The Judgment House
Part 6 out of 9
"Well, that is not unnatural. I should expect him to do so. I am going
to South Africa also."
For a moment she looked at him without speaking, and her face slowly
paled. "You are going to the Front--you?"
"Yes--'Back to the army again, sergeant, back to the army again.' I
was a gunner, you know, and not a bad one, either, if I do say it."
"You are going to throw up a great career to go to the Front? When you
have got your foot at the top of the ladder, you climb down?" Her
voice was choking a little.
He made a little whimsical gesture. "There's another ladder to
climb. I'll have a try at it, and do my duty to my country, too. I'll
have a double-barrelled claim on her, if possible."
"I know that you are going because you will not stay when Rudyard
goes," she rejoined, almost irritably.
"What a quixotic idea! Really you are too impossible and
He turned an earnest look upon her. "No, I give you my word, I am not
going because Rudyard is going. I didn't know he was going till you
told me. I got permission to go three hours after Kruger's message
"You are only feckless--only feckless, as the Scotch say," she
rejoined with testy sadness. "Well, since everybody is going, I am
going too. I am going with a hospital-ship."
"Well, that would pay off a lot of old debts to the Almighty," he
replied, in kindly taunt.
"I haven't been worse than most women, Ian," she replied. "Women
haven't been taught to do things, to pay off their debts. Men run up
bills and pay them off, and run them up again and again and pay them
off; but we, while we run up bills, our ways of paying them off are so
few, and so uninteresting."
Suddenly she took from her pocket a letter. "Here is a letter for
you," she said. "It was lying on Jasmine's table the night she was
taken ill. I don't know why I did it, but I suppose I took it up so
that Rudyard should not see it; and then I didn't say anything to
Jasmine about it at once. She said nothing, either; but to-day I told
her I'd seen the letter addressed to you, and had posted it. I said it
to see how she would take it. She only nodded, and said nothing at
first. Then after a while she whispered, 'Thank you, my dear,' but in
such a queer tone. Ian, she meant you to have the letter, and here it
She put it into his hands. He remembered it. It was the letter which
Jasmine had laid on the table before him at that last interview when
the world stood still. After a moment's hesitation he put it in his
"If she wished me to have it--" he said in a low voice.
"If not, why, then, did she write it? Didn't she say she was glad I
A moment followed, in which neither spoke. Lady Tynemouth's eyes were
turned to the window; Stafford stood looking into the fire.
"Tynie is sure to go to South Africa with his Yeomanry," she continued
at last. "He'll be back in England next week. I can be of use out
there, too. I suppose you think I'm useless because I've never had to
do anything, but you are quite wrong. It's in me. If I'd been driven
to work when I was a girl, if I'd been a labourer's daughter, I'd have
made hats--or cream-cheeses. I'm not really such a fool as you've
always thought me, Ian; at any rate, not in the way you've thought
His look was gentle, as he gazed into her eyes. "I've never thought
you anything but a very sensible and alluring woman, who is only
wilfully foolish at times," he said. "You do dangerous things."
"But you never knew me to do a really wrong thing, and if you haven't,
no one has."
Suddenly her face clouded and her lips trembled. "But I am a good
friend, and I love my friends. So it all hurts. Ian, I'm most
upset. There's something behind Adrian Fellowes' death that I don't
understand. I'm sure he didn't kill himself; but I'm also sure that
some one did kill him." Her eyes sought his with an effort and with
apprehension, but with persistency too. "I don't care what the jury
said--I know I'm right."
"But it doesn't matter now," he answered, calmly. "He will be buried
to-morrow, and there's an end of it all. It will not even be the usual
nine days' wonder. I'd forget it, if I were you."
"I can't easily forget it while you remember it," she rejoined,
meaningly. "I don't know why or how it affects you, but it does affect
you, and that's why I feel it; that's why it haunts me."
Gleg appeared. "A gentleman to see you, sir," he said, and handed Ian
"Where is he?"
"In the dining-room, sir."
"Very good. I will see him in a moment."
When they were alone again, Lady Tynemouth held out her hand. "When do
you start for South Africa?" she asked.
"In three days. I join my battery in Natal."
"You will hear from me when I get to Durban," she said, with a shy,
"You are really going?"
"I mean to organize a hospital-ship and go."
"Where will you get the money?"
"From some social climber," she replied, cynically. His hand was on
the door-knob, and she laid her own on it gently. "You are ill, Ian,"
she said. "I have never seen you look as you do now."
"I shall be better before long," he answered. "I never saw you look so
"That's because I am going to do some work at last," she
rejoined. "Work at last. I'll blunder a bit, but I'll try a great
deal, and perhaps I'll do some good.... And I'll be there to nurse you
if you get fever or anything," she added, laughing nervously--"you and
When she was gone he stood looking at the card in his hand, with his
mind seeing something far beyond. Presently he rang for Gleg.
"Show Mr. Mappin in," he said.
WHEREIN THE LOST IS FOUND
In a moment the great surgeon was seated, looking reflectively round
him. Soon, however, he said brusquely, "I hope your friend Jigger is
going on all right?"
"Yes, yes, thanks to you."
"No, no, Mr. Stafford, thanks to you and Mrs. Byng chiefly. It was
care and nursing that did it. If I could have hospitals like Glencader
and hospital nurses like Mrs. Byng and Al'mah and yourself, I'd have
few regrets at the end of the year. That was an exciting time at
Stafford nodded, but said nothing. Presently, after some reference to
the disaster at the mine at Glencader and to Stafford's and Byng's
bravery, Mr. Mappin said. "I was shocked to hear of Mr. Fellowes'
death. I was out of town when it happened--a bad case at Leeds; but I
returned early this morning." He paused, inquiringly but Ian said
nothing, and he continued, "I have seen the body."
"You were not at the inquest, I think," Ian remarked, casually.
"No, I was not in time for that, but I got permission to view the
"And the verdict--you approve?"
"Heart failure--yes." Mr. Mappin's lip curled. "Of course. But he had
no heart trouble. His heart wasn't even weak. His life showed that."
"His life showed--?" Ian's eyebrows went up.
"He was very much in society, and there's nothing more strenuous than
that. His heart was all right. Something made it fail, and I have been
considering what it was."
"Are you suggesting that his death was not natural?"
"Quite artificial, quite artificial, I should say."
Ian took a cigarette, and lighted it slowly. "According to your
theory, he must have committed suicide. But how? Not by an effort of
the will, as they do in the East, I suppose?"
Mr. Mappin sat up stiffly in his chair. "Do you remember my showing
you all at Glencader a needle which had on its point enough poison to
kill a man?"
"And leave no trace--yes."
"Do you remember that you all looked at it with interest, and that
Mr. Fellowes examined it more attentively than any one else?"
"Well, I was going to kill a collie with it next day."
"A favourite collie grown old, rheumatic--yes, I remember."
"Well, the experiment failed."
"The collie wasn't killed by the poison?"
"No, not by the poison, Mr. Stafford."
"So your theory didn't work except on paper."
"I think it worked, but not with the collie."
There was a pause, while Stafford looked composedly at his visitor,
and then he said: "Why didn't it work with the collie?"
"It never had its chance."
"Some mistake, some hitch?"
"No mistake, no hitch; but the wrong needle."
"The wrong needle! I should not say that carelessness was a habit with
you." Stafford's voice was civil and sympathetic.
"Confidence breeds carelessness," was Mr. Mappin's enigmatical retort.
"You were over-confident then?"
"Quite clearly so. I thought that Glencader was beyond reproach."
There was a slight pause, and then Stafford, flicking away some
cigarette ashes, continued the catechism. "What particular form of
reproach do you apply to Glencader?"
"That sounds reprehensible--and rude."
"If you were not beyond reproach, it would be rude, Mr. Stafford."
Stafford chafed at the rather superior air of the expert, whose habit
of bedside authority was apt to creep into his social conversation;
but, while he longed to give him a shrewd thrust, he forbore. It was
hard to tell how much he might have to do to prevent the man from
making mischief. The compliment had been smug, and smugness irritated
"Well, thanks for your testimonial," he said, presently, and then he
determined to cut short the tardy revelation, and prick the bubble of
mystery which the great man was so slowly blowing.
"I take it that you think some one at Glencader stole your needle, and
so saved your collie's life," he said.
"That is what I mean," responded Mr. Mappin, a little discomposed that
his elaborate synthesis should be so sharply brought to an end.
There was almost a grisly raillery in Stafford's reply. "Now, the
collie--were you sufficiently a fatalist to let him live, or did you
prepare another needle, or do it in the humdrum way?"
"I let the collie live."
"Hoping to find the needle again?" asked Stafford, with a smile.
"Perhaps to hear of it again."
"Hello, that is rather startling! And you have done so?
"I think so. Yes, I may say that."
"Now how do you suppose you lost that needle?"
"It was taken from my pocket-case, and another substituted.
"Returning good for evil. Could you not see the difference in the
"There is not, necessarily, difference in needles. The substitute was
the same size and shape, and I was not suspicious."
"And what form does your suspicion take now?"
The great man became rather portentously solemn--he himself would have
said "becomingly grave." "My conviction is that Mr. Fellowes took my
Stafford fixed the other with his gaze. "And killed himself with it?"
