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The Story of an African Farm, vol. 2. Schreiner, Olive, 1855–1920.
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THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM.

PART II. (CONTINUED.)

CHAPTER III.

GREGORY ROSE FINDS HIS AFFINITY.

THE new man, Gregory Rose, sat at the door of his dwelling, his arms folded, his legs crossed, and a profound melancholy seeming to rest over his soul. His house was a little square daub-and-wattle building, far out in the “karroo,” two miles from the homestead. It was covered outside with a sombre coating of brown mud, two little panes being let into the walls for windows. Behind it were the “sheep-kraals,” and to the right a large dam, now principally page: 2 containing baked mud. Far off the little “kopje” concealed the homestead, and was not itself an object conspicuous enough to relieve the dreary monotony of the landscape.

Before the door sat Gregory Rose in his shirt-sleeves, on a camp-stool, and ever and anon he sighed deeply. There was that in his countenance for which even his depressing circumstances failed to account. Again and again he looked at the little “kopje,” at the milk-pail at his side, and at the brown pony, who a short way off cropped the dry bushes—and sighed.

Presently he rose and went into his house. It was one tiny room, the whitewashed walls profusely covered with prints cut from the ‘Illustrated London News’, and in which there was a noticeable preponderance of female faces and figures. A stretcher filled one end of the hut, and a rack for a gun and a little hanging looking-glass diversified the gable opposite, while page: 3 in the centre stood a chair and table. All was scrupulously neat and clean, for Gregory kept a little duster folded in the corner of his table-drawer, just as he had seen his mother do, and every morning before he went out he said his prayers, and made his bed, and dusted the table and the legs of the chairs, and even the pictures on the wall and the gun-rack.

On this hot afternoon he took from beneath his pillow a watch-bag, made by his sister Jemima, and took out the watch. Only half-past four! With a suppressed groan he dropped it back and sat down beside the table. Half-past four! Presently he roused himself. He would write to his sister Jemima. He always wrote to her when he was miserable. She was his safety-valve. He forgot her when he was happy; but he used her when he was wretched.

He took out ink and paper; there was a family crest and motto on the latter, for the page: 4 Roses since coming to the colony had discovered that they were of distinguished lineage. Old Rose himself, an honest English farmer, knew nothing of his noble descent; but his wife and daughter knew—especially his daughter. There were Roses in England who kept a park and dated from the Conquest. So the colonial “Rose Farm” became “Rose Manor” in remembrance of the ancestral domain, and the claim of the Roses to noble blood was established—in their own minds at least.

Gregory took up one of the white, crested sheets; but on deeper reflection he determined to take a pink one, as more suitable to the state of his feelings. He began—

“Kopje Alone,

“Monday afternoon.

“MY DEAR JEMINA—”

Then he looked up into the little glass opposite. It was a youthful face reflected there, page: 5 with curling brown beard and hair; but in the dark blue eyes there was a look of languid longing that touched him. He re-dipped his pen and wrote,—

“When I look up into the little glass that hangs opposite me, I wonder if that changed and sad face—”

Here he sat still and reflected. It sounded almost as if he might be conceited or unmanly to be looking at his own face in the glass. No, that would not do. So he looked for another pink sheet and began again.

“Kopje Alone, “Monday afternoon.

“DEAR SISTER,

IT is hardly six months since I left you to come to this spot, yet could you now see me I know what you would say, I know what mother would say—‘Can that be our Greg—that thing with the strange look in his eyes?’

“Yes, Jemima, it is your Greg, and the

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change has been coming over me ever since I came here; but it is greatest since yesterday. You know what sorrows I have passed through, Jemima; how unjustly I was always treated at school, the masters keeping me back and calling me a blockhead, though, as they themselves allowed, I had the best memory of any boy in the school, and could repeat whole books from beginning to end. You know how cruelly father always used me, calling me a noodle and a milksop, just because he couldn't understand my fine nature. You know how he has made a farmer of me instead of a minister, as I ought to have been; you know it all, Jemima; and how I have borne it all, not as a woman, who whines for every touch, but as a man should—in silence.

“But there are things, there is a thing, which the soul longs to pour forth into a kindred ear.

“Dear sister, have you ever known what it is to keep wanting and wanting and wanting to kiss some one's mouth, and you may not; to touch some one's hand, and you cannot? I am in love, Jemima!

“The old Dutch-woman from whom I hire this

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place has a little step-daughter, and her name begins with E.

“She is English. I do not know how her father came to marry a Boer-woman. It makes me feel so strange to put down that letter, that I can hardly go on writing—E. I've loved her ever since I came here. For weeks I have not been able to eat or drink; my very tobacco when I smoke has no taste; and I can remain for no more than five minutes in one place, and sometimes feel as though I were really going mad.

“Every evening I go there to fetch my milk. Yesterday she gave me some coffee. The spoon fell on the ground. She picked it up; when she gave it me her finger touched mine. Jemima, I do not know if I fancied it—I shivered hot, and she shivered too! I thought, ‘It is all right; she will be mine; she loves me!’ Just then, Jemima, in came a fellow, a great, coarse fellow, a German—a ridiculous fellow, with curls right down to his shoulders; it makes one sick to look at him. He's only a servant of the Boer-woman's, and a low, vulgar, uneducated

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thing, that's never been to boarding-school in his life. He had been to the next farm seeking sheep. When he came in she said, ‘Good evening, Waldo. Have some coffee!’ and she kissed him.

“All last night I heard nothing else but ‘Have some coffee; have some coffee.’ If I went to sleep for a moment I dreamed that her finger was pressing mine; but when I woke with a start I heard her say, ‘Good evening, Waldo. Have some coffee!’

“Is this madness?

“I have not eaten a mouthful to-day. This evening I go and propose to her. If she refuses me I shall go and kill myself to-morrow. There is a dam of water close by. The sheep have drunk most of it up, but there is still enough if I tie a stone to my neck.

“It is a choice between death and madness. I can endure no more. If this should be the last letter you ever get from me, think of me tenderly, and forgive me. Without her life would be a howling wilderness, a long tribulation. She is my affinity; the one love of

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my life, of my youth, of my manhood; my sunshine; my God-given blossom.

  • “‘They never loved who dreamed that they loved once,
  • And who saith, “I loved once”?—
  • Not angels, whose deep eyes look down through realms of light!’

“Your disconsolate brother, on what is, in all probability, the last and distracted night of his life.

“Gregory Nazianzen Rose.


“P.S.—Tell mother to take care of my pearl studs. I left them in the wash-hand-stand drawer. Don't let the children get hold of them.


“P.P.S.—I shall take this letter with me to the farm. If I turn down one corner you may know I have been accepted; if not, you may know it is all up with your heart-broken brother.

“G.N.R.”

Gregory, having finished this letter, read it over with much approval, put it in an envelope, page: 10 addressed it, and sat contemplating the ink-pot, somewhat relieved in mind.

The evening turned out chilly and very windy after the day's heat. From afar off, as Gregory neared the homestead on the brown pony, he could distinguish a little figure in a little red cloak at the door of the cow-kraal. Em leaned over the poles that barred the gate, and watched the frothing milk run through the black fingers of the herdsman, while the unwilling cows stood with tethered heads by the milking poles. She had thrown the red cloak over her own head, and held it under her chin with a little hand, to keep from her ears the wind, that playfully shook it, and tossed the little fringe of yellow hair into her eyes.

“Is it not too cold for you to be standing here?” said Gregory, coming softly close to her.

“Oh, no; it is so nice. I always come to watch the milking. That red cow with the page: 11 short horns is bringing up the calf of the white cow that died. She loves it so—just as if it were her own. It is so nice to see her lick its little ears. Just look!”

“The clouds are black. I think it is going to rain to-night,” said Gregory.

“Yes,” answered Em, looking up as well as she could for the little yellow fringe.

“But I'm sure you must be cold,” said Gregory, and put his hand under the cloak, and found there a small fist doubled up, soft, and very warm. He held it fast in his hand.

“Oh, Em, I love you better than all the world besides! Tell me, do you love me a little?”

“Yes, I do,” said Em, hesitating, and trying softly to free her hand.

“Better than everything; better than all the world, darling?” he asked, bending down so low that the yellow hair was blown into his eyes.

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“I don't know,” said Em, gravely. “I do love you very much; but I love my cousin who is at school, and Waldo, very much. You see I have known them so long!”

“Oh, Em, do not talk to me so coldly!” Gregory cried, seizing the little arm that rested on the gate, and pressing it till she was half afraid. The herdsman had moved away to the other end of the “kraal” now, and the cows, busy with their calves, took no notice of the little human farce. “Em, if you talk so to me I will go mad! You must love me, love me better than all! You must give yourself to me. I have loved you since that first moment when I saw you walking by the stone wall with the jug in your hands. You were made for me, created for me! I will love you till I die! Oh, Em, do not be so cold, so cruel to me!”

He held her arm so tightly that her fingers relaxed their hold, and the cloak fluttered down page: 13 on to the ground, and the wind played more roughly than ever with the little yellow head.

“I do love you very much,” she said; “but I do not know if I want to marry you. I love you better than Waldo, but I can't tell if I love you better than Lyndall. If you would let me wait for a week, I think perhaps I could tell you.”

Gregory picked up the cloak and wrapped it round her.

“If you could but love me as I love you,” he said; “but no woman can love as a man can. I will wait till Saturday. I will not once come near you till then. Good-bye! Oh, Em,” he said, turning again, and twining his arm about her, and kissing her surprised little mouth, “if you are not my wife I cannot live. I have never loved another woman, and I never shall!—never, never!”

“You make me afraid,” said Em. “Come, let us go, and I will fill your pail.”

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“I want no milk. Good-bye! You will not see me again till Saturday.”

Late that night, when every one else had gone to bed, the yellow-haired little woman stood alone in the kitchen. She had come to fill the kettle for the next morning's coffee, and now stood before the fire. The warm reflection lit the grave old-womanish little face, that was so unusually thoughtful this evening.

“Better than all the world; better than everything; he loves me better than everything!” She said the words aloud, as if they were more easy to believe if she spoke them so. She had given out so much love in her little life, and had got none of it back with interest. Now one said, “I love you better than all the world.” One loved her better than she loved him. How suddenly rich she was. She kept clasping and unclasping her hands. So a beggar feels who falls asleep on the pavement wet and hungry, page: 15 and who wakes in a palace-hall with servants and lights, and a feast before him. Of course the beggar's is only a dream, and he wakes from it; and this was real.

Gregory had said to her, “I will love you as long as I live.” She said the words over and over to herself like a song.

“I will send for him to-morrow, and I will tell him how I love him back,” she said.

But Em needed not to send for him. Gregory discovered on reaching home that Jemima's letter was still in his pocket. And, therefore, much as he disliked the appearance of vacillation and weakness, he was obliged to be at the farm-house before sunrise to post it.

“If I see her,” Gregory said, “I shall only bow to her. She shall see that I am a man, one who keeps his word.”

As to Jemima's letter, he had turned down one corner of the page, and then turned it back, leav- leaving page: 16 ing a deep crease. That would show that he was neither accepted nor rejected, but that matters were in an intermediate condition. It was a more poetical way then putting it in plain words.

Gregory was barely in time with his letter, for Waldo was starting when he reached the homestead, and Em was on the door-step to see him off. When he had given the letter, and Waldo had gone, Gregory bowed stiffly and prepared to remount his own pony, but somewhat slowly. It was still early; none of the servants were about. Em came up close to him and put her little hand softly on his arm as he stood by his horse.

“I do love you best of all,” she said. She was not frightened now, however much he kissed her. “I wish I was beautiful and nice,” she added, looking up into his eyes as he held her against his breast.

“My darling, to me you are more beautiful page: 17 than all the women in the world; dearer to me than everything it holds. If you were in hell I would go after you to find you there! If you were dead, though my body moved, my soul would be under the ground with you. All life as I pass with you in my arms will be perfect to me. It will pass, pass like a ray of sunshine.”

Em thought how beautiful and grand his face was as she looked up into it. She raised her hand gently and put it on his forehead.

“You are so silent, so cold, my Em,” he cried. “Have you nothing to say to me?”

A little shade of wonder filled her eyes.

“I will do everything you tell me,” she said.

What else could she say? Her idea of love was only service.

“Then, my own precious one, promise never to kiss that fellow again. I cannot bear that you should love any one but me. You must not! I will not have it! If every relation I page: 18 had in the world were to die to-morrow, I would be quite happy if I still only had you! My darling, my love, why are you so cold? Promise me not to love him any more. If you asked me to do anything for you, I would do it, though it cost my life.”

Em put her hand very gravely round his neck.

“I will never kiss him,” she said, “and I will try not to love any one else. But I do not know if I will be able.”

“Oh, my darling, I think of you all night, all day. I think of nothing else, love, nothing else,” he said, folding his arms about her.

Em was a little conscience-stricken; even that morning she had found time to remember that in six months her cousin would come back from school, and she had thought to remind Waldo of the lozenges for his cough, even when she saw Gregory coming.

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“I do not know how it is,” she said humbly, nestling to him, “but I cannot love you so much as you love me. Perhaps it is because I am only a woman; but I do love you as much as I can.”

Now the Kaffir maids were coming from the huts. He kissed her again, eyes and mouth and hands, and left her.

Tant' Sannie was well satisfied when told of the betrothment. She herself contemplated marriage within the year with one or other of her numerous “vrijers,” and she suggested that the weddings might take place together.

Em set to work busily to prepare her own household linen and wedding garments. Gregory was with her daily, almost hourly, and the six months which elapsed before Lyndall's return passed, as he felicitously phrased it, “like a summer night, when you are dreaming of some one you love.”

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Late one evening, Gregory sat by his little love, turning the handle of her machine as she drew her work through it, and they talked of the changes they would make when the Boer-woman was gone, and the farm belonged to them alone. There should be a new room here, and a kraal there. So they chatted on. Suddenly Gregory dropped the handle, and impressed a fervent kiss on the fat hand that guided the linen.

“You are so beautiful, Em,” said the lover. “It comes over me in a flood suddenly how I love you.”

Em smiled.

“Tant' Sannie says when I am her age no one will look at me; and it is true. My hands are as short and broad as a duck's foot, and my forehead is so low, and I haven't any nose. I can't be pretty.”

She laughed softly. It was so nice to think he should be so blind.

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“When my cousin comes to-morrow you will see a beautiful woman, Gregory,” she added presently. “She is like a little queen: her shoulders are so upright, and her head looks as though it ought to have a little crown upon it. You must come to see her to-morrow as soon as she comes. I am sure you will love her.”

“Of course I shall come to see her, since she is your cousin; but do you think I could ever think any woman as lovely as I think you?”

He fixed his seething eyes upon her.

“You could not help seeing that she is prettier,” said Em, slipping her right hand into his; “but you will never be able to like any one so much as you like me.”

Afterward, when she wished her lover good night, she stood upon the doorstep to call a greeting after him; and she waited, as she always page: 22 did, till the brown pony's hoofs became inaudible behind the “kopje.”

Then she passed through the room where Tant' Sannie lay snoring, and through the little room that was all draped in white, waiting for her cousin's return, on to her own room.

She went to the chest of drawers to put away the work she had finished, and sat down on the floor before the lowest drawer. In it were the things she was preparing for her marriage. Piles of white linen, and some aprons and quilts; and in a little box in the corner a spray of orange-blossom which she had bought from a smouse. There too was a ring Gregory had given her, and a veil his sister had sent, and there was a little roll of fine embroidered work which Trana had given her. It was too fine and good even for Gregory's wife—just right for something very small and soft. She would keep it. And she touched it gently with her forefinger, smiling; page: 23 and then she blushed and hid it far behind the other things. She knew so well all that was in that drawer, and yet she turned them all over as though she saw them for the first time, packed them all out, and packed them all in, without one fold or crumple; and then sat down and looked at them.

To-morrow evening when Lyndall came she would bring her here, and show it her all. Lyndall would so like to see it—the little wreath, and the ring, and the white veil! It would be so nice! Then Em fell to seeing pictures. Lyndall should live with them till she herself got married some day.

Every day when Gregory came home, tired from his work, and he would look about and say, “Where is my wife? Has no one seen my wife? Wife, some coffee!” and she would give him some.

Em's little face grew very grave at last, and page: 24 she knelt up and extended her hands over the drawer of linen.

“Oh, God!” she said, “I am so glad! I do not know what I have done that I should be so glad. Thank you!”

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CHAPTER IV.

LYNDALL.

SHE was more like a princess, yes, far more like a princess, than the lady who still hung on the wall in Tant' Sannie's bed-room. So Em thought. She leaned back in the little armchair; she wore a grey dressing-gown, and her long hair was combed out and hung to the ground. Em, sitting before her, looked up with mingled respect and admiration.

Lyndall was tired after her long journey, and had come to her room early. Her eyes ran over the familiar objects. Strange to go away for four years, and come back, and find that the candle standing on the dressing-table still cast the page: 26 shadow of an old crone's head in the corner beyond the clothes-horse. Strange that even a shadow should last longer than a man! She looked about among the old familiar objects; all was there, but the old self was gone.

“What are you noticing?” asked Em.

“Nothing and everything. I thought the windows were higher. If I were you, when I get this place I should raise the walls. There is not room to breathe here; one suffocates.”

“Gregory is going to make many alterations,” said Em; and drawing nearer to the grey dressing-gown respectfully. “Do you like him, Lyndall? Is he not handsome?”

“He must have been a fine baby,” said Lyndall, looking at the white dimity curtain that hung above the window.

Em was puzzled.

“There are some men,” said Lyndall, “whom you never can believe were babies at all; and page: 27 others you never see without thinking how very nice they must have looked when they wore socks and pink sashes.”

