THE DOP DOCTOR
Author of "Between Two Thieves," "The Headquarter Recruit," "The Cost of Wings"
London: William Heinemann Ltd.
First printed 6s. Edition, April, 1910.
New Impressions, May (three times), July, August, September, October, November, 1910; January, July, October, 1911; New Edition, May, 1912; New Impressions, September, October, December, 1912; February, May, 1913.
Popular Edition, July, August, September, 1913; April, 1914; June, 1915; July, September, 1916; September, 1917; February, October, 1918; January, 1920; January, 1922; July, 1924; January, 1927; February, 1930; May, 1932; March, 1934, March 1936
Printed in Great Britain The Windmill Press, Kingswood, Surrey
TO ONE ACROSS THE SEA
What have the long years brought me since first, with this pen for pickaxe, I bowed my loins to quarry from the living rock of my world about me, bread and a home where Love should smile beside the hearthplace, and chiefly for Love's dear sake, that men should honour you who, above all on earth, I hold most in honour—a name among the writers of books that live!
What have the long years brought me! Well, not the things I hoped. Just bread and clothing, fire, and a little roof-tree; the purchased soil to make a grave, and a space of leisure, before that grave be needed, to write, myself, this book for me and for you. Hope has spread her iridescent Psyche-wings and left me; Ambition long ago shed hers to become a working-ant. Love never came to sit in the chair beside the ingle. An ocean heaves between us, only for nightly dreams and waking thoughts to span. Were those dear eyes to see me as I am to-day, I wonder whether they would know me? For I grow grey, and furrows deepen in the forehead the dear hand will never smooth again. Remember me, then, only as I used to be; my heart is the same always; in it the long, long years have wrought no change.
But what have the long years brought me? Experience, that savoury salt, left where old tears have dried upon the shores of Time. Knowledge of my fellow men and women, of all sorts and conditions, and the love of them. Patience to bear what may yet have to be borne. Courage to encounter what may yet have to be encountered. Fortitude to meet the end, where faith holds up the Cross. Much have the long years brought me—besides your first smile and your last kiss. For your next, I look past Death, God aiding me, to the Eternal Life beyond....
April 22, 1909.
Upon a day near the end of August, one long, brilliant South African winter, when the old Vierkleur waved over the Transvaal, and what is now the Orange River Colony was the Orange Free State, with the Dutch canton still showing on the staff-head corner of its tribarred flag, two large, heavily-laden waggons rolled over the grass-veld, only now thinking about changing from yellow into green. Many years previously the wheels of the old voortrekkers had passed that way, bringing from Cape Colony, with the household gods, goods and chattels, language and customs of the Dutch, the slips of the pomegranate and peach and orange trees, whose abundant blossoming dressed the orchards of the farms tucked away here and there in the lap of the veld, with bridal white and pink, and hung their girdling pomegranate hedges with stars of ruby red. But days and days, and nights and nights of billowing, spreading, lonely sky-arched veld intervened between each homestead.
The flat-topped bills were draped and folded in the opal haze of distance; the sky was perfect turquoise; the rounded kopjes shone like pink topaz, unclothed as yet with the young pale green bush. To the south there was a veld fire leaping and dancing, with swirling columns of white smoke edged with flame. But it was many miles away, and the north-west wind blew strongly, driving some puffs of gold cloud before it. Perhaps there would be rain ere long. There had been rain already in the foremost waggon, not from the clouds, but from human eyes.
The broad wheels crashed on, rolling over the yellow grass and the dry bushes. Lizards and other creeping creatures scuttled across their wide tracks. The patient oxen toiled under the yoke, their dappled nostrils widespread, their great dewy eyes strained and dim with weariness. They dumbly wondered why they must labour in the daytime when all night long they had travelled without rest. The glorious sunrise had flamed in crimson and gold behind the eastern ranges full five hours before. They were weary to death, and no dorp or farm was yet in sight. The Cape boys who tramped, each leading a fore-ox by the green reim bound about the creature's wide horns, had no energy left even to swear at their beasts.
The Boer driver was wearied like the ox-team and the Cape boys. His bestial face was drawn, and his eyes were red-rimmed for lack of sleep. The long whip, with the fourteen-foot stock and the lash of twenty-three feet, had not smacked for a long time; the sjambok had not been used upon the long-suffering wheelers. Huddled up in his ill-fitting clothes of tan cord, he sat on the waggon-box and slept, his head nodding, his elbows on his knees. He was dreaming of the bad Cape brandy that had been in the bottle, and would be, with luck, again, when the waggon reached a tavern or a store.
A Kaffir drove the second waggon. It held stores and goods in bales, and some trunks and other baggage belonging to the Englishman, for you would have set down the tall, thin, high-featured, reddish-bearded, soft-speaking man who owned the waggons as English, even though he had called himself by a Dutch name. The child of three years was his. And his had been the dead body of the woman lying on the waggon-bed, covered with a new white sheet, with a stillborn boy baby lying on her breast.
For this the man who had loved and taken her, and made her his, had wept such bitter, scalding tears. For this his dead love, with Love's blighted bud of fruit upon her bosom, had given up her world, her friends, her family—her husband, first and last of all. They had played the straight game, and gone away openly together, to the immense scandal of Society that is so willing to wink at things done cleverly under the rose. They were to be married the instant the injured husband obtained his decree absolute. The State sanctioned the re-marriage of the divorced if the Churches did not. Their church should thenceforwards be the State. But there was no decree nisi even, the injured husband possessing a legal heir by a previously-deceased wife. Besides, in a cold way it gave him pleasure to think of that purpose foiled. He soon knew that his wife's lover had sold his commission in the Army, and he learned, later, through a communication forwarded through a London firm of solicitors, that although he had chosen to ignore a certain appointment offered upon the opposite side of the Channel, the other man would merely consider it deferred until a suitable opportunity should occur. Meanwhile the writer was travelling in South Africa, not alone.
Never to be alone again, she had promised him that not quite four years ago. And to-day he sat on a box beside the waggon-bed where she lay dead with her dead boy, and the only thing left to him that had the dear living fragrance and sweet warmth of her slept smiling on his knees—their daughter.
The long fine beard that he had grown swept the soft flushed cheek of the little creature, and mingled with her yellow curls. Within the last few hours—hours packed with the anguish of a lifetime for him—there were sprinklings of white upon his high temples, where the hair had grown thin under the pressure of the Hussar's furred busby, the khaki-covered helmet of foreign service, or the forage-cap, before these had given place to the Colonial smasher of felt, and the silky reddish-brown beard had in it wide, ragged streaks of grey. He had worshipped the woman who had given up all for him; they had lived only for, and in one another during four wonderful years. Hardly a passing twinge of regret, never a scorpion-sting of remorse, spoiled their union.
But they never stayed long in any town or even in any village. Some sound or shape from the old unforgotten world beyond the barrier, some English voice that had the indefinable tone and accent of high breeding, some figure of Englishman or Englishwoman whose rough, careless clothing had the unmistakable cut of Bond Street, some face recognised under the grey felt or the white Panama, would spur them to the desire of leaving it behind them. Then the valises would be repacked, the oxen would be hastily inspanned, and their owners would start again upon that never-ending journey in search of something that the woman was to be the first to find.
At last, when the sun was high and the worn-out beasts were almost sinking, a group of low buildings came in sight a few miles away beyond a kloof edged with a few poplar-like trees and the kameelthorn. A square, one-storey house of corrugated iron, with a mud-walled hovel or two near it, had a sprawling painted board across its front, signifying that the place was the Free State Hotel. Behind it were an orchard and some fields under rude cultivation, and a quarter of a mile to the north were the native kraals.
At the sight the Boer shook himself fully awake, and sent the long lash cracking over the thin, sweat-drenched backs of the ox-team. They laboured with desperation at the yoke, and the waggon rumbled on.
The Englishman, hidden with his sorrow under the canvas waggon-tilt, roused himself at the accelerated motion. He rose, and, holding the sleeping child upon one arm, pushed back the front flap and looked out. He spoke to the taciturn driver, who shook his head. How did he, Smoots Beste, know whether a minister of the Church of England, or even a Dutch predikant, was to be found at the place beyond? All he hoped for was that he would be able to buy there tobacco and brandy cheap, and sleep drunken, to wake and drink again.
The waggon halted on the brink of the kloof. Little birds of gay and brilliant plumage, blue and crimson and emerald-green, rose in flocks from the bush and grasses that clothed the sides of the coomb; the hollows were full of the tree-fern; the grass had little white and purple flowers in it. At the valley-bottom a little stream, that would be a river after the first rains, wimpled over sandstone boulders, the barbel rose at flies. There was a drift lower down. It was all the goaded, worn-out oxen could do to stay the huge creaking waggons down the steep bank, and drag them over the river-bed of sand and boulders, through the muddied, churned-up water that they were dying for, yet not allowed to taste, and toil with them up the farther side.
The Englishman was not cruel. He was usually humane and merciful to man and beast, but just now he was deaf and blind. Beside him there was her corpse, beyond him was her grave, beyond that....
Both he and she, in that world that lay beyond the barrier had observed the outward forms of Christianity. They had first met in the Park, one May morning, after a church parade. They sat on a couple of green-painted chairs while Society, conscious of the ever-present newspaper-reporter, paraded past them in plumage as gorgeous as that of the gay-coloured birds that flocked among the tree-fern or rose in frightened clouds as the waggons crashed by. And they discussed—together with the chances of the runners entered for the second Spring Meeting at Newmarket, and the merits of the problem play, and the newest farcical comedy—the Immortality of the Soul.