Mr. Mappin frowned. "Of that I cannot be sure, of course."
"Could you not tell by examining the body?"
"Not absolutely from a superficial examination."
"You did not think a scientific examination necessary?"
"Yes, perhaps; but the official inquest is over, the expert analysis
or examination is finished by the authorities, and the superficial
proofs, while convincing enough to me, are not complete and final; and
so, there you are."
Stafford got and held his visitor's eyes, and with slow emphasis said:
"You think that Fellowes committed suicide with your needle?"
"No, I didn't say that."
"Then I fear my intelligence must be failing rapidly. You said--"
"I said I was not sure that he killed himself. I am sure that he was
killed by my needle; but I am not sure that he killed himself. Motive
and all that kind of thing would come in there."
"Ah--and all that kind of thing! Why should you discard motive for his
"I did not say I discarded motive, but I think Mr. Fellowes the last
man in the world likely to kill himself."
"Why, then, do you think he stole the needle?"
"Not to kill himself."
Stafford turned his head away a little. "Come now; this is too
tall. You are going pretty far in suggesting that Fellowes took your
needle to kill some one else."
"Perhaps. But motive might not be so far to seek."
"What motive in this case?" Stafford's eyes narrowed a little with the
"Well, a woman, perhaps."
"You know of some one, who--"
"No. I am only assuming from Mr. Fellowes' somewhat material nature
that there must be a woman or so."
"Or so--why 'or so?'" Stafford pressed him into a corner.
"There comes the motive--one too many, when one may be suspicious, or
jealous, or revengeful, or impossible."
"Did you see any mark of the needle on the body?"
"I think so. But that would not do more than suggest further delicate,
detailed, and final examination."
"You have no trace of the needle itself?"
"None. But surely that isn't strange. If he had killed himself, the
needle would probably have been found. If he did not kill himself, but
yet was killed by it, there is nothing strange in its not being
Stafford took on the gravity of a dry-as-dust judge. "I suppose that
to prove the case it would be necessary to produce the needle, as your
theory and your invention are rather new."
"For complete proof the needle would be necessary, though not
Stafford was silent for an instant, then he said: "You have had a look
for the little instrument of passage?"
"I was rather late for that, I fear."
"Still, by chance, the needle might have been picked up. However, it
would look foolish to advertise for a needle which had traces of atric
acid on it, wouldn't it?"
Mr. Mappin looked at Stafford quite coolly, and then, ignoring the
question, said, deliberately: "You discovered the body, I hear. You
didn't by any chance find the needle, I suppose?"
Stafford returned his look with a cool stare. "Not by any chance," he
He had suddenly decided on a line of action which would turn this
astute egoist from his half-indicated purpose. Whatever the means of
Fellowes' death, by whomsoever caused, or by no one, further inquiry
could only result in revelations hurtful to some one. As Mr. Mappin
had surmised, there was more than one woman,--there may have been a
dozen, of course--but chance might just pitch on the one whom
investigation would injure most.
If this expert was quieted, and Fellowes was safely bestowed in his
grave, the tragic incident would be lost quickly in the general
excitement and agitation of the nation. The war-drum would drown any
small human cries of suspicion or outraged innocence. Suppose some one
did kill Adrian Fellowes? He deserved to die, and justice was
satisfied, even if the law was marauded. There were at least four
people who might have killed Fellowes without much remorse. There was
Rudyard, there was Jasmine, there was Lou the erstwhile
flower-girl--and himself. It was necessary that Mappin, however,
should be silenced, and sent about his business.
Stafford suddenly came over to the table near to his visitor, and with
an assumed air of cold indignation, though with a little natural
irritability behind all, said "Mr. Mappin, I assume that you have not
gone elsewhere with your suspicions?"
The other shook his head in negation.
"Very well, I should strongly advise you, for your own reputation as
an expert and a man of science, not to attempt the rather cliche
occupation of trying to rival Sherlock Holmes. Your suspicions may
have some distant justification, but only a man of infinite skill,
tact, and knowledge, with an almost abnormal gift for tracing elusive
clues and, when finding them, making them fit in with fact--only a man
like yourself, a genius at the job, could get anything out of it. You
are not prepared to give the time, and you could only succeed in
causing pain and annoyance beyond calculation. Just imagine a Scotland
Yard detective with such a delicate business to do. We have no Hamards
here, no French geniuses who can reconstruct crimes by a kind of
special sense. Can you not see the average detective blundering about
with his ostentatious display of the obvious; his mind, which never
traced a motive in its existence, trying to elucidate a clue? Well, it
is the business of the Law to detect and punish crime. Let the Law do
it in its own way, find its own clues, solve the mysteries given it to
solve. Why should you complicate things? The official fellows could
never do what you could do, if you were a detective. They haven't the
brains or initiative or knowledge. And since you are not a detective,
and can't devote yourself to this most delicate problem, if there be
any problem at all, I would suggest--I imitate your own rudeness--that
you mind your own business."
He smiled, and looked down at his visitor with inscrutable eyes.
At the last words Mr. Mappin flushed and looked consequential; but
under the influence of a smile, so winning that many a chancellerie of
Europe had lost its irritation over some skilful diplomatic stroke
made by its possessor, he emerged from his atmosphere of offended
dignity and feebly returned the smile.
"You are at once complimentary and scathing, Mr. Stafford," he said;
"but I do recognize the force of what you say. Scotland Yard is
beneath contempt. I know of cases--but I will not detain you with them
now. They bungle their work terribly at Scotland Yard. A detective
should be a man of imagination, of initiative, of deep knowledge of
human nature. In the presence of a mystery he should be ready to find
motives, to construct them and put them into play, as though they were
real--work till a clue was found. Then, if none is found, find another
motive and work on that. The French do it. They are marvels. Hamard is
a genius, as you say. He imagines, he constructs, he pursues, he
squeezes out every drop of juice in the orange.... You see, I agree
with you on the whole, but this tragedy disturbed me, and I thought
that I had a real clue. I still believe I have, but cui bono?"
"Cui bono indeed, if it is bungled. If you could do it all yourself,
good. But that is impossible. The world wants your skill to save life,
not to destroy it. Fellowes is dead--does it matter so infinitely,
whether by his own hand or that of another?"
"No, I frankly say I don't think it does matter infinitely. His type
is no addition to the happiness of the world."
They looked at each other meaningly, and Mappin responded once again
to Stafford's winning smile.
It pleased him prodigiously to feel Stafford lay a firm hand on his
arm and say: "Can you, perhaps, dine with me to-night at the
Travellers' Club? It makes life worth while to talk to men like you
who do really big things."
"I shall be delighted to come for your own reasons," answered the
great man, beaming, and adjusting his cuffs carefully.
"Good, good. It is capital to find you free." Again Stafford caught
the surgeon's arm with a friendly little grip.
Suddenly, however, Mr. Mappin became aware that Stafford had turned
desperately white and worn. He had noticed this spent condition when
he first came in, but his eyes now rediscovered it. He regarded
Stafford with concern.
"Mr. Stafford," he said, "I am sure you do not realize how much below
par you are.... You have been under great strain--I know, we all know,
how hard you have worked lately. Through you, England launches her
ship of war without fear of complications; but it has told on you
heavily. Nothing is got without paying for it. You need rest, and you
"Quite so--rest and change. I am going to have both now," said
Stafford with a smile, which was forced and wan.
"You need a tonic also, and you must allow me to give you one," was
the brusque professional response.
With quick movement he went over to Stafford's writing-table, and
threw open the cover of the blotter.
In a flash Stafford was beside him, and laid a hand upon the blotter,
saying with a smile, of the kind which had so far done its work--
"No, no, my friend, I will not take a tonic. It's only a good sleep I
want; and I'll get that to-night. But I give my word, if I'm not all
right to-morrow, if I don't sleep, I'll send to you and take your
"I promise, my dear Mappin."
The great man beamed again: and he really was solicitous for his
"Very well, very well--Stafford," he replied. "It shall be as you
say. Good-bye, or, rather, au revoir!"
"A la bonne heure!" was the hearty response, as the door opened for
the great surgeon's exit.
When the door was shut again, and Stafford was alone, he staggered
over to the writing-desk. Opening the blotter, he took something up
carefully and looked at it with a sardonic smile.
"You did your work quite well," he said, reflectively.
It was such a needle as he had seen at Glencader in Mr. Mappin's
hand. He had picked it up in Adrian Fellowes' room.
"I wonder who used you," he said in a hard voice. "I wonder who used
you so well. Was it--was it Jasmine?"
With a trembling gesture he sat down, put the needle in a drawer,
locked it, and turned round to the fire again.
"Was it Jasmine?" he repeated, and he took from his pocket the letter
which Lady Tynemouth had given him. For a moment he looked at it
unopened--at the beautiful, smooth handwriting so familiar to his
eyes; then he slowly broke the seal, and took out the closely written
"Ian, oh, Ian, what strange and dreadful things you have written to
me!" Jasmine's letter ran--the letter which she told him she had
written on that morning when all was lost. "Do you realize what you
have said, and, saying it, have you thought of all it means to me? You
have tried to think of what is best, I know, but have you thought of
me? When I read your letter first, a flood of fire seemed to run
through my veins; then I became as though I had been dipped in ether,
and all the winds of an arctic sea were blowing over me.
