Part 9 out of 9
by. At last they became insistent to her ears, They were the voices of
sentries off duty--the two who had talked to her earlier in the
evening, after Ian Stafford had left.
"This ain't half bad, this night ain't," said one. "There's a lot o'
space in a night out here."
"I'd like to be 'longside o' some one I know out by 'Ampstead 'Eath,"
rejoined the other.
"I got a girl in Camden Town," said the First victoriously.
"I got kids--somewheres, I expect," rejoined the Second with a
flourish of pride and self-assertion.
"Oh, a donah's enough for me!" returned the First.
"You'll come to the other when you don't look for it neither,"
declared his friend in a voice of fatality.
"You ain't the only fool in the world, mate, of course. But 'struth, I
like this business better. You've got a good taste in your mouth in
the morning 'ere."
"Well, I'll meet you on 'Ampstead 'Eath when the war is over, son,"
challenged the Second.
"I ain't 'opin' and I ain't prophesyin' none this heat," was the quiet
reply. "We've got a bit o' hell in front of us yet. I'll talk to you
when we're in Lordkop."
"I'll talk to your girl in Camden Town, if you 'appen to don't," was
the railing reply.
"She couldn't stand it not but the once," was the retort; and then
they struck each other with their fists in rough play, and laughed,
and said good-night in the vernacular.
UNDER THE GUN
They had left him for dead in a dreadful circle of mangled gunners who
had fallen back to cover in a donga, from a fire so stark that it
seemed the hillside itself was discharging myriad bolts of death, as a
waterwheel throws off its spray. No enemy had been visible, but far
away in front--that front which must be taken--there hung over the
ridge of the hills veils of smoke like lace. Hideous sounds tortured
the air--crackling, snapping, spitting sounds like the laughter of
animals with steel throats. Never was ill work better done than when,
on that radiant veld, the sky one vast turquoise vault, beneath which
quivered a shimmer of quicksilver light, the pom-poms, the maulers,
and the shrapnel of Kruger's men mowed down Stafford and his battery,
showered them, drowned them in a storm of lead.
"Alamachtig," said a Rustenburg dopper who, at the end of the day,
fell into the hands of the English, "it was like cutting alfalfa with
a sickle! Down they tumbled, horses and men, mashed like mealies in
the millstones. A damn lot of good horses was killed this time. The
lead-grinders can't pick the men and leave the horses. It was a
verdomde waste of good horses. The Rooinek eats from a bloody basin
At the moment Ian Stafford fell the battle was well launched. The air
was shrieking with the misery of mutilated men and horses and the
ghoulish laughter of pom-poms. When he went down it seemed to him that
human anger had reached its fullest expression. Officers and men alike
were in a fury of determination and vengeance. He had seen no fear, no
apprehension anywhere, only a defiant anger which acted swiftly,
coolly. An officer stepped over the lacerated, shattered body of a
comrade of his mess with the abstracted impassiveness of one who finds
his way over a puddle in the road; and here were puddles too--puddles
of blood. A gunner lifted away the corpse of his nearest friend from
the trail and strained and wrenched at his gun with the intense
concentration of one who kneads dough in a trough. The sobbing agony
of those whom Stafford had led rose up from the ground around him, and
voices cried to be put out of pain and torture. These begrimed men
around him, with jackets torn by bullets, with bandaged head stained
with blood or dragging leg which left a track of blood behind, were
not the men who last night were chatting round the camp-fires and
making bets as to where the attack would begin to-day.
Stafford was cool enough, however. It was as though an icy liquid had
been poured into his veins. He thought more clearly than he had ever
done, even in those critical moments of his past when cool thinking
was indispensable. He saw the mistake that had been made in giving his
battery work which might have been avoided, and with the same result
to the battle; but he also saw the way out of it, and he gave orders
accordingly. When the horses were lashed to a gallop to take up the
new position, which, if they reached, would give them shelter against
this fiendish rain of lead, and also enable them to enfilade the foe
at advantage, something suddenly brought confusion to his senses, and
the clear thinking stopped. His being seemed to expand suddenly to an
enormity of chaos and then as suddenly to shrink, dwindle, and fall
back into a smother--as though, in falling, blankets were drawn
roughly over his head and a thousand others were shaken in the air
around him. And both were real in their own way. The thousand blankets
flapping in the air were the machine guns of the foe following his
battery into a zone of less dreadful fire, and the blankets that
smothered him were wrappings of unconsciousness which save us from the
direst agonies of body and mind.
