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The Story of an African Farm, vol. 1. Schreiner, Olive, 1855–1920.
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“We must see the first images which the external world casts upon the dark mirror of his mind; or must hear the first words which awaken the sleeping powers of thought, and stand by his earliest efforts, if we would understand the prejudices, the habits, and the passions that will rule his life. The entire man is, so to speak, to be found in the cradle of the child.”

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE.

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THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM

PART I.

CHAPTER I.—SHADOWS FROM CHILD-LIFE.

The Watch.

THE full African moon poured down its light from the blue sky into the wide, lonely plain. The dry, sandy earth, with its coating of stunted “karroo” bushes a few inches high, the low hills that skirted the plain, the milk-bushes with their long finger-like leaves, all were touched by a weird and an almost oppressive beauty as they lay in the white light.

In one spot only was the solemn monotony of the plain broken. Near the centre a small page: 4 solitary “kopje” rose. Alone it lay there, a heap of round ironstones piled one upon another, as over some giant's grave. Here and there a few tufts of grass or small succulent plants had sprung up among its stones, and on the very summit a clump of prickly-pears lifted their thorny arms, and reflected, as from mirrors, the moonlight on their broad fleshy leaves. At the foot of the “kopje” lay the homestead. First, the stone-walled “sheep kraals” and Kaffir huts; beyond them the dwelling-house—a square, red-brick building with thatched roof. Even on its bare red walls, and the wooden ladder that led up to the loft, the moonlight cast a kind of dreamy beauty, and quite etherealized the low brick wall that ran before the house, and which enclosed a bare patch of sand and two straggling sun-flowers. On the zinc roof of the great open waggon-house, on the roofs of the outbuildings that jutted from its side, the moonlight glinted with a quite peculiar brightness, till it seemed page: 5 that every rib in the metal was of burnished silver.

Sleep ruled everywhere, and the homestead was not less quiet than the solitary plain.

In the farm-house, on her great wooden bedstead, Tant' Sannie, the Boer-woman, rolled heavily in her sleep.

She had gone to bed, as she always did, in her clothes, and the night was warm and the room close, and she dreamed bad dreams. Not of the ghosts and devils that so haunted her waking thoughts; not of her second husband, the consumptive Englishman, whose grave lay away beyond the ostrich-camps, nor of her first, the young Boer; but only of the sheep's trotters she had eaten for supper that night. She dreamed that one stuck fast in her throat, and she rolled her huge form from side to side, and snorted horribly.

In the next room, where the maid had forgotten to close the shutter, the white moonlight fell in in a flood, and made it light as day. page: 6 There were two small beds against the wall. In one lay a yellow-haired child, with a low forehead and a face of freckles; but the loving moonlight hid defects here as elsewhere, and showed only the innocent face of a child in its first sweet sleep.

The figure in the companion bed belonged of right to the moonlight, for it was of quite elfin-like beauty. The child had dropped her cover on the floor, and the moonlight looked in at the naked little limbs. Presently she opened her eyes and looked at the moonlight that was bathing her.

“Em!” she called to the sleeper in the other bed; but received no answer. Then she drew the cover from the floor, turned her pillow, and pulling the sheet over her head, went to sleep again.

Only in one of the outbuildings that jutted from the waggon-house there was some one who was not asleep. The room was dark; door and page: 7 shutter were closed; not a ray of light entered anywhere. The German overseer, to whom the room belonged, lay sleeping soundly on his bed in the corner, his great arms folded, and his bushy grey and black beard rising and falling on his breast. But one in the room was not asleep. Two large eyes looked about in the darkness, and two small hands were smoothing the patchwork quilt. The boy, who slept on a box under the window, had just awakened from his first sleep. He drew the quilt up to his chin, so that little peered above it but a great head of silky black curls and the two black eyes. He stared about in the darkness. Nothing was visible, not even the outline of one worm-eaten rafter, nor of the deal table, on which lay the Bible from which his father had read before they went to bed. No one could tell where the tool-box was, and where the fire-place. There was something very impressive to the child in the complete darkness.

At the head of his father's bed hung a great page: 8 silver hunting watch. It ticked loudly. The boy listened to it, and began mechanically to count. Tick—tick—tick! one, two, three, four! He lost count presently, and only listened. Tick—tick—tick—tick!

It never waited; it went on inexorably; and every time it ticked a man died! He raised himself a little on his elbow and listened. He wished it would leave off.

How many times had it ticked since he came to lie down? A thousand times, a million times, perhaps.

He tried to count again, and sat up to listen better.

“Dying, dying, dying!” said the watch; “dying, dying, dying!”

He heard it distinctly. Where were they going to, all those people?

He lay down quickly, and pulled the cover up over his head: but presently the silky curls reappeared.

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“Dying, dying, dying!” said the watch; “dying, dying, dying!”

He thought of the words his father had read that evening—“For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat.”

“Many, many, many!” said the watch.

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

“Few, few, few!” said the watch.

The boy lay with his eyes wide open. He saw before him a long stream of people, a great dark multitude, that moved in one direction; then they came to the dark edge of the world and went over. He saw them passing on before him, and there was nothing that could stop them. He thought of how that stream had rolled on through all the long ages of the past—how the old Greeks and Romans had gone over; the countless millions of China and India, they were page: 10 going over now. Since he had come to bed, how many had gone!

And the watch said, “Eternity, eternity, eternity!”

“Stop them! stop them!” cried the child.

And all the while the watch kept ticking on; just like God's will, that never changes or alters, you may do what you please.

Great beads of perspiration stood on the boy's forehead. He climbed out of bed and lay with his face turned to the mud floor.

“Oh, God, God! save them!” he cried in agony. “Only some, only a few! Only for each moment I am praying here one!” He folded his little hands upon his head. “God! God! save them!”

He grovelled on the floor.

Oh, the long, long ages of the past, in which they had gone over! Oh, the long, long future, in which they would pass away! Oh, page: 11 God! the long, long, long eternity, which has no end!

The child wept; and crept closer to the ground.

The Sacrifice.

THE farm by daylight was not as the farm by moonlight. The plain was a weary flat of loose red sand, sparsely covered by dry karroo-bushes, that cracked beneath the tread like tinder, and showed the red earth everywhere. Here and there a milk-bush lifted its pale-coloured rods, and in every direction the ants and beetles ran about in the blazing sand. The red walls of the farm-house, the zinc roofs of the out-buildings, the stone walls of the “kraals,” all reflected the fierce sunlight, till the eye ached and blenched. No tree or shrub was to be seen far or near. The two sunflowers that stood page: 12 before the door, out-stared by the sun, drooped their brazen faces to the sand; and the little cicada-like insects cried aloud among the stones of the “kopje.”

The Boer-woman, seen by daylight, was even less lovely than, when, in bed, she rolled and dreamed. She sat on a chair in the great front room, with her feet on a wooden stove, and wiped her flat face with the corner of her apron, and drank coffee, and in Cape Dutch swore that the beloved weather was damned. Less lovely, too, by daylight was the dead Englishman's child, her little step-daughter, upon whose freckles and low, wrinkled forehead the sunlight had no mercy.

“Lyndall,” the child said to her little orphan cousin, who sat with her on the floor threading beads, “how is it your beads never fall off your needle?”

“I try,” said the little one gravely, moistening her tiny finger. “That is why.”

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The overseer, seen by daylight, was a huge German, wearing a shabby suit, and with a childish habit of rubbing his hands and nodding his head prodigiously when pleased at anything. He stood out at the kraals in the blazing sun, explaining to two Kaffer boys the approaching end of the world. The boys, as they cut the cakes of dung, winked at each other, and worked as slowly as they possibly could; but the German never saw it.

Away, beyond the “kopje,” Waldo his son herded the ewes and lambs—a small and dusty herd—powdered all over from head to foot with red sand, wearing a ragged coat and shoes of undressed leather, through whose holes the toes looked out. His hat was too large, and had sunk down to his eyes, concealing completely the silky black curls. It was a curious small figure. His flock gave him little trouble. It was too hot for them to move far; they gathered round every little milk-bush, as though they page: 14 hoped to find shade, and stood there motionless in clumps. He himself crept under a shelving rock that lay at the foot of the “kopje,” stretched himself on his stomach, and waved his dilapidated little shoes in the air.

Soon, from the blue bag where he kept his dinner, he produced a fragment of slate, an arithmetic, and a pencil. Proceeding to put down a sum with solemn and earnest demeanour, he began to add it up aloud: “Six and two is eight—and four is twelve—and two is fourteen—and four is eighteen.” Here he paused. “And four is eighteen—and—four—is—eighteen.” The last was very much drawled. Slowly the pencil slipped from his fingers, and the slate followed it into the sand. For a while he lay motionless, then began muttering to himself, folded his little arms, laid his head down upon them, and might have been asleep, but for the muttering sound that from time to time proceeded from him. A curious old ewe came to sniff at him; but it was page: 15 long before he raised his head. When he did, he looked at the far-off hills with his heavy eyes.

“Ye shall receive—ye shall receive—shall, shall, shall,” he muttered.

He sat up then. Slowly the dulness and heaviness melted from his face; it became radiant. Mid-day had come now, and the sun's rays were poured down vertically; the earth throbbed before the eye.

The boy stood up quickly, and cleared a small space from the bushes which covered it. Looking carefully, he found twelve small stones of somewhat the same size; kneeling down, he arranged them carefully on the cleared space in a square pile, in shape like an altar. Then he walked to the bag where his dinner was kept; in it was a mutton chop and a large slice of brown bread. The boy took them out and turned the bread over in his hand, deeply considering it. Finally he threw it away and walked to the altar with the meat, and laid it down on page: 16 the stones. Close by in the red sand he knelt down. Sure, never since the beginning of the world was there so ragged and so small a priest. He took off his great hat and placed it solemnly on the ground, then closed his eyes and folded his hands. He prayed aloud.

“Oh, God, my Father, I have made Thee a sacrifice. I have only twopence, so I cannot buy a lamb. If the lambs were mine, I would give Thee one; but now I have only this meat; it is my dinner-meat. Please, my Father, send fire down from heaven to burn it. Thou hast said, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast into the sea, nothing doubting, it shall be done. I ask for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

He knelt down with his face upon the ground, and he folded his hands upon his curls. The fierce sun poured down its heat upon his head and upon his altar. When he looked up he knew what he should see—the glory of God! For fear his very heart stood still, his breath page: 17 came heavily; he was half suffocated. He dared not look up. Then at last he raised himself. Above him was the quiet blue sky, about him the red earth; there were the clumps of silent ewes and his altar—that was all.

He looked up—nothing broke the intense stillness of the blue overhead. He looked round in astonishment, then he bowed again, and this time longer than before.

When he raised himself the second time all was unaltered. Only the sun had melted the fat of the little mutton chop, and it ran down upon the stones.

Then, the third time he bowed himself. When at last he looked up, some ants had come to the meat on the altar. He stood up and drove them away. Then he put his hat on his hot curls, and sat in the shade. He clasped his hands about his knees. He sat to watch what would come to pass. The glory of the Lord God Almighty! He knew he should see it.

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“My dear God is trying me,” he said; and he sat there through the fierce heat of the afternoon. Still he watched and waited when the sun began to slope, and when it neared the horizon and the sheep began to cast long shadows across the karro karroo , he still sat there. He hoped when the first rays touched the hills till the sun dipped behind them and was gone. Then he called his ewes together, and broke down the altar, and threw the meat far, far away into the field.

He walked home behind his flock. His heart was heavy. He reasoned so: “God cannot lie. I had faith. No fire came. I am like Cain—I am not His. He will not hear my prayer. God hates me.”

The boy's heart was heavy. When he reached the “kraal” gate the two girls met him.

“Come,” said the yellow-haired Em, “let us play ‘coop.’ There is still time before it gets quite dark. You, Waldo, go and hide on the page: 19 ‘kopje’; Lyndall and I will shut eyes here, and we will not look.”

The girls hid their faces in the stone wall of the sheep-kraal, and the boy clambered half way up the “kopje.” He crouched down between two stones and gave the call. Just then the milk-herd came walking out of the cow-kraal with two pails. He was an ill-looking Kaffir.

“Ah!” thought the boy, “perhaps he will die to-night, and go to hell! I must pray for him, I must pray!”

Then he thought—“Where am I going to?” and he prayed desperately.

“Ah! this is not right at all,” little Em said, peeping between the stones, and finding him in a very curious posture. “What are you doing Waldo? It is not the play, you know. You should run out when we come to the white stone. Ah, you do not play nicely.”

“I—I will play nicely now,” said the boy, page: 20 coming out and standing sheepishly before them; “I—I only forgot; I will play now.”

“He has been to sleep,” said freckled Em.

“No,” said beautiful little Lyndall, looking curiously at him; “he has been crying.”

She never made a mistake.

The Confession.

ONE night, two years after, the boy sat alone on the “kopje.” He had crept softly from his father's room and come there. He often did, because, when he prayed or cried aloud, his father might awake and hear him; and none knew his great sorrow, and none knew his grief, but he himself, and he buried them deep in his heart.

He turned up the brim of his great hat and looked at the moon, but most at the leaves of the prickly pear that grew just before him. They glinted, and glinted, and glinted, just page: 21 like his own heart—cold, so hard, and very wicked. His physical heart had pain also; it seemed full of little bits of glass, that hurt. He had sat there for half an hour, and he dared not go back to the close house.

He felt horribly lonely. There was not one thing so wicked as he in all the world, and he knew it. He folded his arms and began to cry—not aloud; he sobbed without making any sound, and his tears left scorched marks where they fell. He could not pray; he had prayed night and day for so many months; and to-night he could not pray. When he left off crying, he held his aching head with his brown hands. If one might have gone up to him and touched him kindly, poor, ugly little thing! I think his heart was well nigh broken.

With his swollen eyes he sat there on a flat stone at the very top of the “kopje”; and the tree, with every one of its wicked leaves, blinked, and blinked, and blinked at him. page: 22 Presently he began to cry again, and then stopped his crying to look at it. He was quiet for a long while, then he knelt up slowly and bent forward. There was a secret he had carried in his heart for a year. He had not dared to look at it; he had not whispered it to himself, but for a year he had carried it. “I hate God!” he said. The wind took the words and ran away with them, among the stones, and through the leaves of the prickly pear. He thought it died away half down the “kopje.” He had told it now!

“I love Jesus Christ, but I hate God.”

The wind carried away that sound as it had done the first. Then he got up and buttoned his old coat about him. He knew he was certainly lost now; he did not care. If half the world were to be lost, why not he too? He would not pray for mercy any more. Better so—better to know certainly. It was ended now. Better so.

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He began scrambling down the sides of the “kopje” to go home.

Better so!—But oh, the loneliness, the agonized pain! for that night, and for nights on nights to come! The anguish that sleeps all day on the heart like a heavy worm, and wakes up at night to feed!

There are some of us who in after years say to Fate, “Now deal us your hardest blow, give us what you will; but let us never again suffer as we suffered when we were children.”

The barb in the arrow of childhood's suffering is this—its intense loneliness, its intense agony.

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CHAPTER II.

PLANS AND BUSHMAN-PAINTINGS.

AT last came the year of the great drought, the year of eighteen-sixty-two, I think. From end to end of the land the earth cried for water. Man and beast turned their eyes to the pitiless sky, that like the roof of some brazen oven arched overhead. On the farm, day after day, month after month, the water in the dams fell lower and lower; the sheep died in the fields; the cattle, scarcely able to crawl, tottered as they moved from spot to spot in search of food. Week after week, month after month, the sun looked down from the cloudless sky, till the karroo-bushes were leafless sticks, broken into the earth, and the earth itself was naked and bare; page: 25 and only the milk-bushes, like old hags, pointed their shrivelled fingers heavenward, praying for the rain that never came.

* * * * *

It was on an afternoon of a long day in that thirsty summer, that on the side of the “kopje” furthest from the homestead the two girls sat. They were somewhat grown since the days when they played hide-and-seek there, but they were mere children still.

Their dress was of dark coarse stuff; their common blue pinafores reached to their ankles, and on their feet they wore home-made “vel-schoen.”

They sat under a shelving rock, on the surface of which were still visible some old Bushman paintings, their red and black pigments having been preserved through long years from wind and rain by the overhanging ledge; grotesque oxen, elephants, rhinoceroses, and a one-horned beast, such as no man ever has seen or ever shall.

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The girls sat with their backs to the paintings. In their laps were a few fern and ice-plant leaves, which by dint of much searching they had gathered under the rocks.

Em took off her big brown kappje and began vigorously to fan her red face with it; but her companion bent low over the leaves in her lap, and at last took up an ice-plant leaf and fastened it on to the front of her blue pinafore with a pin.

“Diamonds must look as these drops do,” she said, carefully bending over the leaf, and crushing one crystal drop with her delicate little finger. “When I,” she said, “am grown up, I shall wear real diamonds, exactly like these in my hair.”

Her companion opened her eyes and wrinkled her low forehead.

“Where will you find them, Lyndall? The stones are only crystals that we picked up yesterday. Old Otto says so.”

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“And you think that I am going to stay here always?”

The lip trembled scornfully.

“Ah, no,” said her companion. “I suppose some day we shall go somewhere; but now we are only twelve, and we cannot marry till we are seventeen. Four years, five—that is a long time to wait. And we might not have diamonds if we did marry.”

“And you think that I am going to stay here till then?”

“Well, where are you going?” asked her companion.

The girl crushed an ice-plant leaf between her fingers.

“Tant' Sannie is a miserable old woman,” she said. “Your father married her when he was dying, because he thought she would take better care of the farm, and of us, than an Englishwoman. He said we should be taught and sent to school. Now she saves every page: 28 farthing for herself, buys us not even one old book. She does not ill-use us—why? Because she is afraid of your father's ghost. Only this morning she told her Hottentot that she would have beaten you for breaking the plate, but that three nights ago she heard a rustling and a grunting behind the pantry door, and knew it was your father coming to ‘spook’ her. She is a miserable old woman,” said the girl, throwing the leaf from her; “but I intend to go to school.”

“And if she won't let you?”

“I shall make her.”

“How?”

The child took not the slightest notice of the last question, and folded her small arms across her knees.

“Why do you want to go, Lyndall?”

“There is nothing helps in this world,” said the child slowly, “but to be very wise, and to know everything—to be clever.”

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“But I should not like to go to school!” persisted the small freckled face.

“And you do not need to. When you are seventeen this Boer-woman will go; you will have this farm and everything that is upon it for your own; but I,” said Lyndall, “will have nothing. I must learn.”

“Oh, Lyndall! I will give you some of my sheep,” said Em, with a sudden burst of pitying generosity.

“I do not want your sheep,” said the girl slowly; “I want things of my own. When I am grown up,” she added, the flush on her delicate features deepening at every word, “there will be nothing that I do not know. I shall be rich, very rich; and I shall wear, not only for best, but every day, a pure white silk, and little rose-buds, like the lady in Tant' Sannie's bedroom, and my petticoats will be embroidered, not only at the bottom, but all through.”

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The lady in Tant' Sannie's bedroom was a gorgeous creature from a fashion-sheet, which the Boer-woman, somewhere obtaining, had pasted up at the foot of her bed, to be profoundly admired by the children.

“It would be very nice,” said Em; but it seemed a dream of quite too transcendent a glory ever to be realized.

At this instant there appeared at the foot of the “kopje” two figures—the one, a dog, white and sleek, one yellow ear hanging down over his left eye; the other, his master, a lad of fourteen, and no other than the boy Waldo, grown into a heavy, slouching youth of fourteen. The dog mounted the “kopje” quickly, his master followed slowly. He wore an aged jacket much too large for him, and rolled up at the wrists, and, as of old, a pair of dilapidated “vel-schoens” and a felt hat. He stood before the two girls at last.

“What have you been doing to-day?” asked page: 31 Lyndall, lifting her eyes to his face.

“Looking after ewes and lambs below the dam. Here!” he said, holding out his hand awkwardly, “I brought them for you.”

There were a few green blades of tender grass.

“Where did you find them?”

“On the dam wall.”

She fastened them beside the leaf on her blue pinafore.

“They look nice there,” said the boy, awkwardly rubbing his great hands and watching her.

“Yes; but the pinafore spoils it all; it is not pretty.”

He looked at it closely.

“Yes, the squares are ugly; but it looks nice upon you—beautiful.”

He now stood silent before them, his great hands hanging loosely at either side.

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“Some one has come to-day,” he mumbled out suddenly, when the idea struck him.

“Who?” asked both girls.

“An Englishman on foot.”

“What does he look like?” asked Em.

“I did not notice; but he has a very large nose,” said the boy slowly. “He asked the way to the house.”

“Didn't he tell you his name?”

“Yes—Bonaparte Blenkins.”

“Bonaparte!” said Em, “why that is like the reel Hottentot Hans plays on the violin—
  • ‘Bonaparte, Bonaparte, my wife is sick;
  • In the middle of the week, but Sundays not,
  • I give her rice and beans for soup’—
It is a funny name.”

“There was a living man called Bonaparte once,” said she of the great eyes.

“Ah yes, I know,” said Em—“the poor prophet whom the lions ate. I am always so sorry for him.”

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Her companion cast a quiet glance upon her.

“He was the greatest man who ever lived,” she said—“the man I like best.”

“And what did he do?” asked Em, conscious that she had made a mistake, and that her prophet was not the man.

“He was one man, only one,” said her little companion slowly, “yet all the people in the world feared him. He was not born great, he was common as we are; yet he was master of the world at last. Once he was only a little child, then he was a lieutenant, then he was a general, then he was an emperor. When he said a thing to himself he never forgot it. He waited, and waited, and waited, and it came at last.”

“He must have been very happy,” said Em.

“I do not know,” said Lyndall; “but he had what he said he would have, and that is better than being happy. He was their master, and all the people were white with fear of him. They joined together to fight him. He was page: 34 one and they were many, and they got him down at last. They were like the wild cats when their teeth are fast in a great dog, like cowardly wild cats,” said the child, “they would not let him go. There were many; he was only one. They sent him to an island on the sea, a lonely island, and kept him there fast. He was one man, and they were many, and they were terrified at him. It was glorious!” said the child.

“And what then?” said Em.

“Then he was alone there in that island with men to watch him always,” said her companion, slowly and quietly, “and in the long lonely nights he used to lie awake and think of the things he had done in the old days, and the things he would do if they let him go again. In the day when he walked near the shore it seemed to him that the sea all around him was a cold chain about his body pressing him to death.”

“And then?” said Em, much interested.

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“He died there in that island; he never got away.”

“It is rather a nice story,” said Em; “but the end is sad.”

“It is a terrible, hateful ending,” said the little teller of the story, leaning forward on her folded arms; “and the worst is, it is true. I have noticed,” added the child very deliberately, “that it is only the made-up stories that end nicely; the true ones all end so.”

As she spoke the boy's dark, heavy eyes rested on her face.

“You have read it, have you not?”

He nodded. “Yes; but the brown history tells only what he did, not what he thought.”

“It was in the brown history that I read of him,” said the girl; “but I know what he thought. Books do not tell everything.”

“No,” said the boy, slowly drawing nearer to her and sitting down at her feet. “What you want to know they never tell.”

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Then the children fell into silence, till Doss, the dog, growing uneasy at its long continuance, sniffed at one and the other, and his master broke forth suddenly,—

“If they could talk, if they could tell us now!” he said, moving his hand out over the surrounding objects—“then we would know something. This ‘kopje,’ if it could tell us how it came here! The ‘Physical Geography’ says,” he went on most rapidly and confusedly, “that what were dry lands now were once lakes; and what I think is this—these low hills were once the shores of a lake; this “kopje” is some of the stones that were at the bottom, rolled together by the water. But there is this—how did the water come to make one heap here alone, in the centre of the plain?” It was a ponderous question; no one volunteered an answer. “When I was small,” said the boy, “I always looked at it and wondered, and I thought a great giant was buried under it. page: 37 Now I know the water must have done it; but how? It is very wonderful. Did one little stone come first, and stop the others as they rolled?” said the boy with earnestness, in a low voice, more as speaking to himself than to them.

“Oh, Waldo, God put the little ‘kopje’ here,” said Em with solemnity.

“But how did He put it here?”

“By wanting.”

“But how did the wanting bring it here?”

“Because it did.”

The last words were uttered with the air of one who produces a clinching argument. What effect it had on the questioner was not evident, for he made no reply, and turned away from her.

Drawing closer to Lyndall's feet, he said after a while, in a low voice,—

“Lyndall, has it never seemed to you that the stones were talking with you? Sometimes,” he added in a yet lower tone, “I lie under there page: 38 with my sheep, and it seems that the stones are really speaking—speaking of the old things, of the time when the strange fishes and animals lived that are turned into stone now, and the lakes were here; and then of the time when the little Bushmen lived here, so small and so ugly, and used to sleep in the wild dog holes, and in the ‘sloots,’ and eat snakes, and shoot the bucks with their poisoned arrows. It was one of them, one of these old wild Bushmen, that painted those,” said the boy, nodding toward the pictures—“one who was different from the rest. He did not know why, but he wanted to make something beautiful—he wanted to make something, so he made these. He worked hard, very hard, to find the juice to make the paint; and then he found this place where the rocks hang over, and he painted them. To us they are only strange things, that make us laugh; but to him they were very beautiful.”

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The children had turned round and looked at the pictures.

“He used to kneel here naked, painting, painting, painting; and he wondered at the things he made himself,” said the boy, rising and moving his hand in deep excitement. “Now the Boers have shot them all, so that we never see a little yellow face peeping out among the stones; and the wild bucks have gone, and those days, and we are here. But we will be gone soon, and only the stones will be on here, looking at everything like they look now. Of course I know,” the fellow added slowly, “that it is I who am thinking, not they who are talking; but it seems as though it were them. Has it never seemed to you that things that do not live are talkig to you, Lyndall?”

“No, it never seems so to me,” she answered.

The sun had dipped now below the hills, and the boy, suddenly remembering the ewes and lambs, started to his feet.

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“Let us also go to the house and see who has come,” said Em, as the boy shuffled away to rejoin his flock, while Doss ran at his heels, snapping at the ends of the torn trousers as they fluttered in the wind.

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CHAPTER III.

I WAS A STRANGER, AND YE TOOK ME IN.

AS the two girls rounded the side of the “kopje,” an unusual scene presented itself. A large group was gathered at the back door of the homestead.

On the door-step stood the Boer-woman, a hand on each hip, her face red and fiery, her head nodding fiercely. At her feet sat the yellow Hottentot maid, her satellite, and around stood the black Kaffir maids, with blankets twisted round their half-naked figures. Two, who stamped mealies in a wooden block, held the great stampers in their hands, and stared stupidly at the object of attraction. It certainly was not to look at the old German overseer, page: 42 who stood in the centre of the group, that they had all gathered together. His salt-and-pepper suit, grizzly black beard, and grey eyes were as familiar to every one on the farm as the red gables of the homestead itself; but beside him stood the stranger, and on him all eyes were fixed. Ever and anon the new-comer cast a glance over his pendulous red nose to the spot where the Boer-woman stood, and smiled faintly.

“I'm not a child,” cried the Boer-woman, in low Cape Dutch, “and I wasn't born yesterday. No, by the Lord, no! You can't take me in! My mother didn't wean me on Monday. One wink of my eye, and I see the whole thing. I'll have no tramps sleeping on my farm,” cried Tant' Sannie blowing. “No, by the Devil, no! not though he had sixty-times-six red noses.”

There the German overseer mildly interposed that the man was not a tramp, but a highly page: 43 respectable individual, whose horse had died by an accident three days before.

“Don't tell me,” cried the Boer-woman; “the man isn't born that can take me in. If he'd had money wouldn't he have bought a horse? Men who walk are thieves, liars, murderers, Rome's priests, seducers! I see the Devil in his nose!” cried Tant' Sannie shaking her fist at him; “and to come walking into the house of this Boer's child, and shaking hands as though he came on horseback! Oh, no, no!”

The stranger took off his hat, a tall, battered chimney-pot, and disclosed a bald head, at the back of which was a little fringe of curled white hair; and he bowed to Tant' Sannie.

“What does she remark, my friend?” he inquired, turning his cross-wise looking eyes on the old German.

The German rubbed his old hands and hesitated.

“Ah—well—ah—the—Dutch—you know— page: 44 do not like people who walk—in this country—ah!”

