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The Story of an African Farm, vol. 1. Schreiner, Olive, 1855–1920.
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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.
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