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- The Trespasser, Volume 1. - 2/13 -
"I do it again."
He drew out a rosary, and disregarding Belward's outstretched hand, said:
"By the Mother of God, I will never leave you!" There was a kind of wondering triumph in Belward's eyes, though he had at first shrunk from Jacques's action, and a puzzling smile came.
"Wherever I go, or whatever I do?"
"Whatever you do, or wherever you go."
He put the rosary to his lips, and made the sign of the cross.
His master looked at him curiously, intently. Here was a vain, naturally indolent half-breed, whose life had made for selfishness and independence, giving his neck willingly to a man's heel, serving with blind reverence, under a voluntary vow.
"Well, it's like this, Jacques," Belward said presently; "I want you, and I'm not going to say that you'll have a better time than you did in the North, or on the Slope; but if you'd rather be with me than not, you'll find that I'll interest you. There's a bond between us, anyway. You're half French, and I'm one-fourth French, and more. You're half Indian, and I'm one-fourth Indian--no more. That's enough. So far, I haven't much advantage. But I'm one-half English--King's English, for there's been an offshoot of royalty in our family somewhere, and there's the royal difference. That's where I get my brains--and manners."
"Where did you get the other?" asked Jacques, shyly, almost furtively.
"Not money--the other."
Belward spurred, and his horse sprang away viciously. A laugh came back on Jacques, who followed as hard as he could, and it gave him a feeling of awe. They were apart for a long time, then came together again, and rode for miles without a word. At last Belward, glancing at a sign-post before an inn door, exclaimed at the legend--"The Whisk o' Barley,"--and drew rein. He regarded the place curiously for a minute. The landlord came out. Belward had some beer brought.
A half-dozen rustics stood gaping, not far away. He touched his horse with a heel. Saracen sprang towards them, and they fell back alarmed. Belward now drank his beer quietly, and asked question after question of the landlord, sometimes waiting for an answer, sometimes not--a kind of cross-examination. Presently he dismounted.
As he stood questioning, chiefly about Ridley Court and its people, a coach showed on the hill, and came dashing down and past. He lifted his eyes idly, though never before had he seen such a coach as swings away from Northumberland Avenue of a morning. He was not idle, however; but he had not come to England to show surprise at anything. As the coach passed his face lifted above the arm on the neck of the horse, keen, dark, strange. A man on the box-seat, attracted at first by the uncommon horses and their trappings, caught Belward's eyes. Not he alone, but Belward started then. Some vague intelligence moved the minds of both, and their attention was fixed till the coach rounded a corner and was gone.
The landlord was at Belward's elbow.
"The gentleman on the box-seat be from Ridley Court. That's Maister Ian Belward, sir."
Gaston Belward's eyes half closed, and a sombre look came, giving his face a handsome malice. He wound his fingers in his horse's mane, and put a foot in the stirrup.
"Who is 'Maister Ian'?"
"Maister Ian be Sir William's eldest, sir. On'y one that's left, sir. On'y three to start wi': and one be killed i' battle, and one had trouble wi' his faither and Maister Ian; and he went away and never was heard on again, sir. That's the end on him."
"Oh, that's the end on him, eh, landlord? And how long ago was that?"
"Becky, lass," called the landlord within the door, "wheniver was it Maister Robert turned his back on the Court--iver so while ago? Eh, a fine lad that Maister Robert as iver I see!"
Fat laborious Becky hobbled out, holding an apple and a knife. She blinked at her husband, and then at the strangers.
"What be askin' o' the Court?" she said. Her husband repeated the question.
She gathered her apron to her eyes with an unctuous sob:
"Doan't a' know when Maister Robert went! He comes, i' the house 'ere and says, 'Becky, gie us a taste o' the red-top-and where's Jock?' He was always thinkin' a deal o' my son Jock. 'Jock be gone,' I says, 'and I knows nowt o' his comin' back'--meanin', I was, that day. 'Good for Jock!' says he, 'and I'm goin' too, Becky, and I knows nowt o' my comin' back.' 'Where be goin', Maister Robert?' I says. 'To hell, Becky,' says he, and he laughs. 'From hell to hell. I'm sick to my teeth o' one, I'll try t'other'--a way like that speaks he."
