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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCarnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 1. In The Days Of Childhood
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Carnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 1. In The Days Of Childhood Post by :istana Category :Long Stories Author :Gilbert Parker Date :May 2012 Read :3199

Click below to download : Carnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 1. In The Days Of Childhood (Format : PDF)

Carnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 1. In The Days Of Childhood

BOOK I CHAPTER I. 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."

"Always?"

"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."

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