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- The Trespasser, Volume 1. - 3/13 -
He had dropped again into the new form of master and man. His voice was cadenced, gentlemanly. Jacques pointed to his own saddle-bag.
"No, no, they are not the things needed. I want the evening-dress which cost that cool hundred dollars in New York."
Still Jacques was silent. He did not know whether, in his new position, he was expected to suggest. Belward understood, and it pleased him.
"If we had lost the track of a buck moose, or were nosing a cache of furs, you'd find a way, Brillon."
"Voila," said Jacques; "then, why not wear the buckskin vest, the red- silk sash, and the boots like these?"--tapping his own leathers. "You look a grand seigneur so."
"But I am here to look an English gentleman, not a grand seigneur, nor a company's trader on a break. Never mind, the thing will wait till we stand in my ancestral halls," he added, with a dry laugh.
They neared the Court. The village church was close by the Court-wall. It drew Belward's attention. One by one lights were springing up in it. It was a Friday evening, and the choir were come to practise. They saw buxom village girls stroll in, followed by the organist, one or two young men and a handful of boys. Presently the horsemen were seen, and a staring group gathered at the church door. An idea came to Belward.
"Kings used to make pilgrimages before they took their crowns, why shouldn't I?" he said half-jestingly. Most men placed similarly would have been so engaged with the main event that they had never thought of this other. But Belward was not excited. He was moving deliberately, prepared for every situation. He had a great game in hand, and he had no fear of his ability to play it. He suddenly stopped his horse, and threw the bridle to Jacques, saying:
"I'll be back directly, Brillon."
He entered the churchyard, and passed to the door. As he came the group under the crumbling arch fell back, and at the call of the organist went to the chancel. Belward came slowly up the aisle, and paused about the middle. Something in the scene gave him a new sensation. The church was old, dilapidated; but the timbered roof, the Norman and Early English arches incongruously side by side, with patches of ancient distemper and paintings, and, more than all, the marble figures on the tombs, with hands folded so foolishly,--yet impressively too, brought him up with a quick throb of the heart. It was his first real contact with England; for he had not seen London, save at Euston Station and in the north-west district. But here he was in touch with his heritage. He rested his hand upon a tomb beside him, and looked around slowly.
The choir began the psalm for the following Sunday. At first he did not listen; but presently the organist was heard alone, and then the choir afterwards sang:
"Woe is me, that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech: And to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar."
Simple, dusty, ancient church, thick with effigies and tombs; with inscriptions upon pillars to virgins departed this life; and tablets telling of gentlemen gone from great parochial virtues: it wakened in Belward's brain a fresh conception of the life he was about to live--he did not doubt that he would live it. He would not think of himself as inacceptable to old Sir William Belward. He glanced to the tomb under his hand. There was enough daylight yet to see the inscription on the marble. Besides, a single candle was burning just over his head. He stooped and read:
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF SIR GASTON ROBERT BELWARD, BART., OF RIDLEY COURT, IN THIS PARISH OF GASTONBURY, WHO, AT THE AGE OF ONE AND FIFTY YEARS, AFTER A LIFE OF DISTINGUISHED SERVICE FOR HIS KING AND COUNTRY, AND GRAVE AND CONSTANT CARE OF THOSE EXALTED WORKS WHICH BECAME A GENTLEMAN OF ENGLAND; MOST NOTABLE FOR HIS LOVE OF ARTS AND LETTERS; SENSIBLE IN ALL GRACES AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS; GIFTED WITH SINGULAR VIRTUES AND INTELLECTS; AND DELIGHTING AS MUCH IN THE JOYS OF PEACE AS IN THE HEAVY DUTIES OF WAR: WAS SLAIN BY THE SIDE OF HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS, THE BELOVED AND ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE RUPERT, AT THE BATTLE OF NASEBY, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD MDCXLV.
"A Sojourner as all my Fathers were."
"'Gaston Robert Belward'!"
He read the name over and over, his fingers tracing the letters.
His first glance at the recumbent figure had been hasty. Now, however, he leaned over and examined it. It lay, hands folded, in the dress of Prince Rupert's cavaliers, a sword at side, and great spurs laid beside the heels.
"'Gaston Robert Belward'!"