Belward was impatient, and to hurry the story he made as if to start on. Becky, seeing, hastened. "Dear a' dear! The red-top were afore him, and I tryin' to make what become to him. He throws arm 'round me, smacks me on the cheek, and says he: 'Tell Jock to keep the mare, Becky.' Then he flings away, and never more comes back to the Court. And that day one year my Jock smacks me on the cheek, and gets on the mare; and when I ask: 'Where be goin'?' he says: 'For a hunt i' hell wi' Maister Robert, mother.' And from that day come back he never did, nor any word. There was trouble wi' the lad-wi' him and Maister Robert at the Court; but I never knowed nowt o' the truth. And it's seven-and-twenty years since Maister Robert went."
Gaston leaned over his horse's neck, and thrust a piece of silver into the woman's hands.
"Take that, Becky Lawson, and mop your eyes no more."
"How dost know my name is Becky Lawson? I havena been ca'd so these three-and-twenty years--not since a' married good man here, and put Jock's faither in 's grave yander."
"The devil told me," he answered, with a strange laugh, and, spurring, they were quickly out of sight. They rode for a couple of miles without speaking. Jacques knew his master, and did not break the silence. Presently they came over a hill, and down upon a little bridge. Belward drew rein, and looked up the valley. About two miles beyond the roofs and turrets of the Court showed above the trees. A whimsical smile came to his lips.
"Brillon," he said, "I'm in sight of home."
The half-breed cocked his head. It was the first time that Belward had called him "Brillon"--he had ever been "Jacques." This was to be a part of the new life. They were not now hunting elk, riding to "wipe out" a camp of Indians or navvies, dining the owner of a rancho or a deputation from a prairie constituency in search of a member, nor yet with a senator at Washington, who served tea with canvas-back duck and tooth-picks with dessert. Once before had Jacques seen this new manner--when Belward visited Parliament House at Ottawa, and was presented to some notable English people, visitors to Canada. It had come to these notable folk that Mr. Gaston Belward had relations at Ridley Court, and that of itself was enough to command courtesy. But presently, they who would be gracious for the family's sake, were gracious for the man's. He had that which compelled interest--a suggestive, personal, distinguished air. Jacques knew his master better than any one else knew him; and yet he knew little, for Belward was of those who seem to give much confidence, and yet give little--never more than he wished.
"Yes, monsieur, in sight of home," Jacques replied, with a dry cadence.
"Say 'sir,' not 'monsieur,' Brillon; and from the time we enter the Court yonder, look every day and every hour as you did when the judge asked you who killed Tom Daly."
Jacques winced, but nodded his head. Belward continued:
"What you hear me tell is what you can speak of; otherwise you are blind and dumb. You understand?" Jacques's face was sombre, but he said quickly: "Yes--sir."
He straightened himself on his horse, as if to put himself into discipline at once--as lead to the back of a racer.
Belward read the look. He drew his horse close up. Then he ran an arm over the other's shoulder.
"See here, Jacques. This is a game that's got to be played up to the hilt. A cat has nine lives, and most men have two. We have. Now listen. You never knew me mess things, did you? Well, I play for keeps in this; no monkeying. I've had the life of Ur of the Chaldees; now for Babylon. I've lodged with the barbarian; here are the roofs of ivory. I've had my day with my mother's people; voila! for my father's. You heard what Becky Lawson said. My father was sick of it at twenty-five, and got out. We'll see what my father's son will do. . . . I'm going to say my say to you, and have done with it. As like as not there isn't another man that I'd have brought with me. You're all right. But I'm not going to rub noses. I stick when I do stick, but I know what's got to be done here; and I've told you. You'll not have the fun out of it that I will, but you won't have the worry. Now, we start fresh. I'm to be obeyed; I'm Napoleon. I've got a devil, yet it needn't hurt you, and it won't. But if I make enemies here--and I'm sure to--let them look out. Give me your hand, Jacques; and don't you forget that there are two Gaston Belwards, and the one you have hunted and lived with is the one you want to remember when you get raw with the new one. For you'll hear no more slang like this from me, and you'll have to get used to lots of things."
Without waiting reply, Belward urged on his horse, and at last paused on the top of a hill, and waited for Jacques. It was now dusk, and the landscape showed soft, sleepy, and warm.
"It's all of a piece," Belward said to himself, glancing from the trim hedges, the small, perfectly-tilled fields and the smooth roads, to Ridley Court itself, where many lights were burning and gates opening and shutting. There was some affair on at the Court, and he smiled to think of his own appearance among the guests.
"It's a pity I haven't clothes with me, Brillon; they have a show going
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