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- The Trespasser, Volume 1. - 10/13 -
Then he blew out the candle, and in five minutes was sound asleep.
He was out at six o'clock. He made for the stables, and found Jacques pacing the yard. He smiled at Jacques's dazed look.
"What about the horse, Brillon?" he said, nodding as he came up.
"Saracen's had a slice of the stable-boy's shoulder--sir."
Amusement loitered in Gaston's eyes. The "sir" had stuck in Jacques's throat.
"Saracen has established himself, then? Good! And the broncho?"
"Bien, a trifle only. They laugh much in the kitchen--"
"The hall, Brillon."
"--in the hall last night. That hired man over there--"
"That groom, Brillon."
"--that groom, he was a fool, and fat. He was the worst. This morning he laugh at my broncho. He say a horse like that is nothing: no pace, no travel. I say the broncho was not so ver' bad, and I tell him try the paces. I whisper soft, and the broncho stand like a lamb. He mount, and sneer, and grin at the high pommel, and start. For a minute it was pretty; and then I give a little soft call, and in a minute there was the broncho bucking--doubling like a hoop, and dropping same as lead. Once that--groom--come down on the pommel, then over on the ground like a ball, all muck and blood."
The half-breed paused, looking innocently before him. Gaston's mouth quirked.
"A solid success, Brillon. Teach them all the tricks you can. At ten o'clock come to my room. The campaign begins then."
Jacques ran a hand through his long black hair, and fingered his sash. Gaston understood.
"The hair and ear-rings may remain, Brillon; but the beard and clothes must go--except for occasions. Come along."
For the next two hours Gaston explored the stables and the grounds. Nothing escaped him. He gathered every incident of the surroundings, and talked to the servants freely, softly, and easily, yet with a superiority, which suddenly was imposed in the case of the huntsman at the kennels--for the Whipshire hounds were here. Gaston had never ridden to hounds. It was not, however, his cue to pretend knowledge. He was strong enough to admit ignorance. He stood leaning against the door of the kennels, arms folded, eyes half-closed, with the sense of a painter, before the turning bunch of brown and white, getting the charm of distance and soft tones. His blood beat hard, for suddenly he felt as if he had been behind just such a pack one day, one clear desirable day of spring. He saw people gathering at the kennels; saw men drink beer and eat sandwiches at the door of the huntsman's house,--a long, low dwelling, with crumbling arched doorways like those of a monastery, watched them get away from the top of the moor, he among them; heard the horn, the whips; and saw the fox break cover.
Then came a rare run for five sweet miles--down a long valley--over quick-set hedges, with stiffish streams--another hill--a great combe-- a lovely valley stretching out--a swerve to the right--over a gate-- and the brush got at a farmhouse door.
Surely, he had seen it all; but what kink of the brain was it that the men wore flowing wigs and immense boot-legs, and sported lace in the hunting-field? And why did he see within that picture another of two ladies and a gentleman hawking?
He was roused from his dream by hearing the huntsman say in a quizzical voice:
"How do you like the dogs, sir?"
To his last day Lugley, the huntsman, remembered the slow look of cold surprise, of masterful malice, scathing him from head to foot. The words that followed the look, simple as they were, drove home the naked reproof:
"What is your name, my man?"
"Lugley! Lugley! H'm! Well, Lugley, I like the hounds better than I like you. Who is Master of the Hounds, Lugley?"
"Captain Maudsley, sir."
"Just so. You are satisfied with your place, Lugley?"
"Yes, sir," said the man in a humble voice, now cowed.
The news of the arrival of the strangers had come to him late at night, and, with Whipshire stupidity, he had thought that any one coming from the wilds of British America must be but a savage after all.
"Very well; I wouldn't throw myself out of a place, if I were you."
"Oh, no, sir! Beg pardon, sir, I--"
"Attend to your hounds there, Lugley."
So saying, Gaston nodded Jacques away with him, leaving the huntsman sick with apprehension.
"You see how it is to be done, Brillon?" said Gaston. Jacques's brown eyes twinkled.
