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The Judgment House by Gilbert Parker

Part 5 out of 9

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music-room. "He's in the next room there. I mean to kill him--to kill
him--now. I wanted you to know why, to know all, you, Stafford, my old
friend and hers. And I'm going to do it now. Listen to him there!"

His words came brokenly and scarce above a whisper, but they were
ghastly in their determination, in their loathing, their blind
fury. He was gone mad, all the animal in him alive, the brain tossing
on a sea of disorder.

"Now!" he said, suddenly, and, rising, he pushed back his chair. "Give
that to me."

He reached out his hand for the letter, but his confused senses were
suddenly arrested by the look in Ian Stafford's face, a look so
strange, so poignant, so insistent, that he paused. Words could not
have checked his blind haste like that look. In the interval which
followed, the music from the other room struck upon the ears of both,
with exasperating insistence:

"Not like the roses shall our love be, dear--"

Stafford made no motion to return the letter. He caught and held
Rudyard's eyes.

"You ask me to tell you what I think of the man who wrote this
letter," he said, thickly and slowly, for he was like one paralyzed,
regaining his speech with blanching effort: "Byng, I think what you
think--all you think; but I would not do what you want to do."

As he had read the letter the whole horror of the situation burst upon
him. Jasmine had deceived her husband when she turned to himself, and
that was to be understood--to be understood, if not to be pardoned. A
woman might marry, thinking she cared, and all too soon, sometimes
before the second day had dawned, learn that shrinking and repugnance
which not even habit can modify or obscure. A girl might be mistaken,
with her heart and nature undeveloped, and with that closer intimate
life with another of another sex still untried. With the transition
from maidenhood to wifehood, fateful beyond all transitions, yet
unmade, she might be mistaken once; as so many have been in the
revelations of first intimacy; but not twice, not the second time. It
was not possible to be mistaken in so vital a thing twice. This was
merely a wilful, miserable degeneracy. Rudyard had been
wronged--terribly wronged--by himself, by Jasmine; but he had loved
Jasmine since she was a child, before Rudyard came--in truth, he all
but possessed her when Rudyard came; and there was some explanation,
if no excuse, for that betrayal; but this other, it was incredible, it
was monstrous. It was incredible but yet it was true. Thoughts that
overturned all his past, that made a melee of his life, rushed and
whirled through his mind as he read the letter with assumed
deliberation when he saw what it was. He read slowly that he might
make up his mind how to act, what to say and do in this crisis. To
do--what? Jasmine had betrayed him long ago when she had thrown him
over for Rudyard, and now she had betrayed him again after she had
married Rudyard, and betrayed Rudyard, too; and for whom this second
betrayal? His heart seemed to shrink to nothingness. This business
dated far beyond yesterday. The letter furnished that sure evidence.

What to do? Like lightning his mind was made up. What to do? Ah, but
one thing to do--only one thing to do--save her at any cost, somehow
save her! Whatever she was, whatever she had done, however she had
spoiled his life and destroyed forever his faith, yet he too had
betrayed this broken man before him, with the look in his eyes of an
animal at bay, ready to do the last irretrievable thing. Even as her
shameless treatment of himself smote him; lowered him to that dust
which is ground from the heels of merciless humanity--even as it
sickened his soul beyond recovery in this world, up from the lowest
depths of his being there came the indestructible thing. It was the
thing that never dies, the love that defies injury, shame, crime,
deceit, and desertion, and lives pityingly on, knowing all, enduring
all, desiring no touch, no communion, yet prevailing--the
indestructible thing.

He knew now in a flash what he had to do. He must save her. He saw
that Rudyard was armed, and that the end might come at any
moment. There was in the wronged husband's eyes the wild, reckless,
unseeing thing which disregards consequences, which would rush blindly
on the throne of God itself to snatch its vengeance. He spoke again:
and just in time.

"I think what you think, Byng, but I would not do what you want to
do. I would do something else."

His voice was strangely quiet, but it had a sharp insistence which
caused Rudyard to turn back mechanically to the seat he had just
left. Stafford saw the instant's advantage which, if he did not
pursue, all would be lost. With a great effort he simulated intense
anger and indignation.

"Sit down, Byng," he said, with a gesture of authority. He leaned over
the table, holding the other's eyes, the letter in one clinched
hand. "Kill him--," he said, and pointed to the other room, from which
came the maddening iteration of the jingling song--"you would kill him
for his hellish insolence, for this infamous attempt to lead your wife
astray, but what good will it do to kill him?"

"Not him alone, but her too," came the savage, uncontrolled voice from
the uncontrolled savagery of the soul.

Suddenly a great fear shot up in Stafford's heart. His breath came in
sharp, breaking gasps. Had he--had he killed Jasmine?

"You have not--not her?"

"No--not yet." The lips of the avenger suddenly ceased twitching, and
they shut with ominous certainty.

An iron look came into Stafford's face. He had his chance now. One
word, one defense only! It would do all, or all would be lost--sunk in
a sea of tragedy. Diplomacy had taught him the gift of control of face
and gesture, of meaning in tone and word. He made an effort greater
than he had ever put forward in life. He affected an enormous and
scornful surprise.

"You think--you dare to think that she--that Jasmine--"

"Think, you say! The letter--that letter--"

"This letter--this letter, Byng--are you a fool? This letter, this
preposterous thing from the universal philanderer, the effeminate
erotic! It is what it is, and it is no more. Jasmine--you know
her. Indiscreet--yes; always indiscreet in her way, in her own way,
and always daring. A coquette always. She has coquetted all her life;
she cannot help it. She doesn't even know it. She led him on from
sheer wilfulness. What did it matter to her that he was of no account!
She led him on, to be at her feet like the rest, like bigger and
better men--like us all. Was there ever a time when she did not want
to master us? She has coquetted since--ah, you do not know as I do,
her old friend! She has coquetted since she was a little
child. Coquetted, and no more. We have all been her slaves--yes, long
before you came--all of us. Look at Mennaval! She--"

With a distracted gesture Byng interrupted. "The world believes the
worst. Last night, by accident, I heard at De Lancy Scovel's house
that she and Mennaval--and now this--!"

But into the rage, the desperation in the wild eyes, was now creeping
an eager look--not of hope, but such a look as might be in eyes that
were striving to see through darkness, looking for a glimmer of day in
the black hush of morning before the dawn. It was pitiful to see the
strong man tossing on the flood of disordered understanding, a willing
castaway, yet stretching out a hand to be saved.

"Oh, last night, Mennaval, you say, and to-day--this!" Stafford held
up the letter. "This means nothing against her, except indiscretion,
and indiscretion which would have been nothing if the man had not been
what he is. He is of the slime. He does not matter, except that he has
dared--!"

"He has dared, by God--!"

All Byng's rage came back, the lacerated pride, the offended manhood,
the self-esteem which had been spattered by the mud of slander, by the
cynical defense, or the pitying solicitude of his friends--of De Lancy
Scovel, Barry Whalen, Sobieski the Polish Jew, Fleming, Wolff, and the
rest. The pity of these for him--for Rudyard Byng, because the flower
in his garden, his Jasmine-flower, was swept by the blast of calumny!
He sprang from his chair with an ugly oath.

But Stafford stepped in front of him. "Sit down, Byng, or damn
yourself forever. If she is innocent--and she is--do you think she
would ever live with you again, after you had dragged her name into
the dust of the criminal courts and through the reek of the ha'penny
press? Do you think Jasmine would ever forgive you for suspecting her?
If you want to drive her from you forever, then kill him, and go and
tell her that you suspect her. I know her--I have known her all her
life, long before you came. I care what becomes of her. She has many
who care what becomes of her--her father, her brother, many men, and
many women who have seen her grow up without a mother. They understand
her, they believe in her, because they have known her over all the
years. They know her better than you. Perhaps they care for her--
perhaps any one of them cares for her far more than you do."

Now there came a new look into the big, staring eyes. Byng was as one
fascinated; light was breaking in on his rage, his besmirched pride,
his vengeance; hope was stealing tremblingly into his face.

"She was more to me than all the world--than twenty worlds. She--"

He hesitated, then his voice broke and his body suddenly shook
violently, as tears rose in the far, deep wells of feeling and tried
to reach the fevered eyes. He leaned his head in his big, awkward
hands.

Stafford saw the way of escape for Jasmine slowly open out, and went
on quickly. "You have neglected her "--Rudyard's head came up in angry
protest--"not wilfully; but you have neglected her. You have been too
easy. You should lead, not follow, where a woman is concerned. All
women are indiscreet, all are a little dishonourable on opportunity;
but not in the big way, only in the small, contemptible way, according
to our code. We men are dishonourable in the big way where they are
concerned. You have neglected her, Byng, because you have not said,
'This way, Jasmine. Come with me. I want you; and you must came, and
come now.' She wanted your society, wanted you all the time; but while
you did not have her on the leash she went playing--playing. That is
it, and that is all. And now, if you want to keep her, if you want her
to live on with you, I warn you not to tell her you know of the insult
this letter contains, nor ever say what would make her think you
suspected her. If you do, you will bid good-bye to her forever. She
has bold blood in her veins, rash blood. Her grandfather--"

"I know--I know." The tone was credulous, understanding now. Hope
stole into the distorted face.

"She would resent your suspicion. She, then, would do the mad thing,
not you. She would be as frenzied as you were a moment ago; and she
would not listen to reason. If you dared to hint outside in the world,
that you believed her guilty, there are some of her old friends who
would feel like doing to you what you want to do to that libertine in
there, to Al'mah's lover--"

"Good God, Stafford--wait!"

"I don't mean Barry Whalen, Fleming, De Lancy Scovel, and the
rest. They are not her old friends, and they weren't yours once--that
breed; but the others who are the best, of whom you come, over there
in Herefordshire, in Dorset, in Westmorland, where your and her people
lived, and mine. You have been too long among the Outlanders,
Byng. Come back, and bring Jasmine with you. And as for this letter--"

Byng reached out his hand for it.

"No, it contains an insult to your wife. If you get it into your
hands, you will read it again, and then you will do some foolish
thing, for you have lost grip of yourself. Here is the only place for
such stuff--an outburst of sensuality!"