“My dear friend,” said the stranger, laying his hand on the German's arm, “I should have bought myself another horse, but crossing, five days ago, a full river, I lost my purse—a purse with five hundred pounds in it. I spent five days on the bank of the river trying to find it—couldn't. Paid a Kaffir nine pounds to go in and look for it at the risk of his life—couldn't find it.”

The German would have translated this information, but the Boer-woman gave no ear.

“No, no; he goes to-night. See how he looks at me—a poor unprotected female! If he wrongs me, who is to do me right?” cried Tant' Sannie.

“I think,” said the German in an undertone, “if you didn't look at her quite so much it might be advisable. She—ah—she—might—imagine that you liked her too well,—in fact—ah—”

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“Certainly, my dear friend, certainly,” said the stranger. “I shall not look at her.”

Saying this, he turned his nose full upon a small Kaffir of two years old. That small naked Kaffir became instantly so terrified that he fled to his mother's blanket for protection, howling horribly.

Upon this the new-comer fixed his eyes pensively on the stamp-block, folding his hands on the head of his cane. His boots were broken, but he still had the cane of a gentleman.

“Yo vaggabonds se Engelschman!” said Tant' Sannie, looking straight at him.

This was a near approach to plain English; but the man contemplated the block abstractedly, wholly unconscious that any antagonism was being displayed toward him.

“You might not be a Scotchman, or anything of that kind, might you?” suggested the German. “It is the English that she hates.”

“My dear friend,” said the stranger, “I am page: 46 Irish every inch of me—father Irish, mother Irish. I've not a drop of English blood in my veins.”

“And you might not be married, might you?” persisted the German. “If you had a wife and children, now? Dutch people do not like those who are not married.”

“Ah,” said the stranger, looking tenderly at the block, “I have a dear wife and three sweet little children—two lovely girls and a noble boy.”

This information having been conveyed to the Boer-woman, she, after some further conversation, appeared slightly mollified; but remained firm to her conviction that the man's designs were evil.

“For, dear Lord!” she cried; “all Englishmen are ugly; but was there ever such a red-rag-nosed thing with broken boots and crooked eyes before. Take him to your room,” she cried to the German; “but all the sin he does I lay at your door.”

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The German having told him how matters were arranged, the stranger made a profound bow to Tant' Sannie and followed his host, who led the way to his own little room.

“I thought she would come to her better self soon,” the German said joyously. “Tant' Sannie is not wholly bad, far from it, far.” Then seeing his companion cast a furtive glance at him, which he mistook for one of surprise, he added quickly, “Ah, yes, yes; we are all a primitive people here—not very lofty. We deal not in titles. Every one is Tanta and Oom—aunt and uncle. This may be my room,” he said, opening the door. “It is rough, the room is rough; not a palace—not quite. But it may be better than the fields, a little better,” he said, glancing round at his companion. “Come in, come in. There is something to eat—a mouthful: not the fare of emperors and kings; but we do not starve, not yet,” he said, rubbing his hands together and looking page: 48 round with a pleased, half-nervous smile on his old face.

“My friend, my dear friend,” said the stranger, seizing him by the hand, “may the Lord bless you, the Lord bless and reward you—the God of the fatherless and the stranger. But for you I would this night have slept in the fields, with the dews of heaven upon my head.”

Late that evening Lyndall came down to the cabin with the German's rations. Through the tiny square window the light streamed forth, and without knocking she raised the latch and entered. There was a fire burning on the hearth, and it cast its ruddy glow over the little dingy room, with its worm-eaten rafters and mud floor, and broken white-washed walls. A curious little place, filled with all manner of articles. Next to the fire was a great tool-box; beyond that the little bookshelf with its well-worn books; beyond that, in the corner, a heap page: 49 of filled and empty grain-bags. From the rafters hung down straps, “reims,” old boots, bits of harness, and a string of onions. The bed was in another corner, covered by a patchwork quilt of faded red lions, and divided from the rest of the room by a blue curtain, now drawn back. On the mantelshelf was an endless assortment of little bags and stones; and on the wall hung a map of South Germany, with a red line drawn through it to show where the German had wandered. This place was the one home the girls had known for many a year. The house where Tant' Sannie lived and ruled was a place to sleep in, to eat in, not to be happy in. It was in vain she told them they were grown too old to go there; every morning and evening found them there. Were there not too many golden memories hanging about the old place for them to leave it?

Long winter nights, when they had sat round the fire and roasted potatoes, and asked riddles, page: 50 and the old man had told of the little German village, where, fifty years before, a little German boy had played at snowballs, and had carried home the knitted stockings of a little girl who afterward became Waldo's mother; did they not seem to see the German peasant girls walking about with their wooden shoes and yellow, braided hair, and the little children eating their suppers out of little wooden bowls when the good mothers called them in to have their milk and potatoes?

And were there not yet better times than these? Moonlight nights, when they romped about the door, with the old man, yet more a child than any of them, and laughed, till the old roof of the waggon-house rang.

Or, best of all, were there not warm, dark, starlight nights, when they sat together on the door-step, holding each other's hands, singing German hymns, their voices rising clear in the still night air—till the German would draw page: 51 away his hand suddenly to wipe quickly a tear the children must not see? Would they not sit looking up at the stars and talking of them—of the dear Southern Cross, red, fiery Mars, Orion, with his belt, and the Seven Mysterious Sisters—and fall to speculating over them? How old were they? Who dwelt in them? And the old German would say that perhaps the souls we loved lived in them; there, in that little twinkling point was perhaps the little girl whose stockings he had carried home; and the children would look up at it lovingly, and call it “Old Otto's star.” Then they would fall to deeper speculations—of the times and seasons wherein the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the stars shall fall as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, and there shall be time no longer; “when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all His holy angels with Him.” In lower and lower tones they would talk, till at last they fell into whispers; then they would page: 52 wish good night softly, and walk home hushed and quiet.

To-night, when Lyndall looked in, Waldo sat before the fire watching a pot which simmered there, with his slate and pencil in his hand; his father sat at the table buried in the columns of a three-weeks-old newspaper; and the stranger lay stretched on the bed in the corner, fast asleep, his mouth open, his great limbs stretched out loosely, betokening much weariness. The girl put the rations down upon the table, snuffed the candle, and stood looking at the figure on the bed.

“Old Otto,” she said presently, laying her hand down on the newspaper, and causing the old German to look up over his glasses, “how long did that man say he had been walking?”

“Since this morning, poor fellow! A gentleman—not accustomed to walking—horse died—poor fellow!” said the German, pushing out his lip and glancing commiseratingly over his page: 53 spectacles in the direction of the bed where the stranger lay, with his flabby double chin, and broken boots through which the flesh shone.

“And do you believe him, Uncle Otto?”

“Believe him? why of course I do. He himself told me the story three times distinctly.”

“If,” said the girl slowly, “he had walked for only one day his boots would not have looked so; and if—”

If!” said the German starting up in his chair, irritated that any one should doubt such irrefragable evidence—“if! Why, he told me himself! Look how he lies there,” added the German pathetically, “worn out—poor fellow! We have something for him though,” pointing with his forefinger over his shoulder to the saucepan that stood on the fire. “We are not cooks—not French cooks, not quite; but it's drinkable, drinkable, I think; better than nothing, I think,” he added, nodding his head page: 54 in a jocund manner that evinced his high estimation of the contents of the saucepan and his profound satisfaction therein. “Bish! bish! my chicken,” he said, as Lyndall tapped her little foot up and down upon the floor. “Bish! bish! my chicken; you will wake him.”

He moved the candle so that his own head might intervene between it and the sleeper's face; and, smoothing his newspaper, he adjusted his spectacles to read.

The child's grey-black eyes rested on the figure on the bed, then turned to the German, then rested on the figure again.

I think he is a liar. Good night, Uncle Otto,” she said slowly, turning to the door.

Long after she had gone the German folded his paper up methodically, and put it in his pocket.

The stranger had not awakened to partake of the soup, and his son had fallen asleep on the ground. Taking two white sheep-skins from page: 55 the heap of sacks in the corner, the old man doubled them up, and lifting the boy's head gently from the slate on which it rested, placed the skins beneath it.

“Poor lambie, poor lambie!” he said, tenderly patting the great rough head; “tired is he!”

He threw an overcoat across the boy's feet, and lifted the saucepan from the fire. There was no place where the old man could comfortably lie down himself, so he resumed his seat. Opening a much-worn Bible, he began to read, and as he read pleasant thoughts and visions thronged on him.

“I was a stranger, and ye took me in,” he read.

He turned again to the bed where the sleeper lay.

“I was a stranger.”

Very tenderly the old man looked at him. He saw not the bloated body nor the evil face of the man; but, as it were, under deep disguise page: 56 and fleshly concealment, the form that long years of dreaming had made very real to him. “Jesus, lover, and is it given to us, weak and sinful, frail and erring, to serve Thee, to take Thee in!” he said softly, as he rose from his seat. Full of joy, he began to pace the little room. Now and again as he walked he sang the lines of a German hymn, or muttered broken words of prayer. The little room was full of light. It appeared to the German that Christ was very near him, and that at almost any moment the thin mist of earthly darkness that clouded his human eyes might be withdrawn, and that made manifest of which the friends at Emmaus, beholding it, said, “It is the Lord!”

Again, and yet again, through the long hours of that night, as the old man walked he looked up to the roof of his little room, with its blackened rafters, and yet saw them not. His rough, bearded face was illuminated with a radiant gladness; and the night was not shorter page: 57 to the dreaming sleepers than to him whose waking dreams brought heaven near.

So quickly the night fled, that he looked up with surprise when at four o'clock the first grey streaks of summer dawn showed themselves through the little window. Then the old man turned to rake together the few coals that lay under the ashes, and his son, turning on the sheep-skins, muttered sleepily to know if it were time to rise.

“Lie still, lie still! I would only make a fire,” said the old man.

“Have you been up all night?” asked the boy.

“Yes; but it has been short, very short. Sleep again, my chicken; it is yet early.”

And he went out to fetch more fuel.

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CHAPTER IV.

BLESSED IS HE THAT BELIEVETH.

BONAPARTE BLENKINS sat on the side of the bed. He had wonderfully revived since the day before, held his head high, talked in a full sonorous voice, and ate greedily of all the viands offered him. At his side was a basin of soup, from which he took a deep draught now and again as he watched the fingers of the German, who sat on the mud floor mending the bottom of a chair.

Presently he looked out, where, in the afternoon sunshine, a few half-grown ostriches might be seen wandering listlessly about, and then he looked in again at the little white-washed room, and at Lyndall, who sat looking at a book near page: 59 the door. Then he raised his chin and tried to adjust an imaginary shirt-collar. Finding none, he smoothed the little grey fringe at the back of his head, and began,—

“You are a student of history, I perceive, my friend, from the study of these volumes that lie scattered about this apartment; this fact has been made evident to me.”

“Well—a little—perhaps—it may be,” said the German meekly.

“Being a student of history then,” said Bonaparte, raising himself loftily, “you will doubtless have heard of my great, of my celebrated kinsman, Napoleon Bonaparte?”

“Yes, yes,” said the German, looking up.

“I, sir,” said Bonaparte, “was born at this hour, on an April afternoon, three-and-fifty years ago. The nurse, sir—she was the same who attended when the Duke of Sutherland was born,—brought me to my mother. ‘There is only one name for this child,’ she said: ‘he has page: 60 the nose of his great kinsman;’ and so Bonaparte Blenkins became my name—Bonaparte Blenkins. Yes, sir,” said Bonaparte, “there is a stream on my maternal side that connects me with a stream on his maternal side.”

The German made a sound of astonishment.

“The connection,” said Bonaparte, “is one which could not be easily comprehended by one unaccustomed to the study of aristocratic pedigrees; but the connection is close.”

“Is it possible!” said the German, pausing in his work with much interest and astonishment. “Napoleon an Irishman!”

“Yes,” said Bonaparte, “on the mother's side, and that is how we are related. There wasn't a man to beat him,” said Bonaparte, stretching himself—“not a man except the Duke of Wellington. And it's a strange coincidence,” added Bonaparte, bending forward, “but he was a connection of mine. His nephew, the Duke of Wellington's nephew, married a cousin of page: 61 mine. She was a woman! See her at one of the court balls—amber-satin—daisies in her hair. Worth going a hundred miles to look at her! Often seen her there myself, sir!”

The German moved the leather thongs in and out, and thought of the strange vicissitudes of human life, which might bring the kinsman of dukes and emperors to his humble room.

Bonaparte appeared lost among old memories.

“Ah, that Duke of Wellington's nephew!” he broke forth suddenly; “many's the joke I've had with him. Often came to visit me at Bonaparte Hall. Grand place I had then—park, conservatory, servants. He had only one fault, that Duke of Wellington's nephew,” said Bonaparte, observing that the German was deeply interested in every word: “he was a coward—what you might call a coward. You've never been in Russia, I suppose?” said Bonaparte, fixing his crosswise-looking eyes on the German's face.

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“No, no,” said the old man humbly. “France, England, Germany, a little in this country; it is all I have travelled.”

I, my friend,” said Bonaparte, “I have been in every country in the world, and speak every civilized language, excepting only Dutch and German. I wrote a book of my travels—noteworthy incidents. Publisher got it—cheated me out of it. Great rascals those publishers! Upon one occasion the Duke of Wellington's nephew and I were travelling in Russia. All of a sudden one of the horses dropped down dead as a doornail. There we were—cold night—snow four feet thick—great forest—one horse not being able to move the sledge—night coming on—wolves.

“‘Spree!’ says the Duke of Wellington's nephew.

“‘Spree, do you call it?’ says I. ‘Look out.’

“There, sticking out under a bush, was nothing less than the nose of a bear. The Duke page: 63 of Wellington's nephew was up a tree like a shot; I stood quietly on the ground, as cool as I am at this moment, loaded my gun, and climbed up the tree. There was only one bough.

“‘Bon,’ said the Duke of Wellington's nephew, ‘you'd better sit in front.’

“‘All right,’ said I; ‘but keep your gun ready. There are more coming.’ He'd got his face buried in my back.

“‘How many are there?’ said he.

“‘Four,’ said I.

“‘How many are there now?’ said he.

“‘Eight,’ said I.

“‘How many are there now?’ said he.

“‘Ten,’ said I.

“‘Ten! ten!’ said he; and down goes his gun.

“‘Wallie,’ I said, ‘what have you done? We're dead men now!’

“‘Bon, my old fellow,’ said he, ‘I couldn't help it; my hands trembled so!’

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“‘Wall,’ I said, turning round and seizing his hand, ‘Wallie, my dear lad, good-bye. I'm not afraid to die. My legs are long—they hang down—the first bear that comes and I don't hit him, off goes my foot. When he takes it I shall give you my gun and go. You may yet be saved; but tell, oh, tell Mary-Ann that I thought of her, that I prayed for her.’

“‘Good-bye, old fellow!’ said he.

“‘God bless you!’ said I.

“By this time the bears were sitting in a circle all around the tree. Yes,” said Bonaparte impressively, fixing his eyes on the German, “a regular, exact, circle. The marks of their tails were left in the snow, and I measured it afterward; a drawing-master couldn't have done it better. It was that saved me. If they'd rushed on me at once, poor old Bon would never have been here to tell this story. But they came on, sir, systematically, one by one. All the rest sat on their tails and waited. The first fellow came page: 65 up, and I shot him; the second fellow—I shot him; the third—I shot him. At last the tenth came; he was the biggest of all—the leader, you may say.

“‘Wal,’ I said, ‘give me your hand. My fingers are stiff with the cold; there is only one bullet left. I shall miss him. While he is eating me you get down and take your gun; and live, dear friend, live to remember the man who gave his life for you!’ By that time the bear was at me. I felt his paw on my trousers.

“‘Oh, Bonnie! Bonnie!’ said the Duke of Wellington's nephew. But I just took my gun and put the muzzle to the bear's ear—over he fell—dead!”

Bonaparte Blenkins waited to observe what effect his story had made. Then he took out a dirty white handkerchief and stroked his forehead, and more especially his eyes.

“It always affects me to relate that adventure,” he remarked, returning the handkerchief to his page: 66 pocket. “Ingratitude—base, vile ingratitude—is recalled by it! That man, that man, who but for me would have perished in the pathless wilds of Russia, that man in the hour of my adversity forsook me. Yes,” said Bonaparte, “I had money, I had lands; I said to my wife, ‘There is Africa, a struggling country; they want capital; they want men of talent; they want men of ability to open up that land. Let us go.’

“I bought eight thousand pounds' worth of machinery—winnowing, plowing, reaping-machines; I loaded a ship with them. Next steamer I came out—wife, children, all. Got to the Cape. Where is the ship with the things? Lost—gone to the bottom! And the box with the money? Lost—nothing saved!

“My wife wrote to the Duke of Wellington's nephew; I didn't wish her to; she did it without my knowledge.

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“What did the man whose life I saved do? Did he send me thirty thousand pounds? say, ‘Bonaparte, my brother, here is a crumb?’ No; he sent me nothing.

“My wife said, ‘Write.’ I said, ‘Mary Ann, NO. While these hands have power to work, NO. While this frame has power to endure, NO. Never shall it be said that Bonaparte Blenkins asked of any man.’”

The man's noble independence touched the German.

“Your case is hard; yes, that is hard,” said the German, shaking his head.

Bonaparte took another draught of the soup, leaned back against the pillows, and sighed deeply.

“I think,” he said after a while, rousing himself, “I shall now wander in the benign air, and taste the gentle cool of evening. The stiffness hovers over me yet; exercise is beneficial.”

So saying, he adjusted his hat carefully on page: 68 the bald crown of his head, and moved to the door. After he had gone the German sighed again over his work—

“Ah, Lord! So it is! Ah!”

He thought of the ingratitude of the world.

“Uncle Otto,” said the child in the doorway, “did you ever hear of ten bears sitting on their tails in a circle?”

“Well, not of ten exactly: but bears do attack travellers every day. It is nothing unheard-of,” said the German. “A man of such courage too! Terrible experience that!”

“And how do we know that the story is true, Uncle Otto?”

The German's ire was roused.

“That is what I do hate!” he cried. “Know that is true! How do you know that anything is true? Because you are told so. If we begin to question everything, wanting proof, proof, proof, what will we have to believe left? How do you know the angel opened the prison- page: 69 door for Peter, except that Peter said so? How do you know that God talked to Moses, except that Moses wrote it? That is what I hate!”

The girl knit her brows. Perhaps her thoughts made a longer journey than the German dreamed of; for, mark you, the old dream little how their words and lives are texts and studies to the generation that shall succeed them. Not what we are taught, but what we see, makes us, and the child gathers the food on which the adult feeds to the end.

When the German looked up next there was a look of supreme satisfaction in the little mouth and the beautiful eyes.

“What dost see, chicken?” he asked.

The child said nothing, and an agonizing shriek was borne on the afternoon breeze.

“Oh, God! my God! I am killed!” cried the voice of Bonaparte, as he, with wide open mouth and shaking flesh, fell into the room, followed by page: 70 a half-grown ostrich, who put its head in at the door, opened its beak at him, and went away.

“Shut the door! shut the door! As you value my life, shut the door!” cried Bonaparte, sinking into a chair, his face blue and white, with a greenishness about the mouth. “Ah, my friend,” he said tremulously, “eternity has looked me in the face! My life's thread hung upon a cord! The valley of the shadow of death!” said Bonaparte, seizing the German's arm.

“Dear, dear, dear!” said the German, who had closed the lower half of the door, and stood much concerned beside the stranger, “you have had a fright. I never knew so young a bird to chase before; but they will take dislikes to certain people. I sent a boy away once because a bird would chase him. Ah, dear, dear!”

“When I looked round,” said Bonaparte, “the red and yawning throat was above me, and the reprehensible paw raised to strike me. page: 71 My nerves,” said Bonaparte, suddenly growing faint, “always delicate—highly strung—are broken—broken! You could not give a little wine, a little brandy my friend?”

The old German hurried away to the bookshelf, and took from behind the books a small bottle, half of whose contents he poured into a cup. Bonaparte drained it eagerly.

“How do you feel now?” asked the German, looking at him with much sympathy.

“A little, slightly, better.”

The German went out to pick up the battered chimney-pot which had fallen before the door.

“I am sorry you got the fright. The birds are bad things till you know them,” he said kindly, as he put the hat down.

“My friend,” said Bonaparte, holding out his hand, “I forgive you; do not be disturbed. Whatever the consequences, I forgive you. I know, I believe, it was with no ill-intent that page: 72 you allowed me to go out. Give me your hand. I have no ill-feeling.”

“You are very kind,” said the German, taking the extended hand, and feeling suddenly convinced that he was receiving magnanimous forgiveness for some great injury, “you are very kind.”

“Don't mention it,” said Bonaparte.

He knocked out the crown of his caved-in old hat, placed it on the table before him, leaned his elbows on the table and his face in his hands, and contemplated it.

“Ah, my old friend,” he thus apostrophized the hat, “you have served me long, you have served me faithfully, but the last day has come. Never more shall you be borne upon the head of your master. Never more shall you protect his brow from the burning rays of summer or the cutting winds of winter. Henceforth bare-headed must your master go. Good-bye, good-bye, old hat!”

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At the end of this affecting appeal the German rose. He went to the box at the foot of his bed; out of it he took a black hat, which had evidently been seldom worn and carefully preserved.

“It's not exactly what you may have been accustomed to,” he said nervously, putting it down beside the battered chimney-pot, “but it might be of some use—a protection to the head, you know.”

“My friend,” said Bonaparte, “you are not following my advice; you are allowing yourself to be reproached on my account. Do not make yourself unhappy. No; I shall go bare-headed.”

“No, no, no!” cried the German energetically. “I have no use for the hat, none at all. It is shut up in the box.”

“Then I will take it, my friend. It is a comfort to one's own mind when you have unintentionally injured any one to make reparation. I know the feeling. The hat may not page: 74 be of that refined cut of which the old one was, but it will serve, yes, it will serve. Thank you,” said Bonaparte, adjusting it on his head, and then replacing it on the table. “I shall lie down now and take a little repose,” he added; “I much fear my appetite for supper will be lost.”

“I hope not, I hope not,” said the German, reseating himself at his work, and looking much concerned as Bonaparte stretched himself on the bed and turned the end of the patchwork quilt over his feet.

“You must not think to make your departure not for many days,” said the German presently. “Tant' Sannie gives her consent, and—”

“My friend,” said Bonaparte, closing his eyes sadly, “you are kind; but were it not that to-morrow is the Sabbath, weak and trembling as I lie here, I would proceed on my way. I must seek work; idleness but for a day is page: 75 painful. Work, labour—that is the secret of all true happiness!”

He doubled the pillow under his head, and watched how the German drew the leather thongs in and out.

After a while Lyndall silently put her book on the shelf and went home, and the German stood up and began to mix some water and meal for roaster-cakes. As he stirred them with his hands he said,—

“I make always a double supply on Saturday night; the hands are then free as the thoughts for Sunday.”

“The blessed Sabbath,” said Bonaparte.

There was a pause. Bonaparte twisted his eyes without moving his head, to see if supper were already on the fire.

“You must sorely miss the administration of the Lord's word in this desolate spot,” added Bonaparte. “Oh, how love I Thine house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth!”

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“Well, we do; yes,” said the German; “but we do our best. We meet together, and I—well, I say a few words, and perhaps they are not wholly lost, not quite.”

“Strange coincidence,” said Bonaparte; “my plan always was the same. Was in the Free State once—solitary farm—one neighbour. Every Sunday I called together friend and neighbour, child and servant, and said, ‘Rejoice with me, that we may serve the Lord,’ and then I addressed them. Ah, those were blessed times,” said Bonaparte; “would they might return.”

The German stirred at the cakes, and stirred, and stirred, and stirred. He could give the stranger his bed, and he could give the stranger his hat, and he could give the stranger his brandy; but his Sunday service!

After a good while he said,

“I might speak to Tant' Sannie; I might page: 77 arrange; you might take the service in my place, if it—”

“My friend,” said Bonaparte, “it would give me the profoundest felicity, the most unbounded satisfaction; but in these worn-out habiliments, in these deteriorated garments, it would not be possible, it would not be fitting that I should officiate in service of One whom, for respect, we shall not name. No, my friend, I will remain here; and, while you are assembling yourselves together in the presence of the Lord, I, in my solitude, will think of and pray for you. No; I will remain here!”

It was a touching picture—the solitary man there praying for them. The German cleared his hands from the meal, and went to the chest from which he had taken the black hat. After a little careful feeling about, he produced a black cloth coat, trowsers, and waistcoat, which he laid on the table, smiling knowingly. They page: 78 were of new shining cloth, worn twice a year, when he went to the town to “nachtmaal.” He looked with great pride at the coat as he unfolded it and held it up.

“It's not the latest fashion, perhaps, not a West End cut, not exactly; but it might do; it might serve at a push. Try it on, try it on!” he said, his old grey eyes twinkling with pride.

Bonaparte stood up and tried on the coat. It fitted admirably; the waistcoat could be made to button by ripping up the back, and the trowsers were perfect; but below were the ragged boots. The German was not disconcerted. Going to the beam where a pair of top-boots hung, he took them off, dusted them carefully, and put them down before Bonaparte. The old eyes now fairly brimmed over with sparkling enjoyment.

“I have only worn them once. They might serve; they might be endured.”

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Bonaparte drew them on and stood upright, his head almost touching the beams. The German looked at him with profound admiration. It was wonderful what a difference feathers made in the bird.

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CHAPTER V.

SUNDAY SERVICES.

SERVICE NO. I.

THE boy Waldo kissed the pages of his book and looked up. Far over the flat lay the “kopje,” a mere speck; the sheep wandered quietly from bush to bush; the stillness of the early Sunday rested everywhere, and the air was fresh.

He looked down at his book. On its page a black insect crept. He lifted it off with his finger. Then he leaned on his elbow, watching its quivering antennæ and strange movements, smiling.

“Even you,” he whispered, “shall not die. Even you He loves. Even you He will enfold page: 81 in His arms when He takes everything and makes it perfect and happy.”

When the thing had gone he smoothed the leaves of his Bible somewhat caressingly. The leaves of that book had dropped blood for him once; they had taken the brightness out of his childhood; from between them had sprung the visions that had clung about him and made night horrible. Adder-like thoughts had lifted their heads, had shot out forked tongues at him, asking mockingly strange, trivial questions that he could not answer, miserable child:—

Why did the women in Mark see only one angel and the women in Luke two? Could a story be told in opposite ways and both ways be true? Could it? could it? Then again: Is there nothing always right, and nothing always wrong? Could Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite “put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workman's hammer?” and could the Spirit of the Lord chant pæans over her, loud pæans, high pæans, set in the page: 82 book of the Lord, and no voice cry out it was a mean and dastardly sin to lie, and kill the trusting in their sleep? Could the friend of God marry his own sister, and be beloved, and the man who does it to-day goes to hell, to hell? Was there nothing always right or always wrong?

Those leaves had dropped blood for him once: they had made his heart heavy and cold; they had robbed his childhood of its gladness; now his fingers moved over them caressingly.

“My father God knows, my father knows,” he said; “we cannot understand; He knows.” After a while he whispered—“I heard your voice this morning when my eyes were not yet open, I felt you near me, my Father. Why do you love me so? How is it in the last four months all those old questions have gone from me? I know you are good; I know you love everything; I know it is all right; I feel it. I could not have borne it any more, not any more. I was almost mad. And all the while page: 83 I was so miserable you were looking at me and loving me, and I never knew it. But I know it now. I feel it,” said the boy, and he laughed low; “I feel it!” he laughed.

After a while he began partly to sing, partly to chant the disconnected verses of hymns, those which spoke his gladness, many times over, and loudly and always louder. The sheep with their senseless eyes turned to look at him as he sang.

At last he lapsed into quiet. Then as the boy lay there, staring at bush and sand, he saw a vision.

He had crossed the river of Death, and walked on the other bank in the Lord's land of Beulah. His feet sank into the dark grass, and he walked alone. Then, far over the fields, he saw a figure coming across the dark green grass. At first he thought it must be one of the angels; but as it came nearer he began to feel what it was. And it came closer, closer page: 84 to him, and then the voice said, “Come,” and he knew surely Who it was. He ran to the dear feet and touched them with his hands; yes, he held them fast! He lay down beside them. When he looked up the face was over him, and the glorious eyes were loving him; and they two were there alone together.

He laughed a deep laugh; then started up like one suddenly awakened from sleep.