"To go with you now, far away from the world in which we live and in
which you work, to begin life again, as you say--how sweet and
terrible and glad it would be! But I know, oh, I know myself and I
know you! I am like one who has lived forever. I am not good, and I am
not foolish, I am only mad; and the madness in me urges me to that
visionary world where you and I could live and work and wander, and be
content with all that would be given us--joy, seeing, understanding,
"But Ian, it is only a visionary world, that world of which you
speak. It does not exist. The overmastering love, the desire for you
that is in me, makes for me the picture as it is in your mind; but
down beneath all, the woman in me, the everlasting woman, is sure
there is no such world.
"Listen, dear child--I call you that, for though I am only twenty-five
I seem as aged as the Sphinx, and, like the Sphinx that begets
mockery, so my soul, which seems to have looked out over unnumbered
centuries, mocks at this world which you would make for you and
me. Listen, Ian. It is not a real world, and I should not--and that is
the pitiful, miserable part of it--I should not make you happy, if I
were in that world with you. To my dire regret I know it. Suddenly you
have roused in me what I can honestly say I have never felt
before--strange, reckless, hungry feelings. I am like some young
dweller of the jungle which, cut off from its kind tries, with a
passion that eats and eats and eats away his very flesh to get back to
its kind, to his mate, to that other wild child of nature which waits
for the one appeasement of primeval desire.
"Ian, I must tell you the whole truth about myself as I understand
it. I am a hopeless, painful contradiction; I have always been so. I
have always wanted to be good, but something has always driven me
where the flowers have a poisonous sweetness, where the heart grows
bad. I want to cry to you, Ian, to help me to be good; and yet
something drives me on to want to share with you the fruit which turns
to dust and ashes in the long end. And behind all that again, some
tiny little grain of honour in me says that I must not ask you to help
me; says that I ought never to look into your eyes again, never touch
your hand, nor see you any more; and from the little grain of honour
comes the solemn whisper, 'Do not ruin him; do not spoil his life.'
"Your letter has torn my heart, so that it can never again be as it
was before, and because there is some big, noble thing in you, some
little, not ignoble thing is born in me. Ian, you could never know the
anguished desire I have to be with you always, but, if I keep sane at
all, I will not go--no, I will not go with you, unless the madness
carries me away. It would kill you. I know, because I have lived so
many thousands of years. My spirit and my body might be satisfied, the
glory in having you all my own would be so great; but there would be
no joy for you. To men like you, work is as the breath of life. You
must always be fighting for something, always climbing higher, because
you see some big thing to do which is so far above you.
"Yes, men like you get their chance sooner or later, because you work,
and are ready to take the gifts of Fate when they appear and before
they pass. You will be always for climbing, if some woman does not
drag you back. That woman may be a wife, or it may be a loving and
living ghost of a wife like me. Ian, I could not bear to see what
would come at last--the disappointment in your face the look of hope
gone from your eyes; your struggle to climb, and the struggle of no
avail. Sisyphus had never such a task as you would have on the hill of
life, if I left all behind here and went with you. You would try to
hide it; but I would see you growing older hourly before my eyes. You
would smile--I wonder if you know what sort of wonderful, alluring
thing your smile is, Ian?--and that smile would drive me to kill
myself, and so hurt you still more. And so it is always an everlasting
circle of penalty and pain when you take the laws of life you get in
the mountains in your hands and break them in pieces on the rocks in
the valleys, and make new individual laws out of harmony with the
"Isn't it strange, Ian, that I who can do wrong so easily still know
so well and value so well what is right? It is my mother in me and my
grandfather in me, both of them fighting for possession. Let me empty
out my heart before you, because I know--I do not know why, but I do
know, as I write--that some dark cloud lowers, gathers round us, in
which we shall be lost, shall miss the touch of hand and never see
each other's face again. I know it, oh so surely! I did not really
love you years ago, before I married Rudyard; I did not love you when
I married him; I did not love him, I could not really love any one. My
heart was broken up in a thousand pieces to give away in little bits
to all who came. But I cared for you more than I cared for any one
else--so much more; because you were so able and powerful, and were
meant to do such big things; and I had just enough intelligence to
want to understand you; to feel what you were thinking, to grasp its
meaning, however dimly. Yet I have no real intellect. I am only quick
and rather clever--sharp, as Jigger would say, and with some cunning,
too. I have made so many people believe that I am brilliant. When I
think and talk and write, I only give out in a new light what others
like you have taught me; give out a loaf where you gave me a crumb;
blow a drop of water into a bushel of bubbles. No, I did not love you,
in the big way, in those old days, and maybe it is not love I feel for
you now; but it is a great and wonderful thing, so different from the
feeling I once had. It is very powerful, and it is also very cruel,
because it smothers me in one moment, and in the next it makes me want
to fly to you, heedless of consequences.
"And what might those consequences be, Ian, and shall I let you face
them? The real world, your world, England, Europe, would have no more
use for all your skill and knowledge and power, because there would be
a woman in the way. People who would want to be your helpers, and to
follow you, would turn away when they saw you coming; or else they
would say the superficial things which are worse than blows in the
face to a man who wants to feel that men look to him to help solve the
problems perplexing the world. While it may not be love I feel for
you, whatever it is, it makes me a little just and unselfish now. I
will not--unless a spring-time madness drives me to it to-day--I will
not go with you.
"As for the other solution you offer, deceiving the world as to your
purposes, to go far away upon some wild mission, and to die!
"Ah, no, you must not cheat the world so; you must not cheat yourself
so! And how cruel it would be to me! Whatever I deserve--and in
leaving you to marry Rudyard I deserved heavy punishment--still I do
not deserve the torture which would follow me to the last day of my
life if, because of me, you sacrificed that which is not yours alone,
but which belongs to all the world. I loathe myself when I think of
the old wrong that I did you; but no leper woman could look upon
herself with such horror as I should upon myself, if, for the new
wrong I have done you, you were to take your own life.
"These are so many words, and perhaps they will not read to you as
real. That is perhaps because I am only shallow at the best; am only,
as you once called me, 'a little burst of eloquence.' But even I can
suffer, and I believe that even I can love. You say you cannot go on
as things are; that I must go with you or you must die; and yet you do
not wish me to go with you. You have said that, too. But do you not
wonder what would become of me, if either of these alternatives is
followed? A little while ago I could deceive Rudyard, and put myself
in pretty clothes with a smile, and enjoy my breakfast with him and
look in his face boldly, and enjoy the clothes, and the world and the
gay things that are in it, perhaps because I had no real moral
sense. Isn't it strange that out of the thing which the world would
condemn as most immoral, as the very degradation of the heart and soul
and body, there should spring up a new sense that is moral--perhaps
the first true glimmering of it? Oh, dear love of my life, comrade of
my soul, something has come to me which I never had before, and for
that, whatever comes, my lifelong gratitude must be yours! What I now
feel could never have come except through fire and tears, as you
yourself say, and I know so well that the fire is at my feet, and the
tears--I wept them all last night, when I too wanted to die.
"You are coming at eleven to-day, Ian--at eleven. It is now eight. I
will try and send this letter to reach you before you leave your
rooms. If not, I will give it to you when you come--at eleven. Why did
you not say noon--noon--twelve of the clock? The end and the
beginning! Why did you not say noon, Ian? The light is at its zenith
at noon, at twelve; and the world is dark at twelve--at
midnight. Twelve at noon; twelve at night; the light and the
dark--which will it be for us, Ian? Night or noon? I wonder, oh, I
wonder if, when I see you I shall have the strength to say, 'Yes, go,
and come again no more.' Or whether, in spite of everything, I shall
wildly say, 'Let us go away together.' Such is the kind of woman that
I am. And you--dear lover, tell me truly what kind of man are you?
He read the letter slowly, and he stopped again and again as though to
steady himself. His face became strained and white, and once he poured
brandy and drank it off as though it were water. When he had finished
the letter he went heavily over to the fire and dropped it in. He
watched it burn, until only the flimsy carbon was left.
"If I had not gone till noon," he said aloud, in a nerveless
voice--"if I had not gone till noon . . . Fellowes--did she--or was it
He was so occupied with his thoughts that he was not at first
conscious that some one was knocking.
"Come in," he called out at last.
The door opened and Rudyard Byng entered.
"I am going to South Africa, Stafford," he said, heavily. "I hear that
you are going, too; and I have come to see whether we cannot go out
"A message from Mr. Byng to say that he may be a little late, but he
says will you go on without him? He will come as soon as possible."
The footman, having delivered himself, turned to withdraw, but Barry
Whalen called him back, saying, "Is Mr. Krool in the house?"
The footman replied in the affirmative. "Did you wish to see him,
sir?" he asked.
"Not at present. A little later perhaps," answered Barry, with a
glance round the group, who eyed him curiously.
At a word the footman withdrew. As the door closed, little black, oily
Sobieski dit Melville said with an attempt at a joke, "Is 'Mr.' Krool
to be called into consultation?"
"Don't be so damned funny, Melville," answered Barry. "I didn't ask
the question for nothing."
"These aren't days when anybody guesses much," remarked Fleming. "And
I'd like to know from Mr. Kruger, who knows a lot of things, and
doesn't gas, whether he means the mines to be safe."
