The Judgment House
Part 4 out of 9
at her in wonder.
Jasmine already had a reputation in the great social world for being
of a vain lightness, having nothing of that devotion to good works
which Mr. Mappin had seen so often on those high levels where the rich
and the aristocratic lived. There was, then, more than beauty and wit
and great social gift, gaiety and charm, in this delicate personality?
Yes, there was something good and sound in her, after all. Her
husband's life was in infinite danger,--had not Brengyn said that his
chances were only one in a thousand?--death stared her savagely in the
face; yet she bore herself as calmly as those women who could not
afford the luxury of tears or the self-indulgence of a despairing
indolence; to whom tragedy was but a whip of scorpions to drive them
into action. How well they all behaved, these society butterflies--
Jasmine, Lady Tynemouth, and the others! But what a wonderful
motherliness and impulsive sympathy steadied by common sense did
Al'mah the singing-woman show!
Her instinct was infallible, her knowledge of how these poor people
felt was intuitive, and her great-heartedness was to be seen in every
motion, heard in every tone of her voice. If she had not had this work
of charity to do, she felt she would have gone shrieking through the
valley, as, this very midnight, she had seen a girl with streaming
hair and bare breast go crying through the streets, and on up the
hills to the deep woods, insane with grief and woe.
Her head throbbed. She felt as though she also could tear the
coverings from her own bosom to let out the fever which was there; for
in her life she had loved two men who had trampled on her
self-respect, had shattered all her pride of life, had made her
ashamed to look the world in the face. Blantyre, her husband, had been
despicable and cruel, a liar and a deserter; and to-night she had seen
the man to whom she had given all that was left of her heart and faith
disgrace himself and his class before the world by a cowardice which
no woman could forgive.
Adrian Fellowes had gone back to Glencader to do necessary things, to
prepare the household for any emergency; and she was grateful for the
respite. If she had been thrown with him in the desperate mood of the
moment, she would have lost her self-control. Happily, fate had taken
him away for a few hours; and who could tell what might not happen in
a few hours? Meanwhile, there was humanity's work to be done.
About four o'clock in the morning, when she came out from a cottage
where she had assisted Mr. Mappin in a painful and dangerous
operation, she stood for a moment in reverie, looking up at the hills,
whose peace had been shrilly broken a few hours before by that
distracted waif of the world, fleeing from the pain of life.
An ample star of rare brilliancy came stealing up over the trees
against the sky-line, twinkling and brimming with light.
"No," she said, as though in reply to an inner voice, "there's nothing
for me--nothing. I have missed it all." Her hands clasped her breast
in pain, and she threw her face upwards. But the light of the star
caught her eyes, and her hands ceased to tremble. A strange quietness
stole over her.
"My child, my lost beloved child," she whispered.
Her eyes swam with tears now, the lines of pain at her mouth relaxed,
the dark look in her eyes stole away. She watched the star with
sorrowful eyes. "How much misery does it see!" she said. Suddenly, she
thought of Rudyard Byng. "He saved my life," she murmured. "I owe
him--ah, Adrian might have paid the debt!" she cried, in pain. "If he
had only been a man to-night--"
At that moment there came a loud noise up the valley from the pit's
mouth--a great shouting. An instant later two figures ran past
her. One was Jasmine, the other was a heavy-footed miner. Gathering
her cloak around her Al'mah sped after them.
A huddled group at the pit's mouth, and men and women running toward
it; a sharp voice of command, and the crowd falling back, making way
for men who carried limp bodies past; then suddenly, out of wild
murmurs and calls, a cry of victory like the call of a muezzin from
the tower of a mosque--a resonant monotony, in which a dominant
A Welsh preaching hillman, carried away by the triumph of the moment,
gave the great tragedy the bugle-note of human joy and pride.
Ian Stafford and Brengyn and Jim Gawley had conquered. The limp bodies
carried past Al'mah were not dead. They were living, breathing men
whom fresh air and a surgeon's aid would soon restore. Two of them
were the young men with the bonny wives who now with murmured
endearments grasped their cold hands. Behind these two was carried
Rudyard Byng, who could command the less certain concentration of a
heart. The men whom Rudyard had gone to save could control a greater
wealth, a more precious thing than anything he had. The boundaries of
the interests of these workers were limited, but their souls were
commingled with other souls bound to them by the formalities; and
every minute of their days, every atom of their forces, were moving
round one light, the light upon the hearthstone. These men were
carried ahead of Byng now, as though by the ritual of nature taking
their rightful place in life's procession before him.
Something of what the working-women felt possessed Jasmine, but it was
an impulse born of the moment, a flood of feeling begotten by the
tragedy. It had in it more of remorse than aught else; it was, in
part, the agitation of a soul surprised into revelation. Yet there
was, too, a strange, deep, undefined pity welling up in her
heart,--pity for Rudyard, and because of what she did not say directly
even to her own soul. But pity was there, with also a sense of
inevitableness, of the continuance of things which she was too weak to
Like the two women of the people ahead, she held Rudyard's hand, as
she walked beside him, till he was carried into the manager's office
near by. She was conscious that on the other side of Rudyard was a
tall figure that staggered and swayed as it moved on, and that two
dark eyes were turned towards her ever and anon.
Into those eyes she had looked but once since the rescue, but all that
was necessary of gratitude was said in that one glance: "You have
saved Rudyard--you, Ian," it said.
With Al'mah it was different. In the light of the open door of the
manager's office, she looked into Ian Stafford's face. "He saved my
life, you remember," she said; "and you have saved his. I love you."
"I love you!" Greatness of heart was speaking, not a woman's
emotions. The love she meant was of the sort which brings no darkness
in its train. Men and women can speak of it without casting down their
eyes or feeling a flush in their cheeks.
To him came also the two women whose husbands, Jacob and Jabez, were
restored to them.
"Man, we luv ye," one said, and the other laid a hand on his breast
and nodded assent, adding, "Ay, we luv ye."
That was all; but greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down
his life for his friend--and for his enemies, maybe. Enemies these two
rescued men were in one sense--young socialists--enemies to the
present social order, with faces set against the capitalist and the
aristocrat and the landlord; yet in the crisis of life dipping their
hands in the same dish, drinking from the same cup, moved by the same
sense of elementary justice, pity, courage, and love.
"Man, we luv ye!" And the women turned away to their own--to their
capital, which in the slump of Fate had suffered no loss. It was
theirs, complete and paying large dividends.
To the crowd, Brengyn, with gruff sincerity, said, loudly: "Jim
Gawley, he done as I knowed he'd do. He done his best, and he done it
prime. We couldn't ha' got on wi'out him. But first there was Mr. Byng
as had sense and knowledge more than any; an' he couldn't be denied;
an' there was Mr. Stafford--him--" pointing to Ian, who, with misty
eyes, was watching the women go back to their men. "He done his bit
better nor any of us. And Mr. Byng and Jacob and Jabez, they can thank
their stars that Mr. Stafford done his bit. Jim's all right an' I done
my duty, I hope, but these two that ain't of us, they done
more--Mr. Byng and Mr. Stafford. Here's three cheers, lads--no, this
ain't a time for cheerin'; but ye all ha' got hands."
His hand caught Ian's with the grip of that brotherhood which is as
old as Adam, and the hand of miner after miner did the same.
The strike was over--at a price too big for human calculation; but it
might have been bigger still.
Outside the open door of the manager's office Stafford watched and
waited till he saw Rudyard, with a little laugh, get slowly to his
feet and stretch his limbs heavily. Then he turned away gloomily to
the darkness of the hills. In his soul there was a depression as deep
as in that of the singing-woman.
"Al'mah had her debt to pay, and I shall have mine," he said, wearily.
THE WORLD WELL LOST
People were in London in September and October who seldom arrived
before November. War was coming. Hundreds of families whose men were
in the army came to be within touch of the War Office and Aldershot,
and the capital of the Empire was overrun by intriguers, harmless and
otherwise. There were ladies who hoped to influence officers in high
command in favour of their husbands, brothers, or sons; subalterns of
title who wished to be upon the staff of some famous general; colonels
of character and courage and scant ability, craving commands;
high-placed folk connected with great industrial, shipping, or
commercial firms, who were used by these firms to get "their share" of
contracts and other things which might be going; and patriotic
amateurs who sought to make themselves notorious through some civilian
auxiliary to war organization, like a voluntary field hospital or a
home of convalescence. But men, too, of the real right sort, longing
for chance of work in their profession of arms; ready for anything,
good for anything, brave to a miracle: and these made themselves fit
by hard riding or walking or rowing, or in some school of physical
culture, that they might take a war job on, if, and when, it was
Among all these Ian Stafford moved with an undercurrent of agitation
and anxiety unseen in his face, step, motion, or gesture. For days he
was never near the Foreign Office, and then for days he was there
almost continuously; yet there was scarcely a day when he did not see
Jasmine. Also there were few days in the week when Jasmine did not see
M. Mennaval, the ambassador for Moravia--not always at her own house,
but where the ambassador chanced to be of an evening, at a fashionable
restaurant, or at some notable function. This situation had not been
difficult to establish; and, once established, meetings between the
lady and monsieur were arranged with that skill which belongs to woman
and to diplomacy.
Once or twice at the beginning Jasmine's chance question concerning
the ambassador's engagements made M. Mennaval keen to give information
as to his goings and comings. Thus if they met naturally, it was also
so constantly that people gossiped; but at first, certainly, not to
Jasmine's grave disadvantage, for M. Mennaval was thought to be less
dangerous than impressionable.
In that, however, he was somewhat maligned, for his penchant for
beautiful and "select" ladies had capacities of development almost
unguessed. Previously Jasmine had never shown him any marked
preference; and when, at first, he met her in town on her return from
Wales he was no more than watchfully courteous and admiring. When,
however, he found her in a receptive mood, and evidently taking
pleasure in his society, his vanity expanded greatly. He at once
became possessed by an absorbing interest in the woman who, of all
others in London, had gifts which were not merely physical, but of a
kind that stimulate the mind and rouse those sensibilities so easily
dulled by dull and material people. Jasmine had her material side; but
there was in her the very triumph of the imaginative also; and through
it the material became alive, buoyant and magnetic.
Without that magnetic power which belonged to the sensuous part of her
she would not have gained control of M. Mennaval's mind, for it was
keen, suspicious, almost abnormally acute; and, while lacking real
power, it protected itself against the power of others by assembled
and well-disciplined adroitness and evasions.
Very soon, however, Jasmine's sensitive beauty, which in her desire to
intoxicate him became voluptuousness, enveloped his brain in a mist of
rainbow reflections. Under her deft questions and suggestions he
allowed her to see the springs of his own diplomacy and the machinery
inside the Moravian administration. She caught glimpses of its
ambitions, its unscrupulous use of its position in international
relations, to gain advantage for itself, even by a dexterity which
might easily bear another name, and by sudden disregard of
international attachments not unlike treachery.