“Oh, God!” he cried, “I cannot wait; I cannot wait! I want to die; I want to see Him; I want to touch him. Let me die!” He folded his hands, trembling. “How can I wait so long—for long, long years perhaps? I want to die—to see Him. I will die any death. Oh, let me come!”

Weeping he bowed himself, and quivered from head to foot. After a long while he lifted his head.

“Yes; I will wait; I will wait. But not long; do not let it be very long, Jesus. I want you; page: 85 oh, I want you—soon, soon!” He sat still, staring across the plain with his tearful eyes.

SERVICE NO. II.

IN the front room of the farmhouse sat Tant' Sannie in her elbow-chair. In her hand was her great brass-clasped hymn-book, round her neck was a clean white handkerchief, under her feet was a wooden stove. There too sat Em and Lyndall, in clean pinafores and new shoes. There too was the spruce Hottentot in a starched white “cappje,” and her husband on the other side of the door, with his wool oiled and very much combed out, and staring at his new leather boots. The Kaffir servants were not there because Tant' Sannie held they were descended from apes, and needed no salvation. But the rest were gathered for the Sunday service, and waited the officiator.

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Meanwhile Bonaparte and the German approached arm in arm—Bonaparte resplendent in the black cloth clothes, a spotless shirt, and a spotless collar; the German in the old salt-and-pepper, casting shy glances of admiration at his companion.

At the front door Bonaparte removed his hat with much dignity, raised his shirt collar, and entered. To the centre table he walked, put his hat solemnly down by the big Bible, and bowed his head over it in silent prayer.

The Boer-woman looked at the Hottentot, and the Hottentot looked at the Boer-woman.

There was one thing on earth for which Tant' Sannie had a profound reverence, which exercised a subduing influence over her, which made her for the time a better woman—that thing was new, shining black cloth. It made her think of the “predikant;” it made her think of the elders who sat in the top pew of the church on Sundays, with the hair so nicely oiled, so holy page: 87 and respectable, with their little swallow-tailed coats; it made her think of heaven, where everything was so holy and respectable, and nobody wore tan-cord, and the littlest angel had a black tail-coat. She wished she hadn't called him a thief and a Roman Catholic. She hoped the German hadn't told him. She wondered where those clothes were when he came in rags to her door. There was no doubt, he was a very respectable man, a gentleman.

The German began to read a hymn. At the end of each line Bonaparte groaned, and twice at the end of every verse.

The Boer-woman had often heard of persons groaning during prayers, to add a certain poignancy and finish to them; she would have looked upon it as no especial sign of grace in any one; but to groan at hymn-time! She was startled. She wondered if he remembered that she shook her fist in his face. This was a man of God. They knelt down to pray. The Boer-woman page: 88 weighed two hundred and fifty pounds, and could not kneel. She sat in her chair, and peeped between her crossed fingers at the stranger's back. She could not understand what he said; but he was in earnest. He shook the chair by the back rail till it made quite a little dust on the mud floor.

When they rose from their knees Bonaparte solemnly seated himself in the chair and opened the Bible. He blew his nose, pulled up his shirt collar, smoothed the leaves, stroked down his capacious waistcoat, blew his nose again, looked solemnly round the room, then began,—

“All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Having read this portion of Scripture, Bonaparte paused impressively, and looked all round the room.

“I shall not, my dear friends,” he said, “long detain you. Much of our precious time has page: 89 already fled blissfully from us in the voice of thanksgiving and the tongue of praise. A few, a very few words are all I shall address to you, and may they be as a rod of iron dividing the bones from the marrow, and the marrow from the bones.

“In the first place: What is a liar?”

The question was put so pointedly, and followed by a pause so profound, that even the Hottentot man left off looking at his boots and opened his eyes, though he understood not a word.

“I repeat,” said Bonaparte, “what is a liar?”

The sensation was intense; the attention of the audience was riveted.

“Have you any of you ever seen a liar, my dear friends?” There was a still longer pause. “I hope not; I truly hope not. But I will tell you what a liar is. I knew a liar once—a little boy who lived in Cape Town, in Short Market page: 90 Street. His mother and I sat together one day, discoursing about our souls.

“‘Here, Sampson,’ said his mother, ‘go and buy sixpence of “meiboss” from the Malay round the corner.’

“When he came back she said: ‘How much have you got?’

“‘Five,’ he said.

“He was afraid if he said six and a half she'd ask for some. And, my friends, that was a lie. The half of a ‘meiboss’ stuck in his throat and he died and was buried. And where did the soul of that little liar go to, my friends? It went to the lake of fire and brimstone. This brings me to the second point of my discourse.

“What is a lake of fire and brimstone? I will tell you, my friends,” said Bonaparte condescendingly. “The imagination unaided cannot conceive it: but by the help of the Lord I will put it before your mind's eye.

“I was travelling in Italy once on a time; page: 91 I came to a city called Rome, a vast city, and near it is a mountain which spits forth fire. Its name is Etna. Now, there was a man in that city of Rome who had not the fear of God before his eyes, and he loved a woman. The woman died, and he walked up that mountain spitting fire, and when he got to the top, he threw himself in at the hole that is there. The next day I went up. I was not afraid; the Lord preserves His servants. And in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou fall into a volcano. It was dark night when I got there, but in the fear of the Lord I walked to the edge of the yawning abyss, and looked in. That sight—that sight, my friends, is impressed upon my most indelible memory. I looked down into the lurid depths upon an incandescent lake, a melted fire, a seething sea; the billows rolled from side to side, and on their fiery crests tossed the white skeleton of the suicide. The heat had burnt the flesh from off page: 92 the bones; they lay as a light cork upon the melted, fiery waves. One skeleton hand was raised upward, the finger pointing to heaven; the other, with outstretched finger, pointing downward, as though it would say, ‘I go below, but you, Bonaparte, may soar above.’ I gazed; I stood entranced. At that instant there was a crack in the lurid lake; it swelled, expanded, and the skeleton of the suicide disappeared, to be seen no more by mortal eye.”

Here again Bonaparte rested, and then continued—

“The lake of melted stone rose in the crater, it swelled higher and higher at the side, it streamed forth at the top. I had presence of mind; near me was a rock; I stood upon it. The fiery torrent was vomited out and streamed on either side of me. And through that long and terrible night I stood there alone upon that rock, the glowing, fiery lava on every hand—a monument of the long-suffering and tender providence of page: 93 the Lord, who spared me that I might this day testify in your ears of Him.

“Now, my dear friends, let us deduce the lessons that are to be learnt from this narrative.

“Firstly: let us never commit suicide. The man is a fool, my friends, that man is insane, my friends, who would leave this earth, my friends. Here are joys innumerable, such as it hath not entered into the heart of man to understand, my friends. Here are clothes, my friends; here are beds, my friends; here is delicious food, my friends. Our precious bodies were given us to love, to cherish. Oh, let us do so! Oh, let us never hurt them; but care for and love them, my friends!”

Every one was impressed, and Bonaparte proceeded.

“Thirdly; let us not love too much. If that young man had not loved that young woman, he would not have jumped into Mount Etna. The good men of old never did so. Was Jeremiah page: 94 ever in love, or Ezekiel, or Hosea, or even any of the minor prophets? No. Then why should we be? Thousands are rolling in that lake at this moment who would say, ‘It was love that brought us here.’ Oh, let us think always of our own souls first.

  • “‘A charge to keep I have,
  • A God to glorify;
  • A never-dying soul to save,
  • And fit it for the sky.'

“Oh, beloved friends, remember the little boy and the ‘meiboss’; remember the young girl and the young man; remember the lake, the fire, and the brimstone; remember the suicide's skeleton on the pitchy billows of Mount Etna; remember the voice of warning that has this day sounded in your ears; and what I say to you I say to all—watch! May the Lord add his blessings!”

Here the Bible closed with a tremendous thud. Tant' Sannie loosened the white handkerchief page: 95 about her neck and wiped her eyes, and the coloured girl, seeing her do so, sniffled. The did not understand the discourse, which made it the more affecting. There hung over it that inscrutable charm which hovers forever for the human intellect, over the incomprehensible and shadowy. When the last hymn was sung the German conducted the officiator to Tant' Sannie, who graciously extended her hand, and offered coffee and a seat on the sofa. Leaving him there, the German hurried away to see how the little plum-pudding he had left at home was advancing; and Tant' Sannie remarked that it was a hot day. Bonaparte gathered her meaning as she fanned herself with the end of her apron. He bowed low in acquiescence. A long silence followed. Tant' Sannie spoke again. Bonaparte gave her no ear; his eye was fixed on a small miniature on the opposite wall, which represented Tant' Sannie as she had appeared on the day before her confirmation, page: 96 fifteen years before, attired in green muslin. Suddenly he started to his feet, walked up to the picture, and took his stand before it. Long and wistfully he gazed into its features; it was easy to see that he was deeply moved. With a sudden movement, as though no longer able to restrain himself, he seized the picture, loosened it from its nail, and held it close to his eyes. At length, turning to the Boer-woman, he said, in a voice of deep emotion,—

“You will, I trust, dear madam, excuse this exhibition of my feelings; but this—this little picture recalls to me my first and best beloved, my dear departed wife, who is now a saint in heaven.”

Tant' Sannie could not understand; but the Hottentot maid, who had taken her seat on the floor beside her mistress, translated the English into Dutch as far as she was able.

“Ah, my first, my beloved!” he added, looking tenderly down at the picture. “Oh, page: 97 the beloved, the beautiful lineaments! My angel wife! This is surely a sister of yours, madame?” he added, fixing his eyes on Tant' Sannie.

The Dutchwoman blushed, shook her head, and pointed to herself.

Carefully, intently, Bonaparte looked from the picture in his hand to Tant' Sannie's features, and from the features back to the picture. Then slowly a light broke over his countenance, he looked up, it became a smile; he looked back at the miniature, his whole countenance was effulgent.

“Ah, yes; I see it now,” he cried, turning his delighted gaze on the Boer-woman; “eyes, mouth, nose, chin, the very expression!” he cried. “How is it possible I did not notice it before?”

“Take another cup of coffee,” said Tant' Sannie. “Put some sugar in.”

Bonaparte hung the picture tenderly up, and page: 98 was turning to take the cup from her hand, when the German appeared, to say that the pudding was ready and the meat on the table.

“He's a God-fearing man, and one who knows how to behave himself,” said the Boer-woman as he went out at the door. “If he's ugly, did not the Lord make him? And are we to laugh at the Lord's handiwork? It is better to be ugly and good than pretty and bad; though of course it's nice when one is both,” said Tant' Sannie, looking complacently at the picture on the wall.

In the afternoon the German and Bonaparte sat before the door of the cabin. Both smoked in complete silence—Bonaparte with a book in his hands and his eyes half closed; the German puffing vigorously, and glancing up now and again at the serene blue sky overhead.

“Supposing—you—you, in fact, made the page: 99 remark to me,” burst forth the German suddenly, “that you were looking for a situation.”

Bonaparte opened his mouth wide, and sent a stream of smoke through his lips.

“Now supposing,” said the German—“merely supposing, of course—that some one, some one, in fact, should make an offer to you, say, to become schoolmaster on their farm and teach two children, two little girls, perhaps, and would give you forty pounds a-year, would you accept it?—Just supposing, of course.”

“Well, my dear friend,” said Bonaparte, “that would depend on circumstances. Money is no consideration with me. For my wife I have made provision for the next year. My health is broken. Could I meet a place where a gentleman would be treated as a gentleman I would accept it, however small the remuneration. With me,” said Bonaparte, “money is no consideration.”

“Well,” said the German, when he had taken page: 100 a whiff or two more from his pipe, “I think I shall go up and see Tant' Sannie a little. I go up often on Sunday afternoon to have a general conversation, to see her, you know. Nothing—nothing particular, you know.”

The old man put his book into his pocket, and walked up to the farmhouse with a peculiarly knowing and delighted expression of countenance.

“He doesn't suspect what I'm going to do,” soliloquized the German; “hasn't the least idea. A nice surprise for him.”

The man whom he had left at his doorway winked at the retreating figure with a wink that was quite indescribable.

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CHAPTER VI.

BONAPARTE BLENKINS MAKES HIS NEST.

AH, what is the matter?” asked Waldo, stopping at the foot of the ladder with a load of skins on his back that he was carrying up to the loft. Through the open door in the gable little Em was visible, her feet dangling from the high bench on which she sat. The room, once a store-room, had been divided by a row of “mealie” bags into two parts—the back being Bonaparte's bedroom, the front his school-room.

“Lyndall made him angry,” said the girl tearfully; “and he has given me the fourteenth of John to learn. He says he will teach me to behave myself when Lyndall troubles him.”

“What did she do?” asked the boy.

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“You see,” said Em, hopelessly turning the leaves, “whenever he talks she looks out at the door, as though she did not hear him. To-day she asked him what the signs of the Zodiac were, and he said he was surprised that she should ask him; it was not a fit and proper thing for little girls to talk about. Then she asked him who Copernicus was; and he said he was one of the Emperors of Rome, who burned the Christians in a golden pig, and the worms ate him up while he was still alive. I don't know why,” said Em plaintively, “but she just put her books under her arm, and walked out; and she will never come to his school again, she says, and she always does what she says. And now I must sit here every day alone,” said Em, the great tears dropping softly.

“Perhaps Tant' Sannie will send him away,” said the boy, in his mumbling way, trying to comfort her.

“No,” said Em, shaking her head; “no. page: 103 Last night, when the little Hottentot maid was washing her feet, he told her he liked such feet, and that fat women were so nice to him; and she said, I must always put him pure cream in his coffee now. No; he'll never go away,” said Em dolorously.

The boy put down his skins and fumbled in his pocket, and produced a small piece of paper containing something. He stuck it out toward her.

“There, take it for you,” he said. This was by way of comfort.

Em opened it and found a small bit of gum; but the great tears dropped down slowly on to it.

Waldo was distressed. He had cried so much in his morsel of life that tears in another seemed to burn him.

“If,” he said, stepping in awkwardly and standing by the table, “if you will not cry I will tell you something—a secret.”

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“What is that?” asked Em, instantly becoming decidedly better.

“You will tell it to no human being?”

“No.”

He bent nearer to her, and with deep solemnity said,—

I have made a machine!

The girl opened her eyes.

“Yes; a machine for shearing sheep. It is almost done,” said the boy. “There is only one thing that is not right yet; but it will be soon. When you think, and think, and think, all night and all day, it comes at last,” he added mysteriously.

“Where is it?”

“Here! I always carry it here,” said the boy, putting his hand to his breast, where a bulging-out was visible. “This is a model. When it is done they will have to make a large one.”

“Show it me.”

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The boy shook his head.

“No, not till it is done. I cannot let any human being see it till then.”

“It is a beautiful secret,” said Em; and the boy shuffled out to pick up his skins.

That evening father and son sat in the cabin eating their supper. The father sighed deeply sometimes. Perhaps he thought how long a time it was since Bonaparte had visited the cabin; but his son was in that land in which sighs have no part. It is a question whether it were not better to be the shabbiest of fools, and know the way up the little stair of imagination to the land of dreams, than the wisest of men, who see nothing that the eyes do not show, and feel nothing that the hands do not touch. The boy chewed his brown bread and drank his coffee; but in truth he saw only his machine finished—that last something found out and added. He saw it as it worked with beautiful smoothness; and over and above, as he chewed page: 106 his bread and drank his coffee, there was that delightful consciousness of something bending over him and loving him. It would not have been better in one of the courts of heaven, where the walls are set with rows of the King of Glory's amethysts and milk-white pearls, than there, eating his supper in that little room.

As they sat in silence there was a knock at the door. When it was opened the small woolly head of a little nigger showed itself. She was a messenger from Tant' Sannie: the German was wanted at once at the homestead. Putting on his hat with both hands, he hurried off. The kitchen was in darkness, but in the pantry beyond, Tant' Sannie and her maids were assembled.

A Kaffir girl, who had been grinding pepper between two stones, knelt on the floor, the lean Hottentot stood with a brass candlestick in her hand, and Tant' Sannie, near the shelf, with a page: 107 hand on each hip, was evidently listening intently, as were her companions.

“What may it be?” cried the old German in astonishment.

The room beyond the pantry was the store-room. Through the thin wooden partition there arose at that instant, evidently from some creature ensconced there, a prolonged and prodigious howl, followed by a succession of violent blows against the partition wall.

The German seized the churn-stick, and was about to rush round the house, when the Boer-woman impressively laid her hand upon his arm.

“That is his head,” said Tant' Sannie, “that is his head.”

“But what might it be?” asked the German, looking from one to the other, churn-stick in hand.

A low hollow bellow prevented reply, and the voice of Bonaparte lifted itself on high.

“Mary-Ann! my angel! my wife!”

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“Isn't it dreadful?” said Tant' Sannie, as the blows were repeated fiercely. “He has got a letter: his wife is dead. You must go and comfort him,” said Tant' Sannie at last, “and I will go with you. It would not be the thing for me to go alone—me, who am only thirty-three, and he an unmarried man now,” said Tant' Sannie, blushing and smoothing out her apron.

Upon this they all trudged round the house in company—the Hottentot maid carrying the light, Tant' Sannie and the German following, and the Kaffir girl bringing up the rear.

“Oh,” said Tant' Sannie, “I see now it wasn't wickedness made him do without his wife so long—only necessity.”

At the door she motioned to the German to enter, and followed him closely. On the stretcher behind the sacks Bonaparte lay on his face, his head pressed into a pillow, his legs kicking gently. The Boer-woman sat down on a box at page: 109 the foot of the bed. The German stood with folded hands looking on.

“We must all die,” said Tant' Sannie at last; “it is the dear Lord's will.”

Bonaparte, hearing her voice, turned himself on to his back.

“It's very hard,” said Tant' Sannie, “I know, for I've lost two husbands.”

Bonaparte looked up into the German's face.

“Oh, what does she say? Speak to me words of comfort!”

The German repeated Tant' Sannie's remark.

“Ah, I—I also! Two dear, dear wives, whom I shall never see any more!” cried Bonaparte, flinging himself back upon the bed.

He howled till the tarantulas, who lived between the rafters and the zinc roof, felt the unusual vibration, and looked out with their wicked bright eyes, to see what was going on.

Tant' Sannie sighed, the Hottentot maid sighed, the Kaffir girl who looked in at the page: 110 door put her hand over her mouth and said “Mow—wah!”

“You must trust in the Lord,” said Tant' Sannie. “He can give you more than you have lost.”

“I do, I do!” he cried; “but oh, I have no wife! I have no wife!”

Tant' Sannie was much affected, and came and stood near the bed.

“Ask him if he won't have a little pap—nice, fine, flour pap. There is some boiling on the kitchen fire.”

The German made the proposal; but the widower waved his hand.

“No, nothing shall pass my lips. I should be suffocated. No, no! Speak not of food to me!”

“Pap, and a little brandy in,” said Tant' Sannie coaxingly.

Bonaparte caught the word.

“Perhaps, perhaps—if I struggled with myself page: 111 —for the sake of my duties I might imbibe a few drops,” he said, looking with quivering lip up into the German's face. “I must do my duty, must I not?”

Tant' Sannie gave the order, and the girl went for the pap.

“I know how it was when my first husband died. They could do nothing with me,” the Boer-woman said, “till I had eaten a sheep's trotter and honey, and a little roaster-cake. I know.”

Bonaparte sat up on the bed with his legs stretched out in front of him, and a hand on each knee, blubbering softly.

“Oh, she was a woman! You are very kind to try and comfort me, but she was my wife. For a woman that is my wife I could live; for the woman that is my wife I could die! For a woman that is my wife I could— Ah! that sweet word wife; when will it rest upon my lips again?”

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When his feelings had subsided a little he raised the corners of his turned-down mouth, and spoke to the German with flabby lips.

“Do you think she understands me? Oh, tell her every word, that she may know I thank her.”

At that instant the girl reappeared with a basin of steaming gruel and a black bottle.

Tant' Sannie poured some of its contents into the basin, stirred it well, and came to the bed.

“Oh, I can't, I can't! I shall die! I shall die!” said Bonaparte, putting his hands to his side.

“Come, just a little,” said Tant' Sannie coaxingly; “just a drop.”

“It's too thick, it's too thick. I should choke.”

Tant' Sannie added something from the bottle and held out a spoonful; Bonaparte opened his mouth like a little bird waiting for a worm, and page: 113 held it open, as she dipped again and again into the pap.

“Ah, this will do your heart good,” said Tant' Sannie, in whose mind the relative functions of heart and stomach were exceedingly ill-defined.

When the basin was emptied the violence of his grief was much assuaged; he looked at Tant' Sannie with gentle tears.

“Tell him,” said the Boer-woman, “that I hope he will sleep well, and that the Lord will comfort him, as the Lord only can.”

“Bless you, dear friend, God bless you,” said Bonaparte.

When the door was safely shut he got off the bed and washed away the soap he had rubbed on his eyelids.

“Bon,” he said, slapping his leg, “you're the 'cutest lad I ever came across. If you don't turn out the old Hymns-and-prayers, and pummel the Ragged-coat, and get your arms round the page: 114 fat one's waist and a wedding-ring on her finger, then you are not Bonaparte. But you are Bonaparte. Bon, you're a fine boy!”

Making which pleasing reflection, he pulled off his trousers and got into bed cheerfully.

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CHAPTER VII.

HE SETS HIS TRAP.

MAY I come in? I hope I do not disturb you, my dear friend,” said Bonaparte, late one evening, putting his nose in at the cabin door, where the German and his son sat finishing their supper.

It was now two months since he had been installed as schoolmaster in Tant' Sannie's household, and he had grown mighty and more mighty day by day. He visited the cabin no more, sat close to Tant' Sannie drinking coffee all the evening, and walked about loftily with his hands under the coat tails of the German's black cloth and failed to see even a nigger who wished him the time of day. It was page: 116 therefore with no small surprise that the German perceived Bonaparte's red nose at the door.

“Walk in, walk in,” he said joyfully. “Boy, boy, see if there is any coffee left. Well, none. Make a fire. We have done supper, but—”

“My dear friend,” said Bonaparte, taking off his hat, “I came not to sup, not for mere creature comforts, but for an hour of brotherly intercourse with a kindred spirit. The press of business and the weight of thought, but they alone, may sometimes prevent me from sharing the secrets of my bosom with him for whom I have so great a sympathy. You perhaps wonder when I shall return the two pounds—”

“Oh, no, no! Make a fire, make a fire, boy. We will have a pot of hot coffee presently,” said the German, rubbing his hands and looking about, not knowing how best to show his pleasure at the unexpected visit.

For three weeks the German's diffident page: 117 “Good evening” had met with a stately bow; the chin of Bonaparte lifting itself higher daily; and his shadow had not darkened the cabin doorway since he came to borrow the two pounds. The German walked to the head of the bed and took down a blue bag that hung there. Blue bags were a speciality of the German's. He kept above fifty stowed away in different corners of his room—some filled with curious stones, some with seeds that had been in his possession fifteen years, some with rusty nails, buckles, and bits of old harness—in all, a wonderful assortment, but highly prized.

“We have something here not so bad,” said the German, smiling knowingly, as he dived his hand into the bag and took out a handful of almonds and raisins; “I buy these for my chickens. They increase in size, but they still think the old man must have something nice for them. And the old man—well, a big boy page: 118 may have a sweet tooth sometimes, may he not? Ha, ha!” said the German, chuckling at his own joke, as he heaped the plate with almonds. “Here is a stone—two stones to crack them—no late patent improvement—well, Adam's nut-cracker; ha, ha! But I think we shall do. We will not leave them uncracked. We will consume a few without fashionable improvements.”

Here the German sat down on one side of the table, Bonaparte on the other; each one with a couple of flat stones before him, and the plate between them.

“Do not be afraid,” said the German, “do not be afraid. I do not forget the boy at the fire; I crack for him. The bag is full. Why, this is strange,” he said suddenly, cracking upon a large nut; “three kernels! I have not observed that before. This must be retained. This is valuable.” He wrapped the nut gravely in paper, and put it carefully in his waistcoat-pocket. page: 119 “Valuable, very valuable!” he said, shaking his head.

“Ah, my friend,” said Bonaparte, “what joy it is to be once more in your society.”

The German's eyes glistened, and Bonaparte seized his hand and squeezed it warmly. They then proceeded to crack and eat. After a while Bonaparte said, stuffing a handful of raisins into his mouth,—

“I was so deeply grieved, my dear friend, that you and Tant' Sannie had some slight unpleasantness this evening.”

“Oh, no, no,” said the German; “it is all right now. A few sheep missing; but I make it good myself. I give my twelve sheep, and work in the other eight.”

“It is rather hard that you should have to make good the lost sheep,” said Bonaparte; “it is no fault of yours.”

“Well,” said the German, “this is the case. Last evening I count the sheep at the kraal— page: 120 twenty are missing. I ask the herd; he tells me they are with the other flock; he tells me so distinctly; how can I think he lies? This afternoon I count the other flock. The sheep are not there. I come back here: the herd is gone; the sheep are gone. But I cannot—no, I will not—believe he stole them,” said the German, growing suddenly excited. “Some one else, but not he. I know that boy. I knew him three years. He is a good boy. I have seen him deeply affected on account of his soul. And she would send the police after him! I say I would rather make the loss good myself. I will not have it; he has fled in fear. I know his heart. It was,” said the German, with a little gentle hesitation, “under my words that he first felt his need of a Saviour.”

Bonaparte cracked some more almonds, then said, yawning, and more as though he asked for the sake of having something to converse page: 121 about than from any interest he felt in the subject—

“And what has become of the herd's wife?”

The German was alight again in a moment.

“Yes; his wife. She has a child six days old, and Tant' Sannie would turn her out into the fields this night. That,” said the German rising, “that is what I call cruelty—diabolical cruelty. My soul abhors that deed. The man that could do such a thing I could run him through with a knife!” said the German, his grey eyes flashing, and his bushy black beard adding to the murderous fury of his aspect. Then suddenly subsiding, he said,—“But all is now well; Tant' Sannie gives her word that the maid shall remain for some days. I go to Oom Muller's to-morrow to learn if the sheep may not be there. If they are not, then I return. They are gone, that is all. I make it good.”

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“Tant' Sannie is a singular woman,” said Bonaparte, taking the tobacco bag the German passed to him.

“Singular! Yes,” said the German; “but her heart is on her right side. I have lived long years with her, and I may say, I have for her an affection, which she returns. I may say,” added the German with warmth, “I may say, that there is not one soul on this farm for whom I have not an affection.”

“Ah, my friend,” said Bonaparte, “when the grace of God is in our hearts, is it not so with us all? Do we not love the very worm we tread upon, and as we tread upon it? Do we know distinctions of race, or of sex, or of colour? No!
  • “‘Love so amazing, so divine,
  • It fills my soul, my life, my all.’”

After a time he sank into a less fervent mood, and remarked,—

“The coloured female who waits upon Tant' page: 123 Sannie appears to be of a virtuous disposition, an individual who—”

“Virtuous!” said the German; “I have confidence in her. There is that in her which is pure, that which is noble. The rich and high that walk this earth with lofty eyelids might exchange with her.”

The German here got up to bring a coal for Bonaparte's pipe, and they sat together talking for a while. At length Bonaparte knocked the ashes out of his pipe.

“It is time that I took my departure, dear friend,” he said; “but, before I do so, shall we not close this evening of sweet communion and brotherly intercourse by a few words of prayer? Oh, how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew upon the mountains of Hermon; for there the Lord bestowed a blessing, even life for evermore.”

“Stay and drink some coffee,” said the German.

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“No, thank you, my friend; I have business that must be done to-night,” said Bonaparte. “Your dear son appears to have gone to sleep. He is going to take the waggon to the mill to-morrow! What a little man he is.”

“A fine boy.”

But though the boy nodded before the fire he was not asleep; and they all knelt down to pray.

When they rose from their knees Bonaparte extended his hand to Waldo, and patted him on the head.

“Good night, my boy,” said he. “As you go to the mill to-morrow, we shall not see you for some days. Good night! Good-bye! The Lord bless and guide you; and may He bring you back to us in safety, to find us all as you have left us! And you, my dear friend,” he added, turning with redoubled warmth to the German, “long, long shall I look back to this evening as a time of refreshing from the presence of page: 125 the Lord, as an hour of blessed intercourse with a brother in Jesus. May such often return. The Lord bless you!” he added, with yet deeper fervour, “richly, richly.”

Then he opened the door and vanished out into the darkness.

