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- The Trespasser, Volume 3. - 3/14 -


"Now bring the horse, and I will kiss him too."

Did she think she could rouse Gaston by kissing his servant? Yet it did not disgust him. He knew it was a bit of acting, and it was well done. Besides, Jacques Brillon was not a mere servant, and he, too, had done well. She sat back and laughed lightly when Jacques was gone. Then she said: "The honest fellow!" and hummed an air:

"'The pretty coquette Well she needs to be wise, Though she strike to the heart By a glance of her eyes.

"'For the daintiest bird Is the sport of the storm, And the rose fadeth most When the bosom is warm.'"

In twenty minutes the gate of the garden opened, and Jacques appeared with Saracen. The horse's black skin glistened in the lights, and he tossed his head and champed his bit. Gaston rose. Mademoiselle Cerise sprang to her feet and ran forward. Jacques put out his hand to stop her, and Gaston caught her shoulder. "He's wicked with strangers," Gaston said. "Chat!" she rejoined, stepped quickly to the horse's head and, laughing, put out her hand to stroke him. Jacques caught the beast's nose, and stopped a lunge of the great white teeth.

"Enough, madame, he will kill you!"

"Yet I am beautiful--is it not so?"

"The poor beast is ver' blind."

"A pretty compliment," she rejoined, yet angry at the beast.

Gaston came, took the animal's head in his hands, and whispered. Saracen became tranquil. Gaston beckoned to Mademoiselle Cerise. She came. He took her hand in his and put it at the horse's lips. The horse whinnied angrily at first, but permitted a caress from the actress's fingers.

"He does not make friends easily," said Gaston. "Nor does his master."

Her eyes lifted to his, the lids drooping suggestively. "But when the pact is made--!"

"Till death us do part?"

"Death or ruin."

"Death is better."

"That depends!"

"Ah! I understand," she said.

"On--the woman?"

"Yes."

Then he became silent. "Mount the horse," she urged.

Gaston sprang at one bound upon the horse's bare back. Saracen reared and wheeled.

"Splendid!" she said; then, presently: "Take me up with you."

He looked doubting for a moment, then whispered to the horse.

"Come quickly," he said.

She came to the side of the horse. He stooped, caught her by the waist, and lifted her up. Saracen reared, but Gaston had him down in a moment.

Ian Belward suddenly called out:

"For God's sake, keep that pose for five minutes--only five!" He caught up some canvas. "Hold candles near them," he said to the others. They did so. With great swiftness he sketched in the strange picture. It looked weird, almost savage: Gaston's large form, his legs loose at the horse's side, the woman in her white drapery clinging to him.

In a little time the artist said:

"There; that will do. Ten such sittings and my 'King of Ys' will have its day with the world. I'd give two fortunes for the chance of it."

The woman's heart had beat fast with Gaston's arm around her. He felt the thrill of the situation. Man, woman, and horse were as of a piece.

But Cerise knew, when Gaston let her to the ground again, that she had not conquered.

CHAPTER XIV

IN WHICH THE PAST IS REPEATED

Next morning Gaston was visited by Meyerbeer the American journalist, of whose profession he was still ignorant. He saw him only as a man of raw vigour of opinion, crude manners, and heavy temperament. He had not been friendly to him at night, and he was surprised at the morning visit. The hour was such that Gaston must ask him to breakfast. The two were soon at the table of the Hotel St. Malo. Meyerbeer sniffed the air when he saw the place. The linen was ordinary, the rooms small; but all--he did not take this into account--irreproachably clean. The walls were covered with pictures; some taken for unpaid debts, gifts from students since risen to fame or gone into the outer darkness,--to young artists' eyes, the sordid moneymaking world,--and had there been lost; from a great artist or two who remembered the days of his youth and the good host who had seen many little colonies of artists come and go.

They sat down to the table, which was soon filled with students and artists. Then Meyerbeer began to see, not only an interesting thing, but "copy." He was, in fact, preparing a certain article which, as he said to himself, would "make 'em sit up" in London and New York. He had found out Gaston's history, had read his speech in the Commons, had seen paragraphs speculating as to where he was; and now he, Salem Meyerbeer, would tell them what the wild fellow was doing. The Bullier, the cafes in the Latin Quarter, apartments in a humble street, dining for one- franc-fifty, supping with actresses, posing for the King of Ys with that actress in his arms--all excellent in their way. But now there was needed an entanglement, intrigue, amour, and then America should shriek at his picture of one of the British aristocracy, and a gentleman of the Commons, "on the loose," as he put it.

He would head it:

"ARISTOCRAT, POLITICIAN, LIBERTINE!"

Then, under that he would put:

"CAN THE ETHIOPIAN CHANGE HIS SKIN, OR THE LEOPARD HIS SPOTS?" Jer. xi. 23.

The morality of such a thing? Morality only had to do with ruining a girl's name, or robbery. How did it concern this?

So Mr. Meyerbeer kept his ears open. Presently one of the students said to Bagshot, a young artist: "How does the dompteuse come on?"

"Well, I think it's chic enough. She's magnificent. The colour of her skin against the lions was splendid to-day: a regular rich gold with a sweet stain of red like a leaf of maize in September. There's never been such a Una. I've got my chance; and if I don't pull it off,

'Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket, And say a poor buffer lies low!'"

"Get the jacket ready," put in a young Frenchman, sneering.

The Englishman's jaw hardened, but he replied coolly

"What do you know about it?"

"I know enough. The Comte Ploare visits her."

"How the devil does that concern my painting her?" There was iron in Bagshot's voice.

"Who says you are painting her?"

The insult was conspicuous. Gaston quickly interposed. His clear strong voice rang down the table: "Will you let me come and see your canvas some day soon, Mr. Bagshot? I remember your picture 'A Passion in the Desert,' at the Academy this year. A fine thing: the leopard was free and strong. As an Englishman, I am proud to meet you."

The young Frenchman stared. The quarrel had passed to a new and unexpected quarter. Gaston's large, solid body, strong face, and penetrating eyes were not to be sneered out of sight. The Frenchman, an envious, disappointed artist, had had in his mind a bloodless duel, to give a fillip to an unacquired fame. He had, however, been drinking. He flung an insolent glance to meet Gaston's steady look, and said:

"The cock crows of his dunghill!"

Gaston looked at the landlord, then got up calmly and walked down the table. The Frenchman, expecting he knew not what, sprang to his feet, snatching up a knife; but Gaston was on him like a hawk, pinioning his arms and lifting him off the ground, binding his legs too, all so tight that the Frenchman squealed for breath.

"Monsieur," said Gaston to the landlord, "from the door or the window?"

The landlord was pale. It was in some respects a quarrel of races. For, French and English at the tables had got up and were eyeing each other. As to the immediate outcome of the quarrel, there could be no doubt. The English and Americans could break the others to pieces; but neither wished that. The landlord decided the matter:

"Drop him from this window."

He pushed a shutter back, and Gaston dropped the fellow on the hard pavement--a matter of five feet. The Frenchman got up raging, and made for the door; but this time he was met by the landlord, who gave him his hat, and bade him come no more. There was applause from both English and French. The journalist chuckled--another column!


The Trespasser, Volume 3. - 3/14

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