Em remained silent; then she said with a little dignity,

“When you know him you will love him as I do. When I compare other people with him, they seem so weak and little. Our hearts are so cold, our loves are mixed up with so many other things. But he—no one is worthy of his love. I am not. It is so great and pure.”

“You need not make yourself unhappy upon that point—your poor return for his love, my dear,” said Lyndall. “A man's love is a fire of olive-wood. It leaps higher every moment; it roars, it blazes, it shoots out red flames; it threatens to wrap you round and devour you—you who stand by like an icicle in the glow of its fierce warmth. You are self-reproached at your own chilliness and want of reciprocity. page: 28 The next day, when you go to warm your hands a little, you find a few ashes! 'Tis a long love and cool against a short love and hot; men, at all events, have nothing to complain of.”

“You speak so because you do not know men,” said Em, instantly assuming the dignity of superior knowledge so universally affected by affianced and married women in discussing man's nature with their uncontracted sisters.

“You will know them too some day, and then you will think differently,” said Em, with the condescending magnanimity which superior knowledge can always afford to show to ignorance.

Lyndall's little lip quivered in a manner indicative of intense amusement. She twirled a massive ring upon her forefinger—a ring more suitable for the hand of a man, and noticeable in design—a diamond cross let into gold, with the initials “R.R.” below it.

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“Ah, Lyndall,” Em cried, “perhaps you are engaged yourself—that is why you smile. Yes; I am sure you are. Look at this ring!”

Lyndall drew the hand quickly from her.

“I am not in so great a hurry to put my neck beneath any man's foot; and I do not so greatly admire the crying of babies,” she said, as she closed her eyes half wearily and leaned back in the chair. “There are other women glad of such work.”

Em felt rebuked and ashamed. How could she take Lyndall and show her the white linen and the wreath, and the embroidery? She was quiet for a little while, and then began to talk about Trana, and the old farm-servants, till she saw her companion was weary; then she rose and left her for the night. But after Em was gone Lyndall sat on, watching the old crone's face in the corner, and with a weary look, as page: 30 though the whole world's weight rested on these frail young shoulders.

The next morning, Waldo, starting off before breakfast with a bag of mealies slung over his shoulder to feed the ostriches, heard a light step behind him.

“Wait for me; I am coming with you,” said Lyndall, adding as she came up to him, “If I had not gone to look for you yesterday you would not have come to greet me till now. Do you not like me any longer, Waldo?”

“Yes—but—you are changed.”

It was the old clumsy, hesitating mode of speech.

“You like the pinafores better?” she said quickly. She wore a dress of a simple cotton fabric, but very fashionably made, and on her head was a broad white hat. To Waldo she seemed superbly attired. She saw it. “My dress has changed a little,” she said, “and I also; page: 31 but not to you. Hang the bag over your other shoulder, that I may see your face. You say so little that if one does not look at you you are an uncomprehended cipher.” Waldo changed the bag, and they walked on side by side. “You have improved,” she said. “Do you know that I have sometimes wished to see you while I was away; not often, but still sometimes.”

They were at the gate of the first camp now. Waldo threw over a mug of mealies, and they walked on over the dewy ground.

“Have you learnt much?” he asked her simply, remembering how she had once said, “When I come back again I shall know everything that a human being can.”

She laughed.

“Are you thinking of my old boast? Yes; I have learnt something, though hardly what I expected, and not quite so much. In the first place, I have learnt that one of my ancestors page: 32 must have been a very great fool; for they say nothing comes out in a man but one of his forefathers possessed it before him. In the second place, I have discovered that of all cursed places under the sun, where the hungriest soul can hardly pick up a few grains of knowledge, a girls' boarding-school is the worst. They are called finishing schools, and the name tells accurately what they are. They finish everything but imbecility and weakness, and that they cultivate. They are nicely adapted machines for experimenting on the question, ‘Into how little space a human soul can be crushed?’ I have seen some souls so compressed that they would have fitted into a small thimble, and found room to move there, wide room. A woman who has been for many years in one of those places carries the mark of the beast on her till she dies, though she may expand a little afterward, when she breathes in the free world.”

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“Were you miserable?” he asked, looking at her with quick anxiety.

“I?—no. I am never miserable and never happy. I wish I were. But I should have run away from the place on the fourth day, and hired myself to the first Boer-woman whose farm I came to, to make fire under her soap-pot, if I had to live as the rest of the drove did. Can you form an idea, Waldo, of what it must be to be shut up with cackling old women, who are without knowledge of life, without love of the beautiful, without strength, to have your soul cultured by them? It is suffocation only to breathe the air they breathe; but I made them give me room. I told them I should leave, and they knew I came there on my own account; so they gave me a bed-room without the companionship of one of those things that were having their brains slowly diluted and squeezed out of them. I did not learn music, because I had no page: 34 talent; and when the drove made cushions, and hideous flowers that the roses laugh at, and a footstool in six weeks that a machine would have made better in five minutes, I went to my room. With the money saved from such work I bought books and newspapers, and at night I sat up. I read, and epitomized what I read; and I found time to write some plays, and find out how hard it is to make your thoughts look anything but imbecile fools when you paint them with ink and paper. In the holidays I learnt a great deal more. I made acquaintances, saw a few places and many people, and some different ways of living, which is more than any books can show one. On the whole, I am not dissatisfied with my four years. I have not learnt what I expected; but I have learnt something else. What have you been doing?”

“Nothing.”

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“That is not possible. I shall find out by and by.”

They still stepped on side by side over the dewy bushes. Then suddenly she turned on him.

“Don't you wish you were a woman, Waldo?”

“No,” he answered readily.

She laughed.

“I thought not. Even you are too worldly wise for that. I never met a man who did. This is a pretty ring,” she said, holding out her little hand, that the morning sun might make the diamonds sparkle. “Worth fifty pounds at least. I will give it to the first man who tells me he would like to be a woman. There might be one on Robbin Island* who would win it perhaps, but I doubt it even there. It is delightful to be a woman; but every man thanks the Lord devoutly that he isn't one.”


Lunatics at the Cape are sent to Robbin Island.

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She drew her hat to one side to keep the sun out of her eyes as she walked. Waldo looked at her so intently that he stumbled over the bushes. Yes, this was his little Lyndall who had worn the check pinafores; he saw it now, and he walked closer beside her. They reached the next camp.

“Let us wait at this camp and watch the birds,” she said, as an ostrich hen came bounding toward them with velvety wings outstretched, while far away over the bushes the head of the cock was visible as he sat brooding on the eggs.

Lyndall folded her arms on the gate-bar, and Waldo threw his empty bag on the wall and leaned beside her.

“I like these birds,” she said; “they share each other's work, and are companions. Do you take an interest in the position of women, Waldo?”

“No.”

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“I thought not. No one does, unless they are in need of a subject upon which to show their wit. And as for you, from of old you can see nothing that is not separated from you by a few millions of miles, and strewed over with mystery. If women were the inhabitants of Jupiter, of whom you had happened to hear something, you would pore over us and our condition night and day; but because we are before your eyes you never look at us. You care nothing that this is ragged and ugly,” she said, putting her little finger on his sleeve; “but you strive mightily to make an imaginary leaf on an old stick beautiful. I'm sorry you don't care for the position of women; I should have liked us to be friends; and it is the only thing about which I think much or feel much—if, indeed, I have any feeling about anything,” she added, flippantly, readjusting her dainty little arms. “When I was a baby, I fancy my parents left me out in the page: 38 frost one night, and I got nipped internally—it feels so!”

“Show me what you feel,” he said. “I have only a few old thoughts, and I think them over and over again; always beginning where I left off. I never get any further. I am weary of them. I am like an old hen that sits on eggs month after month and they never come out.”

“And I,” she said quickly, “am so pressed in upon by new things that, lest they should trip one another up, I have to keep forcing them back. My head swings sometimes. But this one thought stands, never goes—if I might but be one of these born in the future; then perhaps to be born a woman will not be to be born branded.”

Waldo looked at her. It was hard to say whether she were in earnest or mocking.

“I know it is foolish. Wisdom never kicks at the iron walls it can't bring down,” she said.

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“But we are cursed. Waldo, born cursed from the time our mothers bring us into the world till the shrouds are put on us. Do not look at me as though I were talking nonsense. Everything has two sides—the outside that is ridiculous, and the inside that is solemn.”

“I am not laughing,” said the boy solemnly enough; “but what curses you?”

He thought she would not reply to him, she waited so long.

“It is not what is done to us, but what is made of us,” she said at last, “that wrongs us. No man can be really injured but by what modifies himself. We all enter the world little plastic beings, with so much natural force perhaps, but for the rest—blank; and the world tells us what we are to be, and shapes us by the ends it sets before us. To you it says—“Work;” and to us it says—“Seem!” To you it says—As you approximate to man's highest ideal of God, as your arm page: 40 is strong and your knowledge great, and the power to labour is with you, so you shall gain all that human heart desires. To us it says—Strength shall not help you, nor knowledge, nor labour. You shall gain what men gain, but by other means. And so the world makes men and women.

“Look at this little chin of mine, Waldo, with the dimple in it. It is but a small part of my person; but though I had a knowledge of all things under the sun, and the wisdom to use it, and the deep loving heart of an angel, it would not stead me through life like this little chin. I can win money with it, I can win love; I can win power with it, I can win fame. What would knowledge help me? The less a woman has in her head the lighter she is for climbing. I once heard an old man say, that he never saw intellect help a woman so much as a pretty ankle; and it was the truth. They begin to page: 41 shape us to our cursed end,” she said, with her lips drawn in to look as though they smiled, “when we are tiny things in shoes and socks. We sit with our little feet drawn up under us in the window, and look out at the boys in their happy play. We want to go. Then a loving hand is laid on us: ‘Little one, you cannot go,’ they say; ‘your little face will burn, and your nice white dress be spoiled.’ We feel it must be for our good, it is so lovingly said: but we cannot understand; and we kneel still with one little cheek wistfully pressed against the pane. Afterwards we go and thread blue beads, and make a string for our neck; and we go and stand before the glass. We see the complexion we were not to spoil, and the white frock, and we look into our own great eyes. Then the curse begins to act on us. It finishes its work when we are grown women, who no more look out wistfully at a more healthy life; we are page: 42 contented. We fit our sphere as a Chinese-woman's foot fits her shoe exactly, as though God had made both—and yet He knows nothing of either. In some of us the shaping of our end has been quite completed. The parts we are not to use have been quite atrophied, and have even dropped off; but in others, and we are not less to be pitied, they have been weakened and left. We wear the bandages, but our limbs have not grown to them; we know that we are compressed, and chafe against them.

“But what does it help? A little bitterness, a little longing when we are young, a little futile searching for work, a little passionate striving for room for the exercise of our powers,—and then we go with the drove. A woman must march with her regiment. In the end she must be trodden down or go with it; and if she is wise she goes.

“I see in your great eyes what you are page: 43 thinking,” she said, glancing at him; “I always know what the person I am talking to is thinking of. How is this woman who makes such a fuss worse off than I? I will show you by a very little example. We stand here at this gate this morning, both poor, both young, both friendless; there is not much to choose between us. Let us turn away just as we are, to make our way in life. This evening you will come to a farmer's house. The farmer, albeit you come alone on foot, will give you a pipe of tobacco and a cup of coffee and a bed. If he has no dam to build and no child to teach, to-morrow you can go on your way with a friendly greeting of the hand. I, if I come to the same place to-night, will have strange questions asked me, strange glances cast on me. The Boer-wife will shake her head and give me food to eat with the Kaffirs, and a right to sleep with the dogs. That would be the first step in our page: 44 progress—a very little one, but every step to the end would repeat it. We were equals once when we lay new-born babes on our nurses' knees. We will be equals again when they tie up our jaws for the last sleep.”

Waldo looked in wonder at the little quivering face; it was a glimpse into a world of passion and feeling wholly new to him.

“Mark you,” she said, “we have always this advantage over you—we can at any time step into ease and competence, where you must labour patiently for it. A little weeping, a little wheedling, a little self-degradation, a little careful use of our advantages, and then some man will say—‘Come, be my wife!’ With good looks and youth marriage is easy to attain. There are men enough; but a woman who has sold herself, even for a ring and a new name, need hold her skirt aside for no creature in the street. They both earn their bread in one way. page: 45 Marriage for love is the beautifulest external symbol of the union of souls; marriage without it is the uncleanliest traffic that defiles the world.” She ran her little finger savagely along the topmost bar, shaking off the dozen little dewdrops that still hung there. “And they tell us we have men's chivalrous attention!” she cried. “When we ask to be doctors, lawyers, law-makers, anything but ill-paid drudges, they say,—No; but you have men's chivalrous attention; now think of that and be satisfied! What would you do without it?”

The bitter little silvery laugh, so seldom heard, rang out across the bushes. She bit her little teeth together.

“I was coming up in Cobb and Co.'s the other day. At a little wayside hotel we had to change the large coach for a small one. We were ten passengers, eight men and two women. As I sat in the house the gentlemen came and page: 46 whispered to me, ‘There is not room for all in the new coach, take your seat quickly.’ We hurried out, and they gave me the best seat, and covered me with rugs, because it was drizzling. Then the last passenger came running up to the coach—an old woman with a wonderful bonnet, and a black shawl pinned with a yellow pin.

“‘There is no room,’ they said; ‘you must wait till next week's coach takes you up;’ but she climbed on to the step, and held on at the window with both hands.

“‘My son-in-law is ill, and I must go and see him,’ she said.

“‘My good woman,’ said one, ‘I am really exceedingly sorry that your son-in-law is ill; but there is absolutely no room for you here.’

“‘You had better get down,’ said another, ‘or the wheel will catch you.’

“I got up to give her my place.

“‘Oh, no, no!’ they cried, ‘we will not allow that.’

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“‘I will rather kneel,’ said one, and he crouched down at my feet; so the woman came in.

“There were nine of us in that coach, and only one showed chivalrous attention—and that was a woman to a woman.

“I shall be old and ugly, too, one day, and I shall look for men's chivalrous help, but I shall not find it.

“The bees are very attentive to the flowers till their honey is done, and then they fly over them. I don't know if the flowers feel grateful to the bees; they are great fools if they do.”

“But some women,” said Waldo, speaking as though the words forced themselves from him at that moment, “some women have power.”

She lifted her beautiful eyes to his face.

“Power! Did you ever hear of men being asked whether other souls should have power or not? It is born in them. You may dam up page: 48 the fountain of water, and make it a stagnant marsh, or you may let it run free and do its work; but you cannot say whether it shall be there; it is there. And it will act, if not openly for good, then covertly for evil; but it will act. If Goethe had been stolen away a child, and reared in a robber horde in the depths of a German forest, do you think the world would have had ‘Faust’ and ‘Iphegenie?’ But he would have been Goethe still—stronger, wiser than his fellows. At night, round their watch-fire, he would have chanted wild songs of rapine and murder, till the dark faces about him were moved and trembled. His songs would have echoed on from father to son, and nerved the heart and arm—for evil. Do you think if Napoleon had been born a woman that he would have been contented to give small tea-parties and talk small scandal? He would have risen; but the world would not have heard of him as page: 49 it hears of him now—a man great and kingly, with all his sins; he would have left one of those names that stain the leaf of every history—the names of women, who, having power, but being denied the right to exercise it openly, rule in the dark, covertly, and by stealth, through the men whose passions they feed on and by whom they climb.

“Power!” she said, suddenly, smiting her little hand upon the rail. “Yes, we have power; and since we are not to expend it in tunnelling mountains, nor healing diseases, nor making laws, nor money, nor on any extraneous object, we expend it on you. You are our goods, our merchandise, our material for operating on; we buy you, we sell you, we make fools of you, we act the wily old Jew with you, we keep six of you crawling to our little feet, and praying only for a touch of our little hand; and they say truly, there was never an ache or pain or page: 50 broken heart but a woman was at the bottom of it. We are not to study law, nor science, nor art, so we study you. There is never a nerve or fibre in a man's nature but we know it. We keep six of you dancing in the palm of one little hand,” she said, balancing her outstretched arm gracefully, as though tiny beings disported themselves in its palm. “There—we throw you away, and you sink to the devil,” she said, folding her arms composedly. “There was never a man who said one word for woman but he said two for man, and three for the whole human race.”

She watched the bird pecking up the last yellow grains; but Waldo looked only at her.

When she spoke again it was very measuredly.

“They bring weighty arguments against us when we ask for the perfect freedom of women,” she said; “but, when you come up to the objections, they are like pumpkin-devils, with page: 51 candles inside, hollow, and can't bite. They say that women do not wish for the sphere and freedom we ask for them, and would not use it!

“If the bird does like its cage, and does like its sugar and will not leave it, why keep the door so very carefully shut? Why not open it, only a little? Do they know, there is many a bird will not break its wings against the bars, but would fly if the doors were open.

“Then they say again, ‘If women have the liberty you ask for, they will be found in positions for which they have not talent!’ If two men climb one ladder, did you ever see the weakest anywhere but at the foot? The surest sign of fitness is success. The weakest never wins but where there is handicapping. Nature, left to herself, will as beautifully apportion a man's work to his capacities as long ages ago she graduated the colours on the bird's breast. If we are not fit you give us to no purpose the page: 52 right to labour; the work will fall out of our hands into those that are abler.”

She talked more quickly and eagerly as she went on, as one talks of that over which they have brooded long, and which lies near their hearts.

Waldo watched her intently.

