memory; only the reflective look of accomplished purpose.
"You are you insane?" Jasmine exclaimed in a
whisper. "Do you know what you have said?"
Al'mah smoothed her apron softly. "Perfectly. I do
not think I am insane. I seem not to be. One cannot do
insane things here. This is the place of the iron rule.
Here we cure madness the madness of war and other
"You had loved him, yet you killed him!"
"You would have killed him though you did not love
him. Yes, of course I know that. Your love was better
placed ; but it was like a little bird caught by the hawk in the
upper air its flight was only a little one before the hawk
found it. Yes, you would have killed Adrian, as I did,
if you had had the courage. You wanted to do it; but
I did it. Do you remember when I sang for you on the
evening of that day he died? I sang, 'More Was Lost at
Mohacksfield. 1 As soon as I saw your face that evening
I felt you knew all. You had been to his rooms and found
him dead. I was sure of that. You remember how La
Tosca killed Scarpia? You remember how she felt? I
felt so just like that. I never hesitated. I knew what
I wanted to do, and I did it."
"How did you kill him?" Jasmine asked in that matter-
of-fact way which comes at those times when the senses
are numbed by tragedy.
"You remember the needle Mr. Mappin's needle? I
knew Adrian had it. He showed it to me. He could
not keep the secret. He was too weak. The needle was
in his pocket-book to kill me with some day perhaps.
THE WORLD'S FOUNDLING
He certainly had not the courage to kill himself. ... I
went to see him. He was dressing. The pocket-book lay
on the table. As I said, he had showed it to me. While
he was busy I abstracted the needle. He talked of his
journey abroad. He lied nothing but lies, about him-
self, about everything. When he had said enough,
lying was easier to him than anything else I told him
the truth. Then he went wild. He caught hold of me
as if to strangle me. . . . He did not realize the needle-
point when it caught him. If he did, it must have seemed
to him only the prick of a pin. . . . But in a few minutes
it was all over. He died quite peacefully. But it was
not very easy getting him on the sofa. He looked sleep-
ing as he lay there. You saw. He would never lie any
more to women, to you or to me or any other. It is
a good thing to stop a plague, and the simplest way is the
best. He was handsome, and his music was very deceiving.
It was almost good of its kind, and it was part of him.
When I look back I find only misery. Two wicked men
hurt me. They spoiled my life, first one and then another ;
and I went from bad to worse. At least he " she pointed
to the other room "he had some courage at the very
last. He fought, he braved death. The other you re-
member the Glencader Mine. Your husband and Ian
Stafford went down, and Lord Tynemouth was ready to
go, but Adrian would not go. Then it was I began to hate
him. That was the beginning. What happened had to
be. I was to kill him; and I did. It avenged me, and it
avenged your husband. I was glad of that, for Rudyard
Byng had done so much for me: not alone that he saved
me at the opera, you remember, but other good things.
I did his work for him with Adrian."
"Have you no fear of me?" Jasmine asked.
"Fear of you? Why?"
"I might hate you I might tell."
Al'mah made a swift gesture of protest. "Do not say
foolish things. You would rather die than tell. You
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
should be grateful to me. Some one had to kill him.
There was Rudyard Byng, Ian Stafford, or yourself. It
fell to me. I did your work. You will not tell; but it
would not matter if you did. Nothing would happen
nothing at all. Think it out, and you will see why."
Jasmine shuddered violently. Her body was as cold
"Yes, I know. What are you going to do after the
"Back to Covent Garden perhaps; or perhaps there
will be no 'after the war.' It may all end here. Who
knows who cares!"
Jasmine came close to her. For an instant a flood of
revulsion had overpowered her; but now it was all gone.
"We pay for all the wrong we do. We pay for all the
good we get" once Ian Stafford had said that, and it
rang in her ears now. Al'mah would pay, and would pay
here here in this world. Meanwhile, Al'mah was a
woman who, like herself, had suffered.
"Let me be your friend; let me help you," Jasmine said,
and she took both of Al'mah's hands in her own.
