in checkmating the singularly skilful and cleverly devised
negotiations by which England was to gain a powerful
advantage in Europe, the full significance of which even
he had not yet pierced. This he knew, but what he
apprehended with the instinct of an almost scientific
sense became unduly important to his mind. The author
of the profoundly planned international scheme was this
young man, who had already made the chancelleries of
Europe sit up and look about them in dismay; for its
activities were like those of underground wires ; and every
area of diplomacy, the nearest, the most remote, was mined
and primed, so that each embassy played its part with
almost startling effect. Tibet and Persia were not too
far, and France was not too near to prevent the incalcu-
lably smooth working of a striking and far-reaching
political move. It was the kind of thing that England's
Prime Minister, with his extraordinary frankness, with
his equally extraordinary secretiveness, insight and
immobility, delighted in; and Slavonia and its ambassa-
dor knew, as an American high in place had colloquially
said, "that they were up against a proposition which
would take some moving."
The scheme had taken some moving. But it had not
yet succeeded; and if M. Mennaval, the ambassador of
Moravia, influenced by Count Landrassy, pursued his
present tactics on behalf of his government, Ian Stafford's
coup would never be made, and he would have to rise to
fame in diplomacy by slower processes. It was the daily
business of the Slavonian ambassador to see that M.
Mennaval of Moravia was not captured either by tactics,
by smooth words, or all those arts which lay beneath the
outward simplicity of Ian Stafford and of those who
worked with him.
With England on the verge of war, the outcome of the
negotiations was a matter of vital importance. It might
mean the very question of England's existence as an em-
pire. England in a conflict with South Africa, the hour
long desired by more than one country, in which she would
be occupied to the limit of her capacity, with resources
taxed to the utmost, army inadequate, and military affairs
in confusion, would come, and with it the opportunity
to bring the Titan to her knees. This diplomatic scheme
of Ian Stafford, however, would prevent the worst in any
case, and even in the disasters of war, would be working
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
out advantages which, after the war was done, would
give England many friends and fewer enemies, give her
treaties and new territory, and set her higher than she
was now by a political metre.
Count Landrassy had thought at first, when Ian Staf-
ford came to Glencader, that this meeting had been pur-
posely arranged; but through Byng's frankness and in-
genuous explanations he saw that he was mistaken. The
two subtle and combating diplomats had not yet conversed
save in a general way by the smoking-room fire.
Lady Tynemouth's eyes fell on Ian with a different
meaning. His coming to Glencader had been a surprise
to her. He had accepted an invitation to visit her in
another week, and she had only come to know later of
the chance meeting of Ian and Jasmine in London, and
the subsequent accident to Jigger which had brought Ian
down to Wales. The man who had saved her life on her
wedding journey, and whose walls were still garish with
the red parasol which had nearly been her death, had a
place quite his own in her consideration. She had, of
course, known of his old infatuation for Jasmine, though
she did not know all: and she knew also that he had put
Jasmine out of his life completely when she married Byng;
which was not a source of regret to her. She had written
him about Jasmine, again and again, of what she did
and what the world said and his replies had been as
casual and as careless as the most jealous woman could
desire; though she was not consciously jealous, and, of
course, had no right to be.
She saw no harm in having a man as a friend on a basis
of intimacy which drew the line at any possibility of
divorce-court proceedings. Inside this line she frankly
insisted on latitude, and Tynemouth gave it to her with-
out thought or anxiety. He was too fond of outdoor life,
of racing and hunting and shooting and polo and travel,
to have his eye unnerved by any such foolishness as
"Play the game play the game, Alice, and so will I,
and the rest of the world be hanged!" was what Tyne-
mouth had said to his wife; and it would not have oc-
curred to him to suspect Stafford, or to read one of his
letters to Lady Tynemouth. He had no literary gifts;
in truth, he had no "culture," and he looked upon his
wife's and Stafford's interest in literature and art as a
game of mystery he had never learned. Inconsequent
he thought it in his secret mind, but played by nice,
clever, possible, "livable" people; and, therefore, not to
be pooh-poohed openly or kicked out of the way. Be-
sides, it "gave Alice something to do, and prevented her
from being lonely and all that kind of thing."