“He, he, he!” laughed Bonaparte, as he stumbled over the stones. “If there isn't the rarest lot of fools on this farm that ever God Almighty stuck legs to. He, he, he! When the worms come out then the blackbirds feed. Ha, ha, ha!”

He looked in at the kitchen door. The Hottentot maid who acted as interpreter between Tant' Sannie and himself was gone, and Tant' Sannie herself was in bed.

“Never mind, Bon, my boy,” he said, as he walked round to his own room, “to-morrow will do. He, he, he!”

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CHAPTER VIII.

HE CATCHES THE OLD BIRD.

AT four o'clock the next afternoon the German rode across the plain, returning from his search for the lost sheep. He rode slowly, for he had been in the saddle since sunrise and was somewhat weary, and the heat of the afternoon made his horse sleepy as it picked its way slowly along the sandy road. Every now and then a great red spider would start out of the karroo on one side of the path and run across to the other, but nothing else broke the still monotony. Presently, behind one of the highest of the milk-bushes that dotted the roadside, the German caught sight of a Kaffir woman, seated there evidently for such shadow as the milk-bush page: 127 might afford from the sloping rays of the sun. The German turned the horse's head out of the road. It was not his way to pass a living creature without a word of greeting. Coming nearer, he found it was no other than the wife of the absconding Kaffir herd. She had a baby tied on her back by a dirty strip of red blanket; another strip hardly larger was twisted round her waist, for the rest her black body was naked. She was a sullen, ill-looking woman, with lips hideously protruding.

The German questioned her as to how she came there. She muttered in broken Dutch that she had been turned away. Had she done evil? She shook her head sullenly. Had she had food given her? She grunted a negative, and fanned the flies from her baby. Telling the woman to remain where she was, he turned his horse's head to the road and rode off at a furious pace.

“Hard-hearted! cruel! Oh, my God! Is this the way? Is this charity?”

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“Yes, yes, yes,” ejaculated the old man as he rode on; but, presently, his anger began to evaporate, his horse's pace slackened, and by the time he had reached his own door he was nodding and smiling.

Dismounting quickly, he went to the great chest where his provisions were kept. Here he got out a little meal, a little mealies, a few roaster-cakes. These he tied up in three blue handkerchiefs, and putting them into a sail-cloth bag, he strung them over his shoulders. Then he looked circumspectly out at the door. It was very bad to be discovered in the act of giving; it made him red up to the roots of his old grizzled hair. No one was about, however, so he rode off again. Beside the milk-bush sat the Kaffir woman still—like Hagar, he thought, thrust out by her mistress in the wilderness to die. Telling her to loosen the handkerchief from her head, he poured into it the contents of his bag. The woman tied it up in sullen silence.

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“You must try and get to the next farm,” said the German.

The woman shook her head; she would sleep in the field.

The German reflected. Kaffir women were accustomed to sleep in the open air; but then, the child was small, and after so hot a day the night might be chilly. That she would creep back to the huts at the homestead when the darkness favoured her, the German's sagacity did not make evident to him. He took off the old brown salt-and-pepper coat, and held it out to her. The woman received it in silence, and laid it across her knee. “With that they will sleep warmly; not so bad. Ha, ha!” said the German. And he rode home, nodding his head in a manner that would have made any other man dizzy.

“I wish he would not come back to-night,” said Em, her face wet with tears.

“It will be just the same if he comes back to-morrow,” said Lyndall.

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The two girls sat on the step of the cabin weeping for the German's return. Lyndall shaded her eyes with her hand from the sunset light.

“There he comes,” she said, “whistling ‘Ach Jerúsalem du schöne’ so loud I can hear him from here.”

“Perhaps he has found the sheep.”

“Found them!” said Lyndall. “He would whistle just so if he knew he had to die to-night.”

“You look at the sunset, eh, chickens?” the German said, as he came up at a smart canter. “Ah, yes, that is beautiful!” he added, as he dismounted, pausing for a moment with his hand on the saddle to look at the evening sky, where the sun shot up long flaming streaks, between which and the eye thin yellow clouds floated. “Ei! you weep?” said the German, as the girls ran up to him.

Before they had time to reply the voice of Tant' Sannie was heard.

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“You child, of the child, of the child of a Kaffir's dog, come here!”

The German looked up. He thought the Dutch-woman, come out to cool herself in the yard, called to some misbehaving Kaffir. The old man looked round to see who it might be.

“You old vagabond of a praying German, are you deaf?”

Tant' Sannie stood before the steps of the kitchen; upon them sat the lean Hottentot, upon the highest stood Bonaparte Blenkins, both hands folded under the tails of his coat, and his eyes fixed on the sunset sky.

The German dropped the saddle on the ground.

“Bish, bish, bish! what may this be?” he said, and walked toward the house. “Very strange!”

The girls followed him: Em still weeping; Lyndall with her face rather white and her eyes wide open.

“And I have the heart of a devil, did you page: 132 say? You could run me through with a knife, could you?” cried the Dutch-woman. “I could not drive the Kaffir girl away because I was afraid of you, was I? Oh, you miserable rag! I loved you, did I? I would have liked to marry you, would I? would I? WOULD I?” cried the Boer-woman; “you cat's tail, you dog's paw! Be near my house to-morrow morning when the sun rises,” she gasped, “my Kaffirs will drag you through the sand. They would do it gladly, any of them, for a bit of tobacco, for all your prayings with them.”

“I am bewildered, I am bewildered, said the German, standing before her and raising his hand to his forehead; “I—I do not understand.”

“Ask him, ask him!” cried Tant' Sannie, pointing to Bonaparte; “he knows. You thought he could not make me understand, but he did, he did, you old fool! I know enough English for that. You be here,” shouted the Dutch-woman, page: 133 “when the morning star rises, and I will let my Kaffirs take you out and drag you, till there is not one bone left in your old body that is not broken as fine as bobotie-meat, you old beggar! All your rags are not worth that they should be thrown out onto the ash-heap,” cried the Boer-woman; “but I will have them for my sheep. Not one rotten hoof of your old mare do you take with you; I will have her—all, all for my sheep that you have lost, you godless thing!”

The Boer-woman wiped the moisture from her mouth with the palm of her hand.

The German turned to Bonaparte, who still stood on the step absorbed in the beauty of the sunset.

“Do not address me; do not approach me, lost man,” said Bonaparte, not moving his eye nor lowering his chin. “There is a crime from which all nature revolts; there is a crime whose name is loathsome to the human ear— that crime is yours; that crime is ingratitude. This page: 134 woman has been your benefactress; on her farm you have lived; after her sheep you have looked; into her house you have been allowed to enter and hold Divine service—an honour of which you were never worthy; and how have you rewarded her?—Basely, basely, basely!”

“But it is all false, lies and falsehoods. I must, I will speak,” said the German, suddenly looking round bewildered. “Do I dream? Are you mad? What may it be?”

“Go, dog,” cried the Dutchwoman; “I would have been a rich woman this day if it had not been for your laziness. Praying with the Kaffirs behind the kraal walls. Go, you Kaffir's dog!”

“But what then is the matter? What may have happened since I left?” said the German, turning to the Hottentot woman who sat upon the step.

She was his friend; she would tell him kindly the truth. The woman answered by a loud, ringing laugh.

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“Give it him, old missis! Give it him!”

It was so nice to see the white man who had been master hunted down. The coloured woman laughed, and threw a dozen mealie grains into her mouth to chew.

All anger and excitement faded from the old man's face. He turned slowly away and walked down the little path to his cabin, with his shoulders bent; it was all dark before him. He stumbled over the threshold of his own well-known door.

Em, sobbing bitterly, would have followed him; but the Boer-woman prevented her by a flood of speech which convulsed the Hottentot, so low were its images.

“Come, Em,” said Lyndall, lifting her small proud head, “let us go in. We will not stay to hear such language.”

She looked into the Boer-woman's eyes. Tant' Sannie understood the meaning of the look if not the words. She waddled after them, and page: 136 caught Em by the arm. She had struck Lyndall once years before, and had never done it again, so she took Em.

“So you will defy me, too, will you, you Englishman's ugliness!” she cried, and with one hand she forced the child down, and held her head tightly against her knee; with the other she beat her face, first upon one cheek and then upon the other.

For one instant Lyndall looked on, then she laid her small fingers on the Boer-woman's arm. With the exertion of half its strength Tant' Sannie might have flung the girl back upon the stones. It was not the power of the slight fingers, tightly though they clinched her broad wrist—so tightly that at bedtime the marks were still there; but the Boer-woman looked into the clear eyes and at the quivering white lips, and with a half-surprised curse relaxed her hold. The girl drew Em's arm through her own.

“Move!” she said to Bonaparte, who stood in page: 137 the door; and he, Bonaparte the invincible, in the hour of his triumph, moved to give her place.

The Hottentot ceased to laugh, and an uncomfortable silence fell on all the three in the doorway.

Once in their room, Em sat down on the floor and wailed bitterly. Lyndall lay on the bed with her arm drawn across her eyes, very white and still.

“Hoo, hoo!” cried Em; “and they won't let him take the grey mare; and Waldo has gone to the mill. Hoo, hoo, and perhaps they won't let us go and say good-bye to him. Hoo, hoo, hoo!”

“I wish you would be quiet,” said Lyndall without moving. “Does it give you such felicity to let Bonaparte know he is hurting you? We will ask no one. It will be supper-time soon. Listen,—and when you hear the clink of the knives and forks we will go out and see him.

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Em suppressed her sobs and listened intently, kneeling at the door. Suddenly some one came to the window and put the shutter up.

“Who was that?” said Lyndall, starting.

“The girl, I suppose,” said Em. “How early she is this evening!”

But Lyndall sprang from the bed and seized the handle of the door, shaking it fiercely. The door was locked on the outside. She ground her teeth.

“What is the matter?” asked Em.

The room was in perfect darkness now.

“Nothing,” said Lyndall quietly; “only they have locked us in.”

She turned, and went back to bed again. But ere long Em heard a sound of movement. Lyndall had climbed up into the window, and with her fingers felt the wood-work that surrounded the panes. Slipping down, the girl loosened the iron knob from the foot of the bedstead, and climbing up again, she broke with it every pane of glass page: 139 in the window, beginning at the top and ending at the bottom.

“What are you doing?” asked Em, who heard the falling fragments.

Her companion made her no reply; but with all her weight leaned on every little cross-bar, which cracked and gave way beneath her. Then she pressed with all her strength against the shutter. She had thought the wooden buttons would give way, but by the clinking sound she knew that the iron bar had been put across. She was quite quiet for a time. Clambering down, she took from the table a small one-bladed penknife, with which she began to peck at the hard wood of the shutter.

“What are you doing now?” asked Em, who had ceased crying in her wonder, and had drawn near.

“Trying to make a hole?” was the short reply.

“Do you think you will be able to?”

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“No; but I am trying.”

In an agony of suspense Em waited. For ten minutes Lyndall pecked. The hole was three-eighths of an inch deep—then the blade sprang into ten pieces.

“What has happened now?” Em asked, blubbering afresh.

“Nothing,” said Lyndall. “Bring me my night-gown, a piece of paper, and the matches.”

Wondering, Em fumbled about till she found them.

“What are you going to do with them,” she whispered.

“Burn it down.”

“But won't the whole house take fire and burn down too?”

“Yes.”

“But will it not be very wicked?”

“Yes, very. And I don't care.”

She arranged the night-gown carefully in the corner of the window, with the chips of the page: 141 frame about it. There was only one match in the box. She drew it carefully along the wall. For a moment it burnt up blue, and showed the tiny face with its glistening eyes. She held it carefully to the paper. For an instant it burnt up brightly, then flickered and went out. She blew the spark, but it died also. Then she threw the paper on to the ground, trod on it, and went to her bed, and began to undress.

Em rushed to the door, knocking against it wildly.

“Tant' Sannie! Tant' Sannie! Oh, let us out!” she cried. “Oh, Lyndall, what are we to do?”

Lyndall wiped a drop of blood off the lip she had bitten.

“I am going to sleep,” she said. “If you like to sit there and howl till the morning, do. Perhaps you will find that it helps; I never heard that howling helped any one.”

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Long after, when Em herself had gone to bed and was almost asleep, Lyndall came and stood at her bedside.

“Here,” she said, slipping a little pot of powder into her hand; “rub some on to your face. Does it not burn where she struck you?”

Then she crept back to her own bed. Long, long after, when Em was really asleep, she lay still awake, and folded her hands on her little breast, and muttered,—

“When that day comes, and I am strong, I will hate everything that has power, and help everything that is weak.” And she bit her lip again.

The German looked out at the cabin door for the last time that night. Then he paced the room slowly and sighed. Then he drew out pen and paper, and sat down to write, rubbing his old grey eyes with his knuckles before he began.

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“MY CHICKENS,

“You did not come to say good-bye to the old man. Might you? Ah, well, there is a land where they part no more, where saints immortal reign.

“I sit here alone, and I think of you. Will you forget the old man? When you wake to-morrow he will be far away. The old horse is lazy, but he has his stick to help him; that is three legs. He comes back one day with gold and diamonds. Will you welcome him? Well, we shall see. I go to meet Waldo. He comes back with the waggon; then he follows me. Poor boy! God knows. There is a land where all things are made right, but that land is not here.

“My little children, serve the Saviour; give your hearts to Him while you are yet young. Life is short.

“Nothing is mine, otherwise I would say, Lyndall, take my books, Em my stones. Now I say nothing. The things are mine; it is not righteous, God knows! But I am silent. Let it be. But I feel it, I must say I feel it.

“Do not cry too much for the old man. He

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goes out to seek his fortune, and comes back with it in a bag, it may be.

“I love my children. Do they think of me? I am Old Otto, who goes out to seek his fortune.

“O.F.”

Having concluded this quaint production, he put it where the children would find it the next morning, and proceeded to prepare his bundle. He never thought of entering a protest against the loss of his goods; like a child, he submitted, and wept. He had been there eleven years, and it was hard to go away. He spread open on the bed a blue handkerchief, and on it put one by one the things he thought most necessary and important—a little bag of curious seeds, which he meant to plant some day, an old German hymn-book, three misshapen stones that he greatly valued, a Bible, a shirt and two handkerchiefs; then there was room for nothing more. He tied up the bundle tightly and put it on a chair by his bed-side.

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“That is not much; they cannot say I take much,” he said, looking at it.

He put his knotted stick beside it, his blue tobacco bag and his short pipe, and then inspected his coats. He had two left—a moth-eaten over-coat and a black alpaca out at the elbows. He decided for the over-coat; it was warm, certainly, but then he could carry it over his arm and only put it on when he met some one along the road. It was more respectable than the black alpaca. He hung the great-coat over the back of the chair, and stuffed a hard bit of roaster-cake under the knot of the bundle, and then his preparations were completed. The German stood contemplating them with much satisfaction. He had almost forgotten his sorrow at leaving in his pleasure at preparing. Suddenly he started; an expression of intense pain passed over his face. He drew back his left arm quickly, and then pressed his right hand upon his breast.

“Ah, the sudden pang again,” he said.

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His face was white, but it quickly regained its colour. Then the old man busied himself in putting everything right.

“I will leave it neat. They shall not say I did not leave it neat,” he said. Even the little bags of seeds on the mantel-piece he put in rows and dusted. Then he undressed and got into bed. Under his pillow was a little story-book. He drew it forth. To the old German a story was no story. Its events were as real and as important to himself as the matters of his own life. He could not go away without knowing whether that wicked Earl relented and whether the Baron married Emilina. So he adjusted his spectacles and began to read. Occasionally, as his feelings became too strongly moved, he ejaculated, “Ah, I thought so!—That was a rogue!—I saw it before!—I knew it from the beginning!” More than half-an-hour had passed when he looked up to the silver watch at the top of his bed.

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“The march is long to-morrow; this will not do,” he said, taking off his spectacles and putting them carefully into the book to mark the place. “This will be good reading as I walk along to-morrow,” he added, as he stuffed the book into the pocket of the great-coat; “very good reading.” He nodded his head and lay down. He thought a little of his own troubles, a good deal of the two little girls he was leaving, of the Earl, of Emilina, of the Baron; but he was soon asleep—sleeping as peacefully as a little child upon whose innocent soul sorrow and care cannot rest.

It was very quiet in the room. The coals in the fire-place threw a dull red light across the floor upon the red lions on the quilt. Eleven o'clock came, and the room was very still. One o'clock came. The glimmer had died out, though the ashes were still warm, and the room was very dark. The grey mouse, who had its hole under the tool-box, came out and sat on the sacks in page: 148 the corner; then, growing bolder, the room was so dark, it climbed the chair at the bedside, nibbled at the roaster-cake, took one bite quickly at the candle, and then sat on his haunches listening. It heard the even breathing of the old man, and the steps of the hungry Kaffir dog going his last round in search of a bone or a skin that had been forgotten; and it heard the white hen call out as the wild cat ran away with one of her brood, and it heard the chicken cry. Then the grey mouse went back to its hole under the tool-box, and the room was quiet. And two o'clock came. By that time the night was grown dull and cloudy. The wild cat had gone to its home on the kopje; the Kaffir's dog had found a bone, and lay gnawing it.

An intense quiet reigned everywhere. Only in her room the Boer-woman tossed her great arms in her sleep; for she dreamed that a dark shadow with outstretched wings fled slowly over page: 149 her house, and she moaned and shivered. And the night was very still.

But quiet as all places were, there was a quite peculiar quiet in the German's room. Though you strained your ear most carefully you caught no sound of breathing.

He was not gone, for the old coat still hung on the chair—the coat that was to be put on when he met any one; and the bundle and stick were ready for to-morrow's long march. The old German himself lay there, his wavy black hair just touched with grey thrown back upon the pillow. The old face was lying there alone in the dark, smiling like a little child's—oh, so peacefully. There is a stranger whose coming, they say, is worse than all the ills of life, from whose presence we flee away trembling; but he comes very tenderly sometimes. And it seemed almost as though Death had known and loved the old man, so gently it touched him. And how could it deal hardly page: 150 with him—the loving, simple, childlike old man?

So it smoothed out the wrinkles that were in the old forehead, and fixed the passing smile, and sealed the eyes that they might not weep again; and then the short sleep of time was melted into the long, long sleep of eternity.

“How has he grown so young in this one night?” they said when they found him in the morning.

Yes, dear old man; to such as you time brings no age. You die with the purity and innocence of your childhood upon you, though you die in your grey hairs.

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CHAPTER IX.

HE SEES A GHOST.

BONAPARTE stood on the ash-heap. He espied across the plain a moving speck, and he chucked his coat-tails up and down in expectancy of a dainty morsel.

The waggon came on slowly. Waldo lay curled among the sacks at the back of the waggon, his hand in his breast resting on the sheep-shearing machine. It was finished now. The right thought had struck him the day before as he sat, half asleep, watching the water go over the mill-wheel. He muttered to himself with half-closed eyes,—

“To-morrow smooth the cogs—tighten the screws a little—show it to them.” Then after a page: 152 pause—“Over the whole world—the whole world—mine, that I have made!” He pressed the little wheels and pulleys in his pocket till they cracked. Presently his muttering became louder—“And fifty pounds—a black hat for my dad—for Lyndall a blue silk, very light, and one purple like the earth-bells, and white shoes.” He muttered on—“A box full, full of books. They shall tell me all, all, all,” he added, moving his fingers desiringly: “why the crystals grow in such beautiful shapes; why lightning runs to the iron; why black people are black; why the sunlight makes things warm. I shall read, read, read,” he muttered slowly. Then came over him suddenly what he called “The presence of God;” a sense of a good, strong something folding him round. He smiled through his half-shut eyes. “Ah, Father, my own Father, it is so sweet to feel you, like the warm sunshine. The Bibles and books cannot tell of you and all I feel you. They are mixed with men's words; but you—”

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His muttering sank into inaudible confusion, till, opening his eyes wide, it struck him that the brown plain he looked at was the old home farm. For half an hour they had been riding in it, and he had not known it. He roused the leader, who sat nodding on the front of the waggon in the early morning sunlight. They were within half a mile of the homestead. It seemed to him that he had been gone from them all a year. He fancied he could see Lyndall standing on the brick wall to watch for him; his father, passing from one house to the other, stopping to look.

He called aloud to the oxen. For each one at home he had brought something. For his father a piece of tobacco, bought at the shop by the mill; for Em a thimble; for Lyndall a beautiful flower dug out by the roots, at a place where they had “out-spanned”; for Tant' Sannie a handkerchief. When they drew near the house he threw the whip to the Kaffir leader, and sprang page: 154 from the side of the waggon to rush on. Bonaparte stopped him as he ran past the ash-heap.

“Good morning, my dear boy. Where are you running to so fast with your rosy cheeks?”

The boy looked up at him, glad even to see Bonaparte.

“I am going to the cabin,” he said, out of breath.

“You won't find them in just now—not your good old father,” said Bonaparte.

“Where is he?” asked the lad.

“There, beyond the camps,” said Bonaparte, waving his hand oratorically toward the stone-walled ostrich-camps.

“What is he doing there?” asked the boy.

Bonaparte patted him on the cheek kindly.

“He smelt so, we could not keep him any more. We've buried him, my boy,” said Bonaparte, sticking his finger into the boy's cheek. “He was quite bad already. He, he, he!” laughed Bonaparte, as the boy fled away page: 155 along the low stone wall, almost furtively, as one in fear. There was a gurgling of enjoyment in the man's stomach.

* * * * *

At five o'clock Bonaparte knelt before a box in the German's room. He was busily unpacking it.

It had been agreed upon between Tant' Sannie and himself, that now the German was gone he, Bonaparte, was to be no longer schoolmaster, but overseer of the farm. In return for his past scholastic labours he had expressed himself willing to take possession of the dead man's goods and room. Tant' Sannie hardly liked the arrangement. She had a great deal more respect for the German dead than the German living, and would rather his goods had been allowed to descend peacefully to his son. For she was a firm believer in the chinks in the world above, where not only ears, but eyes might be applied to see how things went on in this world below. page: 156 She never felt sure how far the spirit-world might overlap this world of sense, and, as a rule, prudently abstained from doing anything which might offend unseen auditors. For this reason she abstained from ill-using the dead Englishman's daughter and niece, and for this reason she would rather the boy had had his father's goods. But it was hard to refuse Bonaparte anything when she and he sat so happily together in the evening drinking coffee, Bonaparte telling her in the broken Dutch he was fast learning how he adored fat women, and what a splendid farmer he was.

So at five o'clock on this afternoon Bonaparte knelt in the German's room.

“Somewhere, here it is,” he said, as he packed the old clothes carefully out of the box, and, finding nothing, packed them in again. “Somewhere in this room it is; and if it's here Bonaparte finds it,” he repeated. “You didn't stay here all these years without making a little pile page: 157 somewhere, my lamb. You weren't such a fool as you looked. Oh, no!” said Bonaparte.

He now walked about the room, diving his fingers in everywhere: sticking them into the great crevices in the wall and frightening out the spiders; rapping them against the old plaster till it cracked and fell in pieces; peering up the chimney, till the soot dropped on his bald head and blackened it. He felt in little bags; he tried to raise the hearth stone; he shook each book, till the old leaves fell down in showers on the floor.

It was getting dark, and Bonaparte stood with his finger on his nose reflecting. Finally he walked to the door, behind which hung the trousers and waistcoat the dead man had last worn. He had felt in them but hurriedly just after the funeral the day before; he would examine them again. Sticking his fingers into the waistcoat pockets, he found in one corner a hole. Pressing his hand through it, between the page: 158 lining and the cloth, he presently came into contact with something. Bonaparte drew it forth—a small, square parcel, sewed up in sail-cloth. He gazed at it, squeezed it; it cracked, as though full of bank notes. He put it quickly into his own waistcoat pocket, and peeped over the half-door to see if there was no one coming. Then he sat down on the nearest chair, and taking out his pen-knife, ripped it open. The first thing that fell was a shower of yellow, faded papers. Bonaparte opened them carefully one by one, and smoothed them out on his knee. They were certainly something very valuable to be hidden so carefully, though the German characters he could not decipher. When he came to the last one, he felt there was something hard in it.

“You've got it, Bon, my boy! you've got it!” he cried, slapping his leg hard. Edging nearer to the door, for the light was fading, he opened it carefully. There was nothing inside but a plain gold wedding-ring.

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“Better than nothing!” said Bonaparte, trying to put it on his little finger, which, however, proved too fat.

He took it off and set it down on the table before him, and looked at it with his crosswise eyes.

“When that auspicious hour, Sannie,” he said, “shall have arrived, when, panting, I shall lead thee, lighted by Hymen's torch, to the connubial altar, then upon thy fair amaranthine finger, my joyous bride, shall this ring repose.
  • “Thy fair body, oh, my girl,
  • Shall Bonaparte possess;
  • His fingers in thy money-bags,
  • He therein, too, shall mess.”

Having given utterance to this flood of poesy, he sat lost in joyous reflection.

“He therein, too, shall mess,” he repeated meditatively.

At this instant, as Bonaparte swore, and swore truly, to the end of his life, a slow and distinct rap was given on the crown of his bald head.

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Bonaparte started and looked up. No “reim,” or strap hung down from the rafters above, and not a human creature was near the door. It was growing dark; he did not like it. He began to fold up the papers expeditiously. He stretched out his hand for the ring. The ring was gone! Gone, although no human creature had entered the room; gone, although no form had crossed the doorway. Gone!

He would not sleep there, that was certain.

He stuffed the papers into his pocket. As he did so, three slow and distinct taps were given on the crown of his head. Bonaparte's jaw fell: each separate joint lost its power: he could not move; he dared not rise; his tongue lay loose in his mouth.

“Take all, take all!” he gurgled in his throat. “I—I do not want them. Take—”

Here a resolute tug at the grey curls at the back of his head caused him to leap up, yelling wildly. Was he to sit still paralyzed, to be page: 161 dragged away bodily to the devil? With terrific shrieks he fled, casting no glance behind.

* * * * *

When the dew was falling, and the evening was dark, a small figure moved toward the gate of the furthest ostrich camp, driving a bird before it. When the gate was opened and the bird driven in turned away, but then suddenly paused.

“Is that you, Waldo?” said Lyndall.

The boy was sitting on the damp ground with his back to the wall. He gave her no answer.

“Come,” she said, bending over him, “I have been looking for you all day.”

He mumbled something.

“You have had nothing to eat. I have put some supper in your room. You must come home with me, Waldo.”

She took his hand, and the boy rose slowly.

She made him take her arm, and twisted her small fingers among his.

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“You must forget,” she whispered. “Since it happened I walk, I talk, I never sit still. If we remember, we cannot bring back the dead.” She knit her little fingers closer among his. “Forgetting is the best thing. He did not watch it coming,” she whispered presently. “That is the dreadful thing, to see it coming!” She shuddered. “I want it to come suddenly to me too. Why do you think I was driving that bird?” she added quickly. “That was Hans, the bird that hates Bonaparte. I let him out this afternoon; I thought he would chase him and perhaps kill him.”

The boy showed no sign of interest.

“He didn't; but he put his head over the half door of your cabin and frightened him horribly. He was there busy stealing your things. Perhaps he will leave them alone now; but I wish the bird had trodden on him.”

They said no more till they reached the door of the cabin.

“There is a candle and supper on the table. page: 163 You must eat,” she said authoritatively. “I cannot stay with you now, lest they find out about the bird.”

He grasped her arm and brought his mouth close to her ear.

“There is no God!” he almost hissed; “no God, not anywhere!”

She started.

“Not anywhere!”

He ground it out between his teeth, and she felt his hot breath on her cheek.

“Waldo, you are mad,” she said, drawing herself from him.

He loosened his grasp and turned away from her also.

In truth, it is life's way. We fight our little battles alone; you yours, I mine. We are not to help or find help. When your life is most real, you seem to me mad; when your agony is greatest I look at you and wonder. Friendship is good, but it is a delusion.

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Lyndall stood by him in the dark, pityingly, wonderingly. As he walked to the door she ran after him.

“Eat your supper; it will do you good,” she said.

She pressed his hand and then ran away.

In the front room the little woolly Kaffir girl was washing Tant' Sannie's feet in a small tub, and Bonaparte, who sat on the wooden sofa, was pulling off his shoes and stockings that his own feet might be washed also. There were three candles burning in the room, and he and Tant' Sannie sat close together, with the lean Hottentot not far off; for when ghosts are about there is great strength in numbers. Bonaparte had completely recovered from the effects of his fright in the afternoon, and the numerous doses of brandy that it had been necessary to administer to him to effect his restoration had put him into a singularly pleasant and amiable mood.