Somehow Jasmine's own heart had grown larger, fuller,
and kinder all at once. Until lately she had never ached
to help the world or any human being in all her life; there
had never been any of the divine pity which finds its em-
ploy in sacrifice. She had been kind, she had been gener-
ous, she had in the past few months given service un-
stinted; but it was more as her own cure for her own ills
than yearning compassion for all those who were dis-
tressed "in mind, body, or estate."
But since last evening, in the glimmer of the stars, when
Rudyard went from her with bitter anger on his lips, and
a contempt which threw her far behind him, since that
hour, when, in her helplessness, she had sunk to the
ground with an appeal to Something outside herself, her
heart had greatly softened. Once before she had appealed
to the Invisible that night before her catastrophe, when
THE WORLD'S FOUNDLING
she wound her wonderful hair round her throat and drew
it tighter and tighter, and had cried out to the beloved
mother she had never known. But her inborn, her culti-
vated, her almost invincible egoism, had not even then
been scattered by the bitter helplessness of her life.
That cry last night was a cry to the Something behind
all. Only in the last few hours why, she knew not her
heart had found a new sense. She felt her soul's eyes
looking beyond herself. The Something that made her
raise her eyes to the stars, which seemed a pervading
power, a brooding tenderness and solicitude, had drawn
her mind away into the mind of humanity. Her own
misery now at last enabled her to see, however dimly, the
woes of others; and it did not matter whether the woes
were penalties or undeserved chastisement; the new-born
pity of her soul made no choice and sought no difference.
As the singing- woman's hands lay in hers, a flush slow-
ly spread over Al'mah's face, and behind the direct power
of her eyes there came a light which made them aglow
"I always thought you selfish almost meanly selfish,"
Al'mah said presently. "I thought you didn't know any
real life, any real suffering only the surface, only disap-
pointment at not having your own happiness; but now
I see that was all a mask. You understand why I did
what I did?"
" I suppose there would be thousands who would gladly
see me in prison and on the scaffold if they knew "
Pain travelled across Jasmine's face. She looked
Al'mah in the eyes with a look of reproof and command.
"Never, never again speak of that to me or to any living
soul," she said. "I will try to forget it; you must put
it behind you." . . . Suddenly she pointed to the other
room where Al'mah's husband lay dead. "When is he
to be buried?" she asked.
"In an hour." A change came over Al'mah's face
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
again, and she stood looking dazedly at the door of the
room, behind which the dead man lay. "I cannot realize
it. It does not seem real," she said. " It was all so many
centuries ago, when I was young and glad."
Jasmine admonished her gently and drew her away.
A few moments later an officer approached them from
one of the wards. At that moment the footsteps of
the three were arrested by the booming of artillery. It
seemed as though all the guns of both armies were at
The officer's eyes blazed, and he turned to the two
women with an impassioned gesture.
"Byng and the S. A.'s have done their trick," he said.
"If they hadn't, that wouldn't be going on. It was to
follow a general assault if Byng pulled it off. Old
Blunderbuss has done it this time. His combination's
working all right thanks to Byng's lot."
As he hurried on he was too excited to see Jasmine's
"Wait!" Jasmine exclaimed, as he went quickly down
the hallway. But her voice was scarcely above a
whisper, and he did not hear.
She wanted to ask him if Rudyard was safe. She did
not realize that he could not know.
But the thunder of artillery told her that Rudyard had
had his fighting at daybreak, as he had said.
WHEN Rudyard flung himself on the grey mare out-
side Jasmine's window at the Stay Awhile Hospital,
and touched her flank with his heel, his heart was heavy
with passion, his face hard with humiliation and defeat.
He had held out the hand of reconciliation, and she had
met it with scorn. He had smothered his resentment,
and let the light of peace in upon their troubles, and she
had ruthlessly drawn a black curtain between them. He
was going upon as dangerous a task as could be set a
soldier, from which he might never return, and she had
not even said a God-be-with-you she who had lain in
his bosom, been so near, so dear, so cherished:
"For Time and Change estrange, estrange
And, now they have looked and seen us,
Oh, we that were dear, we are all too near,
With the thick of the world between us!"
How odd it seemed that two beings who had been
all in all to each other, who in the prime of their love
would have died of protesting shame, if they had been
told that they would change towards each other, should
come to a day when they would be less to each other than
strangers, less and colder and farther off! It is because
some cannot bear this desecration of ideals, this intoler-
able loss of life's assets, that they cling on and on, long
after respect and love have gone, after hope is dead.