The last thing he saw, as his eyes, with a final effort of power,
sought to escape from this sudden confusion, was a herd of springboks
flinging themselves about in the circle of fire, caught in the
struggle of the two armies, and, like wild birds in a hurricane,
plunging here and there in flight and futile motion. As
unconsciousness enwrapped him the vision of these distraught denizens
of the veld was before his eyes. Somehow, in a lightning
transformation, he became one with them and was mingled with them.
When his eyes opened again, slowly, heavily, the same vision was
before him--the negative left on the film of his sight by his last
conscious glance at the world.
He raised himself on his elbow and looked out over the veld. The
springboks were still distractedly tossing here and there, but the
army to which he belonged had moved on. It was now on its way up the
hill lying between them and the Besieged City. He was dimly conscious
of this, for the fight round him had ceased, the storm had gone
forward. There was noise, great noise, but he was outside of it, in a
kind of valley of awful inactivity. All round him was the debris of a
world in which he had once lived and moved and worked. How many
years--or centuries--was it since he had been in that harvest of
death? There was no anomaly. It was not that time had passed; it was
that his soul had made so far a journey.
In his sleep among the guns and the piteous, mutilated dead, he had
gone a pilgrimage to a Distant Place and had been told the secret of
the world. Yet when he first waked, it was not in his mind--only that
confusion out of which he had passed to nothingness with the vision of
the distracted springboks. Suddenly a torturing thirst came, and it
waked him fully to the reality of it all. He was lying in his own
blood, in the swath which the battle had cut.
His work was done. This came to him slowly, as the sun clears away the
mists of morning. Something--Some One--had reached out and touched him
on the shoulder, had summoned him.
When he left Brinkwort's Farm yesterday, it was with the desire to
live, to do large things. He and Rudyard had clasped hands, and
Rudyard had made a promise to him, which gave him hope that the broken
roof-tree would be mended, the shattered walls of home restored. It
had seemed to him then that his own mistake was not irreparable, and
that the way was open to peace, if not to happiness.
When he first came to this war he had said, "I will do this," and, "I
will do that," and he had thought it possible to do it in his own time
and because he willed it. He had put himself deliberately in the way
of the Scythe, and had thrown himself into its arc of death.
To have his own way by tricking Destiny into giving him release and
absolution without penalty--that had been his course. In the hour when
he had ceased to desire exit by breaking through the wall and not by
the predestined door, the reply of Destiny to him had been: "It is not
for you to choose." He had wished to drink the cup of release, had
reached out to take it, but presently had ceased to wish to drink
it. Then Destiny had said: "Here is the dish--drink it."
He closed his eyes to shut out the staring light, and he wished in a
vague way that he might shut out the sounds of the battle--the
everlasting boom and clatter, the tearing reverberations. But he
smiled too, for he realized that his being where he was alone meant
that the army had moved on over that last hill; and that there would
soon be the Relief for which England prayed.
There was that to the good; and he had taken part in it all. His
battery, a fragment of what it had been when it galloped out to do its
work in the early morning, had had its glorious share in the great
He had had the most critical and dangerous task of this memorable
day. He had been on the left flank of the main body, and his battery
had suddenly faced a terrific fire from concealed riflemen who had not
hitherto shown life at this point. His promptness alone had saved the
battery from annihilation. His swift orders secured the gallant
withdrawal of the battery into a zone of comparative safety and
renewed activity, while he was left with this one abandoned gun and
his slain men and fellow-officers.
