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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCarnac's Folly - Book 3 - Chapter 24. The Blue Paper
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Carnac's Folly - Book 3 - Chapter 24. The Blue Paper Post by :hafizladhani Category :Long Stories Author :Gilbert Parker Date :May 2012 Read :1246

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Carnac's Folly - Book 3 - Chapter 24. The Blue Paper

BOOK III CHAPTER XXIV. THE BLUE PAPER

"Who are you, ma'm'selle?"

It was in the house of Eugene Grandois that this question was asked of Junia. She had followed the experience on the Island by a visit to Grandois' house, carrying delicacies for the sick wife. Denzil had come with her, and was waiting in the street.

She had almost ended her visit when the outer door opened and Luzanne Larue entered carrying a dish she placed on the table, eyeing Junia closely. First they bowed to each other, and Junia gave a pleasant smile, but instantly she felt here was a factor in her own life--how, she could not tell.

To Luzanne, the face of Junia had no familiar feature, and yet she felt here was one whose life's lines crossed her own. So it was she presently said, "Who are you, ma'm'selle?" in a sharp voice. As Junia did not reply at once, she put the question in another form: "What is your name, ma'm'selle?"

"It is Junia Shale," said the other calmly, yet with heart beating hard. Somehow the question foreshadowed painful things, associated with Carnac. Her first glance at Luzanne showed the girl was well dressed, that she had a face of some beauty, that her eyes were full of glamour--black and bold, and, in a challenging way, beautiful. It was a face and figure full of daring. She was not French-Canadian; yet she was French; that was clear from her accent. Yet the voice had an accent of crudity, and the plump whiteness of the skin and waving fulness of the hair gave the girl a look of an adventuress. She was dressed in black with a white collar which, by contrast, seemed to heighten her unusual nature.

At first Junia shuddered, for Luzanne's presence made her uneasy; yet the girl must have good qualities, for she had brought comforts to the sick woman, and indeed, within, madame had spoken of the "dear beautiful stranger." That could be no other than this girl. She became composed. Yet she had a feeling that between them was a situation needing all her resources. About what? She would soon know, and she gave her name at last slowly, keeping her eyes on those of Luzanne.

At mention of the name, Luzanne's eyes took on prejudice and moroseness. The pupils enlarged, the lids half closed, the face grew sour.

"Junia Shale--you are Junia Shale?" The voice was bitter and resentful.

Junia nodded, and in her smile was understanding and conflict, for she felt this girl to be her foe.

"We must have a talk--that's sure," Luzanne said with decision.

"Who are you?" asked Junia calmly. "I am Luzanne Larue."

"That makes me no wiser."

"Hasn't Carnac Grier spoken of me?"

Junia shook her head, and turned her face towards the door of Madame Grandois' room. "Had we not better go somewhere else to talk, after you've seen Madame Grandois and the baby?" she asked with a smile, yet she felt she was about to face an alarming event. "Madame Grandois has spoken pleasantly of you to me," Junia added, for tact was her prompt faculty. "If you'd come where we could talk undisturbed--do you see?"

Luzanne made no reply in words, but taking up the dish she went into the sick-room, and Junia heard her in short friendly speech with Madame Grandois. Luzanne appeared again soon and spoke: "Now we can go where I'm boarding. It's only three doors away, and we can be safe there. You'd like to talk with me--ah, yes, surelee!"

Her eyes were combative and repellent, but Junia was not dismayed, and she said: "What shall we talk about?"

"There's only one thing and one person to talk about, ma'm'selle."

"I still don't know what you mean."

"Aren't you engaged to Carnac Grier? Don't you think you're going to marry him?... Don't you like to tell the truth, then?" she added.

Junia raised her eyebrows. "I'm not engaged to Carnac Grier, and he has never asked me to marry him--but what business is it of yours, ma'm'selle?"

"Come and I'll tell you." Luzanne moved towards the door. They were speechless till they reached Luzanne's lodgings.

"This is the house of Monsieur Marmette, an agent of Monsieur Barouche," said Junia. "I know it."

"You'll know it better soon. The agent of M'sieu' Barouche is a man of mark about here, and he'll be more marked soon--but yes!"

"You think Monsieur Barouche will be elected, do you?" asked Junia, as they closed the door.

"I know he will."

"I've been working for Monsieur Grier, and that isn't my opinion."

"I'm working for Barode Barouche, and I know the result."

They were now in Luzanne's small room, and Junia noted that it had all the characteristics of a habitant dwelling--even to the crucifix at the head of the bed, and the picture of the French-Canadian Premier of the Dominion on the wall. She also saw a rosary on a little hook beside the bed.

"How do you know?"

"Because I am the wife of Carnac Grier, and I know what will happen to him.... You turn pale, ma'm'selle, but your colour isn't going to alter the truth. I'm Carnac Grier's wife by the laws of New York State."

"Does Monsieur Grier admit he is your husband?"

"He must respect the law by which he married me."

"I don't believe he was ever honestly married to you," declared Junia. "Has he ever lived with you--for a single day?"