They all looked inquiringly at Wallstein, who in the storms which
rocked them all kept his nerve and his countenance with a power almost
benign. His large, limpid eye looked little like that belonging to an
eagle of finance, as he had been called.
"It looked for a while as though they'd be left alone," said
Wallstein, leaning heavily on the table," but I'm not so sure now." He
glanced at Barry Whalen significantly, and the latter surveyed the
"There's something evidently waiting to be said," remarked Wolff, the
silent Partner in more senses than one. "What's the use of waiting?"
Two or three of those present looked at Ian Stafford, who, standing by
the window, seemed oblivious of them all. Byng had requested him to be
present, with a view to asking his advice concerning some
international aspect of the situation, and especially in regard to
Holland and Germany. The group had welcomed the suggestion eagerly,
for on this side of the question they were not so well equipped as on
others. But when it came to the discussion of inner local policy there
seemed hesitation in speaking freely before him. Wallstein, however,
gave a reassuring nod and said, meaningly:
"We took up careful strategical positions, but our camp has been
overlooked from a kopje higher than ours."
"We have been the victims of treachery for years," burst out Fleming,
with anger. "Nearly everything we've done here, nearly everything the
Government has done here, has been known to Kruger--ever since the
"I think it could have been stopped," said the once Sobieski, with an
ugly grimace, and an attempt at an accent which would suit his new
name. "Byng's to blame. We ought to have put down our feet from the
start. We're Byng-ridden."
"Keep a civil tongue, Israel," snarled Barry Whalen. "You know nothing
about it, and that is the state in which you most shine--in your
natural state of ignorance, like the heathen in his blindness. But
before Byng comes I'd better give you all some information I've got."
"Isn't it for Byng to hear?" asked Fleming.
"Very much so; but it's for you all to decide what's to be
done. Perhaps Mr. Stafford can help us in the matter, as he has been
with Byng very lately." Wallstein looked inquiringly towards Stafford.
The group nodded appreciatively, and Stafford came forward to the
table, but without seating himself. "Certainly you may command me," he
said. "What is the mystery?"
In short and abrupt sentences Barry Whalen, with an occasional
interjection and explanation from Wallstein, told of the years of
leakage in regard to their plans, of moves circumvented by information
which could only have been got by treacherous means either in South
Africa or in London.
"We didn't know for sure which it was," said Barry, "but the proof has
come at last. One of Kruger's understrappers from Holland was
successfully tapped, and we've got proof that the trouble was here in
London, here in this house where we sit--Byng's home."
There was a stark silence, in which more than one nodded
significantly, and looked round furtively to see how the others took
"Here is absolute proof. There were two in it here--Adrian Fellowes
It was Ian Stafford's voice, insistent and inquiring.
"Here is the proof, as I say." Barry Whalen leaned forward and pushed
a paper over on the table, to which were attached two or three smaller
papers and some cablegrams. "Look at them. Take a good look at them
and see how we've been done--done brown. The hand that dipped in the
same dish, as it were, has handed out misfortune to us by the
bucketful. We've been carted in the house of a friend."
The group, all standing, leaned over, as Barry Whalen showed them the
papers, one by one, then passed them round for examination.
"It's deadly," said Fleming. "Men have had their throats cut or been
hanged for less. I wouldn't mind a hand in it myself."
"We warned Byng years ago," interposed Barry, "but it was no use. And
we've paid for it par and premium."
"What can be done to Krool?" asked Fleming.
"Nothing particular--here," said Barry Whalen, ominously.
"Let's have the dog in," urged one of the group.
"Without Byng's permission?" interjected Wallstein.
There was a silence. The last time any of them, except Wallstein, had
seen Byng, was on the evening when he had overheard the slanders
concerning Jasmine, and none had pleasant anticipation of this meeting
with him now. They recalled his departure when Barry Whalen had said,
"God, how he hates us." He was not likely to hate them less, when they
proved that Fellowes and Krool had betrayed him and them all. They had
a wholesome fear of him in more senses than one, because, during the
past few years, while Wallstein's health was bad, Byng's position had
become more powerful financially, and he could ruin any one of them,
if he chose. A man like Byng in "going large" might do the Samson
business. Besides, he had grown strangely uncertain in his temper of
late, and, as Barry Whalen had said, "It isn't good to trouble a
wounded bull in the ring."
They had him on the hip in one way through the exposure of Krool, but
they were all more or less dependent on his financial movements. They
were all enraged at Byng because he had disregarded all warnings
regarding Krool; but what could they do? Instinctively they turned now
to Stafford, whose reputation for brains and diplomacy was so great
and whose friendship with Byng was so close.
Stafford had come to-day for two reasons: to do what he could to help
Byng--for the last time; and to say to Byng that they could not travel
together to South Africa. To make the long journey with him was beyond
his endurance. He must put the world between Rudyard and himself; he
must efface all companionship. With this last act, begotten of the
blind confidence Rudyard had in him, their intercourse must cease
forever. This would be easy enough in South Africa. Once at the Front,
it was as sure as anything on earth that they would never meet
again. It was torture to meet him, and the day of the inquest, when
Byng had come to his rooms after his interview with Lady Tynemouth and
Mr. Mappin, he had been tried beyond endurance.
"Shall we have Krool in without Byng's permission? Is it wise?" asked
Wallstein again. He looked at Stafford, and Stafford instantly
"It would be well to see Krool, I think. Your action could then be
decided by Krool's attitude and what he says."
Barry Whalen rang the bell, and the footman came. After a brief
waiting Krool entered the room with irritating deliberation and closed
the door behind him.
He looked at no one, but stood contemplating space with a composure
which made Barry Whalen almost jump from his seat in rage.
"Come a little closer," said Wallstein in a soothing voice, but so
Wallstein would have spoken to a man he was about to disembowel.
Krool came nearer, and now he looked round at them all slowly and
inquiringly. As no one spoke for a moment he shrugged his shoulders.
"If you shrug your shoulders again, damn you, I'll sjambok you here as
Kruger did at Vleifontein," said Barry Whalen in a low, angry
voice. "You've been too long without the sjambok."
"This is not the Vaal, it is Englan'," answered Krool, huskily. "The
"Zo you stink ze law of England would help you--eh?" asked Sobieski,
with a cruel leer, relapsing into his natural vernacular.
"I mean what I say, Krool," interposed Barry Whalen, fiercely,
motioning Sobieski to silence. "I will sjambok you till you can't
move, here in England, here in this house, if you shrug your shoulders
again, or lift an eyebrow, or do one damned impudent thing."
He got up and rang a bell. A footman appeared. "There is a
rhinoceros-hide whip, on the wall of Mr. Byng's study. Bring it here,"
he said, quietly, but with suppressed passion.
"Don't be crazy, Whalen," said Wallstein, but with no great force, for
he would richly have enjoyed seeing the spy and traitor under the
whip. Stafford regarded the scene with detached, yet deep and
While they waited, Krool seemed to shrink a little; but as he watched
like some animal at bay, Stafford noticed that his face became
venomous and paler, and some sinister intention showed in his eyes.
The whip was brought and laid upon the table beside Barry Whalen, and
the footman disappeared, looking curiously at the group and at Krool.
Barry Whalen's fingers closed on the whip, and now a look of fear
crept over Krool's face. If there was one thing calculated to stir
with fear the Hottentot blood in him, it was the sight of the
sjambok. He had native tendencies and predispositions out of
proportion to the native blood in him--maybe because he had ever been
treated more like a native than a white man by his Boer masters in the
As Stafford viewed the scene, it suddenly came home to him how strange
was this occurrence in Park Lane. It was medieval, it belonged to some
land unslaked of barbarism. He realized all at once how little these
men around him represented the land in which they were living, and how
much they were part of the far-off land which was now in the throes of
To these men this was in one sense an alien country. Through the
dulled noises of London there came to their ears the click of the
wheels of a cape-wagon, the crack of the Kaffir's whip, the creak of
the disselboom. They followed the spoor of a company of elephants in
the East country, they watched through the November mist the blesbok
flying across the veld, a herd of quaggas taking cover with the
rheebok, or a cloud of locusts sailing out of the sun to devastate the
green lands. Through the smoky smell of London there came to them the
scent of the wattle, the stinging odour of ten thousand cattle, the
reek of a native kraal, the sharp sweetness of orange groves, the
aromatic air of the karoo, laden with the breath of a thousand wild
herbs. Through the drizzle of the autumn rain they heard the wild
thunderbolt tear the trees from earthly moorings. In their eyes was
the livid lightning that searched in spasms of anger for its prey,
while there swept over the brown, aching veld the flood which filled
the spruits, which made the rivers seas, and ploughed fresh channels
through the soil. The luxury of this room, with its shining mahogany
tables, its tapestried walls, its rare fireplace and massive
overmantel brought from Italy, its exquisite stained-glass windows,
was only part of a play they were acting; it was not their real life.