But somehow it all suddenly became small and distant and insignificant
to his senses. He did not despise the work, for it had to be done. It
was big to those who lived, but in the long movement of time it was
small, distant, and subordinate.
If only the thirst did not torture him, if only the sounds of the
battle were less loud in his ears! It was so long since he waked from
that long sleep, and the world was so full of noises, the air so arid,
and the light of the sun so fierce. Darkness would be peace. He longed
He thought of the spring that came from the rocks in the glen behind
the house, where he was born in Derbyshire. He saw himself stooping
down, kneeling to drink, his face, his eyes buried in the water, as he
gulped down the good stream. Then all at once it was no longer the
spring from the rock in which he laved his face and freshened his
parched throat; a cool cheek touched his own, lips of tender freshness
swept his brow, silken hair with a faint perfume of flowers brushed
his temples, his head rested on a breast softer than any pillow he had
"Jasmine!" he whispered, with parched lips and closed
eyes. "Jasmine--water," he pleaded, and sank away again intothat dream
from which he had but just wakened.
It had not been all a vision. Water was here at his tongue, his head
was pillowed on a woman's breast, lips touched his forehead.
But it was not Jasmine's breast; it was not Jasmine's hand which held
the nozzle of the water-bag to his parched lips.
Through the zone of fire a woman and a young surgeon had made their
way from the attending ambulance that hovered on the edge of battle to
this corner of death in the great battle-field. It mattered not to the
enemy, who still remained in the segment of the circle where they
first fought, whether it was man or woman who crossed this zone of
fire. No heed could be given now to Red Cross work, to ambulance,
nurse, or surgeon. There would come a time for that, but not yet. Here
were two races in a life-and-death grip; and there could be no give
and take for the wounded or the dead until the issue of the day was
The woman who had come through the zone of fire was Al'mah. She had no
right to be where she was. As a nurse her place was not the
battle-field; but she had had a premonition of Stafford's tragedy, and
in the night had concealed herself in the blankets of an ambulance and
had been carried across the veld to that outer circle of battle where
wait those who gather up the wreckage, who provide the salvage of
war. When she was discovered there was no other course but to allow
her to remain; and so it was that as the battle moved on she made her
way to where the wounded and dead lay.
A sorely wounded officer, able with the help of a slightly injured
gunner to get out of the furnace of fire, had brought word of
Stafford's death but with the instinct of those to whom there come
whisperings, visions of things, Al'mah felt she must go and find the
man with whose fate, in a way, her own had been linked; who, like
herself, had been a derelict upon the sea of life; the grip of whose
hand, the look of whose eyes the last time she saw him, told her that
as a brother loves so he loved her.
Hundreds saw the two make their way across the veld, across the
lead-swept plain; but such things in the hour of battle are
commonplaces; they are taken as part of the awful game. Neither mauser
nor shrapnel nor maxim brought them down as they made their way to the
abandoned gun beside which Stafford lay. Yet only one reached
Stafford's side, where he was stretched among his dead comrades. The
surgeon stayed his course at three-quarters of the distance to care
for a gunner whose mutilations were robbed of half their horror by a
courage and a humour which brought quick tears to Al'mah's eyes. With
both legs gone the stricken fellow asked first for a match to light
his cutty pipe and then remarked: "The saint's own luck that there it
was with the stem unbroke to give me aise whin I wanted it!
"Shure, I thought I was dead," he added as the surgeon stooped over
him, "till I waked up and give meself the lie, and got a grip o' me
pipe, glory be!"
With great difficulty Al'mah dragged Stafford under the horseless gun,
left behind when the battery moved on. Both forces had thought that
nothing could live in that gray-brown veld, and no effort at first was
made to rescue or take it. By every law of probability Al'mah and the
young surgeon ought to be lying dead with the others who had died,
some with as many as twenty bullet wounds in their bodies, while the
gunner, who had served this gun to the last and then, alone, had stood
at attention till the lead swept him down, had thirty wounds to his
credit for England's sake. Under the gun there was some shade, for she
threw over it a piece of tarpaulin and some ragged, blood-stained
jackets lying near--jackets of men whose wounds their comrades had
tried hastily to help when the scythe of war cut them down.
