Upon the laugh there came a hoarse growl of anger. Barry Whalen was standing above Mr. Clifford Melville with rage in every fibre, threat in every muscle.
“Shut up—curse you, Sobieski! It’s for us, for any and every one, to cut the throats of anybody that says a word against her. We’ve all got to stand together. Byng forever, is our cry, and Byng’s wife is Byng—before the world. We’ve got to help him—got to help him, I say.”
“Well, you’ve got to tell him first. He’s got to know it first,” interposed Fleming; “and it’s not a job I’m taking on. When Byng’s asleep he takes a lot of waking, and he’s asleep in this thing.”
“And the world’s too wide awake,” remarked De Lancy Scovel, acidly. “One way or another Byng’s got to be waked. It’s only him can put it right.”
No one spoke for a moment, for all saw that Barry Whalen was about to say something important, coming forward to the table impulsively for the purpose, when a noise from the darkened room beyond fell upon the silence.
De Lancy Scovel heard, Fleming heard, others heard, and turned towards the little room. Sobieski touched Barry Whalen’s arm, and they all stood waiting while a hand slowly opened wide the door of the little room, and, white with a mastered agitation, Byng appeared.
For a moment he looked them all full in the face, yet as though he did not see them; and then, without a word, as they stepped aside to make way for him, he passed down the room to the outer hallway.
At the door he turned and looked at them again. Scorn, anger, pride, impregnated with a sense of horror, were in his face. His white lips opened to speak, but closed again, and, turning, he stepped out of their sight.
No one followed. They knew their man.
“My God, how he hates us!” said Barry Whalen, and sank into a chair at the table, with his head between his hands.
The cheeks of the little wizened lawyer glistened with tears, and De Lancy Scovel threw open a window and leaned out, looking into the night remorsefully.
Is there no help for these things?
Slowly, heavily, like one drugged, Rudyard Byng made his way through the streets, oblivious of all around him. His brain was like some engine pounding at high pressure, while all his body was cold and lethargic. His anger at those he left behind was almost madness, his humiliation was unlike anything he had ever known. In one sense he was not a man of the world. All his thoughts and moods and habits had been essentially primitive, even in the high social and civilized surroundings of his youth; and when he went to South Africa, it was to come into his own—the large, simple, rough, adventurous life. His powerful and determined mind was confined in its scope to the big essential things. It