“Well, to-morrow can’t come quick enough for me,” answered the Second. He straightened out his shoulders and eyed the hills in front of him with a calculating air, as though he were planning the tactics of the fight to come.
“We’ll all be in it—even you, ma’am,” insinuated the First to Al’mah with a friendly nod. “But I’d ruther ’ave my job nor yours. I’ve done a bit o’ nursin’—there was Bob Critchett that got a splinter o’ shell in ’is ’ead, and there was Sergeant Hoyle and others. But it gits me where I squeak that kind o’ thing do.”
Suddenly they brought their rifles to the salute, as a footstep sounded smartly on the stoep. It was Stafford coming from the house.
He acknowledged the salute mechanically. His eyes were fastened on the distance. They had a rapt, shining look, and he walked like one in a pleasant dream. A moment afterwards he mounted his horse with the lightness of a boy, and galloped away.
He had not seen Al’mah as he passed.
In her fingers was crushed a bunch of orange blossoms. A heavy sigh broke from her lips. She turned to go within, and, as she did so, saw Rudyard Byng looking from the doorway towards the hospital where Jasmine was.
“Will she come?” Al’mah asked herself, and mechanically she wiped the stain of the blossoms from her fingers.
SPRINGS OF HEALING
Dusk had almost come, yet Jasmine had not arrived at Brinkwort’s Farm, the urgency of Al’mah’s message notwithstanding. As things stood, it was a matter of life and death; and to Al’mah’s mind humanity alone should have sent Jasmine at once to her husband’s side. Something of her old prejudice against Jasmine rose up again. Perhaps behind it all was involuntary envy of an invitation to happiness so freely laid at Jasmine’s feet, but withheld from herself by Fate. Never had the chance to be happy or the obvious inducement to be good ever been hers. She herself had nothing, and Jasmine still had a chance for all to which she had no right. Her heart beat harder at the thought of it. She was of those who get their happiness first in making others happy—as she would have done with Blantyre, if she had had a chance; as even she tried to do with the man whom she had sent to his account with the firmness and fury of an ancient Greek. The maternal, the protective sense was big in her, and indirectly it had governed her life. It had sent her to South Africa—to protect the wretch who had done his best to destroy her; it had made her content at times as she did her nurse’s work in what dreadful circumstances! It was the source of her revolt at Jasmine’s conduct and character.