“They say women have one great and noble work left them, and they do it ill.—That is true; they do it execrably. It is the work that demands the broadest culture, and they have not even the narrowest. The lawyer may see no deeper than his law books, and the chemist see no further than the windows of his laboratory, and they may do their work well. But the woman who does woman's work needs a many-sided, multiform culture; the heights and depths of human life must strike an answering chord in her; she must have knowledge of men and things in many states, a wide catholicity page: 53 of sympathy, the strength that springs from knowledge, and the magnanimity which springs from strength. We bear the world, and we make it. The souls of little children are marvellously delicate and tender things, and keep for ever the shadow that first falls on them, and that is the mother's or at best a woman's. There was never a great man who had not a great mother—it is hardly an exaggeration. The first six years of our life make us; all that is added later is veneer; and yet some say, if a woman can cook a dinner or dress herself she has culture enough.

“The mightiest and noblest of human work is given to us, and we do it ill. Send an untutored navvie to work into an artist's studio, and see what you will find there! And yet, thank God, we have this work,” she added quickly: “it is the one window through which we see into the great world of earnest labour. The meanest girl who page: 54 dances and dresses becomes something higher when her children look up into her face and ask her questions. It is the only education we have and which they cannot take from us.”

“And they say,” she went on, “that we complain of woman's being compelled to look upon marriage as a profession; but that she is free to enter upon it or leave it, as she pleases.

“Yes—and a cat set afloat in a pond is free to sit in the tub till it dies, it is under no obligation to wet its feet; and a drowning man may catch at a straw or not, just as he likes—it is a glorious liberty! Let any man think for five minutes of what old maidenhood means to a woman—and then let him be silent. Is it easy to bear through life a name that in itself signifies defeat? to dwell, as nine out of ten unmarried women must, under the finger of another woman? Is it easy to look forward to an old age without honour, without the reward page: 55 of useful labour, without love? I wonder how many men there are who would give up everything that is dear in life for the sake of maintaining a high purity.”

She laughed, a little laugh that was clear without being pleasant. “And then, when they have no other argument against us, they say—‘Go on; but when you have made women what you wish, and her children inherit her culture, you will defeat yourself. Man will gradually become extinct from excess of intellect, the passions which replenish the race will die.’ Fools!” she said, curling her pretty lip; “a Hottentot sits at the road-side, and feeds on a rotten bone he has found there, and takes out his bottle of Cape-smoke and swills at it, and grunts with satisfaction; and the cultured child of the nineteenth century sits in his arm-chair, and sips choice wines with the lip of a connoisseur, and tastes delicate dishes with a page: 56 delicate palate, and with a satisfaction of which the Hottentot knows nothing. Heavy jaw and sloping forehead—all have gone with increasing intellect; but the animal appetites are there still—refined, discriminative, but immeasurably intensified. Fools! Before men forgave or worshipped, while they were weak on their hind legs, did they not eat and drink and fight for wives? When all the latter additions to humanity have vanished, will not the foundation on which they are built remain?”

She was silent then for a while, and said somewhat dreamily, more as though speaking to herself than to him,—

“They ask, What will you gain, even if man does not become extinct?—you will have brought justice and equality on to the earth, and sent love from it. When men and women are equals they will love no more. Your highly-cultured women will not be lovable, will not love.

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“Do they see nothing, understand nothing? It is Tant' Sannie who buries husbands one after another, and folds her hands resignedly,—‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord,’— and she looks for another. It is the hard-headed, deep thinker who, when the wife who has thought and worked with him goes, can find no rest, and lingers near her till he finds sleep beside her.

“A great soul draws and is drawn with a more fierce intensity than any small one. By every inch we grow in intellectual height our love strikes down its roots deeper, and spreads out its arms wider. It is for love's sake yet more than for any other that we look for that new time.” She had leaned her head against the stones, and watched with her sad, soft eyes the retreating bird. “Then when that time comes,” she said lowly, “when love is no more bought or sold, when it is not a means of making bread, page: 58 when each woman's life is filled with earnest, independent labour, then love will come to her, a strange, sudden sweetness breaking in upon her earnest work; not sought for, but found. Then, but not now—”

Waldo waited for her to finish the sentence, but she seemed to have forgotten him.

“Lyndall,” he said, putting his hand upon her—she started—“if you think that that new time will be so great, so good, you who speak so easily—”

She interrupted him.

“Speak! speak!” she said, “the difficulty is not to speak; the difficulty is to keep silence.”

“But why do you not try to bring that time?” he said with pitiful simplicity. “When you speak I believe all you say; other people would listen to you also.”

“I am not so sure of that,” she said with a smile.

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Then over the small face came the weary look it had worn last night as it watched the shadow in the corner, Ah, so weary!

“I, Waldo, I?” she said. “I will do nothing good for myself, nothing for the world, till some one wakes me. I am asleep, swathed, shut up in self; till I have been delivered I will deliver no one.”

He looked at her wondering, but she was not looking at him.

“To see the good and the beautiful,” she said, “and to have no strength to live it, is only to be Moses on the mountain of Nebo, with the land at your feet and no power to enter. It would be better not to see it. Come,” she said, looking up into his face, and seeing its uncomprehending expression, “let us go, it is getting late. Doss is anxious for his breakfast also,” she added, wheeling round and calling to the dog, who was endeavouring to unearth a mole, an page: 60 occupation to which he had been zealously addicted from the third month, but in which he had never on any single occasion proved successful.

Waldo shouldered his bag, and Lyndall walked on before in silence, with the dog close to her side. Perhaps she thought of the narrowness of the limits within which a human soul may speak and be understood by its nearest of mental kin, of how soon it reaches that solitary land of the individual experience, in which no fellow footfall is ever heard. Whatever her thoughts may have been, she was soon interrupted. Waldo came close to her, and standing still, produced with awkwardness from his breast-pocket a small carved box.

“I made it for you,” he said, holding it out.

“I like it,” she said, examining it carefully.

The workmanship was better than that of the grave-post. The flowers that covered it were delicate, and here and there small conical pro- protuberances page: 61 tuberances were let in among them. She turned it round critically. Waldo bent over it lovingly.

“There is one strange thing about it,” he said earnestly, putting a finger on one little pyramid. “I made it without these, and I felt something was wrong; I tried many changes, and at last I let these in, and then it was right. But why was it? They are not beautiful in themselves.”

“They relieve the monotony of the smooth leaves, I suppose.”

He shook his head as over a weighty matter.

“The sky is monotonous,” he said, “when it is blue, and yet it is beautiful. I have thought of that often; but it is not monotony and it is not variety makes beauty. What is it? The sky, and your face, and this box—the same thing is in them all, only more in the sky and in your face. But what is it?”

She smiled.

“So you are at your old work still. Why, page: 62 why, why? What is the reason? It is enough for me,” she said, “if I find out what is beautiful and what is ugly, what is real and what is not. Why it is there, and over the final cause of things in general, I don't trouble myself; there must be one, but what is it to me? If I howl to all eternity I shall never get hold of it; and if I did I might be no better off. But you Germans are born with an aptitude for burrowing; you can't help yourselves. You must sniff after reasons, just as that dog must after moles. He knows perfectly well he will never catch it, but he's under the imperative necessity of digging for it.”

“But he might find it.”

Might!—but he never has and never will. Life is too short to run after mights; we must have certainties.”

She tucked the box under her arm and was about to walk on, when Gregory Rose, with page: 63 shining spurs, an ostrich feather in his hat, and a silver-headed whip, careered past. He bowed gallantly as he went by. They waited till the dust of the horse's hoofs had laid itself.

“There,” said Lyndall, “goes a true woman—one born for the sphere that some women have to fill without being born for it. How happy he would be sewing frills into his little girl's frocks, and how pretty he would look sitting in a parlour, with a rough man making love to him! Don't you think so?”

“I shall not stay here when he is master,” Waldo answered, not able to connect any kind of beauty with Gregory Rose.

“I should imagine not. The rule of a woman is tyranny; but the rule of a man-woman grinds fine. Where are you going?”

“Anywhere.”

“What to do?”

“See—see everything.”

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“You will be disappointed.”

“And were you?”

“Yes; and you will be more so. I want some things that men and the world give, you do not. If you have a few yards of earth to stand on, and a bit of blue over you, and something that you cannot see to dream about, you have all that you need, all that you know how to use. But I like to see real men. Let them be as disagreeable as they please, they are more interesting to me than flowers, or trees, or stars, or any other thing under the sun. Sometimes,” she added, walking on, and shaking the dust daintily from her skirts, “when I am not too busy trying to find a new way of doing my hair that will show my little neck to better advantage, or over other work of that kind, sometimes it amuses me intensely to trace out the resemblance between one man and another: to see how Tant' Sannie and I, you and Bonaparte, St. Simon on his page: 65 pillow, and the Emperor dining off larks' tongues, are one and the same compound, merely mixed in different proportions. What is microscopic in one is largely developed in another; what is a rudimentary fold in me is a great active organ in you; but all things are in all men, and one soul is the model of all. We shall find nothing new in human nature after we have once carefully dissected and analyzed the one being we ever shall truly know—ourself. The Kaffir girl threw some coffee on my arm in bed this morning; I felt displeased, but said nothing. Tant' Sannie would have thrown the saucer at her and sworn for an hour; but the feeling would be the same irritated displeasure. If a huge animated stomach like Bonaparte were put under a glass by a skilful mental microscopist, even he would be found to have an embryonic doubling somewhere indicative of a heart, and rudimentary buddings that might have become conscience page: 66 and sincerity:—Let me take your arm Waldo. How full you are of mealie dust.—No, never mind. It will brush off.—And sometimes what is more amusing still than tracing the likeness between man and man, is to trace the analogy there always is between the progress and development of one individual and of a whole nation; or, again, between a single nation and the entire human race. It is pleasant when it dawns on you that the one is just the other written out in large letters; and very odd to find all the little follies and virtues, and developments and retrogressions, written out in the big world's book that you find in your little internal self. It is the most amusing thing I know of; but of course, being a woman, I have not often time for such amusements. Professional duties always first, you know. It takes a great deal of time and thought always to look perfectly exquisite even for a pretty page: 67 woman. Is the old buggy still in existence, Waldo?”

“Yes; but the harness is broken.”

“Well, I wish you would mend it. You must teach me to drive. I must learn something while I am here. I got the Hottentot girl to show me how to make ‘sar-sar-ties’ this morning; and Tant' Sannie is going to teach me to make ‘kapjes.’ I will come and sit with you this afternoon while you mend the harness.”

“Thank you.”

“No, don't thank me; I come for my own pleasure. I never find any one I can talk to. Women bore me, and men, I talk so to—‘Going to the ball this evening? Nice little dog that of yours. Pretty little ears. So fond of pointer pups!’ And they think me fascinating, charming! Men are like the earth, and we are the moon; we turn always one side to them, and page: 68 they think there is no other, because they don't see it—but there is.”

They had reached the house now.

“Tell me when you set to work,” she said, and walked toward the door.

Waldo stood to look after her, and Doss stood at his side, a look of painful uncertainty depicted on his small countenance, and one little foot poised in the air. Should he stay with his master or go? He looked at the figure with the wide straw hat moving toward the house, and he looked up at his master; then he put down the little paw and went. Waldo watched them both in at the door and then walked away alone. He was satisfied that at least his dog was with her.

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CHAPTER V.

TANT' SANNIE HOLDS AN UPSITTING, AND GREGORY WRITES A LETTER.

IT was just after sunset, and Lyndall had not yet returned from her first driving-lesson, when the lean coloured woman standing at the corner of the house to enjoy the evening breeze, saw coming along the road a strange horseman. Very narrowly she surveyed him, as slowly he approached. He was attired in the deepest mourning, the black crape round his tall hat totally concealing the black felt, and nothing but a dazzling shirt-front relieving the funereal tone of his attire. He rode much forward in his saddle, with his chin resting on the uppermost page: 70 of his shirt-studs, and there was an air of meek subjection to the will of Heaven, and to what might be in store for him, that bespoke itself even in the way in which he gently urged his steed. He was evidently in no hurry to reach his destination, for the nearer he approached to it the slacker did his bridle hang. The coloured woman having duly inspected him, dashed into the dwelling.

“Here is another one!” she cried—“a widower; I see it by his hat.”

“Good Lord!” said Tant' Sannie; “it's the seventh I've had this month; but the men know where sheep and good looks and money in the bank are to be found,” she added, winking knowingly. “How does he look?”

“Nineteen, weak eyes, white hair, little round nose,” said the maid.

“Then it's he! then it's he!” said Tant' Sannie triumphantly; “little Piet Vander Walt, whose page: 71 wife died last month—two farms, twelve thousand sheep. I've not seen him, but my sister-in-law told me about him, and I dreamed about him last night.”

Here Piet's black hat appeared in the doorway, and the Boer-woman drew herself up in dignified silence, extended the tips of her fingers, and motioned solemnly to a chair. The young man seated himself, sticking his feet as far under it as they would go, and said mildly—

“I am Little Piet Vander Walt, and my father is Big Piet Vander Walt.”

Tant' Sannie said solemnly, “Yes.”

“Aunt,” said the young man, starting up spasmodically; “can I off-saddle?”

“Yes.”

He seized his hat, and disappeared with a rush through the door.

“I told you so! I knew it!” said Tant' Sannie. “The dear Lord doesn't send dreams for nothing. page: 72 Didn't I tell you this morning that I dreamed of a great beast like a sheep, with red eyes, and I killed it? Wasn't the white wool his hair, and the red eyes his weak eyes, and my killing him meant marriage? Get supper ready quickly; the sheep's inside and roaster-cakes. We shall sit up to-night.”

To young Piet Vander Walt that supper was a period of intense torture. There was something overawing in that assembly of English people, with their incomprehensible speech; and moreover, it was his first courtship; his first wife had courted him, and ten months of severe domestic rule had not raised his spirit nor courage. He ate little, and when he raised a morsel to his lips glanced guiltily round to see if he were not observed. He had put three rings on his little finger, with the intention of sticking it out stiffly when he raised a coffee-cup; now the little finger was curled miserably among its fellows. It page: 73 was small relief when the meal was over, and Tant' Sannie and he repaired to the front-room. Once seated there, he set his knees close together, stood his black hat upon them, and wretchedly turned the brim up and down. But supper had cheered Tant' Sannie, who found it impossible longer to maintain that decorous silence, and whose heart yearned over the youth.

“I was related to your aunt Selena who died,” said Tant' Sannie. “My mother's step-brother's child was married to her father's brother's step-nephew's niece.”

“Yes, aunt,” said the young man, “I knew we were related.”

“It was her cousin,” said Tant' Sannie, now fairly on the flow, “who had the cancer cut out of her breast by the other doctor, who was not the right doctor they sent for, but who did it quite as well.”

“Yes, aunt,” said the young man.

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“I've heard about it often,” said Tant' Sannie. “And he was the son of the old doctor that they say died on Christmas day; but I don't know if that's true. People do tell such awful lies. Why should he die on Christmas day more than any other day?”

“Yes, aunt, why?” said the young man meekly.

“Did you ever have the toothache?” asked Tant' Sannie.

“No, aunt.”

“Well, they say that doctor,—not the son of the old doctor that died on Christmas day, the other that didn't come when he was sent for,—he gave such good stuff for the toothache, that if you opened the bottle in the room where any one was bad they got better directly. You could see it was good stuff,” said Tant' Sannie; “it tasted horrid. That was a real doctor! He used to give a bottle so high,” said the Boer-woman, raising page: 75 her hand a foot from the table, “you could drink at it for a month and it wouldn't get done, and the same medicine was good for all sorts of sicknesses—croup, measles, jaundice, dropsy. Now you have to buy a new kind for each sickness. The doctors aren't so good as they used to be.”

“No, aunt,” said the young man, who was trying to gain courage to stick out his legs and clink his spurs together. He did so at last.

Tant' Sannie had noticed the spurs before; but she thought it showed a nice manly spirit, and her heart warmed yet more to the youth.

“Did you ever have convulsions when you were a baby?” asked Tant' Sannie.

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Strange!” said Tant' Sannie; “I had convulsions too. Wonderful that we should be so much alike!”

“Aunt,” said the young man explosively, “can we sit-up to-night?”

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Tant' Sannie hung her head and half closed her eyes; but finding that her little wiles were thrown away, the young man staring fixedly at his hat, she simpered, “Yes,” and went away to fetch candles.

In the dining room Em worked at her machine, and Gregory sat close beside her, his great blue eyes turned to the window where Lyndall leaned out talking to Waldo.

Tant' Sannie took two candles out of the cupboard and held them up triumphantly, winking all round the room.

“He's asked for them,” she said.

“Does he want them for his horse's sore back?” asked Gregory, new to up-country life.

“No,” said Tant' Sannie, indignantly; “we're going to sit-up!” and she walked off in triumph with the candles.

Nevertheless, when all the rest of the house had page: 77 retired, when the long candle was lighted, when the coffee-kettle was filled, when she sat in her elbow-chair, with her lover on a chair close beside her, and when the vigil of the night was fairly begun, she began to find it wearisome. The young man looked chilly, and said nothing.

“Won't you put your feet on my stove?” said Tant' Sannie.

“No thank you, aunt,” said the young man, and both lapsed into silence.

At last Tant' Sannie, afraid of going to sleep, tapped a strong cup of coffee for herself and handed another to her lover. This visibly revived both.

“How long were you married, cousin?”

“Ten months, aunt.”

“How old was your baby?”

“Three days when it died.”

“It's very hard when we must give our husbands and wives to the Lord,” said Tant' Sannie.

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“Very,” said the young man; “but it's the Lord's will.”

“Yes,” said Tant' Sannie, and sighed.

“She was such a good wife, aunt: I've known her break a churn-stick over a maid's head for only letting dust come on a milk cloth.”

Tant' Sannie felt a twinge of jealousy. She had never broken a churn-stick on a maid's head.