Rudyard was too busy to notice the more than cavalier attitude of
M. Mennaval; and if he had noticed it, there would have been no
intervention. Of late a lesion of his higher moral sense made him
strangely insensitive to obvious things. He had an inborn chivalry,
but the finest, truest chivalry was not his--that which carefully
protects a woman from temptation, by keeping her unostentatiously away
from it; which remembers that vanity and the need for admiration drive
women into pitfalls out of which they climb again maimed for life, if
they climb at all.
He trusted Jasmine absolutely, while there was, at the same time, a
great unrest in his heart and life--an unrest which the accident at
the Glencader Mine, his own share in a great rescue, and her gratitude
for his safety did little to remove. It produced no more than a
passing effect upon Jasmine or upon himself. The very convention of
making light of bravery and danger, which has its value, was in their
case an evil, preventing them from facing the inner meaning of it
all. If they had been less rich, if their house had been small, if
their acquaintances had been fewer, if . . .
It was not by such incidents that they were to be awakened, and with
the wild desire to make Stafford grateful to her, and owe her his
success, the tragedy yonder must, in the case of Jasmine, have been
obscured and robbed of its force. At Glencader Jasmine had not got
beyond desire to satisfy a vanity, which was as deep in her as life
itself. It was to regain her hold upon a man who had once acknowledged
her power and, in a sense, had bowed to her will. But that had
changed, and, down beneath all her vanity and wilfulness, there was
now a dangerous regard and passion for him which, under happy
circumstances, might have transformed her life--and his. Now it all
served to twist her soul and darken her footsteps. On every hand she
was engaged in a game of dissimulation, made the more dangerous by the
thread of sincerity and desire running through it all. Sometimes she
started aghast at the deepening intrigue gathering in her path; at the
deterioration in her husband; and at the hollow nature of her home
life; but the excitement of the game she was playing, the ardour of
the chase, was in her veins, and her inherited spirit of great daring
kept her gay with vitality and intellectual adventure.
Day after day she had strengthened the cords by which she was drawing
Ian to her; and in the confidence begotten of her services to him, of
her influence upon M. Mennaval and the progress of her efforts, a new
intimacy, different from any they had ever known, grew and
thrived. Ian scarcely knew how powerful had become the feeling between
them. He only realized that delight which comes from working with
another for a cherished cause, the goal of one's life, which has such
deeper significance when the partner in the struggle is a woman. They
both experienced that most seductive of all influences, a secret
knowledge and a pact of mutual silence and purpose.
"You trust me now?" Jasmine asked at last one day, when she had been
able to assure Ian that the end was very near, that M. Mennaval had
turned his face from Slavonia, and had carried his government with
him--almost. In the heir-apparent to the throne of Moravia, whose
influence with the Moravian Prime Minister was considerable, there
still remained one obdurate element; but Ian's triumph only lacked the
removal of this one obstructive factor, and thereafter England would
be secure from foreign attack, if war came in South Africa. In that
case Ian's career might culminate at the head of the Foreign Office
itself, or as representative of the throne in India, if he chose that
"You do trust me, Ian?" Jasmine repeated, with a wistfulness as near
reality as her own deceived soul could permit.
With a sincerity as deep as one can have who embarks on enterprises in
which one regrets the means in contemplation of the end, Ian replied:
"Yes, yes, I trust you, Jasmine, as I used to do when I was twenty and
you were five. You have brought back the boy in me. All the dreams of
youth are in my heart again, all the glow of the distant sky of
hope. I feel as though I lived upon a hill-top, under some greenwood
"And 'sported with Amaryllis in the shade,'" she broke in with a
little laugh of triumph, her eyes brighter than he had ever seen
them. They were glowing with a fire of excitement which was like a
fever devouring the spirit, with little dark, flying banners of fate
or tragedy behind.
Strange that he caught the inner meaning of it as he looked into her
eyes now. In the depths of those eyes, where long ago he had drowned
his spirit, it was as though he saw an army of reckless battalions
marching to a great battle; but behind all were the black wings of
vultures--pinions of sorrow following the gay brigades. Even as he
gazed at her, something ominous and threatening caught his heart, and,
with the end of his great enterprise in sight, a black premonition
But with a smile he said: "Well, it does look as though we are near
the end of the journey."
"And 'journeys end in lovers' meeting,'" she whispered softly, lowered
her eyes, and then raised them again to his.
The light in them blinded him. Had he not always loved her--before any
one came, before Rudyard came, before the world knew her? All that he
had ever felt in the vanished days rushed upon him with intolerable
force. Through his life-work, through his ambition, through helping
him as no one else could have done at the time of crisis, she had
reached the farthest confines of his nature. She had woven, thread by
thread, the magic carpet of that secret companionship by which the
best as the worst of souls are sometimes carried into a land
enchanted--for a brief moment, before Fate stoops down and hangs a
veil of plague over the scene of beauty, passion, and madness.
Her eyes, full of liquid fire, met his. They half closed as her body
swayed slightly towards him.
With a cry, almost rough in its intensity, he caught her in his arms
and buried his face in the soft harvest of her hair. "Jasmine--Jasmine,
my love!" he murmured.
Suddenly she broke from him. "Oh no--oh no, Ian! The work is not
done. I can't take my pay before I have earned it--such pay--such
He caught her hands and held them fast. "Nothing can alter what is. It
stands. Whatever the end, whatever happens to the thing I want to do,
He drew her closer.
"You say this before we know what Moravia will do; you--oh, Ian, tell
me it is not simply gratitude, and because I tried to help you; not
He interrupted her with a passionate gesture. "It belonged at first
to what you were doing for me. Now it is by itself, that which, for
good or ill, was to be between you and me--the foreordained thing."
She drew back her head with a laugh of vanity and pride and bursting
joy. "Ah, it doesn't matter now!" she said. "It doesn't matter."
He looked at her questioningly.
"Nothing matters now," she repeated, less enigmatically. She stretched
her arms up joyously, radiantly.
"The world well lost!" she cried.
Her reckless mood possessed him also. They breathed that air which
intoxicates, before it turns heavy with calamity and stifles the whole
being; by which none ever thrived, though many have sought nourishment
in daring draughts of it.
"The world well lost!" he repeated; and his lips sought hers.
Her determined patience had triumphed. Hour by hour, by being that to
his plans, to his work of life, which no one else could be, she had
won back what she had lost when the Rand had emptied into her lap its
millions, at the bidding of her material soul. With infinite tact and
skill she had accomplished her will. The man she had lost was hers
again. What it must mean, what it must do, what price must be paid for
this which her spirit willed had never yet been estimated. But her
will had been supreme, and she took all out of the moment which was
possible to mortal pleasure.
Like the Columbus, however, who plants his flag upon the cliffs of a
new land, and then, leaving his vast prize unharvested, retreats upon
the sea by which he came, so Ian suddenly realized that here was no
abiding-place for his love. It was no home for his faith, for those
joys which the sane take gladly, when it is right to take them, and
the mad long for and die for when their madness becomes unbearable.
A cloud suddenly passed over him, darkened his eyes, made his bones
like water. For, whatever might come, he knew in his heart of hearts
that the "old paths" were the only paths which he could tread in
peace--or tread at all without the ruin of all he had slowly builded.
Jasmine, however, did not see his look or realize the sudden physical
change which passed over him, leaving him cold and numbed; for a
servant now entered with a note.
Seeing the handwriting on the envelope, with an exclamation of
excitement and surprise, Jasmine tore the letter open. One glance was
"Moravia is ours--ours, Ian!" she cried, and thrust the letter into
"Dearest lady," it ran, "the Crown has intervened successfully. The
Heir Apparent has been set aside. The understanding may now be
ratified. May I dine with you to-night?
"P.S.--You are the first to know, but I have also sent a note to our
young friend, Ian Stafford. Mais, he cannot say, 'Alone I did it.'
"Thank God--thank God, for England!" said Ian solemnly, the greater
thing in him deeply stirred. "Now let war come, if it must; for we can
do our work without interference."
"Thank God," he repeated, fervently, and the light in his eyes was
clearer and burned brighter than the fire which had filled them during
the past few moments.
Then he clasped her in his arms again.
As Ian drove swiftly in a hansom to the Foreign Office, his brain
putting in array and reviewing the acts which must flow from this
international agreement now made possible, the note Mennaval had
written Jasmine flashed before his eyes: "Dearest lady.... May I dine
with you to-night? . . . M."
His face flushed. There was something exceedingly familiar--more in
the tone of the words than the words themselves--which irritated and
humiliated him. What she had done for him apparently warranted this
intimate, self-assured tone on the part of Mennaval, the
philanderer. His pride smarted. His rose of triumph had its thorns.
A letter from Mennaval was at the Foreign Office awaiting him. He
carried it to the Prime Minister, who read it with grave satisfaction.
"It is just in time, Stafford," he remarked. "You ran it close. We
will clinch it instantly. Let us have the code."
As the Prime Minister turned over the pages of the code, he said,
dryly: "I hear from Pretoria, through Mr. Byng, that President Kruger
may send the ultimatum tomorrow. I fear he will have the laugh on us,
for ours is not ready. We have to make sure of this thing first.... I
wonder how Landrassy will take it."
He chuckled deeply. "Landrassy made a good fight, but you made a
better one, Stafford. I shouldn't wonder if you got on in diplomacy,"
he added, with quizzical humour.... "Ah, here is the code! Now to
clinch it all before Oom Paul's challenge arrives."
THE COMING OF THE BAAS
"The Baas--where the Baas?"
Barry Whalen turned with an angry snort to the figure in the
doorway. "Here's the sweet Krool again," he said. "Here's the
faithful, loyal offspring of the Vaal and the karoo, the bulwark of
the Baas.... For God's sake smile for once in your life!" he growled
with an oath, and, snatching up a glass of whiskey and water, threw
the contents at the half-caste.
Krool did not stir, and some of the liquid caught him in the
face. Slowly he drew out an old yellow handkerchief and wiped his
cheeks, his eyes fixed with a kind of impersonal scrutiny on Barry
Whalen and the scene before him.