There was shade now, but there was not safety, for the ground was
spurting dust where bullets struck, and even bodies of dead men were
dishonoured by the insult of new wounds and mutilations.
Al'mah thought nothing of safety, but only of this life which was
ebbing away beside her. She saw that a surgeon could do nothing, that
the hurt was internal and mortal; but she wished him not to die until
she had spoken with him once again and told him all there was to
tell--all that had happened after he left Brinkwort's Farm yesterday.
She looked at the drawn and blanched face and asked herself if that
look of pain and mortal trouble was the precursor of happiness and
peace. As she bathed the forehead of the wounded man, it suddenly came
to her that here was the only tragedy connected with Stafford's going:
his work was cut short, his usefulness ended, his hand was fallen from
the lever that lifted things.
She looked away from the blanched face to the field of battle, towards
the sky above it. Circling above were the vile aasvogels, the
loathsome birds which followed the track of war, watching, waiting
till they could swoop upon the flesh blistering in the sun.
Instinctively she drew nearer to the body of the dying man,
as though to protect it from the evil flying things. She forced
between his lips a little more water.
"God make it easy!" she said.
A bullet struck a wheel beside her, and with a ricochet passed through
the flesh of her forearm. A strange look came into her eyes, suffusing
them. Was her work done also? Was she here to find the solution of all
her own problems--like Stafford--like Stafford? Stooping, she
reverently kissed the bloodless cheek. A kind of exaltation possessed
her. There was no fear at all. She had a feeling that he would need
her on the journey he was about to take, and there was no one else who
could help him now. Who else was there beside herself--and Jigger?
Where was Jigger? What had become of Jigger? He would surely have been
with Stafford if he had not been hurt or killed. It was not like
Jigger to be absent when Stafford needed him.
She looked out from under the gun, as though expecting to find him
coming--to see him somewhere on this stricken plain. As she did so she
saw the young surgeon, who had stayed to help the wounded gunner,
stumbling and lurching towards the gun, hands clasping his side, and
head thrust forward in an attitude of tense expectation, as though
there was a goal which must be reached.
An instant later she was outside hastening towards him. A bullet spat
at her feet, another cut the skirt of her dress, but all she saw was
the shambling figure of the man who, but a few minutes before, was so
flexible and alert with life, eager to relieve the wounds of those who
had fallen. Now he also was in dire need.
She had almost reached him when, with a stiff jerk sideways and an
angular artion of the figure, he came to the ground like a log,
ungainly and rigid.
"They got me! I'm hit--twice," he said, with grey lips; with eyes that
stared at her and through her to something beyond; but he spoke in an
abrupt, professional, commonplace tone. "Shrapnel and mauler," he
added, his hands protecting the place where the shrapnel had found
him. His staring blue eyes took on a dull cloud, and his whole figure
seemed to sink and shrink away. As though realizing and resisting, if
not resenting this dissolution of his forces, his voice rang out
querulously, and his head made dogmatic emphasis.
"They oughtn't to have done it," the petulant voice insisted. "I
wasn't fighting." Suddenly the voice trailed away, and all emphasis,
accent, and articulation passed from the sentient figure. Yet his lips
moved once again. "Ninety-nine Adelphi Terrace--first floor," he said
mechanically, and said no more.
As mechanically as he had spoken, Al'mah repeated the last
words. "Ninety-nine Adelphi Terrace, first floor," she said slowly.
They were chambers next to those where Adrian Fellowes had lived and
died. She shuddered.
"So he was not married," she said reflectively, as she left the
lifeless body and went back to the gun where Stafford lay.
Her arm through which the bullet had passed was painful, but she took
no heed of it. Why should she? Hundreds, maybe thousands, were being
killed off there in the hills. She saw nothing except the debris of
Ian Stafford's life drifting out to the shoreless sea.