"What difference would that make? I have the marriage certificate here." She touched her bosom.

"I'd have thought you were Barode Barouche's wife by the way you act. Isn't it a wife's duty to help her husband--Shouldn't you be fighting against Barode Barouche?"

"I mean to be recognized as Carnac Grier's wife--that's why I'm here."

"Have you seen him since you've been here? Have you told him how you're working against him? Have you got the certificate with you?"

"Of course. I've got my head on like a piece of flesh and blood that belongs to me--bien sur."

She suddenly drew from her breast a folded piece of blue paper. "There it is, signed by Judge Grimshaw that married us, and there's the seal; and the whole thing can't be set aside. Look at it, if you like, petite."

She held it not far from Junia's face, and Junia could see that it was registration of a marriage of New York State. She could have snatched the paper away, but she meant to conquer Luzanne's savage spirit. "Well, how do you intend to defeat your husband?"

"I mean to have the people asked from a platform if they've seen the wife of the candidate, and then a copy of the certificate will be read to all. What do you think will happen after that?"

"It will have to be done to-night or to-morrow night," remarked Junia.

"Because the election comes the day after to-morrow,--eh

"Because of that. And who will read the document?"

"Who but the man he's trying to defeat?--tell me that."

"You mean Barode Barouche?"

"Who else?"

"Has he agreed to do it?"

Luzanne nodded. "On the day--Carnac became a candidate."

"And if Carnac Grier denies it?"

"He won't deny it. He never has. He says he was drunk when the thing was done--mais, oui."

"Is that all he says?"

"No. He says he didn't know it was a real marriage, and--" Luzanne then related Carnac's defence, and added: "Do you think anyone would believe him with the facts as they are? Remember I'm French and he's English, and that marriage to a French girl is life and death; and this is a French province!"

"And yet you are a Catholic and French, and were married by a Protestant judge."

"That is my own affair, ma'm'selle."

"It is not the thing to say to French-Canadians here. What do you get out of it all? If he is your husband, wouldn't it be better to have him successful than your defeated victim. What will be yours if you defeat--"

"Revenge--my rights--the law!" was the sharp rejoinder.

Junia smiled. "What is there in it all for you? If the man I married did not love me, I'd use the law to be free. What's the good of trying to destroy a husband who doesn't love you, who never loved you--never."

"You don't know that," retorted Luzanne sharply.

"Yes, I do. He never loved you. He never lived with you for a single day. That's in the power of a doctor to prove. If you are virtuous, then he has taken nothing; if you have given your all, and not to Carnac Grier, what will his mind be about you? Is it money? He has no money except what he earns. His father left him nothing--not a dollar. Why do you hate him so? I've known him all my life, and I've never known him hurt man or animal. When did he ever misuse you, or hurt you? Did he ever treat you badly? How did you come to know him? Answer that."

She paused and Luzanne flushed. The first meeting! Why, that was the day Carnac had saved her life, had taken her home safe from danger, and had begun a friendship with behind it only a desire to help her. And how had she repaid the saviour of her life? By tricking him into a marriage, and then by threatening him if he did not take her to his home. Truth is, down beneath her misconduct was a passion for the man which, not satisfied, became a passion to destroy him and his career. It was a characteristic of her blood and breed. It was a relic of ancient dishonour, inherited and searching; it was atavism and the incorrigible thing. Beneath everything was her desire for the man, and the mood in which she had fought for him was the twist of a tortured spirit. She was not so deliberate as her actions had indicated. She had been under the malicious influence of her father and her father's friend. She was like one possessed of a spirit that would not be deterred from its purpose. Junia saw the impression she had made, and set it down to her last words.

"Where did you first meet him? What was the way of it?" she added.

Suddenly Junia came forward and put her hands on Luzanne's shoulders. "I think you loved Carnac once, and perhaps you love him now, and are only trying to hurt him out of anger. If you destroy him, you will repent of it--so soon! I don't know what is behind these things you are doing, but you'll be sorry for it when it is too late. Yes, I know you have loved Carnac, for I see all the signs--"

"Do you love him then, ma'm'selle?" asked Luzanne exasperated. "Do you love him?"

"He has never asked me, and I have never told him that; and I don't know, but, if I did, I would move heaven and earth to help him, and if he didn't love me I'd help him just the same. And so, I think, should you. If you ever loved him, then you ought to save him from evil. Tell me, did Carnac ever do you a kind act, one that is worth while in your life?"

For a moment Luzanne stood dismayed, then a new expression drove the dark light from her eyes. It was as though she had found a new sense.

"He saved my life the day we first met," she said at last under Junia's hypnotic influence.

"And now you would strike him when he is trying to do the big thing. You threaten to declare his marriage, in the face of those who can elect him to play a great part for his country."

Junia saw the girl was in emotional turmoil, was obsessed by one idea, and she felt her task had vast difficulty. That Carnac should have married the girl was incredible, that he had played an unworthy part seemed sure; yet it was in keeping with his past temperament. The girl was the extreme contrast of himself, with dark--almost piercing-eyes, and a paleness which was physically constitutional--the joy of the artistic spirit. It was the head of a tragedienne or a martyr, and the lean, rather beautiful body was eloquent of life.

