The Judgment House
Part 1 out of 9
This etext was produced by Juli Rew (firstname.lastname@example.org).
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
by Gilbert Parker
Except where references to characters well-known to all the world
occur in these pages, this book does not present a picture of public
or private individuals living or dead. It is not in any sense a
historical novel. It is in conception and portraiture a work of the
"Strangers come to the outer wall--
(Why do the sleepers stir?)
Strangers enter the Judgment House--
(Why do the sleepers sigh?)
Slow they rise in their judgment seats,
Sieve and measure the naked souls,
Then with a blessing return to sleep.
(Quiet the Judgment House.)
Lone and sick are the vagrant souls--
(When shall the world come home?)"
"Let them fight it out, friend! things have gone too far,
God must judge the couple: leave them as they are--
Whichever one's the guiltless, to his glory,
And whichever one the guilt's with, to my story!
"Once more. Will the wronger, at this last of all,
Dare to say, 'I did wrong,' rising in his fall?
No? Let go, then! Both the fighters to their places!
While I count three, step you back as many paces!"
"And the Sibyl, you know. I saw her with my own eyes at
Cumae, hanging in a jar; and when the boys asked her, 'What
would you, Sibyl?' she answered, 'I would die.'"
"So is Pheidippides happy for ever,--the noble strong man
Who would race like a God, bear the face of a God, whom a
God loved so well:
He saw the land saved he had helped to save, and was suffered to tell
Such tidings, yet never decline, but, gloriously as he began
So to end gloriously--once to shout, thereafter to be mute:
'Athens is saved!' Pheidippides dies in the shout for his meed."
"Oh, never star
Was lost here, but it rose afar."
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
THE JASMINE FLOWER
The music throbbed in a voice of singular and delicate power; the air
was resonant with melody, love and pain. The meanest Italian in the
gallery far up beneath the ceiling, the most exalted of the land in
the boxes and the stalls, leaned indulgently forward, to be swept by
this sweet storm of song. They yielded themselves utterly to the power
of the triumphant debutante who was making "Manassa" the musical feast
of the year, renewing to Covent Garden a reputation which recent lack
of enterprise had somewhat forfeited.
Yet, apparently, not all the vast audience were hypnotized by the
unknown and unheralded singer, whose stage name was Al'mah. At the
moment of the opera's supreme appeal the eyes of three people at least
were not in the thraldom of the singer. Seated at the end of the first
row of the stalls was a fair, slim, graciously attired man of about
thirty, who, turning in his seat so that nearly the whole house was in
his circle of vision, stroked his golden moustache, and ran his eyes
over the thousands of faces with a smile of pride and satisfaction
which in a less handsome man would have been almost a leer. His name
was Adrian Fellowes.
Either the opera and the singer had no charms for Adrian Fellowes, or
else he had heard both so often that, without doing violence to his
musical sense, he could afford to study the effect of this wonderful
effort upon the mob of London, mastered by the radiant being on the
stage. Very sleek, handsome, and material he looked; of happy colour,
and, apparently, with a mind and soul in which no conflicts ever
raged--to the advantage of his attractive exterior. Only at the summit
of the applause did he turn to the stage again. Then it was with the
gloating look of the gambler who swings from the roulette-table with
the winnings of a great coup, cynical joy in his eyes that he has
beaten the Bank, conquered the dark spirit which has tricked him so
often. Now the cold-blue eyes caught, for a second, the dark-brown
eyes of the Celtic singer, which laughed at him gaily, victoriously,
eagerly, and then again drank in the light and the joy of the myriad
faces before her.
In a box opposite the royal box were two people, a man and a very
young woman, who also in the crise of the opera were not looking at
the stage. The eyes of the man, sitting well back--purposely, so that
he might see her without marked observation--were fixed upon the
rose-tinted, delicate features of the girl in a joyous blue silk gown,
which was so perfect a contrast to the golden hair and wonderful
colour of her face. Her eyes were fixed upon her lap, the lids half
closed, as though in reverie, yet with that perspicuous and reflective
look which showed her conscious of all that was passing round
her--even the effect of her own pose. Her name was Jasmine Grenfel.
She was not oblivious of the music. Her heart beat faster because of
it; and a temperament adjustable to every mood and turn of human
feeling was answering to the poignancy of the opera; yet her youth,
child-likeness, and natural spontaneity were controlled by an elate
consciousness. She was responsive to the passionate harmony; but she
was also acutely sensitive to the bold yet deferential appeal to her
emotions of the dark, distinguished, bearded man at her side, with the
brown eyes and the Grecian profile, whose years spent in the Foreign
Office and at embassies on the Continent had given him a tact and an
insinuating address peculiarly alluring to her sex. She was well aware
of Ian Stafford's ambitions, and had come to the point where she
delighted in them, and had thought of sharing in them, "for weal or
for woe"; but she would probably have resented the suggestion that his
comparative poverty was weighed against her natural inclinations and
his real and honest passion. For she had her ambitions, too; and when
she had scanned the royal box that night, she had felt that something
only little less than a diadem would really satisfy her.
Then it was that she had turned meditatively towards another occupant
of her box, who sat beside her pretty stepmother--a big, bronzed,
clean-shaven, strong-faced man of about the same age as Ian Stafford
of the Foreign Office, who had brought him that night at her
request. Ian had called him, "my South African nabob," in tribute to
the millions he had made with Cecil Rhodes and others at Kimberley and
on the Rand. At first sight of the forceful and rather ungainly form
she had inwardly contrasted it with the figure of Ian Stafford and
that other spring-time figure of a man at the end of the first row in
the stalls, towards which the prima donna had flashed one trusting,
happy glance, and with which she herself had been familiar since her
childhood. The contrast had not been wholly to the advantage of the
nabob; though, to be sure, he was simply arrayed--as if, indeed, he
were not worth a thousand a year. Certainly he had about him a sense
of power, but his occasional laugh was too vigorous for one whose own
great sense of humour was conveyed by an infectious, rippling murmur
delightful to hear.
Rudyard Byng was worth three millions of pounds, and that she
interested him was evident by the sudden arrest of his look and his
movements when introduced to her. Ian Stafford had noted this look;
but he had seen many another man look at Jasmine Grenfel with just as
much natural and unbidden interest, and he shrugged the shoulders of
his mind; for the millions alone would not influence her, that was
sure. Had she not a comfortable fortune of her own? Besides, Byng was
not the kind of man to capture Jasmine's fastidious sense and
nature. So much had happened between Jasmine and himself, so deep an
understanding had grown up between them, that it only remained to
bring her to the last court of inquiry and get reply to a vital
question--already put in a thousand ways and answered to his perfect
satisfaction. Indeed, there was between Jasmine and himself the
equivalent of a betrothal. He had asked her to marry him, and she had
not said no; but she had bargained for time to "prepare"; that she
should have another year in which to be gay in a gay world and, in her
own words, "walk the primrose path of pleasure untrammelled and alone,
save for my dear friend Mrs. Grundy."
Since that moment he had been quite sure that all was well. And now
the year was nearly up, and she had not changed; had, indeed, grown
more confiding and delicately dependent in manner towards him, though
seeing him but seldom alone.
As Ian Stafford looked at her now, he kept saying to himself, "So
exquisite and so clever, what will she not be at thirty! So well
poised, and yet so sweetly child-like dear dresden-china Jasmine."
That was what she looked like--a lovely thing of the time of Boucher
in dresden china.
At last, as though conscious of what was going on in his mind, she
slowly turned her drooping eyes towards him, and, over her shoulder,
as he quickly leaned forward, she said in a low voice which the others
could not hear:
"I am too young, and not clever enough to understand all the music
means--is that what you are thinking?"
He shook his head in negation, and his dark-brown eyes commanded hers,
but still deferentially, as he said: "You know of what I was
thinking. You will be forever young, but yours was always--will always
be--the wisdom of the wise. I'd like to have been as clever at
"How trying that you should know my age so exactly--it darkens the
future," she rejoined with a soft little laugh; then, suddenly, a
cloud passed over her face. It weighed down her eyelids, and she gazed
before her into space with a strange, perplexed, and timorous
anxiety. What did she see? Nothing that was light and joyous, for her
small sensuous lips drew closer, and the fan she held in her lap
slipped from her fingers to the floor.
This aroused her, and Stafford, as he returned the fan to her, said
into a face again alive to the present: "You look as though you were
trying to summon the sable spirits of a sombre future."
Her fine pink-white shoulders lifted a little and, once more quite
self-possessed, she rejoined, lightly, "I have a chameleon mind; it
chimes with every mood and circumstance."
Suddenly her eyes rested on Rudyard Byng, and something in the rough
power of the head arrested her attention, and the thought flashed
through her mind: "How wonderful to have got so much at thirty-three!
Three millions at thirty-three--and millions beget millions!"
. . . Power--millions meant power; millions made ready the stage for
the display and use of every gift, gave the opportunity for the full
occupation of all personal qualities, made a setting for the jewel of
life and beauty, which reflected, intensified every ray of
merit. Power--that was it. Her own grandfather had had power. He had
made his fortune, a great one too, by patents which exploited the
vanity of mankind, and, as though to prove his cynical contempt for
his fellow-creatures, had then invented a quick-firing gun which
nearly every nation in the world adopted. First, he had got power by a
fortune which represented the shallowness and gullibility of human
nature, then had exploited the serious gift which had always been his,
the native genius which had devised the gun when he was yet a boy. He
had died at last with the smile on his lips which had followed his
remark, quoted in every great newspaper of two continents, that: "The
world wants to be fooled, so I fooled it; it wants to be stunned, so I
stunned it. My fooling will last as long as my gun; and both have paid
me well. But they all love being fooled best."
Old Draygon Grenfel's fortune had been divided among his three sons
and herself, for she had been her grandfather's favourite, and she was
the only grandchild to whom he had left more than a small reminder of
his existence. As a child her intelligence was so keen, her perception
so acute, she realized him so well, that he had said she was the only
one of his blood who had anything of himself in character or
personality, and he predicted--too often in her presence--that she
"would give the world a start or two when she had the chance." His
intellectual contempt for his eldest son, her father, was reproduced
in her with no prompting on his part; and, without her own mother from
the age of three, Jasmine had grown up self-willed and imperious, yet
with too much intelligence to carry her will and power too
far. Infinite adaptability had been the result of a desire to please
and charm; behind which lay an unlimited determination to get her own
way and bend other wills to hers.