He threw the letter suddenly into the fire. Rudyard sprang to his feet
as though to reclaim it, but stood still bewildered, as he saw
Stafford push it farther into the coals.

Silent, they watched shrivel such evidence as brings ruin upon men and
women in courts of law.

"Leave the whole thing--leave Fellowes to me," Stafford said, after a
slight pause. "I will deal with him. He shall leave the country
to-night. I will see to that. He shall go for three years at least. Do
not see him. You will not contain yourself, and for your own chance of
happiness with the woman you love, you must do nothing, nothing at all
now."

"He has keys, papers--"

"I will see to that; I will see to everything. Now go, at once. There
is enough for you to do. The war, Oom Paul's war, will be on us to
day. Do you hear, Byng--to-day! And you have work to do for this your
native country and for South Africa, your adopted country. England and
the Transvaal will be at each other's throat before night. You have
work to do. Do it. You are needed. Go, and leave this wretched
business in my hands. I will deal with Fellowes--adequately."

The rage had faded from Byng's fevered eyes, and now there was a
moisture in them, a look of incalculable relief. To believe in
Jasmine, that was everything to him. He had not seen her yet, not
since he left the white rose on her pillow last night--Adrian
Fellowes' tribute; and after he had read the letter, he had had no
wish to see her till he had had his will and done away with Fellowes
forever. Then he would see her--for the last time: and she should die,
too,--with himself. That had been his purpose. Now all was changed. He
would not see her now, not till Fellowes was gone forever. Then he
would come again, and say no word which would let her think he knew
what Fellowes had written. Yes, Stafford was right. She must not know,
and they must start again, begin life again together, a new
understanding in his heart, new purposes in their existence. In these
few minutes Stafford had taught him much, had showed him where he had
been wrong, had revealed to him Jasmine's nature as he never really
understood it.

At the door, as Stafford helped him on with a light overcoat, he took
a revolver from his pocket.

"That's the proof of what I meant to do," he said; "and this is proof
of what I mean to do," he added, as he handed over the revolver and
Stafford's fingers grasped it with a nervous force which he
misinterpreted.

"Ah yes," he exclaimed, sadly, "you don't quite trust me yet--not
quite, Stafford; and I don't wonder; but it's all right.... You've
been a good, good friend to us both," he added. "I wish Jasmine might
know how good a friend you've been. But never mind. We'll pay the debt
sometime, somehow, she and I. When shall I see you again?"

At that moment a clear voice rang out cheerily in the
distance. "Rudyard--where are you, Ruddy?" it called.

A light broke over Byng's haggard face. "Not yet?" he asked Stafford.

"No, not yet," was the reply, and Byng was pushed through the open
door into the street.

"Ruddy--where are you, Ruddy?" sang the voice like a morning song.

Then there was silence, save for the music in the room beyond the
little room where the two men had sat a few moments ago.

The music was still poured forth, but the tune was changed. Now it was
"Pagliacci"--that wonderful passage where the injured husband pours
out his soul in agony.

Stafford closed the doors of the little room where he and Byng had
sat, and stood an instant listening to the music. He shuddered as the
passionate notes swept over his senses. In this music was the note of
the character of the man who played--sensuous emotion, sensual
delight. There are men who by nature are as the daughters of the
night, primary prostitutes, with no minds, no moral sense; only a
sensuous organization which has a gift of shallow beauty, while the
life is never deep enough for tears nor high enough for real joy.

In Stafford's pocket was the revolver which Byng had given him. He
took it out, and as he did so, a flush swept over his face, and every
nerve of his body tingled.

"That way out?" he thought. "How easy--and how selfish.... If one's
life only concerned oneself.... But it's only partly one's own from
first to last." . . . Then his thoughts turned again to the man who
was playing "Pagliacci." "I have a greater right to do it than Byng,
and I'd have a greater joy in doing it; but whatever he is, it is not
all his fault." Again he shuddered. "No man makes love like that to a
woman unless she lets him, . . . until she lets him." Then he looked
at the fire where the cruel testimony had shrivelled into smoke. "If
it had been read to a jury . . . Ah, my God! How many he must have
written her like that ... How often...."

With an effort he pulled himself together. "What does it matter now!
All things have come to an end for me. There is only one way. My
letter to her showed it. But this must be settled first. Then to see
her for the last time, to make her understand...."

He went to the beaded curtain, raised it, and stepped into the flood
of warm sunlight. The voluptuous, agonizing music came in a wave over
him. Tragedy, poignant misery, rang through every note, swelled in a
stream which drowned the senses. This man-devil could play, Stafford
remarked, cynically, to himself.

"A moment--Fellowes," he said, sharply.

The music frayed into a discord and stopped.

CHAPTER XXI

THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE

There was that in Stafford's tone which made Fellowes turn with a
start. It was to this room that Fellowes had begged Jasmine to come
this morning, in the letter which Krool had so carefully placed for
his master to find, after having read it himself with minute
scrutiny. It was in this room they had met so often in those days when
Rudyard was in South Africa, and where music had been the medium of an
intimacy which had nothing for its warrant save eternal vanity and
curiosity, the evil genius of the race of women. Here it was that
Krool's antipathy to Jasmine and fierce hatred of Fellowes had been
nurtured. Krool had haunted the room, desiring the end of it all; but
he had been disarmed by a smiling kindness on Jasmine's part, which
shook his purpose again and again.

It had all been a problem which Krool's furtive mind failed to
master. If he went to the Baas with his suspicions, the chance was
that he would be flayed with a sjambok and turned into the streets; if
he warned Jasmine, the same thing might happen, or worse. But fate had
at last played into his hands, on the very day that Oom Paul had
challenged destiny, when all things were ready for the ruin of the
hated English.

Fate had sent him through the hallway between Jasmine's and Rudyard's
rooms in the moment when Jasmine had dropped Fellowes' letter; and he
had seen it fall. He knew not what it was, but it might be of
importance, for he had seen Fellowes' handwriting on an envelope among
those waiting for Jasmine's return home. In a far dark corner he had
waited till he saw Lablanche enter her mistress' room hurriedly,
without observing the letter. Then he caught it up and stole away to
the library, where he read it with malevolent eyes.

He had left this fateful letter where Rudyard would see it when he
rose in the morning. All had worked out as he had planned, and now,
with his ear against the door which led from the music-room, he
strained to hear what passed between Stafford and Fellowes.

"Well, what is it?" asked Fellowes, with an attempt to be casual,
though there was that in Stafford's face which gave him anxiety, he
knew not why. He had expected Jasmine, and, instead, here was
Stafford, who had been so much with her of late; who, with Mennaval,
had occupied so much of her time that she had scarcely spoken to him,
and, when she did so, it was with a detachment which excluded him from
intimate consideration.

His face wore a mechanical smile, as his pale blue eyes met the dark
intensity of Stafford's. But slowly the peach-bloom of his cheeks
faded and his long, tapering fingers played nervously with the
leather-trimming of the piano-stool.

"Anything I can do for you, Stafford?" he added, with attempted
nonchalance.

"There is nothing you can do for me," was the meaning reply, "but
there is something you can do advantageously for yourself, if you will
think it worth while."

"Most of us are ready to do ourselves good turns. What am I to do?"

"You will wish to avoid it, and yet you will do yourself a good turn
in not avoiding it."

"Is that the way you talk in diplomatic circles--cryptic, they call
it, don't they?"

Stafford's chin hardened, and a look of repulsion and disdain crossed
over his face.

"It is more cryptic, I confess, than the letter which will cause you
to do yourself a good turn."

Now Fellowes' face turned white. "What letter?" he asked, in a sharp,
querulous voice.

"The letter you wrote Mrs. Byng from the Trafalgar Club yesterday."

Fellowes made a feint, an attempt at bravado. "What business is it of
yours, anyhow? What rights have you got in Mrs. Byng's letters?"

"Only what I get from a higher authority."

"Are you in sweet spiritual partnership with the Trinity?"

"The higher authority I mean is Mr. Byng. Let us have no tricks with
words, you fool."

Fellowes made an ineffective attempt at self-possession.

"What the devil . . . why should I listen to you?" There was a peevish
stubbornness in the tone.

"Why should you listen to me? Well, because I have saved your
life. That should be sufficient reason for you to listen."

"Damnation--speak out, if you've got anything to say! I don't see what
you mean, and you are damned officious. Yes, that's it--damned
officious." The peevishness was becoming insolent recklessness.

Slowly Stafford drew from his pocket the revolver Rudyard had given
him. As Fellowes caught sight of the glittering steel he fell back
against the piano-stool, making a clatter, his face livid.

Stafford's lips curled with contempt. "Don't squirm so, Fellowes. I'm
not going to use it. But Mr. Byng had it, and he was going to use
it. He was on his way to do it when I appeared. I stopped him . . . I
will tell you how. I endeavoured to make him believe that she was
absolutely innocent, that you had only been an insufferably insolent,
presumptuous, and lecherous cad--which is true. I said that, though
you deserved shooting, it would only bring scandal to Rudyard Byng's
honourable wife, who had been insulted by the lover of Al'mah and the
would-be betrayer of an honest girl--of Jigger's sister.... Yes, you
may well start. I know of what stuff you are, how you had the soul and
body of one of the most credulous and wonderful women in the world in
your hands, and you went scavenging. From Al'mah to the flower-girl!
. . . I think I should like to kill you myself for what you tried to
do to Jigger's sister; and if it wasn't here"--he handled the little
steel weapon with an eager fondness--" I think I'd do it. You are a
pest."

Cowed, shivering, abject, Fellowes nervously fell back. His body
crashed upon the keys of the piano, producing a hideous
discord. Startled, he sprang aside and with trembling hands made
gestures of appeal.

"Don't--don't! Can't you see I'm willing! What is it you want me to
do? I'll do it. Put it away.... Oh, my God--Oh!" His bloodless lips
were drawn over his teeth in a grimace of terror.

With an exclamation of contempt Stafford put the weapon back into his
pocket again. "Pull yourself together," he said. "Your life is safe
for the moment; but I can say no more than that. After I had proved
the lady's innocence--you understand, after I had proved the lady's
innocence to him--"

"Yes, I understand," came the hoarse reply.

