“Don’t forget that England hasn’t had a tenth of her share of Ian Stafford,” Alice Tynemouth had said.
Looking round, he saw men whose sufferings were no doubt as great as his own or greater; but they were living on for others’ sakes. Despair retreated before a woman’s insight.
“The Alpine fellow” wanted to live now.
AT BRINKWORT’S FARM
“What are you doing here, Krool?” The face of the half-caste had grown more furtive than it was in the London days, and as he looked at Stafford now, it had a malignant expression which showed through the mask of his outward self-control.
“I am prisoner,” Krool answered thickly.
“When—where?” Stafford inquired, his eye holding the other’s.
“At Hetmeyer’s Kopje.”
“But what are you—a prisoner—doing here at Brinkwort’s Farm?”
“I was hurt. They take me hospital, but the Baas, he send for me.”
“They let you come without a guard ?”
“No—not. They are outside”—Krool jerked a finger towards the rear of the house—“with the biltong and the dop.”
“You are a liar, Krool. There may be biltong, but there is no dop.”
“What matters!” Krool’s face had a leer. He looked impudently at Stafford, and Stafford read the meaning behind the unveiled insolence: Krool knew what no one else but Jasmine and himself knew with absolute certainty. Krool was in his own country, more than half a savage, with the lust of war in his blood, with memories of a day in Park Lane when the sjambok had done its ugly work, and Ian Stafford had, as Krool believed, placed it in the hands of the Baas.
It might be that this dark spirit, this Nibelung of the tragedy of the House of Byng, would even yet, when the way was open to a reconstructed life for Jasmine and Rudyard, bring catastrophe.
The thought sickened him, and then black anger took possession of him. The look he cast on the bent figure before him in the threadbare frock-coat which had been taken from the back of some dead Boer, with the corded breeches stuck in boots too large for him, and the khaki hat which some vanished Tommy would never wear again, was resolute and vengeful.
Krool must not stay at Brinkwort’s Farm. He must be removed. If the Caliban told Rudyard what he knew, there could be but one end to it all; and Jasmine’s life, if not ruined, must ever be, even at the best, lived under the cover of magnanimity and compassion. That would break her spirit, would take from her the radiance of temperament which alone could make life tolerable to her or to others who might live with her under the same roof. Anxiety possessed him, and he swiftly devised means to be rid of Krool before harm could be done. He was certain harm was meant—there was a look of semi-insanity in Krool’s eyes. Krool must be put out of the way before he could speak with the Baas.... But how?