She wore a brown velvet gown and an ostrich-feather boa in delicate shades of cream and brown, and a cavalier hat with sweeping white plumes. Her hair was the colour of autumn leaves, or a squirrel's back in the sunshine, and she had grey eyes and piquant, irregular features, ears like shells, and a delicate, softly-tinted skin undefiled by cosmetics. She thought it wicked to doubt that one waked up again after dying, Somewhere—a vague Somewhere, with all the nice people of one's set about one. He said that Agnosticism and all that kind of thing was bad form. Men who had religion made the best soldiers. Like the Presbyterian Highlanders of the Black Watch and the "Royal Irish" Catholics—but, of course, she knew that. And she said yes, she knew; meeting his admiring eyes with her own, that were so grey and sweet and friendly, the little gloved hand that held the ivory and gold-bound Church Service lying in her lap. He longed to take that little white, delicate hand. Later on he took it, and a little later the heart that throbbed in its pulses, and the frail, beautiful body out of which the something that had been she had gone with a brief gasping struggle and a long shuddering sigh....
He kept the beloved husk and shell of her steady on the waggon-bed with one arm thrown over it, and held the awakened, fretting child against his breast with the other, as the sinking oxen floundered up the farther side of the kloof. Amidst the shouting and cursing of the native voor-loopers and the Boer and Kaffir drivers, the rain of blows on tortured, struggling bodies, and the creaking of the teak-built waggon-frames, he only heard her weakly asking to be buried properly in some churchyard, or cemetery, with a clergyman to read the Service for the Dead.
Before his field-glass showed him the sprawling hotel-sign he had hoped that the buildings in sight might prove to mask the outskirts of a native village with an English missionary station, or a Dutch settlement important enough to own a corrugated iron Dopper church and an oak-scrub-hedged or boulder-dyked graveyard, in charge of a pastor whose loathing of the Briton should yield to the mollifying of poured-out gold.
But Fate had brought him to this lonely veld tavern. He watched it growing into ugly, sordid shape as the waggon drew nearer. To this horrible place, miscalled the Free State Hotel—a mere jumble of corrugated-iron buildings, wattle and mud-walled stables for horses, and a barbed-wire waggon-enclosure—he had brought his beloved at the end of their last journey together. He shuddered at the thought.
The waggons were halted and outspanned before the tavern. The drivers went in to get drink, and Bough, the man who sold it, leaving the women to serve them, came forth. He ordinarily gave himself out as an Afrikander. You see in him a whiskered, dark-complexioned, good-looking man of twenty-six, but looking older, whose regard was either insolent or cringing, according to circumstances, and whose smile was an evil leer. The owner of the waggons stood waiting near the closed-up foremost one, the yellow-haired child on his arm. He looked keenly at the landlord, Bough, and the man's hand went involuntarily up in the salute, to its owner's secret rage. Did he want every English officer to recognise him as an old deserter from the Cape Mounted Police? Not he—and yet the cursed habit stuck. But he looked the stranger squarely in the face with that frank look that masked such depth of guile, and greeted him with the simple manner that concealed so much, and the English officer lifted his left hand, as though it raised a sword, and began to talk. Presently Bough called someone, and a smart, slatternly young woman came out and carried the child, who leaned away from her rouged face, resisting, into the house.
The English traveller would take no refreshment. He needed nothing but to know of a graveyard and men to dig a grave, and a minister or priest to read the Burial Service. He would pay all that was asked. He learned that the nearest village-town might be reached in three days' trek across the veld, and that the landlord did not know whether it had a pastor or not.
Three days' trek! He waved the twinkling-eyed, curious landlord back, and went up into the foremost waggon, drawing the canvas close. He faced the truth in there, and realized with a throe of mortal anguish that the burial must be soon—very soon. To prison what remained of her in a hastily knocked-together coffin, and drag it over the veld, looking for some plot of consecrated earth to put it in, was desecration, horror. He would bury her, and fetch the minister or clergyman or priest to read prayers. Later, if it cost him all he had, the spot should be consecrated for Christian burial. He came forth from the waggon and held parley with the landlord of the tavern. There was a wire-fenced patch of sandy red earth a hundred yards from the house, a patch wherein the white woman who was mistress at the tavern had tried to grow a few common English flower-seeds out of a gaily-covered packet left by a drummer who had passed that way. She had grown tired of the trouble of watering and tending them, so that some of them had withered, and the lean fowls had flown over the fence and scratched the rest up.
That patch of sandy earth brought a handsome price, paid down in good English sovereigns—the coinage that is welcome in every corner of the earth, save among the scattered islands of the Aleutian Archipelago, where gin, tobacco, and coffee are more willingly taken in exchange for goods or souls.
The Englishman was business-like. He fetched pen and ink and paper out of that jealously closed-up waggon, drew up the deed of sale, and had it witnessed by the Boer driver and the white woman at the hotel.
He had made up his mind. He would bury her, since it must be, and then fetch the clergyman. Knowing him on the road, or returning to the fulfilment of his promise, she would not mind lying there unblessed and waiting for six lonely days and nights. He whispered in her deaf ears how it was going to be, and that she could not doubt him. He swore—not dreaming how soon he should keep one vow—to visit the grave often, often, with his child and hers, and to lie there beside her when kind Death should call him too.
Then he left her for a moment, and sent for the Kaffir driver and the Boer to come, and, with him, dig her grave....
But Smoots Beste was already in hog-paradise, lying grunting on a bench in the bar, and the Kaffir had gone to the kraals with the Cape boys. The English officer looked at the rowdy landlord and the loafing men about the tavern, and made up his mind. No hands other than his own should prepare a last bed for her, his dearest.
So, all through the remainder of the long day, streaming and drenched with perspiration, which the cold wind dried upon him, he wrought at a grave for her with spade and pick.
It should be deep, because of the wild-cat and the hungry Kaffir dogs. It should be wide, to leave room for him. The ground was hard, with boulders of ironstone embedded in it. What did that matter? All the day through, and all through the night of wind-driven mists and faint moonlight, he wrought like a giant possessed, whilst his child, lulled with the condensed milk and water, in which biscuits had been sopped, lay sleeping in the tavern upon a little iron bed.
He had had the waggon brought close up to the wired enclosure. All the time he worked he kept a watch upon it. Did claws scrape the wide wheels or scurrying feet patter across the shadows, he left off work until the voracious creatures of the night were driven away.
The pale dawn came, and the east showed a lake of yellow.... When the great South African sun rose and flooded the veld with miraculous liquid ambers and flaming, melted rubies, the deep, wide grave at last was done.
He climbed out of it by the waggon ladder, struggling under the weight of the last great basketful of stones and sandy earth. He dumped that down by the graveside, and went to the waggon and removed all stains of toil, and then set about making the last toilette of the beautiful woman who had so loved that everything that touched her should be pure, and dainty, and sweet.
He had dressed her silken, plentiful, squirrel-brown hair many times, for the sheer love of its loveliness. With what care he now combed and brushed and arranged the perfumed locks! He laid reverent kisses on the sealed eyelids that his own hands had closed for ever; he whispered words of passionate love, vows of undying gratitude and remembrance, in the shell-like ears. He bathed with fresh water and reclad in fragrant linen the exquisite body, upon which faint discolouring patches already heralded the inevitable end. When he had done, he swathed her in a sheet, and fetched a bolt of new white canvas from the store-waggon, and lined the grave with that.
And then he placed a narrow mattress in it, and freshly covered pillows, and brought her from the waggon, and to the grave, and carried her down the light wooden ladder, and laid her in her last earthly home, with a kiss from the lips that had never been her husband's. It was so cruel to think of that. It was so hard to cover up the cold, sweet face again, but he did it, and lapped the sheet over her and brought the canvas down. Remained now to fill in her grave and fetch the man whose mouth should speak over it the words that are of God.
But first—fill in the grave.
The cold sweat drenched him at the thought of heaping back those tons of earth and stone above her, crushing with a frightful weight of inert matter the bodily beauty that he adored. He felt as though her soul hovered about him, wailing to him not to be so cruel, tugging at his garments with imploring, impalpable hands.
The thing must be done, though, before the sordid life stirred again under the roof of the tavern, before the vulgar faces, with their greedy, prying eyes, should be there to snigger and spy.
He loaded a great basket with fine gravelly sand, and carried it down and laid it on her by handfuls. What were his livid, parched lips muttering? Over and over, only this:
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust ..."
Soon the white swathed-up form was hidden with the sandy gravel. That was a terrible pang. It wrenched the first groan from him, but he worked on.
More and more of the sandy gravel, but for precaution the stones must lie above. Should the voracious creatures of the night come, they must find the treasure in impregnable security. That thought helped him to lay in the first, and the second, and then greater and greater stones. He was spent and breathless, but still he laboured. He tottered, and at times the tavern and the veld, and the waggons on it, and the flat-topped distant mountains that merged in the horizon, swung round him in a wild, mad dance. Then the warm salt taste of blood was in his mouth, and he gasped and panted, but he never rested until the grave was filled in.
Then he built up over it an oblong cairn of the ironstone boulders, made a rude temporary cross out of a spare waggon-pole, working quite methodically with saw and hammer and nails, and set it up, under the curious eyes he hated so, and wedged it fast and sure. Then he knelt down stiffly, and made, with rusty, long unpractised fingers, the sacred sign upon his face and breast. He heard her still, asking him in that nearly extinguished voice of hers, to pray for her.
Ah! the tragedy of the foolish little nickname, faltered by stiffening lips upon the bed of death!