The two wills she had not yet bent as she pleased were those of her
stepmother and of Ian Stafford--one, because she was jealous and
obstinate, and the other because he had an adequate self-respect and
an ambition of his own to have his way in a world which would not give
save at the point of the sword. Come of as good family as there was in
England, and the grandson of a duke, he still was eager for power,
determined to get on, ingenious in searching for that opportunity
which even the most distinguished talent must have, if it is to soar
high above the capable average. That chance, the predestined alluring
opening had not yet come; but his eyes were wide open, and he was
ready for the spring--nerved the more to do so by the thought that
Jasmine would appreciate his success above all others, even from the
standpoint of intellectual appreciation, all emotions excluded. How
did it come that Jasmine was so worldly wise, and yet so marvellously
the insouciant child?
He followed her slow, reflective glance at Byng, and the impression of
force and natural power of the millionaire struck him now, as it had
often done. As though summoned by them both, Byng turned his face and,
catching Jasmine's eyes, smiled and leaned forward.
"I haven't got over that great outburst of singing yet," he said, with
a little jerk of the head towards the stage, where, for the moment,
minor characters were in possession, preparing the path for the last
rush of song by which Al'mah, the new prima donna, would bring her
first night to a complete triumph.
With face turned full towards her, something of the power of his head
seemed to evaporate swiftly. It was honest, alert, and almost brutally
simple--the face of a pioneer. The forehead was broad and strong, and
the chin was square and determined; but the full, dark-blue eyes had
in them shadows of rashness and recklessness, the mouth was somewhat
self-indulgent and indolent; though the hands clasping both knees were
combined of strength, activity, and also a little of grace.
"I never had much chance to hear great singers before I went to South
Africa," he added, reflectively, "and this swallows me like a storm on
the high veld--all lightning and thunder and flood. I've missed a lot
in my time."
With a look which made his pulses gallop, Jasmine leaned over and
whispered--for the prima donna was beginning to sing again:
"There's nothing you have missed in your race that you cannot ride
back and collect. It is those who haven't run a race who cannot ride
back. You have won; and it is all waiting for you."
Again her eyes beamed upon him, and a new sensation came to him--the
kind of thing he felt once when he was sixteen, and the vicar's
daughter had suddenly held him up for quite a week, while all his
natural occupations were neglected, and the spirit of sport was
humiliated and abashed. Also he had caroused in his time--who was
there in those first days at Kimberley and on the Rand who did not
carouse, when life was so hard, luck so uncertain, and food so bad;
when men got so dead beat, with no homes anywhere--only shake-downs
and the Tents of Shem? Once he had had a native woman summoned to be
his slave, to keep his home; but that was a business which had
revolted him, and he had never repeated the experiment. Then, there
had been an adventuress, a wandering, foreign princess who had fooled
him and half a dozen of his friends to the top of their bent; but a
thousand times he had preferred other sorts of pleasures--cards,
horses, and the bright outlook which came with the clinking glass
after the strenuous day.
Jasmine seemed to divine it all as she looked at him--his primitive,
almost Edenic sincerity; his natural indolence and native force: a
nature that would not stir until greatly roused, but then, with an
unyielding persistence and concentrated force, would range on to its
goal, making up for a slow-moving intellect by sheer will, vision and
a gallant heart.
Al'mah was singing again, and Byng leaned forward eagerly. There was a
rustle in the audience, a movement to a listening position, then a
tense waiting and attention.
As Jasmine composed herself she said in a low voice to Ian Stafford,
whose well-proportioned character, personality, and refinement of
culture were in such marked contrast to the personality of the other:
"They live hard lives in those new lands. He has wasted much of
"Three millions at thirty-three means spending a deal of one thing to
get another," Ian answered a little grimly.
"Hush! Oh, Ian, listen!" she added in a whisper.
Once more Al'mah rose to mastery over the audience. The bold and
generous orchestration, the exceptional chorus, the fine and brilliant
tenor, had made a broad path for her last and supreme effort. The
audience had long since given up their critical sense, they were ready
to be carried into captivity again, and the surrender was instant and
complete. Now, not an eye was turned away from the singer. Even the
Corinthian gallant at the end of the first row of stalls gave himself
up to feasting on her and her success, and the characters in the opera
were as electrified as the audience.
For a whole seven minutes this voice seemed to be the only thing in
the world, transposing all thoughts, emotions, all elements of life
into terms of melody. Then, at last, with a crash of sweetness, the
voice broke over them all in crystals of sound and floated away into a
world of bright dreams.
An instant's silence which followed was broken by a tempest of
applause. Again, again, and again it was renewed. The subordinate
singers were quickly disposed of before the curtain, then Al'mah
received her memorable tribute. How many times she came and went she
never knew; but at last the curtain, rising, showed her well up the
stage beside a table where two huge candles flared. The storm of
applause breaking forth once more, the grateful singer raised her arms
and spread them out impulsively in gratitude and dramatic abandon.
As she did so, the loose, flowing sleeve of her robe caught the flame
of a candle, and in an instant she was in a cloud of fire. The wild
applause turned suddenly to notes of terror as, with a sharp cry, she
stumbled forward to the middle of the stage.
For one stark moment no one stirred, then suddenly a man with an
opera-cloak on his arm was seen to spring across a space of many feet
between a box on the level of the stage and the stage itself. He
crashed into the footlights, but recovered himself and ran forward. In
an instant he had enveloped the agonized figure of the singer and had
crushed out the flames with swift, strong movements.
Then lifting the now unconscious artist in his great arms, he strode
off with her behind the scenes.
"Well done, Byng! Well done, Ruddy Byng!" cried a strong voice from
the audience; and a cheer went up.
In a moment Byng returned and came down the stage. "She is not
seriously hurt," he said simply to the audience. "We were just in
Presently, as he entered the Grenfel box again, deafening applause
"We were just in time," said Ian Stafford, with an admiring, teasing
laugh, as he gripped Byng's arm.
"'We'--well, it was a royal business," said Jasmine, standing close to
him and looking up into his eyes with that ingratiating softness which
had deluded many another man; "but do you realize that it was my cloak
you took?" she added, whimsically.
"Well, I'm glad it was," Byng answered, boyishly. "You'll have to wear
my overcoat home."
"I certainly will," she answered. "Come--the giant's robe."
People were crowding upon their box.
"Let's get out of this," Byng said, as he took his coat from the hook
on the wall.
As they left the box the girl's white-haired, prematurely aged father
whispered in the pretty stepmother's ear: "Jasmine'll marry that
The stepmother shrugged a shoulder. "Jasmine is in love with Ian
Stafford," she said, decisively.
"But she'll marry Rudyard Byng," was the stubborn reply.
THE UNDERGROUND WORLD
"What's that you say--Jameson--what?"
Rudyard Byng paused with the lighted match at the end of his cigar,
and stared at a man who was reading from a tape-machine, which gave
the club the world's news from minute to minute.
"Dr. Jameson's riding on Johannesburg with eight hundred men. He
started from Pitsani two days ago. And Cronje with his burghers are
out after him."
The flaming match burned Byng's fingers. He threw it into the
fireplace, and stood transfixed for a moment, his face hot with
feeling, then he burst out:
"But--God! they're not ready at Johannesburg. The burghers'll catch
him at Doornkop or somewhere, and--" He paused, overcome. His eyes
suffused. His hands went out in a gesture of despair.
"Jameson's jumped too soon," he muttered. "He's lost the game for
The other eyed him quizzically. "Perhaps he'll get in yet. He surely
planned the thing with due regard for every chance. Johannesburg--"
"Johannesburg isn't ready, Stafford. I know. That Jameson and the Rand
should coincide was the only chance. And they'll not coincide now. It
might have been--it was to have been--a revolution at Johannesburg,
with Dr. Jim to step in at the right minute. It's only a filibustering
business now, and Oom Paul will catch the filibuster, as sure as
guns. 'Gad, it makes me sick!"
"Europe will like it--much," remarked Ian Stafford, cynically,
offering Byng a lighted match.
Byng grumbled out an oath, then fixed his clear, strong look on
Stafford. "It's almost enough to make Germany and France forget 1870
and fall into each other's arms," he answered. "But that's your
business, you Foreign Office people's business. It's the fellows out
there, friends of mine, so many of them, I'm thinking of. It's the
British kids that can't be taught in their mother-tongue, and the men
who pay all the taxes and can't become citizens. It's the justice you
can only buy; it's the foot of Kruger on the necks of the subjects of
his suzerain; it's eating dirt as Englishmen have never had to eat it
anywhere in the range of the Seven Seas. And when they catch Dr. Jim,
it'll be ten times worse. Yes, it'll be at Doornkop, unless-- But, no,
they'll track him, trap him, get him now. Johannesburg wasn't
ready. Only yesterday I had a cable that--" he stopped short
. . . "but they weren't ready. They hadn't guns enough, or something;
and Englishmen aren't good conspirators, not by a damned sight! Now
it'll be the old Majuba game all over again. You'll see."
"It certainly will set things back. Your last state will be worse than
your first," remarked Stafford.
Rudyard Byng drained off a glass of brandy and water at a gulp almost,
as Stafford watched him with inward adverse comment, for he never
touched wine or spirits save at meal-time, and the between-meal
swizzle revolted his Eesthetic sense. Byng put down the glass very
slowly, gazing straight before him for a moment without speaking. Then
he looked round. There was no one very near, though curious faces were
turned in his direction, as the grim news of the Raid was passed from
mouth to mouth. He came up close to Stafford and touched his chest
with a firm forefinger.
"Every egg in the basket is broken, Stafford. I'm sure of
that. Dr. Jim'll never get in now; and there'll be no oeufs a la coque
for breakfast. But there's an omelette to be got out of the mess, if
the chef doesn't turn up his nose too high. After all, what has
brought things to this pass? Why, mean, low tyranny and
injustice. Why, just a narrow, jealous race-hatred which makes helots
of British men. Simple farmers, the sentimental newspapers call
them--simple Machiavellis in veldschoen!" *
Stafford nodded assent. "But England is a very conventional chef," he
replied. "She likes the eggs for her omelette broken in the orthodox
"She's not so particular where the eggs come from, is she?"
