A minute afterward, Byng said to them all: “Well, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we can’t carry out our plans for the afternoon. There’s trouble again at the mine, and I am needed, or they think I am. So I must go there—and alone, I’m sorry to say; not with you all, as I had hoped. Jasmine, you must plan the afternoon. The carriages are ready. There’s the Glen o’ Smiling, well worth seeing, and the Murderer’s Leap, and Lover’s Land—something for all tastes,” he added, with a dry note to his voice.
“Take care of yourself, Ruddy man,” Jasmine said, as he left them hurriedly, with an affectionate pinch of her arm. “I don’t like these mining troubles,” she added to the others, and proceeded to arrange the afternoon.
She did it so deftly that she and Ian and Adrian Fellowes were the only ones left behind out of a party of twelve. She had found it impossible to go on any of the excursions, because she must stay and welcome Al’mah. She meant to drive to the station herself, she said. Adrian stayed behind because he must superintend the arrangements of the ball-room for the evening, or so he said; and Ian Stafford stayed because he had letters to write—ostensibly; for he actually meant to go and sit with Jigger, and to send a code message to the Prime Minister, from whom he had had inquiries that morning.
When the others had gone, the three stood for a moment silent in the hall, then Adrian said to Jasmine, “Will you give me a moment in the ball-room about those arrangements?”
Jasmine glanced out of the corner of her eye at Ian. He showed no sign that he wanted her to remain. A shadow crossed her face, but she laughingly asked him if he would come also.
“If you don’t mind—!” he said, shaking his head in negation; but he walked with them part of the way to the ball-room, and left them at the corridor leading to his own little sitting-room.
A few minutes later, as Jasmine stood alone at a window looking down into the great stone quadrangle, she saw him crossing toward the servants’ quarters.
“He is going to Jigger,” she said, her heart beating faster. “Oh, but he is ‘the best ever,’” she added, repeating Lou’s words—“the best ever!”
Her eye brightened with intention. She ran down the corridor, and presently made her way to the housekeeper’s room.
THE KEY IN THE LOCK
A quarter of an hour later Jasmine softly opened the door of the room where Jigger lay, and looked in. The nurse stood at the foot of the bed, listening to talk between Jigger and Ian, the like of which she had never heard. She was smiling, for Jigger was original, to say the least of it, and he had a strange, innocent, yet wise philosophy. Ian sat with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped, leaning towards the gallant little sufferer, talking like a boy to a boy, and getting revelations of life of which he had never even dreamed.