And now there was not one of them that saw anything incongruous in the
whip of rhinoceros-hide lying on the table, or clinched in Barry
Whalen's hand. On the contrary, it gave them a sense of supreme
naturalness. They had lived in a land where the sjambok was the symbol
of progress. It represented the forward movement of civilization in
the wilderness. It was the vierkleur of the pioneer, without which the
long train of capewagons, with the oxen in longer coils of effort,
would never have advanced; without which the Kaffir and the Hottentot
would have sacrificed every act of civilization. It prevented crime,
it punished crime, it took the place of the bowie-knife and the
derringer of that other civilization beyond the Mississippi; it was
the lock to the door in the wild places, the open sesame to the
territories where native chiefs ruled communal tribes by playing
tyrant to the commune. It was the rod of Aaron staying the plague of
barbarism. It was the sceptre of the veldt. It drew blood, it ate
human flesh, it secured order where there was no law, and it did the
work of prison and penitentiary. It was the symbol of authority in the
It was race.
Stafford was the only man present who saw anything incongruous in the
scene, and yet his travels in the East his year in Persia, Tibet and
Afghanistan, had made him understand things not revealed to the wise
and prudent of European domains. With Krool before them, who was of
the veld and the karoo, whose natural habitat was but a cross between
a krall and the stoep of a dopper's home, these men were instantly
transported to the land where their hearts were in spite of all,
though the flesh-pots of the West End of London had turned them into
by-paths for a while. The skin had been scratched by Krool's insolence
and the knowledge of his treachery, and the Tartar showed--the sjambok
In spite of himself, Stafford was affected by it all. He
understood. This was not London; the scene had shifted to
Potchefstroom or Middleburg, and Krool was transformed too. The
sjambok had, like a wizard's wand, as it were, lifted him away from
England to spaces where he watched from the grey rock of a kopje for
the glint of an assegai or the red of a Rooinek's tunic: and he had
done both in his day.
"We've got you at last, Krool," said Wallstein. "We have been some
time at it, but it's a long lane that has no turning, and we have
"Like that--like that, jackal!" interjected Barry Whalen, opening and
shutting his lean fingers with a gesture of savage possession.
"What?" asked Krool, with a malevolent thrust forward of his
"You betrayed us to Kruger," answered Wallstein, holding the
papers. "We have here the proof at last."
"You betrayed England and her secrets, and yet you think that the
English law would protect you against this," said Barry Whalen,
harshly, handling the sjambok.
"What I betray?" Krool asked again. "What I tell?"
With great deliberation Wallstein explained.
"Where proof?" Krool asked, doggedly.
"We have just enough to hang you," said Wallstein, grimly, and lifted
and showed the papers Barry Whalen had brought.
An insolent smile crossed Krool's face.
"You find out too late. That Fellowes is dead. So much you get, but
the work is done. It not matter now. It is all done--altogether. Oom
Paul speaks now, and everything is his--from the Cape to the Zambesi,
everything his. It is too late. What can to do?" Suddenly ferocity
showed in his face. "It come at last. It is the end of the English
both sides the Vaal. They will go down like wild hogs into the sea
with Joubert and Botha behind them. It is the day of Oom Paul and
Christ. The God of Israel gives to his own the tents of the Rooineks."
In spite of the fierce passion of the man, who had suddenly disclosed
a side of his nature hitherto hidden--the savage piety of the copper
Boer impregnated with stereotyped missionary phrasing, Ian Stafford
almost laughed outright. In the presence of Jews like Sobieski it
seemed so droll that this half-caste should talk about the God of
Israel, and link Oom Paul's name with that of Christ the great
liberator as partners in triumph.
In all the years Krool had been in England he had never been inside a
place of worship or given any sign of that fanaticism which, all at
once, he made manifest. He had seemed a pagan to all of his class, had
acted as a pagan.
Barry Whalen, as well as Ian Stafford, saw the humour of the
situation, while they were both confounded by the courageous malice of
the traitor. It came to Barry's mind at the moment, as it came to Ian
Stafford's, that Krool had some card to play which would, to his mind,
serve him well; and, by instinct, both found the right clue. Barry's
anger became uneasiness, and Stafford's interest turned to anxiety.
There was an instant's pause after Krool's words, and then Wolff the
silent, gone wild, caught the sjambok from the hands of Barry
Whalen. He made a movement towards Krool, who again suddenly shrank,
as he would not have shrunk from a weapon of steel.
"Wait a minute," cried Fleming, seizing the arm of his friend. "One
minute. There's something more." Turning to Wallstein, he said, "If
Krool consents to leave England at once for South Africa, let him
go. Is it agreed? He must either be dealt with adequately, or get
out. Is it agreed?"
"I do what I like," said Krool, with a snarl, in which his teeth
showed glassily against his drawn lips. "No one make me do what I not
"The Baas--you have forgotten him," said Wallstein.
A look combined of cunning, fear and servility crossed Krool's face,
but he said, morosely:
"The Baas--I will do what I like."
There was a singular defiance and meaning in his tone, and the moment
seemed critical, for Barry Whalen's face was distorted with
fury. Stafford suddenly stooped and whispered a word in Wallstein's
ear, and then said:
"Gentlemen, if you will allow me, I should like a few words with Krool
before Mr. Byng comes. I think perhaps Krool will see the best course
to pursue when we have talked together. In one sense it is none of my
business, in another sense it is everybody's business. A few minutes,
if you please, gentlemen." There was something almost authoritative in
"For Byng's sake--his wife--you understand," was all Stafford had said
under his breath, but it was an illumination to Wallstein, who
whispered to Stafford.
"Yes, that's it. Krool holds some card, and he'll play it now."
By his glance and by his word of assent, Wallstein set the cue for the
rest, and they all got up and went slowly into the other room. Barry
Whalen was about to take the sjambok, but Stafford laid his hand upon
it, and Barry and he exchanged a look of understanding.
"Stafford's a little bit of us in a way," said Barry in a whisper to
Wallstein as they left the room. "He knows, too, what a sjambok's
worth in Krool's eyes."
When the two were left alone, Stafford slowly seated himself, and his
fingers played idly with the sjambok.
"You say you will do what you like, in spite of the Baas?" he asked,
in a low, even tone.
"If the Baas hurt me, I will hurt. If anybody hurt me, I will hurt."
"You will hurt the Baas, eh? I thought he saved your life on the
A flush stole across Krool's face, and when it passed again he was
paler than before. "I have save the Baas," he answered, sullenly.
With a powerful effort, Stafford controlled himself. He dreaded what
was now to be said, but he felt inevitably what it was.
"If that Fellowes' letter come into his hands first, yours would not
matter. She would not go with you."
Stafford had far greater difficulty in staying his hand than had Barry
Whalen, for the sjambok seemed the only reply to the dark
suggestion. He realized how, like the ostrich, he had thrust his head
into the sand, imagining that no one knew what was between himself and
Jasmine. Yet here was one who knew, here was one who had, for whatever
purpose, precipitated a crisis with Fellowes to prevent a crisis with
Suddenly Stafford thought of an awful possibility. He fastened the
gloomy eyes of the man before him, that he might be able to see any
stir of emotion, and said: "It did not come out as you expected?"
"You wished to part Mr. and Mrs. Byng. That did not happen."
"The Baas is going to South Africa."
"And Mr. Fellowes?"
"He went like I expec'."
"He died--heart failure, eh?"
A look of contempt, malevolence, and secret reflection came into
Krool's face. "He was kill," he said.
"Who killed him?"
Krool was about to shrug his shoulders, but his glance fell on the
sjambok, and he made an ugly gesture with his lean fingers. "There was
yourself. He had hurt you--you went to him.... Good! There was the
Baas, he went to him. The dead man had hurt him.... Good!"
Stafford interrupted him by an exclamation. "What's that you say--the
Baas went to Mr. Fellowes?"
"As I tell the vrouw, Mrs. Byng, when she say me go from the house
to-day--I say I will go when the Baas send me."
"The Baas went to Mr. Fellowes--when?"
"Two hours before you go, and one hour before the vrouw, she go."
Like some animal looking out of a jungle, so Krool's eyes glowed from
beneath his heavy eyebrows, as he drawled out the words.
"The Baas went--you saw him?"
"With my own eyes."
"How long was he there?"
"Mrs. Byng--you saw her go in?"
"And also come out."
"And me--you followed me--you saw me, also?"
"I saw all that come, all that go in to him."
With a swift mind Stafford saw his advantage--the one chance, the one
card he could play, the one move he could make in checkmate, if, and
when, necessary. "So you saw all that came and went. And you came and
His eyes were hard and bright as he held Krool's, and there was a
sinister smile on his lips.
"You know I come and go--you say me that?" said Krool, with a sudden
look of vague fear and surprise. He had not foreseen this.
"You accuse yourself. You saw this person and that go out, and you
think to hold them in your dirty clutches; but you had more reason
than any for killing Mr. Fellowes."
"What?" asked Krool, furtively.
"You hated him because he was a traitor like yourself. You hated him
because he had hurt the Baas."
"That is true altogether, but--"
"You need not explain. If any one killed Mr. Fellowes, why not you?
You came and went from his rooms, too."
Krool's face was now yellowish pale. "Not me . . . it was not me."
"You would run a worse chance than any one. Your character would damn
you--a partner with him in crime. What jury in the world but would
convict you on your own evidence? Besides, you knew--"
He paused to deliver a blow on the barest chance. It was an insidious
challenge which, if it failed, might do more harm to others, might do
great harm, but he plunged. "You knew about the needle."
Krool was cowed and silent. On a venture Stafford had struck straight
"You knew that Mr. Fellowes had stolen the needle from Mr. Mappin at
Glencader," he added.