"After that, I said I would deal with you; that he could not be
trusted to do so. I said that you would leave England within
twenty-four hours, and that you would not return within three
years. That was my pledge. You are prepared to fulfil it?"

"To leave England! It is impossible--"

"Perhaps to leave it permanently, and not by the English Channel,
either, might be worse," was the cold, savage reply. "Mr. Byng made
his terms."

Fellowes shivered. "What am I to do out of England--but, yes, I'll go,
I'll go," he added, as he saw the look in Stafford's face and thought
of the revolver so near to Stafford's hand.

"Yes, of course you will go," was the stern retort. "You will go, just
as I say."

"What shall I do abroad?" wailed the weak voice.

"What you have always done here, I suppose--live on others," was the
crushing reply. "The venue will be changed, but you won't change, not
you. If I were you, I'd try and not meet Jigger before you go. He
doesn't know quite what it is, but he knows enough to make him
reckless."

Fellowes moved towards the door in a stumbling kind of way. "I have
some things up-stairs," he said.

"They will be sent after you to your chambers. Give me the keys to the
desk in the secretary's room."

"I'll go myself, and--"

"You will leave this house at once, and everything will be sent after
you--everything. Have no fear. I will send them myself, and your
letters and private papers will not be read.... You feel you can rely
on me for that--eh?"

"Yes . . . I'll go now . . . abroad . . . where?"

"Where you please outside the United Kingdom."

Fellowes passed heavily out through the other room, where his letter
had been read by Stafford, where his fate had been decided. He put on
his overcoat nervously and went to the outer door.

Stafford came up to him again. "You understand, there must be no
attempt to communicate here.... You will observe this?"

Fellowes nodded. "Yes, I will.... Good-night," he added, absently.

"Good-day," answered Stafford, mechanically.

The outer door shut, and Stafford turned again to the little room
where so much had happened which must change so many lives, bring so
many tears, divert so many streams of life.

How still the house seemed now! It had lost all its charm and
homelikeness. He felt stifled. Yet there was the warm sun streaming
through the doorway of the music-room, making the beaded curtains
shine like gold.

As he stood in the doorway of the little morning-room, looking in with
bitter reflection and dreading beyond words what now must come--his
meeting with Jasmine, the story he must tell her, and the exposure of
a truth so naked that his nature revolted from it, he heard a footstep
behind him. It was Krool.

Stafford looked at the saturnine face and wondered how much he knew;
but there was no glimmer of revelation in Krool's impassive look. The
eyes were always painful in their deep animal-like glow, and they
seemed more than usually intense this morning; that was all.

"Will you present my compliments to Mrs. Byng, and say--"

Krool, with a gesture, stopped him.

"Mrs. Byng is come now," he said, making a gesture towards the
staircase. Then he stole away towards the servants' quarters of the
house. His work had been well done, of its kind, and he could now
await consequences.

Stafford turned to the staircase and saw--in blue, in the old
sentimental blue--Jasmine slowly descending, a strange look of
apprehension in her face.

Immediately after calling out for Rudyard a little while before, she
had discovered the loss of Adrian Fellowes' letter. Hours before this
she had read and re-read Ian's letter, that document of pain and
purpose, of tragical, inglorious, fatal purpose. She was suddenly
conscious of an air of impending catastrophe about her now. Or was it
that the catastrophe had come? She had not asked for Adrian Fellowes'
letter, for if any servant had found it, and had not returned it, it
was useless asking; and if Rudyard had found it--if Rudyard had found
it . . . !

Where was Rudyard? Why had he not come to her, Why had he not eaten
the breakfast which still lay untouched on the table of his study?
Where was Rudyard?

Ian's eyes looked straight into hers as she came down the staircase,
and there was that in them which paralyzed her. But she made an effort
to ignore the apprehension which filled her soul.

"Good-morning. Am I so very late?" she said, gaily, to him, though
there was a hollow note in her voice.

"You are just in time," he answered in an even tone which told
nothing.

"Dear me, what a gloomy face! What has happened? What is it? There
seems to be a Cassandra atmosphere about the place--and so early in
the day, too."

"It is full noon--and past," he said, with acute meaning, as her
daintily shod feet met the floor of the hallway and glided towards
him. How often he had admired that pretty flitting of her feet!

As he looked at her he was conscious, with a new force, of the wonder
of that hair on a little head as queenly as ever was given to the
modern world. And her face, albeit pale, and with a strange
tremulousness in it now, was like that of some fairy dame painted by
Greuze. All last night's agony was gone from the rare blue eyes, whose
lashes drooped so ravishingly betimes, though that droop was not there
as she looked at Ian now.

She beat a foot nervously on the floor. "What is it--why this
Euripidean air in my simple home? There's something wrong, I see. What
is it? Come, what is it, Ian?"

Hesitatingly she laid a hand upon his arm, but there was no
loving-kindness in his look. The arms which yesterday--only
yesterday--had clasped her passionately and hungrily to his breast now
hung inert at his side. His eyes were strange and hard.

"Will you come in here," he said, in an arid voice, and held wide the
door of the room where he and Rudyard had settled the first chapter of
the future and closed the book of the past.

She entered with hesitating step. Then he shut the door with an
accentuated softness, and came to the table where he had sat with
Rudyard. Mechanically she took the seat which Rudyard had occupied,
and looked at him across the table with a dread conviction stealing
over her face, robbing it of every vestige of its heavenly colour,
giving her eyes a staring and solicitous look.

"Well, what is it? Can't you speak and have it over?" she asked, with
desperate impatience.

"Fellowes' letter to you--Rudyard found it," he said, abruptly.

She fell back as though she had been struck, then recovered
herself. "You read it?" she gasped.

"Rudyard made me read it. I came in when he was just about to kill
Fellowes."

She gave a short, sharp cry, which with a spasm of determination her
fingers stopped.

"Kill him--why?" she asked in a weak voice, looking down at her
trembling hands which lay clasped on the table before her.

"The letter--Fellowes' letter to you."

"I dropped it last night," she said, in a voice grown strangely
impersonal and colourless. "I dropped it in Rudyard's room, I
suppose."

She seemed not to have any idea of excluding the terrible facts, but
to be speaking as it were to herself and of something not vital,
though her whole person was transformed into an agony which congealed
the lifeblood.

Her voice sounded tuneless and ragged. "He read it--Rudyard read a
letter which was not addressed to him! He read a letter addressed to
me--he read my letter.... It gave me no chance."

"No chance--?"

A bitter indignation was added to the cheerless discord of her
tones. "Yes, I had a chance, a last chance--if he had not read the
letter. But now, there is no chance.... You read it, too. You read the
letter which was addressed to me. No matter what it was--my letter,
you read it."

"Rudyard said to me in his terrible agitation, 'Read that letter, and
then tell me what you think of the man who wrote it.' . . . I thought
it was the letter I wrote to you, the letter I posted to you last
night. I thought it was my letter to you."

Her eyes had a sudden absent look. It was as though she were speaking
in a trance. "I answered that letter--your letter. I answered it this
morning. Here is the answer . . . here." She laid a letter on the
table before him, then drew it back again into her lap. "Now it does
not matter. But it gives me no chance...."

There was a world of despair and remorse in her voice. Her face was
wan and strained. "No chance, no chance," she whispered.

"Rudyard did not kill him?" she asked, slowly and cheerlessly, after a
moment, as though repeating a lesson. "Why?"

"I stopped him. I prevented him."

"You prevented him--why?" Her eyes had a look of unutterable confusion
and trouble. "Why did you prevent it--you?"

"That would have hurt you--the scandal, the grimy press, the world."

Her voice was tuneless, and yet it had a strange, piteous
poignancy. "It would have hurt me--yes. Why did you not want to hurt
me?"

He did not answer. His hands had gone into his pockets, as though to
steady their wild nervousness, and one had grasped the little weapon
of steel which Rudyard had given him. It produced some strange,
malignant effect on his mind. Everything seemed to stop in him, and he
was suddenly possessed by a spirit which carried him into that same
region where Rudyard had been. It was the region of the abnormal. In
it one moves in a dream, majestically unresponsive to all outward
things, numb, unconcerned, disregarding all except one's own agony,
which seems to neutralize the universe and reduce all life's problems
to one formula of solution.

"What did you say to him that stopped him?" she asked in a whisper of
awed and dreadful interest, as, after an earthquake, a survivor would
speak in the stillness of dead and unburied millions.

"I said the one thing to say," he answered after a moment,
involuntarily laying the pistol on the table before him--doing it, as
it were, without conscious knowledge.

It fascinated Jasmine, the ugly, deadly little vehicle of
oblivion. Her eyes fastened on it, and for an instant stared at it
transfixed; then she recovered herself and spoke again.

"What was the one thing to say?" she whispered.

"That you were innocent--absolutely, that--"

Suddenly she burst into wild laughter--shrill, acrid, cheerless,
hysterical, her face turned upward, her hands clasped under her chin,
her body shaking with what was not laughter, but the terrifying
agitation of a broken organism.

He waited till she had recovered somewhat, and then he repeated his
words.

"I said that you were innocent absolutely; that Fellowes' letter was
the insolence and madness of a voluptuary, that you had only been
wilful and indiscreet, and that--"

In a low, mechanical tone from which was absent any agitation, he told
her all he had said to Rudyard, and what Rudyard had said to
him. Every word had been burned into his brain, and nearly every word
was now repeated, while she sat silent, looking at her hands clasped
on the table before her. When he came to the point where Rudyard went
from the house, leaving Stafford to deal with Fellowes, she burst
again into laughter, mocking, wilful, painful.

"You were left to set things right, to be the lord high
executioner--you, Ian!"

How strange his name sounded on her lips now--foreign, distant,
revealing the nature of the situation more vividly than all the words
which had been said, than all that had been done.

"Rudyard did not think of killing you, I suppose," she went on,
presently, with a bitter motion of the lips, and a sardonic note
creeping into the voice.

"No, I thought of that," he answered, quietly, "as you know." His eyes
sought the weapon on the table involuntarily. "That would have been
easy enough," he added. "I was not thinking of myself, or of Fellowes,
but only of you--and Rudyard."