“That boy Waldo,” said Bonaparte, rubbing page: 165 his toes, “took himself off coolly this morning as soon as the waggon came, and has not done a stiver of work all day. I'll not have that kind of thing now I'm master of this farm.”

The Hottentot maid translated.

“Ah, I expect he's sorry that his father's dead,” said Tant' Sannie. “It's nature, you know. I cried the whole morning when my father died. One can always get another husband, but one can't get another father,” said Tant' Sannie, casting a sidelong glance at Bonaparte.

Bonaparte expressed a wish to give Waldo his orders for the next day's work, and the little woolly-headed Kaffir was sent to call him. After some time he appeared, and stood in the doorway.

If they had dressed him in one of the swallow-tailed coats, and oiled his hair till the drops fell from it, and it lay as smooth as an elder's on sacrament Sunday, there would still have been something unanointed in the aspect of the page: 166 fellow. As it was, standing there in his strange old costume, his head presenting much the appearance of having been deeply rolled in sand, his eyelids swollen, the hair hanging over his forehead, and a dogged sullenness on his features, he presented most the appearance of an ill-conditioned young buffalo.

“Beloved Lord,” cried Tant' Sannie, “how he looks! Come in, boy. Couldn't you come and say good-day to me? Don't you want some supper?”

He said he wanted nothing, and turned his heavy eyes away from her.

“There's a ghost been seen in your father's room,” said Tant' Sannie. “If you're afraid you can sleep in the kitchen.”

“I will sleep in our room,” said the boy slowly.

“Well, you can go now,” she said; “but be up early to take the sheep. The herd—”

“Yes, be up early, my boy,” interrupted page: 167 Bonaparte, smiling. “I am to be master of this farm now; and we shall be good friends, I trust, very good friends, if you try to do your duty, my dear boy.”

Waldo turned to go, and Bonaparte, looking benignly at the candle, stretched out one unstockinged foot, over which Waldo, looking at nothing in particular, fell with a heavy thud upon the floor.

“Dear me! I hope you are not hurt, my boy,” said Bonaparte. “You'll have many a harder thing than that though, before you've got all you will get,” he added consolingly, as Waldo picked himself up.

The lean Hottentot laughed till the room rang again; and Tant' Sannie tittered till her sides ached.

When he had gone the little maid began to wash Bonaparte's feet.

“Oh, Lord, beloved Lord, how he did fall! I can't think of it,” cried Tant' Sannie, and she page: 168 laughed again. “I always did know he was not right; but this evening any one could see it,” she added, wiping the tears of mirth from her face. “His eyes are as wild as if the devil was in them. He never was like other children. The dear Lord knows, if he doesn't walk alone for hours talking to himself. If you sit in the room with him you can see his lips moving the whole time; and if you talk to him twenty times he doesn't hear you. Daft-eyes; he's as mad as mad can be.”

This repetition of the word mad conveyed meaning to Bonaparte's mind. He left off paddling his toes in the water.

“Mad, mad? I know that kind of mad,” said Bonaparte, “and I know the thing to give for it. The front end of a little horse-whip, the tip! Nice thing; takes it out,” said Bonaparte.

The Hottentot laughed, and translated.

“No more walking about and talking to themselves on this farm now,” said Bonaparte; “no page: 169 more minding of sheep and reading of books at the same time. The point of a horsewhip is a little thing, but I think he'll have a taste of it before long.” Bonaparte, rubbing his hands and looking pleasantly across his nose; and then the three laughed together grimly.

And Waldo in his cabin crouched in the dark in a corner, with his knees drawn up to his chin.

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CHAPTER X.

HE SHOWS HIS TEETH.

DOSS sat among the karroo-bushes, one yellow ear drawn over his wicked little eye, ready to flap away any adventurous fly that might settle on his nose. Around him in the morning sunlight fed the sheep; behind him lay his master polishing his machine. He found much comfort in handling it that morning. A dozen philosophical essays, or angelically attuned songs for the consolation of the bereaved, could never have been to him what that little sheep-shearing machine was that day.

After struggling to see the unseeable, growing drunk with the endeavour to span the infinite, and writhing before the inscrutable mystery, it page: 171 is a renovating relief to turn to some simple, feelable, weighable substance; to something which has a smell and a colour, which may be handled and turned over this way and that. Whether there be or be not a hereafter, whether there be any use in calling aloud to the Unseen power, whether there be an Unseen power to call to, whatever be the true nature of the I who call and of the objects around me, whatever be our meaning, our internal essence, our cause (and in a certain order of minds death and the agony of loss inevitably awaken the wild desire, at other times smothered, to look into these things), whatever be the nature of that which lies beyond the unbroken wall which the limits of the human intellect build up on every hand, this thing is certain—a knife will cut wood, and one cogged wheel will turn another. This is sure.

Waldo found an immeasurable satisfaction in the handling of his machine; but Doss winked and blinked, and thought it all frightfully page: 172 monotonous out there on the flat, and presently dropped asleep, sitting bolt upright. Suddenly his eyes opened wide; something was coming from the direction of the homestead. Winking his eyes and looking intently, he perceived it was the grey mare. Now Doss had wondered much of late what had become of her master. Seeing she carried some one on her back, he now came to his own conclusion, and began to move his tail violently up and down. Presently he pricked up one ear and let the other hang; his tail became motionless, and the expression of his mouth one of decided disapproval bordering on scorn. He wrinkled his lips up on each side into little lines.

The sand was soft, and the grey mare came on so noiselessly that the boy heard nothing till Bonaparte dismounted. Then Doss got up and moved back a step. He did not approve of Bonaparte's appearance. His costume, in truth, was of a unique kind. It was a combination of page: 173 the town and country. The tails of his black cloth coat were pinned up behind to keep them from rubbing; he had on a pair of moleskin trousers and leathern gaiters, and in his hand he carried a little whip of rhinoceros hide.

Waldo started and looked up. Had there been a moment's time he would have dug a hole in the sand with his hands and buried his treasure. It was only a poor toy of wood, but he loved it, as one of necessity loves what has been born of him.

“What have you here, my lad?” said Bonaparte, standing by him, and pointing with the end of his whip to the medley of wheels and hinges.

The boy muttered something inaudible, and half-spread over the thing.

“But this seems to be a very ingenious little machine,” said Bonaparte, seating himself on the ant-heap, and bending down over it with deep interest. “What is it for, my lad?”

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“Shearing sheep.”

“It is a very nice little machine,” said Bonaparte. “How does it work, now? I have never seen anything so ingenious!”

There was never a parent who heard deception in the voice that praised his child—his first-born. Here was one who liked the thing that had been created in him. He forgot everything. He showed how the shears would work with a little guidance, how the sheep would be held, and the wool fall into the trough. A flush burst over his face as he spoke.

“I tell you what, my lad,” said Bonaparte emphatically, when the explanation was finished, “we must get you a patent. Your fortune is made. In three years' time there'll not be a farm in this colony where it isn't working. You're a genius, that's what you are!” said Bonaparte, rising.

“If it were made larger,” said the boy quickly, “it would work more smoothly. Do you think page: 175 there would be any one in this colony would be able to make it?”

“I'm sure they could,” said Bonaparte; “and if not, why I'll do my best for you. I'll send it to England. It must be done somehow. How long have you worked at it?”

“Nine months,” said the boy.

“Oh, it is such a nice little machine,” said Bonaparte, “one can't help feeling an interest in it. There is only one little improvement, one very little improvement I should like to make.”

Bonaparte put his foot on the machine and crushed it into the sand. The boy looked up into his face.

“Looks better now,” said Bonaparte, “doesn't it? If we can't have it made in England we'll send it to America. Good-bye; ta-ta,” he added. “You're a great genius, a born genius, my dear boy, there's no doubt about it.”

He mounted the grey mare and rode off. page: 176 The dog watched his retreat with cynical satisfaction; but his master lay on the ground with his head on his arms in the sand, and the little wheels and chips of wood lay on the ground around him. The dog jumped on to his back and snapped at the black curls, till, finding that no notice was taken, he walked off to play with a black beetle. The beetle was hard at work trying to roll home a great ball of dung it had been collecting all the morning: but Doss broke the ball, and ate the beetle's hind legs, and then bit off its head. And it was all play, and no one could tell what it had lived and worked for. A striving, and a striving, and an ending in nothing.

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CHAPTER XI.

HE SNAPS.

I HAVE found something in the loft,” said Em to Waldo, who was listlessly piling cakes of fuel on the kraal wall, a week after his father's death. “It is a box of books that belonged to my father. We thought Tant' Sannie had burnt them.”

The boy put down the cake he was raising and looked at her.

“I don't think they are very nice, not stories,” she added, “but you can go and take any you choose.”

So saying, she took up the plate in which she had brought his breakfast, and walked off to the house.

After that the boy worked quickly. The pile page: 178 of fuel Bonaparte had ordered him to pack was on the wall in half an hour. He then went to throw salt on the skins laid out to dry. Finding the pot empty, he went to the loft to refill it.

Bonaparte Blenkins, whose door opened at the foot of the ladder, saw the boy go up, and stood in the doorway waiting for his return. He wanted his boots blacked. Doss, finding he could not follow his master up the round bars, sat patiently at the foot of the ladder. Presently he looked up longingly, but no one appeared. Then Bonaparte looked up also, and began to call; but there was no answer. What could the boy be doing? The loft was an unknown land to Bonaparte. He had often wondered what was up there; he liked to know what was in all locked-up places and out-of-the-way corners, but the ladder he could not scale. So Bonaparte looked up, and in the name of all that was tantalizing, questioned what the boy did up there. The loft was used only as a lumber- page: 179 room. What could the fellow find up there to keep him so long.

Could the Boer-woman have beheld Waldo at that instant, any lingering doubt which might have remained in her mind as to the boy's insanity would instantly have vanished. For, having filled the salt-pot, he proceeded to look for the box of books among the rubbish that filled the loft. Under a pile of sacks he found it—a rough packing-case, nailed up, but with one loose plank. He lifted that, and saw the even backs of a row of books. He knelt down before the box, and ran his hand along its rough edges, as if to assure himself of its existence. He stuck his hand in among the books, and pulled out two. He felt them, thrust his fingers in among the leaves, and crumpled them a little, as a lover feels the hair of his mistress. The fellow gloated over his treasure. He had had a dozen books in the course of his life; now here was a mine of them opened at his feet. page: 180 After a while he began to read the titles, and now and again opened a book and read a sentence; but he was too excited to catch the meanings distinctly. At last he came to a dull, brown volume. He read the name, opened it in the centre, and where he opened began to read. 'Twas a chapter on property that he fell upon—Communism, Fourierism, St. Simonism, in a work on Political Economy. He read down one page and turned over to the next; he read down that without changing his posture by an inch; he read the next, and the next, kneeling up all the while with the book in his hand, and his lips parted.

All he read he did not fully understand; the thoughts were new to him; but this was the fellow's startled joy in the book—the thoughts were his, they belonged to him. He had never thought them before, but they were his.

He laughed silently and internally, with the still intensity of triumphant joy.

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So, then, all thinking creatures did not send up the one cry—“As thou, dear Lord, has created things in the beginning, so are they now, so ought they to be, so will they be, world without end; and it doesn't concern us what they are. Amen.” There were men to whom not only kopjes and stones were calling out imperatively, “What are we, and how came we here? Understand us, and know us;” but to whom even the old, old relations between man and man, and the customs of the ages called, and could not be made still and forgotten.

The boy's heavy body quivered with excitement. So he was not alone, not alone. He could not quite have told any one why he was so glad, and this warmth had come to him. His cheeks were burning. No wonder that Bonaparte called in vain, and Doss put his paws on the ladder, and whined till three quarters of an hour had passed. At last the boy put the book in his breast and buttoned it tightly to him. page: 182 He took up the salt-pot, and went to the top of the ladder. Bonaparte, with his hands folded under his coat-tails, looked up when he appeared, and accosted him.

“You've been rather a long time up there, my lad,” he said, as the boy descended with a tremulous haste, most unlike his ordinary slow movements. “You didn't hear me calling, I suppose?”

Bonaparte whisked the tails of his coat up and down as he looked at him. He, Bonaparte Blenkins, had eyes which were very far-seeing. He looked at the pot. It was rather a small pot to have taken three-quarters of an hour in the filling. He looked at the face. It was flushed. And yet, Tant' Sannie kept no wine—he had not been drinking; his eyes were wide open and bright—he had not been sleeping; there was no girl up there—he had not been making love. Bonaparte looked at him sagaciously. What would account for the marvellous change in the page: 183 boy coming down the ladder from the boy going up the ladder? One thing there was. Did not Tant' Sannie keep in the loft “bultongs,” and nice smoked sausages? There must be something nice to eat up there! Aha! that was it!

Bonaparte was so interested in carrying out this chain of inductive reasoning that he quite forgot to have his boots blacked.

He watched the boy shuffle off with the salt-pot under his arm; then he stood in his doorway and raised his eyes to the quiet blue sky, and audibly propounded this riddle to himself:

“What is the connection between the naked back of a certain boy with a great coat on and a salt-pot under his arm, and the tip of a horsewhip? Answer: No connection at present, but there will be soon.”

Bonaparte was so pleased with this sally of his wit that he chuckled a little, and went to lie down on his bed.

There was bread-baking that afternoon, and page: 184 there was a fire lighted in the brick oven behind the house, and Tant' Sannie had left the great wooden-elbowed chair in which she passed her life, and waddled out to look at it. Not far off was Waldo, who, having thrown a pail of food into the pig-sty, now leaned over the sod-wall looking at the pigs. Half of the sty was dry, but the lower half was a pool of mud, on the edge of which the mother sow lay with closed eyes, her ten little ones sucking; the father pig, knee-deep in the mud, stood running his snout into a rotten pumpkin and wriggling his curled tail.

Waldo wondered dreamily as he stared why they were pleasant to look at. Taken singly they were not beautiful; taken together they were. Was it not because there was a certain harmony about them? The old sow was suited to the little pigs, and the little pigs to their mother, the old boar to the rotten pumpkin, and all to the mud. They suggested the thought of page: 185 nothing that should be added, of nothing that should be taken away. And, he wondered on vaguely, was not that the secret of all beauty, that you who look on—. So he stood dreaming, and leaned further and further over the sod-wall, and looked at the pigs.

All this time Bonaparte Blenkins was sloping down from the house in an aimless sort of way; but he kept one eye fixed on the pig-sty, and each gyration brought him nearer to it. Waldo stood like a thing asleep when Bonaparte came close up to him.

In old days, when a small boy, playing in an Irish street-gutter, he, Bonaparte, had been familiarly known among his comrades under the title of Tripping-Ben; this from the rare ease and dexterity with which, by merely projecting his foot, he could precipitate any unfortunate companion on to the crown of his head. Years had elapsed, and Tripping-Ben had become Bonaparte; but the old gift was in him still. He page: 186 came close to the pig-sty. All the defunct memories of his boyhood returned on him in a flood, as, with an adroit movement, he inserted his leg between Waldo and the wall, and sent him over into the pig-sty.

The little pigs were startled at the strange intruder, and ran behind their mother, who sniffed at him. Tant' Sannie smote her hands together and laughed; but Bonaparte was far from joining her. Lost in reverie, he gazed at the distant horizon.

The sudden reversal of head and feet had thrown out the volume that Waldo carried in his breast. Bonaparte picked it up, and began to inspect it, as the boy climbed slowly over the wall. He would have walked off sullenly, but he wanted his book, and he waited until it should be given him.

“Ha!” said Bonaparte, raising his eyes from the leaves of the book which he was examining. “I hope your coat has not been injured; it is of page: 187 an elegant cut. An heirloom, I presume, from your paternal grandfather? It looks nice now.”

“Oh, Lord! oh! Lord!” cried Tant' Sannie, laughing and holding her sides; “how the child looks—as though he thought the mud would never wash off. Oh, Lord, I shall die! You, Bonaparte, are the funniest man I ever saw.”

Bonaparte Blenkins was now carefully inspecting the volume he had picked up. Among the subjects on which the darkness of his understanding had been enlightened during his youth, Political Economy had not been one. He was not, therefore, very clear as to what the nature of the book might be; and as the name of the writer, J.S. Mill, might, for anything he knew to the contrary, have belonged to a venerable member of the British and Foreign Bible Society, it by no means threw light upon the question. He was not in any way sure that Political page: 188 Economy had nothing to do with the cheapest way of procuring clothing for the army and navy, which would be certainly both a political and economical subject.

But Bonaparte soon came to a conclusion as to the nature of the book and its contents, by the application of a simple rule now largely acted upon, but which, becoming universal, would save much thought and valuable time. It is of marvellous simplicity, of infinite utility, of universal applicability. It may easily be committed to memory and runs thus:—

Whenever you come into contact with any book, person, or opinion of which you absolutely comprehend nothing, declare that book, person or opinion to be immoral. Bespatter it, vituperate against it, strongly insist that any man or woman harbouring it is a fool or a knave, or both. Carefully abstain from studying it. Do all that in you lies to annihilate that book, person, or opinion.

Acting on this rule, so wide in its comprehen- comprehensiveness page: 189 siveness, so beautifully simple in its working, Bonaparte approached Tant' Sannie with the book in his hand. Waldo came a step nearer, eyeing it like a dog whose young has fallen into evil hands.

“This book,” said Bonaparte, “is not a fit and proper study for a young and immature mind.”

Tant' Sannie did not understand a word, and said,

“What?”

“This book,” said Bonaparte, bringing down his finger with energy on the cover, “this book is sleg, sleg, Davel, Davel!”

Tant' Sannie perceived from the gravity of his countenance that it was no laughing matter. From the words sleg and Davel she understood that the book was evil, and had some connection with the prince who pulls the wires of evil over the whole earth.

“Where did you get this book?” she asked, page: 190 turning her twinkling little eyes on Waldo. “I wish that my legs may be as thin as an Englishman's if it isn't one of your father's. He had more sins than all the Kaffirs in Kaffirland, for all that he pretended to be so good all those years, and to live without a wife because he was thinking of the one that was dead! As though ten dead wives could make up for one fat one with arms and legs!” cried Tant' Sannie, snorting.

“It was not my father's book,” said the boy savagely. “I got it from your loft.”

“My loft! my book! How dare you?” cried Tant' Sannie.

“It was Em's father's. She gave it me,” he muttered more sullenly.

“Give it here. What is the name of it? What is it about?” she asked, putting her finger upon the title.

Bonaparte understood.

“Political Economy,” he said slowly.

page: 191

“Dear Lord!” said Tant' Sannie, “cannot one hear from the very sound what an ungodly book it is! One can hardly say the name. Haven't we got curses enough on this farm?” cried Tant' Sannie, eloquently; “my best imported Merino ram dying of nobody knows what, and the short-horn cow casting her two calves, and the sheep eaten up with the scab and the drought? And is this a time to bring ungodly things about the place, to call down the vengeance of Almighty God to punish us more? Didn't the minister tell me when I was confirmed not to read any book except my Bible and hymn-book, that the Devil was in all the rest? And I never have read any other book,” said Tant' Sannie with virtuous energy, “and I never will!”

Waldo saw that the fate of his book was sealed, and turned sullenly on his heel.

“So you will not stay to hear what I say!” cried Tant' Sannie. “There, take your polity-gollity-gominy, your devil's book!” she cried, page: 192 flinging the book at his head with much energy.

It merely touched his forehead on one side and fell to the ground.

“Go on,” she cried; “I know you are going to talk to yourself. People who talk to themselves always talk to the Devil. Go and tell him all about it. Go, go! run!” cried Tant' Sannie.

But the boy neither quickened nor slackened his pace, and passed sullenly round the back of the waggon-house.

Books have been thrown at other heads before and since that summer afternoon, by hands more white and delicate than those of the Boer-woman; but whether the result of the process has been in any case wholly satisfactory, may be questioned. We love that with a peculiar tenderness, we treasure it with a peculiar care, it has for us quite a fictitious value, for which we have suffered. If we may not carry it anywhere page: 193 else we will carry it in our hearts, and always to the end.

Bonaparte Blenkins went to pick up the volume, now loosened from its cover, while Tant' Sannie pushed the stumps of wood further into the oven. Bonaparte came close to her, tapped the book knowingly, nodded, and looked at the fire. Tant' Sannie comprehended, and, taking the volume from his hand, threw it into the back of the oven. It lay upon the heap of coals, smoked, flared, and blazed, and the ‘Political Economy’ was no more—gone out of existence, like many another poor heretic of flesh and blood.

Bonaparte grinned, and to watch the process brought his face so near the oven door that the white hair on his eyebrows got singed. He then inquired if there were any more in the loft. Learning that there were, he made signs indicative of taking up armfuls and flinging them into the fire. But Tant' Sannie was dubious. The page: 194 deceased Englishman had left all his personal effects specially to his child. It was all very well for Bonaparte to talk of burning the books. He had had his hair spiritually pulled, and she had no wish to repeat his experience.

She shook her head. Bonaparte was displeased. But then a happy thought occurred to him. He suggested that the key of the loft should henceforth be put into his own safe care and keeping—no one gaining possession of it without his permission. To this Tant' Sannie readily assented, and the two walked lovingly to the house to look for it.

page: 195

CHAPTER XII.

HE BITES.

BONAPARTE BLENKINS was riding home on the grey mare. He had ridden out that afternoon, partly for the benefit of his health, partly to maintain his character as overseer of the farm. As he rode on slowly, he thoughtfully touched the ears of the grey mare with his whip.

“No, Bon, my boy,” he addressed himself, “don't propose! You can't marry for four years, then why propose? Wheedle her, tweedle her, teedle her, but don't let her make sure of you. When a woman,” said Bonaparte, sagely resting his finger against the side of his nose, “when a woman is sure of you she does what she likes with you; but when she isn't, you do what you like with her. And I—” said Bonaparte.

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Here he drew the horse up suddenly and looked. He was now close to the house, and leaning over the pigsty wall, in company with Em, who was showing her the pigs, was a strange female figure. It was the first visitor that had appeared on the farm since his arrival, and he looked at her with interest. She was a tall, pudgy girl of fifteen, weighing a hundred and fifty pounds, with baggy pendulous cheeks and up-turned nose. She strikingly resembled Tant' Sannie in form and feature, but her sleepy good eyes lacked that twinkle that dwelt in the Boer-woman's small orbs. She was attired in a bright green print, wore brass rings in her ears and glass beads round her neck, and was sucking the tip of her large finger as she looked at the pigs.

“Who is it that has come?” asked Bonaparte, when he stood drinking his coffee in the front room.

“Why, my niece, to be sure,” said Tant' page: 197 Sannie, the Hottentot maid translating. “She's the only daughter of my only brother Paul, and she's come to visit me. She'll be a nice mouthful to the man that can get her,” added Tant' Sannie. “Her father's got two thousand pounds in the green waggon box under his bed, and a farm, and five thousand sheep, and God Almighty knows how many goats and horses. They milk ten cows in mid winter, and the young men are after her like flies about a bowl of milk. She says she means to get married in about four months, but she doesn't yet know to whom. It was so with me when I was young,” said Tant' Sannie. “I've sat up with the young men four and five nights a week. And they will come riding again as soon as ever they know that the time's up that the Englishman made me agree not to marry in.”

The Boer-woman smirked complacently.

“Where are you going to?” asked Tant' Sannie presently, seeing that Bonaparte rose.

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“Ha! I'm just going to the kraals; I'll be in to supper,” said Bonaparte.

Nevertheless, when he reached his own door he stopped and turned in there. Soon after he stood before the little glass, arrayed in his best white shirt with the little tucks, and shaving himself. He had on his very best trousers, and had heavily oiled the little fringe at the back of his head, which, however, refused to become darker. But what distressed him most was his nose—it was very red. He rubbed his finger and thumb on the wall, and put a little whitewash on it; but, finding it rather made matters worse, he rubbed it off again. Then he looked carefully into his own eyes. They certainly were a little pulled down at the outer corners, which gave them the appearance of looking cross-wise; but then they were a nice blue. So he put on his best coat, took up his stick, and went out to supper, feeling on the whole well satisfied.

“Aunt,” said Trana to Tant' Sannie when page: 199 that night they lay together in the great wooden bed, “why does the Englishman sigh so when he looks at me?”

“Ha!” said Tant' Sannie, who was half asleep, but suddenly started, wide awake. “It's because he thinks you look like me. I tell you, Trana,” said Tant' Sannie, “the man is mad with love of me. I told him the other night I couldn't marry till Em was sixteen, or I'd lose all the sheep her father left me. And he talked about Jacob working seven years and seven years again for his wife. And of course he meant me,” said Tant' Sannie pompously. “But he won't get me so easily as he thinks; he'll have to ask more than once.”

“Oh!” said Trana, who was a lumpish girl and not much given to talking; but presently she added, “Aunt, why does the Englishman always knock against you when he passes you?”

“That's because you are always in the way,” said Tant' Sannie.

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“But, aunt, said Trana, presently, “I think he is very ugly.”

“Phugh!” said Tant' Sannie. It's only because we're not accustomed to such noses in this country. In his country he says all the people have such noses, and the redder your nose is the higher you are. He's of the family of the Queen, Victoria, you know,” said Tant' Sannie, wakening up with her subject; “and he doesn't think anything of governors and Church elders, and such people; they are nothing to him. When his aunt with the dropsy dies he'll have money enough to buy all the farms in this district!”

“Oh!” said Trana. That certainly made a difference.

“Yes,” said Tant' Sannie; “and he's only forty-one, though you'd take him to be sixty. And he told me last night the real reason of his baldness.”

Tant' Sannie then proceeded to relate how, at page: 201 eighteen years of age, Bonaparte had courted a fair young lady. How a deadly rival, jealous of his verdant locks, his golden flowing hair, had, with a damnable and insinuating deception, made him a present of a pot of pomatum. How applying it in the evening, on rising in the morning he found his pillow strewn with the golden locks, and, looking into the glass, beheld the shining and smooth expanse which henceforth he must bear. The few remaining hairs were turned to a silvery whiteness, and the young lady married his rival.

“And,” said Tant' Sannie solemnly, “if it had not been for the grace of God, and reading of the psalms, he says he would have killed himself. He says he could kill himself quite easily if he wants to marry a woman and she won't.”

“All the world!” said Trana: and then they went to sleep.

Every one was lost in sleep soon; but from the window of the cabin the light streamed page: 202 forth. It came from a dung fire, over which Waldo sat brooding. Hour after hour he sat there, now and again throwing a fresh lump of fuel on to the fire, which burnt up bravely, and then sank into a great bed of red coals, which reflected themselves in the boy's eyes as he sat there brooding, brooding, brooding. At last, when the fire was blazing at its brightest, he rose suddenly and walked slowly to a beam from which an ox “ riem reim ” hung. Loosening it, he ran a noose in one end and then doubled it round his arm.

“Mine, mine! I have a right,” he muttered; and then something louder, “if I fall and am killed, so much the better!”

He opened the door and went out into the starlight.

He walked with his eyes bent upon the ground, but over-head it was one of those brilliant southern nights when every space so small that your hand might cover it shows fifty cold white points, and the milky-way is a belt of sharp page: 203 frosted silver. He passed the door where Bonaparte lay dreaming of Trana and her wealth, and he mounted the ladder steps. From those he clambered with some difficulty on to the roof of the house. It was of old rotten thatch with a ridge of white plaster, and it crumbled away under his feet at every step. He trod as heavily as he could. So much the better if he fell!

He knelt down when he got to the far gable, and began to fasten his “ riem reim ” to the crumbling bricks. Below was the little window of the loft. With one end of the “ riem reim ” tied round the gable, the other end round his waist, how easy to slide down to it, and to open it, through one of the broken panes, and to go in, and to fill his arms with books, and to clamber up again! They had burnt one book—he would have twenty. Every man's hand was against his—his should be against every man's. No one would help him—he would help himself.

He lifted the black damp hair from his knit page: 204 forehead, and looked round to cool his hot face. Then he saw what a regal night it was. He knelt silently and looked up. A thousand eyes were looking down at him, bright and so cold. There was a laughing irony in them.

“So hot, so bitter, so angry? Poor little mortal!”

He was ashamed. He folded his arms, and sat on the ridge of the roof looking up at them.

So hot, so bitter, so angry?”

