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- The Trespasser, Volume 3. - 6/14 -


"Why don't you tell me the truth?"

"I do. Now, who is Zoug-Zoug?"

"Find out."

"You said you'd tell me."

"No. I said I'd tell you if I knew Zoug-Zoug. I do."

"That's all you'll tell me?"

"That's all. And see, scavenger, take my advice and let Zoug-Zoug alone. He's a man of influence; and he's possessed of a devil. He'll make you sorry, if you meddle with him!"

He rose, and Meyerbeer did the same, saying: "You'd better tell me."

"Now, don't bother me. Drink your vermouth, take that bundle of cigarettes, and hunt Zoug-Zoug else where. If you find him, let me know. Good-bye."

Meyerbeer went out furious. The treatment had been too heroic.

"I'll give a sweet savour to your family name," he said with an oath, as he shook his fist at the closed door. Ian Belward sat back and looked at the ceiling reflectively.

"H'm!" he said at last. "What the devil does this mean? Not Andree, surely not Andree! Yet I wasn't called Zoug-Zoug before that. It was Bagshot's insolent inspiration at Auvergne. Well, well!"

He got up, drew over a portfolio of sketches, took out two or three, put them in a row against a divan, sat down, and looked at them half quizzically.

"It was rough on you, Andree; but you were hard to please, and I am constant to but one. Yet, begad, you had solid virtues; and I wish, for your sake, I had been a different kind of fellow. Well, well, we'll meet again some time, and then we'll be good friends, no doubt."

He turned away from the sketches and picked up some illustrated newspapers. In one was a portrait. He looked at it, then at the sketches again and again.

"There's a resemblance," he said. "But no, it's not possible. Andree- Mademoiselle Victorine! That would be amusing. I'd go to-morrow and see, if I weren't off to Fontainebleau. But there's no hurry: when I come back will do."

CHAPTER XV

WHEREIN IS SEEN THE OLD ADAM AND THE GARDEN

At Ridley Court and Peppingham all was serene to the eye. Letters had come to the Court at least once every two weeks from Gaston, and the minds of the Baronet and his wife were at ease. They even went so far as to hope that he would influence his uncle; for it was clear to them both that whatever Gaston's faults were, they were agreeably different from Ian's. His fame and promise were sweet to their nostrils. Indeed, the young man had brought the wife and husband nearer than they had been since Robert vanished over-sea. Each had blamed the other in an indefinite, secret way; but here was Robert's son, on whom they could lavish--as they did--their affection, long since forfeited by Ian. Finally, one day, after a little burst of thanksgiving, on getting an excellent letter from Gaston, telling of his simple, amusing life in Paris, Sir William sent him one thousand pounds, begging him to buy a small yacht, or to do what he pleased with it.

"A very remarkable man, my dear," Sir William said, as he enclosed the cheque. "Excellent wisdom--excellent!"

"Who could have guessed that he knew so much about the poor and the East End, and all those social facts and figures?" Lady Belward answered complacently.

"An unusual mind, with a singular taste for history, and yet a deep observation of the present. I don't know when and how he does it. I really do not know."

"It is nice to think that Lord Faramond approves of him."

"Most noticeable. And we have not been a Parliamentary family since the first Charles's time. And then it was a Gaston. Singular--quite singular! Coincidences of looks and character. Nature plays strange games. Reproduction--reproduction!"

"The Pall Mall Gazette says that he may soon reach the Treasury Bench."

Sir William was abstracted. He was thinking of that afternoon in Gaston's bedroom, when his grandson had acted, before Lady Dargan and Cluny Vosse, Sir Gaston's scene with Buckingham.

"Really, most mysterious, most unaccountable. But it's one of the virtues of having a descent. When it is most needed, it counts, it counts."

"Against the half-breed mother!" Lady Belward added.

"Quite so, against the--was it Cree or Blackfoot? I've heard him speak of both, but which is in him I do not remember."

"It is very painful; but, poor fellow, it is not his fault, and we ought to be content."

"Indeed, it gives him great originality. Our old families need refreshing now and then."