The night was well forward, and an air of recklessness and dissipation
pervaded this splendid room in De Lancy Scovel's house. The air was
thick with tobacco-smoke, trays were scattered about, laden with stubs
of cigars and ashes, and empty and half-filled glasses were
everywhere. Some of the party had already gone, their gaming instinct
satisfied for the night, their pockets lighter than when they came;
and the tables where they had sat were in a state of disorder more
suggestive of a "dive" than of the house of one who lived in Grosvenor
No servant came to clear away the things. It was a rule of the
establishment that at midnight the household went to bed, and the host
and his guests looked after themselves thereafter. The friends of De
Lancy Scovel called him "Cupid," because of his cherubic face, but he
was more gnome than cherub at heart. Having come into his fortune by
being a henchman to abler men than himself, he was almost over-zealous
to retain it, knowing that he could never get it again; yet he was
hospitable with the income he had to spend. He was the Beau Brummel of
that coterie which laid the foundation of prosperity on the Rand; and
his house was a marvel of order and crude elegance--save when he had
his roulette and poker parties, and then it was the shambles of
murdered niceties. Once or twice a week his friends met here; and it
was not mendaciously said that small fortunes were lost and won within
these walls "between drinks."
The critical nature of things on the Rand did not lessen the gaming or
the late hours, the theatrical entertainments and social functions at
which Al'mah or another sang at a fabulous fee; or from which a dancer
took away a pocketful of gold--partly fee. Only a few of all the
group, great and small, kept a quiet pace and cherished their nerves
against possible crisis or disaster; and these were consumed by inward
anxiety, because all the others looked to them for a lead, for policy,
for the wise act and the manoevre that would win.
Rudyard Byng was the one person who seemed equally compacted of both
elements. He was a powerful figure in the financial inner circle; but
he was one of those who frequented De Lancy Scovel's house; and he
had, in his own house, a roulette-table and a card-room like a
banqueting-hall. Wallstein, Wolff, Barry Whalen, Fleming, Hungerford,
Reuter, and the others of the inner circle he laughed at in a
good-natured way for coddling themselves, and called them--not without
some truth--valetudinarians. Indeed, the hard life of the Rand in the
early days, with the bad liqueur and the high veld air, had brought to
most of the Partners inner physical troubles of some kind; and their
general abstention was not quite voluntary moral purpose.
Of them all, except De Lancy Scovel, Rudyard was most free from any
real disease or physical weakness which could call for the care of a
doctor. With a powerful constitution, he had kept his general health
fairly, though strange fits of depression had consumed him of late,
and the old strong spring and resilience seemed going, if not gone,
from his mind and body. He was not that powerful virile animal of the
day when he caught Al'mah in his arms and carried her off the stage at
Covent Garden. He was vaguely conscious of the great change in him,
and Barry Whalen, who, with all his faults, would have gone to the
gallows for him, was ever vividly conscious of it, and helplessly
resented the change. At the time of the Jameson Raid Rudyard Byng had
gripped the situation with skill, decision, and immense resource,
giving as much help to the government of the day as to his colleagues
and all British folk on the Rand.
But another raid was nearing, a raid upon British territory this
time. The Rand would be the centre of a great war; and Rudyard Byng
was not the man he had been, in spite of his show of valour and vigour
at the Glencader Mine. Indeed, that incident had shown a certain
physical degeneracy--he had been too slow in recovering from the few
bad hours spent in the death-trap. The government at Whitehall still
consulted him, still relied upon his knowledge and his natural tact;
but secret as his conferences were with the authorities, they were not
so secret that criticism was not viciously at work. Women jealous of
Jasmine, financiers envious of Rudyard, Imperial politicians resentful
of his influence, did their best to present him in the worst light
possible. It was more than whispered that he sat too long over his
wine, and that his desire for fiery liquid at other than meal-times
was not in keeping with the English climate, but belonged to lands of
drier weather and more absorptive air.
"What damned waste!" was De Lancy Scovel's attempt at wit as Krool
dried his face and put the yellow handkerchief back into his
pocket. The others laughed idly and bethought themselves of their own
glasses, and the croupier again set the ball spinning and drew their
"Faites vos jeux!" the croupier called, monotonously, and the jingle
of coins followed.
"The Baas--where the Baas?" came again the harsh voice from the
"Gone--went an hour ago," said De Lancy Scovel, coming forward. "What
is it, Krool?"
"The Baas!" mocked Barry Whalen, swinging round again. "The Baas is
gone to find a rope to tie Oom Paul to a tree, as Oom Paul tied you at
Slowly Krool's eyes went round the room, and then settled on Barry
Whalen's face with owl-like gravity. "What the Baas does goes good,"
he said. "When the Baas ties, Alles zal recht kom."
He turned away now with impudent slowness, then suddenly twisted his
body round and made a grimace of animal-hatred at Barry Whalen, his
teeth showing like those of a wolf.
"The Baas will live long as he want," he added, "but Oom Paul will
have your heart--and plenty more," he added, malevolently, and moved
into the darkness without, closing the door behind him.
A shudder passed through the circle, for the uncanny face and the
weird utterance had the strange reality of fate. A gloom fell on the
gamblers suddenly, and they slowly drew into a group, looking half
furtively at one another.
The wheel turned on the roulette-table, the ball clattered.
"Rien ne va plus!" called the croupier; but no coins had fallen on the
green cloth, and the wheel stopped spinning for the night, as though
by common consent.
"Krool will murder you some day, Barry," said Fleming, with
irritation. "What's the sense in saying things like that to a
"How long ago did Rudyard leave?" asked De Lancy Scovel, curiously. "I
didn't see him go. He didn't say good-night to me. Did he to you--to
any of you?"
"Yes, he said to me he was going," rejoined Barry Whalen.
"And to me," said Melville, the Pole, who in the early days on the
Rand had been a caterer. His name then had been Joseph Sobieski, but
this not fitting well with the English language, he had searched the
directory of London till he found the impeachably English combination
of Clifford Melville. He had then cut his hair and put himself into
the hands of a tailor in Conduit Street, and they had turned him
into--what he was.
"Yes, Byng thed good-night to me--deah old boy," he repeated. "'I'm so
damned thleepy, and I have to be up early in the morning,' he thed to
"Byng's example's good enough. I'm off," said Fleming, stretching up
his arms and yawning.
"Byng ought to get up earlier in the morning--much earlier,"
interposed De Lancy Scovel, with a meaning note in his voice.
"Why?" growled out Barry Whalen.
"He'd see the Outlander early-bird after the young domestic worm," was
the slow reply.
For a moment a curious silence fell upon the group. It was as though
some one had heard what had been said--some one who ought not to have
That is exactly what had happened. Rudyard had not gone home. He had
started to do so; but, remembering that he had told Krool to come at
twelve o'clock if any cables arrived, that he might go himself to the
cable-office, if necessary, and reply, he passed from the hallway into
a little room off the card-room, where there was a sofa, and threw
himself down to rest and think. He knew that the crisis in South
Africa must come within a few hours; that Oom Paul would present an
ultimatum before the British government was ready to act; and that
preparations must be made on the morrow to meet all chances and
consequences. Preparations there had been, but conditions altered from
day to day, and what had been arranged yesterday morning required
modification this evening.
He was not heedless of his responsibilities because he was at the
gaming-table; but these were days when he could not bear to be
alone. Yet he could not find pleasure in the dinner-parties arranged
by Jasmine, though he liked to be with her--liked so much to be with
her, and yet wondered how it was he was not happy when he was beside
her. This night, however, he had especially wished to be alone with
her, to dine with her a deux, and he had been disappointed to find
that she had arranged a little dinner and a theatre-party. With a sigh
he had begged her to arrange her party without him, and, in unusual
depression, he had joined "the gang," as Jasmine called it, at De
Lancy Scovel's house.
Here he moved in a kind of gloom, and had a feeling as though he were
walking among pitfalls. A dread seemed to descend upon him and deaden
his natural buoyancy. At dinner he was fitful in conversation, yet
inclined to be critical of the talk around him. Upon those who talked
excitedly of war and its consequences, with perverse spirit he fell
like a sledge-hammer, and proved their information or judgment
wrong. Then, again, he became amiable and almost sentimental in his
attitude toward them all, gripping the hands of two or three with a
warmth which more than surprised them. It was as though he was
subconsciously aware of some great impending change. It may be there
whispered through the clouded space that lies between the
dwelling-house of Fate and the place where a man's soul lives the
voice of that Other Self, which every man has, warning him of
darkness, or red ruin, or a heartbreak coming on.
However that may be, he had played a good deal during the evening, had
drunk more than enough brandy and soda, had then grown suddenly
heavy-hearted and inert. At last he had said good-night, and had
fallen asleep in the little dark room adjoining the card-room.
Was it that Other Self which is allowed to come to us as our trouble
or our doom approaches, who called sharply in his ear as De Lancy
Scovel said, "Byng ought to get up earlier in the morning--much
Rudyard wakened upon the words without stirring--just a wide opening
of the eyes and a moveless body. He listened with, as it were, a new
sense of hearing, so acute, so clear, that it was as though his
friends talked loudly in his very ears.
"He'd see the Outlander early-bird after the young domestic worm."
His heart beat so loud that it seemed his friends must hear it, in the
moment's silence following these suggestive words.
"Here, there's enough of this," said Barry Whalen, sharply, upon the
stillness. "It's nobody's business, anyhow. Let's look after
ourselves, and we'll have enough to do, or I don't know any of us."
"But it's no good pretending," said Fleming. "There isn't one of us
but 'd put ourselves out a great deal for Byng. It isn't human nature
to sit still and do naught, and say naught, when things aren't going
right for him in the place where things matter most.
"Can't he see? Doesn't he see--anything?" asked a little wizened
lawyer, irritably, one who had never been married, the solicitor of
three of their great companies.
"See--of course he doesn't see. If he saw, there'd be hell--at least,"
replied Barry Whalen, scornfully.
"He's as blind as a bat," sighed Fleming.
"He got into the wrong garden and picked the wrong flower--wrong for
him," said another voice. "A passion-flower, not the flower her name
is," added De Lancy Scovel, with a reflective cynicism.
"They they there's no doubt about it--she's throwing herself
away. Ruddy isn't in it, deah old boy, so they they," interposed
Clifford Melville, alias Joseph Sobieski of Posen." Diplomathy is all
very well, but thith kind of diplomathy is not good for the thoul." He
laughed as only one of his kidney can laugh.
Upon the laugh there came a hoarse growl of anger. Barry Whalen was
standing above Mr. Clifford Melville with rage in every fibre, threat
in every muscle.
"Shut up--curse you, Sobieski! It's for us, for any and every one, to
cut the throats of anybody that says a word against her. We've all got
to stand together. Byng forever, is our cry, and Byng's wife is
Byng--before the world. We've got to help him--got to help him, I
"Well, you've got to tell him first. He's got to know it first,"
interposed Fleming; "and it's not a job I'm taking on. When Byng's
asleep he takes a lot of waking, and he's asleep in this thing."
"And the world's too wide awake," remarked De Lancy Scovel,
acidly. "One way or another Byng's got to be waked. It's only him can
put it right."
