Whether Sir Alfred Milner ever learned who had been trying to persuade the master of Groote Schuur to seek his co-operation in what would have been the noblest deed of Rhodes’ life, I have not been able to ascertain to the present day. To tell the truth, I never tried to do so, the matter having lost all interest except as a matter of history.
THE OPENING OF THE NEW CENTURY
Such were the preoccupations, the intrigues and the emotions which, all through that monotonous winter of 1900-1901, agitated the inhabitants of and the visitors to Groote Schuur. Rhodes himself seemed to be the one man who thought the least about them. It is certain that he felt hurt in his pride and in his consciousness that the good which he had wanted to do failed to be appreciated by those whom he had intended to benefit. But outwardly he made no sign that the matter interested him otherwise than from a purely objective point of view, that of the statesman who thinks that it is part of his duty to put his services at the disposal of his country whenever required to do so. He felt also slightly surprised to find, once he had expressed his willingness to use the experience of South African affairs which he had acquired and which no one in the Cape possessed with such thoroughness, that the people who had appealed to him, and whom he had consented to meet half-way, would not give him the whole of their confidence; indeed, they showed some apprehension that he would use his knowledge to their detriment.
When one reviews all the circumstances that cast such a tragic shade over the history of these eventful months, one cannot help coming to the conclusion that there was a good deal of misunderstanding on both sides and a deplorable lack of confidence everywhere. Rhodes had entirely lost ground among his former friends, and would not understand that it was more difficult, even on the part of those who believed in his good intentions, to efface the impression that he had been playing a double game ever since the Raid had deprived him of the confidence and support which previously were his all over Cape Colony.
The whole situation, as the new century opened, was a game of cross purposes. Sir Alfred Milner might have unravelled the skein, but he was the one man whom no one interested in the business wished to ask for help. And what added to the tragedy was the curious but undisputable fact that even those who reviled Rhodes hoped he would return to power and assume the Premiership in place of Sir Gordon Sprigg.