"Catholics pray for the souls of dead people, don't they? Pray for mine by-and-by. It will comfort me to know you are praying, darling, even if God is too angry with us to hear!"
He held her to his bursting heart, groaning.
"If He is angry, it cannot be with you. The sin was mine—all mine. He must know!"
Later she awakened from a troubled sleep to murmur:
"Richard, I dreamed of Bridget-Mary. She was all in black, but there was white linen about her face and neck, and it was dabbled dreadfully with blood." The weak, slight body shuddered in his embrace. "She said our wickedness had brought her death, but that she would plead for us in Heaven."
"She is not dead, my beloved; I heard of her before we left Cape Colony. She has taken the veil. She is well, and will be happy in her religion, as those good women always are."
"I was not one of those good women, Richard——"
He strained her to him in silence. She panted presently:
"You might have been happy—with her—if I had never come between you!"
He found some words to tell her that these things were meant to be. From the beginning ...
"Was it meant that I should die on these wild, wide, desolate plains, and leave you, Richard?"
He cried out frantically that he would die too, and follow her. Her dying whisper fluttered at his lips:
"You cannot! Think!—the child!"
He had forgotten the child, and now, with a great stabbing pang, remembered it. She asked for it, and he brought it, and she tried to kiss it; and even in that Death foiled her, and her head fell back and her eyes rolled up, and she died.
He remembered all this as he tried to say the prayer, without which she could not have borne to have him leave her.
The curious, mocking faces crowded at the tavern door to see him praying—a strange, haggard scarecrow kneeling there in the face of day.
But he was not the kind of scarecrow they would have dared to jeer at openly. Too rich, with all that money in the valise in the locked-up waggon-chest; too strong, with that sharp hunting-knife, the Winchester repeating-rifle, and the revolver he carried at his hip.
"Our Father Who art in Heaven...."
He knew, the man who repeated the words, that there was no One beyond the burning blue vault of ether Who heard ... and yet, for her sake, supposing, after all, some great Unseen Ear listened, was listening even now....
"Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come...."
And if it came, should those have any part in it who had lived together unwed in open sin?
"Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...."
The words stuck in his dried throat. Be done, that Will that left him desolate and laid her away, a still fair, fast-corrupting thing, under the red earth and the great ironstone boulders!
"Give us this day our daily bread...."
Her love, her presence, her voice, her touch, had been the daily bread of life to him, her fellow-sinner. Oh, how many base, sordid, loveless marriages had not that illicit bond of theirs put to shame! And yet as a boy he had learned the Seventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Had she not believed all along that the price of such sweet sinning must be paid, if not in this life, then in the life hereafter, and could it—could it be that her soul was even now writhing in fires unquenchable, whither he, who would have gladly died in torment to save her from outrage or death, had thrust her?
"Forgive us our trespasses...."
O Man of Sorrows, pitying Son of Mary, before Whom the Scribes and Pharisees brought the woman taken in adultery, forgive her, pardon her! If a soul must writhe in those eternal fires they preach of, in justice let it be mine! Thou Who didst pity that woman of old time, standing white and shameful in the midst of the evil, jeering crowd, with the wicked fingers pointing at her, say to this other woman, lifting up Thyself before her terrified, desperate soul, confronted with the awful mystery that lies behind the Veil....
"Neither do I condemn thee...."
And do with me what Thou wilt!
The ragged, wild-eyed man who had been kneeling rigid and immovable before the wooden symbol reared upon the new-raised cairn of boulders swayed a little. His head fell forward heavily upon his breast. His eyes closed in spite of his desperate effort to shake off the deadly, sickening collapse of will and brain and body that was mastering him. He fell sideways, and lay in a heap upon the ground.
They went to him, and took up and carried him into the tavern, and laid him down upon a frowzy bed in the room where the child lay upon the iron-framed cot.
He lay there groaning in the fierce clutches of rheumatic fever. They tended him in a rude way. A valise and an iron-bound leather lady's trunk had been brought from the waggon by his orders, and set in the room where he was in his sight. These contained her clothes and jewels, and he guarded them jealously even in delirium. About his wasted body was buckled a heavy money-belt. Bough could feel that when he helped the woman of the tavern to lift the patient. He winked to her pleasantly across the bed. But the time was not ripe yet. They must wait awhile. The English traveller was not always delirious. There were intervals of consciousness, and though he seemed at death's door, who knew? That strong purpose of his might even yet lift him from the soiled and comfortless bed, and send him on the trek again. Meanwhile the oxen were hired out to work for a farmer fifty miles away. That was called sending them to graze and gain strength for more work; and there was the keep of two Cape boys, and the Kaffir and the Boer driver, and the cost of nursing and sick man's diet, and the care of the child. A heavy bill of charges was mounting up against the English traveller. Much of what the belt contained would honestly be Bough's.
There was no doctor and no medicine save the few drugs the sick man had carried, as all travellers do. The milk for which he asked for himself and the child, which was procured from the native cattle-kraals for a tikkie a pint, and for which Bough charged at the price of champagne, kept him alive. Broth or eggs he sickened at and turned from, and, indeed, the one was greasy and salt, the others of appalling mustiness. He would regularly swallow the tabloids of quinine or lithia, and fall back on the hard, coarse pillow, exhausted by the mere effort of unscrewing the nickel-cap of the little phial, and tell himself that he was getting stronger. Sometimes he really was so, and then the child sat on his wide hollow chest, and played with the beard that was now all grey and unkempt and matted, until some word in her baby prattle, some look of wondering inquiry in the innocent eyes, golden-hazel and black-lashed, like his own, that were almost too beautiful to be a man's, people used to say, like the weak, passionate, gentle mouth under the heavy moustache, would bring back all the anguish of his loss, and waken anew that torturing voice that accused him of being false to his compact with the dead. Then he would call, and send the child away, borne in the arms of the Hottentot chambermaid to breathe the fresh air upon the veld. And, left alone, he would draw up the rough sheets over his head, with gaunt clutching fingers, and weep, though sometimes no tears came to moisten his haggard, staring eyes.
One night, while the flat gold hunting-watch ticked above his head in the little embroidered chamois-leather pouch dead hands had worked, Knowledge came to him with a sudden rigor of the muscles of the wasted body, and a bursting forth from every pore of the dank, dark-hued sweat of coming dissolution.
He was not ever going to get well, and fetch the clergyman to pray over and bless her resting-place. He was going to die and lie beside her there, under the red earth topped by the boulder-cairn. He smiled. What an easy solution of the problem! He had been too intent upon gratifying her last desire to entertain for a moment the thought of suicide. He had always held self-destruction as the last resource of the coward and the criminal, and besides there was the child.
With a pang of dread and terror unfelt by him before, he raised his gaunt head with an effort from the uneasy pillow, and looked towards where she lay, with staring, haunted eyes. The window was open a little way at the top, and for fear of the night-chill his fine leopard-skin kaross had been spread over her.... One dimpled, rounded, bare arm lay upon the soft dappled fur, the babyish fingers curled one upon the other. Rosy human tendrils that should never twine again in a mother's hair. Her child, her daughter!... Born of her body, sharing her nature and her sex, soon to be orphaned. For he who could not even lift himself from bed, and drag his body across the floor to cover that lovely babyish arm, would soon be no better protector than the restless ghost that tugged at his heart with its unseen hands. He knew now why it could not rest.
What would become of the child! Another fiery scourge, wielded by the Hand Unseen, bit deep into his shrinking conscience, into his writhing soul. His own act had brought this about. Be a cur, and accuse Destiny, blame Fate, lay the onus upon God, as so many defaulters do—he could not. He lay looking his deed in the foul face until the dawn crept up the sky, and learning how it may be that the sins of their fathers are visited on the children.
He called for ink and paper as soon as the house was awake, and with infinite labour and many pauses to recover spent strength and breath, for he was greedy of life now, for the reason that we know—he wrote a letter home to England, to a relative who was the head of his family, and bore a great historic title—so great that those who spelled it out upon the envelope were half afraid to slip the heated knife under the crested seal. But Bough did it, and opened, and read.
It was not going to be the soft snap he had thought, but it would be good enough. Wires might be pulled from Downing Street that would set the Government at Cape Town working to trace the tall thin Englishman who had travelled up with two waggons from Cape Colony in the company of a child and the woman now dead, and for whose sake he had given up those almighty swell connections. What a fool—what a thundering, juicy, damned fool the man had been! whose gaunt eyes were even now making out the landfall of Kingdom Come through the gathering mists of death.
The letter worried Bough. To have the English Government smelling at your heels is no joke, thought he. Any moment the mastiff may grip, and then, if you happen to be an ex-convict and deserter from their Colonial Police, and supposing you have one or two other little things against you ... the most honest of speculators being occasionally compelled to dirty his hands, if only to tone down those immaculate extremities to something approaching the colour of other people's—then what becomes of the risky but profitable business of gun-running from the English ports through to the Transvaal?
For by men like Bough and his associates vast supplies of munitions and engines of war were wormed through. The machine-guns in carefully numbered parts came in cases as "agricultural implements," the big guns travelled in the boilers of locomotives, the empty cases of the shells, large and small, were packed in piano-cases, or in straw-filled crates as "hardware"; the black powder and the cordite and the lyddite came in round wooden American cheese-boxes, with a special mark; and the Mauser cartridges were soldered in tins like preserved meat. How handsomely that business paid only Bough and his merry men, and Oom Paul and his burghers of the Volksraad, knew.
But Her Majesty's Government, bound about with red-tape, hoodwinked by Dutch Assistant-Commissioners of British Colonies, and deceived by traitorous English officials, were blind and deaf to the huge traffic in arms and munitions. Not that there were no warnings. To the very end they were shouted in deaf ears.
