Byng remembered Whalen’s girl—stricken down with consumption a few months before. He caught Whalen’s arm in a grip of friendship. “All right, dear old man,” he said, kindly. “Fleming shall go, and I’ll stay. Yes, I’ll stay here, and do Wallstein’s work.”
He was still mechanically watching Krool attend to the sick man, and he was suddenly conscious of an arrest of all motion in the half-caste’s lithe frame. Then Krool turned, and their eyes met. Had he drawn Krool’s eyes to his—the master-mind influencing the subservient intelligence?
“Krool wants to go to South Africa,” he said to himself with a strange, new sensation which he did not understand, though it was not quite a doubt. He reassured himself. “Well, it’s natural he should. It’s his home.... But Fleming must go to Johannesburg. I’m needed most here.”
There was gratitude in his heart that Fate had decreed it so. He was conscious of the perfume from Jasmine’s cloak searching his senses, even in this hour when these things that mattered—the things of Fate—were so enormously awry.
A WOMAN TELLS HER STORY
“Soon he will speak you. Wait here, madame.”
Krool passed almost stealthily out.
Al’mah looked round the rather formal sitting-room, with its somewhat incongruous furnishing—leopard-skins from Bechuanaland; lion-skins from Matabeleland; silver-mounted tusks of elephants from Eastern Cape Colony and Portuguese East Africa; statues and statuettes of classical subjects; two or three Holbeins, a Rembrandt, and an El Greco on the walls; a piano, a banjo, and a cornet; and, in the corner, a little roulette-table. It was a strange medley, in keeping, perhaps, with the incongruously furnished mind of the master of it all; it was expressive of tastes and habits not yet settled and consistent.
Al’mah’s eyes had taken it all in rather wistfully, while she had waited for Krool’s return from his master; but the wistfulness was due to personal trouble, for her eyes were clouded and her motions languid. But when she saw the banjo, the cornet, and the roulette-table, a deep little laugh rose to her full red lips.
“How like a subaltern, or a colonial civil servant!” she said to herself.
She reflected a moment, then pursued the thought further: “But there must be bigness in him, as well as presence of mind and depth of heart—yes, I’m sure his nature is deep.”
She remembered the quick, protecting hands which had wrapped her round with Jasmine Grenfel’s cloak, and the great arms in which she had rested, the danger over.
“There can’t be much wrong with a nature like his, though Adrian hates him so. But, of course, Adrian would. Besides, Adrian will never get over the drop in the mining-stock which ruined him—Rudyard Byng’s mine.... It’s natural for Adrian to hate him, I suppose,” she added with a heavy sigh.