"How you know that?" asked Krool, in a husky, ragged voice.
"I saw him steal it--and you?"
"No. He tell me."
"What did he mean to do with it?"
A look came into Krool's eyes, malevolent and barbaric.
"Not to kill himself," he reflected. "There is always some one a man
or a woman want kill."
There was a hideous commonplaceness in the tone which struck a chill
to Stafford's heart.
"No doubt there is always some one you want to kill. Now listen,
Krool. You think you've got a hold over me--over Mrs. Byng. You
threaten. Well, I have passed through the fire of the coroner's
inquest. I have nothing to fear. You have. I saw you in the street as
you watched. You came behind me--"
He remembered now the footsteps that paused when he did, the figure
behind his in the dark, as he watched for Jasmine to come out from
Fellowes' rooms, and he determined to plunge once more.
"I recognized you, and I saw you in the Strand just before that. I did
not speak at the inquest, because I wanted no scandal. If I had
spoken, you would have been arrested. Whatever happened your chances
were worse than those of any one. You can't frighten me, or my friends
in there, or the Baas, or Mrs. Byng. Look after your own skin. You are
the vile scum of the earth,"--he determined to take a strong line now,
since he had made a powerful impression on the creature before
him--"and you will do what the Baas likes, not what you like. He saved
your life. Bad as you are, the Baas is your Baas for ever and ever,
and what he wants to do with you he will do. When his eyes look into
yours, you will think the lightning speaks. You are his slave. If he
hates you, you will die; if he curses you, you will wither."
He played upon the superstitious element, the native strain again. It
was deeper in Krool than anything else.
"Do you think you can defy them?" Stafford went on, jerking a finger
towards the other room. "They are from the veld. They will have you as
sure as the crack of a whip. This is England, but they are from the
veld. On the veld you know what they would do to you. If you speak
against the Baas, it is bad for you; if you speak against the Baas'
vrouw it will be ten times worse. Do you hear?"
There was a strange silence, in which Stafford could feel Krool's soul
struggling in the dark, as it were--a struggle as of black spirits in
the grey dawn.
"I wait the Baas speak," Krool said at last, with a shiver.
There was no time for Stafford to answer. Wallstein entered the room
hurriedly. "Byng has come. He has been told about him," he said in
French to Stafford, and jerking his head towards Krool.
Stafford rose. "It's all right," he answered in the same language. "I
think things will be safe now. He has a wholesome fear of the Baas."
He turned to Krool. "If you say to the Baas what you have said to me
about Mr. Fellowes or about the Baas's vrouw, you will have a bad
time. You will think that wild hawks are picking out your vitals. If
you have sense, you will do what I tell you."
Krool's eyes were on the door through which Wallstein had come. His
gaze was fixed and tortured. Stafford had suddenly roused in him some
strange superstitious element. He was like a creature of a lower order
awaiting the approach of the controlling power. It was, however, the
door behind him which opened, and he gave a start of surprise and
terror. He knew who it was. He did not turn round, but his head bent
forward, as though he would take a blow from behind, and his eyes
almost closed. Stafford saw with a curious meticulousness the long
eyelashes touch the grey cheek.
"There's no fight in him now," he said to Byng in French. "He was
getting nasty, but I've got him in order. He knows too much. Remember
Byng's look was as that of a man who had passed through some chamber
of torture, but the flabbiness had gone suddenly from his face, and
even from his figure, though heavy lines had gathered round the mouth
and scarred the forehead. He looked worn and much thinner, but there
was a look in his eyes which Stafford had never seen there--a new look
of deeper seeing, of revelation, of realization. With all his ability
and force, Byng had been always much of a boy, so little at one with
the hidden things--the springs of human conduct, the contradictions of
human nature, the worst in the best of us, the forces that emerge
without warning in all human beings, to send them on untoward courses
and at sharp tangents to all the habits of their existence and their
character. In a real sense he had been very primitive, very objective
in all he thought and said and did. With imagination, and a sensitive
organization out of keeping with his immense physique, it was still
only a visualizing sense which he had, only a thing that belongs to
races such as those of which Krool had come.
A few days of continuous suffering begotten by a cataclysm, which had
rent asunder walls of life enclosing vistas he had never before seen;
these had transformed him. Pain had given him dignity of a savage
kind, a grim quiet which belonged to conflict and betokened grimmer
purpose. In the eyes was the darkness of the well of despair; but at
his lips was iron resolution.
In reply to Stafford he said quietly: "All right, I understand. I know
how to deal with Krool."
As Stafford withdrew, Byng came slowly down the room till he stood at
the end of the table opposite to Krool.
Standing there, he looked at the Boer with hard eyes.
"I know all, Krool," he said. "You sold me and my country--you tried
to sell me and my country to Oom Paul. You dog, that I snatched from
the tiger death, not once but twice."
"It is no good. I am a Hottentot. I am for the Boer, for Oom Paul. I
would have die for you, but--"
"But when the chance came to betray the thing I cared for more than I
would twenty lives--my country--you tried to sell me and all who
worked with me."
"It would be same to you if the English go from the Vaal," said the
half-caste, huskily, not looking into the eyes fixed on him. "But it
matter to me that the Boer keep all for himself what he got for
himself. I am half Boer. That is why."
"You defend it--tell me, you defend it?"
There was that in the voice, some terrible thing, which drew Krool's
eyes in spite of himself, and he met a look of fire and wrath.
"I tell why. If it was bad, it was bad. But I tell why, that is
all. If it is not good, it is bad, and hell is for the bad; but I tell
"You got money from Oom Paul for the man--Fellowes?" It was hard for
him to utter the name.
Again Krool nodded.
"And for yourself--how much?"
"Nothing for myself; no money, Baas."
"Only Oom Paul's love!"
Krool nodded again.
"But Oom Paul flayed you at Vleifontein; tied you up and skinned you
with a sjambok.... That didn't matter, eh? And you went on loving
him. I never touched you in all the years. I gave you your life
twice. I gave you good money. I kept you in luxury--you that fed in
the cattle-kraal; you that had mealies to eat and a shred of biltong
when you could steal it; you that ate a steinbok raw on the Vaal, you
were so wild for meat . . . I took you out of that, and gave you
He waved an arm round the room, and went on: "You come in and go out
of my room, you sleep in the same cart with me, you eat out of the
same dish on trek, and yet you do the Judas trick. Slim--god of gods,
how slim! You are the snake that crawls in the slime. It's the native
in you, I suppose.... But see, I mean to do to you as Oom Paul
did. It's the only thing you understand. It's the way to make you
straight and true, my sweet Krool."
Still keeping his eyes fixed on Krool's eyes, his hand reached out and
slowly took the sjambok from the table. He ran the cruel thing through
his fingers as does a prison expert the cat-o'-nine-tails before
laying on the lashes of penalty. Into Krool's eyes a terror crept
which never had been there in the old days on the veld when Oom Paul
had flayed him. This was not the veld, and he was no longer the
veld-dweller with skin like the rhinoceros, all leather and bone and
endurance. And this was not Oom Paul, but one whom he had betrayed,
whose wife he had sought to ruin, whose subordinate he had turned into
a traitor. Oom Paul had been a mere savage master; but here was a
master whose very tongue could excoriate him like Oom Paul's sjambok;
whom, at bottom, he loved in his way as he had never loved anything;
whom he had betrayed, not realizing the hideous nature of his deed;
having argued that it was against England his treachery was directed,
and that was a virtue in his eyes; not seeing what direct injury could
come to Byng through it. He had not seen, he had not understood, he
was still uncivilized; he had only in his veins the morality of the
native, and he had tried to ruin his master's wife for his master's
sake; and when he had finished with Fellowes as a traitor, he was
ready to ruin his confederate--to kill him--perhaps did kill him!
"It's the only way to deal with you, Hottentot dog!"
The look in Krool's eyes only increased Byng's lust of
punishment. What else was there to do? Without terrible scandal there
was no other way to punish the traitor, but if there had been another
way he would still have done this. This Krool understood; behind every
command the Baas had ever given him this thing lay--the sjambok, the
natural engine of authority.
Suddenly Byng said with a voice of almost guttural anger: "You dropped
that letter on my bedroom floor--that letter, you understand?
. . . Speak."
"I did it, Baas."
Byng was transformed. Slowly he laid down the sjambok, and as slowly
took off his coat, his eyes meanwhile fastening those of the wretched
man before him. Then he took up the sjambok again.
"You know what I am going to do with you?"
It never occurred to Byng that Krool would resist; it did not occur to
Krool that he could resist. Byng was the Baas, who at that moment was
the Power immeasurable. There was only one thing to do--to obey.
"You were told to leave my house by Mrs. Byng, and you did not go."
"She was not my Baas."
"You would have done her harm, if you could?"
With a low cry Byng ran forward, the sjambok swung through the air,
and the terrible whip descended on the crouching half-caste.
Krool gave one cry and fell back a little, but he made no attempt to
Suddenly Byng went to a window and threw it open.
"You can jump from there or take the sjambok. Which?" he said with a
passion not that of a man wholly sane. "Which?"
Krool's wild, sullen, trembling look sought the window, but he had no
heart for that enterprise--thirty feet to the pavement below.