What of that letter sent from the Resident Commissioner's office at Gueldersdorp, that little frontier hamlet on the north-east corner of British Baraland, September 4, 1899, little more than a month before the war broke out, the war that was to leave Britain and her Colonies bleeding at every vein?
The Boers were in laager over the Border. A desperate appeal for help had been made to the Powers that were, and the reply received to the now historic telegram, through the Resident Commissioner, has equally become a matter of history.
"All that was possible" was being done by the Imperial authorities, His Excellency assured the inquirer, to safeguard the lives and property of the inhabitants of the Gold-Reef Town in the event of an attack by a hostile force.
Also the military armament of the place was about to be materially increased.
And yet up to the little frontier town upon which so much depended not a single modern gun had been despatched.
An easy prey had the little town upon the flat-topped hill, set in the middle of a basin, proved to the Boer General and his commandos but for one thing. For weeks after the bursting of the first shell over Gueldersdorp three sides of the beleaguered town were so many open doors for the enemy. Only upon the threshold of each door stood Fear, and guarded and held the citadel.
That hard taskmaster, Satan, is sometimes wonderfully indulgent to those who serve him well. While Bough, the keeper of the tavern, was yet turning about the open letter in his thick, short, hairy hands, weighing the chances attending the sending of it against the chances of keeping it back, the woman who served as mistress of the place thrust her coarsely-waved head of yellow bleached hair and rouge-ruddled face in at the room door, and called to him:
"Boss, the sick toff is doing a croak. Giving up the ghost for all he's worth—he is. Better come and take a look for yourself if you don't believe me."
Bough swore with relief and surprise, delayed only to lock away the letter, and went to take a look. It was as he hoped, a real stroke of luck for a man who knew how to work it.
Richard Mildare—for Bough knew now what had been the name of the Englishman: Captain the Hon. Richard Mildare, late of the Grey Hussars—was dead. No hand made murderous by the lust of gold had helped him to his death. Sudden failure of the heart is common in aggravated cases of rheumatic fever, and with one suffocating struggle, one brief final pang, he had gone to join her he loved. But his dead face did not look at rest. There was some reflection in it of the terror that had come upon him in the watches of that last night.
Bough stayed some time alone in the room of death. When he came out he was extremely affable and gentle. The woman, who knew him, chuckled to herself when he met the Kaffir serving-maid bringing back the child from an airing in the sun, and told her to take it to the mistress. Then he went into the bar-room to speak to the Englishman's Boer driver.
Leaning easily upon the zinc-covered counter he spoke to the man in the Taal, with which he was perfectly familiar:
"Your Baas has gone in, as my wife and I expected."
Smoots Beste growled in his throat:
"He was no Baas of mine, the verdoemte rooinek! I drove for him for pay, that is all. There is wage owing me still, for the matter of that—and where am I to get it now that the heathen has gone to the burning?"
Smoots, who was all of a heathen himself, and regularly got drunk, not only on week days, but on Sabbaths, felt virtuously certain that the Englishman had gone to Hell.
Bough smiled and poured out a four-finger swig of bad Cape brandy, and pushed it across the counter.
"You shall get the money, every tikkie. Only listen to me."
Smoots Beste tossed off the fiery liquid, and returned in a tone less surly:
"I am listening, Baas."
Said Bough, speaking with the thickish lisp and slurring of the consonants that distinguished his utterance when he sought to appear more simple and candid than usual:
"This dead toff, with his flash waggon and fine team, and Winchester repeating-rifles, had very little money. He has died in my debt for the room and the nursing, and the good nourishment, for which I trusted him all these three weeks, and I am a poor man. The dollars I have paid you and the Kaffir and the Cape boys on his account came out of my own pocket. Rotten soft have I behaved over him, that's the God's truth, and when I shall get back my own there's no knowing. But, of course, I shall act square."
The Boer's thick lips parted in a grin, showing his dirty, greenish-yellow teeth. He scratched his shaggy head, and said, his tongue lubricated to incautiousness by the potent liquor:
"The waggons, and the oxen, and the guns and ammunition, and the stores in the second waggon are worth good money. And the woman that is dead had jewels—I have seen them on her—diamonds and rubies in rings and bracelets fit for the vrouw of King Solomon himself. The Englishman did not bury them with her under that verdoemte kopje that he built with his two hands, and they are not in the boxes in the living-waggon."
"Did he not?" asked Bough, looking the Boer driver full in the face with a pleasant smile. "Are they not?"
Smoots Beste's piggish eyes twinkled round the bar-room, looked up at the ceiling, down at the floor, anywhere but into Bough's. He spat, and said in a much more docile tone:
"What do you want me to do?"
Bough leaned over the counter, and said confidentially:
"Just this, friend. I want you to inspan, and take one of the waggons up to Gueldersdorp, with a letter from me to the Civil Commissioner. I will tell him how the man is dead, and he will send down a magistrate's clerk to put a seal on the boxes and cases, and then he will go through the letters and papers in the pocket-book, and write to the people of the dead man over in England, supposing he has any, for I have heard him tell my wife there was not a living soul of his name now, except the child——"
"But what good will all this do you and me, Baas?" asked the Boer subserviently.
Bough spread his hands and shrugged his shoulders.
"Why, when the magistrates and lawyers have hunted up the man's family, there will be an order to sell the waggons and oxen and other property to pay the expenses of his burying, and the child's keep here and passage from Cape Town, if she is to be sent to England ... and what is left over, see you, after the law expenses have been paid, will go to the settlement of our just claims. They will never let honest men suffer for behaving square, sure no, they'll not do that!"
But though Bough's words were full of faith in the fair dealing of the lawyers and magistrates, his tone implied doubt.
"Boer lawyers are slim rogues at best, and Engelsch lawyers are duyvels as well as rogues," said Smoots Beste, with a dull flash of originality.
Bough nodded, and pushed another glass of liquor across the bar.
"And that's true enough. I've a score to settle with one or two of 'em. By gum! I call myself lucky to be in this with a square man like you. There's the waggon, brand-new—you know what it cost at Cape Town—and the team, I trust you to take up to Gueldersdorp, and who's to hinder a man who hasn't the fear of the Lord in him from heading north-east instead of north-west, selling the waggon and the beasts at Kreilstad or Schoenbroon, and living on a snug farm of your own for the rest of your life under another man's name, where the English magistrates and the police will never find you, though their noses were keener than the wild dogs?"
"Alamachtig!" gasped Smoots Beste, rendered breathless by the alluring, tempting prospect. Surely the devil spoke with the voice of the tavern-keeper Bough, when, in human form, he tempted children of men. Sweat glistened on Smoots' flabby features, his thick hands trembled, and his bowels were as water. But his purpose was solidifying in his brain as he said innocently, looking over Bough's left shoulder at the wooden partition that divided off the bar from the landlord's dwelling-room:
"Aye, I am no dirty schelm that cannot be trusted. Therefore would it not be better if I took both teams and waggons, and all the rooinek's goods with me up to Gueldersdorp, and handed it over to the Engelsch landrost there?"
The fish was hooked. Bough said, steadily avoiding those twirling eyes:
"A good notion, but the lawyer chaps at Gueldersdorp will want to look at the Englishman's dead body to be able to satisfy his people that he did not die of a gunshot, or of a knife-thrust; we must bury him, of course, but not too deep for them to dig him up again. And they will want to ferret in all the corners of the room where he died, and make sure that his bags and boxes have not been tampered with—and then there is the child. In a way"—he spoke slowly and apologetically—"the kid and the goods are my security for getting my own back again—if ever I do. So you will inspan one of the waggons—the best if you like, with a team of six beasts, and you will trek up to Gueldersdorp—you will travel light enough with only the grub you will need, and the Cape boys, and you will hand over the letter to the Resident Magistrate, and bring back the man who will act as his deputy."
But at this point Smoots Beste set down his splay foot. He would undertake to deliver the letter, but he objected to the company of the coloured voor-loopers or the Kaffir driver. He was firm upon that and, finding his most honeyed persuasions of no avail, Bough said no more. He would pay off the niggers and dismiss them, or get rid of them without paying; there were ways and means. He sent up country, and the team came down, six thin, overworked creatures, with new scars upon their slack and baggy hides, and hollow flanks, and ribs that showed painfully. Smoots Beste was about to grumble, but he changed his mind, and took the letter, buttoning it up in the flapped pocket of his tan-cord jacket, and the long whip cracked like a revolver as the lash hissed out over the backs of the wincing oxen, and the white tilt rocked over the veld, heading to the nor'-west.
"When will the Dutchy be back, boss?" asked the woman, with a knowing look.
Bough played the game up to her. He answered quite seriously: "In three weeks' time."
Then he strolled out, smoking a cigar, his hat tilted at an angle that spoke of satisfaction. His walk led him past the oblong cairn of ironstone boulders in the middle of the sandy patch of ground enclosed with zinc wire-netting. At the foot of the cairn was a new grave.
For the lover did not even lie beside his beloved, as he had vowed once, promised and planned, but couched below her feet, waiting, like some faithful hound that could not live without the touch of the worshipped hand, for the dead to rise again.
Why is it that Failure is the inevitable fate of some men and women? Despite brilliant prospects, positions that seem assured, commanding talents nobly used, splendid opportunities that are multiplied as though in mockery, the result is Nothing from first to last; while the bad flourish and the evil prosper, and the world honours the stealer of the fruit of the brains that have been scattered in frenzied despair, or have become so worn out from the constant effort of creation that the worker has sunk into hopeless apathy and died.