No one spoke for a moment, for all saw that Barry Whalen was about to
say something important, coming forward to the table impulsively for
the purpose, when a noise from the darkened room beyond fell upon the
De Lancy Scovel heard, Fleming heard, others heard, and turned towards
the little room. Sobieski touched Barry Whalen's arm, and they all
stood waiting while a hand slowly opened wide the door of the little
room, and, white with a mastered agitation, Byng appeared.
For a moment he looked them all full in the face, yet as though he did
not see them; and then, without a word, as they stepped aside to make
way for him, he passed down the room to the outer hallway.
At the door he turned and looked at them again. Scorn, anger, pride,
impregnated with a sense of horror, were in his face. His white lips
opened to speak, but closed again, and, turning, he stepped out of
No one followed. They knew their man.
"My God, how he hates us!" said Barry Whalen, and sank into a chair at
the table, with his head between his hands.
The cheeks of the little wizened lawyer glistened with tears, and De
Lancy Scovel threw open a window and leaned out, looking into the
IS THERE NO HELP FOR THESE THINGS?
Slowly, heavily, like one drugged, Rudyard Byng made his way through
the streets, oblivious of all around him. His brain was like some
engine pounding at high pressure, while all his body was cold and
lethargic. His anger at those he left behind was almost madness, his
humiliation was unlike anything he had ever known. In one sense he was
not a man of the world. All his thoughts and moods and habits had been
essentially primitive, even in the high social and civilized
surroundings of his youth; and when he went to South Africa, it was to
come into his own--the large, simple, rough, adventurous life. His
powerful and determined mind was confined in its scope to the big
essential things. It had a rare political adroitness, but it had
little intellectual subtlety. It had had no preparation for the
situation now upon him, and its accustomed capacity was suddenly
paralyzed. Like some huge ship staggered by the sea, it took its
punishment with heavy, sullen endurance. Socially he had never, as it
were, seen through a ladder; and Jasmine's almost uncanny brilliance
of repartee and skill in the delicate contest of the mind had ever
been a wonder to him, though less so of late than earlier in their
married life. Perhaps this was because his senses were more used to
it, more blunted; or was it because something had gone from her--that
freshness of mind and body, that resilience of temper and spirit,
without which all talk is travail and weariness? He had never thought
it out, though he was dimly conscious of some great loss--of the light
gone from the evening sky.
Yes, it was always in the evening that he had most longed to see "his
girl"; when the day's work was done; when the political and financial
stress had subsided; or when he had abstracted himself from it all and
turned his face towards home. For the big place in Park Lane had
really been home to him, chiefly because, or alone because, Jasmine
had made it what it was; because in every room, in every corner, was
the product of her taste and design. It had been home because it was
associated with her. But of late ever since his five months' visit to
South Africa without her the year before--there had come a change, at
first almost imperceptible, then broadening and deepening.
At first it had vexed and surprised him; but at length it had become a
feeling natural to, and in keeping with, a scheme of life in which
they saw little of each other, because they saw so much of other
people. His primitive soul had rebelled against it at first, not
bitterly, but confusedly; because he knew that he did not know why it
was; and he thought that if he had patience he would come to
understand it in time. But the understanding did not come, and on that
ominous, prophetic day before they went to Glencader, the day when Ian
Stafford had dined with Jasmine alone after their meeting in Regent
Street, there had been a wild, aching protest against it all. Not
against Jasmine--he did not blame her; he only realized that she was
different from what he had thought she was; that they were both
different from what they had been; and that--the light had gone from
the evening sky.
But from first to last he had always trusted her. It had never crossed
his mind, when she "made up" to men in her brilliant, provoking,
intoxicating way, that there was any lack of loyalty to him. It simply
never crossed his mind. She was his wife, his girl, his flower which
he had plucked; and there it was, for the universe to see, for the
universe to heed as a matter of course. For himself, since he had
married her, he had never thought of another woman for an instant,
except either to admire or to criticize her; and his criticism was, as
Jasmine had said, "infantile." The sum of it was, he was married to
the woman of his choice, she was married to the man of her choice; and
there it was, there it was, a great, eternal, settled fact. It was not
a thing for speculation or doubt or reconsideration.
Always, when he had been troubled of late years, his mind had
involuntarily flown to South Africa, as a bird flies to its nest in
the distant trees for safety, from the spoiler or from the storm. And
now, as he paced the streets with heavy, almost blundering tread,--so
did the weight of slander drag him down--his thoughts suddenly saw a
picture which had gone deep down into his soul in far-off days. It was
after a struggle with Lobengula, when blood had been shed and lives
lost, and the backbone of barbarism had been broken south of the
Zambesi for ever and ever and ever. He had buried two companions in
arms whom he had loved in that way which only those know who face
danger on the plain, by the river, in the mountain, or on the open
road together. After they had been laid to rest in the valley where
the great baboons came down to watch the simple cortege pass, where a
stray lion stole across the path leading to the grave, he had gone on
alone to a spot in the Matoppos, since made famous and sacred.
Where John Cecil Rhodes sleeps on that high plateau of convex hollow
stone, with the great natural pillars standing round like sentinels,
and all the rugged unfinished hills tumbling away to an unpeopled
silence, he came that time to rest his sorrowing soul. The woods, the
wild animal life, had been left behind, and only a peaceful middle
world between God and man greeted his stern eyes.
Now, here in London, at that corner where the lonely white statue
stands by Londonderry House, as he moved in a dream of pain, with vast
weights like giant manacles hampering every footstep, inwardly raging
that into his sweet garden of home the vile elements of slander had
been thrown, yet with a terrible and vague fear that something had
gone terribly wrong with him, that far-off day spent at the Matoppos
flashed upon his sight.
Through streets upon streets he had walked, far, far out of his way,
subconsciously giving himself time to recover before he reached his
home; until the green quiet of Hyde Park, the soft depths of its empty
spaces, the companionable and commendable trees, greeted his
senses. Then, here, suddenly there swam before his eyes the bright sky
over those scarred and jagged hills beyond the Matoppos, purple and
grey, and red and amethyst and gold, and his soul's sight went out
over the interminable distance of loneliness and desolation which only
ended where the world began again, the world of fighting men. He saw
once more that tumbled waste of primeval creation, like a crazed sea
agitated by some Horror underneath, and suddenly transfixed in its
plunging turmoil--a frozen concrete sorrow, with all active pain
gone. He heard the loud echo of his feet upon that hollow plateau of
rock, with convex skin of stone laid upon convex skin, and then
suddenly the solid rock which gave no echo under his tread, where
Rhodes lies buried. He saw all at once, in the shining horizon at
different points, black, angry, marauding storms arise and roar and
burst: while all the time above his head there was nothing but sweet
sunshine, into which the mists of the distant storms drifted, and
rainbows formed above him. Upon those hollow rocks the bellow of the
storms was like the rumbling of the wheels of a million gun-carriages;
and yet high overhead there were only the bright sun and faint drops
of rain falling like mystic pearls.
And then followed--he could hear it again, so plainly, as his eyes now
sought the friendly shades of the beeches and the elms yonder in Hyde
Park!--upon the air made denser by the storm, the call of a lonely
bird from one side of the valley. The note was deep and strong and
clear, like the bell-bird of the Australian salt-bush plains beyond
the Darling River, and it rang out across the valley, as though a soul
desired its mate; and then was still. A moment, and there came across
the valley from the other side, stealing deep sweetness from the
hollow rocks, the answer of the bird which had heard her master's
call. Answering, she called too, the viens ici of kindred things; and
they came nearer and nearer and nearer, until at last their two voices
In that wild space there had been worked out one of the great wonders
of creation, and under the dim lamps of Park Lane, in his black,
shocked mood, Rudyard recalled it all by no will of his own. Upon his
eye and brain the picture had been registered, and in its appointed
time, with an automatic suggestion of which he was ignorant and
innocent, it came to play its part and to transform him.
The thought of it all was like a cool hand laid upon his burning
brow. It gave him a glimpse of the morning of life.
The light was gone from the evening sky: but was it gone forever?
As he entered his house now he saw upon a Spanish table in the big
hall a solitary bunch of white roses--a touch of simplicity in an area
of fine artifice. Regarding it a moment, black thoughts receded, and
choosing a flower from the vase he went slowly up the stairs to
He would give her this rose as the symbol of his faith and belief in
her, and then tell her frankly what he had heard at De Lancy Scovel's
For the moment it did not occur to him that she might not be at
home. It gave him a shock when he opened the door and found her room
empty. On her bed, like a mesh of white clouds, lay the soft linen and
lace and the delicate clothes of the night; and by the bed were her
tiny blue slippers to match the blue dressing-gown. Some gracious
things for morning wear hung over a chair; an open book with a little
cluster of violets and a tiny mirror lay upon a table beside a sofa; a
footstool was placed at a considered angle for her well-known seat on
the sofa where the soft-blue lamp-shade threw the light upon her book;
and a little desk with dresden-china inkstand and penholder had little
pockets of ribbon-tied letters and bills--even business had an air of
taste where Jasmine was. And there on a table beside her bed was a
large silver-framed photograph of himself turned at an angle toward
the pillow where she would lay her head.
How tender and delicate and innocent it all was! He looked round the
room with new eyes, as though seeing everything for the first
time. There was another photograph of himself on her dressing-table.
It had no companion there; but on another table near were many
photographs; four of women, the rest of men: celebrities, old friends
like Ian Stafford--and M. Mennaval.
His face hardened. De Lancy Scovel's black slander swept through his
veins like fire again, his heart came up in his throat, his fingers
Presently, as he stood with clouded face and mist in his eyes,
Jasmine's maid entered, and, surprised at seeing him, retreated again,
but her eyes fastened for a moment strangely on the white rose he held
in his hand. Her glance drew his own attention to it again. Going over
to the gracious and luxurious bed, with its blue silk canopy, he laid
the white rose on her pillow. Somehow it was more like an offering to
the dead than a lover's tribute to the living. His eyes were fogged,
his lips were set. But all he was then in mind and body and soul he
laid with the rose on her pillow.
As he left the rose there, his eyes wandered slowly over this retreat
of rest and sleep: white robe-de-nuit, blue silk canopy, blue
slippers, blue dressing-gown--all blue, the colour in which he had
first seen her.
Slowly he turned away at last and went to his own room. But the
picture followed him. It kept shining in his eyes. Krool's face
suddenly darkened it.
"You not ring, Baas," Krool said.
Without a word Rudyard waved him away, a sudden and unaccountable fury
in his mind. Why did the sight of Krool vex him so?
"Come back," he said, angrily, before the door of the bedroom closed.
"Weren't there any cables? Why didn't you come to Mr. Scovel's at
midnight, as I told you?"
"Baas, I was there at midnight, but they all say you come home,
Baas. There the cable--two." He pointed to the dressing-table.
Byng snatched them, tore them open, read them.