"The sjambok, Baas," he said.
Once again Byng moved forward on him, and once again Krool's cry rang
out, but not so loud. It was like that of an animal in torture.
In the next room, Wallstein and Stafford and the others heard it, and
understood. Whispering together they listened, and Stafford shrank
away to the far side of the room; but more than one face showed
pleasure in the sound of the whip and the moaning.
It went on and on.
Barry Whalen, however, was possessed of a kind of fear, and presently
his face became troubled. This punishment was terrible. Byng might
kill the man, and all would be as bad as could be. Stafford came to
"You had better go in," he said. "We ought to intervene. If you don't,
I will. Listen...."
It was a strange sound to hear in this heart of civilization. It
belonged to the barbaric places of the earth, where there was no law,
where every pioneer was his own cadi.
With set face Barry Whalen entered the room. Byng paused for an
instant and looked at him with burning, glazed eyes that scarcely
"Open that door," he said, presently, and Barry Whalen opened the door
which led into the big hall.
"Open all down to the street," Byng said, and Barry Whalen went
Like some wild beast Krool crouched and stumbled and moaned as he ran
down the staircase, through the outer hall, while a servant with
scared face saw Byng rain savage blows upon the hated figure.
On the pavement outside the house, Krool staggered, stumbled, and fell
down; but he slowly gathered himself up, and turned to the doorway,
where Byng stood panting with the sjambok in his hand.
"Baas!--Baas!" Krool said with livid face, and then he crept painfully
away along the street wall.
A policeman crossed the road with a questioning frown and the apparent
purpose of causing trouble, but Barry Whalen whispered in his ear, and
told him to call that evening and he would hear all about
it. Meanwhile a five-pound note in a quick palm was a guarantee of
Presently a half-dozen people began to gather near the door, but the
benevolent policeman moved them on.
At the top of the staircase Jasmine met her husband. She shivered as
he came up towards her.
"Will you come to me when you have finished your business?" she said,
and she took the sjambok gently from his hand.
He scarcely realized her. He was in a dream; but he smiled at her, and
nodded, and passed on to where the others awaited him.
"THE BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM"
Slowly Jasmine returned to her boudoir. Laying the sjambok on the
table among the books in delicate bindings and the bowls of flowers,
she stood and looked at it with confused senses for a long time. At
last a wan smile stole to her lips, but it did not reach her
eyes. They remained absorbed and searching, and were made painfully
sad by the wide, dark lines under them. Her fair skin was fairer than
ever, but it was delicately faded, giving her a look of pensiveness,
while yet there was that in her carriage and at her mouth which
suggested strength and will and new forces at work in her. She carried
her head, weighted by its splendour of golden hair, as an Eastern
woman carries a goulah of water. There was something pathetic yet
self-reliant in the whole figure. The passion slumbering in the eyes,
however, might at any moment burst forth in some wild relinquishment
of control and self-restraint.
"He did what I should have liked to do," she said aloud. "We are not
so different, after all. He is primitive at bottom, and so am I. He
gets carried away by his emotions, and so do I."
She took up the whip, examined it, felt its weight, and drew it with a
swift jerk through the air.
"I did not even shrink when Krool came stumbling down the stairs, with
this cutting his flesh," she said to herself. "Somehow it all seemed
natural and right. What has come to me? Are all my finer senses dead?
Am I just one of the crude human things who lived a million years ago,
and who lives again as crude as those; with only the outer things
changed? Then I wore the skins of wild animals, and now I do the same,
just the same; with what we call more taste perhaps, because we have
ceased to see the beauty in the natural thing."
She touched the little band of grey fur at the sleeve of her clinging
velvet gown. "Just a little distance away--that is all."
Suddenly a light flashed up in her eyes, and her face flushed as
though some one had angered her. She seized the whip again. "Yes, I
could have seen him whipped to death before my eyes--the coward, the
abject coward. He did not speak for me; he did not defend me; he did
not deny. He let Ian think--death was too kind to him. How dared he
hurt me so! . . . Death is so easy a way out, but he would not have
taken it. No, no, no, it was not suicide; some one killed him. He
could never have taken his own life--never. He had not the
courage.... No; he died of poison or was strangled. Who did it? Who
did it? Was it Rudyard? Was it. . . ? Oh, it wears me out--thinking,
She sat down and buried her face in her hands. "I am doomed--doomed,"
she moaned. "I was doomed from the start. It must always have been so,
whatever I did. I would do it again, whatever I did; I know I would do
it again, being what I was. It was in my veins, in my blood from the
start, from the very first days of my life."
All at once there flashed through her mind again, as on that night so
many centuries ago, when she had slept the last sleep of her life as
it was, Swinburne's lines on Baudelaire:
"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
"'There is no help for these things,'" she repeated with a sigh which
seemed to tear her heart in twain. "All gone--all. What is there left
to do? If death could make it better for any one, how easy! But
everything would be known--somehow the world would know, and every one
would suffer more. Not now--no, not now. I must live on, but not
here. I must go away. I must find a place to go where Rudyard will not
come. There is no place so far but it is not far enough. I am
twenty-five, and all is over--all is done for me. I have nothing that
I want to keep, there is nothing that I want to do except to go--to go
and to be alone. Alone, always alone now. It is either that, or be
The door opened, and the servant brought a card to her. "His
Excellency, the Moravian ambassador," the footman said.
"Monsieur Mennaval?" she asked, mechanically, as though scarcely
realizing what he had said.
"Yes, ma'am, Mr. Mennaval."
"Please say I am indisposed, and am sorry I cannot receive him
to-day," she said.
"Very good, ma'am." The footman turned to go, then came back.
"Shall I tell the maid you want her?" he asked, respectfully.
"No, why should you?" she asked.
"I thought you looked a bit queer, ma'am," he responded, hastily. "I
beg your pardon, ma'am."
She rewarded him with a smile. "Thank you, James, I think I should
like her after all. Ask her to come at once."
When he had gone she leaned back and shut her eyes. For a moment she
was perfectly motionless, then she sat up again and looked at the card
in her hand.
"M. Mennaval--M. Mennaval," she said, with a note so cynical that it
betrayed more than her previous emotion, to such a point of despair
her mind had come.
M. Mennaval had played his part, had done his service, had called out
from her every resource of coquetry and lure; and with wonderful art
she had cajoled him till he had yielded to influence, and Ian had
turned the key in the international lock. M. Mennaval had been used
with great skill to help the man who was now gone from her forever,
whom perhaps she would never see again; and who wanted never to see
her again, never in all time or space. M. Mennaval had played his game
for his own desire, and he had lost; but what had she gained where
M. Mennaval had lost? She had gained that which now Ian despised,
which he would willingly, so far as she was concerned, reject with
contempt.... And yet, and yet, while Ian lived he must still be
grateful to her that, by whatever means, she had helped him to do what
meant so much to England. Yes, he could not wholly dismiss her from
his mind; he must still say, "This she did for me--this thing, in
itself not commendable, she did for me; and I took it for my country."
Her eyes were open, and her garden had been invaded by those
revolutionaries of life and time, Nemesis, Penalty, Remorse. They
marauded every sacred and secret corner of her mind and soul. They
came with whips to scourge her. Nothing was private to her inner self
now. Everything was arrayed against her. All life doubled backwards on
her, blocking her path.
M. Mennaval--what did she care for him! Yet here he was at her door
asking payment for the merchandise he had sold to her: his judgment,
his reputation as a diplomatist, his freedom, the respect of the
world--for how could the world respect a man at whom it laughed, a man
who had hoped to be given the key to a secret door in a secret garden!
As Jasmine sat looking at the card, the footman entered again with a
"His Excellency's compliments," he said, and withdrew.
She opened the letter hesitatingly, held it in her hand for a moment
without reading it, then, with an impulsive effort, did so. When she
had finished, she gave a cry of anger and struck her tiny clinched
hand upon her knee.
The note ran:
"Chere amie, you have so much indisposition in these days. It is all
too vexing to your friends. The world will be surprised, if you allow
a migraine to come between us. Indeed, it will be shocked. The world
understands always so imperfectly, and I have no gift of
explanation. Of course, I know the war has upset many, but I thought
you could not be upset so easily--no, it cannot be the war; so I must
try and think what it is. If I cannot think by tomorrow at five
o'clock, I will call again to ask you. Perhaps the migraine will be
better. But, if you will that migraine to be far away, it will fly,
and then I shall be near. Is it not so? You will tell me to-morrow at
five, will you not, belle amie?
"A toi, M. M."
The words scorched her eyes. They angered her, scourged her. One of
life's Revolutionaries was insolently ravaging the secret place where
her pride dwelt. Pride--what pride had she now? Where was the room for
pride or vanity? . . . And all the time she saw the face of a dead man
down by the river--a face now beneath the sod. It flashed before her
eyes at moments when she least could bear it, to agitate her soul.
M. Mennaval--how dare he write to her so! "Chere amie" and "A
toi"--how strange the words looked now, how repulsive and strange! It
did not seem possible that once before he had written such words to
her. But never before had these epithets or others been accompanied by
such meaning as his other words conveyed.
"I will not see him to-morrow. I will not see him ever again, if I can
help it," she said bitterly, and trembling with agitation. "I shall go
where I shall not be found. I will go to-night."
