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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCarnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 10. Denzil Tells His Story
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Carnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 10. Denzil Tells His Story Post by :Reeve Category :Long Stories Author :Gilbert Parker Date :May 2012 Read :1574

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Carnac's Folly - Book 1 - Chapter 10. Denzil Tells His Story


"You keep going, Denzil," remarked Carnac as he lighted his pipe and came close to the old servant.

The face of the toiler lighted, the eyes gazed kindly, at Carnac. "What else is there to do? We must go on. There's no standing still in the world. We must go on--surelee."

"Even when it's hard going, eh?" asked Carnac, not to get an answer so much as to express his own feelings. "Yes, that's right, m'sieu'; that's how it is. We can't stand still even when it's hard going--but, no, bagosh!"

He realized that around Carnac there was a shadow which took its toll of light and life. He had the sound instinct of primitive man. Strangely enough in his own eyes was the look in those of Carnac, a past, hovering on the brink of revelation. His appearance was that of one who had suffered; his knotted hands, dark with warm blood, had in them a story of life's sorrows; his broad shoulders were stooped with the inertia of long regret; his feet clung to the ground as though there was a great weight above them. But a smile shimmered at his mouth, giving to his careworn face something almost beautiful, lifting the darkness from his powerful, shaggy forehead. Many men knew Denzil by sight, few knew him in actual being. There was a legend that once he was about to be married, but the girl had suddenly gone mad and drowned herself in the river. No one thought it strange that a month later the eldest son of the Tarboe family had been found dead in the woods with a gun in his hand and a bullet through his heart. No one had ever linked the death of Denzil's loved one with that of Almeric Tarboe.

It was unusual for a Frenchman to give up his life to an English family, but that is what he had done, and of late he had watched Junia with new eager solicitude. The day she first saw Tarboe had marked an exciting phase in her life.

Denzil had studied her, and he knew vaguely that a fresh interest, disturbing, electrifying, had entered into her. Because it was Tarboe, the fifteen years younger brother of that Almeric Tarboe who had died a month after his own girl had left this world, his soul was fighting--fighting.

As the smoke of Carnac's pipe came curling into the air, Denzil put on his coat, and laid the hoe and rake on his shoulder.

"Yes, even when it's hard going we still have to march on--name of God, yes!" he repeated, and he looked at Carnac quizzically.

"Where are you going? Don't you want to talk to me?"

"I'm going home, m'sieu'. If you'll come with me I'll give you a drink of hard cider, the best was ever made."

"I'll come. Denzil, I've never been in your little house. That's strange, when I've known you so many years."

"It's not too late to mend, m'sieu'. There ain't much in it, but it's all I need."

Carnac stepped with Denzil towards the little house, just in front of three pine-trees on the hill, and behind Junia's home.

"I always lock my door--always," said Denzil as he turned a key and opened the door.

They entered into the cool shade of a living-room. There was little furniture, yet against the wall was a kind of bunk, comfortable and roomy, on which was stretched the skin of a brown bear. On the wall above it was a crucifix, and on the opposite wall was the photograph of a girl, good-looking, refined, with large, imaginative eyes, and a face that might have been a fortune.

Carnac gazed at it for a moment, absorbed. "That was your girl, Denzil, wasn't it?" he asked.

Denzil nodded. "The best the world ever had, m'sieu'," he replied, "the very best, but she went queer and drowned herself--ah, but yes!"

"She just went queer, eh!" Carnac said, looking Denzil straight in the eyes. "Was there insane blood in her family?"

"She wasn't insane," answered Denzil firmly. "She'd been bad used--terrible."

"That didn't come out at the inquest, did it?"

"Not likely. She wrote it me. I'm telling you what I've never told anyone." He shut the door, as though to make a confessional. "She wrote it me, and I wasn't telling anyone-but no. She'd been away down at Quebec City, and there a man got hold of her. Almeric Tarboe it was--the older brother of Luke Tarboe at John Grier's." Suddenly the face of the little man went mad with emotion. "I--I--" he paused.

