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- The Trespasser, Volume 2. - 5/12 -
inexpressibly sad. Over her fell dim, coloured lights from the stained- glass windows; and shadowy ancestors looked silently down from the armour-hung walls.
To Gaston, collected as he was, it gave an ominous feeling. Why did she come here even in her sleep? What did that look mean? He gazed intently into her eyes.
All at once her voice came low and broken, and a sob followed the words:
"Gaston, my brother, my brother!"
He stood for a moment stunned, gazing helplessly at her passive figure.
"Gaston, my brother!" he repeated to himself. Then the painful matter dawned upon him. This girl, the granddaughter of the rector of the parish, was his father's daughter--his own sister. He had a sudden spring of new affection--unfelt for those other relations, his by the rights of the law and the gospel. The pathos of the thing caught him in the throat--for her how pitiful, how unhappy! He was sure that, somehow, she had only come to know of it since the afternoon. Then there had been so different a look in her face!
One thing was clear: he had no right to this secret, and it must be for now as if it had never been. He came to her, and took her hand. She rose. He led her from the room, out into the court-yard, and from there through the gate into the road.
All was still. They passed over to the rectory. Just inside the gate, Gaston saw a figure issue from the house, and come quickly towards them. It was the rector, excited, anxious.
Gaston motioned silence, and pointed to her. Then he briefly whispered how she had come. The clergyman said that he had felt uneasy about her, had gone to her room, and was just issuing in search of her. Gaston resigned her, softly advised not waking her, and bade the clergyman good- night.
But presently he turned, touched the arm of the old man, and said meaningly:
The rector's voice shook as he replied: "You have not spoken to her?"
"You will not speak of it?"
"Unless I should die, and she should wish it?"
"Always as she wishes."
They parted, and Gaston returned to the Court.
HE ANSWERS AN AWKWARD QUESTION
The next morning Brillon brought a note from Ian Belward, which said that he was starting, and asked Gaston to be sure and come to Paris. The note was carelessly friendly. After reading it, he lay thinking. Presently he chanced to see Jacques look intently at him.
"Well, Brillon, what is it?" he asked genially. Jacques had come on better than Gaston had hoped for, but the light play of his nature was gone--he was grave, almost melancholy; and, in his way, as notable as his master. Their life in London had changed him much. A valet in St. James's Street was not a hunting comrade on the Coppermine River. Often when Jacques was left alone he stood at the window looking out on the gay traffic, scarcely stirring; his eyes slow, brooding. Occasionally, standing so, he would make the sacred gesture. One who heard him swear now and then, in a calm, deliberate way,--at the cook and the porter,-- would have thought the matters in strange contrast. But his religion was a central habit, followed as mechanically as his appetite or the folding of his master's clothes. Besides, like most woodsmen, he was superstitious. Gaston was kind with him, keeping, however, a firm hand till his manner had become informed by the new duties. Jacques's greatest pleasure was his early morning visits to the stables. Here were Saracen and Jim the broncho-sleek, savage, playful. But he touched the highest point of his London experience when they rode in the Park.
In this Gaston remained singular. He rode always with Jacques. Perhaps he wished to preserve one possible relic of the old life, perhaps he liked this touch of drama; or both. It created notice, criticism, but he was superior to that. Time and again people asked him to ride, but he always pleaded another engagement. He would then be seen with Jacques plus Jacques's earrings and the wonderful hair, riding grandly in the Row. Jacques's eyes sparkled and a snatch of song came to his lips at these times.
No figures in the Park were so striking. There was nothing bizarre, but Gaston had a distinguished look, and women who had felt his hand at their waists in the dance the night before, now knew him, somehow, at a grave distance. Though Gaston did not say it to himself, these were the hours when he really was with the old life--lived it again--prairie, savannah, ice-plain, alkali desert. When, dismounting, the horses were taken and they went up the stairs, Gaston would softly lay his whip across Jacques's shoulders without speaking. This was their only ritual of camaraderie, and neglect of it would have fretted the half-breed. Never had man such a servant. No matter at what hour Gaston returned, he found Jacques waiting; and when he woke he found him ready, as now, on this morning, after a strange night.
"What is it, Jacques?" he repeated.
The old name! Jacques shivered a little with pleasure. Presently he broke out with:
"Monsieur, when do we go back?"
"Go back where?"
"To the North, monsieur."
"What's in your noddle now, Brillon?"
The impatient return to "Brillon" cut Jacques like a whip.
"Monsieur," he suddenly said, his face glowing, his hands opening nervously, "we have eat, we have drunk, we have had the dance and the great music here: is it enough? Sometimes as you sleep you call out, and you toss to the strokes of the tower-clock. When we lie on the Plains of Yath from sunset to sunrise, you never stir then. You remember when we sleep on the ledge of the Voshti mountain--so narrow that we were tied together? Well, we were as babes in blankets. In the Prairie of the Ten Stars your fingers were on the trigger firm as a bolt; here I have watch them shake with the coffee-cup. Monsieur, you have seen: is it enough? You have lived here: is it like the old lodge and the long trail?"
Gaston sat up in bed, looked in the mirror opposite, ran his fingers through his hair, regarded his hands, turning them over, and then, with sharp impatience, said:
"Go to hell!"
The little man's face flushed to his hair; he sucked in the air with a gasp. Without a word, he went to the dressing-table, poured out the shaving-water, threw a towel over his arm, and turned to come to the bed; but, all at once, he sidled back, put down the water, and furtively drew a sleeve across his eyes.
Gaston saw, and something suddenly burned in him. He dropped his eyes, slid out of bed, into his dressing-gown, and sat down.
Jacques made ready. He was not prepared to have Gaston catch him by the shoulders with a nervous grip, search his eyes, and say:
"You damned little fool, I'm not worth it!" Jacques's face shone.
"Every great man has his fool--alors!" was the happy reply.
"Jacques," Gaston presently said, "what's on your mind?"
"I saw--last night, monsieur," he said.
"You saw what?"
"I saw you in the court-yard with the lady." Gaston was now very grave.
"Did you recognise her?"
"No: she moved all as a spirit."
"Jacques, that matter is between you and me. I'm going to tell you, though, two things; and--where's your string of beads?"
Jacques drew out his rosary.
"That's all right. Mum as Manitou! She was asleep; she is my sister. And that is all, till there's need for you to know more."
In this new confidence Jacques was content. The life was a gilded mess, but he could endure it now. Three days passed. During that time Gaston was up to town twice; lunched at Lady Dargan's, and dined at Lord Dunfolly's. For his grandfather, who was indisposed, he was induced to preside at a political meeting in the interest of a wealthy local brewer, who confidently expected the seat, and, through gifts to the party, a knighthood. Before the meeting, in the gush of--as he put it "kindred aims," he laid a finger familiarly in Gaston's button-hole. Jacques, who was present, smiled, for he knew every change in his master's face, and he saw a glitter in his eye. He remembered when they two were in trouble with a gang of river-drivers, and one did this same thing rudely: how Gaston looked down, and said, with a devilish softness: "Take it away." And immediately after the man did so.
Mr. Sylvester Gregory Babbs, in a similar position, heard a voice say down at him, with a curious obliqueness:
"If you please!"
The keenest edge of it was lost on the flaring brewer, but his fingers dropped, and he twisted his heavy watchchain uneasily. The meeting began. Gaston in a few formal words, unconventional in idea, introduced Mr. Babbs as "a gentleman whose name was a household word in the county,
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