Stafford smiled as he answered: "There'll be a good many people in
England who won't sleep to-night some because they want Jameson to get
in; some because they don't; but most because they're thinking of the
millions of British money locked up in the Rand, with Kruger standing
over it with a sjambak, which he'll use. Last night at the opera we
had a fine example of presence of mind, when a lady burst into flames
on the stage. That spirited South African prima donna, the Transvaal,
is in flames. I wonder if she really will be saved, and who will save
A light, like the sun, broke over the gloomy and rather haggard face
of Rudyard Byng, and humour shot up into his eyes. He gave a low,
generous laugh, as he said with a twinkle: "And whether he does it at
some expense to himself--with his own overcoat, or with some one
else's cloak. Is that what you want to say?"
All at once the personal element, so powerful in most of us--even in
moments when interests are in existence so great that they should
obliterate all others--came to the surface. For a moment it almost
made Byng forget the crisis which had come to a land where he had done
all that was worth doing, so far in his life; which had burned itself
into his very soul; which drew him, sleeping or waking, into its arms
of memory and longing.
He had read only one paper that morning, and it--the latest attempt at
sensational journalism--had so made him blush at the flattering
references to himself in relation to the incident at the opera, that
he had opened no other. He had left his chambers to avoid the
telegrams and notes of congratulation which were arriving in great
numbers. He had gone for his morning ride in Battersea Park instead of
the Row to escape observation; had afterwards spent two hours at the
house he was building in Park Lane; had then come to the club, where
he had encountered Ian Stafford and had heard the news which
"Well, an opera cloak did the work better than an overcoat would have
done," Stafford answered, laughing. "It was a flash of real genius to
think of it. You did think it all out in the second, didn't you?"
Stafford looked at him curiously, for he wondered if the choice of a
soft cloak which could more easily be wrapped round the burning woman
than an overcoat was accidental, or whether it was the product of a
mind of unusual decision.
Byng puffed out a great cloud of smoke and laughed again quietly as he
"Well, I've had a good deal of lion and rhinoceros shooting in my
time, and I've had to make up my mind pretty quick now and then; so I
suppose it gets to be a habit. You don't stop to think when the
trouble's on you; you think as you go. If I'd stopped to think, I'd
have funked the whole thing, I suppose--jumping from that box onto the
stage, and grabbing a lady in my arms, all in the open, as it
were. But that wouldn't have been the natural man. The natural man
that's in most of us, even when we're not very clever, does things
right. It's when the conventional man comes in and says, Let us
consider, that we go wrong. By Jingo, Al'mah was as near having her
beauty spoiled as any woman ever was; but she's only got a few nasty
burns on the arm and has singed her hair a little."
"You've seen her to-day, then?"
Stafford looked at him with some curiosity, for the event was one
likely to rouse a man's interest in a woman. Al'mah was unmarried, so
far as the world knew, and a man of Byng's kind, if not generally
inflammable, was very likely to be swept off his feet by some unusual
woman in some unusual circumstance. Stafford had never seen Rudyard
Byng talk to any woman but Jasmine for more than five minutes at a
time, though hundreds of eager and avaricious eyes had singled him out
for attention; and, as it seemed absurd that any one should build a
palace in Park Lane to live in by himself, the glances sent in his
direction from many quarters had not been without hopefulness. And
there need not have been, and there was not, any loss of dignity on
the part of match-making mothers in angling for him, for his family
was quite good enough; his origin was not obscure, and his upbringing
was adequate. His external ruggedness was partly natural; but it was
also got from the bitter rough life he had lived for so many years in
South Africa before he had fallen on his feet at Kimberley and
As for "strange women," during the time that had passed since his
retum to England there had never been any sign of loose living. So, to
Stafford's mind, Byng was the more likely to be swept away on a sudden
flood that would bear him out to the sea of matrimony. He had put his
question out of curiosity, and he had not to wait for a reply. It came
frankly and instantly:
"Why, I was at Al'mah's house in Bruton Street at eight o'clock this
morning--with the milkman and the newsboy; and you wouldn't believe
it, but I saw her, too. She'd been up since six o'clock, she
said. Couldn't sleep for excitement and pain, but looking like a pansy
blossom all the same, rigged out as pretty as could be in her boudoir,
and a nurse doing the needful. It's an odd dark kind of beauty she
has, with those full lips and the heavy eyebrows. Well, it was a bull
in a china-shop, as you might judge--and thank you kindly, Mr. Byng,
with such a jolly laugh, and ever and ever and ever so grateful and so
wonderfully--thoughtful, I think, was the word, as though one had
planned it all. And wouldn't I stay to breakfast? And not a bit stagey
or actressy, and rather what you call an uncut diamond--a gem in her
way, but not fine beur, not exactly. A touch of the karoo, or the
prairie, or the salt-bush plains in her, but a good chap altogether;
and I'm glad I was in it last night with her. I laughed a lot at
breakfast--why yes, I stayed to breakfast. Laugh before breakfast and
cry before supper, that's the proverb, isn't it? And I'm crying, all
right, and there's weeping down on the Rand too."
As he spoke Stafford made inward comment on the story being told to
him, so patently true and honest in every particular. It was rather
contradictory and unreasonable, however, to hear this big, shy, rugged
fellow taking exception, however delicately and by inference only, to
the lack of high refinement, to the want of fine fleur, in Al'mah's
personality. It did not occur to him that Byng was the kind of man who
would be comparing Jasmine's quite wonderful delicacy, perfumed grace,
and exquisite adaptability with the somewhat coarser beauty and genius
of the singer. It seemed natural that Byng should turn to a
personality more in keeping with his own, more likely to make him
perfectly at ease mentally and physically.
Stafford judged Jasmine by his own conversations with her, when he was
so acutely alive to the fact that she was the most naturally brilliant
woman he had ever known or met; and had capacities for culture and
attainment, as she had gifts of discernment and skill in thought, in
marked contrast to the best of the ladies of their world. To him she
had naturally shown only the one side of her nature--she adapted
herself to him as she did to every one else; she had put him always at
an advantage, and, in doing so, herself as well.
Full of dangerous coquetry he knew her to be--she had been so from a
child; and though this was culpable in a way, he and most others had
made more than due allowance, because mother-care and loving
surveillance had been withdrawn so soon. For years she had been the
spoiled darling of her father and brothers until her father married
again; and then it had been too late to control her. The wonder was
that she had turned out so well, that she had been so studious, so
determined, so capable. Was it because she had unusual brain and
insight into human nature, and had been wise and practical enough to
see that there was a point where restraint must be applied, and so had
kept herself free from blame or deserved opprobrium, if not entirely
from criticism? In the day when girls were not in the present sense
emancipated, she had the savoir faire and the poise of a married woman
of thirty. Yet she was delicate, fresh, and flower-like, and very
amusing, in a way which delighted men; and she did not antagonize
Stafford had ruled Byng out of consideration where she was
concerned. He had not heard her father's remark of the night before,
"Jasmine will marry that nabob--you'll see."
He was, however, recalled to the strange possibilities of life by a
note which was handed to Byng as they stood before the club-room
fire. He could not help but see--he knew the envelope, and no other
handwriting was like Jasmine's, that long, graceful, sliding
hand. Byng turned it over before opening it.
"Hello," he said, "I'm caught. It's a woman's hand. I wonder how she
knew I was here."
Mentally Stafford shrugged his shoulders as he said to himself: "If
Jasmine wanted to know where he was, she'd find out. I wonder--I
He watched Byng, over whose face passed a pleased smile.
"Why," Byng said, almost eagerly, "it's from Miss Grenfel--wants me to
go and tell her about Jameson and the Raid."
He paused for an instant, and his face clouded again. "The first thing
I must do is to send cables to Johannesburg. Perhaps there are some
waiting for me at my rooms. I'll go and see. I don't know why I didn't
get news sooner. I generally get word before the Government. There's
something wrong somewhere. Somebody has had me."
"If I were you I'd go to our friend first. When I'm told to go at
once, I go. She wouldn't like cablegrams and other things coming
between you and her command--even when Dr. Jim's riding out of
Matabeleland on the Rand for to free the slaves."
Stafford's words were playful, but there was, almost unknown to
himself, a strange little note of discontent and irony behind.
Byng laughed. "But I'll be able to tell her more, perhaps, if I go to
my rooms first."
"You are going to see her, then?"
"Certainly. There's nothing to do till we get news of Jameson at bay
in a conga or balled up at a kopje." Thrusting the delicately perfumed
letter in his pocket, he nodded, and was gone.
"I was going to see her myself," thought Stafford, "but that settles
it. It will be easier to go where duty calls instead, since Byng takes
my place. Why, she told me to come to-day at this very hour," he
added, suddenly, and paused in his walk towards the door.
"But I want no triangular tea-parties," he continued to
reflect.... "Well, there'll be work to do at the Foreign Office,
that's sure. France, Austria, Russia can spit out their venom now and
look to their mobilization. And won't Kaiser William throw up his cap
if Dr. Jim gets caught! What a mess it will be! Well--well--well!"
He sighed, and went on his way brooding darkly; for he knew that this
was the beginning of a great trial for England and all British people.
A DAUGHTER OF TYRE
Jasmine looked at him again, as she had done the night before at the
opera, standing quite confidentially close to him, her hand resting in
his big palm like a pad of rose-leaves; while a delicate perfume
greeted his senses. Byng beamed down on her, mystified and eager, yet
by no means impatient, since the situation was one wholly agreeable to
him, and he had been called robber in his time with greater violence
and with a different voice. Now he merely shook his head in humorous
protest, and gave her an indulgent look of inquiry. Somehow he felt
quite at home with her; while yet he was abashed by so much delicacy
and beauty and bloom.
"Why, what else are you but a robber?" she added, withdrawing her hand
rather quickly from the too frank friendliness of his grasp. "You ran
off with my opera-cloak last night, and a very pretty and expensive
one it was."
"Expensive isn't the word," he rejoined; "it was unpurchasable."
She preened herself a little at the phrase. "I returned your overcoat
this morning--before breakfast; and I didn't even receive a note of
thanks for it. I might properly have kept it till my opera cloak came
"It's never coming back," he answered; "and as for my overcoat, I
didn't know it had been returned. I was out all the morning."
"In the Row?" she asked, with an undertone of meaning.
"Well, not exactly. I was out looking for your cloak."
"Without breakfast?" she urged with a whimsical glance.
"Well, I got breakfast while I was looking."
"And while you were indulging material tastes, the cloak hid
itself--or went out and hanged itself?"
He settled himself comfortably in the huge chair which seemed made
especially for him. With a rare sense for details she had had this
very chair brought from the library beyond, where her stepmother, in
full view, was writing letters. He laughed at her words--a deep, round
chuckle it was.
"It didn't exactly hang itself; it lay over the back of a Chesterfield
where I could see it and breakfast too."