It was as though a cold hand had been laid upon his throbbing forehead, and slowly they began to fade and grow dim. Tant' Sannie and the burnt book, Bonaparte and the broken machine, the box in the loft, he himself sitting there—how small they all became! Even the grave over yonder. Those stars that shone on up above so quietly, they had seen a thousand such little existences fight just so fiercely, flare up just so page: 205 brightly, and go out; and they, the old, old stars, shone on forever.

“So hot, so angry, poor little soul?” they said.

The “ riem reim ” slipped from his fingers; he sat with his arms folded, looking up.

“We,” said the stars, “have seen the earth when it was young. We have seen small things creep out upon its surface—small things that prayed and loved and cried very loudly, and then crept under it again. But we,” said the stars, “are as old as the Unknown.”

He leaned his chin against the palm of his hand and looked up at them. So long he sat there that bright stars set and new ones rose, and yet he sat on.

Then at last he stood up, and began to loosen the “ riem reim ” from the gable.

What did it matter about the books? The lust and the desire for them had died out. If they pleased to keep them from him they might. page: 206 What matter? it was a very little thing. Why hate, and struggle, and fight? Let it be as it would.

He twisted the “ riem reim ” round his arm and walked back along the ridge of the house.

By this time Bonaparte Blenkins had finished his dream of Trana, and as he turned himself round for a fresh doze he heard the steps descending the ladder. His first impulse was to draw the blanket over his head and his legs under him, and to howl; but recollecting that the door was locked and the window carefully bolted, he allowed his head slowly to crop out among the blankets, and listened intently. Whosoever it might be, there was no danger of their getting at him; so he clambered out of bed, and going on tiptoe to the door, applied his eye to the keyhole. There was nothing to be seen; so walking to the window, he brought his face as close to the glass as his nose would allow. There was a figure just discernible. The lad page: 207 was not trying to walk softly, and the heavy shuffling of the well-known “vel-schoens” could be clearly heard through the closed window as they crossed the stones in the yard. Bonaparte listened till they had died away round the corner of the waggon-house; and, feeling that his bare legs were getting cold, he jumped back into bed again.

* * * * *

“What do you keep up in your loft?” inquired Bonaparte of the Boer-woman the next evening, pointing upwards and elucidating his meaning by the addition of such Dutch words as he knew, for the lean Hottentot was gone home.

“Dried skins,” said the Boer-woman, “and empty bottles, and boxes, and sacks, and soap.”

“You don't keep any of your provisions there—sugar, now?” said Bonaparte, pointing to the sugar-basin and then up at the loft.

Tant' Sannie shook her head.

page: 208

“Only salt, and dried peaches.”

“Dried peaches! Eh?” said Bonaparte. “Shut the door, my dear child, shut it tight,” he called out to Em, who stood in the dining-room. Then he leaned over the elbow of the sofa and brought his face as close as possible to the Boer-woman's, and made signs of eating. Then he said something she did not comprehend; then said, “Waldo, Waldo, Waldo,” pointed up to the loft, and made signs of eating again.

Now an inkling of his meaning dawned on the Boer-woman's mind. To make it clearer, he moved his legs after the manner of one going up a ladder, appeared to be opening a door, masticated vigorously, said, “Peaches, peaches, peaches,” and appeared to be coming down the ladder.

It was now evident to Tant' Sannie that Waldo had been in her loft and eaten her peaches.

To exemplify his own share in the proceedings, page: 209 Bonaparte lay down on the sofa, and shutting his eyes tightly, said, “Night, night, night!” Then he sat up wildly, appearing to be intently listening, mimicked with his feet the coming down a ladder, and looked at Tant' Sannie. This clearly showed how, roused in the night, he had discovered the theft.

“He must have been a great fool to eat my peaches,” said Tant' Sannie. “They are full of mites as a sheepskin, and as hard as stones.”

Bonaparte, fumbling in his pocket, did not even hear her remark, and took out from his coat-tail a little horsewhip, nicely rolled up. Bonaparte winked at the little rhinoceros horsewhip, at the Boer-woman, and then at the door.

“Shall we call him—Waldo, Waldo?” he said.

Tant' Sannie nodded, and giggled. There was something so exceedingly humorous in the idea that he was going to beat the boy, though for her own part she did not see that the peaches page: 210 were worth it. When the Kaffir maid came with the wash-tub she was sent to summon Waldo; and Bonaparte doubled up the little whip and put it in his pocket. Then he drew himself up, and prepared to act his important part with becoming gravity. Soon Waldo stood in the door, and took off his hat.

“Come in, come in, my lad,” said Bonaparte, “and shut the door behind.”

The boy came in and stood before them.

“You need not be so afraid, child,” said Tant' Sannie. “I was a child myself once. It's no great harm if you have taken a few.”

Bonaparte perceived that her remark was not in keeping with the nature of the proceedings, and of the little drama he intended to act. Pursing out his lips, and waving his hand, he solemnly addressed the boy.

“Waldo, it grieves me beyond expression to have to summon you for so painful a purpose; but it is at the imperative call of duty, which I page: 211 dare not evade. I do not state that frank and unreserved confession will obviate the necessity of chastisement, which if requisite shall be fully administered; but the nature of that chastisement may be mitigated by free and humble confession. Waldo, answer me as you would your own father, in whose place I now stand to you; have you, or have you not, did you, or did you not, eat of the peaches in the loft?”

“Say you took them, boy, say you took them, then he won't beat you so much,” said the Dutch-woman, good-naturedly, getting a little sorry for him.

The boy raised his eyes slowly and fixed them vacantly upon her, then suddenly his face grew dark with blood.

So, you haven't got anything to say to us, my lad?” said Bonaparte, momentarily forgetting his dignity, and bending forward with a little snarl. “But what I mean is just this, my lad—when it takes a boy three-quarters of an page: 212 hour to fill a salt-pot, and when at three o'clock in the morning he goes knocking about the doors of a loft, it's natural to suppose there's mischief in it. It's certain there is mischief in it; and where there's mischief in it must be taken out,” said Bonaparte, grinning into the boy's face. Then, feeling that he had fallen from that high gravity which was as spice to the pudding, and the flavour of the whole little tragedy, he drew himself up. “Waldo,” he said, “confess to me instantly, and without reserve, that you ate the peaches.”

The boy's face was white now. His eyes were on the ground, his hands doggedly clasped before him.

“What, do you not intend to answer?”

The boy looked up at them once from under his bent eyebrows, and then looked down again.

“The creature looks as if all the devils in hell were in it,” cried Tant' Sannie. “Say you took them, boy. Young things will be young things, page: 213 I was older than you when I used to eat ‘bultong’ in my mother's loft, and get the little niggers whipped for it. Say you took them.”

But the boy said nothing.

“I think a little solitary confinement might perhaps be beneficial,” said Bonaparte. “It will enable you, Waldo, to reflect on the enormity of the sin you have committed against our Father in heaven. And you may also think of the submission you owe to those who are older and wiser than you are, and whose duty it is to check and correct you.”

Saying this, Bonaparte stood up and took down the key of the fuel-house, which hung on a nail against the wall.

“Walk on, my boy,” said Bonaparte, pointing to the door; and as he followed him out he drew his mouth expressively on one side, and made the lash of the little horsewhip stick out of his pocket and shake up and down.

Tant' Sannie felt half sorry for the lad; but page: 214 she could not help laughing, it was always so funny when one was going to have a whipping, and it would do him good. Anyhow, he would forget all about it when the places were healed.

Bonaparte took up a lighted candle that had been left burning on the kitchen table, and told the boy to walk before him. They went to the fuel-house. It was a little stone erection that jutted out from the side of the waggon-house. It was low, and without a window; and the dried dung was piled in one corner, and the coffee-mill stood in another, fastened on the top of a post. Bonaparte took the padlock off the rough door.

“Walk in, my lad,” he said.

Waldo obeyed sullenly; one place to him was much the same as another. He had no objection to being locked up.

Bonaparte followed him in, and closed the door carefully. He put the light down on the heap of dung in the corner, and quietly intro- introduced page: 215 duced his hand under his coat-tails, and drew slowly from his pocket the end of a rope, which he concealed behind him.

“I'm very sorry, exceedingly sorry, Waldo, my lad, that you should have acted in this manner. It grieves me,” said Bonaparte.

He moved round toward the boy's back. He hardly liked the look in the fellow's eyes, though he stood there motionless. If he should spring on him!

So he drew the rope out very carefully, and shifted round to the wooden post. There was a slip-knot in one end of the rope, and a sudden movement drew the boy's hands to his back and passed it round them. It was an instant's work to drag it twice round the wooden post: then Bonaparte was safe.

For a moment the boy struggled to free himself; then he knew that he was powerless, and stood still.

“Horses that kick must have their legs tied,” page: 216 said Bonaparte, as he passed the other end of the rope round the boy's knees. “And now, my dear Waldo,” taking the whip out of his pocket, “I am going to beat you.”

He paused for a moment. It was perfectly quiet; they could hear each other's breath.

“‘Chasten thy son while there is hope,’” said Bonaparte, “‘and let not thy soul spare for his crying.’ Those are God's words. I shall act as a father to you, Waldo. I think we had better have your naked back.”

He took out his pen-knife, and slit the shirt down from the shoulder to the waist.

“Now,” said Bonaparte, “I hope the Lord will bless and sanctify to you what I am going to do to you.”

The first cut ran from the shoulder across the middle of the back; the second fell exactly in the same place. A shudder passed through the boy's frame.

“Nice, eh?” said Bonaparte, peeping round page: 217 into his face, speaking with a lisp, as though to a very little child. “Nith, eh?”

But the eyes were black and lustreless, and seemed not to see him. When he had given sixteen Bonaparte paused in his work to wipe a little drop of blood from his whip.

“Cold, eh? What makes you shiver so? Perhaps you would like to pull up your shirt? But I've not quite done yet.”

When he had finished he wiped the whip again, and put it back in his pocket. He cut the rope through with his pen-knife, and then took up the light.

“You don't seem to have found your tongue yet. Forgotten how to cry?” said Bonaparte, patting him on the cheek.

The boy looked up at him—not sullenly, not angrily. There was only a wild, fitful terror in the eyes. Bonaparte made haste to go out and shut the door, and leave him alone in the darkness. He himself was afraid.

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* * * * * *

It was almost morning. Waldo lay with his face upon the ground at the foot of the fuel-heap. There was a round hole near the top of the door, where a knot of wood had fallen out, and a stream of grey light came in through it.

Ah, it was going to end at last. Nothing lasts forever, not even the night. How was it he had never thought of that before? For in all that long dark night he had been very strong, had never been tired, never felt pain, had run on and on, up and down, up and down; he had not dared to stand still, and he had not known it would end. He had been so strong, that when he struck his head with all his force upon the stone wall it did not stun him nor pain him—only made him laugh. That was a dreadful night. When he clasped his hands frantically and prayed—“O God, my beautiful God, my sweet God, once, only once, let me feel you near me to-night!” he could not feel Him. He page: 219 prayed aloud, very loud, and he got no answer; when he listened it was all quite quiet—like when the priests of Baal cried aloud to their god—“Oh, Baal, hear us! Oh, Baal, hear us!” But Baal was gone a-hunting.

That was a long wild night, and wild thoughts came and went in it; but they left their marks behind them forever: for as years cannot pass without leaving their traces behind them, neither can nights into which are forced the thoughts and sufferings of years. And now the dawn was coming, and at last he was very tired. He shivered, and tried to draw the shirt up over his shoulders. They were getting stiff now. He had never known they were cut in the night. He looked up at the white light that came in through the hole at the top of the door and shuddered. Then he turned his face back to the ground, and slept again.

Some hours later Bonaparte came toward the fuel-house with a lump of bread in his hand. page: 220 He opened the door and peered in; then entered, and touched the fellow with his boot. Seeing that he breathed heavily, though he did not rouse, Bonaparte threw the bread down on the ground. He was alive, that was one thing. He bent over him, and carefully scratched open one of the cuts with the nail of his forefinger, examining with much interest his last night's work. He would have to count his sheep himself that day; the boy was literally cut up. He locked the door and went away again.

“Oh, Lyndall,” said Em, entering the dining room, and bathed in tears, that afternoon, “I have been begging Bonaparte to let him out, and he won't.”

“The more you beg the more he will not,” said Lyndall.

She was cutting out aprons on the table.

“Oh, but it's late, and I think they want to kill him,” said Em, weeping bitterly; and finding that no more consolation was to be page: 221 gained from her cousin, she went off blubbering—“I wonder you can cut out aprons when Waldo is shut up like that.”

For ten minutes after she was gone Lyndall worked on quietly; then she folded up her stuff, rolled it tightly together, and stood before the closed door of the sitting room with her hands closely clasped. A flush rose to her face: she opened the door quickly, and walking in, went to the nail on which the key of the fuel-room hung. Bonaparte and Tant' Sannie sat there and saw her.

“What do you want?” they asked together.

“This key,” she said, holding it up, and looking at them.

“Do you mean her to have it?” said Tant' Sannie in Dutch.

“Why don't you stop her?” asked Bonaparte in English.

“Why don't you take it from her?” said Tant' Sannie.

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So they looked at each other, talking, while Lyndall walked to the fuel-house with the key, her underlip bitten in.

“Waldo,” she said, as she helped him to stand up, and twisted his arm about her waist to support him, “we will not be children always; we shall have the power too some day.” She kissed his naked shoulder with her soft little mouth. It was all the comfort her young soul could give him.

page: 223

CHAPTER XIII.

HE MAKES LOVE.

HERE,” said Tant' Sannie to her Hottentot maid, “I have been in this house four years, and never been up in the loft. Fatter women than I go up ladders; I will go up to-day and see what it is like, and put it to rights up there. You bring the little ladder and stand at the bottom.”

“There's one would be sorry if you were to fall,” said the Hottentot maid, leering at Bonaparte's pipe, that lay on the table.

“Hold your tongue, jade,” said her mistress, trying to conceal a pleased smile, “and go fetch the ladder.”

There was a never-used trap-door at one end page: 224 of the sitting room: this the Hottentot maid pushed open, and setting the ladder against it, the Boer-woman with some danger and difficulty climbed into the loft. Then the Hottentot maid took the ladder away, as her husband was mending the waggon-house, and needed it; but the trap-door was left open.

For a little while Tant' Sannie poked about among the empty bottles and skins, and looked at the bag of peaches that Waldo was supposed to have liked so; then she sat down near the trap-door beside a barrel of salt mutton. She found that the pieces of meat were much too large, and took out her clasp-knife to divide them.

That was always the way when one left things to servants, she grumbled to herself: but when once she was married to her husband Bonaparte it would not matter whether a sheep spoiled or no—when once his rich aunt with the dropsy was dead. She smiled as she dived her hand into the pickle water.

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At that instant her niece entered the room below, closely followed by Bonaparte, with his head on one side, smiling mawkishly. Had Tant' Sannie spoken at that moment the life of Bonaparte Blenkins would have run a wholly different course; as it was, she remained silent, and neither noticed the open trap-door above their heads.

“Sit there, my love,” said Bonaparte, motioning Trana into her aunt's elbow-chair, and drawing another close up in front of it, in which he seated himself. “There, put your feet upon the stove too. Your aunt has gone out somewhere. Long have I waited for this auspicious event!”

Trana, who understood not one word of English, sat down in the chair and wondered if this was one of the strange customs of other lands, that an old gentleman may bring his chair up to yours, and sit with his knees touching you. She had been five days in Bonaparte's page: 226 company, and feared the old man, and disliked his nose.

“How long have I desired this moment!” said Bonaparte. “But that aged relative of thine is always casting her unhallowed shadow upon us. Look into my eyes, Trana!”

Bonaparte knew that she comprehended not a syllable; but he understood that it is the eye, the tone, the action, and not at all the rational word, that touches the love-chords. He saw she changed colour.

“All night,” said Bonaparte, “I lie awake; I see nought but thy angelic countenance. I open my arms to receive thee—where art thou, where? Thou art not there!” said Bonaparte, suiting the action to the words, and spreading out his arms and drawing them to his breast.

“Oh, please, I don't understand,” said Trana, “I want to go away.”

“Yes, yes!” said Bonaparte, leaning back in his chair, to her great relief, and pressing his page: 227 hands on his heart, “since first thy amethystine countenance was impressed here—what have I not suffered, what have I not felt? Oh, the pangs unspoken, burning as an ardent coal in a fiery and uncontaminated bosom!” said Bonaparte, bending forward again.

“Dear Lord!” said Trana to herself, “how foolish I have been! The old man has a pain in his stomach, and now, as my aunt is out, he has come to me to help him.”

She smiled kindly at Bonaparte, and pushing past him, went to the bedroom, quickly returning with a bottle of red drops in her hand.

“They are very good for ‘benaawdheit’; my mother always drinks them,” she said, holding the bottle out.

The face in the trap-door was a fiery red. Like a tiger-cat ready to spring. Tant' Sannie crouched, with the shoulder of mutton in her hand. Exactly beneath her stood Bonaparte. page: 228 She rose and clasped with both arms the barrel of salt meat.

“What, rose of the desert, nightingale of the colony, that with thine amorous lay whilest the lonesome night!” cried Bonaparte, seizing the hand that held the “vonlicsense.” “Nay, struggle not! Fly as a stricken fawn into the arms that would embrace thee, thou—”

Here a stream of cold pickle-water, heavy with ribs and shoulders, descending on his head abruptly terminated his speech. Half-blinded, Bonaparte looked up through the drops that hung from his eyelids, and saw the red face that looked down at him. With one wild cry he fled. As he passed out at the front door a shoulder of mutton, well-directed, struck the black coat in the small of the back.

“Bring the ladder! bring the ladder! I will go after him!” cried the Boer-woman, as Bonaparte Blenkins wildly fled into the fields.

* * * * *

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Late in the evening of the same day Waldo knelt on the floor of his cabin. He bathed the foot of his dog which had been pierced by a thorn. The bruises on his own back had had five days to heal in, and, except a little stiffness in his movements, there was nothing remarkable about the boy.

The troubles of the young are soon over; they leave no external mark. If you wound the tree in its youth the bark will quickly cover the gash; but when the tree is very old, peel the bark off, look carefully, and you will see the scar there still. All that is buried is not dead.

Waldo poured the warm milk over the little swollen foot; Doss lay very quiet, with tears in his eyes. Then there was a tap at the door. In an instant Doss looked wide awake, and winked the tears out from between his little lids.

“Come in,” said Waldo, intent on his work; and slowly and cautiously the door opened.

“Good evening, Waldo, my boy,” said page: 230 Bonaparte Blenkins in a mild voice, not venturing more than his nose within the door. “How are you this evening?”

Doss growled and showed his little teeth, and tried to rise, but his paw hurt him so, he whined.

“I'm very tired, Waldo, my boy,” said Bonaparte, plaintively.

Doss showed his little white teeth again. His master went on with his work without looking round. There are some people at whose hands it is best not to look. At last he said,

“Come in.”

Bonaparte stepped cautiously a little way into the room, and left the door open behind him. He looked at the boy's supper on the table.

“Waldo, I've had nothing to eat all day—I'm very hungry,” he said.

“Eat!” said Waldo after a moment, bending lower over his dog.

“You won't go and tell her that I am here, will page: 231 you, Waldo?” said Bonaparte most uneasily. “You've heard how she used me, Waldo? I've been badly treated; you'll know yourself what it is some day when you can't carry on a little conversation with a lady without having salt meat and pickle-water thrown at you. Waldo, look at me: do I look as a gentleman should?”

But the boy neither looked up nor answered, and Bonaparte grew more uneasy.

“You wouldn't go and tell her that I am here, would you?” said Bonaparte, whiningly. “There's no knowing what she would do to me. I've such trust in you, Waldo; I've always thought you such a promising lad, though you mayn't have known it, Waldo.”

“Eat,” said the boy. “I shall say nothing.”

Bonaparte, who knew the truth when another spoke it, closed the door, carefully putting on the button. Then he looked to see that the curtain of the window was closely pulled down, and seated himself at the table. He was soon page: 232 munching the cold meat and bread. Waldo knelt on the floor, bathing the foot with hands which the dog licked lovingly. Once only he glanced at the table, and turned away quickly.

“Ah, yes; I don't wonder that you can't look at me, Waldo,” said Bonaparte: “my condition would touch any heart. You see, the water was fatty, and that has made all the sand stick to me; and my hair,” said Bonaparte, tenderly touching the little fringe at the back of his head, “is all caked over like a little plank; you wouldn't think it was hair at all,” said Bonaparte, plaintively. “I had to creep all along the stone walls for fear she'd see me, and with nothing on my head but a red handkerchief, tied under my chin, Waldo; and to hide in a ‘sloot’ the whole day, with not a mouthful of food, Waldo. And she gave me such a blow, just here,” said Bonaparte.

He had cleared the plate of the last morsel, when Waldo rose and walked to the door.

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“Oh, Waldo, my dear boy, you are not going to call her?” said Bonaparte, rising anxiously.

“I am going to sleep in the waggon,” said the boy, opening the door.

“Oh, we can both sleep in this bed: there's plenty of room. Do stay, my boy, please.”

But Waldo stepped out.

“It was such a little whip, Waldo,” said Bonaparte, following him deprecatingly. “I didn't think it would hurt you so much. It was such a little whip. I'm sure you didn't take the peaches. You aren't going to call her, Waldo, are you?”

But the boy walked off.

Bonaparte waited till his figure had passed round the front of the waggon-house, and then slipped out. He hid himself round the corner, but kept peeping out to see who was coming. He felt sure the boy was gone to call Tant' Sannie. His teeth chattered with inward cold as he looked round into the darkness and thought of the snakes that might bite him, and the page: 234 dreadful things that might attack him, and the dead that might arise out of their graves if he slept out in the field all night. But more than an hour passed, and no footstep approached.

Then Bonaparte made his way back to the cabin. He buttoned the door and put the table against it and, giving the dog a kick to silence his whining when the foot throbbed, he climbed into bed. He did not put out the light, for fear of the ghost, but, worn out with the sorrows of the day, was soon asleep himself.

About four o'clock Waldo, lying between the seats of the horse-waggon, was awakened by a gentle touch on his head. Sitting up, he espied Bonaparte looking through one of the windows with a lighted candle in his hand.

“I'm about to depart, my dear boy, before my enemies arise; and I could not leave without coming to bid you farewell,” said Bonaparte.

Waldo looked at him.

“I shall always think of you with affection,” page: 235 said Bonaparte. “And there's that old hat of yours, if you could let me have it for a keepsake—”

“Take it,” said Waldo.

“I thought you would say so, so I brought it with me,” said Bonaparte, putting it on. “The Lord bless you, my dear boy. You haven't a few shillings—just a trifle you don't need,—have you?”

“Take the two shillings that are in the broken vase.”

“May the blessing of my God rest upon you, my dear child,” said Bonaparte; “may He guide and bless you. Give me your hand.”

Waldo folded his arms closely, and lay down.

“Farewell, adieu!” said Bonaparte. “May the blessing of my God and my father's God rest on you, now and evermore.”

With these words the head and nose withdrew themselves, and the light vanished from the window.

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After a few moments the boy, lying in the waggon, heard stealthy footsteps as they passed the waggon-house and made their way down the road. He listened as they grew fainter and fainter, and at last died away altogether; and from that night the footstep of Bonaparte Blenkins was heard no more at the old farm.

END Of PART I.

PART II.

“And it was all play, and no one could tell what it had lived and worked for. A striving, and a striving, and an ending in nothing.”

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CHAPTER I.

Times and Seasons.

WALDO lay on his stomach on the sand. Since he prayed and howled to his God in the fuel-house three years had passed.

They say that in the world to come time is not measured out by months and years. Neither is it here. The soul's life has seasons of its own; periods not found in any calendar, times that years and months will not scan, but which are as deftly and sharply cut off from one another as the smoothly-arranged years which the earth's motion yields us.

To stranger eyes these divisions are not evident; but each, looking back at the little page: 240 track his consciousness illuminates, sees it cut into distinct portions, whose boundaries are the termination of mental states.

As man differs from man, so differ these souls' years. The most material life is not devoid of them; the story of the most spiritual is told in them. And it may chance that some, looking back, see the past cut out after this fashion:—

I.

The year of infancy, where from the shadowy background of forgetfulness start out pictures of startling clearness, disconnected, but brightly coloured, and indelibly printed in the mind. Much that follows fades, but the colours of those baby-pictures are permanent.

There rises, perhaps, a warm summer's evening; we are seated on the door-step; we have yet the taste of the bread and milk in our mouth, and the red sunset is reflected in our basin.

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Then there is a dark night, where, waking with a nameless fear, we run from our own bed to another, creep close to some large figure, and are comforted.

Then there is remembrance of the pride when, on some one's shoulder, with our arms around their head, we ride to see the little pigs.

Remembrance of delight in the feel and smell of the first orange we ever see; of sorrow which makes us put up our lip, and cry hard, when one morning we run out to try and catch the dew-drops, and they melt and wet our little fingers; of almighty and despairing sorrow when we are lost behind the kraals, and cannot see the house anywhere.

And then one picture starts out more vividly than any.

There has been a thunder-storm; the ground, as far as the eye can reach, is covered with white hail; the clouds are gone, and overhead a deep blue sky is showing; far off a great page: 242 rainbow rests on the white earth. We, standing in a window to look, feel the cool, unspeakably sweet wind blowing in on us, and a feeling of longing comes over us—unutterable longing, we cannot tell for what. We look at the white earth, and the rainbow, and the blue sky; and oh, we want it, we want—we do not know what. We cry as though our heart was broken. When one lifts our little body from the window we cannot tell what ails us. We run away to play.

So looks the first year.

II.

Now the pictures become continuous and connected. Material things still rule, but the spiritual and intellectual take their places.

In the dark night when we are afraid we pray and shut our eyes. We press our fingers very hard upon the lids, and see dark spots page: 243 moving round and round, and we know they are heads and wings of angels sent to take care of us, seen dimly in the dark as they move round our bed. It is very consoling.

In the day we learn our letters, and are troubled because we cannot see why k-n-o-w should be know, and p-s-a-l-m psalm. They tell us it is so because it is so. We are not satisfied; we hate to learn; we like better to build little stone houses. We can build them as we please, and know the reason for them.

Other joys too we have incomparably greater.

We are run through with a shudder of delight when in the red sand we come on one of those white wax-flowers that lie between their two green leaves flat on the sand. We hardly dare pick them, but we feel compelled to do so; and we smell and smell till the delight becomes almost pain. Afterwards we pull the green leaves softly into pieces to see the silk threads run across.

Beyond the “kopje” grow some dull-green, page: 244 hairy-leaved bushes. We are so small they meet over our head; and we sit among them, and talk to them, and kiss them, and they love us back.

One day we sit there and look up at the blue sky, and down at our fat little knees; and suddenly it strikes us, Who are we? This I, what is it? We try to look in upon ourselves, and ourself beats back upon ourself. Then we get up in great fear and run home as hard as we can. We can't tell any one what frightened us. We never quite lose that feeling of self again.

III.

And then a new time rises. We are seven years old. We can read now—read the Bible. Best of all we like the story of Elijah in his cave at Horeb, and the still small voice.

One day, a notable one, we read on the page: 245 “kopje,” and discover the fifth chapter of Matthew, and read it all through. Then we tuck the Bible under our arm and rush home. They didn't know it was wicked to take your things again if some one took them, wicked to go to law, wicked to—! We are quite breathless when we get to the house; we tell them we have discovered a chapter they never heard of; we tell them what it says. The old wise people tell us they knew all about it. Our discovery is a mare's-nest to them; but to us it is very real. The ten commandments and the old “Thou shalt” we have heard about long enough and don't care about it; but this new law sets us on fire. We will deny ourself. Our little waggon that we have made, we give to the little Kaffirs. We keep quiet when they throw sand at us (feeling, oh, so happy). We conscientiously put the cracked tea-cup for ourselves at breakfast, and take the burnt roaster-cake. We save our money, and buy threepence of tobacco page: 246 for the Hottentot maid who calls us names. We are exotically virtuous. At night we are profoundly religious; even the ticking watch says, “Eternity, eternity! hell, hell, hell!” and the silence talks of God.

Occasionally, also, unpleasantly shrewd questions begin to be asked by something, we know not what, in ourselves. We get to know him better afterward. We carry the questions to the grown-up people. They give us answers; we are more or less satisfied for the time. The grown-up people are very wise, and they say it was kind of God to make hell, and very loving of Him to send men there; and besides, He couldn't help Himself, and they are very wise, we think, so we believe them.

IV.