He lived still, but remained unconscious, and she did not relax her
vigil. As she watched and waited the words of the young surgeon kept
ringing in her ears, a monotonous discord, "Ninety-nine Adelphi
Terrace--first floor!" Behind it all was the music of the song she had
sung at Rudyard Byng's house the evening of the day Adrian Fellowes
had died--"More was lost at Mohacksfield."
The stupefaction that comes with tragedy crept over her. As the victim
of an earthquake sits down amid vast ruins, where the dead lie
unnumbered, speechless, and heedless, so she sat and watched the face
of the man beside her, and was not conscious that the fire of the
armies was slackening, that bullets no longer spattered the veld or
struck the gun where she sat; that the battle had been carried over
In time help would come, so she must wait. At least she had kept
Stafford alive. So far her journey through Hades had been
justified. He would have died had it not been for the water and brandy
she had forced between his lips, for the shade in which he lay beneath
the gun. In the end they would come and gather the dead and
wounded. When the battle was over they would come, or, maybe, before
it was over.
But through how many hours had there been the sickening monotony of
artillery and rifle-fire, the bruit of angry metal, in which the roar
of angrier men was no more than a discord in the guttural harmony. Her
senses became almost deadened under the strain. Her cheeks grew
thinner, her eyes took on a fixed look. She seemed like one in a
dream. She was only conscious in an isolated kind of way. Louder than
all the noises of the clanging day was the beating of her heart. Her
very body seemed to throb, the pulses in her temples were like hammers
hurting her brain.
At last she was roused by the sound of horses' hoofs.
So the service-corps were coming at last to take up the wounded and
bury the dead. There were so many dead, so few wounded!
The galloping came nearer and nearer. It was now as loud as thunder
almost. It stopped short. She gave a sigh of relief. Her vigil was
ended. Stafford was still alive. There was yet a chance for him to
know that friends were with him at the last, and also what had
happened at Brinkwort's Farm after he had left yesterday.
She leaned out to see her rescuers. A cry broke from her. Here was one
man frantically hitching a pair of artillery-horses to the gun and
swearing fiercely in the Taal as he did so.
The last time she had seen that khaki hat, long, threadbare
frock-coat, huge Hessian boots and red neckcloth was at Brinkwort's
Farm. The last time she had seen that malevolent face was when its
owner was marched away from Brinkwort's Farm yesterday.
It was Krool.
An instant later she had dragged Stafford out from beneath the gun,
for it was clear that the madman intended to ride off with it.
When Krool saw her first he was fastening the last hook of the traces
with swift, trained fingers. He stood dumfounded for a moment. The
superstitious, half-mystical thing in him came trembling to his eyes;
then he saw Stafford's body, and he realized the situation. A look of
savage hatred came into his face, and he made a step forward with
sudden impulse, as though he would spring upon Stafford. His hand was
upon a knife at his belt. But the horses plunged and strained, and he
saw in the near distance a troop of cavalry.
With an obscene malediction at the body, he sprang upon a horse. A
sjambok swung, and with a snort, which was half a groan, the trained
horses sprang forward.
"The Rooinek's gun for Oom Paul!" he shouted back over his shoulder.
Most prisoners would have been content to escape and save their skins,
but a more primitive spirit lived in Krool. Escape was not enough for
him. Since he had been foiled at Brinkwort's Farm and could not reach
Rudyard Byng; since he would be shot the instant he was caught after
his escape--if he was caught--he would do something to gall the pride
of the verdomde English. The gun which the Boers had not dared to
issue forth and take, which the British could not rescue without heavy
loss while the battle was at its height--he would ride it over the
hills into the Boers' camp.