The door opened. Her maid entered. "You wanted me, madame?" asked the
girl, in some excitement and very pale.
"Yes, what is the matter? Why so agitated?" Jasmine asked.
The maid's eyes were on the sjambok. She pointed to it. "It was that,
madame. We are all agitated. It was terrible. One had never seen
anything like that before in one's life, madame--never. It was like
the days--yes, of slavery. It was like the galleys of Toulon in the
old days. It was--"
"There, don't be so eloquent, Lablanche. What do you know of the
galleys of Toulon or the days of slavery?"
"Madame, I have heard, I have read, I--"
"Yes, but did you love Krool so?"
The girl straightened herself with dramatic indignation. "Madame, that
man, that creature, that toad--!"
"Then why so exercised? Were you so pained at his punishment? Were all
the household so pained?"
"Every one hated him, madame," said the girl, with energy.
"Then let me hear no more of this impudent nonsense," Jasmine said,
"Oh, madame, to speak to me like this!" Tears were ready to do needful
"Do you wish to remain with me, Lablanche?"
"Ah, madame, but yes--"
"Then my head aches, and I don't want you to make it worse.... And,
see, Lablanche, there is that grey walking-suit; also the mauve
dressing-gown, made by Loison; take them, if you can make them fit
you; and be good."
"Madame, how kind--ah, no one is like you, madame--!"
"Well, we shall see about that quite soon. Put out at once every gown
of mine for me to see, and have trunks ready to pack immediately; but
only three trunks, not more."
"Madame is going away?"
"Do as I say, Lablanche. We go to-night. The grey gown and the mauve
dressing-gown that Loison made, you will look well in them. Quick,
In a flutter Lablanche left the room, her eyes gleaming.
She had had her mind on the grey suit for some time, but the mauve
dressing-gown as well--it was too good to be true.
She almost ran into Lady Tynemouth's arms as the door opened. With a
swift apology she sped away, after closing the door upon the visitor.
Jasmine rose and embraced her friend, and Lady Tynemouth subsided into
a chair with a sigh.
"My dear Jasmine, you look so frail," she said. "A short time ago I
feared you were going to blossom into too ripe fruit, now you look
almost a little pinched. But it quite becomes you, mignonne--quite.
You have dark lines under your eyes, and that transparency of skin--
it is quite too fetching. Are you glad to see me?"
"I would have seen no one to-day, no one, except you or Rudyard."
"Love and duty," said Lady Tynemouth, laughing, yet acutely alive to
the something so terribly wrong, of which she had spoken to Ian
"Why is it my duty to see you, Alice?" asked Jasmine, with the dry
glint in her tone which had made her conversation so pleasing to men.
"You clever girl, how you turn the tables on me," her friend replied,
and then, seeing the sjambok on the table, took it up. "What is this
formidable instrument? Are you flagellating the saints?"
"Not the saints, Alice."
"You don't mean to say you are going to scourge yourself?"
Then they both smiled--and both immediately sighed. Lady Tynemouth's
sympathy was deeply roused for Jasmine, and she meant to try and win
her confidence and to help her in her trouble, if she could; but she
was full of something else at this particular moment, and she was not
completely conscious of the agony before her.
"Have you been using this sjambok on Mennaval?" she asked with an
attempt at lightness. "I saw him leaving as I came in. He looked
rather dejected--or stormy, I don't quite know which."
"Does it matter which? I didn't see Mennaval today."
"Then no wonder he looked dejected and stormy. But what is the history
of this instrument of torture?" she asked, holding up the sjambok
"Krool! Jasmine, you surely don't mean to say that you--"
"Not I--it was Rudyard. Krool was insolent--a half-caste, you know."
"Krool--why, yes, it was he I saw being helped into a cab by a
policeman just down there in Piccadilly. You don't mean that
She pushed the sjambok away from her.
"Then I suppose the insolence was terrible enough to justify it."
"Quite, I think." Jasmine's voice was calm.
"But of course it is not usual--in these parts."
"Rudyard is not usual in these parts, or Krool either. It was a touch
of the Vaal."
Lady Tynemouth gave a little shudder. "I hope it won't become
fashionable. We are altogether too sensational nowadays. But,
seriously, Jasmine, you are not well. You must do something. You must
have a change."
"I am going to do something--to have a change."
"That's good. Where are you going, dear?"
"South.... And how are you getting on with your hospital-ship?"
Lady Tynemouth threw up her hands. "Jasmine, I'm in despair. I had set
my heart upon it. I thought I could do it easily, and I haven't done
it, after trying as hard as can be. Everything has gone wrong, and now
Tynie cables I mustn't go to South Africa. Fancy a husband forbidding
a wife to come to him."
"Well, perhaps it's better than a husband forbidding his wife to leave
"Jasmine, I believe you would joke if you were dying."
"I am dying."
There was that in the tone of Jasmine's voice which gave her friend a
start. She eyed her suddenly with a great anxiety.
"And I'm not jesting," Jasmine added, with a forced smile. "But tell
me what has gone wrong with all your plans. You don't mind what
Tynemouth says. Of course you will do as you like."
"Of course; but still Tynie has never 'issued instructions' before,
and if there was any time I ought to humour him it is now. He's so
intense about the war! But I can't explain everything on paper to him,
so I've written to say I'm going to South Africa to explain, and that
I'll come back by the next boat, if my reasons are not convincing."
In other circumstances Jasmine would have laughed. "He will find you
convincing," she said, meaningly.
"I said if he found my reasons convincing."
"You will be the only reason to him."
"My dear Jasmine, you are really becoming sentimental. Tynie would
blush to discover himself being silly over me. We get on so well
because we left our emotions behind us when we married."
"Yours, I know, you left on the Zambesi," said Jasmine, deliberately.
A dull fire came into Lady Tynemouth's eyes, and for an instant there
was danger of Jasmine losing a friend she much needed; but Lady
Tynemouth had a big heart, and she knew that her friend was in a mood
when anything was possible, or everything impossible.
So she only smiled, and said, easily: "Dearest Jasmine, that umbrella
episode which made me love Ian Stafford for ever and ever without even
amen came after I was married, and so your pin doesn't prick, not a
weeny bit. No, it isn't Tynie that makes me sad. It's the Climbers who
"The Climbers? You want money for--"
"Yes, the hospital-ship; and I thought they'd jump at it; but they've
all been jumping in other directions. I asked the Steuvenfeldts, the
Boulters, the Felix Fowles, the Brutons, the Sheltons, and that fellow
Mackerel, who has so much money he doesn't know what to do with it and
twenty others; and Mackerel was the only one who would give me
anything at all large. He gave me ten thousand pounds. But I want
fifty--fifty, my beloved. I'm simply broken-hearted. It would do so
much good, and I could manage the thing so well, and I could get other
splendid people to help me to manage it--there's Effie Lyndhall and
Mary Meacham. The Mackerel wanted to come along, too, but I told him
he could come out and fetch us back--that there mustn't be any scandal
while the war was on. I laugh, my dear, but I could cry my eyes out. I
want something to do--I've always wanted something to do. I've always
been sick of an idle life, but I wouldn't do a hundred things I might
have done. This thing I can do, however, and, if I did it, some of my
debt to the world would be paid. It seems to me that these last
fifteen years in England have been awful. We are all restless; we all
have been going, going--nowhere; we have all been doing,
doing--nothing; we have all been thinking, thinking, thinking--of
ourselves. And I've been a playbody like the rest; I've gone with the
Climbers because they could do things for me; I've wanted more and
more of everything--more gadding, more pleasure, more excitement. It's
been like a brass-band playing all the time, my life this past ten
years. I'm sick of it. It's only some big thing that can take me out
of it. I've got to make some great plunge, or in a few years more I'll
be a middle-aged peeress with nothing left but a double chin, a tongue
for gossip, and a string of pearls. There must be a bouleversement of
things as they are, or good-bye to everything except emptiness. Don't
you see, Jasmine, dearest?"
"Yes yes, I see." Jasmine got up, went to her desk, opened a drawer,
took out a book, and began to write hastily. "Go on," she said as she
wrote; "I can hear what you are saying."
"But are you really interested?"
"Even Tynemouth would find you interesting and convincing. Go on."
"I haven't anything more to say, except that nothing lies between me
and flagellation and the sack cloth,"--she toyed with the
sjambok--"except the Climbers; and they have failed me. They won't
Jasmine rose from the desk and came forward with a paper in her
hand. "No, they have not failed you, Alice," she said, gently. "The
Climbers seldom really disappoint you. The thing is, you must know how
to talk to them, to say the right thing, the flattering, the tactful,
and the nice sentimental thing,--they mostly have middle-class
sentimentality--and then you get what you want. As you do
She placed in her friend's hand a long, narrow slip of paper. Lady
Tynemouth looked astonished, gazed hard at the paper, then sprang to
her feet, pale and agitated.
"Jasmine--you--this--sixty thousand pounds!" she cried. "A cheque for
sixty thousand pounds--Jasmine!"
There was a strange brilliance in Jasmine's eyes, a hectic flush on
"It must not be cashed for forty-eight hours; but after that the money
will be there."
Lady Tynemouth caught Jasmine's shoulders in her trembling yet strong
fingers, and looked into the wild eyes with searching inquiry and
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