Thus it was that Lady Tynemouth, who had played
the game all round according to her lights, and thought
no harm of what she did, or of her weakness for Ian Staf-
ford of her open and rather gushing friendship for him
had an almost honest dislike to seeing him brought into
close relations again with the woman who had dishonour-
ably treated him. Perhaps she wanted his friendship
wholly for herself; but that selfish consideration did not
overshadow the feeling that Jasmine had cheated at cards,
as it were; and that Ian ought not to be compelled to
play with her again.
"But men, even the strongest, are so weak," she had
said to Tynemouth concerning it, and he had said in
reply, "And the weakest are so strong sometimes."
At which she had pulled his shoulder, and had said with
a delighted laugh, "Tynie, if you say clever things like
that I'll fall in love with you."
To which he had replied: "Now, don't take advantage
of a moment's aberration, Alice; and for Heaven's sake
don't fall in love wiv me" (he made a v of a th, like Jig-
ger). "I couldn't go to Uganda if you did."
To which she had responded, "Dear me, are you going
to Uganda?" and was told with a nod that next month
he would be gone.
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
This conversation had occurred on the day of their
arrival at Glencader; and henceforth Alice had forcibly
monopolized Stafford whenever and wherever possible.
So far, it had not been difficult, because Jasmine had, not
ostentatiously, avoided being often with Stafford. It
seemed to Jasmine that she must not see much of him
alone. Still there was some new cause to provoke his
interest and draw him to herself. The Jigger episode had
done much, had altered the latitudes of their association,
but the perihelion of their natures was still far off; and
she was apprehensive, watchful, and anxious.
This afternoon, however, she felt that she must talk
with him. Waiting and watching were a new discipline
for her, and she was not yet the child of self-cfenial.
Fate, if there be such a thing, favoured her, however, for
as they drew near to the fireplace where the ambassador
and Alice Tynemouth and her husband stood, Krool
entered, came forward to Byng, and spoke in a low tone
A minute afterward, Byng said to them all : "Well, I'm
sorry, but I'm afraid we can't carry out our plans for the
afternoon. There's trouble again at the mine, and I am
needed, or they think I am. So I must go there and
alone, I'm sorry to say; not with you all, as I had hoped.
Jasmine, you must plan the afternoon. The carriages
are ready. There's the Glen o' Smiling, well worth seeing,
and the Murderer's Leap, and Lover's Land something
for all tastes," he added, with a dry note to his voice.
"Take care of yourself, Ruddy man," Jasmine said, as
he left them hurriedly, with an affectionate pinch of her
arm. "I don't like these mining troubles," she added to
the others, and proceeded to arrange the afternoon.
She did it so deftly that she and Ian and Adrian Fel-
lowes were the only ones left behind out of a party of
twelve. She had found it impossible to go on any of the
excursions, because she must stay and welcome Al'mah.
She meant to drive to the station herself, she sai4, Adrian
stayed behind because he must superintend the arrange-
ments of the ball-room for the evening, or so he said; and
Ian Stafford stayed because he had letters to write
ostensibly; for he actually meant to go and sit with
Jigger, and to send a code message to the Prime Minister,
from whom he had had inquiries that morning.
When the others had gone, the three stood for a mo-
ment silent in the hall, then Adrian said to Jasmine,
"Will you give me a moment in the ball-room about those
arrangements ?' '
Jasmine glanced out of the corner of her eye at Ian.
He showed no sign that he wanted her to remain. A
shadow crossed her face, but she laughingly asked him if
he would come also.
"If you don't mind !" he said, shaking his head in
negation; but he walked with them part of the way to
the ball-room, and left them at the corridor leading to
his own little sitting-room.
A few minutes later, as Jasmine stood alone at a win-
dow looking down into the great stone quadrangle, she
saw him crossing toward the servants' quarters.
"He is going to Jigger," she said, her heart beating
faster. "Oh, but he is 'the best ever,'" she added, re-
peating Lou's words "the best ever!"
Her eye brightened with intention. She ran down
the corridor, and presently made her way to the house-
THE KEY IN THE LOCK
A QUARTER of an hour later Jasmine softly opened
/\ the door of the room where Jigger lay, and looked in.
