Tommy Atkins had his uproarious joke about it, but there was one man who breathed a sigh of relief when he heard of it. That was Barry Whalen. He had every reason to be glad that Krool was out of the way, and that Rudyard Byng would see him no more. Sitting beside the still unconscious Ian Stafford on the veld, Al’mah’s reflections were much the same as those of Barry Whalen.
With the flight of Krool and the gun came the end of Al’mah’s vigil. The troop of cavalry which galloped out to her was followed by the Red Cross wagons.
At dawn, when the veld breathes odours of a kind pungency and fragrance, which only those know who have made it their bed and friend, the end came to the man who had lain under the gun.
“Pheidippides!” the dying Stafford said, with a grim touch of the humour which had ever been his. He was thinking of the Greek runner who brought the news of victory to Athens and fell dead as he told it.
It almost seemed from the look on Stafford’s face that, in very truth, he was laying aside the impedimenta of the long march and the battle, to carry the news to that army of the brave in Walhalla who had died for England before they knew that victory was hers.
“Pheidippides,” he repeated, and Rudyard Byng, whose eyes were so much upon the door, watching and waiting for some one to come, pressed his hand and said: “You know the best, Stafford. So many didn’t. They had to go before they knew.”
“I have my luck,” Stafford replied, but yet there was a wistful look in his face.
His eyes slowly closed, and he lay so motionless that Al’mah and Rudyard thought he had gone. He scarcely seemed to notice when Al’mah took the hand that Rudyard had held, and the latter, with quick, noiseless steps, left the room.
What Rudyard had been watching and waiting for was come.
Jasmine was at the door. His message had brought her in time.
“Is it dangerous?” she asked, with a face where tragedy had written self-control.
“As bad as can be,” he answered. “Go in and speak to him, Jasmine. It will help him.”
He opened the door softly. As Jasmine entered, Al’mah with a glance of pity and friendship at the face upon the bed, passed into another room.
There was a cry in Jasmine’s heart, but it did not reach her lips.
She stole to the bed and laid her fingers upon the hand lying white and still upon the coverlet.
At once the eyes of the dying man opened. This was a touch that would reach to the farthest borders of his being—would bring him back from the Immortal Gates. Through the mist of his senses he saw her. He half raised himself. She pillowed his head on her breast. He smiled. A light transfigured his face.
“All’s well,” he said, with a long sigh, and his body sank slowly down.