"A Chesterfield in a breakfast-room! That's more like the furniture of
"Well, it was a boudoir." He blushed a little in spite of himself.
"Ah!... Al'mah's? Well, she owed you a breakfast, at least, didn't
"Not so good a breakfast as I got."
"That is putting rather a low price on her life," she rejoined; and a
little smile of triumph gathered at her pink lips; lips a little like
those Nelson loved not wisely yet not too well, if love is worth while
"T didn't see where you were leading me," he gasped, helplessly. "I
give up. I can't talk in your way."
"What is my way?" she pleaded with a little wave of laughter in her
"Why, no frontal attacks--only flank movements, and getting round the
kopjes, with an ambush in a drift here and there."
"That sounds like Paul Kruger or General Joubert," she cried in mock
dismay. "Isn't that what they are doing with Dr. Jameson, perhaps?"
His face clouded. Storm gathered slowly in his eyes, a grimness
suddenly settled in his strong jaw. "Yes," he answered, presently,
"that's what they will be doing; and if I'm not mistaken they'll catch
Jameson just as you caught me just now. They'll catch him at Doornkop
or thereabouts, if I know myself--and Oom Paul."
Her face flushed prettily with excitement. "I want to hear all about
this empire-making, or losing, affair; but there are other things to
be settled first. There's my opera-cloak and the breakfast in the
prima donna's boudoir, and--"
"But, how did you know it was Al'mah?" he asked blankly.
"Why, where else would my cloak be?" she inquired with a little
laugh. "Not at the costumier's or the cleaner's so soon. But, all this
horrid flippancy aside, do you really think I should have talked like
this, or been so exigent about the cloak, if I hadn't known
everything; if I hadn't been to see Al'mah, and spent an hour with her
and knew that she was recovering from that dreadful shock very
quickly? But could you think me so inhuman and unwomanly as not to
have asked about her?"
"I wouldn't be in a position to investigate much when you were
talking--not critically," he replied, boldly. "I would only be
thinking that everything you said was all right. It wouldn't occur to
She half closed her eyes, looking at him with languishing humour. "Now
you must please remember that I am quite young, and may have my head
"It wouldn't alter my mind about you if you turned your head," he
broke in, gallantly, with a desperate attempt to take advantage of an
opportunity, and try his hand at a game entirely new to him.
There was an instant's pause, in which she looked at him with what was
half-assumed, half-natural shyness. His attempt to play with words was
so full of nature, and had behind it such apparent admiration, that
the unspoiled part of her was suddenly made self-conscious, however
agreeably so. Then she said to him: "I won't say you were brave last
night--that doesn't touch the situation. It wasn't bravery, of course;
it was splendid presence of mind which could only come to a man with
great decision of character. I don't think the newspapers put it at
all in the right way. It wasn't like saving a child from the top of a
burning building, was it?"
"There was nothing in it at all where I was concerned," he
replied. "I've been living a life for fifteen years where you had to
move quick--by instinct, as it were. There's no virtue in it. I was
just a little quicker than a thousand other men present, and I was
nearer to the stage."
"Not nearer than my father or Mr. Stafford."
"They had a bigger shock than I had, I suppose. They got struck numb
for a second. I'm a coarser kind. I have seen lots of sickening
things; and I suppose they don't stun me. We get callous, I fancy, we
veld-rangers and adventurers."
"You seem sensitive enough to fine emotions," she said, almost shyly."
You were completely absorbed, carried away, by Al'mah's singing last
night. There wasn't a throb of music that escaped you, I should
"Well, that's primary instinct. Music is for the most savage
natures. The boor that couldn't appreciate the Taj Mahal, or the
sculpture of Michael Angelo, might be swept off his feet by the music
of a master, though he couldn't understand its story. Besides, I've
carried a banjo and a cornet to the ends of the earth with me. I saved
my life with the cornet once. A lion got inside my zareba in
Rhodesia. I hadn't my gun within reach, but I'd been playing the
cornet, and just as he was crouching I blew a blast from it--one of
those jarring discords of Wagner in the "Gotterdammerung"--and he
turned tail and got away into the bush with a howl. Hearing gets to be
the most acute of all the senses with the pioneer. If you've ever
been really dying of thirst, and have reached water again, its sounds
become wonderful to you ever after that--the trickle of a creek, the
wash of a wave on the shore, the drip on a tin roof, the drop over a
fall, the swish of a rainstorm. It's the same with birds and
trees. And trees all make different sounds--that's the shape of the
leaves. It's all music, too."
Her breath came quickly with pleasure at the imagination and
observation of his words. "So it wasn't strange that you should be
ravished by Al'mah's singing last night was it?" She looked at him
keenly. "Isn't it curious that such a marvellous gift should be given
to a woman who in other respects--" she paused.
"Yes, I know what you mean. She's so untrained in lots of ways. That's
what I was saying to Stafford a little while ago. They live in a world
of their own, the stage people. There's always a kind of
irresponsibility. The habit of letting themselves go in their art, I
suppose, makes them, in real life, throw things down so hard when they
don't like them. Living at high pressure is an art like music. It
alters the whole equilibrium, I suppose. A woman like Al'mah would
commit suicide, or kill a man, without realizing the true significance
of it all."
"Were you thinking that when you breakfasted with her?"
"Yes, when she was laughing and jesting--and when she kissed me
Jasmine drew back, then half-glanced towards her stepmother in the
other room. She was only twenty-two, and though her emancipation had
been accomplished in its way somewhat in advance of her generation, it
had its origin in a very early period of her life, when she had been
allowed to read books of verse--Shelley, Byron, Shakespeare, Verlaine,
Rossetti, Swinburne, and many others--unchallenged and unguided. The
understanding of things, reserved for "the wise and prudent," had been
at first vaguely and then definitely conveyed to her by slow but
subtle means--an apprehension from instinct, not from knowledge. There
had never been a shock to her mind.
The knowledge of things had grown imperceptibly, and most of life's
ugly meanings were known--at a great distance, to be sure, but still
known. Yet there came a sudden half-angry feeling when she heard
Rudyard Byng say, so loosely, that Al'Mah had kissed him. Was it
possible, then, that a man, that any man, thought she might hear such
things without resentment; that any man thought her to know so much of
life that it did not matter what was said? Did her outward appearance,
then, bear such false evidence?
He did not understand quite, yet he saw that she misunderstood, and he
handled the situation with a tact which seemed hardly to belong to a
man of his training and calibre.
"She thought no more of kissing me," he continued, presently, in a
calm voice--"a man she had seen only once before, and was not likely
to see again, than would a child of five. It meant nothing more to her
than kissing Fanato on the stage. It was pure impulse. She forgot it
as soon as it was done. It was her way of showing gratitude. Somewhat
unconventional, wasn't it? But then, she is a little Irish, a little
Spanish, and the rest Saxon; and she is all artist and bohemian."
Jasmine's face cleared, and her equilibrium was instantly
restored. She was glad she had misunderstood. Yet Al'mah had not
kissed her when she left, while expressing gratitude, too. There was a
difference. She turned the subject, saying: "Of course, she insists on
sending me a new cloak, and keeping the other as a memento. It was
rather badly singed, wasn't it?"
"It did its work well, and it deserves an honoured home. Do you know
that even as I flung the cloak round her, in the excitement of the
moment I 'sensed,' as my young nephew says, the perfume you use."
He lifted his hand, conscious that his fingers still carried some of
that delicate perfume which her fingers left there as they lay in his
palm when she greeted him on his entrance. "It was like an incense
from the cloak, as it blanketed the flames. Strange, wasn't it, that
the undersense should be conscious of that little thing, while the
over-sense was adding a sensational postscript to the opera?"
She smiled in a pleased way. "Do you like the perfume? I really use
very little of it."
"It's like no other. It starts a kind of cloud of ideas floating. I
don't know how to describe it. I imagine myself--"
She interrupted, laughing merrily. "My brother says it always makes
him angry, and Ian Stafford calls it 'The Wild Tincture of
Time'--frivolously and sillily says that it comes from a bank whereon
the 'wild thyme' grows! But now, I want to ask you many questions. We
have been mentally dancing, while down beyond the Limpopo--"
His demeanour instantly changed, and she noted the look cf power and
purpose coming into the rather boyish and good-natured, the rash and
yet determined, face. It was not quite handsome. The features were not
regular, the forehead was perhaps a little too low, and the hair grew
very thick, and would have been a vast mane if it had not been kept
fairly close by his valet. This valet was Krool, a half-caste--
Hottentot and Boer--whom he had rescued from Lobengula in the
Matabele war, and who had in his day been ship-steward, barber,
cook, guide, and native recruiter. Krool had attached himself to Byng,
and he would not be shaken off even when his master came home to
Looking at her visitor with a new sense of observation alive in her,
Jasmine saw the inherent native drowsiness of the nature, the love of
sleep and good living, the healthy primary desires, the striving,
adventurous, yet, in one sense, unambitious soul. The very cleft in
the chin, like the alluring dimple of a child's cheek, enlarged and
hardened, was suggestive of animal beauty, with its parallel
suggestion of indolence. Yet, somehow, too ample as he was both in
fact and by suggestion to the imagination there was an apparent
underlying force, a capacity to do huge things when once roused. He
had been roused in his short day. The life into which he had been
thrown with men of vaster ambition and much more selfish ends than his
own, had stirred him to prodigies of activity in those strenuous,
wonderful, electric days when gold and diamonds changed the
hard-bitten, wearied prospector, who had doggedly delved till he had
forced open the hand of the Spirit of the Earth and caught the
treasure that flowed forth, into a millionaire, into a conqueror, with
the world at his feet. He had been of those who, for many a night and
many a year, eating food scarce fit for Kaffirs, had, in poverty and
grim endeavour, seen the sun rise and fall over the Magaliesberg
range, hope alive in the morning and dead at night. He had faced the
devilish storms which swept the high veld with lightning and the
thunderstone, striking men dead as they fled for shelter to the
boulders of some barren, mocking kopje; and he had had the occasional
wild nights of carousal, when the miseries and robberies of life and
time and the ceaseless weariness and hope deferred, were forgotten.
It was all there in his face--the pioneer endeavour, the reckless
effort, the gambler's anxiety, the self-indulgence, the crude
passions, with a far-off, vague idealism, the selfish outlook, and yet
great breadth of feeling, with narrowness of individual purpose. The
rough life, the sordid struggle, had left their mark, and this easy,
coaxing, comfortable life of London had not covered it up--not yet. He
still belonged to other--and higher--spheres.