Then a new time comes of which the leading feature is, that the shrewd questions are asked page: 247 louder. We carry them to the grown-up people; they answer us, and we are not satisfied.

And now between us and the dear old world of the senses the spirit-world begins to peep in, and wholly clouds it over. What are the flowers to us? They are fuel waiting for the great burning. We look at the walls of the farmhouse and the matter-of-fact sheep “kraals,” with the merry sunshine playing over all, and do not see it. But we see a great white throne, and Him that sits on it. Around Him stand a great multitude that no man can number, harpers harping with their harps, a thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. How white are their robes, washed in the blood of the Lamb! And the music rises higher, and rends the vault of heaven with its unutterable sweetness. And we, as we listen, ever and anon, as it sinks on the sweetest, lowest note, hear a groan of the damned from below. We shudder in the sunlight.

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“The torment,” says Jeremy Taylor, whose sermons our father reads aloud in the evening, “comprises as many torments as the body of man has joints, sinews, arteries, &c., being caused by that penetrating and real fire, of which this temporal fire is but a painted fire. What comparison will there be between burning for a hundred years' space and to be burning without intermission as long as God is God?”

We remember the sermon there in the sunlight. One comes and asks why we sit there nodding so moodily. Ah, they do not see what we see.
  • “A moment's time, a narrow space,
  • Divides me from that heavenly place,
  • Or shuts me up in hell.”
So says Wesley's hymn, which we sing evening by evening. What matter sunshine and walls, men and books?

“The things which are seen are temporal, but page: 249 the things which are not seen are eternal.” They are real.

The Bible we bear always in our breast; its pages are our food; we learn to repeat it; we weep much, for in sunshine and in shade, in the early morning or the late evening, in the field or in the house, the Devil walks with us. He comes to a real person, copper-coloured face, head a little on one side, forehead knit, asking questions. Believe me, it would be better to be followed by three deadly diseases than by him. He is never silenced, never satisfied—without mercy. Though the drops of blood stand out on your heart he will put his question. Softly he comes up (we are only a wee bit child, mark you); “Is it good of God to make hell? Was it kind of Him to let no one be forgiven unless Jesus Christ died?”

Then he goes off, and leaves us writhing. Presently he comes back.

“Do you love Him?”—waits a little. “Do page: 250 you love Him? You will be lost if you don't.”

We say we try to.

“But do you?” Then he goes off.

It is nothing to him if we go quite mad with fear at our own wickedness. He asks on, the questioning Devil; he cares nothing what he says. We long to tell some one, that they may share our pain. We do not yet know that the cup of affliction is made with such a narrow mouth that only one lip can drink at a time, and that each man's cup is made to match his lip.

One day we try to tell some one. Then a grave head is shaken solemnly at us. We are wicked, very wicked, they say we ought not to have such thoughts. God is good, very good. We are wicked, very wicked. That is the comfort we get. Wicked! Oh, Lord! do we not know it? Is it not the sense of our own exceeding wickedness that is drying up our page: 251 young heart, filling it with sand, making all life a dust-bin for us?

Wicked? We know it! Too vile to live, too vile to die, too vile to creep over this, God's earth, and move among His believing men. Hell is the one place for him who hates his master, and there we do not want to go.

And once again we try to seek for comfort. This time great eyes look at us wondering, and lovely little lips say,—

“If it makes you so unhappy to think of these things, why do you not think of something else, and forget?

Forget? We turn away and shrink into ourself. Forget? and think of other things? Oh, God! do they not understand that the material world is but a film, through every pore of which God's awful spirit world is shining through on us, poor miserable little wretches that we are? We keep as far from others as we can.

One night, we kneel in the window; every one page: 252 else sleeps, but we kneel reading by the moonlight. It is only a chapter of the prophets, telling how the chosen people of God shall be carried on the Gentiles' shoulders. Surely the Devil might leave us alone; there is not much to handle for him there. But presently we hear him.

“Is it right there should be a chosen people? If you should be chosen out, would it be right, fair?”

How can we answer him? We were feeling so good till he came. We put our head down on the Bible and blister it with tears. Then we fold our hands over our head and pray, till our teeth grind together. Oh, that from that spirit-world, so real and yet so silent, that surrounds us, one word would come to guide us! We are left alone with this devil; the angels do not come. Suddenly we seize the Bible, turning it round and round, and say hurriedly,—

“It will be God's voice speaking to us; His voice as though we heard it.”

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We yearn, oh, so hugrily, for a token from the inexorably silent One.

We turn the book, put our finger down on a page, and bend to read by the moonlight. It is God's answer. We tremble.

“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.”

For an instant our imagination seizes it; we are twisting, twirling, trying to make an allegory. The fourteen years are fourteen months; we are Paul and the devil is Barnabas, Titus is— Then a sudden loathing comes to us: we are liars and hypocrites, we are trying to deceive ourselves. What is Paul to us—and Jerusalem? Who are Barnabas and Titus? We know not the men. This is no answer. Before we know we seize the book, swing it round our head, and fling it with all our might to the farthest end of the room. We put down our head again and weep. Youth and ignorance yearning for light: page: 254 is there anything else that can weep so? It is as though the tears were drops of blood congealed beneath the eyelids; nothing else is like those tears. After a long time, when we are weak with crying, and lie silent, by chance we knock against the wood that stops the broken pane. It falls. Upon our hot stiff face a sweet breath of wind blows. We raise our head, and with our swollen eyes look out at the beautiful still world, and the sweet night wind blows in upon us, holy and gentle, like a loving breath from the lips of God. Over us a deep peace comes, a calm, still joy; the tears now flow readily and softly. Oh, the unutterable gladness! At last, at last we have found it! “The peace with God.” “The sense of sins forgiven.” All doubt vanished, God's voice in the soul, the Holy Spirit filling us! We feel Him! we feel Him! Oh, Jesus Christ! through you, through you, this joy! We press our hands upon our breast and look upward with adoring gladness. Soft waves of bliss break page: 255 through us. “The peace with God.” “The sense of sins forgiven.” Methodists and Revivalists say the words, and the mocking world shoots out its lip, and walks by smiling—“Hypocrite!”

There are more fools and fewer hypocrites than the wise world dreams of. Hypocrites are rare as icebergs in the tropics; fools common as buttercups beside a water-furrow: whether you go this way or that you tread on them; you dare not look at your own reflection in the water but you see one. There is no cant phrase, rotten with age, but it was the dress of a living body; none but at heart it signifies a real bodily or mental condition.

After hours and nights of frenzied fear of the supernatural, desire to appease the power above, a fierce quivering excitement in every inch of nerve and blood-vessel, there comes a time when nature cannot endure longer, and the spring long bent recoils. We sink down emasculated. Up creeps the deadly delicious calm.

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“I have blotted out as a cloud thy sins, and as a thick cloud thy trespasses, and will remember them no more for ever.” We weep with soft transporting joy.

A few experience this; many imagine they experience it, one here and there lies about it. In the main, “The peace with God; a sense of sins forgiven,” stands for a certain mental and physical reaction. Its reality those know who have felt it.

And we, on that moonlight night, put down our head on the window, “Oh, God! we are happy, happy; thy child forever. Oh, thank you, God!” and we drop asleep.

Next morning the Bible we kiss. We are God's forever. We go out to work, and it goes happily all day, happily all night; but hardly so happily, not happily at all, the next day; and the next night the devil asks us, “Where is your Holy Spirit?”

We cannot tell.

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So month by month, summer and winter, the old life goes on—reading, praying, weeping, praying. They tell us we become utterly stupid. We know it. Even the multiplication table we learnt with so much care we forgot. The physical world recedes further and further from us. Truly we love not the world, neither the things that are in it. Across the bounds of sleep our grief follows us. When we wake in the night we are sitting up in bed weeping bitterly, or find ourself outside in the moonlight, dressed, and walking up and down, and wringing our hands, and we cannot tell how we came there. So pass two years, as men reckon them.

V.

Then a new time.

Before us there were three courses possible—to go mad, to die, to sleep.

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We take the latter course; nature takes it for us.

All things take rest in sleep; the beast, bird, the very flowers close their eyes, and the streams are frozen in winter. All things take rest in sleep; then why not the human reason also? So we drop asleep, and in that sleep a beautiful dream rises for us. Though you hear all the dreams of men, you will hardly find a prettier one than ours. It ran so:—

In the centre of all things is a Mighty Heart, which, having begotten all things, loves them; and, having born them into life, beats with great throbs of love towards them. No death for His dear insects, no hell for His loved men, no burning up for His dear world—His own, own world! In the end all will be well. Do not ask us how we make our dream tally with facts; the glory of a dream is this—that it despises facts, and makes its own. Our dream saves us from going mad; that is enough.

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Its peculiar point of sweetness lay here. When the Mighty Heart's yearning of love became too great for other expression, it became the sweet Rose of heaven, the beloved Man—God.

Jesus! you Jesus of our dream! how we loved you; no Bible tells of you as we know you. Your sweet hands held ours fast; your sweet voice said always, “I am here, my loved one, not far off; put your arms about Me.” We found Him in everything in those days. When the little weary lamb we drive home drags its feet, we seize on it, and carry it with its head against our face. His little lamb! We feel we have got Him.

When the drunken Kaffir lies by the road in the sun we draw his blanket over his head, and put green branches of milk-bush on it. His Kaffir; why should the sun hurt him?

In the evening, when the clouds lift themselves like gates, and the red lights shine through them, we cry; for in such glory He will come, page: 260 and the hands that ache to touch Him will hold him, and we shall see the beautiful hair and eyes of our God.

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and our King of glory shall come in!” The purple flowers, the little purple flowers are His eyes, looking at us. We kiss them, and kneel alone on the flat, rejoicing over them.

And the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for Him, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose. If ever in our tearful, joyful ecstasy the poor, sleepy, half-dead devil should raise his head, we laugh at him. It is not his hour now.

“If there should be a hell, after all!” he mutters. “If your God should be cruel! If there should be no God! If you should find out it is all imagination! If—”

We laugh at him. When a man sits in the warm sunshine, do you ask him for proof of it? page: 261 He feels—that is all. And we feel—that is all. We want no proof of our God. We feel, we feel!

Do we believe in our God because the Bible tells us of Him? We believe in the Bible because He tells us of it. We feel Him, we feel Him, we feel—that is all! And the poor, half-swamped Devil mutters—

“But if the day should come when you do not feel?”

And we laugh and cry him down.

“It will never come—never, never,” and the poor Devil slinks to sleep again, with his tail between his legs. Fierce assertion many times repeated is hard to stand against. It is most wisely met by silence. Time separates the truth from the lie. So we dream on.

One day we go to town and to church. The townspeople rustle in in their silks, and the men in their sleek cloth, and settle themselves in their pews, and the light shines in through the windows on the artificial flowers in the page: 262 women's bonnets. We have the same miserable feeling that we have in a shop where all the clerks are very smart. We wish our Father hadn't brought us to town, and we were out on the karroo. Then the man in the pulpit begins to preach. His text is “He that believeth not shall be damned.”

The day before an atheist has died in the street, struck by lightning.

The man in the pulpit mentions no name; but he talks of “The hand of God made visible among us.” He tells us how, when the white stroke fell, quivering and naked, the soul fled, robbed of his earthly filament, and lay at the footstool of God; how over its head has been poured out the wrath of the Mighty One, whose existence it has denied; and, quivering and terrified, it has fled to the everlasting night.

We, as we listen, half start up; every drop of blood in our body has rushed to our head. He lies! he lies! he lies! That man in the page: 263 pulpit lies! Will no one stop him? Have none of them heard—do none of them know, that when the poor, dark soul shut its eyes on earth it opened them in the still light of heaven? that there is no wrath where God is? that if one could once creep to the footstool of God, there is everlasting peace there? While the atheist lay wondering and afraid, God bent down and said, “My child, here I am—I, whom you have not known; I, whom you have not believed in; I am here. I sent My messenger, the white sheet-lightning, to call you home. I am here.”

Then the poor soul turned to the light—its weakness and pain were gone for ever.

Have they not known, have they not heard, who it is rules?

“For a little moment have I hidden My face from thee; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.”

We mutter on to ourselves, till some one pulls page: 264 us violently by the arm to remind us we are in church. We see nothing but our own ideas.

Presently every one turns to pray. There are six hundred souls lifting themselves to the Everlasting Light.

Behind us sit two pretty ladies; one hands her scent-bottle softly to the other, and a mother pulls down her little girl's frock. One lady drops her handkerchief; a gentleman picks it up; she blushes. The women in the choir turn softly the leaves of their tune-books, to be ready when the praying is done. It is as though they thought more of the singing than the Everlasting Father. Oh, would it not be more worship of Him to sit alone in the karoo and kiss one little field flower that He had made? Is it not mockery? Then the thought comes, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” We who judge, what are we better than they?—rather worse. Is it any excuse to say we are but a child and must come? Does God allow any soul to step in page: 265 between the spirit he made and himself? What do we there in that place, where all the words to us seem lies of the All Father, and the worship a seeming. Filled with horror, we turn and flee out of the place. On the pavement we smite our foot, and swear in our child's soul, never again to enter those places where men come to worship. We are questioned afterwards. Why was it we went out of church?

How can we explain?—we stand silent. Then we are pressed further, and we try to tell. Upon that a head is shaken solemnly at us. No one can think it wrong to go to the house of the Lord; it is the idle excuse of a wicked boy. When will we think seriously of our souls, and love going to church? We are wicked, very wicked. And we—we slink away and go alone to cry. Will it be always so? If we hate and doubt, or believe and love, to our dearest, are we to seem always wicked, wicked, wicked? Nothing else!

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We do not yet know that in the soul's search for truth the bitterness lies here; the striving cannot always hide itself among the thoughts; sooner or later it will clothe itself in outward action; then it steps in and divides between us and our nearest. All things on earth have their price; and for truth we pay the dearest. We barter it for love and sympathy. The road to honour is paved with thorns; but on the path to truth, at every step you set your foot down on your own heart.

VI.

Then at last a new time—the time of waking: short, sharp, and not pleasant.

Sleep and dreams exist on this condition—that no one wake the dreamer.

And life takes us up between her finger and thumb, shakes us furiously, till our poor page: 267 nodding head is well-nigh rolled from our shoulders, and she sets us down a little hard on the bare earth, bruised and sore, but preternaturally wide awake.

We have said in our days of dreaming, “Injustice and wrong are a seeming; pain is a shadow. Our God, He is real, He who made all things, and He only is Love.”

Now life takes us by the neck and shows us a few other things,—new-made graves with the red sand flying about them; eyes that we love with the worms eating them; evil men walking sleek and fat,—and she says, “What do you think of these?” We dare not say “Nothing.” We feel them! we feel them! They are very real. But we try to lay our hands about and feel that other thing we felt before. In the dark night in the fuel-room we cry to our Beautiful dream-god: “Oh, let us come near you, and lay our head against your feet. Now in our hour of need be near page: 268 us.” But He is not there; He is gone away. The old questioning Devil is there; but He is not there; He is gone away.

We must have been awakened sooner or later. The imagination cannot always triumph over reality, the desires over truth. We must have been awakened. If it was done a little sharply, what matter? it was done thoroughly.

VII.

And a new life begins for us—a new time: the old looks indeed like a long hot delirium, peopled with phantasies.

Now we have no God. We have had two: the old God that our fathers handed down to us, that we hated, and never liked: the new one that we made for ourselves, that we loved; but one day he flitted away with the feelings that gave him birth, and we saw what he was made page: 269 of—the shadow of our highest ideal, crowned and throned. Now we have no God; we sit down without any.

“The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” It may be so. Most things said or written have been the work of fools.

This thing is certain—he is a fool who says, “No man hath said in his heart, There is no God.”

It has been said many thousand times in hearts with profound earnestess and bitter faith.

We do not cry and weep; we sit down with great cold eyes and look at the world. We are not miserable. Why should we be? We eat and drink, and sleep all night; but the dead are not colder.

And we say it slowly, but without sighing, “Yes, we see it now: there is no God.”

And, we add, growing a little colder yet, “There is no justice. The ox dies in the yoke, beneath its master's whip; it turns its anguish- page: 270 filled eyes on the sunlight, but there is no sign of recompense to be made it. The black man is shot like a dog, and it goes well with the shooter. The innocent are accused and the accuser triumphs. If you will take the trouble to scratch the surface anywhere, you will see under the skin a sentient being writhing in impotent anguish.”

And, we say further, and our heart is as the heart of the dead for coldness, “There is no orderer and no order: all things are driven about by a blind chance.”

What a soul drinks in with its mother's milk will not leave it in a day. From our earliest hour we have been taught that the thought of the heart, the shaping of the rain-cloud, the amount of wool that grows on a sheep's back, the length of a drought, and the growing of the corn, depend on nothing that moves immutable, deep at the heart of all things; but on the changeable will of a changeable being, whom our prayers can page: 271 alter. To us, from the beginning, nature has been but a poor plastic thing, to be toyed with this way or that, as man happens to please his deity or not; to go to church or not; to say his prayers right or not; to travel on a Sunday or not. Was it possible for us in an instant to see Nature as she is—the flowing vestment of an unchanging reality? When the soul breaks free from the arms of a superstition, bits of the claws and talons break themselves off in him. It is not the work of a day to squeeze them out.

And so, for us, the human-like driver and guider being gone, all existence, as we look out at it with our chilled, wondering eyes, is an aimless rise and swell of shifting waters. In all that weltering chaos we can see no spot so large as a man's hand on which we may plant our foot.

Whether a man believes in a human-like God or no is a small thing. It is a great and terrible when he looks into the mental and physical world and sees no relation between cause page: 272 and effect, no order, but a blind chance sporting. It were almost a mercy to cut his throat, if indeed he does not do it for himself.

We, however, do not cut our throats. To do so would imply some desire and feeling, and we have no desire and no feeling; we are only cold. We do not wish to live, and we do not wish to die. One day a snake curls itself round the waist of a Kaffir woman. We take it in our hand, swing it round and round, and fling it on the ground—dead. Every one looks at us with eyes of admiration. We almost laugh. Is it bravery to risk that for which we care nothing?

In truth, nothing matters. This dirty little world full of confusion, and the bit of blue stretched overhead for a sky, is worthless.

Existence, if it is not a dream, is a great pot, and the Fate who stirs it round cares nothing what rises to the top and what goes down, and laughs when the bubbles burst. And we do not care. Let it boil about. Why should we page: 273 trouble ourselves? Nevertheless the physical sensations are real. Hunger hurts, and thirst; therefore we eat and drink. Inaction pains us; therefore we work like galley-slaves. No one demands it, but we set ourselves to build a great dam in red sand beyond the graves. In the grey dawn before the sheep are let out we are working at it. All day, while the young ostriches we tend feed about us, we work on through the fiercest heat. The people wonder what new spirit has seized us now. They do not know we are working for our life. We bear the greatest stones, and feel a satisfaction when we stagger under them, and are hurt by a pang that shoots through our chest. While we eat our dinner we carry on baskets full of earth, as though the devil drove us. The Kaffir servants have a story that at night a witch and two white oxen come to help us. No wall, they say, could grow so quickly under one man's hands.

At night, alone in our cabin, we sit no more brooding over the fire. What should we think page: 274 of now? It is all emptiness. So we take the old arithmetic; and the multiplication table, which with so much pains we learnt long ago and forgot directly, we learn now in a few hours, and never forget again. We take a strange satisfaction in working arithmetical problems. We pause in our building to cover the stones with figures and calculations. We save money for a Latin Grammar and an Algebra, and carry them about in our pockets, poring over them as over our Bible of old. We have thought we were utterly stupid, incapable of remembering anything, of learning anything. Now we find that all is easy. Has a new soul crept into this old body, that even our intellectual faculties are changed? We marvel; not perceiving that what a man expends in prayer and ecstasy he cannot have over for acquiring knowledge. You never shed a tear, or create a beautiful image, or quiver with emotion, but you pay for it at the other end of your nature. You have just page: 275 so much force: when the one channel runs over the other runs dry.

And we turn to Nature. All these years we have lived beside her, and we have never seen her; and now we open our eyes and look at her.

The rocks have been to us a blur of brown: we bend over them, and the disorganised masses dissolve into a many-coloured, many-shaped, carefully-arranged form of existence. Here masses of rainbow-tinted crystals, half- fused together; there bands of smooth grey and red methodically overlying each other. This rock here is covered with a delicate silver tracery, in some mineral, resembling leaves and branches; there on the flat stone, on which we so often have sat to weep and pray, we look down, and see it covered with the fossil footprints of great birds, and the beautiful skeleton of a fish. We have often tried to picture in our mind what the fossiled remains of creatures must be like, and all the while we sat on them.

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The flat plain has been to us a reach of monotonous red. We look at it, and every handful of sand starts into life. That wonderful black people, the ants, we learn to know; see them make war and peace, play and work, and build their huge palaces. That smaller people we make acquaintance with also who live in the flowers. The bitto flower has been for us a mere blur of yellow; we find its heart composed of a hundred perfect flowers, the homes of the tiny black people with red stripes, who move in and out in that little yellow city. Every bluebell has its inhabitant. Every day the karroo shows us a new wonder sleeping in its teeming breast. On our way back to work we pause and stand to see the ground spider make its trap, bury itself in the sand, and then wait for the falling in of its enemy. Farther on walks a horned beetle, and near him starts open the door of a spider, who peeps out carefully, and quickly pulls it down again. On a karroo-bush a green fly is laying her silver eggs. We page: 277 carry them home, and see the shells pierced, the spotted grub come out, turn to a green fly, and go away. We are not satisfied with what Nature shows us, and we see something for ourselves. Under the white hen we put a dozen eggs, and break one daily, to see the white spot wax into the chicken. We are not excited or enthusiastic about it; but a man must think of something if he is to live at all. So we plant seeds in rows on our dam-wall, and pull one up daily to see how it goes with them. Allardeen buried her wonderful stone, and a golden palace sprung up at her feet. We do far more. We put a brown seed in the earth, and a living thing starts out before our eyes—starts upward—why, no more than Allardeen can we say—starts upward, and does not desist till it is higher than our heads, sparkling with dew in the early morning, glittering with yellow blossoms, shaking brown seeds with little embryo souls on to the ground. We look at it solemnly, from the time it is two small page: 278 leaves peeping above the ground and a soft white root, till we have to raise our faces to look at it; but we find no reason for that upward starting.

We look into dead ducks and lambs. In the evening we carry them home, spread newspapers on the floor, and lie working with them till midnight. With a started feeling near akin to ecstasy we open the lump of flesh called a heart, and find little doors and strings inside. We feel them, and put the heart away; but every now and then return to look, and to feel them again. Why we like them so we can hardly tell.

A gander drowns itself in our dam. We take it out, and open it on the bank, and kneel, looking at it. Above are the organs divided by delicate tissues; below are the intestines, artistically curved in a spiral form, and each tier covered by a delicate network of blood-vessels, standing out red against the faint blue background. Each branch of the blood-vessels is page: 279 comprised of a trunk, bifurcating and rebifurcating into the most delicate, hair-like threads, symmetrically arranged. We are struck with its singular beauty. And, moreover—and here we drop from our kneeling into a sitting posture—this also we remark: of that same exact shape and outline is our thorn-tree seen against the sky in midwinter: of that shape also is delicate metallic tracery between our rocks; in that exact path does our water flow when without a furrow we lead it from the dam; so shaped are the antlers of the horned beetle. How are these things related that such deep union should exist between them all? Is it chance? Can it be? Or, are they not all the fine branches of one trunk, whose sap flows through us all? That would explain it. We nod over the gander's inside.

This thing we call existence; is it not a something which has its roots far down below in the dark, and its branches stretching far out page: 280 into the immensity above, which we among the branches cannot see? Not a chance jumble; a living thing, a whole, a One.

We nod over the gander; then start up suddenly, look into the blue sky, throw the dead gander and the refuse into the dam, and go to work again.

And so, it comes to pass in time, that the earth ceases for us to be a weltering chaos. We walk in the great hall of the universe, our soul looking up and round reverentially. Nothing is despicable—all is meaning-full; nothing is small—all is part of a whole, whose beginning and end we know not. The life that throbs in us is a pulsation from it.

And so, it comes to pass at last, that whereas the sky was at first a small blue rag stretched out over us, and so low that our hands might touch it, pressing down on us, it raises itself into an immeasurable blue arch over our heads, and we begin to live again.

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CHAPTER II.

WALDO'S STRANGER.

WALDO lay on his stomach on the red sand. The small ostriches he herded wandered about him, pecking at the food he had cut, or at pebbles and dry sticks. On his right lay the graves; to his left the dam; in his hand was a large wooden post covered with carvings, at which he worked. Doss lay before him, basking in the winter sunshine, and now and again casting an expectant glance at the corner of the nearest ostrich camp. The scrubby thorn-trees under which they lay yielded no shade, but none was needed in that glorious June weather, when in the hottest part of the afternoon the sun was but pleasantly warm; and page: 282 the boy carved on, not looking up, yet conscious of the brown serene earth about him and the intensely blue sky above.

Presently, at the corner of the camp, Em appeared, bearing a covered saucer in one hand and in the other a jug, with a cup in the top. She was grown into a premature little old woman, ridiculously fat, and wearing long dresses. The jug and saucer she put down on the ground before the dog and his master and dropped down beside them herself, panting and out of breath.

“Oh, Waldo! as I came up the camps I met some one on horseback; and I do believe it must be the new man.”

The new man was an Englishman to whom the Boer-woman had hired half the farm.

“Hum!” said Waldo.

“He is quite young,” said Em, “and he has brown hair, and beard curling close to his face, and such dark blue eyes. And, Waldo, page: 283 I was so ashamed! I was just looking back to see, you know, and he happened just to be looking back too, and we looked right into each other's faces; and he got red, and I got so red.”

“Yes,” said Waldo.

“I must go now. Perhaps he has brought us letters from the post from Lyndall. And you know he will have to stay with us till his house is built. I must get his room ready. Good-bye!”

She tripped off again, and Waldo carved on at his post. Doss lay with his nose close to the covered saucer, and smelt that some one had made nice little fat cakes that afternoon. Both were so intent on their occupation, that not till a horse's hoofs beat beside them in the sand did they look up to see a rider drawing in his steed.

He was certainly not the stranger whom Em had described. A dark, somewhat French-looking little man of eight-and-twenty, rather stout, page: 284 with heavy, cloudy eyes and pointed moustaches. His horse was a fiery creature, well caparisoned; a highly-finished saddle-bag hung from the saddle; the man's hands were gloved, and he presented the appearance—an appearance rare on that farm—of a well-dressed gentleman.

In an uncommonly melodious voice he inquired whether he might be allowed to remain there for an hour. Waldo directed him to the farm-house, but the stranger declined. He would merely rest under the trees, and give his horse water. He removed the saddle, and Waldo led the animal away to the dam. When he returned, the stranger had settled himself under the trees, with his back against the saddle. The boy offered him of the cakes. He declined, but took a draught from the jug; and Waldo lay down not far off, and fell to work again. It mattered nothing if cold eyes saw it. It was not his sheep-shearing machine. With material loves, as with human, we go mad once, love out, and page: 285 have done. We never get up the true enthusiasm a second time. This was but a thing he had made, laboured over, loved and liked—nothing more.

The stranger forced himself lower down in the saddle and yawned. It was a drowsy afternoon, and he objected to travel in these out-of-the-world parts. He liked better civilized life, where at every hour of the day a man may look for his glass of wine, and his easy-chair, and paper; where at night he may lock himself into his room with his books and a bottle of brandy, and taste joys mental and physical. The world said of him—the all-knowing, omnipotent world, whom no locks can bar, who has the cat-like propensity of seeing best in the dark—the world said that better than the books he loved the brandy, and better than books or brandy, that which it had been better had he loved less. But for the world he cared nothing; he smiled blandly in its teeth. All life is an aimless dream; if wine page: 286 and philosophy and women keep the dream from becoming a nightmare, so much the better. It is all they are fit for, all they can be used for. There was another side to his life and thought, but of that the world knew nothing and said nothing, as the way of the wise world is.

The stranger looked from beneath his sleepy eyelids at the brown earth that stretched away, beautiful in spite of itself in that June sunshine; looked at the graves, the gables of the farm-house showing over the stone walls of the camps, at the clownish fellow at his feet, and yawned. But he had drunk of the hind's tea, and must say something.

“Your father's place, I presume?” he inquired sleepily.

“No; I am only a servant.”

“Dutch people?”

“Yes.”

“And you like the life?”