There had been times in the past few months when such
thoughts as these vaguely possessed Rudyard's raro4?
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
but he could never, would never, feel that all was over,
that the book of Jasmine's life was closed to him; not
even when his whole nature was up in arms against the
injury she had done him.
But now, as the grey mare reached out to achieve the
ground his troopers had covered before him, his brain was
in a storm of feeling. After all, what harm had he done
her, that he should be treated so? Was he the sinner?
Why should he make the eternal concession ? Why should
he be made to seem the one needing forgiveness? He
did not know why. But at the bottom of everything
lay a something a yearning which would not be over-
whelmed. In spite of wrong and injury, it would live on
and on; and neither Time nor crime, nor anything mor-
tal could obliterate it from his heart's oracles.
The hoofs of the grey mare fell like the soft thud of a
hammer in the sand, regular and precise. Presently the
sound and the motion lulled his senses. The rage and
humiliation grew less, his face cooled. His head, which
had been bent, lifted and his face turned upwards to the
stars. The influence of an African night was on him.
None that has not felt it can understand it, so cold, so
sweet, so full of sleep, so stirring with an under-life. Many
have known the breath of the pampas beyond the Amazon ;
the soft pungency of the wattle blown across the salt-bush
plains of Australia; the friendly exhilaration of the prairie
or the chaparral; the living, loving loneliness of the desert;
but yonder on the veld is a life of the night which pos-
sesses all the others have, and something of its own besides;
something which gets into the bones and makes for forget-
fulness of the world. It lifts a man away from the fret
of life, and sets his feet on the heights where lies repose.
The peace cf the stars crept softly into Rudyard's
heart as he galloped gently on to overtake his men. His
pulses beat slowly once again, his mind regained its poise.
He regretted the oath he uttered, as he left Jasmine; he
asked himself if, after all, everything was over and done.
How good the night suddenly seemed! No, it was
not all over unless, unless, indeed, in this fight coming
on with the daybreak, Fate should settle it all by doing
with him as it had done with so many thousands of
others in this war. But even then, would it be all
over? He was a primitive man, and he raised his face
once more to the heavens. He was no longer the ample
millionaire, sitting among the flesh-pots; he was a lean,
simple soldier eating his biscuit as though it were the
product of the chef of the Cafe* Voisin; he was the
fighter sleeping in a blanket in the open; he was a
patriot after his kind; he was the friend of his race and
the lover of one woman.
Now he drew rein. His regiment was just ahead. Day-
break was not far off, and they were near the enemy's
position. In a little while, if they were not surprised,
they would complete a movement, take a hill, turn the
flank of the foe, and, if designed supports came up, have
the Boers at a deadly disadvantage. Not far off to the
left of him and his mounted infantry there were coming
on for this purpose two batteries of artillery and three
thousand infantry Leary's brigade, which had not been
in the action the day before at Wortmann's Drift.
But all depended on what he was able to do, what he and
his hard-bitten South Africans could accomplish. Well, he
had no doubt. War was part chance, part common sense,
part the pluck and luck of the devil. He had ever been
a gambler in the way of taking chances; he had always
possessed ballast even when the London life had enervated,
had depressed him; and to men of his stamp pluck is a
commonplace: it belongs as eyes and hands and feet belong.
Dawn was not far away, and before daybreak he must
have the hill which was the key to the whole posi-
tion, which commanded the left flank of the foe. An
hour or so after he got it, if the artillery and in-
fantry did their portion, a great day's work would be
done for England; and the way to the relief of the
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
garrison beyond the mountains would be open. The
chance to do this thing was the reward he received for
his gallant and very useful fight at Wortmann's Drift
twenty-four hours before. It would not do to fail in
justifying the choice of the Master Player, who had had
enough bad luck in the campaign so far.
The first of his force to salute him in the darkness was
his next in command, Barry Whalen. They had been
together in the old Rand Rifles, and had, in the words
of the Kaffir, been as near as the flea to the blanket,
since the day when Rudyard discovered that Barry
Whalen was on the same ship bound for the seat of war.