“I hope your wife made a good end,” she said.

“Oh, beautiful, aunt: she said up a psalm and two hymns and a half before she died.”

“Did she leave any messages?” asked Tant' Sannie.

“No,” said the young man; “but the night before she died I was lying at the foot of her bed; I felt her foot kick me.

“‘Piet,’ she said.

“‘Annie, my heart,’ said I.

“‘My little baby that died yesterday has been here, and it stood over the waggon-box,’ she said.

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“‘What did it say?’ I asked.

“‘It said that if I died you must marry a fat woman.’

“‘I will,’ I said, and I went to sleep again. Presently she woke me.

“‘The little baby has been here again, and it says you must marry a woman over thirty, and who's had two husbands.’

“I didn't go to sleep after that for a long time, aunt; but when I did she woke me.

“‘The baby has been here again,’ she said, ‘and it says you mustn't marry a woman with a mole.’ I told her I wouldn't; and the next day she died.”

“That was a vision from the Redeemer,” said Tant' Sannie.

The young man nodded his head mournfully. He thought of a younger sister of his wife's who was not fat, and who had a mole, and of whom his wife had always been jealous, and page: 80 he wished the little baby had liked better staying in heaven to coming and standing over the waggon-chest.

“I suppose that's why you came to me,” said Tant' Sannie.

“Yes, aunt. And pa said I ought to get married before shearing time. It is bad if there's no one to see after things then; and the maids waste such a lot of fat.”

“When do you want to get married?”

“Next month, aunt,” said the young man in a tone of hopeless resignation. “May I kiss you, aunt?”

“Fie! fie!” said Tant' Sannie, and then gave him a resounding kiss. “Come, draw your chair a little closer,” she said, and their elbows now touching, they sat on through the night.

The next morning at dawn, as Em passed through Tant' Sannie's bed-room, she found page: 81 the Boer-woman pulling off her boots preparatory to climbing into bed.

“Where is Piet Vander Walt?”

“Just gone,” said Tant' Sannie; “and I am going to marry him this day four weeks. I am dead sleepy,” she added; “the stupid thing doesn't know how to talk love-talk at all,” and she climbed into the four-poster, clothes and all, and drew the quilt up to her chin.

On the day preceding Tant' Sannie's wedding, Gregory Rose sat in the blazing sun on the stone wall behind his daub-and-wattle house. It was warm, but he was intently watching a small buggy that was being recklessly driven over the bushes in the direction of the farmhouse. Gregory never stirred till it had vanished; then, finding the stones hot, he slipped down and walked into the house. He kicked the little pail that lay in the doorway, and sent it into page: 82 one corner; that did him good. Then he sat down on the box, and began cutting letters out of a piece of newspaper. Finding that the snippings littered the floor, he picked them up and began scribbling on his blotting-paper. He tried the effect of different initials before the name Rose: G. Rose, E. Rose, L. Rose, L. Rose, L.L.L.L. Rose. When he had covered the sheet, he looked at it discontentedly a little while, then suddenly began to write a letter.

“Beloved Sister,

IT is a long while since I last wrote to you, but I have had no time. This is the first morning I have been at home since I don't know when. Em always expects me to go down to the farm-house in the morning; but I didn't feel as though I could stand the ride to-day.

“I have much news for you.

“Tant' Sannie, Em's Boer step-mother, is to be married to-morrow. She is gone to town to-day, and the wedding feast is to be at her

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brother's farm. Em and I are going to ride over on horseback, but her cousin is going to ride in the buggy with that German. I don't think I've written to you since she came back from school. I don't think you would like her at all, Jemima; there's something so proud about her. She thinks just because she's handsome there's nobody good enough to talk to her, and just as if there had nobody else but her been to boarding-school before.

“They are going to have a grand affair to-morrow: all the Boers about are coming, and they are going to dance all night; but I don't think I shall dance at all; for, as Em's cousin says, these Boer dances are low things. I am sure I only danced at the last to please Em. I don't know why she is so fond of dancing. Em talked of our being married on the same day as Tant' Sannie; but I said it would be nicer for her if she waited till the shearing was over, and I took her down to see you. I suppose she will have to live with us (Em's cousin, I mean), as she has not anything in the world but a poor fifty pounds. I don't like her at all, Jemima,

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and I don't think you would. She's got such queer ways; she's always driving about in a gig with that low German; and I don't think it's at all the thing for a woman to be going about with a man she's not engaged to. Do you? If it was me now, of course, who am a kind of connection, it would be different. The way she treats me, considering that I am so soon to be her cousin, is not at all nice. I took down my album the other day with your likenesses in it, and I told her she could look at it, and put it down close to her; but she just said thank you, and never even touched it, as much as to say—What are your relations to me?

“She gets the wildest horses in that buggy, and a horrid snappish little cur belonging to the German sitting in front, and then she drives out alone. I don't think it's at all proper for a woman to drive out alone; I wouldn't allow it if she was my sister. The other morning, I don't know how it happened, I was going in the way from which she was coming, and that little beast—they call him Doss—began to bark when he saw me—he always does, the little wretch—and the

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horses began to spring, and kicked the splashboard all to pieces. It was a sight to see Jemima! She has got the littlest hands I ever saw—I could hold them both in one of mine, and not know that I'd got anything except that they were so soft; but she held those horses in as though they were made of iron. When I wanted to help her she said, ‘No, thank you; I can manage them myself. I've got a pair of bits that would break their jaws if I used them well,’ and she laughed and drove away. It's so unwomanly.

“Tell father my hire of the ground will not be out for six months, and before that Em and I will be married. My pair of birds is breeding now, but I haven't been down to see them for three days. I don't seem to care about anything any more. I don't know what it is; I'm not well. If I go into town on Saturday I will let the doctor examine me; but perhaps she'll go in herself. It's a very strange thing, Jemima, but she never will send her letters to post by me. If I ask her she has none, and the very next day she goes in and posts them herself. You mustn't say anything about it, Jemima,

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but twice I've brought her letters from the post in a gentleman's hand, and I'm sure they were both from the same person, because I noticed every little mark, even the dotting of the i's. Of course it's nothing to me; but for Em's sake I can't help feeling an interest in her, however much I may dislike her myself; and I hope she's up to nothing. I pity the man who marries her; I wouldn't be him for anything. If I had a wife with pride I'd make her give it up, sharp. I don't believe in a man who can't make a woman obey him. Now Em,—I'm very fond of her, as you know,—but if I tell her to put on a certain dress, that dress she puts on; and if I tell her to sit on a certain seat, on that seat she sits; and if I tell her not to speak to a certain individual, she does not speak to them. If a man lets a woman do what he doesn't like he's a muff.

“Give my love to mother and the children. The ‘veld’ here is looking pretty good, and the sheep are better since we washed them. Tell father the dip he recommended is very good.

“Em sends her love to you. She is making

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me some woollen shirts; but they don't fit me so nicely as those mother made me.

“Write soon to

Your loving brother,

Gregory.


“P.S.—She drove past just now; I was sitting on the kraal wall right before her eyes, and she never even bowed.

“G.N.R.”

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CHAPTER VI.

A BOER-WEDDING.

I DIDN'T know before you were so fond of riding hard,” said Gregory to his little betrothed.

They were cantering slowly on the road to Oom Muller's on the morning of the wedding.

“Do you call this riding hard?” asked Em in some astonishment.

“Of course I do! It's enough to break the horses' necks, and knock one up for the whole day besides,” he added testily; then twisted his head to look at the buggy that came on behind. “I thought Waldo was such a mad driver; they are taking it easily enough to-day,” said page: 89 Gregory. “One would think the black stallions were lame.”

“I suppose they want to keep out of our dust,” said Em. “See, they stand still as soon as we do.”

Perceiving this to be the case, Gregory rode on.

“It's all that horse of yours: she kicks up such a confounded dust, I can't stand it myself,” he said.

Meanwhile the cart came on slowly enough.

“Take the reins,” said Lyndall, “and make them walk. I want to rest and watch their hoofs to-day—not to be exhilarated; I am so tired.”

She leaned back in her corner, and Waldo drove on slowly in the grey dawn light along the level road. They passed the very milk-bush behind which so many years before the old German had found the Kaffir woman. But page: 90 their thoughts were not with him that morning: they were the thoughts of the young, that run out to meet the future, and labour in the present. At last he touched her arm.

“What is it?”

“I feared you had gone to sleep and might be jolted out,” he said; “you sat so quietly.”

“No; do not talk to me; I am not asleep;” but after a time she said suddenly: “I hope I shall never bring a human being into the world.”

Waldo looked round; she sat drawn into the corner, her blue cloud wound tightly about her, and she still watched the horses' feet. Having no comment to offer on her somewhat unexpected remark, he merely touched up his horses.

“I have no conscience, none,” she added; “but I would not like to bring a soul into this world. When it sinned and when it suffered something like a dead hand would fall on me—‘You did it, you, for your own pleasure you page: 91 created this thing! See your work!’ If it lived to be eighty it would always hang like a mill-stone round my neck, have the right to demand good from me, and curse me for its sorrow. A parent is only like to God—if his work turns out bad, so much the worse for him; he dare not wash his hands of it. Time and years can never bring the day when you can say to your child: ‘Soul, what have I to do with you?’”

Waldo said dreamingly,—

“It is a marvellous thing that one soul should have power to cause another.”

She heard the words as she heard the beating of the horses' hoofs; her thoughts ran on in their own line.

“They say, ‘God sends the little babies.’ Of all the dastardly revolting lies men tell to suit themselves, I hate that most. I suppose my father said so when he knew he was dying of page: 92 consumption, and my mother when she knew she had nothing to support me on, and they created me to feed like a dog from stranger hands. Men do not say God sends the books, or the newspaper articles, or the machines they make; and then sigh, and shrug their shoulders and say they can't help it. Why do they say so about other things? Liars! ‘God sends the little babies!’” She struck her foot fretfully against the splashboard. “The small children say so earnestly. They touch the little stranger reverently who has just come from God's far country, and they peep about the room to see if not one white feather has dropped from the wing of the angel that brought him. On their lips the phrase means much; on all others it is a deliberate lie. Noticeable, too,” she said, dropping in an instant from the passionate into a low, mocking tone, “when people are married, though they should have sixty children, they throw the page: 93 whole onus on God. When they are not, we hear nothing about God's having sent them. When there has been no legal contract between the parents, who sends the little children then? The Devil perhaps!” She laughed her little silvery, mocking laugh. “Odd that some men should come from hell and some from heaven, and yet all look so much alike when they get here.”

Waldo wondered at her. He had not the key to her thoughts, and did not see the string on which they were strung. She drew her cloud tighter about her.

“It must be very nice to believe in the Devil,” she said; “I wish I did. If it would be of any use I would pray three hours night and morning on my bare knees, ‘God, let me believe in Satan.’ He is so useful to those people who do. They may be as selfish and as sensual as they please, and, between God's will and the Devil's action, page: 94 always have some one to throw their sin on. But we, wretched unbelievers, we bear our own burdens: we must say, ‘I myself did it, I. Not God, not Satan; I myself!’ That is the sting that strikes deep. Waldo,” she said gently, with a sudden and complete change of manner, “I like you so much, I love you.” She rested her cheek softly against his shoulder. “When I am with you I never know that I am a woman and you are a man; I only know that we are both things that think. Other men when I am with them, whether I love them or not, they are mere bodies to me; but you are a spirit; I like you. Look,” she said quickly, sinking back into her corner, “what a pretty pinkness there is on all the hill-tops! The sun will rise in a moment.”

Waldo lifted his eyes to look round over the circle of golden hills; and the horses, as the first sunbeams touched them, shook their heads page: 95 and champed their bright bits, till the brass settings in their harness glittered again.

It was eight o'clock when they neared the farm-house: a red-brick building, with kraals to the right and a small orchard to the left. Already there were signs of unusual life and bustle: one cart, a waggon, and a couple of saddles against the wall betokened the arrival of a few early guests, whose numbers would soon be largely increased. To a Dutch country wedding, guests start up in numbers astonishing to one who has merely ridden through the plains of sparsely-inhabited karroo.

As the morning advances, riders on many shades of steeds appear from all directions, and add their saddles to the long rows against the walls, shake hands, drink coffee, and stand about outside in groups to watch the arriving carts and ox-waggons, as they are unburdened of their heavy freight of massive Tantes and page: 96 comely daughters, followed by swarms of children of all sizes, dressed in all manner of print and mole-skin, who are taken care of by Hottentot, Kaffir, and half-caste nurses, whose many-shaded complexions, ranging from light yellow up to ebony black, add variety to the animated scene. Everywhere is excitement and bustle, which gradually increases as the time for the return of the wedding-party approaches. Preparations for the feast are actively advancing in the kitchen; coffee is liberally handed round, and amid a profound sensation, and the firing of guns, the horse-waggon draws up, and the wedding-party alight. Bride and bridegroom with their attendants march solemnly to the marriage-chamber, where bed and box are decked out in white, with ends of ribbon and artificial flowers, and where on a row of chairs the party solemnly seat themselves. After a time bridesmaid and best man rise, and conduct in with ceremony each individual guest, page: 97 to wish success, and to kiss bride and bridegroom. Then the feast is set on the table, and it is almost sunset before the dishes are cleared away, and the pleasure of the day begins. Everything is removed from the great front room, and the mud floor, well rubbed with bullock's blood, glistens like polished mahogany. The female portion of the assembly flock into the side-rooms to attire themselves for the evening; and re-issue clad in white muslin, and gay with bright ribbons and brass jewelry. The dancing begins as the first tallow candles are stuck up about the walls, the music coming from a couple of fiddlers in a corner of the room. Bride and bridegroom open the ball, and the floor is soon covered with whirling couples, and every one's spirits rise. Bride and bridegroom mingle freely in the throng, and here and there a musical man sings vigorously as he drags his partner through the Blue Water or John Speriwig; boys shout and page: 98 applaud, and the enjoyment and confusion are intense, till eleven o'clock comes. By this time the children who swarm in the side-rooms are not to be kept quiet longer, even by hunches of bread and cake; there is a general howl and wail, that rises yet higher than the scraping of fiddles, and mothers rush from their partners to knock small heads together, and cuff little nursemaids, and force the wailers down into unoccupied corners of beds, under tables and behind boxes. In half an hour every variety of childish snore is heard on all sides, and it has become perilous to raise or set down a foot in any of the side-rooms lest a small head or hand should be crushed. Now too the busy feet have broken the solid coating of the floor, and a cloud of fine dust arises, that makes a yellow halo round the candles, and sets asthmatic people coughing, and grows denser, till to recognise any one on the opposite side of the room becomes impossible, page: 99 and a partner's face is seen through a yellow mist.

At twelve o'clock the bride is led to the marriage-chamber and undressed; the lights are blown out, and the bridegroom is brought to the door by the best man, who gives him the key; then the door is shut and locked, and the revels rise higher than ever. There is no thought of sleep till morning, and no unoccupied spot where sleep may be found.

It was at this stage of the proceedings on the night of Tant' Sannie's wedding that Lyndall sat near the doorway in one of the side-rooms, to watch the dancers as they appeared and disappeared in the yellow cloud of dust. Gregory sat moodily in a corner of the large dancing-room. His little betrothed touched his arm.

“I wish you would go and ask Lyndall to dance with you,” she said; “she must be so tired; she has sat still the whole evening.”

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“I have asked her three times,” replied her lover shortly. “I'm not going to be her dog, and creep to her feet, just to give her the pleasure of kicking me—not for you, Em, nor for anybody else.”

“Oh, I didn't know you had asked her, Greg,” said his little betrothed, humbly; and she went away to pour out coffee.

Nevertheless, some time after Gregory found he had shifted so far round the room as to be close to the door where Lyndall sat. After standing for some time he inquired whether he might not bring her a cup of coffee. She declined; but still he stood on (why should he not stand there as well as anywhere else?), and then he stepped into the bed-room.

“May I not bring you a stove, Miss Lyndall, to put your feet on?”

“Thank you.”

He sought for one, and put it under her feet.

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“There is a draught from that broken window: shall I stuff something in the pane?”

“No, we want air.”

Gregory looked round, but nothing else suggesting itself, he sat down on a box on the opposite side of the door. Lyndall sat before him, her chin resting in her hand; her eyes, steel-grey by day but black by night, looked through the doorway into the next room. After a time he thought she had entirely forgotten his proximity, and he dared to inspect the little hands and neck as he never dared when he was in momentary dread of the eyes being turned upon him.

She was dressed in black, which seemed to take her yet further from the white-clad, gew-gawed women about her; and the little hands were white, and the diamond ring glittered. Where had she got that ring? He bent forward a little and tried to decipher the letters, but the candle-light was too faint. When he looked up her page: 102 eyes were fixed on him. She was looking at him—not, Gregory felt, as she had ever looked at him before; not as though he were a stump or a stone that chance had thrown in her way. To-night, whether it were critically, or kindly, or unkindly, he could not tell, but she looked at him, at the man, Gregory Rose, with attention. A vague elation filled him. He clinched his fist tight to think of some good idea he might express to her; but of all those profound things he had pictured himself as saying to her, when he sat alone in the daub-and-wattle house, not one came. He said, at last,

“These Boer dances are very low things;” and then, as soon as it had gone from him, he thought it was not a clever remark, and wished it back.

Before Lyndall replied Em looked in at the door.

“Oh, come,” she said; “they are going to have the cushion-dance. I do not want to kiss any of these fellows. Take me quickly.”

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She slipped her hand into Gregory's arm.

“It is so dusty, Em; do you care to dance any more?” he asked, without rising.

“Oh, I do not mind the dust, and the dancing rests me.”

But he did not move.