Carnac held up his hand. "No-no-no, don't tell me. Tarboe--I understand, the Unwritten Law. You haven't told me, but I understand. I remember: he was found in the woods with his gun in his hand-dead. I read it all by accident long ago; and that was the story, eh!"

"Yes. She was young, full of imagination. She loved me, but he was clever, and he was high up, and she was low down. He talked her blind, and then in the woods it was, in the woods where he died, that he--"

Suddenly the little man wrung his fingers like one robbed of reason. "He was a strongman," he went on, "and she was a girl, weak, but not wanton ... and so she died, telling me, loving me--so she died, and so he died, too, in the woods with his gun in his hand. Yes, 'twas done with his own gun--by accident--by accident! He stumbled, and the gun went off. That was the story at the inquest. No one knew I was there. I was never seen with him and I've never been sorry. He got what he deserved--sacre, yes!"

There was something overwhelming in the face of the little resolute, powerful man. His eyes were aflame. He was telling for the first time the story of his lifelong agony and shame.

"It had to be done. She was young, so sweet, so good, aye, she was good-in her soul she was good, ah, surelee. That's why she died in the pond. No one knew. The inquest did not bring out anything, but that's why he died; and ever since I've been mourning; life has no rest for me. I'm not sorry for what I did. I've told it you because you saved me years ago when I fell down the bank. You were only fourteen then, but I've never forgotten. And she, that sweet young lady, she--she was there too; and now when I look at this Tarboe, the brother of that man, and see her and know what I know--sacre!" He waved a hand. "No-no-no, don't think there's anything except what's in the soul. That man has touched ma'm'selle--I don't know why, but he has touched her heart. Perhaps by his great bulk, his cleverness, his brains, his way of doing things. In one sense she's his slave, because she doesn't want to think of him, and she does. She wants to think of you--and she does--ah, bagosh, yes!"

"Yes, I understand," remarked Carnac morosely. "I understand."

"Then why do you let her be under Tarboe's influence? Why don't--"

Carnac thrust out a hand that said silence. "Denzil, I'll never forget what you've told me about yourself. Some day you'll have to tell it to the priest, and then--"

"I'll never tell it till I'm on my death-bed. Then I'll tell it, sacre bapteme, yes!"

"You're a bad Catholic, Denzil," remarked Carnac with emotion, but a smile upon his face.

"I may be a bad Catholic, but the man deserved to die, and he died. What's the difference, so far's the world's concerned, whether he died by accident, or died--as he died. It's me that feels the fury of the damned, and want my girl back every hour: and she can't come. But some day I'll go to M'sieu' Luke Tarboe, and tell him the truth, as I've told it you--bagosh, yes!"

"I think he'd try and kill you, if you did. That's the kind of man he is."

"You think if he knew the truth he'd try and kill me--he!"

Carnac paused. He did not like to say everything in his mind. "Do you think he'd say much and do little?"

"I dunno, I dunno, but I'll tell him the truth and take my chance." Suddenly he swung round and stretched out appealing hands. "Haven't you got any sense, m'sieu'? Don't you see what you should do? Ma'm'selle Junia cares for you. I know it--I've seen it in her eyes often--often."

With sudden vehemence Carnac caught the wrists of the other. "It can't be, Denzil. I can't tell you why yet. I'm going away. If Tarboe wants her--good--good; I must give her a chance."

Denzil shrank. "There's something wrong, m'sieu'," he said. Then his eyes fastened on Carnac's. Suddenly, with a strange, shining light in them, he added "It will all come right for you and her. I'll live for that. If you go away, I'll take good care of her."

"Even if--" Carnac paused.

"Yes, even if he makes love to her. He'll want to marry her, surelee."

"Well, that's not strange," remarked Carnac.

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