One had the single word, "Tomorrow." The other said, "Prepare." The
code had been abandoned. Tragedy needs few words.
They meant that to-morrow Kruger's ultimatum would be delivered and
that the worst must be faced.
He glanced at the cables in silence, while Krool watched him narrowly,
covertly, with a depth of purpose which made his face uncanny.
"That will do, Krool; wake me at seven," he said, quietly, but with
suppressed malice in his tone.
Why was it that at that moment he could, with joy, have taken Krool by
the neck and throttled him? All the bitterness, anger and rage that he
had felt an hour ago concentrated themselves upon Krool--without
reason, without cause. Or was it that his deeper Other Self had
whispered something to his mind about Krool--something terrible and
In this new mood he made up his mind that he would not see Jasmine
till the morning. How late she was! It was one o'clock, and yet this
was not the season. She had not gone to a ball, nor were these the
months of late parties.
As he tossed in his bed and his head turned restlessly on his pillow,
Krool's face kept coming before him, and it was the last thing he saw,
ominous and strange, before he fell into a heavy but troubled sleep.
Perhaps the most troubled moment of the night came an hour after he
went to bed.
Then it was that a face bent over him for a minute, a fair face, with
little lines contracting the ripe lips, which were redder than usual,
with eyes full of a fevered brightness. But how harmonious and sweetly
ordered was the golden hair above! Nothing was gone from its lustre,
nothing robbed it of its splendour. It lay upon her forehead like a
crown. In its richness it seemed a little too heavy for the tired face
beneath, almost too imperial for so slight and delicate a figure.
Rudyard stirred in his sleep, murmuring as she leaned over him; and
his head fell away from her hand as she stretched out her fingers with
a sudden air of pity--of hopelessness, as it might seem from her
look. His face restlessly turned to the wall--a vexed, stormy, anxious
face and head, scarred by the whip of that overlord more cruel and
tyrannous than Time, the Miserable Mind.
She drew back with a little shudder. "Poor Ruddy!" she said, as she
had said that evening when Ian Stafford came to her after the
estranging and scornful years, and she had watched Rudyard leave
her--to her fate and to her folly.
With a sudden frenzied motion of her hands she caught her breath, as
though some pain had seized her. Her eyes almost closed with the shame
that reached out from her heart, as though to draw the veil of her
eyelids over the murdered thing before her--murdered hope, slaughtered
peace: the peace of that home they had watched burn slowly before
their eyes in the years which the locust had eaten.
Which the locust had eaten--yes, it was that. More than once she had
heard Rudyard tell of a day on the veld when the farmer surveyed his
abundant fields with joy, with the gay sun flaunting it above; and
suddenly there came a white cloud out of the west, which made a weird
humming, a sinister sound. It came with shining scales glistening in
the light and settled on the land acre upon acre, morgen upon morgen;
and when it rose again the fields, ready for the harvest, were like a
desert--the fields which the locust had eaten. So had the years been,
in which Fortune had poured gold and opportunity and unlimited choice
into her lap. She had used them all; but she had forgotten to look for
the Single Secret, which, like a key, unlocks all doors in the House
"Poor Ruddy!" she said, but even as she said it for the second time a
kind of anger seemed to seize her.
"Oh, you fool--you fool!" she whispered, fiercely. "What did you know
of women! Why didn't you make me be good? Why didn't you master
me--the steel on the wrist--the steel on the wrist!"
With a little burst of misery and futile rage she went from the room,
her footsteps uneven, her head bent. One of the open letters she
carried dropped from her hand onto the floor of the hall outside. She
did not notice it. But as she passed inside her door a shadowy figure
at the end of the hall watched her, saw the letter drop, and moved
stealthily forward towards it. It was Krool.
How heavy her head was! Her worshipping maid, near dead with fatigue,
watched her furtively, but avoided the eyes in the mirror which had a
half-angry look, a look at once disturbed and elated, reckless and
pitiful. Lablanche was no reader of souls, but there was something
here beyond the usual, and she moved and worked with unusual
circumspection and lightness of touch. Presently she began to unloose
the coils of golden hair; but Jasmine stopped her with a gesture of
"No, don't," she said. "I can't stand your touch tonight,
Lablanche. I'll do the rest myself. My head aches so. Good-night."
"I will be so light with it, madame," Lablanche said, protestingly.
"No, no. Please go. But the morning, quite early."
"The hour, madame?"
"When the letters come, as soon as the letters come, Lablanche--the
first post. Wake me then."
She watched the door close, then turned to the mirror in front of her
and looked at herself with eyes in which brooded a hundred thoughts
and feelings: thoughts contradictory, feelings opposed, imaginings
conflicting, reflections that changed with each moment; and all under
the spell of a passion which had become in the last few hours the most
powerful influence her life had ever known. Right or wrong, and it was
wrong, horribly wrong; wise or unwise, and how could the wrong be
wise! she knew she was under a spell more tyrannous than death,
demanding more sacrifices than the gods of Hellas.
Self-indulgent she had been, reckless and wilful and terribly modern,
taking sweets where she found them. She had tried to squeeze the
orange dry, in the vain belief that Wealth and Beauty can take what
they want, when they want it, and that happiness will come by
purchase; only to find one day that the thing you have bought, like a
slave that revolts, stabs you in your sleep, and you wake with
wide-eyed agony only to die, or to live--with the light gone from the
Suddenly, with the letters in her hand with which she had entered the
room, she saw the white rose on her pillow. Slowly she got up from the
dressing-table and went over to the bed in a hushed kind of way. With
a strange, inquiring, half-shrinking look she regarded the flower. One
white rose. It was not there when she left. It had been brought from
the hall below, from the great bunch on the Spanish table. Those white
roses, this white rose, had come from one who, selfish as he was, knew
how to flatter a woman's vanity. From that delicate tribute of
flattery and knowledge Rudyard had taken this flowering stem and
brought it to her pillow.
It was all too malevolently cynical. Her face contracted in pain and
shame. She had a soul to which she had never given its chance. It had
never bloomed. Her abnormal wilfulness, her insane love of pleasure,
her hereditary impulses, had been exercised at the expense of the
great thing in her, the soul so capable of memorable and beautiful
As she looked at the flower, a sense of the path by which she had
come, of what she had left behind, of what was yet to chance,
shuddered into her heart.
That a flower given by Adrian Fellowes should be laid upon her pillow
by her husband, by Rudyard Byng, was too ghastly or too devilishly
humorous for words; and both aspects of the thing came to her. Her
face became white, and almost mechanically she put the letters she
held on a writing-table near; then coming to the bed again she looked
at the rose with a kind of horror. Suddenly, however, she caught it
up, and bursting into a laugh which was shrill and bitter she threw it
across the room. Still laughing hysterically, with her golden hair
streaming about her head, folding her round like a veil which reached
almost to her ankles, she came back to the chair at the dressing-table
and sat down.
Slowly drawing the wonderful soft web of hair over her shoulders, she
began to weave it into one wide strand, which grew and grew in length
till it was like a great rope of spun gold. Inch by inch, foot by foot
it grew, until at last it lay coiled in her lap like a golden serpent,
with a kind of tension which gave it life, such as Medusa's hair must
have known as the serpent-life entered into it. There is--or was--in
Florence a statue of Medusa, seated, in her fingers a strand of her
hair, which is beginning to coil and bend and twist before her
horror-stricken eyes; and this statue flashed before Jasmine's eyes as
she looked at the loose ends of gold falling beyond the blue ribbon
with which she had tied the shining rope.
With the mad laughter of a few moments before still upon her lips, she
held the flying threads in her hand, and so strained was her mind that
it would not have caused her surprise if they had wound round her
fingers or given forth forked tongues. She laughed again--a low and
discordant laugh it was now.
"Such imaginings--I think I must be mad," she murmured.
Then she leaned her elbows on the dressing-table and looked at herself
in the glass.
"Am I not mad?" she asked herself again. Then there stole across her
face a strange, far-away look, bringing a fresh touch of beauty to it,
and flooding it for a moment with that imaginative look which had been
her charm as a girl, a look of far-seeing and wonder and strange
"I wonder--if I had had a mother!" she said, wistfully, her chin in
her hand. "If my mother had lived, what would I have been?"
She reached out to a small table near, and took from it a miniature at
which she looked with painful longing. "My dear, my very dear, you
were so sweet, so good," she said. "Am I your daughter, your own
daughter--me? Ah, sweetheart mother, come back to me! For God's sake
come--now. Speak to me if you can. Are you so very far away?
Whisper--only whisper, and I shall hear.
"Oh, she would, she would, if she could!" her voice wailed, softly.
"She would if she could, I know. I was her youngest child, her only
little girl. But there is no coming back. And maybe there is no going
forth; only a blackness at the last, when all stops--all stops, for
ever and ever and ever, amen! . . .Amen--so be it. Ah, I even can't
believe in that! I can't even believe in God and Heaven and the
hereafter. I am a pagan, with a pagan's heart and a pagan's ways."
She shuddered again and closed her eyes for a moment. "Ruddy had a
glimpse, one glimpse, that day, the day that Ian came back. Ruddy said
to me that day, 'If you had lived a thousand years ago you would have
had a thousand lovers.' . . . And it is true--by all the gods of all
the worlds, it is true. Pleasure, beauty, is all I ever cared
for--pleasure, beauty, and the Jasmine-flower. And Ian--and Ian, yes,
Ian! I think I had soul enough for one true thing, even if I was not
She buried her face in her hands for a moment, as though to hide a
"But, oh, I wonder if I did ever love Ian, even! I wonder.... Not
then, not then when I deserted him and married Rudyard, but now--now?
Do--do I love him even now, as we were to-day with his arms round me,
or is it only beauty and pleasure and--me? . . . Are they really happy
who believe in God and live like--like her?" She gazed at her mother's
portrait again. "Yes, she was happy, but only for a moment, and then
she was gone--so soon. And I shall never see her, I who never saw her
with eyes that recall.... And if I could see her, would I? I am a
pagan--would I try to be like her, if I could? I never really prayed,
because I never truly felt there was a God that was not all space, and
that was all soul and understanding. And what is to come of it, or
what will become of me? . . . I can't go back, and going on is
madness. Yes, yes, it is madness, I know--madness and badness--and
dust at the end of it all. Beauty gone, pleasure gone.... I do not
even love pleasure now as I did. It has lost its flavour; and I do not
even love beauty as I did. How well I know it! I used to climb hills
to see a sunset; I used to walk miles to find the wood anemones and
the wild violets; I used to worship a pretty child . . . a pretty
She shrank back in her chair and pondered darkly. "A pretty
child.... Other people's pretty children, and music and art and trees
and the sea, and the colours of the hills, and the eyes of wild
animals . . and a pretty child. I wonder, I wonder if--"
But she got no farther with that thought. "I shall hate everything on
earth if it goes from me, the beauty of things; and I feel that it is
going. The freshness of sense has gone, somehow. I am not stirred as I
used to be, not by the same things. If I lose that sense I shall kill
myself. Perhaps that would be the easiest way now. Just the overdose
She took a little phial from the drawer of the dressing-table. "Just
the tiny overdose and 'good-bye, my lover, good-bye.'" Again that hard
little laugh of bitterness broke from her. "Or that needle Mr. Mappin
had at Glencader. A thrust of the point, and in an instant gone, and
no one to know, no one to discover, no one to add blame to blame, to
pile shame upon shame. Just blackness--blackness all at once, and no
light or anything any more. The fruit all gone from the trees, the
garden all withered, the bower all ruined, the children all dead--the
pretty children all dead forever, the pretty children that never were
born, that never lived in Jasmine's garden."