As this other Gaston Robert Belward looked at the image of his dead ancestor, a wild thought came: Had he himself not fought with Prince Rupert? Was he not looking at himself in stone? Was he not here to show England how a knight of Charles's time would look upon the life of the Victorian age? Would not this still cold Gaston be as strange at Ridley Court as himself fresh from tightening a cinch on the belly of a broncho? Would he not ride from where he had been sojourning as much a stranger in his England as himself?
For a moment the idea possessed him. He was Sir Gaston Robert Belward, Baronet. He remembered now how, at Prince Rupert's side, he had sped on after Ireton's horse, cutting down Roundheads as he passed, on and on, mad with conquest, yet wondering that Rupert kept so long in pursuit while Charles was in danger with Cromwell: how, as the word came to wheel back, a shot tore away the pommel of his saddle; then another, and another, and with a sharp twinge in his neck he fell from his horse. He remembered how he raised himself on his arm and shouted "God save the King!" How he loosed his scarf and stanched the blood at his neck, then fell back into a whirring silence, from which he was roused by feeling himself in strong arms, and hearing a voice say: "Courage, Gaston." Then came the distant, very distant, thud of hoofs, and he fell asleep; and memory was done.
He stood for a moment oblivious to everything: the evening bird fluttering among the rafters, the song of the nightingale without, the sighing wind in the tower entry, the rustics in the doorway, the group in the choir. Presently he became conscious of the words sung:
"A thousand ages in Thy sight Are like an evening gone; Short as the watch that ends the night Before the rising sun.
"Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day."
He was himself again in an instant. He had been in a kind of dream. It seemed a long time since he had entered the church--in reality but a few moments. He caught his moustache in his fingers, and turned on his heel with a musing smile. His spurs clinked as he went down the aisle; and, involuntarily, he tapped a boot-leg with his riding-whip. The singing ceased. His spurs made the only sound. The rustics at the door fell back before him. He had to go up three steps to reach the threshold. As he stood on the top one he paused and turned round.
So, this was home: this church more so even than the Court hard by. Here his ancestors--for how long he did not know, probably since the time of Edward III--idled time away in the dust; here Gaston Belward had been sleeping in effigy since Naseby Field. A romantic light came into his face. Again, why not? Even in the Hudson's Bay country and in the Rocky Mountains, he had been called, "Tivi, The Man of the Other." He had been counted the greatest of Medicine Men--one of the Race: the people of the Pole, who lived in a pleasant land, gifted as none others of the race of men. Not an hour before Jacques had asked him where he got "the other." No man can live in the North for any time without getting the strain of its mystery and romance in him. Gaston waved his hand to the tomb, and said half-believingly:
"Gaston Robert Belward, come again to your kingdom."
He turned to go out, and faced the rector of the parish,--a bent, benign- looking man,--who gazed at him astonished. He had heard the strange speech. His grave eyes rested on the stalwart stranger with courteous inquiry. Gaston knew who it was. Over his left brow there was a scar. He had heard of that scar before. When the venerable Archdeacon Varcoe was tutor to Ian and Robert Belward, Ian, in a fit of anger, had thrown a stick at his brother. It had struck the clergyman, leaving a scar.
Gaston now raised his hat. As he passed, the rector looked after him, puzzled; the words he had heard addressed to the effigy returning. His eyes followed the young man to the gate, and presently, with a quick lifting of the shoulders, he said:
"Robert Belward!" Then added: "Impossible! But he is a Belward."
He saw Gaston mount, then entered and went slowly up the aisle. He paused beside the tomb of that other Belward. His wrinkled hand rested on it.
"That is it," he said at last. "He is like the picture of this Sir Gaston. Strange."
He sighed, and unconsciously touched the scar on his brow. His dealings with the Belwards had not been all joy. Begun with youthful pride and affectionate interest, they had gone on into vexation, sorrow, failure, and shame. While Gaston was riding into his kingdom, Lionel Henry Varcoe was thinking how poor his life had been where he had meant it to be useful. As he stood musing and listening to the music of the choir, a girl came softly up the aisle, and touched him on the arm.
"Grandfather, dear," she said, "aren't you going to the Court? You have a standing invitation for this night in the week. You have not been there for so long."
He fondled the hand on his arm.
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