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Wild Youth, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 8308

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

Between two sunrises Louise Mazarine had seen her old world pass in a flash of flame and a new world trembling with a new life spread out before her; had come to know what her old world really was. The eyes with which she looked upon her new world had in them the glimmer not only of awakened feeling but of awakened understanding. To this time she had endured her aged husband as a slave comes to bear the lashes of his master, with pain which will be renewed and renewed, but pain only, and not the deeper torture of the soul; for she had never really grasped what their relations meant. To her it had all been part of the unavoidable misery of life. But on that sunny afternoon when Orlando Guise's voice first sounded in her ears, and his eyes looked into hers as, pale and ill, she gazed at him from the window, a revelation came to her of what the three years of life with Joel Mazarine had really been. From that moment until she heard the pioneer's wagon, escorted by her husband, bringing the unconscious Orlando Guise to her door, she had lived in a dream which seemed like a year of time to her.

Since the early morning of that very day, when Joel had leaned over her bed and asked her in his slow, grinding voice how she was, she had lived more than in all the past nineteen years of her life. The Young Doctor had come and gone, amazed at first, but presently with a look of apprehension in his eyes. There was not much trace of yesterday's illness in the alert, eager girl-wife, who twenty-four hours before had been really nearer to the end of all things than her aged husband. The Young Doctor knew all too well what the curious, throbbing light in her eyes meant. He knew that the gay and splendid Orlando Guise had made the sun for this prismatic radiance, and that the story of her life, which Louise had wished to tell him yesterday, would never now be told-for she would have no desire to tell it. The old vague misery, the ancient veiled torture, was behind her, and she was presently to suffer a new torture-but also a joy for which men and women have borne unspeakable things. No, Louise would never tell him the story of her life, because now she knew it was a thing which must not be told. Her mind understood things it had never known before. To be wise is to be secret, and she had learned some wisdom; and the Young Doctor wondered if the greater wisdom she must learn would be drunk from the cup of folly. Before he left her he had said to her with meaning in his voice:

"My dear young madam, your recovery is too rapid. It is not a cure: it is a miracle; and miracles are not easily understood. We must, therefore, make them understood; and so you will take regularly three times a day the powerful tonic I will give you."

She was about to interrupt him, but he waved a hand reprovingly and added with kindly irony:

"Yes, we both know you don't need a tonic out of a bottle; but it's just as well other people should think that the tonic bringing back the colour to your cheeks comes out of a bottle and not out of a health resort, called Slow Down Ranch, about four miles to the north-west of Tralee."

As he said this, he looked straight into the eyes which seemed, as it were, to shrink into cover from what he was saying. But when, an instant afterwards, he took her hand and said good-bye, he knew by the trembling clasp of her fingers-even more appealing than they had yet been-that she understood.

So it was a few moments later, outside the house, he had said to Joel Mazarine that he had given his wife a powerful tonic, and he hoped to see an almost instant change in her condition; but she must have her room to herself for a time, according to his instructions of the day before, as she was nervous and needed solitude, to induce sleep. He was then about to start for Askatoon when the old man said:

"I suppose you won't have to come again, as she's going on all right."

To this the Young Doctor had replied firmly: "Yes, I'm coming out to-morrow. She's not fit yet to go to Askatoon, and I must see her once again."

"Oh, keep coming-that's right, keep coming!" answered the miserly old

man, who still was not so miserly that he did not want his young wife blooming. "Coming to-morrow, eh!" he added, with something very like a sneer.

The other had a sudden flash of fury pass through his veins. The old Celtic quickness to resent insult swept over him. The ire of his forefathers waked in him. This outrageous old Caliban, to attempt to sneer at him! For an instant he was Kilkenny let loose, and then the cool, trained brain reasserted its mastery, and he replied:

"If there should be a turn for the worse, send for me to-night-not to-morrow!" And he looked the old man in the eyes with a steady, steelly glance which had nothing to do with the words he had just uttered, but was the challenge of a conquering spirit.

The Young Doctor had acted with an almost uncanny prescience. It was as though he had foreseen that Orlando Giuse would be carried upstairs to a room nearly opposite that of Louise, and laid unconscious on a bed, till he himself should come again that very night and extract a bullet from Orlando's side; that he would open Orlando's eyes to consciousness, hear Orlando say, "Where am I?" and note his startled look when told he was at Tralee.

Once during this visit, while making Orlando safe and comfortable, with the help of Li Choo, the Chinaman, and Rada, the half-breed, he had seen Louise for a moment. The old man had gone to the stables, and as he came out of the room where Orlando was, Louise's door opened softly on him. Dimly, in the half-darkness of her room, in which no light was burning, he saw her. She beckoned to him. Shutting the door of Orlando's bedroom behind him, he came quickly to her side and said:

"Go to bed at once, young woman. This will not do."

"I'm not sick now," she urged. "Say, I really am well again."

"You must not be well again so soon," he replied meaningly. "I want you to understand that you must not," he insisted.

There was a pause, which seemed interminable to the Young Doctor, who was listening for the heavy footstep of Joel Mazarine outside the house; and then at last in agitation Louise said to him:

"Will he get well? Rada told me he was shot saving Mr. Mazarine. Will he get well?"

"Yes, he will get well, and quickly, if-"

He broke off, for there was the thud of a heavy footstep for which he had been listening. Joel Mazarine was returning.

"Won't they let me help nurse him?" she whispered.

The Young Doctor shook his head in negation. "His mother will be here to-morrow," he said quickly. "Be wise, my child."

"You understand?" she whispered wistfully.

"I have no understanding. Go to bed," he answered sharply. "Shut the door at once."

When old Joel Mazarine's footsteps were heard upon the staircase again, Orlando was lying with half-closed eyes, watching, yet too weak to speak; and the Young Doctor was giving directions to Rada and Li Choo for the night-watch in Orlando's room. When Mazarine entered, the Young Doctor gave him a casual nod and went on with his directions. When he had finished, Rada said in her broken English, with an accent half-Indian, half-French:

"His mother you send for-yes? She come queeck. Some one must take care him when for me get breakfus and Li Choo do chores."

"We'll send for her in the morning," interrupted Joel Mazarine.

"Perhaps Mrs. Mazarine would be well enough to help a little in the morning," remarked the Young Doctor in a colourless voice. He knew when to be audacious; or, if he did not know, he had an instinct; and he noticed that the wounded man's eyelids did not even blink when he threw out the hint concerning Louise, while the eyes of the old man took on a sullen flame.

"Mrs. Mazarine has to be molly-coddled herself-that's what you've taught her," he snarled.

"Well, then, send for Mrs. Guise to-night," commanded the Young Doctor.

He thought Joel Mazarine made unnecessary noise as he stamped down the staircase to send a farmhand to Slow Down Ranch; and he also thought that Orlando Guise showed discretion of manner and look in a moment of delicacy and difficulty. He knew, however, that, as the children say, "Things must happen."

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