There was something so grotesque in the figure of the half-caste, with
his copper-coat flying behind him as the horses galloped away, that a
wan smile came to Al'mah's lips. With Stafford at her feet in the
staring sun she yet could not take her eyes from the man, the horses,
and the gun. And not Al'mah alone shaded and strained eyes to follow
the tumbling, bouncing gun. Rifles, maxims, and pom-poms opened fire
upon it. It sank into a hollow and was partially lost to sight; it
rose again and jerked forward, the dust rising behind it like surf. It
swayed and swung, as the horses wildly took the incline of the hills,
Krool's sjambok swinging above them; it struggled with the forces that
dragged it higher and higher up, as though it were human and
understood that it was a British gun being carried into the Boer
At first a battery of the Boers, fighting a rear-guard action, had
also fired on it, but the gunners saw quickly that a single British
gun was not likely to take up an advance position and attack alone,
and their fire died away. Thinking only that some daring Boer was
doing the thing with a thousand odds against him, they roared approval
as the gun came nearer and nearer.
Though the British poured a terrific fire after the flying battery of
one gun, there was something so splendid in the episode; the horses
were behaving so gallantly,--horses of one of their own batteries
daringly taken by Krool under the noses of the force--that there was
scarcely a man who was not glad when, at last, the gun made a sudden
turn at a kopje, and was lost to sight within the Boer lines, leaving
behind it a little cloud of dust.
Tommy Atkins had his uproarious joke about it, but there was one man
who breathed a sigh of relief when he heard of it. That was Barry
Whalen. He had every reason to be glad that Krool was out of the way,
and that Rudyard Byng would see him no more. Sitting beside the still
unconscious Ian Stafford on the veld, Al'mah's reflections were much
the same as those of Barry Whalen.
With the flight of Krool and the gun came the end of Al'mah's
vigil. The troop of cavalry which galloped out to her was followed by
the Red Cross wagons.
At dawn, when the veld breathes odours of a kind pungency and
fragrance, which only those know who have made it their bed and
friend, the end came to the man who had lain under the gun.
"Pheidippides!" the dying Stafford said, with a grim touch of the
humour which had ever been his. He was thinking of the Greek runner
who brought the news of victory to Athens and fell dead as he told it.
It almost seemed from the look on Stafford's face that, in very truth,
he was laying aside the impedimenta of the long march and the battle,
to carry the news to that army of the brave in Walhalla who had died
for England before they knew that victory was hers.
"Pheidippides," he repeated, and Rudyard Byng, whose eyes were so much
upon the door, watching and waiting for some one to come, pressed his
hand and said: "You know the best, Stafford. So many didn't. They had
to go before they knew."
"I have my luck," Stafford replied, but yet there was a wistful look
in his face.
His eyes slowly closed, and he lay so motionless that Al'mah and
Rudyard thought he had gone. He scarcely seemed to notice when Al'mah
took the hand that Rudyard had held, and the latter, with quick,
noiseless steps, left the room.
What Rudyard had been watching and waiting for was come.
Jasmine was at the door. His message had brought her in time.
"Is it dangerous?" she asked, with a face where tragedy had written
"As bad as can be," he answered. "Go in and speak to him, Jasmine. It
will help him."
He opened the door softly. As Jasmine entered, Al'mah with a glance of
pity and friendship at the face upon the bed, passed into another
There was a cry in Jasmine's heart, but it did not reach her lips.
She stole to the bed and laid her fingers upon the hand lying white
and still upon the coverlet.
At once the eyes of the dying man opened. This was a touch that would
reach to the farthest borders of his being--would bring him back from
the Immortal Gates. Through the mist of his senses he saw her. He half
raised himself. She pillowed his head on her breast. He smiled. A
light transfigured his face.
"All's well," he said, with a long sigh, and his body sank slowly
"Ian! Ian!" she cried, but she knew that he could not hear.
"THE ROAD IS CLEAR"
The Army had moved on over the hills, into the valley of death and
glory, across the parched veld to the town of Lordkop, where an
emaciated, ragged garrison had kept faith with all the heroes from
Caractacus to Nelson. Courageous legions had found their way to the
petty dorp, with its corrugated iron roofs, its dug-outs, its
improvised forts, its fever hospitals, its Treasure House of Britain,
where she guarded the jewels of her honour.
The menace of the hills had passed, heroes had welcomed heroes and
drunk the cup of triumph; but far back in the valleys beyond the hills
from which the army had come, there were those who must drink the cup
of trembling, the wine of loss.
