Gilbert Parker.

The works of Gilbert Parker (Volume 18) online

. (page 20 of 35)
Online LibraryGilbert ParkerThe works of Gilbert Parker (Volume 18) → online text (page 20 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ground 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 Fel-
lowes; and with bent head he made his way among the
motley crowd hi front of the station, scarcely noticing
any one, yet resenting the jostle and the crush. Sud-
denly in the crowd in front of him he saw Krool steal-
ing along with a wide-awake hat well down over his
eyes. Presently the sinister figure was lost in the con-



290 THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

fusion. 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; 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
trams 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 irri-
tating in their purposeless movements. People saun-
tered, 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, ner-
vous hands held out their half-pennies for the flimsy
sensational rags.

Presently a girl jostled Stafford, then apologised 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



FELLOWES GOES A JOURNEY 291

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 pos-
session of the family mansions, placing them in the
control of his foreign wife, who sat hi 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 hi promoting the interests of those
for whom he had become for ever 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
for ever 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 a while of world events in which his work
had place; in which his gifts were found, shaping, in-



292 THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

fluencing, 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 hi 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' apart-
ments. 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 doorway and watched him as he approached



FELLOWES GOES A JOURNEY 293

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 door-
way, 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 build-
ing 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 recognised 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 the 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 defence 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.



294 THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

One thing he was certain Jasmine did not know
the intimacy between Fellowes and Al'mah. He him-
self had been tempted to speak of it in then* 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 in-
terview which she must have, at the thought of the
meeting at all.

He would have some tune to wait, no doubt, and he
made himself easy hi the doorway, where his glance
could command the entrance she had used. He me-
chanically 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 first corner turned up sharply towards
the Strand. Her movements had been agitated, and
as she hurried on she held her head down into her
muff as a woman would who faced a blinding rain.

The interview had been indeed short. Perhaps Fel-
lowes 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.



FELLOWES GOES A JOURNEY 295

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 sleep-
ing.

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

There was no reply. He leaned over and touched a
shoulder. " Fellowes!" he exclaimed again, but some-
thing 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 vio-
lence, no blood, no disfigurement, no distortion, only
a look of sleep a pale, motionless sleep.

But the body was warm yet. He realised that as
his hand had touched the shoulder. The man couid
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 for-
gotten the dinner till very late hi 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 foot-
steps 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' bosses."

"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 'strath!"

296



"MORE WAS LOST AT MOHACKSFIELD " 297

"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, hon-
ouring 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 ah* 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 every-
body 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 work-



298 THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

ing with lightning swiftness, it did not matter at all;
if all the kings and queens of all the world had prom-
ised 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 deft-
ness 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 hi 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 some-
thing 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.



"MORE WAS LOST AT MOHACKSFIELD " 299

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 hi the big mirror, and she seemed
to herself like some other woman. There was that
strange, distant look of agony in her eyes, that trans-
figuring look in the face; there was the figure some-
how 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 scan-
dal; but things could never go on as hi the past. She
had realised 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-destruc-
tion which has tempted so many of more spiritual vein
than herself. It was melodramatic, emotional, theat-
rical, maybe; but the emotional, the theatrical, the



300 THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

egotistic mortal has his or her tragedy, which is just
as real as that which comes to those of more spiritual
make, 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 demon-
stration.

There was, however, no melodrama in the quiet trem-
bling with which she took the white violets, the sym-
bol 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 hi 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,



"MORE WAS LOST AT MOHACKSFIELD " 301

as it were; things which must be said through an
atmosphere of artificial sounds, which would give no
response to the agonised 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 for ever.

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 cour-
age 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 terri-
fied scrutiny, the touch of the wrist, the realisation,
the moment's awful horror, the silence which grew
more profound, the sudden paralysis of body and will.



302 THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

. . . And then music, strange, soft, mysterious music
coming from somewhere inside the room, music famil-
iar and yet unnatural, a song she had heard once be-
fore, 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 hi the
Strand that she realised exactly what the music was.
She remembered that Fellowes had bought a music-
box which could be tuned 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 y
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?

"LadyTynemouth."

Back to the world from purgatory again. The but-



"MORE WAS LOST AT MOHACKSFIELD " 303

ler'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. Cer-
tainly, 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 hi colours,
so I compromised," was Jasmine's reply, with a really
good imitation of a smile.

As she babbled on, Lady Tynemouth had been eye-
Ing her friend with swift inquiry, for she had never seen
Jasmine look as she did to-night, so ethereal, so trag-
ically ethereal, with dark lines under the eyes, the curi-
ous transparency of the skin, and the feverish bright-
ness 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 be-
tween 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



304 THE JUDGMENT HOUSE

least compromising. Lady Tynemouth saw Menna-
val'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 com-
panion. "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 Tyne-
mouth'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



Online LibraryGilbert ParkerThe works of Gilbert Parker (Volume 18) → online text (page 20 of 35)