Bough was not one of those men whose plans come to nothing. He had prospered as a rogue of old in England, really his native country, though he called himself an Afrikander. Reared in the gutters of the Irish quarter of Liverpool, he had early learned to pilfer for a living, had prospered in prison as sharp young gaol-birds may prosper, and returned to it again and again, until, having served out part of a sentence for burglary and obtained his ticket-of-leave, he had shifted his convict's skin, and made his way out to Cape Colony under a false name and character. He had made a mistake, it was true, enlisting as a trooper of Colonial Police, but the step had been forced upon him by circumstances. Then he had deserted, and had since been successful as a white-slave dealer at Port Elizabeth, and as a gold-miner in the Transvaal, and he had done better and better still at that ticklish trade of gun-running for Oom Paul. Though, get caught—only once get caught—and the Imperial Government authorities, under whose noses you had been playing the game with impunity for years, made it as hot as Hell for you. Bough, however, did not mean ever to get caught. There was always another man, a semi-innocent dupe, who would appear to have been responsible for everything, and who would get pinched.
Such a dupe now trudged at the head of the meagre three-span ox-team. When, after a hard day's toil, he at length outspanned, the waggon-pole still faithfully pointed to the north-west. But before it was yet day the waggon began to move again, and it was to the north-east that the waggon-pole pointed thenceforwards, and the letter Bough had given Smoots Beste for the Chief Resident Magistrate at Gueldersdorp was saved from the kindling of the camp-fire by a mere accident.
The cat's-paw could not read, or the illegible, meaningless ink scrawl upon the sheet within the boldly-addressed envelope would have aroused his suspicions at the outset. So well had Bough, that expert in human frailty, understood his subject, that the letter was a bogus letter, a fraud, not elaborate—a mere stage property, nothing more. But yet he gave it in full belief that it would be burned, and that, the boats of Smoots Beste being consumed with it, according to the thick judgment of the said Smoots, it would be as a pillar of fire behind that slim child of the old voortrekkers, hastening his journey north-eastwards. It is typical of the class of Smoots that it never once occurred to him to go north.
But Smoots Beste never bought a farm with the price of the oxen and the high-bulwarked, teak-built, waterproof-canvas tilted waggon that had cost such a good round sum. There was a big rainfall on the third day. It began with the typical African thunderstorm—deafening, continuous rolls and crashes of heavy cloud-artillery, and lightning that blazed and darted without intermission, and ran zigzagging in a horrible, deadly, playful fashion over the veld, as though looking for dishonest folks to shrivel. One terrible flash struck the wheel-oxen, a thin double tongue of blue flame sped flickering from ridge to ridge of the six gaunt backs ... there was a smell of burning hair—a reek of sulphur. The team lay outstretched dead on the veld, the heavy yoke across their patient necks, the long horns curving, the thin starved bodies already beginning to bloat and swell in the swift decomposition that follows death by the electric fluid.
Smoots Beste crawled under the waggon, and, remembering all he had heard his father spell out from the Dutch Bible about the Judgment Day, and the punishment of sinners in everlasting flame, felt very ill at ease. The storm passed over, and the rain poured all through the night, but dawn brought in a clear blue day; and with it a train of eight transport-waggons, and several wearied, muddy droves of sheep and cattle, the property of the Imperial Government Commissariat Department, Gueldersdorp, being taken from Basutoland East up to Gueldersdorp, under convoy of an escort of B.S.A. Police. To the non-commissioned officer in command Smoots Beste, resigned to the discharge of a trust, handed the letter for the Civil Commissioner.
The sergeant, sitting easily in the saddle, looked at the boldly-written direction on the envelope, and smelt no rats—at least until he coolly opened the supposed letter. The scrawled sheet of paper it contained was a surprise, but he did not let Smoots see that. Then the following brief dialogue took place:
"You were trekking up to Gueldersdorp," he said to the decidedly nervous Smoots, "to fetch down a Deputy Civil Commissioner to deal with the effects of a dead English traveller, at a house kept by the man who wrote this letter—that is, three days' trek over the veld to the southward, and called the Free State Hotel?"
Smoots nodded heavily. The dapper sergeant cocked his felt smasher hat, and turned between pleasantly smiling lips the cigar he was smoking. Then he pointed with his riding-whip, a neatly varnished sjambok, with a smart silver top, to the north-west.
"There lies Gueldersdorp. Rum that when the lightning killed the ox-team you should have been trekking north-east, isn't it?"
Smoots Beste agreed that it was decidedly rum.
The sergeant said, without a change in his agreeable smile:
"All right; you can inspan six of our drove-bullocks, and drive the waggon with us to Gueldersdorp."
"Thank you, Baas!" said Smoots, without enthusiasm.
"If you like to take the risk," added the sergeant, who had not quite finished. He ended with an irrepressible outburst of honest indignation: "Why, you blasted, thieving Dutch scum, do you think I don't know you were stealing that span and waggon?"
And as Smoots, sweating freely, unyoked the dead oxen, he decided in his heavy mind that he would be missing long before the convoy got to Gueldersdorp.
Nine waggons rolled on where only eight had been before. The mounted men hurried on the daubed and wearied droves of Commissariat beasts. Smoots Beste drove the scratch team of bullocks, but his heart was as water within his belly, and there was no resonance in the smack of his whip. When the convoy came to a town, he vanished, and the story thenceforth knows him no more. The discreet sergeant of police did not even notice that he was missing until several days later, when the end of the journey was near at hand. He was a sober, careful man, and a good husband. He shortly afterwards made quite a liberal remittance to his wife, and his troopers pushed Kruger half-sovereigns across most of the bars in Gueldersdorp shortly after the purchase by a Dopper farmer of a teak-built Cape waggon that a particular friend of the sergeant's had got to sell. And they were careful, at first, not to wag loose tongues. But as time went on the story of the English traveller who had brought the body of the woman to the Free State Hotel, so many days' trek to the southwards from Gueldersdorp, trickled from lip to lip. And years later, years too late, it came to the ears of a friend of dead Richard Mildare.
The sergeant maintained silence. He was a careful officer, and a discreet man, and, what is more, religious. In controversial arguments with the godless he would sometimes employ a paraphrase of the story of Smoots Beste to strengthen his side.
"A chap's a blamed fool that doesn't believe in God, I tell you. I was once after a bung-nosed Dutch thief of a transport-driver, that had waltzed away with a brand-new Cape cart and a team of first-class mules. Taking 'em up to Pretoria on the quiet, to sell 'em to Oom Paul's burghers, he was. Ay, they were worth a tidy lump! A storm came on—a regular Vaal display of sky-fireworks. The rain came down like gun-barrels, the veld turned into a swamp, but we kept on after the Dutchman, who drove like gay old Hell. Presently comes a blue blaze and a splitting crack, as if a comet had come shouldering into the map of South Africa, and knocked its head in. We pushed on, smelling sulphur, burnt flesh, and hair. 'By gum!' said I; 'something's got it'; and I was to rights. The Cape cart stood on the veld, without a scratch on the paintwork. The four mules lay in their traces, deader than pork. The Dutchman sat on the box, holding the lines and his voorslag, and grinning. He was dead, too—struck by the lightning in the act of stealing those mules and that Cape cart. Don't let any fellow waste hot air after that trying to persuade me that there isn't such a thing as an overruling Providence!"
Thus the sergeant: and his audience, whether Free-thinkers, Agnostics, or believers, would break up, feeling that one who has the courage of his opinions is a respectable man.
As for Bough, in whose hands even the astute sergeant had been as a peeled rush, we may go back and find him counting money in gold and notes that had been taken from the belt of the dead English traveller.
Seventeen hundred pounds, hard cash—a pretty windfall for an honest man. The honest man whistled softly, handling the white crackling notes, and feeling the smooth, heavy English sovereigns slip between his fingers.
There were certificates of Rand stock, also a goodly number of Colonial Railway shares, and some foreign bonds, all of which could be realised on, but at a distance, and by a skilled hand. There were jewels, as the Boer waggon-driver had said, that had belonged to the dead woman—diamond rings, and a bracelet or two; and there were silk dresses of lovely hues and texture, and cambric and linen dresses, and tweed dresses, in the trunks; and a great cloak of sables, trimmed with many tails, and beautiful underclothing of silk and linen, trimmed with real lace, over which the mouth of the woman of the tavern watered. She got some of the dresses and all the undergarments when Bough had dexterously picked out the embroidered initials. He knew diamonds and rubies, but he had never been a judge of lace.
There was a coronet upon one or two handkerchiefs that had been overlooked when the dead woman had burned the others four years previously. Bough picked this out too, working deftly with a needle.
He was clever, very clever. He could take to pieces a steam-engine or a watch, and put it together again. He knew all there is to know about locks, and how they may best be opened without their keys. He could alter plate-marks with graving tools and the jeweller's blow-pipe, and test metals with acids, and make plaster-cast moulds that would turn out dollars and other coins, remarkably like the real thing. He was not a clever forger; he had learned to write somewhat late in life, and the large, bold round hand, with the capital letters that invariably began with the wrong quirk or twirl, was too characteristic, though he wrote anonymous letters sometimes, risking detection in the enjoyment of what was to him a dear delight, only smaller than that other pleasure of moulding bodies to his own purposes, of malice, or gain, or lust.
