He watched Byng, over whose face passed a pleased smile.
“Why,” Byng said, almost eagerly, “it’s from Miss Grenfel—wants me to go and tell her about Jameson and the Raid.”
He paused for an instant, and his face clouded again. “The first thing I must do is to send cables to Johannesburg. Perhaps there are some waiting for me at my rooms. I’ll go and see. I don’t know why I didn’t get news sooner. I generally get word before the Government. There’s something wrong somewhere. Somebody has had me.”
“If I were you I’d go to our friend first. When I’m told to go at once, I go. She wouldn’t like cablegrams and other things coming between you and her command—even when Dr. Jim’s riding out of Matabeleland on the Rand for to free the slaves.”
Stafford’s words were playful, but there was, almost unknown to himself, a strange little note of discontent and irony behind.
Byng laughed. “But I’ll be able to tell her more, perhaps, if I go to my rooms first.”
“You are going to see her, then?”
“Certainly. There’s nothing to do till we get news of Jameson at bay in a conga or balled up at a kopje.” Thrusting the delicately perfumed letter in his pocket, he nodded, and was gone.
“I was going to see her myself,” thought Stafford, “but that settles it. It will be easier to go where duty calls instead, since Byng takes my place. Why, she told me to come to-day at this very hour,” he added, suddenly, and paused in his walk towards the door.
“But I want no triangular tea-parties,” he continued to reflect.... “Well, there’ll be work to do at the Foreign Office, that’s sure. France, Austria, Russia can spit out their venom now and look to their mobilization. And won’t Kaiser William throw up his cap if Dr. Jim gets caught! What a mess it will be! Well—well—well!”
He sighed, and went on his way brooding darkly; for he knew that this was the beginning of a great trial for England and all British people.
A DAUGHTER OF TYRE
Jasmine looked at him again, as she had done the night before at the opera, standing quite confidentially close to him, her hand resting in his big palm like a pad of rose-leaves; while a delicate perfume greeted his senses. Byng beamed down on her, mystified and eager, yet by no means impatient, since the situation was one wholly agreeable to him, and he had been called robber in his time with greater violence and with a different voice. Now he merely shook his head in humorous protest, and gave her an indulgent look of inquiry. Somehow he felt quite at home with her; while yet he was abashed by so much delicacy and beauty and bloom.
“Why, what else are you but a robber?” she added, withdrawing her hand rather quickly from the too frank friendliness of his grasp. “You ran off with my opera-cloak last night, and a very pretty and expensive one it was.”