The nurse stood at the foot of the bed, listening to talk
between Jigger and Ian, the like of which she had never
heard. She was smiling, for Jigger was original, to say
the least of it, and he had a strange, innocent, yet wise
philosophy. Ian sat with his elbows on his knees, hands
clasped, leaning towards the gallant little sufferer, talking
like a boy to a boy, and getting revelations of life of which
he had never even dreamed.
Jasmine entered with a little tray in one hand, bearing
a bowl of delicate broth, while under an arm was a puzzle-
box, which was one of the relics of a certain house-party
in which a great many smart people played at the simple
life, and sought to find a new sensation in making believe
they were the village rector's brood of innocents. She
was dressed in a gown almost as simple in make as that
of the nurse, but of exquisite material the soft green
velvet which she had worn when she met Ian in the sweet-
shop in Regent Street. Her hair was a perfect gold,
wavy and glistening and prettily fine, and her eyes were
shining so blue, so deep, so alluring.
The boy saw her first, and his eyes grew bigger with
welcome and interest.
" It's her me lydy," he said with a happy gasp, for she
seemed to him like a being from another sphere. When
she came near him the faint, delicious perfume exhaling
from her garments was like those flower-gardens and
THE KEY IN THE LOCK
scented fields to which he had once been sent for a holi-
day by some philanthropic society.
Ian rose as the nurse came forward quickly to relieve
Jasmine of the tray and the box. His first glance
was enigmatical almost suspicious then, as he saw
the radiance in her face and the burden she carried, a
new light came into his eyes. In this episode of Jigger
she had shown all that gentle charm, sympathy, and
human feeling which he had -once believed belonged so
much to her. It seemed to him in the old days that
at heart she was simple, generous, and capable of the
best feelings of woman, and of living up to them; and
there began to grow at the back of his mind now the
thought that she had been carried away by a great
temptation the glitter and show of power and all that
gold can buy, and a large circle for the skirts of woman's
pride and vanity. If she had married him instead of
Byng, they would now be living in a small house in Cur-
zon Street, or some such fashionable quarter, with just
enough to enable them to keep their end up with people
who had five thousand a year with no box at the opera,
or house in the country, or any of the great luxuries, and
with a thriving nursery which would be a promise of future
expense if she had married him! ... A kinder, gentler
spirit was suddenly awake in him, and he did not despise
her quite so much. On her part, she saw him coming
nearer, as, standing in the door of a cottage in a valley,
one sees trailing over the distant hills, with the light
behind, a welcome and beloved figure with face turned
towards the home in the green glade.
A smile came to his lips, as suspicion stole away ashamed ;
and he said: "This will not do. Jigger will be spoiled.
We shall have to see Mr. Mappin about it."
As she yielded to him the puzzle-box, which she had
refused to the nurse, she said: "And pray who sets the
example? I am a very imitative person. Besides, I
asked Mr. Mappin about the broth, so it's all right; and
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
Jigger will want the puzzle-box when you are not here,"
she added, quizzically.
"Diversion or continuity?" he asked, with a laugh, as
she held the bowl of soup to Jigger's lips. At this point
the nurse had discreetly left the room.
" Continuity, of course," she replied. "All diplomatists
are puzzles, some without solution."
"Who said I was a diplomatist?" he asked, lightly.
"Don't think that I'm guilty of the slander," she re-
joined. "It was the Moravian ambassador who first
suggested that what you were by profession you were by
Jasmine felt Ian hold his breath for a moment, then he
said in a low tone, " M. Mennaval you know him well?"
She did not look towards him, but she was conscious
that he was eying her intently. She put aside the bowl,
and began to adjust Jigger's pillow with deft fingers, while
the lad watched her with a worship worth any money to
one attacked by ennui and stale with purchased pleasures.
"I know him well yes, quite well," she replied. "He
comes sometimes of an afternoon, and if he had more
time or if I had he would no doubt come oftener. But
time is the most valuable thing I have, and I have less of
it than anything else."
"A diminishing capital, too," he returned with a
laugh; while his mind was suddenly alert to an idea
which had flown into his vision, though its full significance
did not possess him yet.
"The Moravian ambassador is not very busy," he
added with an undertone of meaning.