"Only of me--and Rudyard," she repeated with drooping eyes, which
suddenly became alive again with feeling and passion and
wildness. "Wasn't it rather late for that?"

The words stung him beyond endurance. He rose and leaned across the
table towards her.

"At least I recognized what I had done, what you had done, and I tried
to face it. I did not disguise it. My letter to you proves that. But
nevertheless I was true to you. I did not deceive you--ever. I loved
you--ah, I loved you as few women have been loved! . . . But you, you
might have made a mistake where Rudyard was concerned, made the
mistake once, but if you wronged him, you wronged me infinitely
more. I was ready to give up all, throw all my life, my career, to the
winds, and prove myself loyal to that which was more than all; or I
was willing to eliminate myself from the scene forever. I was willing
to pay the price--any price--just to stand by what was the biggest
thing in my life. But you were true to nothing--to nothing--to
nobody."

"If one is untrue--once, why be true at all ever?" she said with an
aching laugh, through which tears ran, though none dropped from her
eyes. "If one is untrue to one, why not to a thousand?"

Again a mocking laugh burst from her. "Don't you see? One kiss, a
wrong? Why not, then, a thousand kisses! The wrong came in the moment
that the one kiss was given. It is the one that kills, not the
thousand after."

There came to her mind again--and now with what sardonic
force--Rudyard's words that day before they went to Glencader: "If you
had lived a thousand years ago you would have had a thousand lovers."

"And so it is all understood between you and Rudyard," she added,
mechanically. "That is what you have arranged for me--that I go on
living as before with Rudyard, while I am not to know from him
anything has happened; but to accept what has been arranged for me,
and to be repentant and good and live in sackcloth. It has been
arranged, has it, that Rudyard is to believe in me?"

"That has not been arranged."

"It has been arranged that I am to live with him as before, and that
he is to pretend to love me as before, and--"

"He does love you as before. He has never changed. He believed in you,
was so pitifully eager to believe in you even when the letter--"

"Where is the letter?"

He pointed to the fire.

"Who put it in the fire?" she asked. "You?"

He inclined his head.

"Ah yes, always so clever! A burst of indignation at his daring to
suspect me even for an instant, and with a flourish into the fire, the
evidence. Here is yours--your letter. Would you like to put it into
the fire also?" she asked, and drew his letter from the folds of her
dress.

"But, no, no, no--" She suddenly sprang to her feet, and her eyes had
a look of agonized agitation. "When I have learned every word by
heart, I will burn it myself--for your sake." Her voice grew softer,
something less discordant came into it. "You will never
understand. You could never understand me, or that letter of Adrian
Fellowes to me, and that he could dare to write me such a letter. You
could never understand it. But I understand you. I understand your
letter. It came while I was--while I was broken. It healed me,
Ian. Last night I wanted to kill myself. Never mind why. You would not
understand. You are too good to understand. All night I was in
torture, and then this letter of yours--it was a revelation. I did not
think that a man lived like you, so true, so kind, so mad. And so I
wrote you a letter, ah, a letter from my soul! and then came down to
this--the end of all. The end of everything--forever."

"No, the beginning if you will have it so.... Rudyard loves you . . ."

She gave a cry of agony. "For God's sake--oh, for God's sake, hush!
. . . You think that now I could . . ."

"Begin again with new purpose."

"Purpose! Oh, you fool! You fool! You fool--you who are so wise
sometimes! You want me to begin again with Rudyard: and you do not
want me to begin again--with you?"

He was silent, and he looked her in the eyes steadily.

"You do not want me to begin again with you, because you believe
me--because you believed the worst from that letter, from Adrian
Fellowes' letter.... You believed, yet you hypnotized Rudyard into not
believing. But did you, after all? Was it not that he loves me, and
that he wanted to be deceived, wanted to be forced to do what he has
done? I know him better than you. But you are right, he would have
spoken to me about it if you had not warned him."

"Then begin again--"

"You do not want me any more." The voice had an anguish like the cry
of the tragic music in "Elektra." "You do not want what you wanted
yesterday--for us together to face it all, Ian. You do not want it?
You hate me."

His face was disturbed by emotion, and he did not speak for a moment.

In that moment she became transformed. With a sudden tragic motion she
caught the pistol from the table and raised it, but he wrenched it
from her hand.

"Do you think that would mend anything?" he asked, with a new pity in
his heart for her." That would only hurt those who have been hurt
enough already. Be a little magnanimous. Do not be selfish. Give
others a chance."

"You were going to do it as an act of unselfishness," she moaned.
"You were going to die in order to mend it all. Did you think of me in
that? Did you think I would or could consent to that? You believed in
me, of course, when you wrote it. But did you think that was
magnanimous--when you had got a woman's love, then to kill yourself in
order to cure her? Oh, how little you know! . . . But you do not want
me now. You do not believe in me now. You abhor me. Yet if that letter
had not fallen into Rudyard's hands we might perhaps have now been on
our way to begin life again together. Does that look as though there
was some one else that mattered--that mattered?"

He held himself together with all his power and will. "There is one
way, and only one way," he said, firmly. "Rudyard loves you. Begin
again with him." His voice became lower. "You know the emptiness of
your home. There is a way to make some recompense to him. You can pay
your debt. Give him what he wants so much. It would be a link. It
would bind you. A child . . ."

"Oh, how you loathe me!" she said, shudderingly. "Yesterday--and now
. . . No, no, no," she added, " I will not, cannot live with
Rudyard. I cannot wrench myself from one world into another like
that. I will not live with him any more.... There--listen."

Outside the newsboys were calling:

"Extra speshul! Extra speshul! All about the war! War declared! Extra
speshul!"

"War! That will separate many," she added. "It will separate Rudyard
and me.... No, no, there will be no more scandal.... But it is the way
of escape--the war."

"The way of escape for us all, perhaps," he answered, with a light of
determination in his eyes. "Good-bye," he added, after a slight
pause. "There is nothing more to say."

He turned to go, but he did not hold out his hand, nor even look at
her.

"Tell me," she said, in a strange, cold tone, "tell me, did Adrian
Fellowes--did he protect me? Did he stand up for me? Did he defend
me?"

"He was concerned only for himself," Ian answered, hesitatingly.

Her face hardened. Pitiful, haggard lines had come into it in the last
half-hour, and they deepened still more.

"He did not say one word to put me right?"

Ian shook his head in negation. "What did you expect?" he said.

She sank into a chair, and a strange cruelty came into her eyes,
something so hard that it looked grotesque in the beautiful setting of
her pain-worn, exquisite face.

So utter was her dejection that he came back from the door and bent
over her.

"Jasmine," he said, gently, "we have to start again, you and I--in
different paths. They will never meet. But at the end of the
road--peace. Peace the best thing of all. Let us try and find it,
Jasmine."

"He did not try to protect me. He did not defend me," she kept saying
to herself, and was only half conscious of what Ian said to her.

He touched her shoulder. "Nothing can set things right between you and
me, Jasmine," he added, unsteadily, "but there's Rudyard--you must
help him through. He heard scandal about Mennaval last night at De
Lancy Scovel's. He didn't believe it. It rests with you to give it all
the lie.... Good-bye."

In a moment he was gone. As the door closed she sprang to her
feet. "Ian--Ian--come back," she cried. "Ian, one word--one word."

But the door did not open again. For a moment she stood like one
transfixed, staring at the place whence he had vanished, then, with a
moan, she sank in a heap on the floor, and rocked to and fro like one
demented.

Once the door opened quietly, and Krool's face showed, sinister and
furtive, but she did not see it, and the door closed again softly.

At last the paroxysms passed, and a haggard face looked out into the
world of life and being with eyes which were drowned in misery.

"He did not defend me--the coward!" she murmured; then she rose with a
sudden effort, swayed, steadied herself, and arranged her hair in the
mirror over the mantelpiece. "The low coward!" she said again. "But
before he leaves . . . before he leaves England . . . "

As she turned to go from the room, Rudyard's portrait on the wall met
her eyes. "I can't go on, Rudyard," she said to it. "I know that now."

Out in the streets, which Ian Stafford travelled with hasty steps, the
newsboys were calling:

"War declared! All about the war!"

"That is the way out for me," Stafford said, aloud, as he hastened
on. "That opens up the road.... I'm still an artillery officer."

He directed his swift steps toward Pall Mall and the War Office.

CHAPTER XXII

IN WHICH FELLOWES GOES A JOURNEY

Kruger's ultimatum, expected though it was, shook England as nothing
had done since the Indian mutiny, but the tremour of national
excitement presently gave way to a quiet, deep determination.

An almost Oriental luxury had gone far to weaken the fibre of that
strong and opulent middle-class who had been the backbone of England,
the entrenched Philistines. The value of birth as a moral asset which
had a national duty and a national influence, and the value of money
which had a social responsibility and a communal use, were unrealized
by the many nouveaux riches who frequented the fashionable purlieus;
who gave vast parties where display and extravagance were the
principal feature; who ostentatiously offered large sums to public
objects. Men who had made their money where copper or gold or oil or
wool or silver or cattle or railways made commercial kings, supported
schemes for the public welfare brought them by fine ladies, largely
because the ladies were fine; and they gave substantial sums--upon
occasion--for these fine ladies' fine causes. Rich men, or reputed
rich men, whose wives never appeared, who were kept in secluded
quarters in Bloomsbury or Maida Vale, gave dinners at the Savoy or the
Carlton which the scrapings of the aristocracy attended; but these
gave no dinners in return.

To get money to do things, no matter how,--or little matter how; to
be in the swim, and that swim all too rapidly washing out the real
people--that was the almost universal ambition. But still the real
people, however few or many, in the time of trouble came quietly
into the necessary and appointed places with the automatic
precision of the disciplined friend of the state and of humanity;
and behind them were folk of the humbler sort, the lower middle-
class, the labouring-man. Of these were the landpoor peer, with his
sense of responsibility cultivated by daily life and duty in his
county, on the one hand; the professional man of all professions,
the little merchant, the sailor, the clerk and artisan, the digger
and delver, on the other; and, in between, those people in the
shires who had not yet come to be material and gross, who had
old-fashioned ideas of the duty of the citizen and the Christian.
In the day of darkness these came and laid what they had at the
foot of the altar of sacrifice.