They were not youngsters, either of them; but they had
the spring of youth in them, and a deep basis of strength
and force; and they knew the veld and the veld people.
There was no trick of the veldschoen dopper for which
they were not ready; and for any device of Kruger's
lambs they were prepared to go one better. As Barry
Whalen had said, "They'll have to get up early in the
morning if they want to catch us."
This morning the Boers would not get up early enough;
for Rudyard' s command had already reached the position
from which they could do their work with good chances
in their favour; and there had been no sign of life from
the Boer trenches in the dusk naught of what chanced
at Magersfontein. Not a shot had been fired, and there
would certainly have been firing if the Boer had known ; for
he could not allow the Rooinek to get to the point where
his own position would be threatened or commanded.
When Kruger's men did discover the truth, there would
be fighting as stiff as had been seen in this struggle for
half a continent.
"Is it all right?" whispered Rudyard, as Barry Whalen
drew up by him.
"Not a sound from them not a sign."
"Their trenches should not be more than a few hundred
yards on, eh?"
"Their nearest trenches are about that. We are just
on the left of Hetmeyer's Kopje."
"Good. Let Glossop occupy the kopje with his
squadrons, while we take the trenches. If we can force
them back on their second line of trenches, and keep
them there till our supports come up, we shall be all right."
"When shall we begin, sir?" asked Barry.
"Give orders to dismount now. Get the horses in the
lee of the kopje, and we'll see what Brother Boer thinks
of us after breakfast."
Rudyard took out a repeating- watch, and held it in
his closed palm. As it struck, he noted the time.
His words were abrupt but composed. "Ten minutes
more and we shall have the first streak of dawn. Then
move. We shall be on them before they know it."
Barry Whalen made to leave, then turned back. Rud-
yard understood. They clasped hands. It was the grip
of men who knew each other knew each other's faults
and weaknesses, yet trusted with a trust which neither
disaster nor death could destroy.
"My girl if anything happens to me," Barry said.
"You may be sure as if she were my own," was Rud-
yard's reply. "If I go down, find my wife at the Stay
Awhile Hospital. Tell her that the day I married her
was the happiest day of my life, and that what I said then
I thought at the last. Everything else is straightened out
and I'll not forget your girl, Barry. She shall be as
my own if things should happen that way."
"God bless you, old man," whispered Barry. "Good-
bye." Then he recovered himself and saluted. "Is that
"Au revoir, Barry," came the answer; then a formal
return of the salute. "That is all," he added brusquely.
They moved forward to the regiment, and the word
to dismount was given softly. When the forces crept
forward again, it was as infantrymen, moving five paces
&part, and feeling their way up to the Boer trenches.
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
Dawn. The faintest light on the horizon, as it were a
soft, grey glimmer showing through a dark curtain. It
rises and spreads slowly, till the curtain of night becomes
the veil of morning, white and kind. Then the living
world begins to move. Presently the face of the sun shines
through the veil, and men's bodies grow warm with active
being, and the world stirs with busy life. On the veld,
with the first delicate glow, the head of a meerkat, or a
springbok, is raised above the grey-brown grass; herds
of cattle move uneasily. Then a bird takes flight across
the whitening air, another, and then another; the meer-
kat sits up and begs breakfast of the sun; lizards creep
out upon the stones; a snake slides along obscenely forag-
ing. Presently man and beast and all wild things are
afoot or a-wing, as though the world was new-created; as
though there had never been any mornings before, and this
was not the monotonous repetition of a million mornings,
when all things living begin the world afresh.
But nowhere seems the world so young and fresh and
glad as on the sun-warmed veld. Nowhere do the wild
roses seem so pure, or are the aloes so jaunty and so gay.
The smell of the karoo bush is sweeter than attar, and
the bog-myrtle and mimosa, where they shelter a house
or fringe a river, have a look of Arcady. It is a world
where any mysterious thing may happen a world
of five thousand years ago the air so light, so sweetly
searching and vibrating, that Ariel would seem of the
picture, and gleaming hosts of mailed men, or vast
colonies of green-clad archers moving to virgin woods
might belong. Something frightens the timid spirit of
a springbok, and his flight through the grass is like a
phrase of music on a wilful adventure; a bird hears the
sighing of the breeze in the mimosa leaves or the swaying
shrubs, and in disdain of such slight performance flings
out a song which makes the air drunken with sweetness.
