of thing you've done to-day, and doing it with the Belloc gang—with the Folson gang—with the Longville gang—and all the rest? It's the same thing. I was like you when I was young. I could do things you've done to-day while I laid the base of what I've got. How old are you?"
"I'm thirty—almost thirty-one."
"You'll be just as well in Montreal to-morrow as you are here to-day, and you'd be twice as clever," said John Grier. His eyes seemed to pierce those of the younger man. "I like you," he continued, suddenly catching Tarboe's arm. "You're all right, and you wouldn't run straight simply because it was the straight thing to do."
Tarboe threw back his head and laughed and nodded. The old man's eyes twinkled. "By gracious, we're well met! I never was in a bigger hole in my life. One of my sons has left me. I bought him out, and he's joined my enemy Belloc."
"Yes, I know," remarked Tarboe.
"My other son, he's no good. He's as strong as a horse—but he's no good. He paints, he sculps. He doesn't care whether I give him money or not. He earns his living as he wants to earn it. When Fabian left me, I tried Carnac. I offered to take him in permanently. He tried it, but he wouldn't go on. He got out. He's twenty-six. The papers are beginning to talk about him. He doesn't care for that, except that it brings in cash for his statues and pictures. What's the good of painting and statuary, if you can't do the big things?"
"So you think the things you do are as big as the things that Shakespeare, or Tennyson, or Titian, or Van Dyck, or Watt, or Rodin do —or did?"
"Bigger-much bigger," was the reply.
The younger man smiled. "Well, that's the way to look at it, I suppose. Think the thing you do is better than what anybody else does, and you're well started."
"Come and do it too. You're the only man I've cottoned to in years. Come with me, and I'll give you twelve thousand dollars a year; and I'll take you into my business.—I'll give you the best chance you ever had. You've found your health; come back and keep it. Don't you long for the fight, for your finger at somebody's neck? That's what I felt when I was your age, and I did it, and I'm doing it, but I can't do it as I used to. My veins are leaking somewhere." A strange, sad, faded look came into his eyes. "I don't want my business to be broken by Belloc," he added. "Come and help me save it."
"By gosh, I will!" said the young man after a moment, with a sudden thirst in his throat and bite to his teeth. "By gum, yes, I'll go with you."
"AT OUR PRICE?"
West of the city of Montreal were the works and the offices of John Grier. Here it was that a thing was done without which there might have been no real story to tell. It was a night which marked the close of the financial year of the firm.
Upon John Grier had come Carnac. He had brought with him a small statue of a riverman with flannel shirt, scarf about the waist, thick defiant trousers and well-weaponed boots. It was a real figure of the river, buoyant, daring, almost vicious. The head was bare; there were plain gold rings in the ears; and the stark, half-malevolent eyes looked out, as though searching for a jam of logs or some peril of the river. In the horny right hand was a defiant pike-pole, its handle thrust forward, its steel spike stabbing the ground.
At first glance, Carnac saw that John Grier was getting worn and old. The eyes were not so flashing as they once were; the lips were curled in a half-cynical mood. The old look of activity was fading; something vital had struck soul and body. He had had a great year. He had fought Belloc and his son Fabian successfully; he had laid new plans and strengthened his position.
Tarboe coming into the business had made all the difference to him. Tarboe had imagination, skill and decision, he seldom lost his temper; he kept a strong hand upon himself. His control of men was marvellous; his knowledge of finance was instinctive; his capacity for organization was rare, and he had health unbounded and serene. It was hard to tell what were the principles controlling Tarboe—there was always an element of suspicion in his brown and brilliant eyes. Yet he loved work. The wind of energy seemed to blow through his careless hair. His hands were like iron and steel; his lips were quick and friendly, or ruthless, as seemed needed. To John Grier's eyes he was the epitome of civilization—the warrior without a soul.
When Carnac came in now with the statue tucked under his arm, smiling and self-contained, it seemed as though something had been done by Fate to flaunt John Grier.
With a nod, Carnac put the statue on the table in front of the old man, and said: "It's all right, isn't it? I've lifted that out of the river- life. That's one of the best men you ever had, and he's only one of a thousand. He doesn't belong anywhere. He's a rover, an adventurer, a wanton of the waters. Look at him. He's all right, isn't he?" He asked this again.
The timber-man waved the statue aside, and looked at the youth with critical eyes. "I've just been making up the accounts for the year," he said. "It's been the best year I've had in seven. I've taken the starch out of Belloc and Fabian. I've broken the back of their opposition—I've got it like a twig in iron teeth."
"Yes, Tarboe's been some use, hasn't he?" was the suggestive response.