This at least the war did: it served as a sieve to sift the people,
and it served as the solvent of many a life-problem.

Ian Stafford was among the first to whom it offered "the way out," who
went to it for the solution of their own set problem. Suddenly, as he
stood with Jasmine in the little room where so many lives were tossed
into the crucible of Fate that morning, the newsboy's voice shouting,
"War declared!" had told him the path he must tread.

He had astonished the War Office by his request to be sent to the
Front with his old arm, the artillery, and he was himself astonished
by the instant assent that was given. And now on this October day he
was on his way to do two things--to see whether Adrian Fellowes was
keeping his promise, and to visit Jigger and his sister.

There had not been a week since the days at Glencader when he had not
gone to the sordid quarters in the Mile End Road to see Jigger, and to
hear from him how his sister was doing at the opera, until two days
before, when he had learned from Lou herself what she had suffered at
the hands of Adrian Fellowes. That problem would now be settled
forever; but there remained the question of Jigger, and that must be
settled, whatever the other grave problems facing him. Jigger must be
cared for, must be placed in a position where he could have his start
in life. Somehow Jigger was associated with all the movements of his
life now, and was taken as part of the problem. What to do? He thought
of it as he went eastward, and it did not seem easy to settle
it. Jigger himself, however, cut the Gordian knot.

When he was told that Stafford was going to South Africa, and that it
was a question as to what he--Jigger--should now do, in what sphere
of life his abnormally "cute" mind must run, he answered, instantly.

"I'm goin' wiv y'r gryce," he said. "That's it--stryght. I'm goin'
out there wiv you."

Ian shook his head and smiled sadly. "I'm afraid that's not for you,
Jigger. No, think again."

"Ain't there work in Souf Afriker--maybe not in the army itself, y'r
gryce? Couldn't I have me chanct out there? Lou's all right now, I
bet; an' I could go as easy as can be."

"Yes, Lou will be all right now," remarked Stafford, with a reflective
irony.

"I ain't got no stiddy job here, and there's work in Souf Afriker,
ain't they? Couldn't I get a job holdin' horses, or carryin' a flag,
or cleanin' the guns, or nippin' letters about--couldn't I, y'r gryce?
I'm only askin' to go wiv you, to work, same as ever I did before I
was run over. Ain't I goin' wiv you, y'r gryce?"

With a sudden resolve Stafford laid a hand on his shoulder. "Yes, you
are going 'wiv' me, Jigger. You just are, horse, foot, and
artillery. There'll be a job somewhere. I'll get you something to do,
or--"

"Or bust, y'r gryce?"

So the problem lessened, and Ian's face cleared a little. If all the
difficulties perplexing his life would only clear like that! The babe
and the suckling had found the way so simple, so natural; and it was a
comforting way, for he had a deep and tender regard for this quaint,
clever waif who had drifted across his path.

To-morrow he would come and fetch Jigger: and Jigger's face followed
him into the coming dusk, radiant and hopeful and full of life--of
life that mattered. Jigger would go out to "Souf Afriker" with all his
life before him, but he, Ian Stafford, would go with all his life
behind him, all mile-stones passed except one.

So, brooding, he walked till he came to an underground station, and
there took a train to Charing Cross. Here he was only a little
distance away from the Embankment, where was to be found Adrian
Fellowes; and with bent head he made his way among the motley crowd in
front of the station, scarcely noticing any one, yet resenting the
jostle and the crush. Suddenly in the crowd in front of him he saw
Krool stealing along with a wide-awake hat well down over his
eyes. Presently the sinister figure was lost in the confusion. It did
not occur to him that perhaps Krool might be making for the same
destination as himself; but the sight of the man threw his mind into
an eddy of torturing thoughts.

The flare of light, white and ghastly, at Charing Cross was shining on
a moving mass of people, so many of whom were ghastly also--derelicts
of humanity, ruins of womanhood, casuals, adventurers, scavengers of
life, prowlers who lived upon chance, upon cards, upon theft, upon
women, upon libertines who waited in these precincts for some foolish
and innocent woman whom they could entrap. Among them moved also the
thousand other good citizens bent upon catching trains or wending
their way home from work; but in the garish, cruel light, all, even
the good, looked evil in a way, and furtive and unstable. To-night,
the crowd were far more restless than usual, far more irritating in
their purposeless movements. People sauntered, jerked themselves
forward, moved in and out, as it were, intent on going everywhere and
nowhere; and the excitement possessing them, the agitation in the air,
made them seem still more exasperating, and bewildering. Newsboys with
shrill voices rasped the air with invitations to buy, and everywhere
eager, nervous hands held out their half-pennies for the flimsy
sensational rags.

Presently a girl jostled Stafford, then apologized with an endearing
word which brought a sick sensation to his brain; but he only shook
his head gravely at her. After all, she had a hard trade and it led
nowhere--nowhere.

"Coming home with me, darling?" she added in response to his
meditative look. Anything that was not actual rebuff was invitation to
her blunted sense. "Coming home with me--?"

Home! A wave of black cynicism, of sardonic mirth passed through
Stafford's brain. Home--where the business of this poor wayfarer's
existence was carried on, where the shopkeeper sold her wares in the
inner sanctuary! Home.... He shook the girl's hand from his elbow and
hastened on.

Yet why should he be angered with her, he said to himself. It was not
moral elevation which had made him rough with her, but only that word
Home she used.... The dire mockery of it burned his mind like a
corrosive acid. He had had no home since his father died years
ago,--his mother had died when he was very young--and his eldest
brother had taken possession of the family mansions, placing them in
the control of his foreign wife, who sat in his mother's chair and in
her place at table.

He had wished so often in the past for a home of his own, where he
could gather round him young faces and lose himself in promoting the
interests of those for whom he had become forever responsible. He had
longed for the Englishman's castle, for his own little realm of
interest where he could be supreme; and now it was never to be.

The idea gained in sacred importance as it receded forever from all
possibility. In far-off days it had been associated with a vision in
blue, with a face like a dresden-china shepherdess and hair like
Aphrodite's. Laughter and wit and raillery had been part of the
picture; and long evenings in the winter-time, when they two would
read the books they both loved, and maybe talk awhile of world events
in which his work had place; in which his gifts were found, shaping,
influencing, producing. The garden, the orchard--he loved
orchards--the hedges of flowering ivy and lilacs; and the fine grey
and chestnut horses driven by his hand or hers through country lanes;
the smell of the fallen leaves in the autumn evenings; or the sting of
the bracing January wind across the moors or where the woodcock
awaited its spoiler. All these had been in the vision. It was all over
now. He had seen an image, it had vanished, and he was in the desert
alone.

A band was playing "The Banks o' Garry Owen," and the tramp of
marching men came to his ears. The crowd surged round him, pushed him,
forced him forward, carried him on, till the marching men came near,
were alongside of him--a battalion of Volunteers, going to the war to
see "Kruger's farmers bite the dust!"--a six months' excursion, as
they thought. Then the crowd, as it cheered jostled him against the
wall of the shops, and presently he found himself forced down
Buckingham Street. It was where he wished to go in order to reach
Adrian Fellowes' apartments. He did not notice, as he was practically
thrown into the street, that Krool was almost beside him.

The street was not well lighted, and he looked neither to right nor
left. He was thinking hard of what he would say to Adrian Fellowes,
if, and when, he saw him.

But not far behind him was a figure that stole along in the darker
shadows of the houses, keeping at some distance. The same figure
followed him furtively till he came into that part of the Embankment
where Adrian Fellowes' chambers were; then it fell behind a little,
for here the lights were brighter. It hung in the shadow of a door-way
and watched him as he approached the door of the big building where
Adrian Fellowes lived.

Presently, as he came nearer, Stafford saw a hansom standing before
the door. Something made him pause for a moment, and when, in the
pause, the figure of a woman emerged from the entrance and hastily got
into the hansom, he drew back into the darkness of a doorway, as the
man did who was now shadowing him; and he waited till it turned round
and rolled swiftly away. Then he moved forward again. When not far
from the entrance, however, another cab--a four-wheeler--discharged
its occupant at a point nearer to the building than where he
waited. It was a woman. She paid the cabman, who touched his hat with
quick and grateful emphasis, and, wheeling his old crock round,
clattered away. The woman glanced along the empty street swiftly, and
then hurried to the doorway which opened to Adrian Fellowes' chambers.

Instantly Stafford recognized her. It was Jasmine, dressed in black
and heavily veiled. He could not mistake the figure--there was none
other like it; or the turn of her head--there was only one such head
in all England. She entered the building quickly.

There was nothing to do but wait until she came out again. No passion
stirred in him, no jealousy, no anger. It was all dead. He knew why
she had come; or he thought he knew. She would tell the man who had
said no word in defense of her, done nothing to protect her, who let
the worst be believed, without one protest of her innocence, what she
thought of him. She was foolish to go to him, but women do mad things,
and they must not be expected to do the obviously sensible thing when
the crisis of their lives has come. Stafford understood it all.

One thing he was certain Jasmine did not know--the intimacy between
Fellowes and Al'mah. He himself had been tempted to speak of it in
their terrible interview that morning; but he had refrained. The
ignominy, the shame, the humiliation of that would have been beyond
her endurance. He understood; but he shrank at the thought of the
nature of the interview which she must have, at the thought of the
meeting at all.

He would have some time to wait, no doubt, and he made himself easy in
the doorway, where his glance could command the entrance she had
used. He mechanically took out a cigar-case, but after looking at the
cigars for a moment put them away again with a sigh. Smoking would not
soothe him. He had passed beyond the artificial.

His waiting suddenly ended. It seemed hardly three minutes after
Jasmine's entrance when she appeared in the doorway again, and, after
a hasty glance up and down the street, sped away as swiftly as she
could, and, at the corner, turned up sharply towards the Strand. Her
movements had been agitated, and, as she hurried on, she thrust her
head down into her muff as a woman would who faced a blinding rain.

The interview had been indeed short. Perhaps Fellowes had already gone
abroad. He would soon find out.

