“Yes, I’ll come—Jasmine,” he answered, coolly, having read her hesitation aright.
She flushed, was embarrassed and piqued, but with a smile and a nod she left him.
In her carriage, however, her breath came quick and fast, her tiny hand clenched, her face flushed, and there was a devastating fire in her eyes.
“He shall not treat me so. He shall show some feeling. He shall—he shall—he shall!” she gasped, angrily.
THE APPIAN WAY
“Cape to Cairo be damned!”
The words were almost spat out. The man to whom they were addressed slowly drew himself up from a half-recumbent position in his desk-chair, from which he had been dreamily talking into the ceiling, as it were, while his visitor leaned against a row of bookshelves and beat the floor impatiently with his foot.
At the rude exclamation, Byng straightened himself, and looked fixedly at his visitor. He had been dreaming out loud again the dream which Rhodes had chanted in the ears of all those who shared with him the pioneer enterprises of South Africa. The outburst which had broken in on his monologue was so unexpected that for a moment he could scarcely realize the situation. It was not often, in these strenuous and perilous days—and for himself less often than ever before, so had London and London life worked upon him—that he, or those who shared with him the vast financial responsibilities of the Rand, indulged in dreams or prophecies; and he resented the contemptuous phrase just uttered, and the tone of the speaker even more.
Byng’s blank amazement served only to incense his visitor further. “Yes, be damned to it, Byng!” he continued. “I’m sick of the British Empire and the All Red, and the ‘immense future.’ What I want is the present. It’s about big enough for you and me and the rest of us. I want to hold our own in Johannesburg. I want to pull thirty-five millions a year out of the eighty miles of reef, and get enough native labour to do it. I want to run the Rand like a business concern, with Kruger gone to Holland; and Leyds gone to blazes. That’s what I want to see, Mr. Invincible Rudyard Byng.”
The reply to this tirade was deliberate and murderously bitter. “That’s what you want to see, is it, Mr. Blasphemous Barry Whalen? Well, you can want it with a little less blither and a little more manners.”
A hard and ugly look was now come into the big clean-shaven face which had become sleeker with good living, and yet had indefinably coarsened in the three years gone since the Jameson raid; and a gloomy anger looked out of the deep-blue eyes as he slowly went on:
“It doesn’t matter what you want—not a great deal, if the others agree generally on what ought to be done; and I don’t know that it matters much in any case. What have you come to see me about?”
“I know I’m not welcome here, Byng. It isn’t the same as it used to be. It isn’t—”