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He was not a man to take hints. Everything that vexed his life roused opposition. This Tarboe knew, but he also knew that the business must suffer, if the old man suffered.
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When John Grier left the office it was with head bowed and mind depressed. Nothing had happened to cause him grave anxiety, yet he had been below par for several hours. Why was he working so hard? Why was life to him such a concentration? Why did he seek for more money and to get more power? To whom could it go? Not to Fabian; not to his wife. To Tarboe--well, there was not enough in that! This man had only lately come into his life, and was only near to him in a business sense.
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Carnac was near in every sense that really mattered, and Carnac was out of it all. He was not loved, and in his heart of hearts he knew it, but he had had his own way, and he loved himself. No one seemed to care for him, not even his wife. How many years was it since they had roomed together? Yet as he went towards his own home now, he recalled the day they were married, and for the first time had drawn as near to each other as life could draw.
He had thought her wonderful then, refined, and oh! His love had almost throttled her.
She was warm and bountiful and full of temperament. So it went for three years, and then slowly he drew away from her until at last, returning from the backwoods, he had gone to another room, and there had stayed. Very occasionally he had smothered her with affection, but that had passed, until now, middle- aged, she seemed to be not a room away from him, but a thousand rooms away. He saw it with no reproach to himself.
He forgot it was he who had left her room, and had set up his own tabernacle, because his hours differed from hers, and because she tossed in her bed at nights, and that made him restless too.
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Yet, if his love had been the real thing, he would have stayed, because their lives were so similar, and the rules of domestic life in French Canada were so fixed. He had spoiled his own household, destroyed his own peace, forsaken his own nest, outlived his hope and the possibility of further hope, except more business success, more to leave behind him. That was the stern truth. Had he been a different man the devotion his wife had shown would have drawn him back to her; had she been a different woman, unvexed by a horrible remembrance, she would have made his soul her own and her soul his own once again.
She had not dared to tell him the truth; afraid more for her boy's sake than for her own. She had been glad that Tarboe had helped to replace the broken link with Fabian, that he had taken the place which Carnac, had he been John Grier's son, ought to have taken.
She could not blame Carnac, and she could not blame her husband, but the thing ate into her heart. John Grier found her sitting by her table in the great living-room, patient and grave, and yet she smiled at him, and rose as he came into the room.
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His troubled face brought her forward quickly. She stretched out a hand appealingly to him. Has anything upset you?