His face flushed. There was something exceedingly familiar—more in the tone of the words than the words themselves—which irritated and humiliated him. What she had done for him apparently warranted this intimate, self-assured tone on the part of Mennaval, the philanderer. His pride smarted. His rose of triumph had its thorns.
A letter from Mennaval was at the Foreign Office awaiting him. He carried it to the Prime Minister, who read it with grave satisfaction.
“It is just in time, Stafford,” he remarked. “You ran it close. We will clinch it instantly. Let us have the code.”
As the Prime Minister turned over the pages of the code, he said, dryly: “I hear from Pretoria, through Mr. Byng, that President Kruger may send the ultimatum tomorrow. I fear he will have the laugh on us, for ours is not ready. We have to make sure of this thing first.... I wonder how Landrassy will take it.”
He chuckled deeply. “Landrassy made a good fight, but you made a better one, Stafford. I shouldn’t wonder if you got on in diplomacy,” he added, with quizzical humour.... “Ah, here is the code! Now to clinch it all before Oom Paul’s challenge arrives.”
THE COMING OF THE BAAS
“The Baas—where the Baas?”
Barry Whalen turned with an angry snort to the figure in the doorway. “Here’s the sweet Krool again,” he said. “Here’s the faithful, loyal offspring of the Vaal and the karoo, the bulwark of the Baas.... For God’s sake smile for once in your life!” he growled with an oath, and, snatching up a glass of whiskey and water, threw the contents at the half-caste.
Krool did not stir, and some of the liquid caught him in the face. Slowly he drew out an old yellow handkerchief and wiped his cheeks, his eyes fixed with a kind of impersonal scrutiny on Barry Whalen and the scene before him.
The night was well forward, and an air of recklessness and dissipation pervaded this splendid room in De Lancy Scovel’s house. The air was thick with tobacco-smoke, trays were scattered about, laden with stubs of cigars and ashes, and empty and half-filled glasses were everywhere. Some of the party had already gone, their gaming instinct satisfied for the night, their pockets lighter than when they came; and the tables where they had sat were in a state of disorder more suggestive of a “dive” than of the house of one who lived in Grosvenor Square.
No servant came to clear away the things. It was a rule of the establishment that at midnight the household went to bed, and the host and his guests looked after themselves thereafter. The friends of De Lancy Scovel called him “Cupid,” because of his cherubic face, but he was more gnome than cherub at heart. Having come into his fortune by being a henchman to abler men than himself, he was almost over-zealous to retain it, knowing that