"Perhaps; but I am," she answered with like meaning,
and looked him in the eyes, steadily, serenely, determined-
ly. All at once there had opened out before her a great
possibility. Both from the Count Landrassy and from
the Moravian ambassador she had had hints of some deep,
international scheme of which Ian Stafford was the
engineer-in-chief , though she did not know definitely wfrat
THE KEY IN THE LOCK
it was. Both ambassadors had paid their court to her,
each in a different way, and M. Mennaval would have
been as pertinacious as he was vain and somewhat weak
(albeit secretive, too, with the feminine instinct so
strong in him) if she had not checked him at all points.
From what Count Landrassy had said, it would appear
that Ian Stafford's future hung in the balance depend-
ent upon the success of his great diplomatic scheme.
Could she help Ian? Could she help him? Had the
time come when she could pay her debt, the price of ran-
som from the captivity in which he held her true and
secret character? It had been vaguely in her mind be-
fore; but now, standing beside Jigger's bed, with the
lad's feverish hand in hers, there spread out before her
a vision of a lien lifted, of an ugly debt redeemed, of free-
dom from this man's scorn. If she could do some great
service for him, would not that wipe out the unsettled
claim? If she could help to give him success, would not
that, in the end, be more to him than herself? For she
would soon fade, the dust would soon gather over her
perished youth and beauty; but his success would live
on, ever freshening in his sight, rising through long years
to a great height, and remaining fixed and exalted. With
a great belief she believed in him and what he could do.
He was a Sisyphus who could and would roll the huge
stone to the top of the hill and ever with easier power.
The old touch of romance and imagination which had
been the governing forces of her grandfather's life, the
passion of an idea, however essentially false and mere-
tricious and perilous to all that was worth while keeping
in life, set her pulses beating now. As a child her pulses
used to beat so when she had planned with her good-for-
nothing brother some small escapade looming immense
in the horizon of her enjoyment. She had ever distorted
or inflamed the facts of life by an overheated fancy, by
the spirit of romance, by a gift or curse of imagination,
which had given her also dark visions of a miserable end.
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
of a clouded and piteous close to her brief journey. "I
am doomed doomed," had been her agonized cry that
day before Ian Stafford went away three years ago, and
the echo of that cry was often in her heart, waking and
sleeping. It had come upon her the night when Rudyard
reeled, intoxicated, up the staircase. She had the penal-
ties of her temperament shadowing her footsteps always,
dimming the radiance which broke forth for long periods,
and made her so rare and wonderful a figure in her world.
She was so young, and so exquisite, that Fate seemed
harsh and cruel in darkening her vision, making pitfalls
for her feet.
Could she help him? Had her moment come when she
could force him to smother his scorn and wait at her door
for bounty? She would make the effort to know.
"But, yes, I am very busy," she repeated. "I have
little interest in Moravia which is fortunate; for I could
not find the time to study it."
"If you had interest in Moravia, you would find the
time with little difficulty," he answered, lightly, yet think-
ing ironically that he himself had given much time and
study to Moravia, and so far had not got much return out
of it. Moravia was the crux of his diplomacy. Every-
thing depended on it; but Landrassy, the Slavonian am-
bassador, had checkmated him at every move towards the
"It is not a study I would undertake con amore" she
said, smiling down at Jigger, who watched her with sharp
yet docile eyes. Then, suddenly turning towards him
again, she said:
"But you are interested in Moravia do you find it
worth the time?"
"Did Count Landrassy tell you that?" he asked.
"And also the ambassador for Moravia; but only
in the vaguest and least consequential way," she re-
She regarded him steadfastly. " It is only just now is
THE KEY IN THE LOCK
it a kind of telepathy? that I seem to get a message from
what we used to call the power-house, that you are deep-
ly interested in Moravia and Slavonia. Little things
which have been said seem to have new meaning now,
and I feel " she smiled significantly "that I am standing
on the brink of some great happening, and only a big
secret, like a cloud, prevents me from seeing it, realizing
it. Is it so?" she added, in a low voice.
