THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, Rudyard Kipling TAJIMA, Miss Mitford A CHINESE GIRL GRADUATE, R. K. Douglas
Part 3 out of 3
a woman I am!" she whispered below her breath. She began to walk
slowly up and down outside the tent, in the space illumined by the
lamplight, as though striving to make her outwardly quiet movements
react upon the inward tumult. In a little while she had conquered; she
quietly entered the tent, drew a low chair to the entrance, and took
up a book, just as footsteps became audible. A moment afterward
Broomhurst emerged from the darkness into the circle of light outside,
and Mrs. Drayton raised her eyes from the pages she was turning to
greet him with a smile.
"Are your things all right?"
"Oh, yes, more or less, thank you. I was a little concerned about a
case of books, but it isn't much damaged fortunately. Perhaps I've
some you would care to look at?"
"The books will be a godsend," she returned, with a sudden brightening
of the eyes; "I was getting /desperate/--for books."
"What are you reading now?" he asked, glancing at the volume that lay
in her lap.
"It's a Browning. I carry it about a good deal. I think I like to have
it with me, but I don't seem to read it much."
"Are you waiting for a suitable optimistic moment?" Broomhurst
"Yes, now that you mention it, I think that must be why I am waiting,"
she replied, slowly.
"And it doesn't come--even in the Garden of Eden? Surely the serpent,
pessimism, hasn't been insolent enough to draw you into conversation
with him?" he said, lightly.
"There has been no one to converse with at all--when John is away, I
mean. I think I should have liked a little chat with the serpent
immensely by way of a change," she replied, in the same tone.
"Ah, yes," Broomhurst said, with sudden seriousness; "it must be
unbearably dull for you alone here, with Drayton away all day."
Mrs. Drayton's hand shook a little as she fluttered a page of her open
"I should think it quite natural you would be irritated beyond
endurance to hear that all's right with the world, for instance, when
you were sighing for the long day to pass," he continued.
"I don't mind the day so much; it's the evenings." She abruptly
checked the swift words, and flushed painfully. "I mean--I've grown
stupidly nervous, I think--even when John is here. Oh, you have no
idea of the awful /silence/ of this place at night," she added, rising
hurriedly from her low seat, and moving closer to the doorway. "It is
so close, isn't it?" she said, almost apologetically. There was
silence for quite a minute.
Broomhurst's quick eyes noted the silent momentary clinching of the
hands that hung at her side, as she stood leaning against the support
at the entrance.
"But how stupid of me to give you such a bad impression of the camp--
the first evening, too!" Mrs. Drayton exclaimed, presently; and her
companion mentally commended the admirable composure of her voice.
"Probably you will never notice that it /is/ lonely at all," she
continued; "John likes it here. He is immensely interested in his
work, you know. I hope /you/ are too. If you are interested it is all
quite right. I think the climate tries me a little. I never used to be
stupid--and nervous. Ah, here's John; he's been round to the kitchen
tent, I suppose."
"Been looking after that fellow cleanin' my gun, my dear," John
explained, shambling toward the deck-chair.
Later Broomhurst stood at his own tent door. He looked up at the star-
sown sky, and the heavy silence seemed to press upon him like an
actual, physical burden.
He took his cigar from between his lips presently, and looked at the
glowing end reflectively before throwing it away.
"Considering that she has been alone with him here for six months, she
has herself very well in hand--/very/ well in hand," he repeated.
It was Sunday morning. John Drayton sat just inside the tent,
presumably enjoying his pipe before the heat of the day. His eyes
furtively followed his wife as she moved about near him, sometimes
passing close to his chair in search of something she had mislaid.
There was colour in her cheeks; her eyes, though preoccupied, were
bright; there was a lightness and buoyancy in her step which she set
to a little dancing air she was humming under her breath.
After a moment or two the song ceased; she began to move slowly,
sedately; and, as if chilled by a raw breath of air, the light faded
from her eyes, which she presently turned toward her husband.
"Why do you look at me?" she asked, suddenly.
"I don't know, my dear," he began slowly and laboriously, as was his
wont. "I was thinkin' how nice you looked--jest now--much better, you
know; but somehow,"--he was taking long whiffs at his pipe, as usual,
between each word, while she stood patiently waiting for him to
finish,--"somehow, you alter so, my dear--you're quite pale again, all
of a minute."
She stood listening to him, noticing against her will the more than
suspicion of cockney accent and the thick drawl with which the words
His eyes sought her face piteously. She noticed that too, and stood
before him torn by conflicting emotions, pity and disgust struggling
in a hand-to-hand fight within her.