“I feel tired; I do not think I shall dance again,” he said.

Em withdrew her hand, and a young farmer came to the door and bore her off.

“I have often imagined,” remarked Gregory—but Lyndall had risen.

“I am tired,” she said. “I wonder where Waldo is; he must take me home. These people will not leave off till morning, I suppose; it is three already.”

She made her way past the fiddlers, and a bench full of tired dancers, and passed out at the front door. On the “stoep” a group of men and boys were smoking, peeping in at the page: 104 windows, and cracking coarse jokes. Waldo was certainly not among them, and she made her way to the carts and waggons drawn up at some distance from the homestead.

“Waldo,” she said, peering into a large cart, “is that you? I am so dazed with the tallow candles, I see nothing.”

He had made himself a place between the two seats. She climbed up and sat on the sloping floor in front.

“I thought I should find you here,” she said, drawing her skirt up about her shoulders. “You must take me home presently, but not now.”

She leaned her head on the seat near to his, and they listened in silence to the fitful twanging of the fiddles as the night wind bore it from the farm-house, and to the ceaseless thud of the dancers, and the peals of gross laughter. She stretched out her little hand to feel for his.

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“It is so nice to lie here and hear that noise,” she said. “I like to feel that strange life beating up against me. I like to realise forms of life utterly unlike mine. When my own life feels small, and I am oppressed with it, I like to crush together, and see it in a picture, in an instant, a multitude of disconnected unlike phases of human life—a mediæval monk with his string of beads pacing the quiet orchard, and looking up from the grass at his feet to the heavy fruit-trees; little Malay boys playing naked on a shining sea-beach; a Hindoo philosopher alone under his banyan tree, thinking, thinking, thinking, so that in the thought of God he may lose himself; a troop of Bacchanalians dressed in white, with crowns of vine-leaves, dancing as they sing along the Roman streets; a martyr on the night of his death looking through the narrow window to the sky, and feeling that already he has the wings that shall bear him up; page: 106 an epicurean discoursing at a Roman bath to a knot of his disciples on the nature of happiness; a Kaffir witch-doctor seeking for herbs by moonlight, while from the huts on the hill-side come the sound of dogs barking, and the voices of women and children; a Nihilist starting up in her sleep, and vowing, with clenched fist, the vow she had sworn waking, to sacrifice life and blood in the cause of freedom; a mother giving bread and milk to her children in little wooden basins and singing the evening-song. I like to see it all; I feel it run through me—that universal life belongs to me, of which I am part; it makes my little life larger, it breaks down the narrow walls that shut me in.”

She sighed, and drew a long breath.

“Have you made any plans?” she asked him presently.

“Yes,” he said, the words coming in jets, with pauses between; “I will take the grey mare,— page: 107 I will travel first—I will see the world—then I will find work.”

“What work?”

“I do not know.”

She made a little impatient movement.

“That is no plan. If you go into the world aimless, without a definite object, dreaming, dreaming, you will be definitely defeated, bamboozled, knocked this way and that; in the end you will stand with your beautiful life all spent, and nothing to show. They talk of genius—it is nothing but this, that a man knows what he can do best, and does it, and nothing else. Waldo,” she said, knitting her little fingers closer among his, “I wish I could help you; I wish I could rouse you up, and make you see tht now—to-day—you must decide what you will be and do. It does not matter what you choose,—be a farmer, business-man, artist, politician, what you will,—but know your aim, and page: 108 live for that one thing. The secret of success is concentration; wherever there has been a great life, or a great work, that has gone before. Taste everything a little, look at everything; but live for one thing. Anything is possible to a man who knows his end and moves straight for it, and for it alone. I will show you what I mean,” she said, concisely; “words are gas till you condense them into pictures.”

“Suppose a woman, young, friendless as I am, the weakest thing on God's earth. But she must make her way through life. What she would be she cannot be because she is a woman; so she looks carefully at herself and the world about her, to see where her path must lie. There is no one to help her; she must help herself. She looks. These things she has—a sweet voice, rich in subtile intonations; a fair, very fair face, with a power of concentrating in itself, and giving expression to, feelings that otherwise page: 109 must have been dissipated in words; a rare power of entering into other lives unlike her own, and intuitively reading them aright. These qualities she has. How shall she use them? A poet, a writer, needs only the mental; what use has he for a beautiful body that registers clearly mental emotions? And the painter wants an eye for form and colour, and the musician an ear for time and tune, and the mere drudge has no need for mental gifts. But there is one art in which all she has would be used, for which they are all necessary—the delicate expressive body, the rich voice, the power of mental transposition. The actor, who absorbs and then reflects from himself other human lives, needs them all, but needs not much more. This is her end; but how to reach it? Before her are endless difficulties: seas must be crossed, poverty must be endured, loneliness, want. She must be content to wait long before page: 110 she can even get her feet upon the path. If she has made blunders in the past, if she has weighted herself with a burden which she must bear to the end, she must but bear the burden bravely, and labour on. There is no use in wailing and repentance here: the next world is the place for that; this life is too short. By our errors we see deeper into life. They help us.

“If she does all this—if she waits patiently, if she is never cast down, never despairs, never forgets her end, moves straight toward it, bending men and things most unlikely to her purpose,—she must succeed at last. Men and things are plastic; they part to the right and left when one comes among them moving in a straight line to one end. I know it by my own little experience,” she said. “Long years ago I resolved to be sent to school. It seemed a thing utterly out of my power; but I waited, I watched, I collected clothes, I took my place at the school; page: 111 when all was ready I bore with my full force on the Boer-woman, and she sent me at last. It was a small thing; but life is made up of small things, as a body is built up of cells. What has been done in small things can be done in large. Shall be,” she said softly.

Waldo listened. To him the words were no confession, no glimpse into the strong, proud, restless heart of the woman. They were general words with a general application. He looked up into the sparkling sky with dull eyes.

“Yes,” he said; “but when we lie and think, and think, we see that there is nothing worth doing. The universe is so large, and man is so small—”

She shook her head quickly.

“But we must not think so far; it is madness, it is a disease. We know that no man's work is great, and stands for ever. Moses is dead, and the prophets, and the books that our page: 112 grandmothers fed on the mould is eating. Your poet and painter and actor,—before the shouts that applaud them have died their names grow strange, they are mile-stones that the world has passed. Men have set their mark on mankind forever, as they thought; but time has washed it out as it has washed out mountains and continents. And what if we could help mankind, and leave the traces of our work upon it to the end? Mankind is only an ephemeral blossom on the tree of time; there were others before it opened; there will be others after it has fallen. Where was man in the time of the dicynodont, and when hoary monsters wallowed in the mud? Will he be found in the æons that are to come? We are sparks, we are shadows, we are pollen, which the next wind will carry away. We are dying already; it is all a dream.

“I know that thought. When the fever of living is on us, when the desire to become, to page: 113 know, to do, is driving us mad, we can use it as an anodyne, to still the fever and cool our beating pulses. But it is a poison, not a food. If we live on it it will turn our blood to ice; we might as well be dead. We must not, Waldo; I want your life to be beautiful, to end in something. You are nobler and stronger than I,” she said; “and as much better as one of God's great angels is better than a sinning man. Your life must not go for nothing.”

“No, we will work,” he said.

She moved closer to him and lay still, his black curls touching her smooth little head.

Doss, who had lain at his master's side, climbed over the bench, and curled himself up in her lap. She drew her skirt up over him, and the three sat motionless for a long time.

“Waldo,” she said, suddenly, “they are laughing at us.”

“Who?” he asked, starting up.

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“They—the stars!” she said, softly. “Do you not see? there is a little white, mocking finger pointing down at us from each one of them! We are talking of to-morrow, and to-morrow, and our hearts are so strong; we are not thinking of something that can touch us softly in the dark and make us still forever. They are laughing at us, Waldo.”

Both sat looking upward.

“Do you ever pray?” he asked her in a low voice.

“No.”

“I never do; but I might when I look up there. I will tell you,” he added, in a still lower voice, “where I could pray. If there were a wall of rock on the edge of a world, and one rock stretched out far into space, and I stood alone upon it, alone with stars above me, and stars below. I would not say anything; but the feeling would be prayer.”

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There was an end to their conversation after that, and Doss fell asleep on her knee. At last the night wind grew very chilly.

“Ah,” she said, shivering, and drawing the skirt about her shoulders, “I am cold. Span in the horses, and call me when you are ready.”

She slipped down and walked toward the house, Doss stiffly following her, not pleased at being roused. At the door she met Gregory.

“I have been looking for you everywhere; may I not drive you home?” he said.

“Waldo drives me,” she replied, passing on; and it appeared to Gregory that she looked at him in the old way, without seeing him. But before she had reached the door an idea had occurred to her, for she turned.

“If you wish to drive me you may.”

Gregory went to look for Em, whom he found pouring out coffee in the back room. He put his hand quickly on her shoulder.

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“You must ride with Waldo; I am going to drive your cousin home.”

“But I can't come just now, Greg; I promised Tante Annie to look after the things while she went to rest a little.”

“Well, you can come presently, can't you? I didn't say you were to come now. I'm sick of this thing,” said Gregory, turning sharply on his heel. “Why must I sit up the whole night because your step-mother chooses to get married?”

“Oh, it's all right, Greg, I only meant—”

But he did not hear her, and a man had come up to have his cup filled.

An hour after Waldo came in to look for her, and found her still busy at the table.

“The horses are ready,” he said; “but if you would like to have one dance more I will wait.”

She shook her head wearily.

“No; I am quite ready. I want to go.”

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And soon they were on the sandy road the buggy had travelled an hour before. Their horses, with heads close together, nodding sleepily as they walked in the starlight, you might have counted the rise and fall of their feet in the sand; and Waldo in his saddle nodded drowsily also. Only Em was awake, and watched the starlit road with wide-open eyes. At last she spoke.

“I wonder if all people feel so old, so very old, when they get to be seventeen.”

“Not older than before,” said Waldo sleepily, pulling at his bridle.

Presently she said again,

“I wish I could have been a little child always. You are good then. You are never selfish; you like every one to have everything; but when you are grown-up there are some things you like to have all to yourself, you don't like any one else to have any of them.”

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“Yes,” said Waldo sleepily, and she did not speak again.

When they reached the farm-house all was dark, for Lyndall had retired as soon as they got home.

Waldo lifted Em from her saddle, and for a moment she leaned her head on his shoulder and clung to him.

“You are very tired,” he said, as he walked with her to the door; “let me go in and light a candle for you.”

“No, thank you; it is all right,” she said. “Good night, Waldo, dear.”

But when she went in she sat long alone in the dark.

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CHAPTER VII.

WALDO GOES OUT TO TASTE LIFE, AND EM STAYS AT HOME AND TASTES IT.

AT nine o'clock in the evening, packing his bundles for the next morning's start, Waldo looked up, and was surprised to see Em's yellow head peeping in at his door. It was many a month since she had been there. She said she had made him sandwiches for his journey, and she stayed a while to help him put his goods into the saddle-bags.

“You can leave the old things lying about,” she said; “I will lock the room, and keep it waiting for you to come back some day.”

To come back some day! Would the bird ever page: 120 return to its cage? But he thanked her. When she went away he stood on the doorstep holding the candle till she had almost reached the house. But Em was that evening in no hurry to enter, and instead of going in at the back door, walked with lagging footsteps round the low brick wall that ran before the house. Opposite the open window of the parlour she stopped. The little room, kept carefully closed in Tant' Sannie's time, was well lighted by a paraffin lamp; books and work lay strewn about it, and it wore a bright, habitable aspect. Beside the lamp at the table in the corner sat Lyndall, the open letters and papers of the day's post lying scattered before her, while she perused the columns of a newspaper. At the centre table, with his arms folded on an open paper, which there was not light enough to read, sat Gregory. He was looking at her. The light from the open window fell on Em's little face under its white kapje page: 121 as she looked in, but no one glanced that way.

“Go and fetch me a glass of water,” Lyndall said at last.

Gregory went out to find it; when he put it down at her side she merely moved her head in recognition, and he went back to his seat and his old occupation. Then Em moved slowly away from the window, and through it came in spotted, hard-winged insects, to play round the lamp, till one by one, they stuck to its glass, and fell to the foot dead.

Ten o'clock struck. Then Lyndall rose, gathered up her papers and letters, and wished Gregory good night. Some time after Em entered; she had been sitting all the while on the loft ladder, and had drawn her “kapje” down very much over her face.

Gregory was piecing together the bits of an envelope when she came in.

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“I thought you were never coming,” he said, turning round quickly, and throwing the fragments onto the floor. “You know I have been shearing all day, and it is ten o'clock already.”

“I'm sorry. I did not think you would be going so soon,” she said in a low voice.

“I can't hear what you say. What makes you mumble so? Well, good night, Em.”

He stooped down hastily to kiss her.

“I want to talk to you, Gregory.”

“Well, make haste,” he said pettishly. “I'm awfully tired. I've been sitting here all the evening. Why couldn't you come and talk before?”

“I will not keep you long,” she answered very steadily now. “I think, Gregory, it would be better if you and I were never to be married.”

“Good heavens! Em, what do you mean? I thought you were so fond of me? You always professed to be. What on earth have you taken into your head now?”

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“I think it would be better,” she said, folding her hands over each other, very much as though she were praying.

“Better, Em! What do you mean? Even a woman can't take a freak all about nothing! You must have some reason for it, and I'm sure I've done nothing to offend you. I wrote only to-day to my sister to tell her to come up next month to our wedding, and I've been as affectionate and happy as possible. Come—what's the matter?”

He put his arm half round her shoulder, very loosely.

“I think it would be better,” she answered, slowly.

“Oh, well,” he said, drawing himself up, “if you won't enter into explanations you won't; and I'm not the man to beg and pray—not to any woman, and you know that! If you don't want to marry me I can't oblige you to, of course.”

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She stood quite still before him.

“You women never do know your own minds for two days together; and of course you know the state of your own feelings best; but it's very strange. Have you really made up your mind, Em?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I'm very sorry. I'm sure I've not been in anything to blame. A man can't always be billing and cooing; but, as you say, if your feeling for me has changed, it's much better you shouldn't marry me. There's nothing so foolish as to marry some one you don't love; and I only wish for your happiness, I'm sure. I daresay you'll find some one can make you much happier than I could; the first person we love is seldom the right one. You are very young; it's quite natural you should change.”

She said nothing.

“Things often seem hard at the time, but page: 125 Providence makes them turn out for the best in the end,” said Gregory. “You'll let me kiss you, Em, just for old friendship's sake.” He stooped down. “You must look upon me as a dear brother, as a cousin at least; as long as I am on the farm I shall always be glad to help you, Em.”

Soon after the brown pony was cantering along the footpath to the daub-and-wattle house, and his master as he rode whistled John Speriwig and the Thorn Kloof schottische.

The sun had not yet touched the outstretched arms of the prickly pear upon the kopje, and the early cocks and hens still strutted about stiffly after the night's roost, when Waldo stood before the waggon-house saddling the grey mare. Every now and then he glanced up at the old familiar objects: they had a new aspect that morning. Even the cocks, seen in the light of page: 126 parting, had a peculiar interest, and he listened with conscious attention while one crowed clear and loud as it stood on the pigsty wall. He wished good morning softly to the Kaffir-woman who was coming up from the huts to light the fire. He was leaving them all to that old life, and from his height he looked down on them pityingly. So they would keep on crowing, and coming to light fires, when for him that old colourless existence was but a dream.

He went into the house to say good-bye to Em, and then he walked to the door of Lyndall's room to wake her; but she was up, and standing in the doorway.

“So you are ready,” she said.

Waldo looked at her with sudden heaviness; the exhilaration died out of his heart. Her grey dressing-gown hung close about her, and below its edge the little bare feet were resting on the threshold.

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“I wonder when we shall meet again, Waldo. What you will be, and what I?”

“Will you write to me?” he asked of her.

“Yes; and if I should not, you can still remember, wherever you are, that you are not alone.”

“I have left Doss for you,” he said.

“Will you not miss him?”

“No; I want you to have him. He loves you better than he loves me.”

“Thank you.” They stood quiet.

“Good-bye!” she said, putting her little hand in his, and he turned away; but when he reached the door she called to him: “Come back, I want to kiss you.” She drew his face down to hers, and held it with both hands, and kissed it on the forehead and mouth. “Good-bye, dear!”

When he looked back the little figure with its beautiful eyes was standing in the doorway still.

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CHAPTER VIII.

THE KOPJE.

GOOD morning!”

Em, who was in the storeroom measuring the Kaffir's rations, looked up and saw her former lover standing betwixt her and the sunshine. For some days after that evening on which he had ridden home whistling he had shunned her. She might wish to enter into explanations, and he, Gregory Rose, was not the man for that kind of thing. If a woman had once thrown him overboard she must take the consequences, and stand by them. When, however, she showed no inclination to revert to the past, and shunned him more than he shunned her, Gregory softened.

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“You must let me call you Em still, and be like a brother to you till I go,” he said; and Em thanked him so humbly that he wished she hadn't. It wasn't so easy after that to think himself an injured man.

On that morning he stood some time in the doorway switching his whip, and moving rather restlessly from one leg to the other.

“I think I'll just take a walk up to the camps and see how your birds are getting on. Now Waldo's gone you've no one to see after things. Nice morning, isn't it?” Then he added suddenly, “I'll just go round to the house and get a drink of water first;” and somewhat awkwardly walked off. He might have found water in the kitchen, but he never glanced toward the buckets. In the front room a monkey and two tumblers stood on the centre table; but he merely looked round, peeped into the parlour, looked round again, and then walked out at the page: 130 front door, and found himself again at the store-room without having satisfied his thirst. “Awfully nice morning this,” he said, trying to pose himself in a graceful and indifferent attitude against the door. “It isn't hot and it isn't cold. It's awfully nice.”