There was a great contrast between him and Ian Stafford. Ian was
handsome, exquisitely refined, lean and graceful of figure, with a
mind which saw the end of your sentences from the first word, with a
skill of speech like a Damascus blade, with knowledge of a half-dozen
languages. Ian had an allusiveness of conversation which made human
intercourse a perpetual entertainment, and Jasmine's intercourse with
him a delight which lingered after his going until his coming
again. The contrast was prodigious--and perplexing, for Rudyard Byng
had qualities which compelled her interest. She sighed as she
"I suppose you can't get three millions all to yourself with your own
hands without missing a good deal and getting a good deal you could do
without," she said to herself, as he wonderingly interjected the
"Now, what do you know of the Limpopo? I'll venture there isn't
another woman in England who even knows the name."
"I always had a thirst for travel, and I've read endless books of
travel and adventure," she replied. "I'd have been an explorer, or a
Cecil Rhodes, if I had been a man."
"Can you ride?" he asked, looking wonderingly at her tiny hand, her
slight figure, her delicate face with its almost impossible pink and
"Oh, man of little faith!" she rejoined. "I can't remember when I
didn't ride. First a Shetland pony, and now at last I've reached
Zambesi--such a wicked dear."
"Zambesi--why Zambesi? One would think you were South African."
She enjoyed his mystification. Then she grew serious and her eyes
softened. "I had a friend--a girl, older than I. She married. Well,
he's an earl now, the Earl of Tynemouth, but he was the elder son
then, and wild for sport. They went on their honeymoon to shoot in
Africa, and they visited the falls of the Zambesi. She, my friend, was
standing on the edge of the chasm--perhaps you know it--not far from
Livingstone's tree, between the streams. It was October, and the river
was low. She put up her big parasol. A gust of wind suddenly caught
it, and instead of letting the thing fly, she hung on, and was nearly
swept into the chasm. A man with them pulled her back in time--but she
hung on to that red parasol. Only when it was all over did she realize
what had really happened. Well, when she came back to England, as a
kind of thank-offering she gave me her father's best hunter. That was
like her, too; she could always make other people generous. He is a
beautiful Satan, and I rechristened him Zambesi. I wanted the red
parasol, too, but Alice Tynemouth wouldn't give it to me."
"So she gave it to the man who pulled her back. Why not?"
"How do you know she did that?"
"Well, it hangs in an honoured place in Stafford's chambers. I
conjecture right, do I?"
Her eyes darkened slowly, and a swift-passing shadow covered her
faintly smiling lips; but she only said, "You see he was entitled to
it, wasn't he?" To herself, however, she whispered, "Neither of
them--neither ever told me that."
At that moment the door opened, and a footman came forward to Rudyard
Byng. "If you please, sir, your servant says, will you see him. There
is news from South Africa."
Byng rose, but Jasmine intervened. "No, tell him to come here," she
said to the footman. "Mayn't he?" she asked.
Byng nodded, and remained standing. He seemed suddenly lost to her
presence, and with head dropped forward looked into space, engrossed,
Jasmine studied him as an artist would study a picture, and decided
that he had elements of the unusual, and was a distinct
personality. Though rugged, he was not uncouth, and there was nothing
of the nouveau riche about him. He did not wear a ring or scarf-pin,
his watch-chain was simple and inconspicuous enough for a
school-boy--and he was worth three million pounds, with a palace
building in Park Lane and a feudal castle in Wales leased for a period
of years. There was nothing greatly striking in his carriage; indeed,
he did not make enough of his height and bulk; but his eye was strong
and clear, his head was powerful, and his quick smile was very
winning. Yet--yet, he was not the type of man who, to her mind should
have made three millions at thirty-three. It did not seem to her that
he was really representative of the great fortune-builders--she had
her grandfather and others closely in mind. She had seen many captains
of industry and finance in her grandfather's house, men mostly silent,
deliberate and taciturn, and showing in their manner and persons the
accumulated habits of patience, force, ceaseless aggression and
Was it only luck which had given Rudyard Byng those three millions? It
could not be just that alone. She remembered her grandfather used to
say that luck was a powerful ingredient in the successful career of
every man, but that the man was on the spot to take the luck, knew
when to take it, and how to use it. "The lucky man is the man that
sits up watching for the windfall while other men are sleeping"--that
was the way he had put it. So Rudyard Byng, if lucky, had also been of
those who had grown haggard with watching, working and waiting; but
not a hair of his head had whitened, and if he looked older than he
was, still he was young enough to marry the youngest debutante in
England and the prettiest and best-born. He certainly had inherent
breeding. His family had a long pedigree, and every man could not be
as distinguished-looking as Ian Stafford--as Ian Stafford, who,
however, had not three millions of pounds; who had not yet made his
name and might never do so.
She flushed with anger at herself that she should be so disloyal to
Ian, for whom she had pictured a brilliant future--ambassador at Paris
or Berlin, or, if he chose, Foreign Minister in Whitehall--Ian,
gracious, diligent, wonderfully trained, waiting, watching for his
luck and ready to take it; and to carry success, when it came, like a
prince of princelier days. Ian gratified every sense in her, met every
demand of an exacting nature, satisfied her unusually critical
instinct, and was, in effect, her affianced husband. Yet it was so
hard to wait for luck, for place, for power, for the environment where
she could do great things, could fill that radiant place which her
cynical and melodramatic but powerful and sympathetic grandfather had
prefigured for her. She had been the apple of that old man's eye, and
he had filled her brain--purposely--with ambitious ideas. He had done
it when she was very young, because he had not long to stay; and he
had overcoloured the pictures in order that the impression should be
vivid and indelible when he was gone. He had meant to bless, for, to
his mind, to shine, to do big things, to achieve notoriety, to attain
power, "to make the band play when you come," was the true philosophy
of life. And as this philosophy, successful in his case, was
accompanied by habits of life which would bear the closest inspection
by the dean and chapter, it was a difficult one to meet by argument or
admonition. He had taught his grandchild as successfully as he had
built the structure of his success. He had made material things the
basis of life's philosophy and purpose; and if she was not wholly
materialistic, it was because she had drunk deep, for one so young, at
the fountains of art, poetry, sculpture and history. For the last she
had a passion which was represented by books of biography without
number, and all the standard historians were to be found in her
bedroom and her boudoir. Yet, too, when she had opportunity--when Lady
Tynemouth brought them to her--she read the newest and most daring
productions of a school of French novelists and dramatists who saw the
world with eyes morally astigmatic and out of focus. Once she had
remarked to Alice Tynemouth:
"You say I dress well, yet it isn't I. It's my dressmaker. I choose
the over-coloured thing three times out of five--it used to be more
than that. Instinctively I want to blaze. It is the same in
everything. I need to be kept down, but, alas! I have my own way in
everything. I wish I hadn't, for my own good. Yet I can't brook being
To this Alice had replied: "A really selfish husband--not a difficult
thing to find--would soon keep you down sufficiently. Then you'd
choose the over-coloured thing not more than two times, perhaps one
time, out of five. Your orientalism is only undisciplined self-will. A
little cruelty would give you a better sense of proportion in
colour--and everything else. You have orientalism, but little or no
Here, now, standing before the fire, was that possible husband who, no
doubt, was selfish, and had capacities for cruelty which would give
her greater proportion--and sense of colour. In Byng's palace, with
three millions behind her--she herself had only the tenth of one
million--she could settle down into an exquisitely ordered, beautiful,
perfect life where the world would come as to a court, and--
Suddenly she shuddered, for these thoughts were sordid, humiliating,
and degrading. They were unbidden, but still they came. They came from
some dark fountain within herself. She really wanted--her idealistic
self wanted--to be all that she knew she looked, a flower in life and
thought. But, oh, it was hard, hard for her to be what she wished!
Why should it be so hard for her?
She was roused by a voice. "Cronje!" it said in a deep, slow, ragged
Byng's half-caste valet, Krool, sombre of face, small, lean, ominous,
was standing in the doorway.
"Cronje! . . . Well?" rejoined Byng, quietly, yet with a kind of
smother in the tone.
Krool stretched out a long, skinny, open hand, and slowly closed the
fingers up tight with a gesture suggestive of a trap closing upon a
"Where?" Byng asked, huskily.
"Doornkop," was the reply; and Jasmine, watching closely, fascinated
by Krool's taciturnity, revolted by his immobile face, thought she saw
in his eyes a glint of malicious and furtive joy. A dark premonition
suddenly flashed into her mind that this creature would one day,
somehow, do her harm; that he was her foe, her primal foe, without
present or past cause for which she was responsible; but still a
foe--one of those antipathies foreordained, one of those evil
influences which exist somewhere in the universe against every
"Doornkop--what did I say!" Byng exclaimed to Jasmine. "I knew they'd
put the double-and-twist on him at Doornkop, or some such place; and
they've done it--Kruger and Joubert. Englishmen aren't slim enough to
be conspirators. Dr. Jim was going it blind, trusting to good luck,
gambling with the Almighty. It's bury me deep now. It's Paul Kruger
licking his chops over the savoury mess. 'Oh, isn't it a pretty dish
to set before the king!' What else, Krool?"
"Nothing more in the cables?"
"That will do, Krool. Wait. Go to Mr. Whalen. Say I want him to bring
a stenographer and all the Partners--he'll understand--to me at ten
Krool bowed slowly. As he raised his head his eyes caught those of
Jasmine. For an instant they regarded each other steadily, then the
man's eyes dropped, and a faint flush passed over his face. The look
had its revelation which neither ever forgot. A quiver of fear passed
through Jasmine, and was followed by a sense of self-protection and a
hardening of her will, as against some possible danger.
As Krool left the room he said to himself: "The Baas speaks her for
his vrouw. But the Baas will go back quick to the Vaal--p'r'aps."
Then an evil smile passed over his face, as he thought of the fall of
the Rooinek--of Dr. Jim in Oom Paul's clutches. He opened and shut his
fingers again with a malignant cruelty.
Standing before the fire, Byng said to Jasmine meditatively, with that
old ironic humour which was always part of him: "'Fee, fo, fi, fum, I
smell the blood of an Englishman.'"
Her face contracted with pain. "They will take Dr. Jim's life?" she
"It's hard to tell. It isn't him alone. There's lots of others that we
"Yes, yes, of course. It's terrible, terrible," she whispered.