"Mr. Broomhurst and I are going down by the well to sit; it's cooler
there. Won't you come?" she said at last, gently.
He did not reply for a moment; then he turned his head aside, sharply
"No, my dear, thank you; I'm comfortable enough here," he returned,
She stood over him, hesitating a second; then moved abruptly to the
table, from which she took a book.
He had risen from his seat by the time she turned to go out, and he
intercepted her timorously.
"Kathie, give me a kiss before you go," he whispered, hoarsely. "I--I
don't often bother you."
She drew her breath in deeply as he put his arms clumsily about her;
but she stood still, and he kissed her on the forehead, and touched
the little wavy curls that strayed across it gently with his big,
When he released her, she moved at once impetuously to the open
doorway. On the threshold she hesitated, paused a moment irresolutely,
and then turned back.
"Shall I--does your pipe want filling, John?" she asked, softly.
"No, thank you, my dear."
"Would you like me to stay, read to you, or anything?"
He looked up at her wistfully. "N-no, thank you; I'm not much of a
reader, you know, my dear--somehow."
She hated herself for knowing that there would be a "my dear,"
probably a "somehow," in his reply, and despised herself for the sense
of irritated impatience she felt by anticipation, even before the
words were uttered.
There was a moment's hesitating silence, broken by the sound of quick,
firm footsteps without. Broomhurst paused at the entrance, and looked
into the tent.
"Aren't you coming, Drayton?" he asked, looking first at Drayton's
wife and then swiftly putting in his name with a scarcely perceptible
pause. "Too lazy? But you, Mrs. Drayton?"
"Yes, I'm coming," she said.
They left the tent together, and walked some few steps in silence.
Broomhurst shot a quick glance at his companion's face.
"Anything wrong?" he asked, presently.
Though the words were ordinary enough, the voice in which they were
spoken was in some subtle fashion a different voice from that in which
he had talked to her nearly two months ago, though it would have
required a keen sense of nice shades in sound to have detected the
Mrs. Drayton's sense of niceties in sound was particularly keen, but
she answered quietly, "Nothing, thank you."
They did not speak again till the trees round the stone well were
Broomhurst arranged their seats comfortably beside it.
"Are we going to read or talk?" he asked, looking up at her from his
"Well, we generally talk most when we arrange to read; so shall we
agree to talk to-day for a change, by way of getting some reading
done?" she rejoined, smiling. "/You/ begin."
Broomhurst seemed in no hurry to avail himself of the permission; he
was apparently engrossed in watching the flecks of sunshine on Mrs.
Drayton's white dress. The whirring of insects, and the creaking of a
Persian wheel somewhere in the neighbourhood, filtered through the hot
Mrs. Drayton laughed after a few minutes; there was a touch of
embarrassment in the sound.
"The new plan doesn't answer. Suppose you read, as usual, and let me
interrupt, also as usual, after the first two lines."
He opened the book obediently, but turned the pages at random.
She watched him for a moment, and then bent a little forward toward
"It is my turn now," she said, suddenly; "is anything wrong?"
He raised his head, and their eyes met. There was a pause. "I will be
more honest than you," he returned; "yes, there is."
"I've had orders to move on."
She drew back, and her lips whitened, though she kept them steady.
"When do you go?"
There was silence again; the man still kept his eyes on her face.
The whirring of the insects and the creaking of the wheel had suddenly
grown so strangely loud and insistent that it was in a half-dazed
fashion she at length heard her name--"/Kathleen!/"
"Kathleen!" he whispered again, hoarsely.
She looked him full in the face, and once more their eyes met in a
long, grave gaze.
The man's face flushed, and he half rose from his seat with an
impetuous movement; but Kathleen stopped him with a glance.
"Will you go and fetch my work? I left it in the tent," she said,
speaking very clearly and distinctly; "and then will you go on
reading? I will find the place while you are gone."
She took the book from his hand, and he rose and stood before her.
There was a mute appeal in his silence, and she raised her head
Her face was white to the lips, but she looked at him unflinchingly;
and without a word he turned and left her.
Mrs. Drayton was resting in the tent on Tuesday afternoon. With the
help of cushions and some low chairs, she had improvised a couch, on
which she lay quietly with her eyes closed. There was a tenseness,
however, in her attitude which indicated that sleep was far from her.
Her features seemed to have sharpened during the last few days, and
there were hollows in her cheeks. She had been very ill for a long
time, but all at once, with a sudden movement, she turned her head and
buried her face in the cushions with a groan. Slipping from her place,
she fell on her knees beside the couch, and put both hands before her
mouth to force back the cry that she felt struggling to her lips.