As the trumpets of victory attended the steps of those remnants of
brigades which met the remnants of a glorious garrison in the streets
of Lordkop, drums of mourning conducted the steps of those who came to
bury the dust of one who had called himself Pheidippides as he left
the Day Path and took the Night Road.
Gun-carriage and reversed arms and bay charger, faithful comrades with
bent heads, the voice of victory over the grave--"I am the
resurrection and the life"--the volleys of honour, the proud salut of
the brave to the vanished brave, the quivering farewells of the few
who turn away from the fresh-piled earth with their hearts dragging
behind--all had been; and all had gone. Evening descended upon the
veld with a golden radiance which soothed like prayer.
By the open window at the foot of a bed in the Stay Awhile Hospital a
woman gazed into the saffron splendour with an intentness which seemed
to make all her body listen. Both melancholy and purpose marked the
attitude of the figure.
A voice from the bed at the foot of which she stood drew her gaze away
from the sunset sky to meet the bright, troubled eyes.
"What is it, Jigger?" the woman asked gently, and she looked to see
that the framework which kept the bedclothes from a shattered leg was
properly in its place.
"'E done a lot for me," was the reply. "A lot 'e done, and I dunno how
I'll git along now."
There was great hopelessness in the tone.
"He told me you would always have enough to help you get on,
Jigger. He thought of all that."
"'Ere, oh, 'ere it ain't that," the lad said in a sudden passion of
protest, the tears standing in his eyes. "It ain't that! Wot's money,
when your friend wot give it ain't 'ere! I never done nothing for
'im--that's wot I feel. Nothing at all for 'im."
"You are wrong," was the soft reply. "He told me only a few days ago
that you were like a loaf of bread in the cupboard--good for all the
The tears left the wide blue eyes. "Did 'e say that--did 'e?" he
asked, and when she nodded and smiled, he added, "'E's 'appy now,
ain't 'e?" His look questioned her eagerly.
For an instant she turned and gazed at the sunset, and her eyes took
on a strange mystical glow. A colour came to her face, as though from
strong flush of feeling, then she turned to him again, and answered
"Yes, he is happy now."
"How do you know?" the lad asked with awe in his face, for he believed
in her utterly. Then, without waiting for her to answer, he added: "Is
it, you hear him say so, as I hear you singin' in my sleep
sometimes--singin', singin', as you did at Glencader, that first time
I ever 'eerd you? Is it the same as me in my sleep?"
"Yes, it is like that--just like that," she answered, taking his hand,
and holding it with a motherly tenderness.
"Ain't you never goin' to sing again?" he added.
She was silent, looking at him almost abstractedly.
"This war'll be over pretty soon now," he continued, "and we'll all
have to go back to work."
"Isn't this work?" Al'mah asked with a smile, which had in it
something of her old whimsical self.
"It ain't play, and it ain't work," he answered with a sage frown of
intellectual effort." It's a cut above 'em both--that's my fancy."
"It would seem like that," was the response. "What are you going to do
when you get back to England?" she inquired.
"I thought I'd ask you that," he replied anxiously. "Couldn't I be a
scene-shifter or somefink at the opery w'ere you sing?"
"I'm going to sing again, am I?" she asked.
"You'd have to be busy," he protested admiringly.
"Yes, I'll have to be busy," she replied, her voice ringing a little,
"and we'll have to find a way of being busy together."
"His gryce'd like that," he responded.
She turned her face slowly to the evening sky, where grey clouds
became silver and piled up to a summit of light. She was silent for a
"If work won't cure, nothing will," she said in a voice scarce above a
whisper. Her body trembled a little, and her eyes closed, as though to
shut out something that pained her sight.
"I wish you'd sing somethin'--same as you did that night at Glencader,
about the green hill far away," whispered the little trumpeter from
She looked at him for a moment meditatively, then shook her head, and
turned again to the light in the evening sky.
"P'raps she's makin' up a new song," Jigger said to himself.