"It's more terrible than it looks, even now. It's a black day for
England. She doesn't know yet how black it is. I see it, though; I see
it. It's as plain as an open book. Well, there's work to do, and I
must be about it. I'm off to the Colonial Office. No time to
lose. It's a job that has no eight-hours shift."
Now the real man was alive. He was transformed. The face was set and
quiet. He looked concentrated will and power as he stood with his
hands clasped behind him, his shoulders thrown back, his eyes alight
with fire and determination. To herself Jasmine seemed to be moving in
the centre of great events, having her fingers upon the levers which
work behind the scenes of the world's vast schemes, standing by the
secret machinery of government.
"How I wish I could help you," she said, softly, coming nearer to him,
a warm light in her liquid blue eyes, her exquisite face flushing with
excitement, her hands clasped in front of her.
As Byng looked at her, it seemed to him that sweet honesty and
high-heartedness had never had so fine a setting; that never had there
been in the world such an epitome of talent, beauty and sincerity. He
had suddenly capitulated, he who had ridden unscathed so long. If he
had dared he would have taken her in his arms there and then; but he
had known her only for a day. He had been always told that a woman
must be wooed and won, and to woo took time. It was not a task he
understood, but suddenly it came to him that he was prepared to do it;
that he must be patient and watch and serve, and, as he used to do,
perhaps, be elate in the morning and depressed at night, till the day
of triumph came and his luck was made manifest.
"But you can help me, yes, you can help me as no one else can," he
said almost hoarsely, and his hands moved a little towards her.
"You must show me how," she said, scarce above a whisper, and she drew
back slightly, for this look in his eyes told its own story.
"When may I come again?" he asked.
"I want so much to hear everything about South Africa. Won't you come
to-morrow at six?" she asked.
"Certainly, to-morrow at six," he answered, eagerly, "and thank you."
His honest look of admiration enveloped her as her hand was again lost
in his strong, generous palm, and lay there for a moment thrilling
him.... He turned at the door and looked back, and the smile she gave
seemed the most delightful thing he had ever seen.
"She is a flower, a jasmine-flower," he said, happily, as he made his
way into the street.
When he had gone she fled to her bedroom. Standing before the mirror,
she looked at herself long, laughing feverishly. Then suddenly she
turned and threw herself upon the bed, bursting into a passion of
tears. Sobs shook her.
"Oh, Ian," she said, raisig her head at last, "oh, Ian, Ian, I hate
Down in the library her stepmother was saying to her father, "You are
right, Jasmine will marry the nabob."
"I am sorry for Ian Stafford," was the response.
"Men get over such things," came the quietly cynical reply.
"Jasmine takes a lot of getting over," answered Jasmine's father. "She
has got the brains of all the family, the beauty her family never
had--the genius of my father, and the wilfulness, and--"
He paused, for, after all, he was not talking to the mother of his
"Yes, all of it, dear child," was the enigmatical reply.
"I wish--Nelly, I do wish that--"
"Yes, I know what you wish, Cuthbert, but it's no good. I'm not of any
use to her. She will work out her own destiny alone--as her
"God knows I hope not! A man can carry it off, but a woman--"
Slow and almost stupid as he was, he knew that her inheritance from
her grandfather's nature was a perilous gift.
THE PARTNERS MEET
England was more stunned than shocked. The dark significance, the evil
consequences destined to flow from the Jameson Raid had not yet
reached the general mind. There was something gallant and romantic in
this wild invasion: a few hundred men, with no commissariat and
insufficient clothing, with enough ammunition and guns for only the
merest flurry of battle, doing this unbelievable gamble with
Fate--challenging a republic of fighting men with well-stocked
arsenals and capable artillery, with ample sources of supply, with
command of railways and communications. It was certainly magnificent;
but it was magnificent folly.
It did not take England long to decide that point; and not even the
Laureate's paean in the organ of the aristocracy and upper middle
class could evoke any outburst of feeling. There was plenty of
admiration for the pluck and boldness, for the careless indifference
with which the raiders risked their lives; for the romantic side of
the dash from Pitsani to the Rand; but the thing was so palpably
impossible, as it was carried out, that there was not a knowing mind
in the Islands which would not have echoed Rhodes' words, "Jameson has
upset the apple-cart."
Rudyard Byng did not visit Jasmine the next evening at six
o'clock. His world was all in chaos, and he had not closed his eyes to
sleep since he had left her. At ten o'clock at night, as he had
arranged, "The Partners" and himself met at his chambers, around which
had gathered a crowd of reporters and curious idlers; and from that
time till the grey dawn he and they had sat in conference. He had
spent two hours at the Colonial Office after he left Jasmine, and now
all night he kneaded the dough of a new policy with his companions in
finance and misfortune.
There was Wallstein, the fairest, ablest, and richest financier of
them all, with a marvellous head for figures and invaluable and
commanding at the council-board, by virtue of his clear brain and his
power to co-ordinate all the elements of the most confusing financial
problems. Others had by luck and persistence made money--the basis of
their fortunes; but Wallstein had showed them how to save those
fortunes and make them grow; had enabled them to compete successfully
with the games of other great financiers in the world's
stock-markets. Wallstein was short and stout, with a big blue eye and
an unwrinkled forehead; prematurely aged from lack of exercise and the
exciting air of the high veld; from planning and scheming while others
slept; from an inherent physical weakness due to the fact that he was
one of twin sons, to his brother being given great physical strength,
to himself a powerful brain for finance and a frail if ample
body. Wallstein knew little and cared less about politics; yet he saw
the use of politics in finance, and he did not stick his head into the
sand as some of his colleagues did when political activities hampered
their operations. In Johannesburg he had kept aloof from the struggle
with Oom Paul, not from lack of will, but because he had no stomach
for daily intrigue and guerrilla warfare and subterranean workings;
and he was convinced that only a great and bloody struggle would end
the contest for progress and equal rights for all white men on the
Rand. His inquiries had been bent towards so disposing the financial
operations, so bulwarking the mining industry by sagacious designs,
that, when the worst came, they all would be able to weather the
storm. He had done his work better than his colleagues knew, or indeed
even himself knew.
Probably only Fleming the Scotsman--another of the Partners--with a
somewhat dour exterior, an indomitable will, and a caution which
compelled him to make good every step of the way before him, and so
cultivate a long sight financially and politically, understood how
extraordinary Wallstein's work had been--only Fleming, and Rudyard
Byng, who knew better than any and all.
There was also De Lancy Scovel, who had become a biggish figure in the
Rand world because he had been a kind of financial valet to Wallstein
and Byng, and, it was said, had been a real unofficial valet to
Rhodes, being an authority on cooking, and on brewing a punch, and a
master of commissariat in the long marches which Rhodes made in the
days when he trekked into Rhodesia. It was indeed said that he had
made his first ten thousand pounds out of two trips which Rhodes made
en route to Lobengula, and had added to this amount on the principle
of compound multiplication when the Matabele war came; for here again
he had a collateral interest in the commissariat.
Rhodes, with a supreme carelessness in regard to money, with an
indifference to details which left his mind free for the working of a
few main ideas, had no idea how many cheques he gave on the spur of
the moment to De Lancy Scovel in this month or in that, in this year
or in that, for this thing or for that--cheques written very often on
the backs of envelopes, on the white margin of a newspaper, on the
fly-leaf of a book or a blank telegraph form. The Master Man was so
stirred by half-contemptuous humour at the sycophancy and snobbery of
his vain slave, who could make a salad out of anything edible, that,
caring little what men were, so long as they did his work for him, he
once wrote a cheque for two thousand pounds on the starched cuff of
his henchman's "biled shirt" at a dinner prepared for his birthday.
So it was that, with the marrow-bones thrown to him, De Lancy Scovel
came to a point where he could follow Wallstein's and Rhodes' lead
financially, being privy to their plans, through eavesdropping on the
conferences of his chiefs. It came as a surprise to his superiors that
one day's chance discovery showed De Lancy Scovel to be worth fifty
thousand pounds; and from that time on they used him for many a
purpose in which it was expedient their own hands should not
appear. They felt confident that a man who could so carefully and
secretly build up his own fortune had a gift which could be used to
advantage. A man who could be so subterranean in his own affairs would
no doubt be equally secluded in their business. Selfishness would make
him silent. And so it was that "the dude" of the camp and the kraal,
the factotum, who in his time had brushed Rhodes' clothes when he
brushed his own, after the Kaffir servant had messed them about, came
to be a millionaire and one of the Partners. For him South Africa had
no charms. He was happy in London, or at his country-seat in
Leicestershire, where he followed the hounds with a temerity which was
at base vanity; where he gave the county the best food to be got
outside St. Petersburg or Paris; where his so-called bachelor
establishment was cared for by a coarse, gray-haired housekeeper who,
the initiated said, was De Lancy's South African wife, with a rooted
objection to being a lady or "moving in social circles"; whose
pleasure lay in managing this big household under De Lancy's
guidance. There were those who said they had seen her brush a speck of
dust from De Lancy's coat-collar, as she emerged from her morning
interview with him; and others who said they had seen her hidden in
the shrubbery listening to the rather flaccid conversation of her
splendid poodle of a master.
There were others who had climbed to success in their own way, some by
happy accident, some by a force which disregarded anything in their
way, and some by sheer honest rough merit, through which the soul of
the true pioneer shone.
There was also Barry Whalen, who had been educated as a doctor, and,
with a rare Irish sense of adaptability and amazing Celtic cleverness,
had also become a mining engineer, in the days when the Transvaal was
emerging from its pioneer obscurity into the golden light of mining
prosperity. Abrupt, obstinately honest, and sincere; always protesting
against this and against that, always the critic of authority, whether
the authority was friend or foe; always smothering his own views in
the moment when the test of loyalty came; always with a voice like a
young bull and a heart which would have suited a Goliath, there was no
one but trusted Barry, none that had not hurried to him in a
difficulty; not because he was so wise, but because he was so true. He
would never have made money, in spite of the fact that his prescience,
his mining sense, his diagnosis of the case of a mine, as Byng called
it, had been a great source of wealth to others, had it not been for
Wallstein and Byng.
Wallstein had in him a curious gentleness and human sympathy, little
in keeping with the view held of him by that section of the British
press which would willingly have seen England at the mercy of Paul
Kruger--for England's good, for her soul's welfare as it were, for her
needed chastisement. He was spoken of as a cruel, tyrannical, greedy
German Jew, whose soul was in his own pocket and his hand in the
pockets of the world. In truth he was none of these things, save that
he was of German birth, and of as good and honest German origin as
George of Hanover and his descendants, if not so distinguished.