For some moments the wild effort she was making for outward calm,
which even when she was alone was her first instinct, strained every
nerve and blotted out sight and hearing, and it was not till the sound
was very near that she was conscious of the ring of horse's hoofs on
She raised her head sharply, with a thrill of fear, still kneeling,
There was no mistake. The horseman was riding in hot haste, for the
thud of the hoofs followed one another swiftly.
As Mrs. Drayton listened her white face grew whiter, and she began to
tremble. Putting out shaking hands, she raised herself by the arms of
the folding-chair and stood upright.
Nearer and nearer came the thunder of the approaching sound, mingled
with startled exclamations and the noise of trampling feet from the
direction of the kitchen tent.
Slowly, mechanically almost, she dragged herself to the entrance, and
stood clinging to the canvas there. By the time she had reached it
Broomhurst had flung himself from the saddle, and had thrown the reins
to one of the men.
Mrs. Drayton stared at him with wide, bright eyes as he hastened
"I thought you--you are not--" she began, and then her teeth began to
chatter. "I am so cold!" she said, in a little, weak voice.
Broomhurst took her hand and led her over the threshold back into the
"Don't be so frightened," he implored; "I came to tell you first. I
thought it wouldn't frighten you so much as--Your--Drayton is--very
ill. They are bringing him. I--"
He paused. She gazed at him a moment with parted lips; then she broke
into a horrible, discordant laugh, and stood clinging to the back of a
Broomhurst started back.
"Do you understand what I mean?" he whispered. "Kathleen, for God's
sake--/don't/--he is /dead/."
He looked over his shoulder as he spoke, her shrill laughter ringing
in his ears. The white glare and dazzle of the plain stretched before
him, framed by the entrance to the tent; far off, against the horizon,
there were moving black specks, which he knew to be the returning
servants with their still burden.
They were bringing John Drayton home.
One afternoon, some months later, Broomhurst climbed the steep lane
leading to the cliffs of a little English village by the sea. He had
already been to the inn, and had been shown by the proprietress the
house where Mrs. Drayton lodged.
"The lady was out, but the gentleman would likely find her if he went
to the cliffs--down by the bay, or thereabouts," her landlady
explained; and, obeying her directions, Broomhurst presently emerged
from the shady woodland path on to the hillside overhanging the sea.
He glanced eagerly round him, and then, with a sudden quickening of
the heart, walked on over the springy heather to where she sat. She
turned when the rustling his footsteps made through the bracken was
near enough to arrest her attention, and looked up at him as he came.
Then she rose slowly and stood waiting for him. He came up to her
without a word, and seized both her hands, devouring her face with his
eyes. Something he saw there repelled him. Slowly he let her hands
fall, still looking at her silently. "You are not glad to see me, and
I have counted the hours," he said, at last, in a dull, toneless
Her lips quivered. "Don't be angry with me--I can't help it--I'm not
glad or sorry for anything now," she answered; and her voice matched
his for grayness.
They sat down together on a long flat stone half embedded in a wiry
clump of whortleberries. Behind them the lonely hillsides rose,
brilliant with yellow bracken and the purple of heather. Before them
stretched the wide sea. It was a soft, gray day. Streaks of pale
sunlight trembled at moments far out on the water. The tide was rising
in the little bay above which they sat, and Broomhurst watched the
lazy foam-edged waves slipping over the uncovered rocks toward the
shore, then sliding back as though for very weariness they despaired
of reaching it. The muffled, pulsing sound of the sea filled the
silence. Broomhurst thought suddenly of hot Eastern sunshine, of the
whir of insect wings on the still air, and the creaking of a wheel in
the distance. He turned and looked at his companion.
"I have come thousands of miles to see you," he said; "aren't you
going to speak to me now I am here?"
"Why did you come? I told you not to come," she answered, falteringly.
"I--" she paused.
"And I replied that I should follow you--if you remember," he
answered, still quietly. "I came because I would not listen to what
you said then, at that awful time. You didn't know /yourself/ what you
said. No wonder! I have given you some months, and now I have come."
There was silence between them. Broomhurst saw that she was crying;
her tears fell fast on to her hands, that were clasped in her lap. Her
face, he noticed, was thin and drawn.
Very gently he put his arm round her shoulder and drew her nearer to
him. She made no resistance; it seemed that she did not notice the
movement; and his arm dropped at his side.
"You asked me why I had come. You think it possible that three months
can change one very thoroughly, then?" he said, in a cold voice.
"I not only think it possible; I have proved it," she replied,
He turned round and faced her.
"You /did/ love me, Kathleen!" he asserted. "You never said so in
words, but I know it," he added, fiercely.