“Yes,” said Em.

“Your cousin, now,” said Gregory in an aimless sort of way—“I suppose she's shut up in her room writing letters.”

“No,” said Em.

“Gone for a drive, I expect? Nice morning for a drive.”

“No.”

“Gone to see the ostriches, I suppose?”

“No.” After a little silence Em added, “I saw her go by the kraals to the kopje.”

Gregory crossed and uncrossed his legs.

“Well, I think I'll just go and have a look about,” he said, “and see how things are getting page: 131 on before I go to the camps. Good-bye; so long.”

Em left for a while the bags she was folding and went to the window, the same through which, years before, Bonaparte had watched the slouching figure cross the yard. Gregory walked to the pigsty first, and contemplated the pigs for a few seconds; then turned round, and stood looking fixedly at the wall of the fuel-house as though he thought it wanted repairing; then he started off suddenly with the evident intention of going to the ostrich-camps; then paused, hesitated, and finally walked off in the direction of the “kopje.”

Then Em went back to the corner, and folded more sacks.

On the other side of the “kopje” Gregory caught sight of a white tail waving among the stones, and a succession of short, frantic barks told where Doss was engaged in howling implor- imploringly page: 132 ingly to a lizard who had crept between two stones, and who had not the slightest intention of re-sunning himself at that particular moment.

The dog's mistress sat higher up, under the shelving rock, her face bent over a volume of plays upon her knee. As Gregory mounted the stones she started violently and looked up; then resumed her book.

“I hope I am not troubling you,” said Gregory as he reached her side. “If I am I will go away. I just—”

“No; you may stay.”

“I fear I startled you.”

“Yes; your step was firmer than it generally is. I thought it was that of some one else.”

“Who could it be but me?” asked Gregory, seating himself on a stone at her feet.

“Do you suppose you are the only man who would find anything to attract him to this ‘kopje’?”

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“Oh, no,” said Gregory.

He was not going to argue that point with her, nor any other; but no old Boer was likely to take the trouble of climbing the “kopje,” and who else was there?

She continued the study of her book.

“Miss Lyndall,” he said at last, “I don't know why it is you never talk to me.”

“We had a long conversation yesterday,” she said, without looking up.

“Yes; but you ask me questions about sheep and oxen. I don't call that talking. You used to talk to Waldo, now,” he said, in an aggrieved tone of voice. “I've heard you when I came in, and then you've just left off. You treated me like that from the first day; and you couldn't tell from just looking at me that I couldn't talk about the things you like. I'm sure I know as much about such things as Waldo does,” said Gregory, in exceeding bitterness of spirit.

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“I do not know which things you refer to. If you will enlighten me I am quite prepared to speak of them,” she said, reading as she spoke.

“Oh, you never used to ask Waldo like that,” said Gregory, in a more sorely aggrieved tone than ever. “You used just to begin.”

“Well, let me see,” she said, closing her book and folding her hands on it. “There goes a Kaffir; he has nothing on but a blanket; he is a splendid fellow—six feet high, with a magnificent pair of legs. In his leather bag he is going to get his rations, and I suppose to kick his wife with his beautiful legs when he gets home. He has a right to; he bought her for two oxen. There is a lean dog going after him, to whom I suppose he never gives more than a bone from which he has sucked the marrow; but his dog loves him, as his wife does. There is something of the master about him in page: 135 spite of his blackness and wool. See how he brandishes his stick and holds up his head!”

“Oh, but aren't you making fun?” said Gregory, looking doubtfully from her to the Kaffir herd, who rounded the “kopje.”

“No; I am very serious. He is the most interesting and intelligent thing I can see just now, except, perhaps, Doss. He is profoundly suggestive. Will his race melt away in the heat of a collision with a higher? Are the men of the future to see his bones only in museums—a vestige of one link that spanned between the dog and the white man? He wakes thoughts that run far out into the future and back into the past.”

Gregory was not quite sure how to take these remarks. Being about a Kaffir, they appeared to be of the nature of a joke; but being seriously spoken, they appeared earnest; so he half laughed and half not, to be on the safe side.

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“I've often thought so myself. It's funny we should both think the same; I knew we should if once we talked. But there are other things—love, now,” he added. “I wonder if we would think alike about that. I wrote an essay on love once; the master said it was the best I ever wrote, and I can remember the first sentence still—‘Love is something that you feel in your heart.’”

“That was a trenchant remark. Can't you remember any more?”

“No,” said Gregory, regretfully; “I've forgotten the rest. But tell me what do you think about love?”

A look, half of abstraction, half amusement, played on her lips.

“I don't know much about love,” she said, “and I do not like to talk of things I do not understand; but I have heard two opinions. Some say the devil carried the seed from hell page: 137 and planted it on the earth to plague men and make them sin; and some say, that when all the plants in the garden of Eden were pulled up by the roots, one bush that the angels planted was left growing, and it spread its seed over the whole earth, and its name is love. I do not know which is right—perhaps both. There are different species that go under the same name. There is a love that begins in the head, and goes down to the heart, and grows slowly; but it lasts till death, and asks less than it gives. There is another love, that blots out wisdom, that is sweet with the sweetness of life and bitter with the bitterness of death, lasting for an hour; but it is worth having lived a whole life for that hour. I cannot tell, perhaps the old monks were right when they tried to root love out; perhaps the poets are right when they try to water it. It is a blood-red flower, with the colour of page: 138 sin; but there is always the scent of a god about it.”

Gregory would have made a remark; but she said, without noticing,

“There are as many kinds of loves as there are flowers. Everlastings that never wither; Speedwells that wait for the wind to fan them out of life; blood-red mountain-lilies that pour their voluptuous sweetness out for one day, and lie in the dust at night. There is no flower has the charm of all—the Speedwell's purity, the Everlasting's strength, the mountain-lily's warmth; but who knows whether there is no love that holds all—friendship, passion, worship!

“Such a love,” she said, in her sweetest voice, “will fall on the surface of strong, cold, selfish life as the sunlight falls on a torpid winter world; there, where the trees are bare, and the ground frozen, till it rings to the step like iron, and the water is solid, and the air is sharp page: 139 as a two-edged knife that cuts the unwary. But when its sun shines on it, through its whole dead crust a throbbing yearning wakes: the trees feel him, and every knot and bud swell, aching to open to him. The brown seeds, who have slept deep under the ground, feel him, and he gives them strength, till they break through the frozen earth, and lift two tiny, trembling green hands in love to him. And he touches the water, till down to its depths it feels him and melts, and it flows, and the things, strange sweet things that were locked up in it, it sings as it runs, for love of him. Each plant tries to bear at least one fragrant little flower for him; and the world that was dead lives, and the heart that was dead and self-centred throbs, with an upward, outward yearning, and it has become that which it seemed impossible ever to become. There, does that satisfy you?” she asked, looking down page: 140 at Gregory. “Is that how you like me to talk?”

“Oh, yes,” said Gregory, “that is what I have already thought. We have the same thoughts about everything. How strange!”

“Very,” said Lyndall, working with her little toe at a stone in the ground before her.

Gregory felt he must sustain the conversation. The only thing he could think of was to recite a piece of poetry. He knew he had learnt many about love; but the only thing that would come into his mind now, was the ‘Battle of Hohenlinden,’ and ‘Not a drum was heard,’ neither of which seemed to bear directly on the subject on hand.

But unexpected relief came to him from Doss, who, too deeply lost in contemplation of his crevice, was surprised by the sudden descent of the stone Lyndall's foot had loosened, which, rolling against his little front paw, carried away page: 141 a piece of white skin. Doss stood on three legs, holding up the paw with an expression of extreme self-commiseration; he then proceeded to hop slowly upward in search of sympathy.

“You have hurt that dog,” said Gregory.

“Have I?” she replied indifferently, and re-opened the book, as though to resume her study of the play.

“He's a nasty, snappish little cur!” said Gregory, calculating from her manner that the remark would be endorsed. “He snapped at my horse's tail yesterday, and nearly made it throw me. I wonder his master didn't take him, instead of leaving him here to be a nuisance to all of us!”

Lyndall seemed absorbed in her play; but he ventured another remark.

“Do you think now, Miss Lyndall, that he'll ever have anything in the world—that German. I mean—money enough to support a wife on, and page: 142 all that sort of thing? I don't. He's what I call soft.”

She was spreading her skirt out softly with her left hand for the dog to lie down on it.

“I think I should be rather astonished if he ever became a respectable member of society,” she said. I don't expect to see him the possessor of bank-shares, the chairman of a divisional council, and the father of a large family; wearing a black hat, and going to church twice on a Sunday. He would rather astonish me if he came to such an end.”

“Yes; I don't expect anything of him either,” said Gregory, zealously.

“Well, I don't know,” said Lyndall; “there are some small things I rather look to him for. If he were to invent wings, or carry carve a statue that one might look at for half an hour without wanting to look at something else, I should not be surprised. He may do some little thing of page: 143 that kind perhaps, when he has done fermenting and the sediment has all gone to the bottom.”

Gregory felt that what she said was not wholly intended as blame.

“Well, I don't know,” he said sulkily; “to me he looks like a fool. To walk about always in that dead-and-alive sort of way, muttering to himself like an old Kaffir witch-doctor! He works hard enough, but it's always as though he didn't know what he was doing. You don't know how he looks to a person who sees him for the first time.”

Lyndall was softly touching the little sore foot as she read, and Doss, to show he liked it, licked her hand.

“But, Miss Lyndall,” persisted Gregory, “what do you really think of him?”

“I think,” said Lyndall, “that he is like a thorn-tree, which grows up very quietly, without page: 144 any one's caring for it, and one day suddenly breaks out into yellow blossoms.”

“And what do you think I am like?” asked Gregory, hopefully.

Lyndall looked up from her book.

“Like a little tin duck floating on a dish of water, that comes after a piece of bread stuck on a needle, and the more the needle pricks it the more it comes on.”

“Oh, you are making fun of me now, you really are!” said Gregory feeling wretched. “You are making fun, aren't you, now?”

“Partly. It is always diverting to make comparisons.”

“Yes; but you don't compare me to anything nice, and you do other people. What is Em like, now?”

“The accompaniment of a song. She fills up the gaps in other people's lives, and is always number two; but I think she is like many page: 145 accompaniments—a great deal better than the song she is to accompany.”

“She is not half so good as you are!” said Gregory, with a burst of uncontrollable ardour.

“She is so much better than I, that her little finger has more goodness in it than my whole body. I hope you may not live to find out the truth of that fact.”

“You are like an angel,” he said, the blood rushing to his head and face.

“Yes, probably; angels are of many orders.”

“You are the one being that I love!” said Gregory quivering; “I thought I loved before, but I know now! Do not be angry with me. I know you could never like me; but, if I might but always be near you to serve you, I would be utterly, utterly happy. I would ask nothing in return! If you could only take everything I have and use it; I want nothing but to see you.”

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“How do you know,” she said slowly, “that I would not be willing to marry you if you asked me?”

He started, and turned his burning face to her.

“You are very cruel; you are ridiculing me,” he said.

“No, I am not, Gregory. What I am saying is plain, matter-of-fact business. If you are willing to marry me within three weeks' time, I am willing to marry you, if not, not. That is a clear proposal, is it not?”

He looked up. Was it contempt, loathing, pity, that moved in the eyes above? He could not tell; but he stooped over the little foot and kissed it.

She smiled.

“Do you really mean it?” he whispered.

“Yes. You wish to be near me, and to serve me, and to have nothing in return?—you shall have what you wish. I believe you love me; I page: 147 too could love so, that to lie under the foot of the thing I loved would be more heaven than to lie in the breast of another.—Come! let us go. Carry the dog,” she added; “he will not bite you if I put him in your arms. So—do not let his foot hang down.”

They descended the “kopje.” At the bottom, he whispered,—

“Would you not take my arm? the path is very rough.”

She rested her fingers lightly on it.

“I would try to make everything beautiful for you,” he said; “but now there is not time.”

“It does not matter. I may yet change my mind about marrying you before the time comes. Mark you!” she said, turning round on him; “I remember your words:—You will give everything, and expect nothing. The knowledge that you are serving me is to be your reward; and you will have that. You will serve me, and greatly. page: 148 The reasons I have for marrying you I need not inform you of now; you will probably discover some of them before long.”

“I only want to be of some use to you,” he said.

It seemed to Gregory that there were pulses in the soles of his feet, and the ground shimmered as on a summer's day. They walked round the foot of the kopje, and past the Kaffir huts. An old Kaffir maid knelt at the door of one grinding mealies. That she should see him walking so made his heart beat so fast that the hand on his arm felt its pulsation. It seemed that she must envy him.

Just then Em looked out again at the back window and saw them coming. She cried bitterly all the while she sorted the skins.

But that night when Lyndall had blown her candle out, and half turned round to sleep, the door of Em's bed-room opened.

“I want to say good night to you, Lyndall,” page: 149 she said, coming to the bedside and kneeling down.

“I thought you were asleep,” Lyndall replied.

“Yes, I have been asleep; but I had such a vivid dream,” she said, holding the other's hands, “and that woke me. I never had so vivid a dream before.

“It seemed I was a little girl again, and I came somewhere into a large room. On a bed in the corner there was something lying dressed in white, and its little eyes were shut, and its little face was like wax. I thought it was a doll, and I ran forward to take it; but some one held up her finger and said, ‘Hush! it is a little dead baby.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I must go and call Lyndall, that she may look at it also.’

“And they put their faces close down to my ear and whispered, ‘It is Lyndall's baby.’

“And I said, ‘She cannot be grown up yet; page: 150 she is only a little girl! Where is she?’ And I went to look for you, but I could not find you.

“And when I came to some people who were dressed in black, I asked them where you were, and they looked down at their black clothes, and shook their heads, and said nothing; and I could not find you anywhere. And then I woke.

“Lyndall,” she said, putting her face down upon the hands she held, “it made me think about that time when we were little girls and used to play together, when I loved you better than anything else in the world. It isn't any one's fault that they love you; they can't help it. And it isn't your fault; you don't make them love you. I know it.”

“Thank you, dear,” Lyndall said. “It is nice to be loved, but it would be better to be good.”

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Then they wished good night, and Em went back to her room. Long after Lyndall lay in the dark thinking, thinking, thinking; and as she turned round wearily to sleep she muttered,

“There are some wiser in their sleeping than in their waking.”

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CHAPTER IX.

LYNDALL'S STRANGER.

A FIRE is burning in the unused hearth of the cabin. The fuel blazes up, and lights the black rafters, and warms the faded red lions on the quilt, and fills the little room with a glow of warmth and light made brighter by contrast, for outside the night is chill and misty.

Before the open fire-place sits a stranger, his keen blue eyes studying the fire from beneath delicately-pencilled, drooping eyelids. One white hand plays thoughtfully with a heavy flaxen moustache; yet once he starts, and for an instant the languid lids raise themselves: there is a keen, intent look upon the face as he listens page: 153 for something. Then he leans back in his chair, fills his glass from the silver flask in his bag, and resumes his old posture.

Presently the door opens noiselessly. It is Lyndall, followed by Doss. Quietly as she enters, he hears her, and turns.

“I thought you were not coming.”

“I waited till all had gone to bed. I could not come before.”

She removed the shawl that enveloped her, and the stranger rose to offer her his chair; but she took her seat on a low pile of sacks before the window.

“I hardly see why I should be outlawed after this fashion,” he said, re-seating himself and drawing his chair a little nearer to her; “these are hardly the quarters one expects to find after travelling a hundred miles in answer to an invitation.”

“I said, ‘Come if you wish.’”

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“And I did wish. You give me a cold reception.”

“I could not take you to the house. Questions would be asked which I could not answer without prevarication.”

“Your conscience is growing to have a certain virgin tenderness,” he said, in a low, melodious voice.

“I have no conscience. I spoke one deliberate lie this evening. I said the man who had come looked rough, we had best not have him in the house; therefore I brought him here. It was a deliberate lie, and I hate lies. I tell them if I must, but they hurt me.”

“Well, you do not tell lies to yourself, at all events. You are candid, so far.”

She interrupted him.

“You got my short letter?”

“Yes; that is why I come. You sent a very page: 155 foolish reply; you must take it back. Who is this fellow you talk of marrying?”

“A young farmer.”

“Lives here?”

“Yes; he has gone to town to get things for our wedding.”

“What kind of a fellow is he?”

“A fool.”

“And you would rather marry him than me?”

“Yes; because you are not one.”

“That is a novel reason for refusing to marry a man,” he said, leaning his elbow on the table and watching her keenly.

“It is a wise one,” she said shortly. “If I marry him I shall shake him off my hand when it suits me. It is three weeks since I first talked of marrying him, and he has not once dared to kiss my hand. As far as I wish he should come, he comes, and no further. Would page: 156 you ask me what you might and what you might not do?”

Her companion raised the moustache with a caressing movement from his lip and smiled. It was not a question that stood in need of any answer.

“What have you done with the ring I gave you?” he said.

“Sometimes I wear it; then I take it off and wish to throw it into the fire; the next day I put it on again, and sometimes I kiss it.”

“So you do love me a little?”

“If you were not something more to me than any other man in the world, do you think—” she paused. “I love you when I see you; but when you are away from me I hate you.”

“Then I fear I must be singularly invisible at the present moment,” he said. “Possibly if you were to look less fixedly into the fire you might perceive me.”

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He moved his chair slightly, so as to come between her and the firelight. She raised her eyes to his face.

“If you do love me,” he asked her, “why will you not marry me?”