He mounted the deserted staircase quickly and knocked at Fellowes'
door. There was no reply. There was a light, however, and he knocked
again. Still there was no answer. He tried the handle of the door. It
turned, the door gave, and he entered. There was no sound. He knocked
at an inner door. There was no reply, yet a light showed in the
room. He turned the handle. Entering the room, he stood still and
looked round. It seemed empty, but there were signs of packing, of
things gathered together hastily.

Then, with a strange sudden sense of a presence in the room, he looked
round again. There in a far corner of the large room was a couch, and
on it lay a figure--Adrian Fellowes, straight and still--and sleeping.

Stafford went over. "Fellowes," he said, sharply.

There was no reply. He leaned over and touched a shoulder. "Fellowes!"
he exclaimed again, but something in the touch made him look closely
at the face half turned to the wall. Then he knew.

Adrian Fellowes was dead.

Horror came upon Stafford, but no cry escaped him. He stooped once
more and closely looked at the body, but without touching it. There
was no sign of violence, no blood, no disfigurement, no distortion,
only a look of sleep--a pale, motionless sleep.

But the body was warm yet. He realized that as his hand had touched
the shoulder. The man could only have been dead a little while.

Only a little while: and in that little while Jasmine had left the
house with agitated footsteps.

"He did not die by his own hand," Stafford said aloud.

He rang the bell loudly. No one answered. He rang and rang again, and
then a lazy porter came.

CHAPTER XXIII

"MORE WAS LOST AT MOHACKSFIELD"

Eastminster House was ablaze. A large dinner had been fixed for this
October evening, and only just before half-past eight Jasmine entered
the drawing-room to receive her guests. She had completely forgotten
the dinner till very late in the afternoon, when she observed
preparations for which she had given instructions the day before. She
was about to leave the house upon the mission which had drawn her
footsteps in the same direction as those of Ian Stafford, when the
butler came to her for information upon some details. These she gave
with an instant decision which was part of her equipment, and then,
when the butler had gone, she left the house on foot to take a cab at
the corner of Piccadilly.

When she returned home, the tables in the dining-room were decorated,
the great rooms were already lighted, and the red carpet was being
laid down at the door. The footmen looked up with surprise as she came
up the steps, and their eyes followed her as she ascended the
staircase with marked deliberation.

"Well, that's style for you," said the first footman. "Takin' an
airin' on shanks' hosses."

"And a quarter of an hour left to put on the tirara," sniggered the
second footman. "The lot is asked for eight-thirty."

"Swells, the bunch, windin' up with the brother of an
Emperor--'struth!"

"I'll bet the Emperor's brother ain't above takin' a tip about shares
on the Rand, me boy."

"I'll bet none of 'em ain't. That's why they come--not forgetting th'
grub and the fizz."

"What price a title for the Byng Baas one of these days! They like
tips down there where the old Markis rumbles through his beard--and a
lot of hands to be greased. And grease it costs a lot, political
grease does. But what price a title--Sir Rudyard Byng, Bart., wot oh!"

"Try another shelf higher up, and it's more like it. Wot a head for a
coronet 'ers! W'y--"

But the voice of the butler recalled them from the fields of
imagination, and they went with lordly leisure upon the business of
the household.

Socially this was to be the day of Jasmine's greatest triumph. One of
the British royal family was, with the member of another great
reigning family, honouring her table--though the ladies of neither
were to be present; and this had been a drop of chagrin in her
cup. She had been unaware of the gossip there had been of
late,--though it was unlikely the great ladies would have known of
it--and she would have been slow to believe what Ian had told her this
day, that men had talked lightly of her at De Lancy Scovel's
house. Her eyes had been shut; her wilful nature had not been
sensitive to the quality of the social air about her. People
came--almost "everybody" came--to her house, and would come, of
course, until there was some open scandal; until her husband
intervened. Yet everybody did not come. The royal princesses had not
found it convenient to come; and this may have meant nothing, or very
much indeed. To Jasmine, however, as she hastily robed herself for
dinner, her mind working with lightning swiftness, it did not matter
at all; if all the kings and queens of all the world had promised to
come and had not come, it would have meant nothing to her this night
of nights.

In her eyes there was the look of one who has seen some horrible
thing, though she gave her orders with coherence and decision as
usual, and with great deftness she assisted her maid in the hasty
toilette. Her face was very pale, save for one or two hectic spots
which took the place of the nectarine bloom so seldom absent from her
cheeks, and in its place was a new, shining, strange look like a most
delicate film--the transfiguring kind of look which great joy or great
pain gives.

Coming up the staircase from the street, she had seen Krool enter her
husband's room more hastily than usual, and had heard him greeted
sharply--something that sounded strange to her ears, for Rudyard was
uniformly kind to Krool. Never had Rudyard's voice sounded as it did
now. Of course it was her imagination, but it was like a voice which
came from some desolate place, distant, arid and alien. That was not
the voice in which he had wooed her on the day when they heard of
Jameson's Raid. That was not the voice which had spoken to her in
broken tones of love on the day Ian first dined with her after her
marriage--that fateful, desperate day. This was a voice which had a
cheerless, fretful note, a savage something in it. Presently they two
would meet, and she knew how it would be--an outward semblance, a
superficial amenity and confidence before their guests; the smile of
intimacy, when there was no intimacy, and never, never, could be
again; only acting, only make-believe, only the artifice of deceit.

Yet when she was dressed--in pure white, with only a string of pearls,
the smallest she had, round her neck--she was like that white flower
which had been placed on her pillow last night.

Turning to leave the bedroom she caught sight of her face and figure
again in the big mirror, and she seemed to herself like some other
woman. There was that strange, distant look of agony in her eyes, that
transfiguring look in the face; there was the figure somehow gone
slimmer in these few hours; and there was a frail appearance which did
not belong to her.

As she was about to leave the room to descend the stairs, there came a
knock at the door. A bunch of white violets was handed in, with a
pencilled note in Rudyard's handwriting.

White violets--white violets!

The note read, "Wear these to-night, Jasmine."

White violets--how strange that he should send them! These they send
for the young, the innocent, and the dead. Rudyard had sent them to
her--from how far away! He was there just across the hallway, and yet
he might have been in Bolivia, so far as their real life was
concerned.

She was under no illusion. This day, and perhaps a few, a very few
others, must be lived under the same roof, in order that they could
separate without scandal; but things could never go on as in the
past. She had realized that the night before, when still that chance
of which she had spoken to Stafford was hers; when she had wound the
coil of her wonderful hair round her throat, and had imagined that
self-destruction which has tempted so many of more spiritual make than
herself. It was melodramatic, emotional, theatrical, maybe; but the
emotional, the theatrical, the egotistic mortal has his or her
tragedy, which is just as real as that which comes to those of more
spiritual vein, just as real as that which comes to the more classical
victim of fate. Jasmine had the deep defects of her qualities. Her
suffering was not the less acute because it found its way out with
impassioned demonstration.

There was, however, no melodrama in the quiet trembling with which she
took the white violets, the symbol of love and death. She was sure
that Rudyard was not aware of their significance and meaning, but that
did not modify the effect upon her. Her trouble just now was too deep
for tears, too bitter for words, too terrible for aught save numb
endurance. Nothing seemed to matter in a sense, and yet the little
routine of life meant so much in its iron insistence. The habits of
convention are so powerful that life's great issues are often obscured
by them. Going to her final doom a woman would stop to give the last
careful touch to her hair--the mechanical obedience to long habit. It
is not vanity, not littleness, but habit; never shown with subtler
irony than in the case of Madame de Langrois, who, pacing the path to
her execution at Lille, stooped, picked up a pin from the ground, and
fastened it in her gown--the tyranny of habit.

Outside her own room Jasmine paused for a moment and looked at the
closed door of Rudyard's room. Only a step--and yet she was kept apart
from him by a shadow so black, so overwhelming, that she could not
penetrate it. It smothered her sight. No, no, that little step could
not be taken; there was a gulf between them which could not be
bridged.

There was nothing to say to Rudyard except what could be said upon the
surface, before all the world, as it were; things which must be said
through an atmosphere of artificial sounds, which would give no
response to the agonized cries of the sentient soul. She could make
believe before the world, but not alone with Rudyard. She shrank
within herself at the idea of being alone with him.

As she went down-stairs a scene in a room on the Thames Embankment,
from which she had come a half hour ago, passed before her vision. It
was as though it had been imprinted on the film of her eye and must
stay there forever.

When would the world know that Adrian Fellowes lay dead in the room on
the Embankment? And when they knew it, what would they say? They would
ask how he died--the world would ask how he died. The Law would ask
how he died.

How had he died? Who killed him? Or did he die by his own hand? Had
Adrian Fellowes, the rank materialist, the bon viveur, the man-luxury,
the courage to kill himself by his own hand? If not, who killed him?
She shuddered. They might say that she killed him.

She had seen no one on the staircase as she had gone up, but she had
dimly seen another figure outside in the terrace as she came out, and
there was the cabman who drove her to the place. That was all.

Now, entering the great drawing-room of her own house she shuddered as
though from an icy chill. The scene there on the Embankment--her own
bitter anger, her frozen hatred; then the dead man with his face
turned to the wall; the stillness, the clock ticking, her own cold
voice speaking to him, calling; then the terrified scrutiny, the touch
of the wrist, the realization, the moment's awful horror, the silence
which grew more profound, the sudden paralysis of body and
will.... And then--music, strange, soft, mysterious music coming from
somewhere inside the room, music familiar and yet unnatural, a song
she had heard once before, a pathetic folk-song of eastern Europe,
"More Was Lost at Mohacksfield." It was a tale of love and loss and
tragedy and despair.

Startled and overcome, she had swayed, and would have fallen, but that
with an effort of the will she had caught at the table and saved
herself. With the music still creeping in unutterable melancholy
through the room, she had fled, closing the door behind her very
softly as though not to disturb the sleeper. It had followed her down
the staircase and into the street, the weird, unnatural music.

