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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCarnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 4. The House On The Hill
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Carnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 4. The House On The Hill Post by :istana Category :Long Stories Author :Gilbert Parker Date :May 2012 Read :3051

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Carnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 4. 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.

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