As there had come to Rudyard premonition of evil, so to-night, in the
hour of triumph, when, beyond peradventure, she had got for Ian
Stafford what would make his career great, what through him gave
England security in her hour of truth, there came now to her something
of the real significance of it all.
She had got what she wanted. Her pride had been appeased, her vanity
satisfied, her intellect flattered, her skill approved, and Ian was
hers. But the cost?
Words from Swinburne's threnody on Baudelaire came to her mind. How
often she had quoted them for their sheer pagan beauty! It was the
kind of beauty which most appealed to her, which responded to the
element of fatalism in her, the sense of doom always with her since
she was a child, in spite of her gaiety, her wit, and her native
eloquence. She had never been happy, she had never had a real
illusion, never aught save the passion of living, the desire to
"And now, no sacred staff shall break in blossom,
No choral salutation lure to light
The spirit sick with perfume and sweet night,
And Love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom.
There is no help for these things, none to mend and none to mar
Not all our songs, oh, friend, can make Death clear or make Life durable
But still with rose and ivy and wild vine,
And with wild song about this dust of thine,
At least I fill a place where white dreams dwell,
And wreathe an unseen shrine."
"'And Love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom. . . . There is no
help for these things, none to mend and none to mar....'" A sob rose
in her throat. "Oh, the beauty of it, the beauty and the misery and
the despair of it!" she murmured.
Slowly she wound and wound the coil of golden hair about her neck,
drawing it tighter, fold on fold, tighter and tighter.
"This would be the easiest way--this," she whispered. "By my own hair!
Beauty would have its victim then. No one would kiss it any more,
because it killed a woman. . . . No one would kiss it any more."
She felt the touch of Ian Stafford's lips upon it, she felt his face
buried in it. Her own face suffused, then Adrian Fellowes' white rose,
which Rudyard had laid upon her pillow, caught her eye where it lay on
the floor. With a cry as of a hurt animal she ran to her bed, crawled
into it, and huddled down in the darkness, shivering and afraid.
Something had discovered her to herself for the first time. Was it her
own soul? Had her Other Self, waking from sleep in the eternal spaces,
bethought itself and come to whisper and warn and help? Or was it
Penalty, or Nemesis, or that Destiny which will have its toll for all
it gives of beauty, or pleasure, or pride, or place, or pageantry?
"Love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom"--
The words kept ringing in her ears. They soothed her at last into a
sleep which brought no peace, no rest or repose.
LANDRASSY'S LAST STROKE
Midnight--one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock. Big Ben boomed the
hours, and from St. James's Palace came the stroke of the quarters,
lighter, quicker, almost pensive in tone. From St. James's Street
below came no sounds at last. The clatter of the hoofs of horses had
ceased, the rumble of drays carrying their night freights, the shouts
of the newsboys making sensation out of rumours made in a newspaper
office, had died away. Peace came, and a silver moon gave forth a soft
light, which embalmed the old thoroughfare, and added a tenderness to
its workaday dignity. In only one window was there a light at three
o'clock. It was the window of Ian Stafford's sitting-room.
He had not left the Foreign Office till nearly ten o'clock, then had
had a light supper at his club, had written letters there, and after a
long walk up and down the Mall had, with reluctant feet, gone to his
The work which for years he had striven to do for England had been
accomplished. The Great Understanding was complete. In the words of
the secretary of the American Embassy, "Mennaval had delivered the
goods," and an arrangement had been arrived at, completed this very
night, which would leave England free to face her coming trial in
South Africa without fear of trouble on the flank or in the rear.
The key was turned in the lock, and that lock had been the original
device and design of Ian Stafford. He had done a great work for
civilization and humanity; he had made improbable, if not impossible,
a European war. The Kaiser knew it, Franz Joseph knew it, the Czar
knew it; the White House knew it, and its master nodded with
satisfaction, for John Bull was waking up--"getting a move on."
America might have her own family quarrel with John Bull, but when it
was John Bull versus the world, not even James G. Blaine would have
been prepared to see the old lion too deeply wounded. Even Landrassy,
ambassador of Slavonia, had smiled grimly when he met Ian Stafford on
the steps of the Moravian Embassy. He was artist enough to appreciate
a well-played game, and, in any case, he had had done all that mortal
man could in the way of intrigue and tact and device. He had worked
the international press as well as it had ever been worked; he had
distilled poison here and rosewater there; he had again and again
baffled the British Foreign Office, again and again cut the ground
from under Ian Stafford's feet; and if he could have staved off the
pact, the secret international pact, by one more day, he would have
gained the victory for himself, for his country, for the alliance
One day, but one day, and the world would never have heard of Ian
Stafford. England would then have approached her conflict with the cup
of trembling at her lips, and there would be a new disposition of
power in Europe, a new dominating force in the diplomacy and the
relations of the peoples of the world. It was Landrassy's own last
battle-field of wit and scheming, of intellect and ambition. If he
failed in this, his sun would set soon. He was too old to carry on
much longer. He could not afford to wait. He was at the end of his
career, and he had meant this victory to be the crown of his long
services to Slavonia and the world.
But to him was opposed a man who was at the beginning of his career,
who needed this victory to give him such a start as few men get in
that field of retarded rewards, diplomacy. It had been a man at the
end of the journey, and a man at the beginning, measuring skill,
playing as desperate a game as was ever played. If Landrassy
won--Europe a red battle-field, England at bay; if Ian Stafford
won--Europe at peace, England secure. Ambition and patriotism
intermingled, and only He who made human nature knew how much was pure
patriotism and how much pure ambition. It was a great stake. On this
day of days to Stafford destiny hung shivering, each hour that passed
was throbbing with unparalleled anxiety, each minute of it was to be
the drum-beat of a funeral march or the note of a Te Deum.
Not more uncertain was the roulette-wheel spinning in De Lancy
Scovel's house than the wheel of diplomacy which Ian Stafford had set
spinning. Rouge et noire--it was no more, no less. But Ian had won;
England had won. Black had been beaten.
Landrassy bowed suavely to Ian as they met outside Mennaval's door in
the early evening of this day when the business was accomplished, the
former coming out, the latter going in.
"Well, Stafford," Landrassy said in smooth tones and with a jerk of
the head backward, "the tables are deserted, the croupier is going
home. But perhaps you have not come to play?"
Ian smiled lightly. "I've come to get my winnings--as you say," he
Landrassy seemed to meditate pensively. "Ah yes, ah yes, but I'm not
sure that Mennaval hasn't bolted with the bank and your winnings,
His meaning was clear--and hateful. Before Ian had a chance to reply,
Landrassy added in a low, confidential voice, saturated with sardonic
suggestion, "To tell you the truth, I had ceased to reckon with women
in diplomacy. I thought it was dropped with the Second Empire; but you
have started a new dispensation--evidemment, evidemment. Still
Mennaval goes home with your winnings. Eh bien, we have to pay for our
game! Allons gai!"
Before Ian could reply--and what was there to say to insult couched in
such highly diplomatic language?--Landrassy had stepped sedately away,
swinging his gold-headed cane and humming to himself.
"Duelling had its merits," Ian said to himself, as soon as he had
recovered from the first effect of the soft, savage insolence. "There
is no way to deal with our Landrassys except to beat them, as I have
done, in the business of life."
He tossed his head with a little pardonable pride, as it were, to
soothe his heart, and then went in to Mennaval. There, in the
arrangements to be made with Moravia he forgot the galling incident;
and for hours afterward it was set aside. When, however, he left his
club, his supper over, after scribbling letters which he put in his
pocket absent-mindedly, and having completed his work at the Foreign
Office, it came back to his mind with sudden and scorching force.
Landrassy's insult to Jasmine rankled as nothing had ever rankled in
his mind before, not even that letter which she had written him so
long ago announcing her intended marriage to Byng. He was fresh from
the first triumph of his life: he ought to be singing with joy,
shouting to the four corners of the universe his pride, walking on
air, finding the world a good, kind place made especially for him--his
oyster to open, his nut which he had cracked; yet here he was fresh
from the applause of his chief, with a strange heaviness at his heart,
a gloom upon his mind.
Victory in his great fight--and love; he had them both and so he said
to himself as he opened the door of his rooms and entered upon their
comfort and quiet. He had love, and he had success; and the one had
helped to give him the other, helped in a way which was wonderful, and
so brilliantly skilful and delicate. As he poured out a glass of
water, however, the thought stung him that the nature of the success
and its value depended on the nature of the love and its value. As the
love was, so was the success, no higher, no different, since the one,
in some deep way, begot the other. Yes, it was certain that the thing
could not have been done at this time without Jasmine, and if not at
this time, then the chances were a thousand to one that it never could
be done at any time; for Britain's enemies would be on her back while
she would have to fight in South Africa. The result of that would mean
a shattered, humiliated land, with a people in pawn to the will of a
rising power across the northern sea. That it had been prevented just
in the nick of time was due to Jasmine, his fate, the power that must
beat in his veins till the end of all things.
Yet what was the end to be? To-day he had buried his face in her
wonderful cloud of hair and had kissed her; and with it, almost on the
instant, had come the end of his great struggle for England and
himself; and for that he was willing to pay any price that time and
Nemesis might demand--any price save one.
As he thought of that one price his lips tightened, his brow clouded,
his eyes half closed with shame.