Wallstein's eye was an eye of kindness, save in the vision of business;
then it saw without emotion to the advantage of the country where he
had made his money, and to the perpetual advantage of England, to whom
he gave an honourable and philanthropic citizenship. His charities were
not of the spectacular kind; but many a poor and worthy, and often
unworthy, unfortunate was sheltered through bad days and heavy weather
of life by the immediate personal care of "the Jew Mining Magnate,
who didn't care a damn what happened to England so long as his own
nest was well lined!"
It was Wallstein who took heed of the fact that, as he became rich,
Barry Whalen remained poor; and it was he who took note that Barry had
a daughter who might any day be left penniless with frail health and
no protector; and taking heed and note, it was he made all the
Partners unite in taking some financial risks and responsibilities for
Barry, when two new mines were opened--to Barry's large profit. It was
characteristic of Barry, however, that, if they had not disguised
their action by financial devices, and by making him a Partner,
because he was needed professionally and intellectually and for other
business reasons, nicely phrased to please his Celtic vanity, he would
have rejected the means to the fortune which came to him. It was a far
smaller fortune than any of the others had; but it was sufficient for
him and for his child. So it was that Barry became one of the
Partners, and said things that every one else would hesitate to say,
but were glad to hear said.
Others of the group were of varying degrees of ability and interest
and importance. One or two were poltroons in body and mind, with only
a real instinct for money-making and a capacity for constructive
individualism. Of them the most conspicuous was Clifford Melville,
whose name was originally Joseph Sobieski, with habitat Poland, whose
small part in this veracious tale belongs elsewhere.
Each had his place, and all were influenced by the great schemes of
Rhodes and their reflection in the purposes and actions of
Wallstein. Wallstein was inspired by the dreams and daring purposes of
Empire which had driven Rhodes from Table Mountain to the kraal of
Lobengula and far beyond; until, at last, the flag he had learned to
love had been triumphantly trailed from the Cape to Cairo.
Now in the great crisis, Wallstein, of them all, was the most
self-possessed, save Rudyard Byng. Some of the others were
paralyzed. They could only whine out execrations on the man who had
dared something; who, if he had succeeded, would have been hailed as
the great leader of a Revolution, not the scorned and humiliated
captain of a filibustering expedition. A triumphant rebellion or raid
is always a revolution in the archives of a nation. These men were of
a class who run for cover before a battle begins, and can never be
kept in the fighting-line except with the bayonet in the small of
their backs. Others were irritable and strenuous, bitter in their
denunciations of the Johannesburg conspirators, who had bungled their
side of the business and who had certainly shown no rashness. At any
rate, whatever the merits of their case, no one in England accused the
Johannesburgers of foolhardy courage or impassioned daring. They were
so busy in trying to induce Jameson to go back that they had no time
to go forward themselves. It was not that they lost their heads, their
hearts were the disappearing factors.
At this gloomy meeting in his house, Byng did not join either of the
two sections who represented the more extreme views and the
unpolitical minds. There was a small section, of which he was one, who
were not cleverer financially than their friends, but who had
political sense and intuition; and these, to their credit, were more
concerned, at this dark moment, for the political and national
consequences of the Raid, than for the certain set-back to the mining
and financial enterprises of the Rand. A few of the richest of them
were the most hopeless politically--ever ready to sacrifice principle
for an extra dividend of a quarter per cent.; and, in their inmost
souls, ready to bow the knee to Oom Paul and his unwholesome,
undemocratic, and corrupt government, if only the dividends moved on
Byng was not a great genius, and he had never given his natural
political talent its full chance; but his soul was bigger than his
pocket. He had a passionate love for the land--for England--which had
given him birth; and he had a decent pride in her honour and good
name. So it was that he had almost savagely challenged some of the
sordid deliberations of this stern conference. In a full-blooded and
manly appeal he begged them "to get on higher ground." If he could but
have heard it, it would have cheered the heart of the broken and
discredited pioneer of Empire at Capetown, who had received his
death-warrant, to take effect within five years, in the little cottage
at Muizenberg by the sea; as great a soul in posse as ever came from
the womb of the English mother; who said as he sat and watched the
tide flow in and out, and his own tide of life ebbed, "Life is a three
days' trip to the sea-shore: one day in going, one day in settling
down, and one day in packing up again."
Byng had one or two colleagues who, under his inspiration, also took
the larger view, and who looked ahead to the consequences yet to flow
from the fiasco at Doornkop, which became a tragedy. What would happen
to the conspirators of Johannesburg? What would happen to Jameson and
Willoughby and Bobby White and Raleigh Grey? Who was to go to South
Africa to help in holding things together, and to prevent the worst
happening, if possible? At this point they had arrived when they saw--
. . . The dull dank morn stare in,
Like a dim drowned face with oozy eyes.
A more miserable morning seldom had broken, even in England.
"I will go. I must go," remarked Byng at last, though there was a
strange sinking of the heart as he said it. Even yet the perfume of
Jasmine's cloak stole to his senses to intoxicate them. But it was his
duty to offer to go; and he felt that he could do good by going, and
that he was needed at Johannesburg. He, more than all of them, had
been in open conflict with Oom Paul in the the past, had fought him
the most vigorously, and yet for him the old veldschoen Boer had some
regard and much respect, in so far as he could respect a Rooinek at
"I will go," Byng repeated, and looked round the table at haggard
faces, at ashen faces, at the faces of men who had smoked to quiet
their nerves, or drunk hard all night to keep up their courage. How
many times they had done the same in olden days, when the millions
were not yet arrived, and their only luxury was companionship and
champagne--or something less expensive.
As Byng spoke, Krool entered the room with a great coffee-pot and a
dozen small white bowls. He heard Byng's words, and for a moment his
dark eyes glowed with a look of evil satisfaction. But his immobile
face showed nothing, and he moved like a spirit among them his lean
hand putting a bowl before each person, like a servitor of Death
passing the hemlock-brew.
At his entrance there was instant silence, for, secret as their
conference must be, this half-caste, this Hottentot-Boer, must hear
nothing and know nothing. Not one of them but resented his being
Byng's servant. Not one but felt him a danger at any time, and
particularly now. Once Barry Whalen, the most outwardly brusque and
apparently frank of them all, had urged Byng to give Krool up, but
without avail; and now Barry eyed the half-caste with a resentful
determination. He knew that Krool had heard Byng's words, for he was
sitting opposite the double doors, and had seen the malicious eyes
light up. Instantly, however, that light vanished. They all might have
been wooden men, and Krool but a wooden servitor, so mechanical and
concentrated were his actions. He seemed to look at nobody; but some
of them shrank a little as he leaned over and poured the brown,
steaming liquid and the hot milk into the bowls. Only once did the
factotum look at anybody directly, and that was at Byng just as he was
about to leave the room. Then Barry Whalen saw him glance searchingly
at his master's face in a mirror, and again that baleful light leaped
up in his eyes.
When he had left the room, Barry Whalen said, impulsively: "Byng, it's
all damn foolery your keeping that fellow about you. It's dangerous,
"Coffee's good, isn't it? Think there's poison in it?" Byug asked with
a contemptuous little laugh. "Sugar--what?" He pushed the great bowl
of sugar over the polished table towards Barry.
"Oh, he makes you comfortable enough, but--"
"But he makes you uncomfortable, Barry? Well, we're bound to get on
one another's nerves one way or another in this world when the east
wind blows; and if it isn't the east wind, it's some other wind. We're
living on a planet which has to take the swipes of the universe,
because it has permitted that corrupt, quarrelsome, and pernicious
beast, man, to populate the hemispheres. Krool is staying on with me,
"We're in heavy seas, and we don't want any wreckers on the shore,"
was the moody and nervously indignant reply.
"Well, Krool's in the heavy seas, all right, too--with me."
Barry Whalen persisted. "We're in for complications, Byng. England has
to take a hand in the game now with a vengeance. We don't want any
spies. He's more Boer than native."
"There'll be nothing Krool can get worth spying for. If we keep our
mouths shut to the outside world, we'll not need fear any spies. I'm
not afraid of Krool. We'll not be sold by him. Though some one inside
will sell us perhaps--as the Johannesburg game was sold by some one
There was a painful silence, and more than one man looked at his
"We will do nothing that will not bear the light of day, and then we
need not fear any spying," continued Byng.
"If we have secret meetings and intentions which we don't make public,
it is only what governments themselves have; and we keep them quiet to
prevent any one taking advantage of us; but our actions are
justfiable. I'm going to do nothing I'm ashamed of; and when it's
necessary, or when and if it seems right to do so, I'll put all my
cards on the table. But when I do, I'll see that it's a full hand--if
There was a silence for a moment after he had ended, then some one
"You think it's best that you should go? You want to go to
"I didn't say anything about wanting to go. I said I'd go because one
of us--or two of us--ought to go. There's plenty to do here; but if I
can be any more use out there, why, Wallstein can stay here, and--"
He got no further, for Wallstein, to whom he had just referred, and
who had been sitting strangely impassive, with his eyes approvingly
fixed on Byng, half rose from his chair and fell forward, his thick,
white hands sprawling on the mahogany table, his fat, pale face
striking the polished wood with a thud. In an instant they were all on
their feet and at his side.
Barry Whalen lifted up his head and drew him back into the chair, then
three of them lifted him upon a sofa. Barry's hand felt the breast of
the prostrate figure, and Byng's fingers sought his wrist. For a
moment there was a dreadful silence, and then Byng and Whalen looked
at each other and nodded.
"Brandy!" said Byng, peremptorily.
"He's not dead?" whispered some one.
"Brandy--quick," urged Byng, and, lifting up the head a little, he
presently caught the glass from Whalen's hand and poured some brandy
slowly between the bluish lips. "Some one ring for Krool," he added.
A moment later Krool entered. "The doctor--my doctor and his own--and
a couple of nurses," Byng said, sharply, and Krool nodded and
vanished. "Perhaps it's only a slight heart-attack, but it's best to
be on the safe side."
"Anyhow, it shows that Wallstein needs to let up for a while,"
"It means that some one must do Wallstein's work here," said Barry
Whalen. "It means that Byng stays in London," he added, as Krool
entered the room again with a rug to cover Wallstein.