"Yes, I did."
"And--you mean that you don't now?"
Her voice was very tired. "Yes; I can't help it," she answered; "it
The gray sea slowly lapped the rocks. Overhead the sharp scream of a
gull cut through the stillness. It was broken again, a moment
afterward, by a short hard laugh from the man.
"Don't!" she whispered, and laid a hand swiftly on his arm. "Do you
think it isn't worse for me? I wish to God I /did/ love you!" she
cried, passionately. "Perhaps it would make me forget that, to all
intents and purposes, I am a murderess.
Broomhurst met her wide, despairing eyes with an amazement which
yielded to sudden pitying comprehension.
"So that is it, my darling? You are worrying about /that/? You who
were as loyal as--"
She stopped him with a frantic gesture.
"Don't! /don't!/" she wailed. "If you only knew! Let me try to tell
you--will you?" she urged, pitifully. "It may be better if I tell some
one--if I don't keep it all to myself, and think, and /think/."
She clasped her hands tight, with the old gesture he remembered when
she was struggling for self-control, and waited a moment.
Presently she began to speak in a low, hurried tone: "It began before
you came. I know now what the feeling was that I was afraid to
acknowledge to myself. I used to try and smother it; I used to repeat
things to myself all day--poems, stupid rhymes--/anything/ to keep my
thoughts quite underneath--but I--/hated/ John before you came! We had
been married nearly a year then. I never loved him. Of course you are
going to say, 'Why did you marry him?' " She looked drearily over the
placid sea. "Why /did/ I marry him? I don't know; for the reason that
hundreds of ignorant, inexperienced girls marry, I suppose. My home
wasn't a happy one. I was miserable, and oh--/restless/. I wonder if
men know what it feels like to be restless? Sometimes I think they
can't even guess. John wanted me very badly; nobody wanted me at home
particularly. There didn't seem to be any point in my life. Do you
understand? . . . Of course, being alone with him in that little camp
in that silent plain"--she shuddered--"made things worse. My nerves
went all to pieces. Everything he said, his voice, his accent, his
walk, the way he ate, irritated me so that I longed to rush out
sometimes and shriek--and go /mad/. Does it sound ridiculous to you to
be driven mad by such trifles? I only know I used to get up from the
table sometimes and walk up and down outside, with both hands over my
mouth to keep myself quiet. And all the time I /hated/ myself--how I
hated myself! I never had a word from him that wasn't gentle and
tender. I believe he loved the ground I walked on. Oh, it is /awful/
to be loved like that when you--" She drew in her breath with a sob.
"I--I--it made me sick for him to come near me--to touch me." She
stopped a moment.
Broomhurst gently laid his hand on her quivering one. "Poor little
girl!" he murmured.
"Then /you/ came," she said, "and before long I had another feeling to
fight against. At first I thought it couldn't be true that I loved you
--it would die down. I think I was /frightened/ at the feeling; I
didn't know it hurt so to love any one."
Broomhurst stirred a little. "Go on," he said, tersely.
"But it didn't die," she continued, in a trembling whisper, "and the
other /awful/ feeling grew stronger and stronger--hatred; no, that is
not the word--/loathing/ for--for--John. I fought against it. Yes,"
she cried, feverishly, clasping and unclasping her hands; "Heaven
knows I fought it with all my strength, and reasoned with myself, and
--oh, I did /everything/, but--" Her quick-falling tears made speech
"Kathleen!" Broomhurst urged, desperately, "you couldn't help it, you
poor child. You say yourself you struggled against your feelings. You
were always gentle; perhaps he didn't know."
"But he did--he /did/," she wailed; "it is just that. I hurt him a
hundred times a day; he never said so, but I knew it; and yet I
/couldn't/ be kind to him,--except in words,--and he understood. And
after you came it was worse in one way, for he knew--I /felt/ he knew
--that I loved you. His eyes used to follow me like a dog's, and I was
stabbed with remorse, and I tried to be good to him, but I couldn't."
"But--he didn't suspect--he trusted you," began Broomhurst. "He had
every reason. No woman was ever so loyal, so--"
"Hush!" she almost screamed. "Loyal! it was the least I could do--to
stop you, I mean--when you--After all, I knew it without your telling
me. I had deliberately married him without loving him. It was my own
fault. I felt it. Even if I couldn't prevent his knowing that I hated
him, I could prevent /that/. It was my punishment. I deserved it for
/daring/ to marry without love. But I didn't spare John one pang after
all," she added, bitterly. "He knew what I felt toward him; I don't
think he cared about anything else. You say I mustn't reproach myself?
