As he hurried on he was too excited to see Jasmine’s agitation.
“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 outside 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 intolerable 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 mind; 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 overwhelmed. In spite of wrong and injury, it would live on and on; and neither Time nor crime, nor anything mortal could obliterate it from his heart’s oracles.