Rudyard Byng was his friend, whose bread he had eaten, whom he had
known since they were boys at school. He remembered acutely Rudyard's
words to him that fateful night when he had dined with Jasmine
alone--"You will have much to talk about, to say to each other, such
old friends as you are." He recalled how Rudyard had left them,
trusting them, happy in the thought that Jasmine would have a pleasant
evening with the old friend who had first introduced him to her, and
that the old friend would enjoy his eager hospitality. Rudyard had
blown his friend's trumpet wherever men would listen to him; had
proclaimed Stafford as the coming man: and this was what he had done
This was what he had done; but what did he propose to do? What of the
future? To go on in miserable intrigue, twisting the nature, making
demands upon life out of all those usual ways in which walk love and
companionship--paths that lead through gardens of poppies, maybe, but
finding grey wilderness at the end? Never, never the right to take the
loved one by the hand before all the world and say: "We two are one,
and the reckoning of the world must be made with both." Never to have
the right to stand together in pride before the wide-eyed many and
say: "See what you choose to see, say what you choose to say, do what
you choose to do, we do not care." The open sharing of worldly
success; the inner joys which the world may not see--these things
could not be for Jasmine and for him.
Yet he loved her. Every fibre in his being thrilled to the thought of
her. But as his passion beat like wild music in his veins, a blindness
suddenly stole into his sight, and in deep agitation he got up, opened
the window, and looked out into the night. For long he stood gazing
into the quiet street, and watched a daughter of the night, with
dilatory steps and neglected mien, go up towards the more frequented
quarter of Piccadilly. Life was grim in so much of it, futile in more,
feeble at the best, foolish in the light of a single generation or a
single century or a thousand years. It was only reasonable in the vast
proportions of eternity. It had only little sips of happiness to give,
not long draughts of joy. Who drank deep, long draughts--who of all
the men and women he had ever known? Who had had the primrose path
without the rain of fire, the cinders beneath the feet, the gins and
the nets spread for them?
Yet might it not be that here and there people were permanently happy?
And had things been different, might not he and Jasmine have been of
the radiant few? He desired her above all things; he was willing to
sacrifice all--all for her, if need be; and yet there was that which
he could not, would not face. All or nothing--all or nothing. If he
must drink of the cup of sorrow and passion mixed, then it would be
from the full cup.
With a stifled exclamation he sat down and began to write. Again and
again he stopped to think, his face lined and worn and old; then he
wrote on and on. Ambition, hope, youth, the Foreign Office, the
chancelleries of Europe, the perils of impending war, were all
forgotten, or sunk into the dusky streams of subconsciousness. One
thought dominated him. He was playing the game that has baffled all
men, the game of eluding destiny; and, like all men, he must break his
heart in the playing.
"Jasmine," he wrote, "this letter, this first real letter of love
which I have ever written you, will tell you how great that love
is. It will tell you, too, what it means to me, and what I see before
us. To-day I surrendered to you all of me that would be worth your
keeping, if it was so that you might take and keep it. When I kissed
you, I set the seal upon my eternal offering to you. You have given me
success. It is for that I thank you with all my soul, but it is not
for that I love you. Love flows from other fountains than
gratitude. It rises from the well which has its springs at the
beginning of the world, where those beings lived who loved before
there were any gods at all, or any faiths, or any truths save the
truth of being.
"But it is because what I feel belongs to something in me deeper than
I have ever known that, since we parted a few hours ago, I see all in
a new light. You have brought to me what perhaps could only have come
as it did--through fire and cloud and storm. I did not will it so,
indeed, I did not wish it so, as you know; but it came in spite of
all. And I shall speak to you of it as to my own soul. I want no
illusions, no self-deception, no pretense to be added to my debt to
you. With wide-open eyes I want to look at it. I know that this love
of mine for you is my fate, the first and the last passion of my
soul. And to have known it with all its misery,--for misery there must
be; misery, Jasmine, there is--to have known it, to have felt it, the
great overwhelming thing, goes far to compensate for all the loss it
so terribly exposes. It has brought me, too, the fruit of life's
ambition. With the full revelation of all that I feel for you came
that which gives me place in the world, confers on me the right to
open doors which otherwise were closed to me. You have done this for
me, but what have I done for you? One thing at least is forced upon
me, which I must do now while I have the sight to see and the mind to
"I cannot go on with things as they are. I cannot face Rudyard and
give myself to hourly deception. I think that yesterday, a month ago,
I could have done so, but not now. I cannot walk the path which will
be paved with things revolting to us both. My love for you, damnable
as it would seem in the world's eyes, prevents it. It is not small
enough to be sustained or made secure in its furfilment by the devices
of intrigue. And I know that if it is so with me, it must be a
thousand times so with you. Your beauty would fade and pass under the
stress and meanness of it; your heart would reproach me even when you
smiled; you would learn to hate me even when you were resting upon my
hungry heart. You would learn to loathe the day when you said, Let me
help you. Yet, Jasmine, I know that you are mine; that you were mine
long ago, even when you did not know, and were captured by opportunity
to do what, with me, you felt you could not do. You were captured by
it; but it has not proved what it promised. You have not made the best
of the power into which you came, and you could not do so, because the
spring from which all the enriching waters of married life flow was
dry. Poor Jasmine--poor illusion of a wild young heart which reached
out for the golden city of the mirage!
"But now.... Two ways spread out, and only two, and one of these two I
must take--for your sake. There is the third way, but I will not take
it--for your sake and for my own. I will not walk in it ever. Already
my feet are burned by the fiery path, already I am choked by the smoke
and the ashes. No. I cannot atone for what has been, but I can try and
gather up the chances that are left.
"You must come with me away--away, to start life afresh, somewhere,
somehow; or I must go alone on some enterprise from which I shall not
return. You cannot bear what is, but, together, having braved the
world, we could look into each other's eyes without shrinking, knowing
that we had been at least true to each other, true at the last to the
thing that binds us, taking what Fate gave without repining, because
we had faced all that the world could do against us. It would mean
that I should leave diplomacy forever, give up all that so far has
possessed me in the business of life; but I should not lament. I have
done the one big thing I wanted to do, I have cut a swath in the
field. I have made some principalities and powers reckon with me. It
may be I have done all I was meant to do in doing that--it may be. In
any case, the thing I did would stand as an accomplished work--it
would represent one definite and original thing; one piece of work in
design all my own, in accomplishment as much yours as mine.... To go
then--together--with only the one big violence to the conventions of
the world, and take the law into our own hands? Rudyard, who
understands Life's violence, would understand that; what he could
never understand would be perpetual artifice, unseemly secretiveness.
He himself would have been a great filibuster in the olden days;
he would have carried off the wives and daughters of the chiefs and
kings he conquered; but he would never have stolen into the secret
garden at night and filched with the hand of the sneak-thief--never.
"To go with me--away, and start afresh. There will be always work to
do, always suffering humanity to be helped. We should help because we
would have suffered, we should try to set right the one great mistake
you made in not coming to me and so furfilling the old promise. To set
that error right, even though it be by wronging Rudyard by one great
stroke--that is better than hourly wronging him now with no surcease
of that wrong. No, no, this cannot go on. You could not have it so. I
seem to feel that you are writing to me now, telling me to begone
forever, saying that you had given me gifts--success and love; and now
to go and leave you in peace.
"Peace, Jasmine, it is that we cry for, pray for, adjure the heavens
for in the end. And all this vast, passionate love of mine is the
strife of the soul for peace, for fruition.
"That peace we may have in another way: that I should go forever, now,
before the terrible bond of habit has done its work, and bound us in
chains that never fall, that even remain when love is dead and gone,
binding the cold cadre to the living pain. To go now, with something
accomplished, and turn my back forever on the world, with one last
effort to do the impossible thing for some great cause, and fail and
be lost forever--do you not understand? Face it, Jasmine, and try to
see it in its true light.... I have a friend, John Caxton--you know
him. He is going to the Antarctic to find the futile thing, but the
necessary thing so far as the knowledge of the world is
concerned. With him, then, that long quiet and in the far white spaces
to find peace--forever.
"You? . . . Ah, Jasmine, habit, the habit of enduring me, is not
fixed, and in my exit there would be the agony of the moment, and then
the comforting knowledge that I had done my best to set things
right. Perhaps it is the one way to set things right; the fairest to
you, the kindest, and that which has in it most love. The knowledge of
a great love ended--yours and mine--would help you to give what you
can give with fuller soul. And, maybe, to be happy with Rudyard at the
last! Maybe, to be happy with him, without this wonderful throbbing
pulse of being, but with quiet, and to get a measure of what is due to
you in the scheme of things. Destiny gives us in life so much and no
more: to some a great deal in a little time, to others a little over a
great deal of time, but never the full cup and the shining sky over
long years. One's share small it must be, but one's share! And it may
be, in what has come to-day, in the hour of my triumph, in the
business of life, in the one hour of revealing love, it may be I have
had my share.... And if that is so, then peace should be my goal, and
peace I can have yonder in the snows. No one would guess that it was
not accident, and I should feel sure that I had stopped in time to
save you from the worst. But it must be the one or the other.
"The third way I cannot, will not, take, nor would you take it
willingly. It would sear your heart and spirit, it would spoil all
that makes you what you are. Jasmine, once for all I am your lover and
your friend. I give you love and I give you friendship--whatever
comes; always that, always friendship. Tempus fugit sed amicitia est.
"In my veins is a river of fire, and my heart is wrenched with pain;
but in my soul is that which binds me to you, together or apart, in
life, in death.... Good-night.... Good-morrow.
"P.S.--I will come for your reply at eleven to-morrow.
He folded the letter slowly and placed it in an envelope which was
lying loose on the desk with the letters he had written at the
Trafalgar Club, and had forgotten to post. When he had put the letter
inside the envelope and stamped it, he saw that the envelope was one
carrying the mark of the Club. By accident he had brought it with the
letters written there. He hesitated a moment, then refrained from
opening the letter again, and presently went out into the night and
posted all his letters.
TO-MORROW . . . PREPARE!
Krool did not sleep. What he read in a letter he had found in a
hallway, what he knew of those dark events in South Africa, now to
culminate in a bitter war, and what, with the mysterious psychic
instinct of race, he divined darkly and powerfully, all kept his eyes
unsleeping and his mind disordered. More than any one, he knew of the
inner story of the Baas' vrouw during the past week and years; also he
had knowledge of what was soon to empty out upon the groaning earth
the entrails of South Africa; but how he knew was not to be
discovered. Even Rudyard, who thought he read him like a book, only
lived on the outer boundaries of his character. Their alliance was
only the durable alliance of those who have seen Death at their door,
and together have driven him back.
Barry Whalen had regarded Krool as a spy; all Britishers who came and
went in the path to Rudyard's door had their doubts or their dislike
of him; and to every servant of the household he was a dark and
isolated figure. He never interfered with the acts of his
fellow-servants, except in so far as those acts affected his master's
comfort; and he paid no attention to their words except where they
"When you think it's a ghost, it's only Krool wanderin' w'ere he ain't
got no business," was the angry remark of the upper-housemaid, whom
his sudden appearance had startled in a dim passage one day.
"Lor'! what a turn you give me, Mr. Krool, spookin' about where
there's no call for you to be," she had said to him, and below stairs
she had enlarged upon his enormities greatly.