A world of light, of commendable trees, of grey grass
flecked with flowers, of life having the supreme sense of
a freedom which has known no check. It is a life which
cities have not spoiled, and where man is still in touch
with the primeval friends of man; where the wildest beast
and the newest babe of a woman have something in common.
Drink your fill of the sweet intoxicating air with eyes
shut till the lungs are full and the heart beats with new
fulness; then open them upon the wide sunrise and scan
the veld so full of gracious odour. Is it not good and glad ?
And now face the hills rising nobly away there to the left,
the memorable and friendly hills. Is it not
Upon the morning has crept suddenly a black cloud,
although the sun is shining brilliantly. A moment
before the dawn all was at peace on the veld and
among the kopjes, and only the contented sighing of
men and beasts broke the silence, or so it seemed; but
with the glimmer of light along the horizon came a change
so violent that all the circle of vision was in a quiver of
trouble. Affrighted birds, in fluttering bewilderment,
swept and circled aimlessly through the air with strange,
half -human cries; the jackal and the meerkat, the
springbok and the rheebok, trembled where they stood,
with heads uplifted, vaguely trying to realize the Thing
which was breaking the peace of their world; useless
horses which had been turned out of the armies of Boers
and British galloped and stumbled and plunged into
space in alarm; for they knew what was darkening the
morning. They had suffered the madness of battle, and
they realized it at its native first value.
There was a battle forward on the left flank of the Boer
Army. Behind Hetmeyer's Kopje were the horses of
the men whom Rudyard Byng had brought to take a
position and hold it till support came and this flank of
the Farmer's Army was turned; but the men themselves
were at work on the kopjes the grim work of dislodging
the voortrekker people from the places where they bur-
rowed like conies among the rocks.
THE JUDGMENT HOUSE
Just before dawn broke Byng's men were rushing the
outer trenches. These they cleared with the wild cries
of warriors whose blood was in a tempest. Bayonets
dripped red, rifles were fired at hand-to-hand range, men
clubbed their guns and fought as men fought in the days
when the only fighting was man to man, or one man to
many men. Here every "Boojer" and Rooinek was a
champion. The Boer fell back because he was forced
back by men who were men of the veld like himself;
and the Briton pressed forward because he would not be
denied; because he was sick of reverses; of going forward
and falling back; of taking a position with staggering loss
and then abandoning it; of gaining a victory and then not
following it up; of having the foe in the hollow of the
hand and hesitating to close it with a death-grip; of
promising relief to besieged men, and marking time when
you had gained a foothold, instead of gaining a foothold
Byng's men were mostly South-Africans born, who had
lived and worked below the Zambesi all their lives; or
else those whose blood was in a fever at the thought that
a colony over which the British flag flew should be trod
by the feet of an invader, who had had his own liberty
and independence secured by that flag, but who refused
to white men the status given to "niggers" in civilized
states. These fighters under Byng had had their fill of
tactics and strategy which led nowhere forward; and at
Wortmann's Drift the day before they had done a big
thing for the army with a handful of men. They could
ride like Cossacks, they could shoot like William Tell, and
they had a mind to be the swivel by which the army of
Queen Victoria should swing from almost perpetual
disaster, in large and small degree, to victory.
From the first trenches on and on to the second trenches
higher up! But here the Boer in his burrow with his
mauser rifle roaring, and his heart fierce with hatred
and anger at the surprise, laid down to the bloody work
with an ugly determination to punish remorselessly his
fellow-citizens of the veld and the others. It was a fire
which only bullet-proof men could stand, and these were
but breasts of flesh and muscle, though the will was iron.
Up, up, and up, struggled these men of the indomitable
will. Step by step, while man after man fell wounded or
dead, they pushed forward, taking what cover was pos-
sible; firing as steadily as at Aldershot; never wasting
shots, keeping the eye vigilant for the black slouch hat
above the rocks, which told that a Boer's head was be-
neath it, and might be caught by a lightning shot.
Step by step, man by man, troop by troop, they came
nearer to the hedges of stone behind which an inveterate