There was a child in the tavern on the veld; it lay in an old orange-box, half-filled with shavings, covered with a thin, worn blanket, in the daub-and-wattle outhouse, where the Hottentot woman, called the chambermaid, and the Kaffir woman, who was cook, slept together on one filthy pallet. Sometimes they stayed up at the tavern, drinking and carousing with the Dutch travellers who brought the supplies of Hollands and Cape brandy and lager beer, and the American or English gold-miners and German drummers who put up there from time to time. Then the child lay in the outhouse alone. It was a frail, puny creature, always frightened and silent. It lived on a little mealie pap and odd bits of roaster-cakes that were thrown to it as though it were a dog. When the coloured women forgot to feed it, they said: "It does not matter. Anyhow, the thing will die soon!" But it lived on when another child would have died.... There was something uncanny about its great-eyed silence and its tenacious hold on life.
It had only been able to toddle when brought to the tavern. The rains and thunderstorms of spring went by, the summer passed, and it could walk about. It was a weakly little creature, with great frightened eyes, amber-brown, with violet flecks in their black-banded irises, and dark, thick lashes; and the delicately-drawn eyebrows were dark too, though its hair was soft yellow—just the colour of a chicken's down. Many a cuff it got, and many a hard word, when its straying feet brought it into the way of the rough life up at the tavern. But still the scrap of food was tossed to it, and the worn-out petticoat roughly cobbled into a garment for its little body; for Bough was a charitable man.
It was a poor orphan, he explained to people, the child of a consumptive emigrant Englishman who had worked for the landlord of the tavern, and left this burden for other shoulders when he died. Charitable travellers frequently left benefactions towards the little one's clothing and keep. Bough willingly took charge of the money. The child strayed here, there, and everywhere. It was often lost, but nobody looked for it, and it always came back. It liked to climb the cairn of boulders, or to sit on the long, low hillock at the cairn's foot. The wire fencing had long been removed from the enclosure; it had gone to make a chicken-pen in a more suitable spot. The cross had been taken down when a prop was wanted for the clothes-line.
The child, often beaten by Bough and the woman of the tavern, might have been even worse treated by the coloured servants but for those two graves out on the veld. Black blood flows thick with superstition, and both the Kaffir cook and the snuff-coloured Hottentot chambermaid nourished a wholesome dread of spooks. Who knew but that the white woman's ghost would rise out of the kopje there, some dark night, and pinch and cuff and thump and beat people who had ill-used her bantling? As for the dead man buried at her feet, his dim shape had often been seen by one of the Barala stablemen, keeping guard before the heap of boulders, in the white blaze of the moon-rays, or the paler radiance of a starry night, or more often of a night of mist and rain; not moving as a sentry moves, but upright and still, with shining fiery eyes in his shadowy face, and with teeth that showed, as the dead grin. After that none of the servants would pass near these two graves later than sundown, and Bough welted the Barala boy with an ox-reim for scaring silly jades of women with lying tales. But then Bough avoided the spot by day as well as by night. Therefore, it became a constant place of refuge for the child, who now slept in the outhouse alone.
In the long, brilliant winter nights she would leave the straw-stuffed sack that had been her bed ever since the orange-box had been broken up, and climb the stone-heaps, and look over the lonely veld, and stare up at the great glowing constellation of the Southern Cross. In spring, when pools and river-beds were full of foaming beer-coloured water, and every kloof and donga was brimmed with flowers and ferns, she would be drawn away by these, would return, trailing after her armfuls of rare blooms, and thenceforward, until these faded, the ridgy grave-mound and the heaped cairn of boulders would be gay with them. She never took them to the house. It might have meant a beating—so many things did.
Late in November, when the apricots and plums and peaches were ripening on the laden, starling-haunted boughs, she would wander in the orchard belonging to the house, while the heavy drenching rains drummed on the leaves overhead, and sudden furious thunderstorms rent the livid-coloured clouds above with jagged scythes and reaping-hooks of white electric fire, or leaping, dancing, playing, vanishing tongues of thin blue. Once this fire struck a krantz, under the lee of which the child was sheltering, and made a black scorched mark all down the cliff-face, but left the child unscathed.
No one had ever taught her anything; no one had ever laid a gentle hand upon her. When she first saw mother and daughter, friend and friend, sweetheart and sweetheart kiss, it seemed to her that they licked each other, as friendly dogs do. She had no name that she knew of.
"You kid, go there. You kid, fetch this or bring that. You kid, go to the drift for water, or take the besom and sweep the stoep, or scrub out the room there—do you hear, you kid?" These orders came thick and fast when at last she was old enough to work; and she was old enough when she was very young, and did work like a little beast of burden. A real mother's heart—all mothers are not real ones—would have ached to see the dirt and bruises on the delicate childish limbs, and the vermin that crawled under the yellow rings of hair. How to be clean and tidy nobody had ever shown her, though she had learned by instinct other things.
That it was best to bear hunger and pain in silence, lest worse befell. That a truth for which one suffers is not as good as a lie for which one gets a bigger roaster-cake, or the scrapings of the syrup-can. That to little, weak, and feeble creatures of their race grown human beings can be marvellously cruel. That the devil lived down in the kraals with the natives, and that God was a swear. It is a wonder that she had not sunk into idiocy, or hopelessly sickened and died, neglected, ill-used, half-starved as she was. But when the little one might have been six years of age, the Lady began coming. And after the first time, with very brief intervals of absence, she came every night.
As soon as you lay down on the sack of straw in the corner of the outhouse, slipping out of the ragged frock if the weather were hot, or pulling the thin old horse-blanket over you if the night were a cold one, keeping your eyes tight shut, for this was quite indispensable, you looked into the thick dark, shot with gleams of lovely colours, sometimes with whirling rings of stars, and gradually, as you looked, all these concentrated into two stars, large and not twinkling, but softly radiant, and you were happy, for you knew that the Lady was coming.
For she always came, even when you had been most wicked: when you were sent to bed without even the supper-crust to gnaw, and when your body and arms and legs were bruised and aching from the beating they told you you deserved. The stars would go a long way off, and while you tingled and trembled and panted with expectation, would come back again as eyes. Looking up into them, you saw them clearly; the rest of the person they belonged to arrived quite a little while after her eyes were there. Such eyes—neither grey, nor brown, nor violet, but a mingling of all these colours, and deepening as you gazed up into them into bottomless lakes of love.
Then her face, framed in a soft darkness, which was hair—the Kid never knew of what colour—her face formed itself out of the darkness that framed those eyes, and a warm, balmy breath came nearer, and you were kissed. No other lips, in your short remembrance, had ever touched you. You had learned the meaning of a kiss only from her, and hers was so long and close that your heart left off beating, and only began again when it was over. Then arms that were soft and warm, and strong and beautiful, came round you and gathered you in, and you fell asleep folded closely in them, or you lay awake, and the Lady talked to you in a voice that was mellow as honey and soft as velvet, and sounded like the cooing of the wild pigeons that nested in the krantzes, or the sighing of the wind among the high veld grasses, and the murmur of the little river playing among the boulders and gurgling between the roots of the tree-fern. You talked, too, and told her everything. And no matter how bad you had been, though she was sorry, because she hated badness, she loved you just as dearly as she did when you were good. And oh! how you loved her—how you loved her!
"Please," you said that night when she came first—you remember it quite well, though it is so long ago—"please, why did you never come before?"
And she answered, with her cool, sweet, fragrant lips upon your eyelids, and your head upon her breast:
"Because you never wanted me so much as now."
"Please take me back home with you," you begged, holding her fast. And she answered in the voice that is always like the sigh of the wind amongst the tree-tops and the murmur of the river:
"I cannot yet—but I will come again."
And she does come, and again and again. By degrees, though she comes to you only at night, when the outhouse is dark, or lighted only by the stars or the moonshine, you learn exactly what the Lady is like.
She wears a silken, softly-rustling gown that is of any lovely colour you choose. The hue of the blue overarching sky at midday, or the tender rose of dawn, or of the violet clouds that bar the flaming orange-ruby of the sunset: or the mysterious robe of twilight drapes her, or her garment is sable as the Night. The grand sweep of her shoulders and the splendid pillar of her throat reveal the beauty of her form even to the eyes of an untaught, neglected child. Her face is pale, but as full of sunlight as of shadow, and her eyes are really grey and deep as mountain lakes. The sorrow of all the world and all its joy seem to have rolled over her like many waters, and when she smiles the sweetness of it is always almost more than the Kid can bear.
Who is the Lady!
She has no other name than that. She is very, very good, as well as beautiful, and you can bear to tell her when you have been most wicked, because she is so sorry for you. She can play with you, and laugh so softly and clearly and gaily that you, who have never learned but to dread grown people's cruel merriment, join in and laugh too. When she laughs the corners of her eyes crinkle so like the corners of her lips that you have to kiss them, and there are dimples that come with the laughter, and make her dearer than ever.
Who is the Lady, tall, and strong, and tender? That dead woman lying out there under the Little Kopje was small, and slight, and frail. Who may the Lady be? Is she a dream or a mere illusion born of loneliness and starvation, physical and mental? Or has Mary, the Mother of Pity, laid aside her girdle of decades of golden roses, her mantle of glory, and her diadem of stars, and come stepping fair-footed down the stairway that Night builds between Earth and Heaven, to comfort a desolate child lying in a stable who never heard the story of the Christ-Babe of Bethlehem?
You ask no questions—you to whom she comes. You call her softly at night, stretching out your arms, and the clasp of her arms answers at once. You whisper how you love her, with your face hidden in her neck. The great kind dark that brings her is your real, real daytime in which you live and are glad. Each morning to which you waken, bringing its stint of hunger and abuse and blows renewed, is only a dreadful dream, you say to yourself, and so can face your world.
Oh, deep beyond fathoming, mysterious beyond comprehension is the hidden heart of a child!