“Because, if I had been married to you for a year I should have come to my senses and seen that your hands and your voice are like the hands and the voice of any other man. I cannot quite see that now. But it is all madness. You call into activity one part of my nature; there is a higher part that you know nothing of, that you never touch. If I married you, afterwards it would arise and assert itself, and I should hate you always, as I do now sometimes.”

“I like you when you grow metaphysical and analytical,” he said, leaning his face upon his hand. “Go a little further in your analysis, say, ‘I love you with the right ventricle of my heart, but not the left, and with the left auricle page: 158 of my heart, but not the right; and this being the case, my affection for you is not of a duly elevated, intellectual and spiritual nature.’ I like you when you get philosophical.”

She looked quietly at him; he was trying to turn her own weapons against her.

“You are acting foolishly, Lyndall,” he said, suddenly changing his manner, and speaking almost earnestly, “most foolishly. You are acting like a little child; I am surprised at you. It is all very well to have ideals and theories; but you know as well as any one can that they must not be carried into the practical world. I love you. I do not pretend that it is in any high, superhuman sense; I do not say that I should like you as well if you were ugly and deformed, or that I should continue to prize you whatever your treatment of me might be, or to love you though you were a spirit without any body at all. That is sentimentality for beardless boys. page: 159 Every one not a mere child (and you are not a child, except in years) knows what love between a man and a woman means. I love you with that love. I should not have believed it possible that I could have brought myself twice to ask of any woman to be my wife, more especially one without wealth, without position, and whom—”

“Yes—go on. Do not grow sorry for me. Say what you were going to—‘who has put herself into my power, and who has lost the right of meeting me on equal terms.’ Say what you think. At least we two may speak the truth to one another.”

Then she added after a pause,

“I believe you do love me, as much as you possibly could love anything; and I believe that when you ask me to marry you, you are performing the most generous act you ever have performed in the course of your life, or ever will; but, at the same time, if I had required your page: 160 generosity, it would not have been shown me. If, when I got your letter a month ago, hinting at your willingness to marry me, I had at once written, imploring you to come, you would have read the letter. ‘Poor little Devil!’ you would have said, and torn it up. The next week you would have sailed for Europe, and have sent me a check for a hundred and fifty pounds (which I would have thrown in the fire), and I would have heard no more of you.” The stranger smiled. “But because I declined your proposal, and wrote that in three weeks I should be married to another, then what you call love woke up. Your man's love is a child's love for butterflies. You follow till you have the thing, and break it. If you have broken one wing, and the thing flies still, then you love it more than ever, and follow till you break both; then you are satisfied when it lies still on the ground.”

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“You are profoundly wise in the ways of the world; you have seen far into life,” he said.

He might as well have sneered at the firelight.

“I have seen enough to tell me that you love me because you cannot bear to be resisted, and want to master me. You liked me at first because I treated you and all men with indifference. You resolved to have me because I seemed unattainable. This is all your love means.”

He felt a strong inclination to stoop down and kiss the little lip that defied him; but he restrained himself. He said quietly,

“Well, since you will not marry me, may I inquire what your intentions are, the plan you wrote of. You asked me to come and hear it, and I have come.”

“I said, ‘Come if you wish.’—If you agree to it, well; if not, I marry on Monday.”

“Well?”

She was still looking beyond him at the fire.

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“I cannot marry you,” she said slowly, “because I cannot be tied; but if you wish, you may take me away with you, and take care of me; then when we do not love any more we can say good-bye. I will not go down-country,” she added; “I will not go to Europe. You must take me to the Transvaal. That is out of the world. People we meet there we need not see again in our future lives.”

“Oh, my darling,” he said, bending tenderly, and holding his hand out to her, “why will you not give yourself entirely to me? One day you will desert me and go to another.”

She shook her head without looking at him.

“No, life is too long. But I will go with you.”

“When?”

“To-morrow. I have told them that before daylight I go to the next farm. I will write from the town and tell them the facts. I do not page: 163 want them to trouble me; I want to shake myself free of these old surroundings; I want them to lose sight of me. You can understand that is necessary for me.”

He seemed lost in consideration; then he said,

“It is better to have you on those conditions than not at all. If you will have it, let it be so.”

He sat looking at her. On her face was the weary look that rested there so often now when she sat alone. Two months had not passed since they parted; but the time had set its mark on her. He looked at her carefully, from the brown, smooth head to the little crossed feet on the floor. A worn look had grown over the little face, and it made its charm for him stronger. For pain and time, which trace deep lines and write a story on a human face, have a strangely different effect on one face and another. page: 164 The face that is only fair, even very fair, they mar and flaw; but to the face whose beauty is the harmony between that which speaks from within and the form through which it speaks, power is added by all that causes the outer man to bear more deeply the impress of the inner. The pretty woman fades with the roses on her cheeks, and the girlhood that lasts an hour; the beautiful woman finds her fulness of bloom only when a past has written itself on her, and her power is then most irresistible when it seems going.

From under their half-closed lids the keen eyes looked down at her. Her shoulders were bent; for a moment the little figure had forgotten its queenly bearing, and drooped wearily; the wide, dark eyes watched the fire very softly.

It certainly was not in her power to resist him, nor any strength in her that made his own at that moment grow soft as he looked at her.

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He touched one little hand that rested on her knee.

“Poor little thing!” he said; “you are only a child.”

She did not draw her hand away from his, and looked up at him.

“You are very tired?”

“Yes.”

She looked into his eyes as a little child might whom a long day's play had saddened.

He lifted her gently up, and sat her on his knee.

“Poor little thing!” he said.

She turned her face to his shoulder, and buried it against his neck; he wound his strong arm about her, and held her close to him. When she had sat for a long while, he drew with his hand the face down, and held it against his arm. He kissed it, and then put it back in its old resting-place.

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“Don't you want to talk to me?”

“No.”

“Have you forgotten the night in the avenue?”

He could feel that she shook her head.

“Do you want to be quiet now?”

“Yes.”

They sat quite still, excepting that only sometimes he raised her fingers softly to his mouth.

Doss, who had been asleep in the corner, waking suddenly, planted himself before them, his wiry legs moving nervously, his yellow eyes filled with anxiety. He was not at all sure that she was not being retained in her present position against her will, and was not a little relieved when she sat up and held out her hand for the shawl.

“I must go,” she said.

The stranger wrapped the shawl very carefully about her.

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“Keep it close around your face, Lyndall; it is very damp outside. Shall I walk with you to the house?”

“No. Lie down and rest; I will come and wake you at three o'clock.”

She lifted her face that he might kiss it, and, when he had kissed it once, she still held it that he might kiss it again. Then he let her out. He had seated himself at the fire-place, when she re-opened the door.

“Have you forgotten anything?”

“No.”

She gave one long, lingering look at the old room. When she was gone, and the door shut, the stranger filled his glass, and sat at the table sipping it thoughtfully.

The night outside was misty and damp; the faint moonlight, trying to force its way through the thick air, made darkly visible the outlines of the buildings. The stones and walls were moist, page: 168 and now and then a drop, slowly collecting, fell from the eaves to the ground. Doss, not liking the change from the cabin's warmth, ran quickly to the kitchen door-step; but his mistress walked slowly past him, and took her way up the winding foot-path that ran beside the stone wall of the camps. When she came to the end of the last camp, she threaded her way among the stones and bushes till she reached the German's grave. Why she had come there she hardly knew; she stood looking down. Suddenly she bent and put one hand on the face of a wet stone.

“I shall never come to you again,” she said.

Then she knelt on the ground, and leaned her face upon the stones.

“Dear old man, good old man, I am so tired!” she said (for we will come to the dead to tell secrets we would never have told to the living). “I am so tired. There is light, there page: 169 is warmth,” she wailed; “why am I alone, so hard, so cold? I am so weary of myself! It is eating my soul to its core,—self, self, self! I cannot bear this life! I cannot breathe, I cannot live! Will nothing free me from myself?” She pressed her cheek against the wooden post. “I want to love! I want something great and pure to lift me to itself! Dear old man, I cannot bear it any more! I am so cold, so hard, so hard; will no one help me?”

The water gathered slowly on her shawl, and fell on to the wet stones; but she lay there crying bitterly. For so the living soul will cry to the dead, and the creature to its God; and of all this crying there comes nothing. The lifting up of the hands brings no salvation; redemption is from within, and neither from God nor man; it is wrought out by the soul itself, with suffering and through time.

Doss, on the kitchen door-step, shivered, and page: 170 wondered where his mistress stayed so long; and once, sitting sadly there in the damp, he had dropped asleep, and dreamed that old Otto gave him a piece of bread, and patted him on the head, and when he woke his teeth chattered, and he moved to another stone to see if it was drier. At last he heard his mistress's step, and they went into the house together. She lit a candle, and walked to the Boer-woman's bed-room. On a nail under the lady in pink hung the key of the wardrobe. She took it down and opened the great press. From a little drawer she took fifty pounds (all she had in the world), relocked the door, and turned to hang up the key. The marks of tears were still on her face, but she smiled.

“Fifty pounds for a lover! A noble reward!” she said, and opened the wardrobe and returned the notes to the drawer.

Once in her own room, she arranged the page: 171 few articles she intended to take to-morrow, burnt her old letters, and then went back to the front-room to look at the time. There were two hours yet before she must call him. She sat down at the dressing-table to wait, and leaned her elbows on it, and buried her face in her hands. The glass reflected the little brown head with its even parting, and the tiny hands on which it rested. Presently she looked up. The large, dark eyes from the glass looked back at her. She looked deep into them.

“We are all alone, you and I,” she whispered; “no one helps us, no one understands us; but we will help ourselves.” The eyes looked back at her. There was a world of assurance in their still depths. So they had looked at her ever since she could remember, when it was but a small child's face above a blue pinafore they had looked from. “We shall never be quite alone, page: 172 you and I,” she said; “we shall always be together, as we were when we were little.”

The beautiful eyes looked into the depths of her soul.

“We are not afraid; we will help ourselves!” she said. She stretched out her hand and pressed it over them on the glass. “Dear eyes! we will never be quite alone till they part us;—till then!”

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CHAPTER X.

GREGORY ROSE HAS AN IDEA.

GREGORY ROSE was in the loft putting it neat. Outside the rain poured; a six months' drought had broken, and the thirsty plain was drenched with water. What it could not swallow ran off in mad rivulets to the great “sloot,” that now foamed like an angry river across the flat. Even the little furrow between the farmhouse and the kraals was now a stream, knee-deep, which almost bore away the Kaffir-women who crossed it. It had rained for twenty-four hours, and still the rain poured on. The fowls had collected—a melancholy crowd—in and about the waggon-house, and the page: 174 solitary gander, who alone had survived the six months' want of water, walked hither and thither, printing his webbed foot-marks on the mud, to have them washed out the next instant by the pelting rain, which at eleven o'clock still beat on the walls and roofs with unabated ardour.

Gregory, as he worked in the loft, took no notice of it beyond stuffing a sack into the broken pane to keep it out; and, in spite of the pelt and patter, Em's clear voice might be heard through the open trap-door from the dining room, where she sat at work, singing the ‘Blue Water’—
  • “And take me away,
  • And take me away,
  • And take me away,
  • To the Blue Water”—
that quaint, childish song of the people, that has a world of sweetness, and sad, vague yearning when sung over and over dreamily by a woman's voice as she sits alone at her work. page: 175 But Gregory heard neither that nor yet the loud laughter of the Kaffir maids, that every now and again broke through from the kitchen, where they joked and worked. Of late Gregory had grown strangely impervious to the sounds and sights about him. His lease had run out, but Em had said, “Do not renew it; I need one to help me; just stay on.” And, she had added, “You must not remain in your own little house; live with me; you can look after my ostriches better so.”

And Gregory did not thank her. What difference did it make to him, paying rent or not, living there or not; it was all one. But yet he came. Em wished that he would still sometimes talk of the strength of the master-right of man; but Gregory was as one smitten on the cheek-bone. She might do what she pleased, he would find no fault, had no word to say. He had forgotten that it is man's right to rule. On that page: 176 rainy morning he had lighted his pipe at the kitchen fire, and when breakfast was over stood in the front door watching the water rush down the road till the pipe died out in his mouth. Em saw she must do something for him, and found him a large calico duster. He had sometimes talked of putting the loft neat, and to-day she could find nothing else for him to do. So she had the ladder put to the trap-door that he need not go out in the wet, and Gregory with the broom and duster mounted to the loft. Once at work he worked hard. He dusted down the very rafters, and cleaned the broken candle moulds and bent forks that had stuck in the thatch for twenty years. He placed the black bottles neatly in rows on an old box in the corner, and piled the skins on one another, and sorted the rubbish in all the boxes; and at eleven o'clock his work was almost done. He seated himself on the packing-case which had page: 177 once held Waldo's books, and proceeded to examine the contents of another which he had not yet looked at. It was carelessly nailed down. He loosened one plank, and began to lift out various articles of female attire—old-fashioned caps, aprons, dresses with long pointed bodies such as he remembered to have seen his mother wear when he was a little child. He shook them out carefully to see there were no moths, and then sat down to fold them up again one by one. They had belonged to Em's mother, and the box, as packed at her death, had stood untouched and forgotten these long years. She must have been a tall woman, that mother of Em's, for when he stood up to shake out a dress the neck was on a level with his, and the skirt touched the ground. Gregory laid a night-cap out on his knee, and began rolling up the strings; but presently his fingers moved slower and slower, then his chin rested on his breast, and page: 178 finally the imploring blue eyes were fixed on the frill abstractedly. When Em's voice called to him from the foot of the ladder he started, and threw the nightcap behind him.

She was only come to tell him that his cup of soup was ready; and, when he could hear that she was gone, he picked up the night-cap again, and a great brown sun-“kapje”—just such a “kapje” and such a dress as one of those he remembered to have seen a sister-of-mercy wear. Gregory's mind was very full of thought. He took down a fragment of an old looking-glass from behind a beam, and put the “kapje” on. His beard looked somewhat grotesque under it; he put up his hand to hide it—that was better. The blue eyes looked out with the mild gentleness that became eyes looking out from under a “kapje.” Next he took the brown dress, and, looking round furtively, slipped it over his head. He had just got his arms in the sleeves, and was page: 179 trying to hook up the back, when an increase in the patter of the rain at the window made him drag it off hastily. When he perceived there was no one coming he tumbled the things back into the box, and, covering it carefully, went down the ladder.

Em was still at her work, trying to adjust a new needle in the machine. Gregory drank his soup, and then sat before her, an awful and mysterious look in his eyes.

“I am going to town to-morrow,” he said.

“I'm almost afraid you won't be able to go,” said Em, who was intent on her needle; “I don't think it is going to leave off to-day.”

“I am going,” said Gregory.

Em looked up.

“But the ‘sloots’ are as full as rivers; you cannot go. We can wait for the post,” she said.

“I am not going for the post,” said Gregory, impressively.

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Em looked for explanation; none came.

“When will you be back?”

“I am not coming back.”

“Are you going to your friends?”

Gregory waited, then caught her by the wrist.

“Look here, Em,” he said between his teeth, “I can't stand it any more. I am going to her.”

Since that day, when he had come home and found Lyndall gone, he had never talked of her; but Em knew who it was who needed to be spoken of by no name.

She said, when he had released her hand,

“But you do not know where she is?”

“Yes, I do. She was in Bloemfontein when I heard last. I will go there, and I will find out where she went then, and then, and then! I will have her.”

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Em turned the wheel quickly, and the ill-adjusted needle sprung into twenty fragments.

“Gregory,” she said, “she does not want us; she told us so clearly in the letter she wrote.” A flush rose on her face as she spoke. “It will only be pain to you, Gregory. Will she like to have you near her?”

There was an answer he might have made, but it was his secret, and he did not choose to share it. He said only,

“I am going.”

“Will you be gone long, Gregory?”

“I do not know; perhaps I shall never come back. Do what you please with my things. I cannot stay here!”

He rose from his seat.

“People say, forget, forget!” he cried, pacing the room. “They are mad! they are fools! Do they say so to men who are dying of thirst—forget, forget? Why is it only to us they say page: 182 so? It is a lie to say that time makes it easy; it is afterward, afterward that it eats in at your heart!

“All these months,” he cried bitterly, “I have lived here quietly, day after day, as if I cared for what I ate, and what I drank, and what I did! I care for nothing! I cannot bear it! I will not! Forget! forget!” ejaculated Gregory. “You can forget all the world, but you cannot forget yourself. When one thing is more to you than yourself, how are you to forget it?

“I read,” he said—“yes; and then I come to a word she used, and it is all back with me again! I go to count my sheep, and I see her face before me, and I stand and let the sheep run by. I look at you, and in your smile, a something at the corner of your lips, I see her. How can I forget her when, whenever I turn, she is there, and not there? I cannot, I will not, live where I do not see her.

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“I know what you think,” he said, turning upon her. “You think I am mad; you think I am going to see whether she will not like me! I am not so foolish. I should have known at first she never could suffer me. Who am I, what am I, that she should look at me? It was right that she left me; right that she should not look at me. If any one says it is not, it is a lie! I am not going to speak to her,” he added—“only to see her; only to stand sometimes in a place where she has stood before.”

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CHAPTER XI.

AN UNFINISHED LETTER.

GREGORY ROSE had been gone seven months. Em sat alone on a white sheepskin before the fire.

The August night-wind, weird and shrill, howled round the chimneys and through the crannies, and in walls and doors, and uttered a long low cry as it forced its way among the clefts of the stones on the “kopje.” It was a wild night. The prickly pear tree, stiff and upright as it held its arms, felt the wind's might, and knocked its flat leaves heavily together, till great branches broke off. The Kaffirs, as they slept in their straw huts, page: 185 whispered one to another that before morning there would not be an armful of thatch left on the roofs; and the beams of the waggon-house creaked and groaned as if it were heavy work to resist the importunity of the wind.