Barry saw Krool's eyes droop before his words, and he was sure that
the servant had reasons for wishing his master to go to South
Africa. The others present, however, only saw a silent, magically
adept figure stooping over the sick man, adjusting the body to greater
ease, arranging skilfully the cushion under the head, loosening and
removing the collar and the boots, and taking possession of the room,
as though he himself were the doctor; while Byng looked on with
"Useful person, eh?" he said, meaningly, in an undertone to Barry
"I don't think he's at home in England," rejoined Barry, as meaningly
and very stubbornly: "He won't like your not going to South Africa."
"Am I not going to South Africa?" Byng asked, mechanically, and
looking reflectively at Krool.
"Wallstein's a sick man, Byng. You can't leave London. You're the only
real politician among us. Some one else must go to Johannesburg."
"You know I can't, Byng--there's my girl. Besides, I don't carry
enough weight, anyhow, and you know that too."
Byng remembered Whalen's girl--stricken down with consumption a few
months before. He caught Whalen's arm in a grip of friendship. "All
right, dear old man," he said, kindly. "Fleming shall go, and I'll
stay. Yes, I'll stay here, and do Wallstein's work."
He was still mechanically watching Krool attend to the sick man, and
he was suddenly conscious of an arrest of all motion in the
half-caste's lithe frame. Then Krool turned, and their eyes met. Had
he drawn Krool's eyes to his--the master-mind influencing the
"Krool wants to go to South Africa," he said to himself with a
strange, new sensation which he did not understand, though it was not
quite a doubt. He reassured himself. "Well, it's natural he
should. It's his home.... But Fleming must go to Johannesburg. I'm
needed most here."
There was gratitude in his heart that Fate had decreed it so. He was
conscious of the perfume from Jasmine's cloak searching his senses,
even in this hour when these things that mattered--the things of
Fate--were so enormously awry.
A WOMAN TELLS HER STORY
"Soon he will speak you. Wait here, madame."
Krool passed almost stealthily out.
Al'mah looked round the rather formal sitting-room, with its somewhat
incongruous furnishing--leopard-skins from Bechuanaland; lion-skins
from Matabeleland; silver-mounted tusks of elephants from Eastern Cape
Colony and Portuguese East Africa; statues and statuettes of classical
subjects; two or three Holbeins, a Rembrandt, and an El Greco on the
walls; a piano, a banjo, and a cornet; and, in the corner, a little
roulette-table. It was a strange medley, in keeping, perhaps, with the
incongruously furnished mind of the master of it all; it was
expressive of tastes and habits not yet settled and consistent.
Al'mah's eyes had taken it all in rather wistfully, while she had
waited for Krool's return from his master; but the wistfulness was due
to personal trouble, for her eyes were clouded and her motions
languid. But when she saw the banjo, the cornet, and the
roulette-table, a deep little laugh rose to her full red lips.
"How like a subaltern, or a colonial civil servant!" she said to
She reflected a moment, then pursued the thought further: "But there
must be bigness in him, as well as presence of mind and depth of
heart--yes, I'm sure his nature is deep."
She remembered the quick, protecting hands which had wrapped her round
with Jasmine Grenfel's cloak, and the great arms in which she had
rested, the danger over.
"There can't be much wrong with a nature like his, though Adrian hates
him so. But, of course, Adrian would. Besides, Adrian will never get
over the drop in the mining-stock which ruined him--Rudyard Byng's
mine.... It's natural for Adrian to hate him, I suppose," she added
with a heavy sigh.
Mentally she took to comparing this room with Adrian Fellowes'
sitting-room overlooking the Thames Embankment, where everything was
in perfect taste and order, where all was modulated, harmonious,
soigne and artistic. Yet, somehow, the handsome chambers which hung
over the muddy river with its wonderful lights and shades, its mists
and radiance, its ghostly softness and greyness, lacked in something
that roused imagination, that stirred her senses here--the vital being
It was power, force, experience, adventure. They were all here. She
knew the signs: the varied interests, the primary emotions, music,
art, hunting, prospecting, fighting, gambling. They were mixed with
the solid achievement of talent and force in the business of
life. Here was a model of a new mining-drill, with a picture of the
stamps working in the Work-and-Wonder mine, together with a model of
the Kaffir compound at Kimberley, with the busy, teeming life behind
the wire boundaries.
Thus near was Byng to the ways of a child, she thought, thus near to
the everlasting intelligence and the busy soul of a constructive and
creative Deity--if there was a Deity. Despite the frequent laughter on
her tongue and in her eyes, she doubted bitterly at times that there
was a Deity. For how should happen the awful tragedies which
encompassed men and peoples, if there was a Deity. No benign Deity
could allow His own created humanity to be crushed in bleeding masses,
like the grapes trampled in the vats of a vineyard. Whole cities
swallowed up by earthquake; islands swept of their people by a tidal
wave; a vast ship pierced by an iceberg and going down with its
thousand souls; provinces spread with the vile elements of a plague
which carpeted the land with dead; mines flooded by water or
devastated by fire; the little new-born babe left without the rightful
breast to feed it; the mother and her large family suddenly deprived
of the breadwinner; old men who had lived like saints, giving their
all to their own and to the world, driven to the degradation of the
poorhouse in the end--ah, if one did not smile, one would die of
weeping, she thought.
Al'mah had smiled her way through the world; with a quick word of
sympathy for any who were hurt by the blows of life or time; with an
open hand for the poor and miserable,--now that she could afford
it--and hiding her own troubles behind mirth and bonhommie; for her
humour, as her voice, was deep and strong like that of a man. It was
sometimes too pronounced, however, Adrian Fellowes had said; and
Adrian was an acute observer, who took great pride in her. Was it not
to Adrian she had looked first for approval the night of her triumph
at Covent Garden--why, that was only a few days ago, and it seemed a
hundred days, so much had happened since. It was Adrian's handsome
face which had told her then of the completeness of her triumph.
The half-caste valet entered again. "Here come, madame," he said with
something very near a smile; for he liked this woman, and his dark,
sensual soul would have approved of his master liking her.
"Soon the Baas, madame," he said as he placed a chair for her, and
with the gliding footstep of a native left the room.
"Sunny creature!" she remarked aloud, with a little laugh, and looked
round. Instantly her face lighted with interest. Here was nothing of
that admired disorder, that medley of incongruous things which marked
the room she had just left; but perfect order, precision, and balance
of arrangement, the most peaceful equipoise. There was a great carved
oak-table near to sun-lit windows, and on it were little regiments of
things, carefully arranged--baskets with papers in elastic bands;
classified and inscribed reference-books, scales, clips, pencils; and
in one clear space, with a bunch of violets before it, the photograph
of a woman in a splendid silver frame--a woman of seventy or so,
obviously Rudyard Byng's mother.
Al'mah's eyes softened. Here was insight into a nature of which the
world knew so little. She looked further. Everywhere were signs of
disciplined hours and careful hands--cabinets with initialed drawers,
shelves filled with books. There is no more impressive and revealing
moment with man or woman than when you stand in a room empty of their
actual presence, but having, in every inch of it, the pervasive
influences of the absent personality. A strange, almost solemn
quietness stole over Al'mah's senses. She had been admitted to the
inner court, not of the man's house, but of his life. Her eyes
travelled on with the gratified reflection that she had been admitted
here. Above the books were rows of sketches--rows of sketches!
Suddenly, as her eyes rested on them, she turned pale and got to her
feet. They were all sketches of the veld, high and low; of natives; of
bits of Dutch architecture; of the stoep with its Boer farmer and his
vrouw; of a kopje with a dozen horses or a herd of cattle grazing; of
a spruit, or a Kaffir's kraal; of oxen leaning against the disselboom
of a cape-wagon; of a herd of steinboks, or a little colony of
meerkats in the karoo.
Her hand went to her heart with a gesture of pain, and a little cry of
misery escaped her lips.
Now there was a quick footstep, and Byng entered with a cordial smile
and an outstretched hand.
"Well, this is a friendly way to begin the New Year," he said,
cheerily, taking her hand. "You certainly are none the worse for our
little unrehearsed drama the other night. I see by the papers that you
have been repeating your triumph. Please sit down. Do you mind my
having a little toast while we talk? I always have my petit dejeuner
here; and I'm late this morning."
"You look very tired," she said as she sat down.
Krool here entered with a tray, placing it on a small table by the big
desk. He was about to pour out the tea, but Byng waved him away.
"Send this note at once by hand," he said, handing him an envelope. It
was addressed to Jasmine Grenfel.
"Yes, I'm tired--rather," he added to his guest with a sudden
weariness of manner. "I've had no sleep for three nights--working all
the time, every hour; and in this air of London, which doesn't feed
you, one needs plenty of sleep. You can't play with yourself here as
you can on the high veld, where an hour or two of sleep a day will
do. On-saddle and off-saddle, in-span and outspan, plenty to eat and a
little sleep; and the air does the rest. It has been a worrying time."
"The Jameson Raid--and all the rest?"
"Particularly all the rest. I feel easier in my mind about Dr. Jim and
the others. England will demand--so I understand," he added with a
careful look at her, as though he had said too much--"the right to try
Jameson and his filibusters from Matabeleland here in England; but
it's different with the Jo'burgers. They will be arrested--"
"They have been arrested," she intervened.
"Oh, is it announced?" he asked without surprise.
"It was placarded an hour ago," she replied, heavily.
"Well, I fancied it would be," he remarked. "They'll have a close
squeak. The sympathy of the world is with Kruger--so far."
"That is what I have come about," she said, with an involuntary and
shrinking glance at the sketches on the walls.
"What you have come about?" he said, putting down his cup of tea and
looking at her intently." How are you concerned? Where do you come
"There is a man--he has been arrested with the others; with Farrar,
Phillips, Hammond, and the rest--"
"Oh, that's bad! A relative, or--"
"Not a relative, exactly," she replied in a tone of irony. Rising, she
went over to the wall and touched one of the water-colour sketches.
"How did you come by these?" she asked.
"Blantyre's sketches? Well, it's all I ever got for all Blantyre owed
me, and they're not bad. They're lifted out of the life. That's why I
bought them. Also because I liked to think I got something out of
Blantyre; and that he would wish I hadn't. He could paint a bit--
don't you think so?"
"He could paint a bit--always," she replied.
A silence followed. Her back was turned to him, her face was towards
Presently he spoke, with a little deferential anxiety in the
tone. "Are you interested in Blantyre?" he asked, cautiously. Getting
up, he came over to her.
"He has been arrested--as I said--with the others."
"No, you did not say so. So they let Blantyre into the game, did
they?" he asked almost musingly; then, as if recalling what she had
said, he added: "Do you mind telling me exactly what is your interest
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