John Grier's eyes hardened. "You might have done it. You had it in you. The staff of life—courage and daring—were yours, and you wouldn't take it on. What's the result? I've got a man who's worth two of Fabian and Belloc. And you"—he held up a piece of paper—"see that," he broke off. "See that. It's my record. That's what I'm worth. That's what you might have handled!" He took a cigar from his pocket, cut off the blunt end, and continued: "You threw your chance aside." He tapped the paper with the point of the cigar. "That's what Tarboe has helped do. What have you got to show?" He pointed to the statue. "I won't say it ain't good. It's a live man from the river. But what do I want with that, when I can have the original man himself! My boy, the great game of life is to fight hard, and never to give in. If you keep your eyes open, things'll happen that'll bring what you want."
He stood up, striking a match to light his cigar. It was dusk, and the light of the match gave a curious, fantastic glimmer to his powerful, weird, haggard face. He was like some remnant of a great life, loose in a careless world.
"I tell you," he said, the smoke leaking from his mouth like a drift of snow," the only thing worth doing is making the things that matter in the commerce and politics of the world."
"I didn't know you were a politician," said Carnac. "Of course I'm a politician," was the inflammable reply. "What's commerce without politics? It's politics that makes the commerce possible. There's that fellow Barouche—Barode Barouche—he's got no money, but he's a Minister, and he can make you rich or poor by planning legislation at Ottawa that'll benefit or hamper you. That's the kind of business that's worth doing—seeing into the future, fashioning laws that make good men happy and bad men afraid. Don't I know! I'm a master-man in my business; nothing defeats me. To me, a forest of wild wood is the future palace of a Prime Minister. A great river is a pathway to the palace, and all the thousands of men that work the river are the adventurers that bring the booty home—"
"That bring 'the palace to Paris,' eh!" interrupted Carnac, laughing.
"Paris be damned—that bring the forest to Quebec. How long did it take you to make that?" he added with a nod towards the statue.
"Oh, I did it in a day—six hours, I think; and he stood like that for three hours out of the six. He was great, but he'd no more sense of civilization than I have of Heaven."
"You don't need to have a sense of Heaven, you need to have a sense of Hell. That prevents you from spoiling your own show. You're playing with life's vital things."
"I wonder how much you've got out of it all, father," Carnac remarked with a smile. He lit a cigarette. "You do your job in style. It's been a great career, yours. You've made your big business out of nothing."
"I had something to start with. Your grandfather had a business worth not much, but it was a business, and the fundamental thing is to have machinery to work with when you start life. I had that. My father was narrow, contracted and a blunderer, but he made good in a small way."
"And you in a big way," said Carnac, with admiration and criticism in his eyes.
He realized that John Grier had summed him up fairly when he said he was playing with life's vital things. Somehow, he saw the other had a grip upon essentials lacking in himself; he had his tooth in the orange, as it were, and was sucking the juice of good profit from his labours. Yet he knew how much trickery and vital evasion and harsh aggression there were in his father's business life.
As yet he had never seen Tarboe—he had been away in the country the whole year nearly—but he imagined a man of strength, abilities, penetration and deep power. He knew that only a man with savage instincts could work successfully with John Grier; he knew that Grier was without mercy in his business, and that his best year's work had been marked by a mandatory power which only a malevolent policy could produce. Yet, somehow, he had a feeling that Tarboe had a steadying influence on John Grier. The old man was not so uncontrolled as in bygone days.
"I'd like to see Tarboe," Carnac said suddenly. "He ain't the same as you," snapped John Grier. "He's bigger, broader, and buskier." A malicious smile crossed over his face. "He's a bandit—that's what he is. He's got a chest like a horse and lungs like the ocean. When he's got a thing, he's got it like a nail in a branch of young elm. He's a dandy, that fellow." Suddenly passion came to his eyes. "You might have done it, you've got the brains, and the sense, but you ain't got the ambition. You keep feeling for a thousand things instead of keeping your grip on one. The man that succeeds fastens hard on what he wants to do— the one big thing, and he does it, thinking of naught else."
"Well, that's good preaching," remarked Carnac coolly. "But it doesn't mean that a man should stick to one thing, if he finds out he's been wrong about it? We all make mistakes. Perhaps some day I'll wish I'd gone with you."
Grimness came into the old man's face. Something came into his eyes that was strange and revealing.
"Well, I hope you will. But you had your chance with me, and you threw it down like a piece of rotten leather."
"I don't cost you anything," returned Carnac. "I've paid my own way a long time—with mother's help."
"And you're twenty-six years old, and what have you got? Enough to give you bread from day to day-no more. I was worth seventy thousand dollars when I was your age. I'm worth enough to make a prince rich, and if I'd been treated right by those I brought into the world I'd be worth twice as much. Fabian was good as far as he went, but he was a coward. You"— a look of fury entered the dark eyes—"you were no coward, but you didn't care a damn. You wanted to paddle about with muck of imagination—" he pointed to the statue on the table.