Presently Junia said: "To try to spoil him would be a crime against his country, and I shall tell him you are here."

"He'll do nothing at all." The French girl's words were suddenly biting, malicious and defiant. The moment's softness she had felt was gone, and hardness returned. "If he hasn't moved against me since he married me, he wouldn't dare do so now."

"Why hasn't he moved? Because you're a woman, and also he'd believe you'd repent of your conduct. But I believe he will act sternly against you at once. There is much at stake."

"You want it for your own sake," said Luzanne sharply. "You think he'd marry you if I gave him up."

"Perhaps he'd ask me to marry him, if you weren't in the way, but I'd have my own mind about that, and knowing what you've told me--truth or lie--I'd weigh it all carefully. Besides, he's not the only man. Doesn't that ever strike you? Why try to hold him by a spurious bond when there are other men as good-looking, as clever? Is your world so bare of men--no, I'm sure it isn't," she added, for she saw anger rising in the impulsive girl. "There are many who'd want to marry you, and it's better to marry some one who loves you than to hold to one who doesn't love you at all. Is it hate? He saved your life--and that's how you came to know him first, and now you would destroy him! He's a great man. He would not bend to his father's will, and so he was left without a sou of his father's money. All because he has a conscience, and an independence worthy of the best that ever lived.... That's the soul of the man you are trying to hurt. If you had a real soul, there wouldn't be even the thought of this crime. Do you think he wouldn't loathe you, if you do this ghastly thing? Would any real man endure it for an hour? What do you expect to get but ugly revenge on a man who never gave anything except friendship?"

"Friendship--friendship-yes, he gave that, but emotion too."

"You think that real men marry women for whom they only have emotion. You think that he--Carnac Grier--would marry any woman on that basis? Come, ma'm'selle, the truth! He didn't know he was being married, and when you told him it was a real marriage he left you at once. You and yours tricked him--the man you'd never have known if he hadn't saved your life. You thought that with your beauty--yes, you are beautiful--you'd conquer him, and that he'd give in, and become a real husband in a real home. Come now, isn't that it?"

The other did not reply. Her face was alive with memories. The lower things were flying from it, a spirit of womanhood was living in her--feebly, but truly, living. She was now conscious of the insanity of her pursuit of Carnac. For a few moments she stood silent, and then she said with agitation:

"If I give this up"--she took from her breast the blue document--"he'd be safe in his election, and he'd marry you: is it not so, ma'm'selle?"

"He'd be safe for his election, but he has never asked me to marry him, and there are others besides him."--She was thinking of Tarboe. "Tell me," she added suddenly, "to whom have you told this thing in Montreal? Did you mean to challenge him yourself?"

"I told it only to M'sieu' Barouche, and he said he would use it at the right moment--and the right moment has come," she added. "He asked me for a copy of it last night, and I said I'd give it to him to-day. It's because of him I've been here quiet all these weeks as Ma'm'selle Larue."

"He is worse than you, mademoiselle, for he has known Carnac's family, and he has no excuse. If a man can't win his fight fairly, he oughtn't to be in public life."

After a few dark moments, with a sudden burst of feeling, Luzanne said: "Well, Carnac won't be out of public life through me!"

She took the blue certificate from her breast and was about to tear it up, when Junia stopped her.

"Don't do that," Junia said, "don't tear it up yet, give it to me. I'll tear it up at the right moment. Give it to me, my dear."

She held out her hand, and the blue certificate was presently in her fingers. She felt a sudden weakness in her knees, for it seemed she held the career of Carnac Grier, and it moved her as she had never been moved.

With the yielding of the certificate, Luzanne seemed suddenly to lose self-control. She sank on the bed beside the wall with a cry of distress.

"Mon Dieu--oh, Mon Dieu!" Then she sprang to her feet. "Give it back, give it back tome," she cried, with frantic pain. "It's all I have of him--it's all I have."

"I won't give it back," declared Junia quietly. "It's a man's career, and you must let it go. It's the right thing to do. Let it stand, mademoiselle."

She fully realized the half-insane mind and purpose of the girl, and she wrapped her arms around the stricken figure.

"See, my dear," she said, "it's no use. You can't have it back. Your soul is too big for that now. You can be happy in the memory that you gave Carnac back his freedom."

"But the record stands," said the girl helplessly. "Tell the truth and have it removed. You owe that to the man who saved your life. Have it done at once at Shipton."

"What will you do with the certificate?" She glanced at Junia's bosom where the paper was hidden. "I will give it to Carnac, and he can do what he likes with it."

By now the tears were streaming down the face of Luzanne Larue, and hard as it was for Junia, she tried to comfort her, for the girl should be got away at once, and only friendliness could achieve that. She would see Denzil--he was near by, waiting.

There would be a train in two hours for New York and the girl must take it-she must.

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