The boy hesitated.

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“On days like these.”

“And why on these?”

The boy waited.

“They are very beautiful.”

The stranger looked at him. It seemed that as the fellow's dark eyes looked across the brown earth they kindled with an intense satisfaction; then they looked back at the carving.

What had that creature, so coarse-clad and clownish, to do with the subtle joys of the weather? Himself, white-handed and delicate, he might hear the music with shimmering sunshine and solitude play on the finely-strung chords of nature; but that fellow! Was not the ear in that great body too gross for such delicate mutterings?

Presently he said,

“May I see what you work at?”

The fellow handed his wooden post. It was by no means lovely. The men and birds were almost grotesque in their laboured resemblance page: 288 to nature, and bore signs of patient thought. The stranger turned the thing over on his knee.

“Where did you learn this work?”

“I taught myself.”

“And these zigzag lines represent—”

“A mountain.”

The stranger looked.

“It has some meaning, has it not?”

The boy muttered confusedly,

“Only things.”

The questioner looked down at him—the huge, unwieldy figure, in size a man's, in right of his child-like features and curling hair a child's; and it hurt him—it attracted him and it hurt him. It was something between pity and sympathy.

“How long have you worked at this?”

“Nine months.”

From his pocket the stranger drew his pocket-book, and took something from it. He could page: 289 fasten the post to his horse in some way, and throw it away in the sand at safe distance.

“Will you take this for your carving?”

The boy glanced at the five-pound note and shook his head.

“No; I cannot.”

“You think it is worth more?” asked the stranger with a little sneer.

He pointed with his thumb to a grave.

“No; it is for him.”

“And who is there?” asked the stranger.

“My father.”

The man silently returned the note to his pocket-book, and gave the carving to the boy; and, drawing his hat over his eyes, composed himself to sleep. Not being able to do so, after a while he glanced over the fellow's shoulder to watch him work. The boy carved letters into the back.

“If,” said the stranger, with his melodious voice, rich with a sweetness that never shewed page: 290 itself in the clouded eyes, “if for such a purpose, why write that upon it?”

The boy glanced round at him, but made no answer. He had almost forgotten his presence.

“You surely believe,” said the stranger, “that some day, sooner or later, these graves will open, and those Boer-uncles with their wives walk about here in the red sand, with the very fleshly legs with which they went to sleep? You believe it, do you not? Then why say, ‘He sleeps forever?’ You believe he will stand up again?”

“Do you?” asked the boy, lifting for an instant his heavy eyes to the stranger's face.

Half taken aback, the stranger laughed. It was as though a curious little tadpole which he held under his glass should suddenly lift its tail and begin to ask questions.

“I?—no.” He laughed his short thick laugh. “I am a man who believes nothing, hopes page: 291 nothing, fears nothing, feels nothing, trusts nothing. I am beyond the pale of humanity; no criterion of what you should be who live here among your birds and bushes.”

The next moment the stranger was surprised by a sudden movement on the part of the fellow, which brought him close to the stranger's feet. Soon after he raised his carving and laid it across the man's knee.

“Yes, I will tell you,” he muttered; “I will tell you all about it.”

He put his finger on the grotesque little mannikin at the bottom (Ah! that man who believed nothing, hoped nothing, felt nothing; how he loved him!), and, with eager finger the fellow moved upward, explaining over fantastic figures and mountains, to the crowning bird from whose wing dropped a feather. At the end he spoke with broken breath—short words, like one who utters things of mighty import.

The stranger watched more the face than the page: 292 carving; and there was now and then a show of white teeth beneath the moustaches as he listened.

“I think,” he said blandly, when the boy had done, “that I partly understand you. It is something after this fashion, is it not?” (He smiled.) “In certain valleys there was a hunter.” (He touched the grotesque little figure at the bottom.) “Day by day he went to hunt for wild-fowl in the woods; and it chanced that once he stood on the shores of a large lake. While he stood waiting in the rushes for the coming of the birds, a great shadow fell on him, and in the water he saw a reflection. He looked up to the sky; but the thing was gone. Then a burning desire came over him to see once again that reflection in the water, and all day he watched and waited; but night came and it had not returned. Then he went home with his empty bag, moody and silent. His comrades came questioning about page: 293 him to know the reason, but he answered them nothing; he sat alone and brooded. Then his friend came to him, and to him he spoke.

“‘I have seen to-day,’ he said, ‘that which I never saw before—a vast white bird, with silver wings outstretched, sailing in the everlasting blue. And now it is as though a great fire burnt within my breast. It was but a sheen, a shimmer, a reflection in the water; but now I desire nothing more on earth than to hold her.’

His friend laughed.

‘It was but a beam playing on the water, or the shadow of your own head. To-morrow you will forget her,’ he said.

But to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow the hunter walked alone. He sought in the forest and in the woods, by the lakes and among the rushes, but he could not find her. He shot no more wild fowl; what were they to him?

‘What ails him?’ said his comrades.

‘He is mad,’ said one.

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‘No; but he is worse,’ said another; ‘he would see that which none of us have seen, and make himself a wonder.’

‘Come, let us forswear his company,’ said all.

So the hunter walked alone.

One night, as he wandered in the shade, very heart-sore and weeping, an old man stood before him, grander and taller than the sons of men.

‘Who are you?’ asked the hunter.

‘I am Wisdom,’ answered the old man; ‘but some men call me Knowledge. All my life I have grown in these valleys; but no man sees me till he has sorrowed much. The eyes must be washed with tears that are to behold me; and, according as a man has suffered, I speak.’

And the hunter cried—

‘Oh, you who have lived here so long, tell me, what is that great wild bird I have seen sailing in the blue? They would have me believe she is a dream; the shadow of my own head.’

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The old man smiled.

‘Her name is Truth. He who has once seen her never rests again. Till death he desires her.’

And the hunter cried—

‘Oh, tell me where I may find her.’

But the old man said,

‘You have not suffered enough,’ and went.

Then the hunter took from his breast the shuttle of Imagination, and wound on it the thread of his Wishes; and all night he sat and wove a net.

In the morning he spread the golden net upon the ground, and into it he threw a few grains of credulity, which his father had left him, and which he kept in his breast pocket. They were like white puff-balls, and when you trod on them a brown dust flew out. Then he sat by to see what would happen. The first that came into the net was a snow-white bird, with dove's page: 296 eyes, and he sang a beautiful song—‘A human-God! a human-God! a human-God!’ it sang. The second that came was black and mystical, with dark, lovely eyes, that looked into the depths of your soul, and he sang only this—‘Immortality!’

And the hunter took them both in his arms, for he said—

‘They are surely of the beautiful family of Truth.’

Then came another, green and gold, who sang in a shrill voice, like one crying in the marketplace,—‘Reward after Death! Reward after Death!’

And he said—

‘You are not so fair; but you are fair too,’ and he took it.

And others came, brightly coloured, singing pleasant songs, till all the grains were finished. And the hunter gathered all his birds together, and built a strong iron cage called a new creed, and put all his birds in it.

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Then the people came about dancing and singing.

‘Oh, happy hunter!’ they cried. ‘Oh, wonderful man! Oh, delightful birds! Oh, lovely songs!’

No one asked where the birds had come from, nor how they had been caught; but they danced and sang before them. And the hunter too was glad, for he said—

‘Surely Truth is among them. In time she will moult her feathers, and I shall see her snow-white form.’

But the time passed, and the people sang and danced; but the hunter's heart grew heavy. He crept alone, as of old, to weep; the terrible desire had awakened again in his breast. One day, as he sat alone weeping, it chanced that Wisdom met him. He told the old man what he had done.

And Wisdom smiled sadly.

‘Many men,’ he said, ‘have spread that net page: 298 for Truth; but they have never found her. On the grains of credulity she will not feed; in the net of wishes her feet cannot be held; in the air of these valleys she will not breathe. The birds you have caught are of the brood of Lies. Lovely and beautiful, but still lies; Truth knows them not.’

And the hunter cried out in bitterness—

‘And must I then sit still, to be devoured of this great burning?’

And the old man said,

‘Listen, and in that you have suffered much and wept much, I will tell you what I know. He who sets out to search for Truth must leave these valleys of superstition for ever, taking with him not one shred that has belonged to them. Alone he must wander down into the Land of Absolute Negation and Denial; he must abide there; he must resist temptation; when the light breaks he must arise and follow it into the country of dry sunshine. The mountains of page: 299 stern reality will rise before him; he must climb them: beyond them lies Truth.’

‘And he will hold her fast! he will hold her in his hands!’ the hunter cried.

Wisdom shook his head.

‘He will never see her, never hold her. The time is not yet.’

‘Then there is no hope?’ cried the hunter.

‘There is this,’ said Wisdom: ‘Some men have climbed on those mountains; circle above circle of bare rock they have scaled; and, wandering there, in those high regions, some have chanced to pick up on the ground, one white, silver feather, dropped from the wing of Truth. And it shall come to pass,’ said the old man, raising himself prophetically and pointing with his finger to the sky, ‘it shall come to pass, that when enough of those silver feathers shall have been gathered by the hands of men, and shall have been woven into a cord, and the cord into a net, that in that page: 300 net Truth may be captured. Nothing but Truth can hold Truth.

The hunter arose. ‘I will go,’ he said.

But Wisdom detained him.

‘Mark you well—who leaves these valleys never returns to them. Though he should weep tears of blood seven days and nights upon the confines, he can never put his foot across them. Left—they are left forever. Upon the road which you would travel there is no reward offered. Who goes, goes freely—for the great love that is in him. The work is his reward.’

‘I go,’ said the hunter; ‘but upon the mountains, tell me, which path shall I take?’

‘I am the child of The-Accumulated-Knowledge-of-Ages,’ said the man; ‘I can walk only where many men have trodden. On these mountains few feet have passed; each man strikes out a path for himself. He goes at his own peril: my voice he hears no more. I may follow after him, but cannot go before him.’

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Then Knowledge vanished.

And the hunter turned. He went to his cage, and with his hands broke down the bars, and the jagged iron tore his flesh. It is sometimes easier to build than to break.

One by one he took his plumed birds and let them fly. But when he came to his dark-plumed bird he held it, and looked into its beautiful eyes, and the bird uttered its low, deep cry—‘Immortality!’

And he said quickly, ‘I cannot part with it. It is not heavy; it eats no food. I will hide it in my breast; I will take it with me.’ And he buried it there and covered it over with his cloak.

But the thing he had hidden grew heavier, heavier, heavier—till it lay on his breast like lead. He could not move with it. Then again he took it out and looked at it.

‘Oh, my beautiful! my heart's own!’ he cried, ‘may I not keep you?’

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He opened his hands sadly.

‘Go!’ he said. ‘It may happen that in Truth's song one note is like yours; but I shall never hear it.’

Sadly he opened his hand, and the bird flew from him forever.

Then from the shuttle of imagination he took the thread of his wishes, and threw it on the ground; and the empty shuttle he put into his breast, for the thread was made in those valleys, but the shuttle came from an unknown country. He turned to go, but now the people came about him, howling.

‘Fool, hound, demented lunatic!’ they cried. ‘How dared you break your cage and let the birds fly?’

The hunter spoke; but they would not hear him.

‘Truth! who is she? Can you eat her? can you drink her? who has ever seen her? Your birds were real: all could hear them sing! page: 303 Oh, fool! vile reptile! atheist!’ they cried, ‘you pollute the air.’

‘Come, let us take up stones and stone him,’ cried some.

‘What affair is it of ours?’ said others. ‘Let the idiot go,’ and went away. But the rest gathered up stones and mud and threw at him. At last, when he was bruised and cut, the hunter crept away into the woods. And it was evening about him.”

At every word the stranger spoke the fellow's eyes flashed back on him—yes, and yes, and yes! The stranger smiled. It was almost worth the trouble of exerting oneself, even on a lazy afternoon, to win those passionate flashes, more thirsty and desiring than the love-glances of a woman.

“He wandered on and on,” said the stranger, “and the shade grew deeper. He was on the borders now of the land where it is always night. Then he stepped into it, and there was no light there. With his hands he groped; page: 304 but each branch as he touched it broke off, and the earth was covered with cinders. At every step his foot sank in, and a fine cloud of impalpable ashes flew up into his face; and it was dark. So he sat down upon a stone and buried his face in his hands, to wait in the Land of Negation and Denial till the light came.

And it was night in his heart also.

Then from the marshes to his right and left cold mists arose and closed about him. A fine, imperceptible rain fell in the dark, and great drops gathered on his hair and clothes. His heart beat slowly, and a numbness crept through all his limbs. Then, looking up, two merry wisp lights came dancing. He lifted his head to look at them. Nearer, nearer they came. So warm, so bright, they danced like stars of fire. They stood before him at last. From the centre of the radiating flame in one looked out a woman's face, laughing, dimpled, with streaming yellow hair. In the centre of the other were merry page: 305 laughing ripples, like the bubbles on a glass of wine. They danced before him.

‘Who are you,’ asked the hunter, ‘who alone come to me in my solitude and darkness?’

‘We are the twins Sensuality,’ they cried. ‘Our father's name is Human-Nature, and our mother's name is Excess. We are as old as the hills and rivers, as old as the first man; but we never die,’ they laughed.

‘Oh, let me wrap my arms about you!’ cried the first; ‘they are soft and warm. Your heart is frozen now, but I will make it beat. Oh, come to me!’

‘I will pour my hot life into you,’ said the second; ‘your brain is numb, and your limbs are dead now; but they shall live with a fierce free life. Oh, let me pour it in!’

‘Oh, follow us,’ they cried, ‘and live with us. Nobler hearts than yours have sat here in this darkness to wait, and they have come to us and we to them; and they have never left page: 306 us, never. All else is a delusion, but we are real, we are real. Truth is a shadow; the valleys of superstition are a farce: the earth is of ashes, the trees all rotten; but we—feel us—we live! You cannot doubt us. Feel us how warm we are! Oh, come to us! Oh, live with us!’

Nearer and nearer round his head they hovered, and the cold drops melted on his forehead. The bright light shot into his eyes, dazzling him, and the frozen blood began to run. And he said—

‘Yes, why should I die here in this awful darkness? They are warm, they are warm!’ and he stretched out his hands to take them.

Then in a moment there arose before him the image of the thing he had loved, and his hand dropped to his side.

‘Oh, come to us!’ they cried.

But he buried his face.

‘You dazzle my eyes,’ he cried, ‘you make my heart warm; but you cannot give me what page: 307 I desire. I will wait here—wait till I die; but I will not follow you. Go!’

He covered his face with his hands and would not listen; and when he looked up again they were two twinkling stars, that vanished in the distance.

And the long, long night rolled on.

All who leave the valley of superstition pass through that dark land; but some go through it in a few days, some linger there for months, some for years, and some die there.

At last for the hunter a faint light played along the horizon, and he rose to follow it.’

The boy had crept closer; his hot breath almost touched the stranger's hand; a mystic wonder filled his eyes.

“He reached that light at last, and stepped into the broad sunshine,’ said the stranger. “Then before him rose the almighty mountains of Dry-facts and Realities. The clear sunshine played on them, and the tops were lost in page: 308 the clouds. At the foot many paths ran up. An exultant cry burst from the hunter. He chose the straightest and began to climb; and the rocks and ridges resounded with his song. They had exaggerated; after all, it was not so high, nor was the road so steep! A few days, a few weeks, a few months at most, and then the top! Not one feather only would he pick up; he would gather all that other men had found—weave the net—capture Truth—hold her fast—touch her with his hands—clasp her!

He laughed in the merry sunshine, and sang loud. Victory was very near. Nevertheless, after a while the path grew steeper. He needed all his breath for climbing, and the singing died away. On the right and left rose huge rocks, devoid of lichen or moss, and in the lava-like earth chasms yawned. Here and there he saw a sheen of white bones. Now too the path began to grow less and page: 309 less marked; then it became a mere trace, with a footmark here and there; then it ceased altogether. He sang no more, but struck forth a path for himself, until it reached a mighty wall of rock, smooth and without break, stretching as far as the eye could see. ‘I will rear a stair against it; and, once this wall climbed, I shall be almost there,’ he said bravely; and set to work. With his shuttle of imagination he dug out stones; but half of them would not fit, and sometimes half a month's work would roll down because those below were ill chosen. But the hunter worked on, saying always to himself, ‘Once this wall climbed, I shall be almost there. This great work ended!’

At last he came out upon the top, and he looked about him. Far below rolled the white mist over the valleys of superstition, and above towered the mountains. They had seemed low before; they were of an immeasurable height now, from crown to foundation surrounded by page: 310 walls of rock, that rose tier above tier in mighty circles. Upon them played the eternal sunshine. He uttered a wild cry. When he rose from the earth on which he had fallen, his face was white. In absolute silence he walked on. He was very silent now. In those high regions the rarefied air is hard to breathe by those born in the valleys; every breath he drew hurt him, and the blood oozed out from the tips of his fingers. Before the next wall of rock he began to work. The height of this seemed infinite, and he said nothing. The sound of his tool rang night and day upon the iron rocks into which he cut steps. Times and times, and again times, passed over him, yet he worked on; but the wall towered up above him to heaven. Sometimes he prayed that a little moss or lichen might spring up on those bare walls to be a companion to him; but it never came.

And the years rolled on; he counted them page: 311 by the steps he had cut—a few for a year—only a few. He sang no more; he said no more, ‘I will do this, or that’—he only worked. And at night, when the twilight settled down, there looked out at him from the holes and crevices in the rocks strange wild faces.

‘Stop your work, you lonely man, and speak to us,’ they cried.

‘My salvation is in work. If I should stop but for one moment you would creep down upon me,’ he replied. And they put out their long necks further.

‘Look down into the crevice at your feet,’ they said. ‘See what lie there—white bones! As brave and strong a man as you climbed to these rocks.’ And he looked up. He saw there was no use; he would never hold Truth, never see her, never find her. So he lay down here, for he was very tired. He went to sleep for ever. He put himself to sleep. Sleep is very tranquil. You are not lonely when you page: 312 are asleep, neither do your hands ache, nor your heart. And the hunter laughed between his teeth.’ And the hunter laughed between his teeth.

‘Have I torn from my heart all that was dearest; have I wandered alone in the land of night; have I resisted temptation; have I dwelt where the voice of my kind is never heard, and laboured alone, to lie down and be food for you, ye harpies?’

He laughed fiercely; and the Echoes of Despair slunk away, for the laugh of a brave, strong heart is as a death blow to them.

Nevertheless they crept out again and looked at him.

‘Do you know that your hair is white?’ they said, ‘that your hands begin to tremble like a child's? Do you see that the point of your shuttle is gone?—it is cracked already. If you should ever climb this stair,’ they said, ‘it will be your last. You will never climb another.’

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And he answered, ‘I know it!’ and worked on.

The old, thin hands cut the stones ill and jaggedly, for the fingers were stiff and bent. The beauty and the strength of the man was gone.

At last, an old, wizened, shrunken face looked out above the rocks. It saw the eternal mountains rise with walls to the white clouds; but its work was done.

The old hunter folded his tired hands and lay down by the precipice where he had worked away his life. It was the sleeping time at last. Below him over the valleys rolled the thick white mist. Once it broke; and through the gap the dying eyes looked down on the trees and fields of their childhood. From afar seemed borne to him the cry of his own wild birds, and he heard the noise of people singing as they danced. And he thought he heard among them the voices of his old comrades; and he saw far off the sunlight shine on his early home. And great tears gathered in the hunter's eyes.

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‘Ah! they who die there do not die alone,’ he cried.

Then the mists rolled together again; and he turned his eyes away.

‘I have sought,’ he said, ‘for long years I have laboured; but I have not found her. I have not rested, I have not repined, and I have not seen her; now my strength is gone. Where I lie down worn out other men will stand, young and fresh. By the steps that I have cut they will climb; by the stairs that I have built they will mount. They will never know the name of the man who made them. At the clumsy work they will laugh; when the stones roll they will curse me. But they will mount, and on my work; they will climb, and by my stair! They will find her, and through me! And no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.’

The tears rolled from beneath the shrivelled eyelids. If Truth had appeared above him page: 315 in the clouds now he could not have seen her.

‘My soul hears their glad step coming,’ he said; ‘and they shall mount! they shall mount!’ He raised his shrivelled hand to his eyes.

Then slowly from the white sky above, through the still air, came something falling, falling, falling. Softly it fluttered down, and dropped on to the breast of the dying man. He felt it with his hands. It was a feather. He died holding it.”

The boy had shaded his eyes with his hand. On the wood of the carving great drops fell. The stranger must have laughed outright, or remained silent and somewhat solemn.

“How did you know it?” the boy whispered at last. “It is not written there—not on that wood. How did you know it?”

“Certainly,” said the stranger, “the whole of the story is not written here, but it is suggested. And the attribute of all true art, the highest and page: 316 the lowest, is this—that it says more than it says, and takes you away from itself. It is a little door that opens into an infinite hall where you may find what you please. Men, thinking to detract, say, ‘People read more in this or that work of genius than was ever written in it,’ not perceiving that they pay the highest compliment. If we pick up the finger and nail of a real man, we can decipher a whole story—could almost reconstruct the creature again, from head to foot. But half the body of a Mumboo-jumbow idol leaves us utterly in the dark as to what the rest was like. We see what we see, but nothing more. There is nothing so universally intelligible as truth. It has a thousand meanings, and suggests a thousand more, all true. Though a man should carve it into matter with the least possible manipulative skill, it will yet find interpreters. It is the soul that looks out with burning eyes through the most gross fleshly filament. It is that which is universal. Whosoever should page: 317 portray truly the life and death of a little flower,—its birth, sucking in of nourishment, waxing, reproduction of its kind, withering and vanishing,—would have shaped a symbol of all existence. All true facts of nature or the mind are related. Your little carving represents a mental fact as it really is, therefore fifty different true stories might be read from it. What your work wants is not truth, but beauty of external form, the other half of art. Skill may come in time, but you will have to work hard. The love of beauty and the desire for it must be born in a man; the skill to reproduce it he must make.”

Having delivered himself of these paradoxes, for the purpose of observing their effect upon his listener, the stranger broke off the end of a cigar and lit it.

“All my life I have longed to see you,” the boy said.

He lifted the heavy wood from the stranger's knee and drew yet nearer him. In the dog-like page: 318 manner of his drawing near there was something superbly ridiculous, unless one chanced to view it in another light. Presently the stranger said, whiffing, “Do something for me.”

The boy started up.

“No; stay where you are. I don't want you to go anywhere; I want you to talk to me. Tell me what you have been doing all your life.”

The boy slunk down again. Would that the man had asked him to root up bushes with his hands for his horse to feed on; or to run to the far end of the plain for the fossils that lay there; or to gather the flowers that grew on the far low hills; he would have run and been back quickly—but now!

“I have never done anything,” he said.

“Then tell me of that nothing. I like to know what other folks have been doing whose word I can believe. It is interesting. What was the first thing you ever wanted very much?”

The boy waited to remember, then began page: 319 hesitatingly, but soon the words flowed. In the smallest past we find an inexhaustible mine when once we begin to dig at it. We stare ourselves at the things we draw forth when for another we disturb the days of old.

A confused, disordered story it was—the little made large and the large small, and nothing showing its inward meaning. It is not till the past has receded many steps that before the clearest eyes it falls into co-ordinate pictures. It is not till the I we tell of has ceased to exist, that it takes its place among other objective realities, and finds its true niche in the picture. The present and the near past is a confusion, whose meaning flashes on us as it slinks away into the distance.

The stranger lit one cigar from the end of another, and puffed and listened, with half-closed eyes.

“I will remember more to tell you if you like,” said the boy.

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He spoke with that extreme gravity common to all very young things who feel deeply. It is not till twenty that we learn to be in deadly earnest and to laugh. The stranger nodded, while the fellow sought for something more to relate. He would tell all to this man of his—all that he knew, all that he had felt, his inmost sorest thought. Suddenly the stranger turned upon him.

“Boy,” he said, “you are happy to be here.”

Waldo looked at him. Was his delightful one ridiculing him? Here, with this brown earth and these low hills! while the rare wonderful world lay all beyond them! Fortunate to be here!

The stranger read his glance.

“Yes,” he said; “here with the karroo-bushes and red sand. You wonder what I mean? To all who have been born in the old faith there comes a time of danger, when the old slips from us, and we have not yet planted our feet on the new; when the voice from Sinai page: 321 thunders no more, and the still small voice of reason is not yet heard. We have proved the religion our mothers fed us on to be a delusion; in our bewilderment we see no rule by which to guide our steps day by day; and yet every day we must step somewhere. We have never once been taught by word or act to distinguish between religion and the moral laws on which it has artfully fastened itself, and from which it has sucked its vitality. When we have dragged down the weeds and creepers that covered the solid wall and have found them to be rotten wood, we imagine the wall itself to be rotten wood too. We find it is solid and standing only when we fall headlong against it. We have been taught that all right and wrong originate in the will of an irresponsible being. It is some time before we see how the inexorable ‘Thou shalt and shalt not,’ are carved into the nature of things. This is the time of danger.

“In the end experience will inevitably teach page: 322 us that the laws for a wise and noble life have a foundation infinitely deeper than the fiat of any being, God or man, even in the groundwork of human nature. She will teach us that whoso sheddeth man's blood, though by man his blood be not shed, though no man avenge and no hell await; yet every drop shall blister on his soul and eat in the name of the dead. She will teach that whoso takes a love not lawfully his own, gathers a flower with a poison on its petals; that whoso revenges, strikes with a sword that has two edges—one for his adversary,—one for himself; that who lives to himself is dead, though the ground is not yet on him; that who wrongs another clouds his own sun; and that who sins in secret stands accursed and condemned before the one Judge who deals eternal justice—his own all-knowing self.

“Experience will teach us this, and reason will show us why it must be so; but at first the world swings before our eyes, and no voice cries page: 323 out, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it!’ Boy, you are happy to be here! When the suspense fills you with pain you build stone walls and dig earth for relief. Others have stood where you stand to-day, and have felt as you feel; and another relief has been offered them, and they have taken it.

“When the day has come when they have seen the path in which they might walk, they have not the strength to follow it. Habits have fastened on them from which nothing but death can free them; which cling closer than his sacerdotal sanctimony to a priest; which feed on the intellect like a worm sapping energy, hope, creative power, resolution, all that makes a man higher than a beast—leaving only the power to yearn, to regret, and to sink lower in the abyss.

“Boy,” he said, and the listener was not more unsmiling now than the speaker, “you are happy to be here! Stay where you are. If you ever pray, let it be only the one old prayer— page: 324 ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ Live on here quietly. The time may yet come when you will be that which other men have hoped to be and never will be now.”

The stranger rose, shook the dust from his sleeve, and half-ashamed of his earnestness, looked across the bushes for his horse.

“We should have been on our way already,” he said. “We shall have a long ride in the dark to-night.”

Waldo hastened to fetch the animal; but he returned leading it slowly. The sooner it came the sooner would its rider be gone.

The stranger was opening his saddle-bag, in which were a bright French novel and an old brown volume. He took the last and held it out to the boy.

“It may be of some help to you. It was a gospel to me when I first fell on it. You must not expect too much,” he said; “but it may give you a centre round which to organize page: 325 your confused ideas. We of this generation are not destined to eat and be satisfied as our fathers were; but to search, and be hungry.”

He smiled his automaton smile, and rebuttoned the bag. Waldo thrust the book into his breast, and while he saddled the horse the stranger made inquiries as to the nature of the road and the distance to the next farm.

When the bags were fixed Waldo took up his wooden post and began to fasten it on to the saddle, tying it with the little blue cotton handkerchief from his neck. The stranger looked on in silence. When it was done the boy held the stirrup for him to mount.

“What is your name?” he inquired, ungloving his right hand when he was in the saddle.

The boy replied.

“Well, I trust we shall meet again some day, sooner or later.”

He shook hands with the ungloved hand; then drew on the glove, touched his horse, and page: 326 rode slowly away. The boy stood to watch him.

Once when the stranger had gone half across the plain he looked back.

“Poor devil,” he said, smiling and stroking his moustache. Then he looked to see if the little blue handkerchief were still safely knotted. “Poor devil!”

He smiled, and then he sighed wearily, very wearily.

And Waldo waited till the moving speck had disappeared on the horizon; then he stooped and kissed passionately a hoof-mark in the sand. Then he called his young birds together, and put his book under his arm, and walked home along the stone wall. There was a rare beauty to him in the sunshine that evening.

END OF VOL. I.
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