"Why, your business has been great because of your imagination," was the retort. "You saw things ahead with the artist's eye. You planned with the artist's mind; and brought forth what's to your honour and credit— and the piling up of your bank balance. The only thing that could have induced me to work in your business is the looking ahead and planning, seeing the one thing to be played off against the other, the fighting of strong men, the politics, all the forces which go to make or break your business. Well, I didn't do it, and I'm not sorry. I have a gift which, by training and development, will give me a place among the men who do things, if I have good luck—good luck!"
He dwelt upon these last words with an intensity which dreaded something. There was retrospection in his eyes. A cloud seemed to cross his face.
A strong step crunching the path stopped the conversation, and presently there appeared the figure of Tarboe. Certainly the new life had not changed Tarboe, had not altered his sturdy, strenuous nature. His brown eyes under the rough thatch of his eyebrow took in the room with lightning glance, and he nodded respectfully, yet with great friendliness, at John Grier. He seemed to have news, and he glanced with doubt at Carnac.
John Grier understood. "Go ahead. What's happened?"
"Nothing that can't wait till I'm introduced to your son," rejoined Tarboe.
With a friendly look, free from all furtiveness, Carnac reached out a hand, small, graceful, firm. As Tarboe grasped it in his own big paw, he was conscious of a strength in the grip which told him that the physical capacity of the "painter-fellow," as he afterwards called Carnac, had points worthy of respect. On the instant, there was admiration on the part of each—admiration and dislike. Carnac liked the new-comer for his healthy bearing, for the iron hardness of his head, and for the intelligence of his dark eyes. He disliked him, however, for something that made him critical of his father, something covert and devilishly alert. Both John Grier and Tarboe were like two old backwoodsmen, eager to reach their goal, and somewhat indifferent to the paths by which they travelled to it.
Tarboe, on the other hand, admired the frank, pleasant face of the young man, which carried still the irresponsibility of youth, but which conveyed to the watchful eye a brave independence, a fervid, and perhaps futile, challenge to all the world. Tarboe understood that this young man had a frankness dangerous to the business of life, yet which, properly applied, might bring great results. He disliked Carnac for his uncalculating candour; but he realized that, behind all, was something disturbing to his life.
"It's a woman," Tarboe said to himself, "it's a woman. He's made a fool of himself."
Tarboe was right. He had done what no one else had done—he had pierced the cloud surrounding Carnac: it was a woman.
"I hear you're pulling things off here," remarked Carnac civilly. "He says"—pointing to John Grier—"that you're making the enemy squirm."
Tarboe nodded, and a half-stealthy smile crept across his face. "I don't think we've lost anything coming our way," he replied. "We've had good luck—"
"And our eyes were open," intervened John Grier. "You push the brush and use the chisel, don't you?" asked Tarboe in spite of himself with slight scorn in his tone.
"I push the chisel and use the brush," answered Carnac, smilingly correcting him.
"That's a good thing. Is it yours?" asked Tarboe, nodding and pointing to the statue of the riverman. Carnac nodded. "Yes, I did that one day. I'd like to do you, if you'd let me."
The young giant waved a brawny hand and laughed. He looked down at his knee-boots, with their muddied soles, and then at the statue again on the table. "I don't mind you're doing me. Turn about is fair play.
"I've done you out of your job." Then he added to the old man: "It's good news I've got. I've made the contract with the French firm at our price."
"At our price!" remarked the other with a grim smile. "For the lot?"
"Yes, for the lot, and I've made the contracts with the ships to carry it."
"At our price?" again asked the old man. Tarboe nodded. "Just a little better."
"I wouldn't have believed those two things could have been done in the time." Grier rubbed his hands cheerfully. "That's a good day's work. It's the best you've done since you've come."
Carnac watched the scene with interest. No envy moved him, his soul was free from malice. Evidently Tarboe was a man of power. Ruthless he might be, ruthless and unsparing, but a man of power.
At that instant a clerk entered with a letter in his hand. "Mrs. Grier said to give you this," he remarked to Carnac, handing it to him.
Carnac took it and the clerk departed. The letter had an American postmark, and the handwriting on the letter brought trouble to his eyes. He composed himself, however, and tore off the end of the envelope, taking out the letter.
It was brief. It contained only a few lines, but as Carnac read them the colour left his face. "Good God!" he said to himself. Then he put the paper in his pocket, and, with a forced smile and nod to his father and Tarboe, left the office.
"That's queer. The letter seemed to get him in the vitals," said John Grier with surprise.
Tarboe nodded, and said to himself: "It's a woman all right." He smiled to himself also. He had wondered why Carnac and Junia Shale had not come to an understanding. The letter which had turned Carnac pale was the interpretation.
"Say, sit down, Tarboe," said John Grier. "I want to talk with you."
JOHN GRIER MAKES ANOTHER OFFER
"I've been keeping my eye on you, Tarboe," John Grier said presently, his right hand clutching unconsciously the statue which his boy had left with him.
"I didn't suppose you'd forget me when I was making or breaking you."
"You're a winner, Tarboe. You've got sense and judgment, and you ain't afraid to get your own way by any route."