"Ah, yes, I said so to Mrs. Gasgoyne the other day, and she replied that the refreshment might prove intoxicating. Reine was always rude."

Truth is, Mrs. Gasgoyne was not quite satisfied. That very day she said to her husband:

"You men always stand by each other; but I know you, and you know that I know."

"'Thou knowest the secrets of our hearts'; well, then, you know how we love you. So, be merciful."

"Nonsense, Warren! I tell you he oughtn't to have gone when he did. He has the wild man in him, and I am not satisfied."

"What do you want--me to play the spy?"

"Warren, you're a fool! What do I want? I want the first of September to come quickly, that we may have him with us. With Delia he must go straight. She influences him, he admires her--which is better than mere love. Away from her just now, who can tell what mad adventure--! You see, he has had the curb so long!"

But in a day or two there came a letter-unusually long for Gaston-- to Mrs. Gasgoyne herself. It was simple, descriptive, with a dash of epigram. It acknowledged that he had felt the curb, and wanted a touch of the unconventional. It spoke of Ian Belward in a dry phrase, and it asked for the date of the yacht's arrival at Gibraltar.

"Warren, the man is still sensible," she said. "This letter is honest. He is much a heathen at heart, but I believe he hasn't given Delia cause to blush--and that's a good deal! Dear me, I am fond of the fellow-- he is so clever. But clever men are trying."

As for Delia, like every sensible English girl, she enjoyed herself in the time of youth, drinking in delightedly the interest attaching to Gaston's betrothed. His letters had been regular, kind yet not emotionally affectionate, interesting, uncommon. He had a knack of saying as much in one page as most people did in five. Her imagination was not great, but he stimulated it. If he wrote a pungent line on Daudet or Whistler, on Montaigne or Fielding, she was stimulated to know them. One day he sent her Whitman's Leaves of Grass, which he had picked up in New York on his way to England. This startled her. She had never heard of Whitman. To her he seemed coarse, incomprehensible, ungentlemanly. She could not understand how Gaston could say beautiful things about Montaigne and about Whitman too. She had no conception how he had in him the strain of that first Sir Gaston Belward, and was also the son of a half-heathen.

He interested her all the more. Her letters were hardly so fascinating to him. She was beautifully correct, but she could not make a sentence breathe. He was grateful, but nothing stirred in him. He could live without her--that he knew regretfully. But he did his part with sincere intention.

That was up to the day when he saw Andree as Mademoiselle Victorine. Then came a swift change. Day after day he visited her, always in the presence of Annette. Soon they dined often together, still in Annette's presence, and the severity of that rule was never relaxed.

Count Ploare came no more; he had received his dismissal. Occasionally Gaston visited the menagerie, but generally after the performance, when Victorine had a half-hour's or an hour's romp with her animals. This was a pleasant time to Gaston. The wild life in him responded.

These were hours when the girl was quite naive and natural, when she spent herself in ripe enjoyment--almost child-like, healthy. At other times there was an indefinable something which Gaston had not noticed in England. But then he had only seen her once. She, too, saw something in him unnoticed before. It was on his tongue a hundred times to tell her that that something was Delia Gasgoyne. He did not. Perhaps because it seemed so grotesque, perhaps because it was easier to drift. Besides, as he said to himself, he would soon go to join the yacht at Gibraltar, and all this would be over-over. All this? All what? A gipsy, a dompteuse --what was she to him? She interested him, he liked her, and she liked him, but there had been nothing more between them. Near as he was to her now, he very often saw her in his mind's eye as she passed over Ridley Common, looking towards him, her eyes shaded by her hand.

She, too, had continually said to herself that this man could be nothing to her--nothing, never! Yet, why not? Count Ploare had offered her his hand. But she knew what had been in Count Ploare's mind. Gaston Belward was different--he had befriended her father. She had not singular scruples regarding men, for she despised most of them. She was not a Mademoiselle Cerise, nor a Madame Juliette, though they were higher on the plane of art than she; or so the world put it. She had not known a man who had not, one time or another, shown himself common or insulting. But since the first moment she had seen Gaston, he had treated her as a


The Trespasser, Volume 3. - 6/14

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