One afternoon when the Kid was quite as tall as the broom she swept the stoep with she had gone to the drift for water. It was a still, bright, hot day. Little puffs of rosy cloud hung motionless under the burning blue sky-arch; small, gaily-plumaged birds twittered in the bushes; the tiny black ants scurried to and fro in the pinkish sand of the river beach. She waded into the now clear, sherry-pale water to cool her hot bare limbs, and, bending over, stared down into the reflected eyes that looked back out of the pool.
Such a dirty little, large-eyed, wistful face, crowned by a curling tousle of matted, reddish-brown-gold hair. Such a neglected, sordid little figure, with thin drab shoulders sticking out of a ragged calico frock. She was quite startled. She had never seen herself in any glass before, though a cheap, square, wooden-framed mirror hung on the wall of the bar-room, with a dirty clothes-brush on a hook underneath, and there were swing toilet-glasses in the tawdry bedrooms at the inn. Something stirred in her, whispering in the grimy little ear, "It is good to be clean," and with the awakening of the maidenly instinct the womanly purpose framed.
She put off her horrible rags, and washed herself from head to foot in the warm clear water. She took fine sand, and scrubbed her head. She dipped and wrung and rinsed her foul tatters of garments, standing naked in the shallows, the hot sunshine drying her red-gold curls, and warming her slight girlish body through and through as she spread her washed rags to dry on the big hot stones.
There was a man's step on the bank above her, there was a rustling sound among the green bushes. She had never heard of modesty, but she cowered down among the boulders, and the heavy footstep passed by. She hid among the fern while her clothes were drying, put them on tidily, and went back with her filled water-bucket to the hotel. How could she know what injury the kind peremptory voice, bidding her be foul no longer, had done her! But thenceforwards a new cruelty, a fresh peril, attended her steps.
Bough and the white woman of the inn had quarrels often. She was no wife of his. He had not brought her from Cape Colony. When the hotel was built he had gone up to Johannesburg on business and on pleasure, and brought her back with him from an establishment he knew. He was generally not brutal to her except when she was ailing, when he gave her medicine that made her worse, much worse—so very ill that she would lie groaning upon a foul neglected bed for weeks, while Bough caroused with the coloured women and the customers in the bar. Then, still groaning, she would drag herself up and be about her work again. She did not want to go back to the house at Johannesburg. She loved the man Bough in her fashion, poor bought wretch.
She had quarrelled with him many times for many things, and been silenced with blows, or curses, or even caresses, were he in the mood. But she had never quarrelled with him about the Kid before. Now when he bought some coloured print and a Boer sunbonnet, and some shifts and stockings of a traveller in drapery and hosiery, and ordered her thenceforwards to see that the girl went properly clothed, a new terror, a fresh torture, was added to the young life. The woman had ignored, neglected, sometimes ill-used her, but she had never hated her until now.
And Bough, the big, burly, dark-skinned man with the strange light eyes, and the bold, cruel, red mouth, and the bushy brown whiskers, why did he follow her about with those strange eyes, and smile secretly to himself? She was no longer fed on scraps; she must sit and eat at table with the man and his mistress, and learn to use knife and fork.
She outgrew the dress Bough had bought her, and another, and another, and this did not make Bough angry; he only smiled. A man having some secret luxury or treasure locked away in a private cupboard will smile so. He knows it is there, and he means to go to the hiding-place one day, but in the meantime he waits, licking his lips.
The girl had always feared Bough, and shrunk from his anger with unutterable terror. But the blow of his heavy hand was more bearable than his smile and his jesting amiability. Now, when she went down to the kraals on an errand, or to the orchard or garden for fruit or vegetables, or to the river for water as of old, she heard his light, cautious, padding footsteps coming after her, and would turn and pass him with downcast eyes, and go back to the inn, and take a beating for not having done her errand. Beating she comprehended, but this mysterious change in the man Bough filled her with sick, secret loathing and dread. She did not know why she bolted the door of the outhouse now when she crept to her miserable bed.
Once Bough dropped into her lap a silver dollar, saying with a smile that she was getting to be quite a little woman of late. She leaped to her feet as though a scorpion had stung her, and stood white to the very lips, and speechless, while the big silver coin rolled merrily away into a distant corner, and lay there. The frowzy woman with the bleached hair happened to come in at that moment; or had she been spying through a crack of the door? Bough pretended he had accidentally dropped the coin, picked it up, and went away.
That night he and the woman quarrelled fiercely. She could hear them raging at each other as she lay trembling. Then came shrieks, and the dull sound of the sjambok cutting soft human flesh. In the morning the woman had a black eye; there were livid weals on her tear-blurred face. She packed her boxes, snivelling. She was going back along up to Johannesburg by the next thither-bound transport-waggon-train that should halt at the hotel—thrown off like an old shoe after all these years. And she was not young enough for the old life, what with hard work and hard usage and worry, and she knew to whom she owed her dismissal....
Ay, and if she could have throttled or poisoned the little sly devil she would have done it! Only—there would have been Bough to reckon with afterwards. For of God she made a jest, and the devil was an old friend of hers, but she was horribly afraid of the man with the brown bushy whiskers and the light, steely eyes. Yet she threw herself upon him to kiss him, blubbering freely, when at the week's end the Johannesburg transport-rider's waggons returning from the district town not yet linked up to the north by the railway came in sight.
Bough poured her out a big glass of liquor, his universal panacea, and another for the transport-rider, with many a jovial word. He would be running up to Johannesburg before she had well shaken down after the journey. Then they would have a rare old time, going round the bars and doing the shows. Though, perhaps if she had got fixed up with a new friend, some flash young fellow with pots of money, she would not be wanting old faces around?
Then he turned aside to pay the transport-rider, and the exile dabbed her swollen face with a rouge-stained, lace-edged handkerchief, and went out to get into the waggon.
The girl stood by the stoep, staring, puzzled, overwhelmed, afraid. A piece of her world was breaking off. As long as she could remember anything she had known this woman. She had never received any kindness from her; of late she had been malignant in her hate, but—she wished she was not going. Instinctively she had felt that her presence was some slight protection. Keeping close in the shadow of this creature's frowzy skirts, she had not so feared and dreaded those light eyes of Bough's, and the padding, following footsteps had kept aloof. As the woman passed her now, a rage of unspeakable, agonising fear rose in her bosom. She cried out to her, and clutched at her shabby gay mantle.
The woman snatched the garment from her hold. Her distorted mouth and blazing eyes were close to the white young face. She could have spat upon it. But she snarled at her three words ... no more, and passed her, and got into the waggon.
"Halloa, there!" said Bough, coming forward threateningly, "what you rowing about, eh?" But no one answered. The girl had fled to the boulder-cairn, and the woman sat silent in the waggon, until the weary, goaded teams moved on, and the transport-train of heavy, broad-beamed vehicles lumbered away.
But the little figure on the cairn of boulders covering the dust of the bosom from whence it had first drunk life sat there immovable until the sun went down, pondering.
"Missis now, eh!"
What did those three words mean?
Then Bough called her, and she had to run. She served as waitress of the bar that day, and the men who drove or rode by and stopped for drinks, chatting in the dirty saloon, or sitting in the bare front room, with the Dutch stove, and the wooden forms and tables in it, that they called the coffee-room, to discuss matters relative to the sale of cattle, or sheep, or merchandise, stared at her, and several made her coarse compliments. She refused to touch the loathly-smelling liquor they offered her. Her heart beat like a little terrified bird's. And she was horribly conscious of those light eyes of Bough's following, following her, with that inscrutable look.
When the crowd had thinned he came to her. He caught her arm, and pulled her near him, and said between his teeth:
"You will sleep in the mistress's room to-night."
Then he went away chuckling to himself, thinking of that frightened look in her eyes. Later, he went out on horseback, and did not return.
The slatternly bedchamber, with its red turkey twill window-curtains and cheap gaudy wallpaper, which had belonged to the ruddled woman with the bleached hair, was a palace to the little one. But she could not breathe there. Late that night she rose from the big feather bed, and unfastened the inner window shutters, and drew the cotton blind and opened the window, though the paint had stuck, and looked out upon the veld. The great stars throbbed in the purple velvet darkness overhead. The falling dew wetted the hand she stretched out into the cool night air. She drew back the hand and touched her cheek with it, and started, for the fresh, cool, fragrant touch seemed like that of some other hand whose touch she once had known. She thought for the first time that if the woman who had been her mother, and who slept out there in the dark under the boulder-cairn, had lived, she might have touched her child so. Then she closed the window quickly, for she heard, afar off, the gallop of a hard-ridden horse drawing nearer—nearer. And she knew that Bough was coming back.
She heard him dismount before the door, give the horse to the sleepy Barala ostler, and let himself into the bar. She heard him clink among the glasses and bottles. She heard his foot upon the three-step stair, and on the landing. It did not pass by. It stopped at the locked door of the room where she was.
Then his voice bade her rise and open the door. She could not speak or move.
She was dumb and paralysed with deadly terror. She heard his coaxing voice turn angry; she listened in helpless terrified silence to his oaths and threats; then she heard him laugh softly, and the laugh was followed by the jingle of a bunch of skeleton keys. He always carried them; they saved trouble, he used to say.
They saved him trouble now. When the bent wire rattled in the lock, and the key fell out upon the floor, she screamed, and his coarse chuckle answered. She was cowering against the wall in a corner of the room when he came in and picked up the key and locked the door. But when his stretched-out, grasping hand came down upon her slight shoulder, she turned and bit it like some savage, desperate little animal, drawing the blood. Bough swore at the sudden sting of the sharp white teeth. So the little beast showed fight, eh? Well, he would teach her that the master will have his way.