It was only when she had entered a cab in the Strand that she realized
exactly what the music was. She remembered that Fellowes had bought a
music-box which could be timed to play at will--even days ahead, and
he had evidently set the box to play at this hour. It did so, a
strange, grim commentary on the stark thing lying on the couch,
nerveless as though it had been dead a thousand years. It had ceased
to play before Stafford entered the room, but, strangely enough, it
began again as he said over the dead body, "He did not die by his own
hand."

Standing before the fireplace in the drawing-room, awaiting the first
guest, Jasmine said to herself: "No, no, he had not the courage to
kill himself."

Some one had killed him. Who was it? Who killed
him--Rudyard--Ian--who? But how? There was no sign of violence. That
much she had seen. He lay like one asleep. Who was it killed him?

"Lady Tynemouth."

Back to the world from purgatory again. The butler's voice broke the
spell, and Lady Tynemouth took her friend in her arms and kissed her.

"So handsome you look, my darling--and all in white. White violets,
too. Dear, dear, how sweet, and oh, how triste! But I suppose it's
chic. Certainly, it is stunning. And so simple. Just the weeny, teeny
string of pearls, like a young under-secretary's wife, to show what
she might do if she had a fair chance. Oh, you clever, wonderful
Jasmine!"

"My dressmaker says I have no real taste in colours, so I
compromised," was Jasmine's reply, with a really good imitation of a
smile.

As she babbled on, Lady Tynemouth had been eyeing her friend with
swift inquiry, for she had never seen Jasmine look as she did
to-night, so ethereal, so tragically ethereal, with dark lines under
the eyes, the curious transparency of the skin, and the feverish
brightness and far-awayness of the look. She was about to say
something in comment, but other guests entered, and it was
impossible. She watched, however, from a little distance, while
talking gaily to other guests; she watched at the dinner-table, as
Jasmine, seated between her two royalties, talked with gaiety, with
pretty irony, with respectful badinage; and no one could be so daring
with such ceremonious respect at the same time as she. Yet through it
all Lady Tynemouth saw her glance many times with a strange, strained
inquiry at Rudyard, seated far away opposite her; at another big,
round table.

"There's something wrong here," Lady Tynemouth said to herself, and
wondered why Ian Stafford was not present. Mennaval was there, eagerly
seeking glances. These Jasmine gave with a smiling openness and
apparent good-fellowship, which were not in the least compromising.
Lady Tynemouth saw Mennaval's vain efforts, and laughed to herself,
and presently she even laughed with her neighbour about them.

"What an infant it is!" she said to her table companion. "Jasmine Byng
doesn't care a snap of her finger about Mennaval."

"Does she care a snap for anybody?" asked the other. Then he added,
with a kind of query in the question apart from the question itself:
"Where is the great man--where's Stafford to-night?"

"Counting his winnings, I suppose." Lady Tynemouth's face grew
soft. "He has done great things for so young a man. What a distance he
has gone since he pulled me and my red umbrella back from the Zambesi
Falls!"

Then proceeded a gay conversation, in which Lady Tynemouth was quite
happy. When she could talk of Ian Stafford she was really enjoying
herself. In her eyes he was the perfect man, whom other women tried to
spoil, and whom, she flattered herself, she kept sound and unspoiled
by her frank platonic affection.

"Our host seems a bit abstracted to-night," said her table companion
after a long discussion about what Stafford had done and what he still
might do.

"The war--it means so much to him," said Lady Tynemouth. Yet she had
seen the note of abstraction too, and it had made her wonder what was
happening in this household.

The other demurred.

"But I imagine he has been prepared for the war for some time. He
didn't seem excessively worried about it before dinner, yet he seemed
upset too, so pale and anxious-looking."

"I'll make her talk, make her tell me what it is, if there is
anything," said Lady Tynemouth to herself. "I'll ask myself to stay
with her for a couple of days."

Superficial as Lady Tynemouth seemed to many, she had real sincerity,
and she was a friend in need to her friends. She loved Jasmine as much
as she could love any woman, and she said now, as she looked at
Jasmine's face, so alert, so full of raillery, yet with such an
undertone of misery:

"She looks as if she needed a friend."

After dinner she contrived to get her arm through that of her hostess,
and gave it an endearing pressure. "May I come to you for a few days,
Jasmine?" she asked.

"I was going to ask if you would have me," answered Jasmine, with a
queer little smile. "Rudyard will be up to his ears for a few days,
and that's a chance for you and me to do some shopping, and some other
things together, isn't it?"

She was thinking of appearances, of the best way to separate from
Rudyard for a little while, till the longer separation could be
arranged without scandal. Ian Stafford had said that things could go
on in this house as before, that Rudyard would never hint to her what
he knew, or rather what the letter had told him or left untold: but
that was impossible. Whatever Rudyard was willing to do, there was
that which she could not do. Twenty-four hours had accomplished a
complete revolution in her attitude towards life and in her sense of
things. Just for these immediate days to come, when the tragedy of
Fellowes' death would be made a sensation of the hour, there must be
temporary expedients; and Lady Tynemouth had suggested one which had
its great advantages.

She could not bear to remain in Rudyard's house; and in his heart of
hearts Rudyard would wish the same, even if he believed her innocent;
but if she must stay for appearance' sake, then it would be good to
have Lady Tynemouth with her. Rudyard would be grateful for time to
get his balance again. This bunch of violets was the impulse of a big,
magnanimous nature; but it would be followed by the inevitable
reaction, which would be the real test and trial.

Love and forgiveness--what had she to do with either! She did not wish
forgiveness because of Adrian Fellowes. No heart had been involved in
that episode. It had in one sense meant nothing to her. She loved
another man, and she did not wish forgiveness of him either. No, no,
the whole situation was impossible. She could not stay here. For his
own sake Rudyard would not, ought not, to wish her to stay. What might
the next few days bring forth?

Who had killed Adrian Fellowes? He was not man enough to take his own
life--who had killed him? Was it her husband, after all? He had said
to Ian Stafford that he would do nothing, but, with the maggot of
revenge and jealousy in their brains, men could not be trusted from
one moment to another.

The white violets? Even they might be only the impulse of the moment,
one of those acts of madness of jealous and revengeful people. Men had
kissed their wives and then killed them--fondled them, and then
strangled them. Rudyard might have made up his mind since morning to
kill Fellowes, and kill herself, also. Fellowes was gone, and now
might come her turn. White violets were the flowers of death, and the
first flowers he had ever given her were purple violets, the flowers
of life and love.

If Rudyard had killed Adrian Fellowes, there would be an end to
everything. If he was suspected, and if the law stretched out its hand
of steel to clutch him--what an ignominious end to it all; what a mean
finish to life, to opportunity, to everything worth doing!

And she would have been the cause of everything.

The thought scorched her soul.

Yet she talked on gaily to her guests until the men returned from
their cigars; as though Penalty and Nemesis were outside even the
range of her imagination; as though she could not hear the snap of the
handcuffs on Rudyard's--or Ian's--wrists.

Before and after dinner only a few words had passed between her and
Rudyard, and that was with people round them. It was as though they
spoke through some neutralizing medium, in which all real personal
relation was lost. Now Rudyard came to her, however, and in a
matter-of-fact voice said: "I suppose Al'mah will be here. You haven't
heard to the contrary, I hope? These great singers are so whimsical."

There was no time for Jasmine to answer, for through one of the far
entrances of the drawing-room Al'mah entered. Her manner was
composed--if possible more composed than usual, and she looked around
her calmly. At that moment a servant handed Byng a letter. It
contained only a few words, and it ran:

"DEAR BYNG,--Fellowes is gone. I found him dead in his rooms. An
inquest will be held to-morrow. There are no signs of violence;
neither of suicide or anything else. If you want me, I shall be at my
rooms after ten o'clock to-night. I have got all his papers." Yours
ever,

"IAN STAFFORD."

Jasmine watched Rudyard closely as he read. A strange look passed over
his face, but his hand was steady as he put the note in his
pocket. She then saw him look searchingly at Al'mah as he went forward
to greet her.

On the instant Rudyard had made up his mind what to do. It was clear
that Al'mah did not know that Fellowes was dead, or she would not be
here; for he knew of their relations, though he had never told
Jasmine. Jasmine did not suspect the truth, or Al'mah would not be
where she was; and Fellowes would never have written to Jasmine the
letter for which he had paid with his life.

Al'mah was gently appreciative of the welcome she received from both
Byng and Jasmine, and she prepared to sing.

"Yes, I think I am in good voice," she said to Jasmine,
presently. Then Rudyard went, giving his wife's arm a little familiar
touch as he passed, and said:

"Remember, we must have some patriotic things tonight. I'm sure Al'mah
will feel so, too. Something really patriotic and stirring. We shall
need it--yes we shall need cheering very badly before we've
done. We're not going to have a walk-over in South Africa. Cheering up
is what we want, and we must have it."

Again he cast a queer, inquiring look at Al'mah, to which he got no
response, and to himself he said, grimly: "Well, it's better she
should not know it--here."

His mind was in a maze. He moved as in a dream. He was pale, but he
had an air of determination. Once he staggered with dizziness, then he
righted himself and smiled at some one near. That some one winked at
his neighbour.

"It's true, then, what we hear about him," the neighbour said, and
suggestively raised fingers to his mouth.

Al'mah sang as perhaps she had seldom sung. There was in her voice an
abandon and tragic intensity, a wonderful resonance and power, which
captured her hearers as they had never been captured before. First she
sang a love-song, then a song of parting. Afterwards came a lyric of
country, which stirred her audience deeply. It was a challenge to
every patriot to play his part for home and country. It was an appeal
to the spirit of sacrifice; it was an inspiration and an
invocation. Men's eyes grew moist.

And now another, a final song, a combination of all--of love, and loss
and parting and ruin, and war and patriotism and destiny. With the
first low notes of it Jasmine rose slowly from her seat, like one in a
dream, and stood staring blindly at Al'mah. The great voice swelled
out in a passion of agony, then sank away into a note of despair that
gripped the heart.

"But more was lost at Mohacksfield--"

Jasmine had stood transfixed while the first words were sung, then, as
the last line was reached, staring straight in front of her, as though
she saw again the body of Adrian Fellowes in the room by the river,
she gave a cry, which sounded half laughter and half torture, and fell
heavily on the polished floor.