On a kopje overlooking the place where Ian Stafford had been laid to
sleep to the call of the trumpets, two people sat watching the sun go
down. Never in the years that had gone had there been such silence
between them as they sat together. Words had been the clouds in which
the lightning of their thoughts had been lost; they had been the
disguises in which the truth of things masqueraded. They had not dared
to be silent, lest the truth should stalk naked before them. Silence
would have revealed their unhappiness; they would not have dared to
look closely and deeply into each other's face, lest revelation should
force them to say, "It has been a mistake; let us end it." So they had
talked and talked and acted, and yet had done nothing and been
Now they were silent, because they had tossed into the abyss of Time
the cup of trembling, and had drunk of the chalice of peace. Over the
grave into which, this day, they had thrown the rock-roses and sprigs
of the karoo bush, they had, in silence, made pledges to each other,
that life's disguises should be no more for them; that the door should
be wide open between the chambers where their souls dwelt, each in its
own pension of being, with its own individual sense, but with the same
light, warmth, and nutriment, and with the free confidence which
exempts life from its confessions. There should be no hidden things
There was a smile on the man's face as he looked out over the
valley. With this day had come triumph for the flag he loved, for the
land where he was born, and also the beginning of peace for the land
where he had worked, where he had won his great fortune. He had helped
to make this land what it was, and in battle he had helped to save it
But there had come another victory--the victory of Home. The
coincidence of all the vital values had come in one day, almost in one
Smiling, he laid his hand upon the delicate fingers of the woman
beside him, as they rested on her knee. She turned and looked at him
with an understanding which is the beginning of all happiness; and a
colour came to her cheeks such as he had not seen there for more days
than he could count. Her smile answered his own, but her eyes had a
sadness which would never wholly leave them. When he had first seen
those eyes he had thought them the most honest he had ever
known. Looking at them now, with confidence restored, he thought again
as he did that night at the opera the year of the Raid.
"It's all before us still, Jasmine," he said with a ring of purpose
and a great gentleness in his tone.
Her hand trembled, the shadows deepened in her eyes, but determination
gathered at her lips.
Some deep-cherished, deferred resolve reasserted itself.
"But I cannot--I cannot go on until you know all, Rudyard, and then
you may not wish to go on," she said. Her voice shook, and the colour
went from her lips. "I must be honest now--at last, about
everything. I want to tell you--"
He got to his feet. Stooping, he raised her, and looked her squarely
in the eyes.
"Tell me nothing, Jasmine," he said. Then he added in a voice of
finality, "There is nothing to tell." Holding both her hands tight in
one of his own, he put his fingers on her lips.
"A fresh start for a long race--the road is clear," he said firmly.
Looking into his eyes, she knew that he read her life and soul, that
in his deep primitive way he understood her as she had been and as she
was, and yet was content to go on. Her head drooped upon his breast.
A trumpet-call rang out piercingly sweet across the valley. It echoed
and echoed away among the hills.
He raised his head to listen. Pride, vision and power were in his
"It's all before us still, Jasmine," he said again.
Her fingers tightened on his.
BILTONG Strips of dried meat.
DISSELBOOM The single shaft of an ox-wagon.
DONGA A gulley or deep fissure in the soil.
DOPPER A dissenter from the Dutch Reformed Church, but generally
applied to Dutchmen in South Africa.
DORP Settlement or town.
KAROO The highlands of the interior of South Africa.
KOPJE A rounded hillock.
KLOOF A gap or pass in mountains.
KRAAL Native hut; also a walled inclosure for cattle.
KRANZES Rocky precipices.
MEERKAT A species of ichneumon.
ROOINEK Literally, "red-neck"; term applied to British soldiers by the
SCHANSES Intrenchments (or fissures on hills).
SJAMBOK A stick or whip made from hippopotamus or rhinoceros hide.
SPRUIT A small stream.
STOEP Veranda of a Dutch house.
TAAL South African Dutch.
TREK To move from place to place with belongings.
VELD An open grassy plain.
VELDSCHOEN Rough untanned leather shoes.
VIERKLEUR The national flag (four colours) of the late South African