"You have the grand trick, sir."
"I enjoy the game; and so shall you, if you will. You've begun well. I don't know much of this life yet; but it seems to me that they are all part of a machine, not the idea behind the machine. They have no invention. Their machine is easy to learn. Do not pretend; but for every bit you learn show something better, something to make them dizzy now and then."
He paused on a knoll and looked down. The castle, the stables, the cottages of labourers and villagers lay before them. In a certain highly-cultivated field, men were working. It was cut off in squares and patches. It had an air which struck Gaston as unusual; why, he could not tell. But he had a strange divining instinct, or whatever it may be called. He made for the field and questioned the workmen.
The field was cut up into allotment gardens. Here, at a nominal rent, the cottager could grow his vegetables; a little spot of the great acre of England, which gave the labourer a tiny sense of ownership, of manhood. Gaston was interested. More, he was determined to carry that experiment further, if he ever got the chance. There was no socialism in him. The true barbarian is like the true aristocrat: more a giver of gifts than a lover of co-operation; conserving ownership by right of power and superior independence, hereditary or otherwise. Gaston was both barbarian and aristocrat.
"Brillon," he said, as they walked on, "do you think they would be happier on the prairies with a hundred acres of land, horses, cows, and a pen of pigs?"
"Can I be happy here all at once, sir?"
"That's just it. It's too late for them. They couldn't grasp it unless they went when they were youngsters. They'd long for 'Home and Old England' and this grub-and-grind life. Gracious heaven, look at them-- crumpled-up creatures! And I'll stake my life, they were as pretty children as you'd care to see. They are out of place in the landscape, Brillon; for it is all luxury and lush, and they are crumples--crumples! But yet there isn't any use being sorry for them, for they don't grasp anything outside the life they are living. Can't you guess how they live? Look at the doors of the houses shut, and the windows sealed; yet they've been up these three hours! And they'll suck in bad air, and bad food; and they'll get cancer, and all that; and they'll die and be trotted away to the graveyard for 'passun' to hurry them into their little dark cots, in the blessed hope of everlasting life! I'm going to know this thing, Brillon, from tooth to ham-string; and, however it goes, we'll have lived up and down the whole scale; and that's something."
He suddenly stopped, and then added:
"I'm likely to go pretty far in this. I can't tell how or why, but it's so. Now, once more, as yesterday afternoon, for good or for bad, for long or for short, for the gods or for the devil, are you with me? There's time to turn back even yet, and I'll say no word to your going."
"But no, no! a vow is a vow. When I cannot run I will walk, when I cannot walk I will crawl after you--comme ca!"
Lady Belward did not appear at breakfast. Sir William and Gaston breakfasted alone at half past nine o'clock. The talk was of the stables and the estate generally.
The breakfast-room looked out on a soft lawn, stretching away into a broad park, through which a stream ran; and beyond was a green hillside. The quiet, the perfect order and discipline, gave a pleasant tingle to Gaston's veins. It was all so easy, and yet so admirable--elegance without weight. He felt at home. He was not certain of some trifles of etiquette; but he and Sir William were alone, and he followed his instincts. Once he frankly asked his grandfather of a matter of form, of which he was uncertain the evening before. The thing was done so naturally that the conventional mind of the baronet was not disturbed. The Belwards were notable for their brains, and Sir William saw that the young man had an unusual share. He also felt that this startling individuality might make a hazardous future; but he liked the fellow, and he had a debt to pay to the son of his own dead son. Of course, if their wills came into conflict, there could be but one thing--the young man must yield; or, if he played the fool, there must be an end. Still, he hoped the best. When breakfast was finished, he proposed going to the library.
There Sir William talked of the future, asked what Gaston's ideas were, and questioned him as to his present affairs. Gaston frankly said that he wanted to live as his father would have done, and that he had no property, and no money beyond a hundred pounds, which would last him a couple of years on the prairies, but would be fleeting here.
Sir William at once said that he would give him a liberal allowance, with, of course, the run of his own stables and their house in town: and when he married acceptably, his allowance would be doubled.
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