As for Ian Stafford, he had left her stripped bare of one single garment of self-respect. His very kindness, his chivalry in defending her; his inflexible determination that all should be over between them forever, that she should be prevailed upon to be to Rudyard more than she had ever been—it all drove her into a deeper isolation. This isolation would have been her destruction but that something bigger than herself, a passion to do things, lifted to idealism a mind which in the past had grown materialistic, which, in gaining wit and mental skill, had missed the meaning of things, the elemental sense.
Corporal Shorter’s tale of Rudyard’s heroism had stirred her; but she could not have said quite what her feeling was with regard to it. She only knew vaguely that she was glad of it in a more personal than impersonal way. When she shook hands with the cheerful non-com. at the door of the hospital, she gave him a piece of gold which he was loth to accept till she said: “But take it as a souvenir of Colonel Byng’s little ride with ‘Old Gunter.’”
With a laugh, he took it then, and replied, “I’ll not smoke it, I’ll not eat it, and I’ll not drink it. I’ll wear it for luck and God-bless-you!”
THE GREY HORSE AND ITS RIDER
It was almost midnight. The camp was sleeping. The forces of destruction lay torpid in the starry shadow of the night. There was no moon, but the stars gave a light that relieved the gloom. They were so near to the eye that it might seem a lancer could pick them from their nests of blue. The Southern Cross hung like a sign of hope to guide men to a new Messiah.
In vain Jasmine had tried to sleep. The day had been too much for her. All that happened in the past four years went rushing past, and she saw herself in scenes which were so tormenting in their reality that once she cried out as in a nightmare. As she did so, she was answered by a choking cry of pain like her own, and, waking, she started up from her couch with poignant apprehension; but presently she realized that it was the cry of some wounded patient in the ward not far from the room where she lay.
It roused her, however, from the half wakefulness which had been excoriated by burning memories, and, hurriedly rising, she opened wide the window and looked out into the night. The air was sharp, but it soothed her hot face and brow, and the wild pulses in her wrists presently beat less vehemently. She put a firm hand on herself, as she was wont to do in these days, when there was no time for brooding on her own troubles, and when, with the duties she had taken upon herself, it would be criminal to indulge in self-pity.