There was no one else in the house, and if there had been it would have served her not at all. God sat in timeless Eternity beyond these mists of earth, and saw, and made no sign. It was not until the man Bough slept the heavy sleep of liquor and satiety that the thought of flight was born in her with desperate courage to escape him. The shutters had been left unbolted, and the window was yet a little way open. She sprang up and threw it wide, leaped out upon the stoep, and from thence to the ground, and fled blindly, breathlessly over the veld into the night.
Bough, as soon as it was dawn, sent three of the Kaffirs from the kraals, in different directions, to search for her, and, mounted on a fresh pony, took the fourth line of search himself.
He had chosen the right direction for riding down the quarry. At broad high noon he came upon her, in a bare, stony place tufted with milk-bush. She was crouching under a prickly-pear shrub, that threw a distorted blue shadow on the sun-baked, sun-bleached ground, trying to eat the fruit in the native way with two sticks. But she had no knife, and her mouth was bleeding. Bough gave the tired pony both spurs when the prey he hunted came in sight. She leaped up like a wild cat when the mounted man rode down upon her, and ran, doubling like a hare. When overtaken, she fell upon her face in the sand, and lay still, only shaken by her long pants. Bough dismounted and caught her by the wrist and dragged her up with his bandaged right hand. He beat her about her cheeks with his hard, open left. Then he threw her across his saddle, but she writhed down, and lay under the pony's feet.
He kicked her then, for giving so much trouble, lifted her again, and tried to mount, holding her in one arm. But the frightened pony swerved and backed, and the girl writhed, and struggled, and scratched like a wild cat. She did not know what mercy meant, but she saw by the look that came into those light eyes that this man would have none upon her. She fought and bit and screamed.
Bough took an ox-reim then, that was coiled behind his saddle, and bound her hands. He tied the end of the leather rope to the iron ring behind his saddle, and remounted, and spurred his weary beast into a canter. The little one was forced to run behind. Again and again she fell, and each time she was jerked up and forced to run again upon her bleeding feet, leaving rags of her garments upon the karroo-bushes and blood-marks on the stones. And at last she fell, and rose no more, showing no sign of life under the whip and the spur-rowel. Then Bough bent over and drew his long hunting-knife and cut the reim, leaving her hands still bound. If any spark of life remained in he girl, he could not tell. Her knees were drawn in towards her body; her eyes were open, and rolled upwards; there was foam upon her torn and bleeding mouth. She was as good as dead, anyway, and the wild dogs would be sure to come by-and-by. Already an aasvogel was hovering above; a mere speck, the great bird poised upon widespread wings, high up in the illimitable blue.
Presently there would be a flock of these carrion feeders, that are not averse to fresh-killed meat when it is to be had.
Bough remounted, and, humming a dance tune that was often on his lips, rode away over the veld.
The great vulture wheeled. Then he dropped like a falling stone for a thousand yards or so, and hovered and dropped again, getting nearer—ever so much nearer—with each descent. And where he had hovered at the first were now a dozen specks of black upon the hot, bright blue.
A wild dog crept down from a cone-topped spitzkop, and stood, sniffing the blood-tainted air eagerly, whining a little in its throat.
The great vulture dropped lower. His comrades of the flock, eagerly following his gyrations and descents, had begun to wheel and drop also. Another wild dog appeared on the cone-shaped kop. Other furry, sharp-eared heads, with eager, sniffing noses, could be seen amongst the grass and bush.
Then suddenly the higher vultures rose. They wheeled and soared and flew, a bevy of winged black specks hurrying to the north. They had seen something approaching over the veld. The great bird hanging motionless, purposeful, lower down, became aware of his comrades' change of tactics. With one downward stroke of his powerful wings, he shot upwards, and with a hoarse, croaking cry took flight after the rest.
The wild dogs stole back, hungry, to covert, as a big light blue waggon, drawn by a well-fed team of eight span, came lumbering over the veld.
Would the ox-team veer in another direction? Would the big blue waggon with the new white tilt roll by?
The Hottentot driver cracked his giant whip, and, turning on the box-seat, spoke to a figure that sat beside him. It was a woman in loose black garments, with a starched white coif like a Dutchwoman's kapje, covered with a floating black veil. At her side dangled and clashed a long rosary of brown wooden beads, with a copper crucifix attached. There were two other women in the big waggon, dressed in the same way. They were Roman Catholic nuns—Sisters of Mercy coming up from Natal, by the order of the Bishop of Bellmina, Vicar-Apostolic, at the request of the Bishop of Paracos, suffragan to North-East Baraland, to swell the numbers of the Community already established in Gueldersdorp at the Convent of the Holy Way.
The oxen halted some fifty yards from that inanimate ragged little body, lying prone, face downwards, among the scrubby bushes that sprouted in the hot sand. Little crowding tiny ants already blackened the bloodstains on the ground, and the wild dogs would not have stayed long from the feast if the waggon had passed on.
One white-coifed, tall, black-clad figure sprang lightly down from the waggon-box, and hurried across to where the body was lying. A mellow, womanly cry of pity came from under the starched coif. She turned and beckoned. Then she knelt down by the girl's side, opened the torn garments, and felt with compassionate, kindly touches about the still heart.
The other two black figures came hurrying over then, stumbling amongst the stones and karroo-bushes in their haste. Lifting her, they turned the white, bloodless young face to the blue sky. It was cut and scratched, but not otherwise disfigured. Her bound arms, dragged upwards before it, had shielded it from the thorns and the sharp stones. They were raw from the elbows to the wrists.
They listened at the torn childish bosom with anxious ears. They got a few drops of brandy between the clenched little teeth. The sealed lips quivered; the heart fluttered feebly, like a dying bird. They gave her more stimulant, and waited, while the Hottentot driver dozed, and the sleek, well-fed oxen chewed the cud patiently, standing in the sun.
Then the Sisters lifted her, with infinite care, and carried her to the waggon. The twenty-four-foot whip-lash cracked, and the patient beasts moved on. Very soon the big white tilt was a mere retreating speck upon the veld. The ants were still busy when the wild dogs came out and sniffed regretfully at those traces on the ground.
Coincidence, did you say, lifting your eyebrows over the book, as the blue waggon of the Sisters rolled lumberingly into the story? The long arm of coincidence stretched to aching tenuity by the dramatist and the novelist! Nay! but the thing happened, just as I have told.
What is the thing we are agreed to call coincidence?
Once I was passing over one of the bridges that span the unclean London ditch called the Regent's Canal. I had walked all the way from Piccadilly Circus to Gloucester Crescent, haunted by the memory of a man I had once known. He was the broken-down, drunken, studio-drudge of a great artist, a splendid Bohemian, who had died some years before. Why did the thought of the palette-scraper, the errand-goer, the drunken creature with the cultivated voice and the ingratiating, gentlemanly manners, possess me as I went? I recalled his high, intellectual, pimply forehead, and large benevolent nose, in a chronic state of inflammation, and seedy semi-clerical garb, for the thing had been an ordained clergyman of the Church of England, and I grinned, remembering how, when a Royal visitor was expected at the great man's studio, the factotum had been bidden to wash his face, and had washed one half of it, leaving the other half in drab eclipse, like the picture-restorers' trade-advertisement of a canvas partially cleansed.
Idly I tossed the butt of a finished cigar over the bridge balustrade. Idly my eye followed it down to the filthy, sluggishly-creeping water that flows round the bend, under the damp rear-garden walls below.
A policeman and a bargeman were just taking the body of an old man out of that turbid canal-stream. It was dressed in pauper's garments, and its stiffened knees were bent, and its rigid elbows crooked, and a dishonoured, dripping beard of grey hung over the soulless breast.
The dreadful eyes were open, staring up at the leaden March sky. His face, with the dread pallor of Death upon it, and the mud-stains wiped away by a rough but not unkindly hand, was cleaner than I had ever seen it in life.
Nevertheless, I recognised in the soaked body in its workhouse livery the very man the thought of whom had haunted me, the great Bohemian painter's drunken studio-drudge.
School at the Convent of the Holy Way at Gueldersdorp was breaking up, suddenly and without warning, very soon after the beginning of the Christmas term. Many of the pupils had already left in obedience to urgent telegrams from relatives in Cape Colony or in the Transvaal, and every Dutch girl among the sixty knew the reason why, but was too astute to hint of it, and every English girl was at least as wise, but pride kept her silent, and the Americans and the Germans exchanged glances of intelligence, and whispered in corners of impending war between John Bull and Oom Paul.
That deep and festering political hatreds, fierce enthusiasms, inherited pride of race, and instilled pride in nationality, were covered by worked apron-bibs, and even childish pinafores, is anyone likely to doubt? Schoolgirls can be patriots as well as rebels, and the seminary can vie with the college, or possibly outdo it, occasion given. Ask Juliette Adam whether the bread-and-butter misses of France in the year 1847 did not squabble over the obstinacy of King Louis Philippe and the greed of M. Guizot, the claims of Louis Napoleon and the theories of Louis Blanc, of Odilon Barrot, and Ledru-Rollin? And I who write, have I not seen a North Antrim Sunday-school wrecked in a faction-fight between the Orange and the Green? Lord! how the red-edged hymnals and shiny-covered S.P.G. books hurtled through the air, to burst like hand-grenades upon the texted walls. In vain the panting, crimson clergyman mounted the superintendent's platform, and strove to shed the oil of peace upon those seething waters. Even the class-teachers had broken the rails out of the Windsor chair-backs, and joined the hideous fray, irrespective of age or sex.