When I went back to the tent that morning--when you--when I stopped
you from saying you loved me, he was sitting at the table with his
head buried in his hands; he was crying--bitterly. I saw him,--it is
terrible to see a man cry,--and I stole away gently, but he saw me. I
was torn to pieces, but I /couldn't/ go to him. I knew he would kiss
me, and I shuddered to think of it. It seemed more than ever not to be
borne that he should do that--when I knew /you/ loved me."
"Kathleen," cried her lover, again, "don't dwell on it all so terribly
"How can I forget?" she answered, despairingly. "And then,"--she
lowered her voice,--"oh, I can't tell you--all the time, at the back
of my mind somewhere, there was a burning wish that he might /die/. I
used to lie awake at night, and, do what I would to stifle it, that
thought used to /scorch/ me, I wished it so intensely. Do you believe
that by willing one can bring such things to pass?" she asked, looking
at Broomhurst with feverishly bright eyes. "No? Well, I don't know. I
tried to smother it,--I /really/ tried,--but it was there, whatever
other thoughts I heaped on the top. Then, when I heard the horse
galloping across the plain that morning, I had a sick fear that it was
/you/. I knew something had happened, and my first thought when I saw
you alive and well, and knew it was /John/, was /that it was too good
to be true/. I believe I laughed like a maniac, didn't I? . . . Not to
blame? Why, if it hadn't been for me he wouldn't have died. The men
say they saw him sitting with his head uncovered in the burning sun,
his face buried in his hands--just as I had seen him the day before.
He didn't trouble to be careful; he was too wretched."
She paused, and Broomhurst rose and began to pace the little hillside
path at the edge of which they were seated.
Presently he came back to her.
"Kathleen, let me take care of you," he implored, stooping toward her.
"We have only ourselves to consider in this matter. Will you come to
me at once?"
She shook her head sadly.
Broomhurst set his teeth, and the lines round his mouth deepened. He
threw himself down beside her on the heather.
"Dear," he urged, still gently, though his voice showed he was
controlling himself with an effort, "you are morbid about this. You
have been alone too much; you are ill. Let me take care of you; I
/can/, Kathleen,--and I love you. Nothing but morbid fancy makes you
imagine you are in any way responsible for--Drayton's death. You can't
bring him back to life, and--"
"No," she sighed, drearily, "and if I could, nothing would be altered.
Though I am mad with self-reproach, I feel /that/--it was all so
inevitable. If he were alive and well before me this instant, my
feeling toward him wouldn't have changed. If he spoke to me he would
say 'my dear'--and I should /loathe/ him. Oh, I know! It is /that/
that makes it so awful."
"But if you acknowledge it," Broomhurst struck in, eagerly, "will you
wreck both of our lives for the sake of vain regrets? Kathleen, you
He waited breathlessly for her answer.
"I won't wreck both our lives by marrying again without love on my
side," she replied, firmly.
"I will take the risk," he said. "You /have/ loved me; you will love
me again. You are crushed and dazed now with brooding over this--this
"But I will not allow you to take the risk," Kathleen answered. "What
sort of woman should I be to be willing again to live with a man I
don't love? I have come to know that there are things one owes to
/one's self/. Self-respect is one of them. I don't know how it has
come to be so, but all my old feeling for you has /gone/. It is as
though it had burned itself out. I will not offer gray ashes to any
Broomhurst, looking up at her pale, set face, knew that her words were
final, and turned his own aside with a groan.
"Ah," cried Kathleen, with a little break in her voice, "/don't!/ Go
away, and be happy and strong, and all that I loved in you. I am so
sorry--so sorry to hurt you. I--" her voice faltered miserably; "I--I
only bring trouble to people."
There was a long pause.
"Did you never think that there is a terrible vein of irony running
through the ordering of this world?" she said, presently. "It is a
mistake to think our prayers are not answered--they are. In due time
we get our heart's desire--when we have ceased to care for it."
"I haven't yet got mine," Broomhurst answered, doggedly, "and I shall
never cease to care for it."
She smiled a little, with infinite sadness.
"Listen, Kathleen," he said. They had both risen, and he stood before
her, looking down at her. "I will go now, but in a year's time I shall
come back. I will not give you up. You shall love me yet."
"Perhaps--I don't think so," she answered, wearily.
Broomhurst looked at her trembling lips a moment in silence; then he
stooped and kissed both her hands instead.
"I will wait till you tell me you love me," he said.
She stood watching him out of sight. He did not look back, and she
turned with swimming eyes to the gray sea and the transient gleams of
sunlight that swept like tender smiles across its face.
Back to Full Books