“Good morning Jacob,” Gabriel said when Jacob entered the dining room, “sorry, you’ve missed breakfast. We didn’t want to disturb your sleep. Especially after I woke you up at midnight last night. I really can’t say sorry enough for that.”
“Yes, yes,” Jacob looked around the room, which was empty apart from Gabriel, “where are the others?”
“Oh,” Gabriel nodded, “of course, sorry. They’ve all gone off to watch the sunrise. There’s a lovely spot in the gardens where one can see the sun come up perfectly. It’s really quite beautiful. I told them I’d wait for you, then catch up.”
“I see,” Jacob took a chair opposite Gabriel, “so what is it you want from me, exactly?”
Gabriel laughed, a nervous chuckle.
“You are as sharp as dear Ilse promised,” he said, “I had been meaning to ask you a question as it happens. It’s about last night.”
For some reason, Jacob found himself leaning forward.
“Go on,” he said, voice hushed.
“Did you see him?” Gabriel asked.
“See…” Jacob stared at him, nonplussed, “see who?”
“My father,” Gabriel’s wary politeness was replaced suddenly with frustration, “Edward Lye. The man you seem to know so much about, Jacob Locke. Did you or did you not see him in the ballroom last night?”
Jacob opened his mouth to tell Gabriel about the huge shadow that he had seen move across the light. Then he stopped. There was something in the eyes of the other man that unnerved him slightly. Gabriel’s glass eye continued to watch him with its dead intensity.
“What about you, what did you see?” Jacob said eventually, “Did you see him?”
“I… I…” Gabriel paused and frowned, “why am I telling you this?”
“Do you want to know what I saw or don’t you?” Jacob said.
Gabriel stared at Jacob. Meeting his gaze levelly, Jacob allowed a smile to flicker across his face. He knew exactly what he’d seen. It had become clear the moment Gabriel had asked him the question. What he’d seen was a deluded young man trapped in a world of his own creation.
“I saw him,” Gabriel murmured, “or a shadow, a shadow that was like him. It danced. Oh God, it danced.”
He blinked and ran his fingers through his hair. For a moment neither of them spoke, they just stared at one another. Jacob ran his tongue across his lips, breathed in deeply and leaned back.
“Is that…” Gabriel said, “does that sound… silly?”
Jacob shook his head.
“No,” he said, “not necessarily. It’s easy to imagine in the dark of night that you see things that don’t exist. Only last night I had a dream that was so vivid I was almost willing to believe it was real.”
“But he was real,” Gabriel closed his eyes, “he was so, so real. I saw him with my own two… my… with my damn eye.”
Looking around him at the dining room, Jacob tapped his fingers on the table-top and blinked.
“The question is, do you believe in ghosts?” He put his head to one side. Gabriel put his hand to his mouth very quickly, as if his brain was trying to stop him from speaking, from betraying himself.
“I don’t know,” he shook his head, “I’ve seen things, Jacob. Things you couldn’t understand. When I was in America I… I…”
Gabriel stopped. He had been gesturing wildly as he spoke, trying to spell out with his hands what his spluttering words could not. For a moment he was transfixed, petrified by Jacob’s searching gaze. Then he stood up without warning.
“I should be going,” he said, his calm restored, “I’ll miss sunrise if I’m not careful. What about you Jacob, will you join us?”
“I’m fine,” Jacob said, “I’ve seen the sun rise before and I’m sure I’ll see it rise again. You go. I’ll stay in the warm if it’s all the same.”
Nodding hurriedly, Gabriel got up and walked across the room quickly. Jacob watched him go, lips pursed.
“Just one more thing,” he said as Gabriel opened the door to leave. The other man looked back at him. For a brief second he looked like a rabbit caught in headlights.
“Yes?” He murmured.
“Don’t look directly at the sun,” Jacob advised, “it will blind you. Then you’ll be unable to see clearly.”
Gabriel blinked and left the room. Jacob stared at the closed door for a while. Reaching up he scratched his chin. Then he stood up. He wondered whether he’d be able to find something to drink in this house.
When Jacob was thinking, he paced. He did so now, doing lazy circuits of the great table in the dining room. He kept his head down and his brow furrowed. Occasionally he stopped and looked up at the ceiling, high above.
So, Gabriel believed the stories about his father’s ghost. He didn’t just believe, he saw it, dancing incessantly in the ballroom. Under the facade of the civil host, Gabriel was being haunted. The real question was why he was so haunted. What had he done that made him see ghosts where there were none?
More and more Jacob wanted to know more about Gabriel’s travels in America. That was where he had met Pilgrim, and now it seemed he had met with other stranger things there as well.
The thought of Pilgrim made Jacob’s heart speed up. Every time he thought of that man he found himself in a cold sweat.
Falling forward and grabbing hold of a chair for support, Jacob let out a gasp of astonishment. Pilgrim, who had entered the dining room and was walking towards him, frowned.
“Are you all right my friend?” He said.
“Yes,” Jacob straightened himself. He tried not to look at Pilgrim, who had reached the table. His chest hammered when he felt the other man’s hand on his shoulder. He shrugged it off.
“Really,” he said, still not looking at Pilgrim, “I’m just fine. You startled me, that’s all.”
“I’m glad,” Pilgrim nodded, “I wouldn’t like to think my presence was cause for alarm. Unless of course you were an evil man.”
He laughed a silky laugh.
“Not that you are, Jacob.”
“Listen,” he said, “you care about Gabriel’s well-being, don’t you?”
“Very much,” Pilgrim’s smile left him, “I’d hate to think something was hurting him. Why, do you think there is?”
“I rather think,” Jacob lowered his voice, “that he’s hurting himself.”