He regarded her intently. His look held hers. It would
seem as though he tried to read the depths of her soul ; as
though he was asking if what had once proved so false
could in the end prove true ; for it came to him with sudden
force, with sure conviction, that she could help him as no
one else could; that at this critical moment, when he was
trembling between success and failure, her secret influence
might be the one reinforcement necessary to conduct him
to victory. Greater and better men than himself had
used women to further their vast purposes; could one
despise any human agency, so long as it was not dishon-
ourable, in the carrying out of great schemes?
It was for Britain for her ultimate good, for the
honour and glory of the Empire, for the betterment of the
position of all men of his race in all the world, their pres-
tige, their prosperity, their patriotism; and no agency
should be despised. He knew so well what powers of
intrigue had been used against him, by the embassy of
Slavonia and those of other countries. His own methods
had been simple and direct; only the scheme itself being
intricate, complicated, and reaching further than any
diplomatist, except his own Prime Minister, had dreamed.
If carried, it would recast the international position in
the Orient, necessitating new adjustments in Europe,
with cession of territory and gifts for gifts in the way of
commercial treaties and the settlement of outstanding
His key, if it could be made to turn in the lock, would
open the door to possibilities of prodigious consequence.
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
He had been three years at work, and the end must come
soon. The crisis was near. A game can only be played
for a given time, then it works itself out, and a new one
must take its place. His top was spinning hard, but already
the force of the gyration was failing, and he must presently
make his exit with what the Prime Minister called his
Patent, or turn the key in the lock and enter upon his
kingdom. In three months in two months in one
month it might be too late, for war was coming; and
war would destroy his plans, if they were not fulfilled now.
Everything must be done before war came, or be forever
This beautiful being before him could help him. She had
brains, she was skilful, inventive, supple, ardent, yet intel-
lectually discreet. She had as much as told him that the
ambassador of Moravia had paid her the compliment of
admiring her with some ardour. It would not grieve him
to see her make a fool and a tool of the impressionable
yet adroit diplomatist, whose vanity was matched by his
unreliability, and who had a passion for philandering
unlike Count Landrassy, who had no inclination to
philander, who carried his citadels by direct attack in
great force. Yes, Jasmine could help him, and, as in the
dead years when it seemed that she would be the courier
star of his existence, they understood each other with-
"It is so," he said at last, in a low voice, his eyes still
regarding her with almost painful intensity.
"Do you trust me now again?" she asked, a tremor
in her voice and her small hand clasping ever and ever
tighter the fingers of the lad, whose eyes watched her with
such dog-like adoration.
A mournful smile stole to his lips and stayed. " Come
where we can be quiet and I will tell you all," he said.
'' You can help me, maybe."
"I will help you," she said, firmly, as the nurse entered
the room again and, approaching the bed, said, "I think
THE KEY IN THE LOCK
he ought to sleep now " ; and forthwith proceeded to make
When Stafford bade Jigger good-bye, the lad said: "I
wish I could 'ear the singing to-night, y'r gryce. I mean
the primmer donner. Lou says she's a fair wonder."
"We will open your window," Jasmine said, gently.
"The ball-room is just across the quadrangle, and you
will be able to hear perfectly."
"Thank you, me lydy," he answered, gratefully, and
his eyes closed.
"Come," said Jasmine to Stafford. "I will take you
where we can talk undisturbed."
They passed out, and both were silent as they threaded
the corridors and hallways; but in Jasmine's face was a
light of exaltation and of secret triumph.
"We must give Jigger a good start in life," she said,
softly, as they entered her sitting-room. Jigger had
broken down many barriers between her and the man who,
a week ago, had been eternities distant from her.
"He 's worth a lot of thought," Ian answered, as the
pleasant room enveloped him, and they seated themselves
on a big couch before the fire.
Again there was a long silence; then, not looking at
her, but gazing into the fire, Ian Stafford slowly unfolded
the wide and wonderful enterprise of diplomacy in which
his genius was employed. She listened with strained at-
tention, but without moving. Her eyes were fixed on his
face, and once, as the proposed meaning of the scheme was
made clear by the turn of one illuminating phrase, she
gave a low exclamation of wonder and delight. That
was all until, at last, turning to her as though from some
vision that had chained him, he saw the glow in her eyes,
the profound interest, which was like the passion of a