"And Mrs. Byng, she not like him better as we do," was the comment of
Lablanche, the lady's maid. "A snake in the grass--that is what Madame
Slowly the night passed for Krool. His disturbed brain was like some
dark wood through which flew songless birds with wings of night;
through which sped the furtive dwellers of the grass and the
earth-covert. The real and the imaginative crowded the dark
purlieus. He was the victim of his blood, his beginnings off there
beyond the Vaal, where the veld was swept by the lightning and the
storm, the home of wild dreams, and of a loneliness terrible and
strange, to which the man who once had tasted its awful pleasures
returned and returned again, until he was, at the last, part of its
loneliness, its woeful agitations and its reposeless quiet.
It was not possible for him to think or be like pure white people, to
do as they did. He was a child of the kopje, the spruit, and the dun
veld, where men dwelt with weird beings which were not men--presences
that whispered, telling them of things to come, blowing the warnings
of Destiny across the waste, over thousands and thousands of
miles. Such as he always became apart and lonely because of this
companionship of silence and the unseen. More and more they withdrew
themselves, unwittingly and painfully, from the understanding and
companionship of the usual matter-of-fact, commonplace, sensible
people--the settler, the emigrant, and the British man. Sinister they
became, but with the helplessness of those in whom the under-spirit of
life has been working, estranging them, even against their will, from
the rest of the world.
So Krool, estranged, lonely, even in the heart of friendly, pushing,
jostling London, still was haunted by presences which whispered to
him, not with the old clearness of bygone days, but with confused
utterances and clouded meaning; and yet sufficient in dark suggestion
for him to know that ill happenings were at hand, and that he would be
in the midst of them, an instrument of Fate. All night strange shapes
trooped past his clouded eyes, and more than once, in a half-dream, he
called out to his master to help him as he was helped long ago when
that master rescued him from death.
Long before the rest of the house was stirring, Krool wandered hither
and thither through the luxurious rooms, vainly endeavouring to occupy
himself with his master's clothes, boots, and belongings. At last he
stole into Byng's room and, stooping, laid something on the floor;
then reclaiming the two cables which Rudyard had read, crumpled up,
and thrown away, he crept stealthily from the room. His face had a
sombre and forbidding pleasure as he read by the early morning light
the discarded messages with their thunderous warnings--"To-morrow
. . . Prepare!"
He knew their meaning well enough. "To-morrow" was here, and it would
bring the challenge from Oom Paul to try the might of England against
the iron courage of those to whom the Vierkleur was the symbol of
sovereignty from sea to sea and the ruin of the Rooinek.
"Prepare!" He knew vastly more than those responsible men in position
or in high office, who should know a thousand times as much more. He
knew so much that was useful--to Oom Paul; but what he knew he did not
himself convey, though it reached those who welcomed it eagerly and
grimly. All that he knew, another also near to the Baas also knew, and
knew it before Krool; and reaped the reward of knowing.
Krool did not himself need to betray the Baas direct; and, with the
reasoning of the native in him, he found it possible to let another be
the means and the messenger of betrayal. So he soothed his conscience.
A little time before they had all gone to Glencader, however, he had
discovered something concerning this agent of Paul Kruger in the heart
of the Outlander camp, whom he employed, which had roused in him the
worst passions of an outcast mind. Since then there had been no
trafficking with the traitor--the double traitor, whom he was now
plotting to destroy, not because he was a traitor to his country, but
because he was a traitor to the Baas. In his evil way, he loved his
master as a Caliban might love an Apollo. That his devotion took forms
abnormal and savage in their nature was due to his origin and his
blood. That he plotted to secure the betrayal of the Baas' country and
the Outlander interest, while he would have given his life for the
Baas, was but the twisted sense of a perverted soul.
He had one obsession now--to destroy Adrian Fellowes, his agent for
Paul Kruger in the secret places of British policy and in the house of
the Partners, as it were. But how should it be done? What should be
the means? On the very day in which Oom Paul would send his ultimatum,
the means came to his hand.
"Prepare!" the cable to the Baas had read. The Baas would be prepared
for the thunderbolt to be hurled from Pretoria; but he would have no
preparation for the thunderbolt which would fall at his feet this day
in this house, where white roses welcomed the visitor at the door-way
and the beauty of Titians and Botticellis and Rubens' and Goyas
greeted him in the luxuriant chambers. There would be no preparation
for that war which rages most violently at a fireside and in the human
THE FURNACE DOOR
It was past nine o'clock when Rudyard wakened. It was nearly ten
before he turned to leave his room for breakfast. As he did so he
stooped and picked up an open letter lying on the floor near the door.
His brain was dazed and still surging with the terrible thoughts which
had agonized him the night before. He was as in a dream, and was only
vaguely conscious of the fugitive letter. He was wondering whether he
would go at once to Jasmine or wait until he had finished
breakfast. Opening the door of his room, he saw the maid entering to
Jasmine with a gown over her arm.
No, he would not go to her till she was alone, till she was dressed
and alone. Then he would tell her all, and take her in his arms, and
talk with her--talk as he had never talked before. Slowly, heavily, he
went to his study, where his breakfast was always eaten. As he sat
down he opened, with uninterested inquiry, the letter he had picked up
inside the door of his room. As he did so he vaguely wondered why
Krool had overlooked it as he passed in and out. Perhaps Krool had
dropped it. His eyes fell on the opening words. . . His face turned
ashen white. A harsh cry broke from him.
At eleven o'clock to the minute Ian Stafford entered Byng's mansion
and was being taken to Jasmine's sitting-room, when Rudyard appeared
on the staircase, and with a peremptory gesture waved the servant
away. Ian was suddenly conscious of a terrible change in Rudyard's
appearance. His face was haggard and his warm colour had given place
to a strange blackish tinge which seemed to underlie the pallor--the
deathly look to be found in the faces of those stricken with a mortal
disease. All strength and power seemed to have gone from the face,
leaving it tragic with uncontrolled suffering. Panic emotion was
uppermost, while desperate and reckless purpose was in his eyes. The
balance was gone from the general character and his natural force was
like some great gun loose from its fastenings on the deck of a
sea-stricken ship. He was no longer the stalwart Outlander who had
done such great work in South Africa and had such power in political
London and in international finance. The demoralization which had
stealthily gone on for a number of years was now suddenly a debacle of
will and body. Of the superb physical coolness and intrepid mind with
which he had sprung upon the stage of Covent Garden Opera House to
rescue Al'mah nothing seemed left; or, if it did remain, it was
shocked out of its bearings. His eyes were almost glassy as he looked
at Ian Stafford, and animal-like hatred was the dominating note of his
face and carriage.
"Come with me, Stafford: I want to speak to you," he said,
hoarsely. "You've arrived when I wanted you--at the exact time."
"Yes, I said I would come at eleven," responded Stafford,
mechanically. "Jasmine expects me at eleven."
"In here," Byng said, pointing to a little morning-room.
As Stafford entered, he saw Krool's face, malign and sombre, show in a
doorway of the hall. Was he mistaken in thinking that Krool flashed a
look of secret triumph and yet of obscure warning? Warning? There was
trouble, strange and dreadful trouble, here; and the wrenching thought
had swept into his brain that he was the cause of it all, that he was
to be the spring and centre of dreadful happenings.
He was conscious of something else purely objective as he entered the
room--of music, the music of a gay light opera being played in the
adjoining room, from which this little morning-room was separated only
by Indian bead-curtains. He saw idle sunlight play upon these beads,
as he sat down at the table to which Rudyard motioned him. He was also
subconsciously aware who it was that played the piano beyond there
with such pleasant skill. Many a time thereafter, in the days to come,
he would be awakened in the night by the sound of that music, a
love-song from the light opera "A Lady of London," which had just
caught the ears of the people in the street.
Of one thing he was sure: the end of things had come--the end of all
things that life meant to him had come. Rudyard knew! Rudyard, sitting
there at the other side of the table and leaning toward him with a
face where, in control of all else, were hate and panic emotion--he
The music in the next room was soft, persistent and searching. As Ian
waited for Rudyard to speak he was conscious that even the words of
the silly, futile love-song:
"Not like the roses shall our love be, dear
Never shall its lovely petals fade,
Singing, it will flourish till the world's last year
Happy as the song-birds in the glade."
Through it all now came Rudyard's voice.
"I have a letter here," the voice said, and he saw Rudyard slowly take
it from his pocket. "I want you to read it, and when you have read it,
I want you to tell me what you think of the man who wrote it."
He threw a letter down on the table--a square white envelope with the
crest of the Trafalgar Club upon it. It lay face downward, waiting for
So it had come. His letter to Jasmine which told all--Rudyard had read
it. And here was the end of everything--the roses faded before they
had bloomed an hour. It was not for them to flourish "till the world's
His hand reached out for the letter. With eyes almost blind he raised
it, and slowly and mechanically took the document of tragedy from the
envelope. Why should Rudyard insist on his reading it? It was a
devilish revenge, which he could not resent. But time--he must have
time; therefore he would do Rudyard's bidding, and read this thing he
had written, look at it with eyes in which Penalty was gathering its
So this was the end of it all--friendship gone with the man before
him; shame come to the woman he loved; misery to every one; a
home-life shattered; and from the souls of three people peace banished
He opened out the pages with a slowness that seemed almost apathy,
while the man opposite clinched his hands on the table spasmodically.
Still the music from the other room with cheap, flippant sensuousness
stole through the burdened air:
"Singing, it will flourish till the world's last year--"
He looked at the writing vaguely, blindly. Why should this be exacted
of him, this futile penalty? Then all at once his sight cleared; for
this handwriting was not his--this letter was not his; these wild,
passionate phrases--this terrible suggestiveness of meaning, these
references to the past, this appeal for further hours of love
together, this abjectly tender appeal to Jasmine that she would wear
one of his white roses when he saw her the next day--would she not see
him between eleven and twelve o'clock?--all these words were not his.
They were written by the man who was playing the piano in the next
room; by the man who had come and gone in this house like one who had
the right to do so; who had, as it were, fed from Rudyard Byng's hand;
who lived on what Byng paid him; who had been trusted with the
innermost life of the household and the life and the business of the
master of it.
The letter was signed, Adrian.
His own face blanched like the face of the man before him. He had
braced himself to face the consequences of his own letter to the woman
he loved, and he was face to face with the consequences of another
man's letter to the same woman, to the woman who had two lovers. He
was face to face with Rudyard's tragedy, and with his own.... She,
Jasmine, to whom he had given all, for whom he had been ready to give
up all--career, fame, existence--was true to none, unfaithful to all,
caring for none, but pretending to care for all three--and for how
many others? He choked back a cry.
"Well--well?" came the husband's voice across the table. "There's one
thing to do, and I mean to do it." He waved a hand towards the
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