Rudyard ran forward and lifted her in his arms. Lady Tynemouth was
beside him in an instant.

"Yes, that's right--you come," he said to her, and he carried the limp
body up-stairs, the white violets in her dress crushed against his
breast.

"Poor child--the war, of course; it means so much to them."

Thus, a kindly dowager, as she followed the Royalties down-stairs.

CHAPTER XXIV

ONE WHO CAME SEARCHING

"A lady to see you, sir."

"A lady? What should we be doing with ladies here, Gleg?"

"I'm sure I have no use for them, sir," replied Gleg, sourly. He was
in no good humour. That very morning he had been told that his master
was going to South Africa, and that he would not be needed there, but
that he should remain in England, drawing his usual pay. Instead of
receiving this statement with gratitude, Gleg had sniffed in a manner
which, in any one else, would have been impertinence; and he had not
even offered thanks.

"Well, what do you think she wants? She looks respectable?"

"I don't know about that, sir. It's her ladyship, sir."

"It's what 'ladyship,' Gleg?"

"Her ladyship, sir--Lady Tynemouth."

Stafford looked at Gleg meditatively for a minute, and then said
quietly:

"Let me see, you have been with me sixteen years, Gleg. You've
forgotten me often enough in that time, but you've never forgotten
yourself before. Come to me to-morrow at noon.... I shall allow you a
small pension. Show her ladyship in."

Gone waxen in face, Gleg crept out of the room.

"Seven-and-six a week, I suppose," he said to himself as he went down
the stairs. "Seven-and-six for a bit of bonhommy."

With great consideration he brought Lady Tynemouth up, and shut the
door with that stillness which might be reverence, or something at its
antipodes.

Lady Tynemouth smiled cheerily at Ian as she held out her hand.

"Gleg disapproves of me very greatly. He thinks I am no better than I
ought to be."

"I am sure you are," answered Stafford, drily.

"Well, if you don't know, Ian, who does? I've put my head in the
lion's mouth before, just like this, and the lion hasn't snapped
once," she rejoined, settling herself cozily in a great, green
leather-chair. "Nobody would believe it; but there it is. The world
couldn't think that you could be so careless of your opportunities, or
that I would pay for the candle without burning it."

"On the contrary, I think they would believe anything you told them."

She laughed happily. "Wouldn't you like to call me Alice, 'same as
ever,' in the days of long ago? It would make me feel at home after
Gleg's icy welcome."

He smiled, looked down at her with admiration, and quoted some lines
of Swinburne, alive with cynicism:

"And the worst and the best of this is,
That neither is most to blame
If she has forgotten my kisses,
And I have forgotten her name."

Lady Tynemouth made a plaintive gesture. "I should probably be able
to endure the bleak present, if there had been any kisses in the sunny
past," she rejoined, with mock pathos. "That's the worst of our
friendship, Ian. I'm quite sure the world thinks I'm one of your spent
flames, and there never was any fire, not so big as the point of a
needle, was there? It's that which hurts so now, little Ian
Stafford--not so much fire as would burn on the point of a needle."

"'On the point of a needle,'" Ian repeated, half-abstractedly. He went
over to his writing-desk, and, opening a blotter, regarded it
meditatively for an instant. As he did so she tapped the floor
impatiently with her umbrella, and looked at him curiously, but with a
little quirk of humour at the corners of her mouth.

"The point of a needle might carry enough fire to burn up a good
deal," he said, reflectively. Then he added, slowly: "Do you remember
Mr. Mappin and his poisoned needle at Glencader?"

"Yes, of course. That was a day of tragedy, when you and Rudyard Byng
won a hundred Royal Humane Society medals, and we all felt like
martyrs and heroes. I had the most creepy dreams afterwards. One night
it was awful. I was being tortured with Mr. Mappin's needle horribly
by--guess whom? By that half-caste Krool, and I waked up with a
little scream, to find Tynie busy pinching me. I had been making such
a wurra-wurra, as he called it."

"Well, it is a startling idea that there's poison powerful enough to
make a needle-point dipped in it deadly."

"I don't believe it a bit, but--"

Pausing, she flicked a speck of fluff from her black dress--she was
all in black, with only a stole of pure white about her
shoulders. "But tell me," she added, presently--"for it's one of the
reasons why I'm here now--what happened at the inquest to-day? The
evening papers are not out, and you were there, of course, and gave
evidence, I suppose. Was it very trying? I'm sure it was, for I've
never seen you look so pale. You are positively haggard, Ian. You
don't mind that from an old friend, do you? You look terribly ill,
just when you should look so well."

"Why should I look so well?" He gazed at her steadily. Had she any
glimmering of the real situation? She was staying now in Byng's house,
and two days had gone since the world had gone wrong; since Jasmine
had sunk to the floor unconscious as Al'mah sang, "More was lost at
Mohacksfield."

"Why should you look so well? Because you are the coming man, they
say. It makes me so proud to be your friend--even your neglected, if
not quite discarded, friend. Every one says you have done such
splendid work for England, and that now you can have anything you
want. The ball is at your feet. Dear man, you ought to look like a
morning-glory, and not as you do. Tell me, Ian, are you ill, or is it
only the reaction after all you've done?"

"No doubt it's the reaction," he replied.

"I know you didn't like Adrian Fellowes much," she remarked, watching
him closely. "He behaved shockingly at the Glencader Mine
affair--shockingly. Tynie was for pitching him out of the house, and
taking the consequences; but, all the same, a sudden death like that
all alone must have been dreadful. Please tell me, what was the
verdict?"

"Heart failure was the verdict; with regret for a promising life cut
short, and sympathy with the relatives."

"I never heard that he had heart trouble," was the meditative
response. "But--well, of course, it was heart failure. When the heart
stops beating, there's heart failure. What a silly verdict!"

"It sounded rather worse than silly," was Ian's comment.

"Did--did they cut him up, to see if he'd taken morphia, or an
overdose of laudanum or veronal or something? I had a friend who died
of taking quantities of veronal while you were abroad so long--a South
American, she was."

He nodded. "It was all quite in order. There were no signs of poison,
they said, but the heart had had a shock of some kind. There had been
what they called lesion, and all that kind of thing, and not
sufficient strength for recovery."

"I suppose Mr. Mappin wasn't present?" she asked, curiously. "I know
it is silly in a way, but don't you remember how interested
Mr. Fellowes was in that needle? Was Mr. Mappin there?"

"There was no reason why he should be there."

"What witnesses were called?"

"Myself and the porter of Fellowes' apartments, his banker, his
doctor--"

"And Al'mah?" she asked, obliquely.

He did not reply at once, but regarded her inquiringly.

"You needn't be afraid to speak about Al'mah," she continued. "I saw
something queer at Glencader. Then I asked Tynie, and he told me
that--well, all about her and Adrian Fellowes. Was Al'mah there? Did
she give evidence?"

"She was there to be called, if necessary," he responded, "but the
coroner was very good about it. After the autopsy the authorities said
evidence was unnecessary, and--"

"You arranged that, probably?"

"Yes; it was not difficult. They were so stupid--and so kind."

She smoothed out the folds of her dress reflectively, then got up as
if with sudden determination, and came near to him. Her face was pale
now, and her eyes were greatly troubled.

"Ian," she said, in a low voice, "I don't believe that Adrian Fellowes
died a natural death, and I don't believe that he killed himself. He
would not have that kind of courage, even in insanity. He could never
go insane. He could never care enough about anything to do
so. He--did--not--kill--himself. There, I am sure of it. And he did
not die a natural death, either."

"Who killed him?" Ian asked, his face becoming more drawn, but his
eyes remaining steady and quiet.

She put her hand to her eyes for a moment. "Oh, it all seems so
horrible! I've tried to shake it off, and not to think my thoughts,
and I came to you to get fresh confidence; but as soon as I saw your
face I knew I couldn't have it. I know you are upset too, perhaps not
by the same thoughts, but through the same people."

"Tell me all you think or know. Be quite frank," he said, heavily. "I
will tell you why later. It is essential that you should be wholly
frank with me."

"As I have always been. I can't be anything else. Anyhow, I owe you so
much that you have the right to ask me what you will.... There it is,
the fatal thing," she added.

Her eyes were raised to the red umbrella which had nearly carried her
over into the cauldron of the Zambesi Falls.

"No, it is the world that owes me a heavy debt," he responded,
gallantly. "I was merely selfish in saving you."

Her eyes filled with tears, which she brushed away with a little
laugh.

"Ah, how I wish it was that! I am just mean enough to want you to want
me, while I didn't want you. That's the woman, and that's all women,
and there's no getting away from it. But still I would rather you had
saved me than any one else who wasn't bound, like Tynie, to do so."

"Well, it did seem absurd that you should risk so much to keep a
sixpenny umbrella," he rejoined, drily.

"How we play on the surface while there's so much that is wearing our
hearts out underneath," she responded, wearily. "Listen, Ian, you know
what I mean. Whoever killed Adrian Fellowes, or didn't, I am sure that
Jasmine saw him dead. Three nights ago when she fainted and went ill
to bed, I stayed with her, slept in the same room, in the bed beside
hers. The opiate the doctor gave her was not strong enough, and two or
three times she half waked, and--and it was very painful. It made my
heart ache, for I knew it wasn't all dreams. I am sure she saw Adrian
Fellowes lying dead in his room.... Ian, it is awful, but for some
reason she hated him, and she saw him lying dead. If any one knows the
truth, you know. Jasmine cares for you--no, no, don't mind my saying
it. She didn't care a fig for Mennaval, or any of the others, but she
does care for you--cares for you. She oughtn't to, but she does, and
she should have married you long ago before Rudyard Byng came. Please
don't think I am interfering, Ian. I am not. You never had a better
friend than I am. But there's something ghastly wrong. Rudyard is
looking like a giant that's had blood-letting, and he never goes near
Jasmine, except when some one is with her. It's a bad sign when two
people must have some third person about to insulate their
self-consciousness and prevent those fatal moments when they have to
be just their own selves, and have it out."

"You think there's been trouble between them?" His voice was quite
steady, his manner composed.

"I don't think quite that. But there is trouble in that
palace. Rudyard is going to South Africa."

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