Em had not gone to bed. Who could sleep on a night like this? So in the dining room she had lighted a fire, and sat on the ground before it, turning the roaster-cakes that lay on the coals to bake. It would save work in the morning; and she blew out the light because the wind through the window-chinks made it flicker and run; and she sat singing to herself as she watched the cakes. They lay at one end of the wide hearth on a bed of coals, and at the other end a fire burnt up steadily, casting its amber glow over Em's light hair and black dress, with the ruffle of crape about the neck, and over the white curls of the sheepskin on which she sat.

Louder and more fiercely yet howled the page: 186 storm; but Em sang on, and heard nothing but the words of her song, and heard them only faintly, as something restful. It was an old, childish song she had often heard her mother sing long ago—
  • “Where the reeds dance by the river,
  • Where the willow's song is said,
  • On the face of the morning water,
  • Is reflected a white flower's head.”
She folded her hands and sang the next verse dreamily—
  • “Where the reeds shake by the river,
  • Where the moonlight's sheen is shed,
  • On the face of the sleeping water,
  • Two leaves of a white flower float dead.
  • Dead, dead, dead!”

She echoed the refrain softly till it died away, and then repeated it. It was as if, unknown to herself, it harmonized with the pictures and thoughts that sat with her there alone in the firelight. She turned the cakes over, while the page: 187 wind hurled down a row of bricks from the gable, and made the walls tremble.

Presently she paused and listened; there was a sound as of something knocking at the back-doorway. But the wind had raised its level higher, and she went on with her work. At last the sound was repeated. Then she rose, lit the candle and the fire, and went to see. Only to satisfy herself, she said, that nothing could be out on such a night.

She opened the door a little way, and held the light behind her to defend it from the wind. The figure of a tall man stood there, and before she could speak he had pushed his way in, and was forcing the door to close behind him.

“Waldo!” she cried in astonishment.

He had been gone more than a year and a half.

“You did not expect to see me,” he answered, as he turned toward her; “I should have slept in the out-house, and not troubled you to-night; page: 188 but through the shutter I saw glimmerings of a light.”

“Come in to the fire,” she said; “it is a terrific night for any creature to be out. Shall we not go and fetch your things in first?” she added.

“I have nothing but this,” he said, motioning to the little bundle in his hand.

“Your horse?”

“Is dead.”

He sat down on the bench before the fire.

“The cakes are almost ready,” she said; “I will get you something to eat. Where have you been wandering all this while?”

“Up and down, up and down,” he answered wearily; “and now the whim has seized me to come back here. Em,” he said, putting his hand on her arm as she passed him, “have you heard from Lyndall lately?”

“Yes,” said Em, turning quickly from him.

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“Where is she? I had one letter from her, but that is almost eighteen months ago now—just when she left. Where is she?”

“In the Transvaal. I will go and get you some supper; we can talk afterward.”

“Can you give me her exact address? I want to write to her.”

But Em had gone into the next room.

When food was on the table she knelt down before the fire, turning the cakes, babbling restlessly, eagerly, now of this, now of that. She was glad to see him—Tant' Sannie was coming soon to show her her new baby—he must stay on the farm now, and help her. And Waldo himself was well content to eat his meal in silence, asking no more questions.

“Gregory is coming back next week,” she said; “he will have been gone just a hundred and three days to-morrow. I had a letter from him yesterday.”

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“Where has he been?”

But his companion stooped to lift a cake from the fire.

“How the wind blows! One can hardly hear one's own voice,” she said. “Take this warm cake; no one's cakes are like mine. Why, you have eaten nothing!”

“I am a little weary,” he said; “the wind was mad to-night.”

He folded his arms, and rested his head against the fire-place, whilst she removed the dishes from the table. On the mantel-piece stood an ink-pot and some sheets of paper. Presently he took them down and turned up the corner of the table-cloth.

“I will write a few lines,” he said; “till you are ready to sit down and talk.”

Em, as she shook out the table-cloth, watched him bending intently over his paper. He had changed much. His face had grown page: 191 thinner; his cheeks were almost hollow, though they were covered by a dark growth of beard.

She sat down on the skin beside him, and felt the little bundle on the bench; it was painfully small and soft. Perhaps it held a shirt and a book, but nothing more. The old black hat had a piece of unhemmed muslin twisted round it, and on his elbow was a large patch so fixed on with yellow thread that her woman's heart ached. Only his hair was not changed, and hung in silky beautiful waves almost to his shoulders. To-morrow she would take the ragged edge off his collar, and put a new band round his hat. She did not interrupt him, but she wondered how it was that he sat to write so intently after his long weary walk. He was not tired now; his pen hurried quickly and restlessly over the paper, and his eye was bright. Presently Em raised her hand to her breast, where lay the letter yesterday had brought page: 192 her. Soon she had forgotten him, as entirely as he had forgotten her; each was in his own world with his own. He was writing to Lyndall. He would tell her all he had seen, all he had done, though it were nothing worth relating. He seemed to have come back to her, and to be talking to her now he sat there in the old house.

“— and then I got to the next town, and my horse was tired, so I could go no further, and looked for work. A shop-keeper agreed to hire me as salesman. He made me sign a promise to remain six months, and he gave me a little empty room at the back of the store to sleep in. I had still three pounds of my own, and when you just come from the country three pounds seems a great deal.

“When I had been in the shop three days I wanted to go away again. A clerk in a shop has the lowest work to do of all the people. It is page: 193 much better to break stones; you have the blue sky above you, and only the stones to bend to. I asked my master to let me go, and I offered to give him my two pounds, and the bag of mealies I had bought with the other pound; but he would not.

“I found out afterward he was only giving me half as much as he gave to the others—that was why. I had fear when I looked at the other clerks that I would at last become like them. All day they were bowing and smirking to the women who came in; smiling, when all they wanted was to get their money from them. They used to run and fetch the dresses and ribbons to show them, and they seemed to me like worms with oil on. There was one respectable thing in that store—it was the Kaffir storeman. His work was to load and unload, and he never needed to smile except when he liked, and he never told lies.

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“The other clerks gave me the name of Old Salvation; but there was one person I liked very much. He was clerk in another store. He often went past the door. He seemed to me not like others—his face was bright and fresh like a little child's. When he came to the shop I felt I liked him. One day I saw a book in his pocket, and that, made me feel near him. I asked him if he was fond of reading, and he said, yes, when there was nothing else to do. The next day he came to me, and asked me if I did not feel lonely; he never saw me going out with the other fellows; he would come and see me that evening, he said.

“I was glad, and bought some meat and flour, because the grey mare and I always ate mealies; it is the cheapest thing; and if you boil it hard you can't eat much of it. I made some cakes, and I folded my great coat on the box to make it softer for him; and at last he came.

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“‘You've got a rummy place here,’ he said.

“You see there was nothing in it but packing-cases for furniture, and it was rather empty. While I was putting the food on the box he looked at my books; he read their names out aloud. ‘Elementary Physiology,’ ‘First Principles.’

“‘Golly!’ he said; ‘I've got a lot of dry stuff like that at home I got for Sunday School prizes; but I only keep them to light my pipe with now; they come in handy for that.’ Then he asked me if I had ever read a book called the ‘Black-eyed Creole.’ ‘That is the style for me,’ he said; ‘there where the fellow takes the nigger-girl by the arm, and the other fellow cuts it off! That's what I like.’

“But what he said after that I don't remember, only it made me feel as if I were having a bad dream, and I wanted to be far away.

“When he had finished eating he did not page: 196 stay long; he had to go and see some girls home from a prayer-meeting; and he asked how it was he never saw me walking out with any on Sunday afternoons. He said he had lots of sweethearts, and he was going to see one the next Wednesday on a farm, and he asked me to lend my mare. I told him she was very old. But he said it didn't matter; he would come the next day to fetch her.

“After he was gone my little room got back to its old look. I loved it so; I was so glad to get into it at night, and it seemed to be reproaching me for bringing him there. The next day he took the grey mare. On Thursday he did not bring her back, and on Friday I found the saddle and bridle standing at my door.

“In the afternoon he looked into the shop, and called out,

“‘Hope you got your saddle, Farber. Your bag-of-bones kicked out six miles from here. I'll send you a couple of shillings to-morrow, page: 197 though the old hide wasn't worth it. Good morning.’

“But I sprung over the counter, and got him by his throat. My father was so gentle with her; he never would ride her up-hill, and now this fellow had murdered her! I asked him where he had killed her, and I shook him till he slipped out of my hand. He stood in the door grinning.

“‘It didn't take much to kill that bag-of-bones, whose master sleeps in a packing-case, and waits till his company's finished to eat on the plate. Shouldn't wonder if you fed her on sugar-bags,’ he said; ‘and if you think I've jumped her, you'd better go and look yourself. You'll find her along the road by the “aas-vogels” that are eating her.’

“I caught him by his collar, and I lifted him from the ground, and I threw him out into the street, half-way across it. I heard the book-keeper say to the clerk that there was always page: 198 the devil in those mum fellows; but they never called me Salvation after that.

“I am writing to you of very small things, but there is nothing else to tell; it has been all small and you will like it. Whenever anything has happened I have always thought I would tell it to you. The back thought in my mind is always you. After that only one old man came to visit me. I had seen him in the streets often; he always wore very dirty black clothes, and a hat with crape round it, and he had one eye, so I noticed him. One day he came to my room with a subscription-list for a minister's salary. When I said I had nothing to give he looked at me with his one eye.

“‘Young man,’ he said, ‘how is it I never see you in the house of the Lord?’ I thought he was trying to do good, so I felt sorry for him, and I told him I never went to chapel. ‘Young man,’ he said, ‘it grieves me to hear such page: 199 godless words from the lips of one so young—so far gone in the paths of destruction. Young man, if you forget God, God will forget you. There is a seat on the right hand side as you go at the bottom door that you may get. If you are given over to the enjoyment and frivolities of this world, what will become of your never-dying soul?’

“He would not go till I gave him half-a-crown for the minister's salary. Afterward I heard he was the man who collected the pew-rents, and got a per centage. I didn't get to know any one else.

“When my time in that shop was done I hired myself to drive one of a transport-rider's waggons.

“That first morning, when I sat in the front and called to my oxen, and saw nothing about me but the hills with the blue coming down to them, and the karroo bushes, I was drunk; I laughed; my heart was throbbing till it hurt page: 200 me. I shut my eyes tight, that when I opened them I might see there were no shelves about me. There must be a beauty in buying and selling, if there is beauty in everything: but it is very ugly to me. My life as transport-rider would have been the best life in the world if I had had only one waggon to drive. My master told me he would drive one, I the other, and he would hire another person to drive the third. But the first day I drove two to help him, and after that he let me drive all three. Whenever we came to an hotel he stopped behind to get a drink, and when he rode up to the waggons he could never stand; the Hottentot and I used to lift him up. We always travelled all night, and used to ‘out-span’ for five or six hours in the heat of the day to rest. I planned that I would lie under a waggon and read for an hour or two every day before I went to sleep, and I did for the first page: 201 two or three; but after that I only wanted to sleep, like the rest, and I packed my books away. When you have three waggons to look after all night, you are sometimes so tired you can hardly stand. At first when I walked along driving my waggons in the night it was glorious; the stars had never looked so beautiful to me; and on the dark nights when we rode through the bush there were will-o'-the-wisps dancing on each side of the road. I found out that even the damp and dark are beautiful. But I soon changed, and saw nothing but the road and my oxen. I only wished for a smooth piece of road, so that I might sit at the front and doze. At the places where we ‘out-spanned’ there were sometimes rare plants and flowers, the festoons hanging from the bush-trees, nuts and insects, such as we never see here; but after a little while I never looked at them—I was too tired. I ate as much as I could, and then lay down on my page: 202 face under the waggon till the boy came to wake me to ‘in-span,’ and then we drove on again all night; so it went, so it went. I think sometimes when I walked by my oxen I called to them in my sleep, for I know I thought of nothing; I was like an animal. My body was strong and well to work, but my brain was dead. If you have not felt it, Lyndall, you cannot understand it. You may work, and work, and work, till you are only a body, not a soul. Now, when I see one of those evil-looking men that come from Europe—navvies, with the beast-like, sunken face, different from any Kaffir's—I know what brought that look into their eyes; and if I have only one inch of tobacco I give them half. It is work, grinding, mechanical work, that they or their ancestors have done, that has made them into beasts. You may work a man's body so that his soul dies. Work is good. I have worked at the old farm from the page: 203 sun's rising till its setting, but I have had time to think, and time to feel. You may work a man so that all but the animal in him is gone; and that grows stronger with physical labour. You may work a man till he is a brute. I know it, because I have felt it. You will never understand the change that came over me. No one but I will ever know how great it was. But I was never miserable; when I could keep my oxen from sticking fast, and when I could find a place to lie down in, I had all I wanted. After I had driven eight months a rainy season came. For eighteen hours out of the twenty-four we worked in the wet. The mud went up to the axles sometimes, and we had to dig the wheels out, and we never went far in a day. My master swore at me more than ever, but when he had done he always offered me his brandy-flask. When I first came he had offered it me, and I had always refused; but now I page: 204 drank as my oxen did when I gave them water—without thinking. At last I bought brandy for myself whenever we passed an hotel.

“One Sunday we ‘out-spanned’ on the banks of a swollen river to wait for its going down. It was drizzling still, so I lay under the waggon on the mud. There was no dry place anywhere; and all the dung was wet, so there was no fire to cook food. My little flask was filled with brandy, and I drank some and went to sleep. When I woke it was drizzling still, so I drank some more. I was stiff and cold; and my master, who lay by me, offered me his flask, because mine was empty. I drank some, and then I thought I would go and see if the river was going down. I remember that I walked to the road, and it seemed to be going away from me. When I woke up I was lying by a little bush on the bank of the river. It was afternoon; all the clouds had gone, and the page: 205 sky was deep blue. The Bushman-boy was grilling ribs at the fire. He looked at me and grinned from ear to ear. ‘Master was a little nice,’ he said, ‘and lay down in the road. Something might ride over master, so I carried him there.’ He grinned at me again. It was as though he said, ‘You and I are comrades. I have lain in a road, too. I know all about it.’ When I turned my head from him I saw the earth, so pure after the rain, so green, so fresh, so blue;—and I was a drunken carrier, whom his leader had picked up in the mud, and laid at the roadside to sleep out his drunken booze. I remember my old life, and I remember you. I saw how, one day, you would read in the papers—‘A German Carrier, named Waldo Farber, was killed through falling from his waggon, being instantly crushed under the wheel. Deceased was supposed to have been drunk at the time of the accident.’ There page: 206 are those notices in the paper every month. I sat up, and I took the brandy-flask out of my pocket, and I flung it as far as I could into the dark water. The Hottentot boy ran down to see if he could catch it; it had sunk to the bottom. I never drank again. But, Lyndall, sin looks much more terrible to those who look at it than to those who do it. A convict, or a man who drinks, seems something so far off and horrible when we see him; but to himself he seems quite near to us, and like us. We wonder what kind of a creature he is; but he is just we, ourselves. We are only the wood, the knife that carves on us is the circumstance.

“I do not know why I kept on working so hard for that master. I think it was as the oxen come every day and stand by the yokes; they do not know why. Perhaps I would have been with him still; but one day we started with page: 207 loads for the Diamond Fields. The oxen were very thin now, and they had been standing about in the yoke all day without food, while the waggons were being loaded. Not far from the town was a hill. When we came to the foot the first waggon stuck fast. I tried for a little while to urge the oxen, but I soon saw the one ‘span’ could never pull it up. I went to the other waggon to loosen that ‘span’ to join them on in front, but the transport-rider, who was lying at the back of the waggon, jumped out.

“‘They shall bring it up the hill; and if half of them die for it they shall do it alone,’ he said.

“He was not drunk, but in bad temper, for he had been drunk the night before. He swore at me, and told me to take the whip and help him. We tried for a little time, then I told him it was no use, they could never do it. He swore louder and called to the leaders to come on with their whips, and page: 208 together they lashed. There was one ox, a black ox, so thin that the ridge of his backbone almost cut through his flesh.

“‘It is you, devil, is it, that will not pull?’ the transport-rider said. ‘I will show you something.’ He glowered like a devil.

“He told the boys to leave off flogging, and he held the ox by the horn, and took up a round stone and knocked its nose with it till the blood came. When he had done they called to the oxen and took up their whips again, and the oxen strained with their backs bent, but the waggon did not move an inch.

“‘So you won't, won't you?’ he said. ‘I'll help you.’

“He took out his clasp-knife, and ran it into the leg of the trembling ox three times, up to the hilt. Then he put the knife in his pocket, and they took their whips. The oxen's flanks quivered, and they foamed at the mouth. page: 209 Straining, they moved the waggon a few feet forward, then stood with bent backs to keep it from sliding back. From the black ox's nostrils foam and blood were streaming on to the ground. It turned its head in its anguish and looked at me with its great starting eyes. It was praying for help in its agony and weakness, and they took their whips again. The creature bellowed aloud. If there is a God, it was calling to its Maker for help. Then a stream of clear blood burst from both nostrils; it fell on to the ground, and the waggon slipped back. The man walked up to it.

“‘You are going to lie down, devil, are you? We'll see you don't take it too easy.’

“The thing was just dying. He opened his clasp-knife and stooped down over it. I do not know what I did then. But afterward I know I had him on the stones, and I was kneeling on him. The boys dragged me off. I wish they page: 210 had not. I left him standing in the sand in the road, shaking himself, and I walked back to the town. I took nothing from that accursed waggon, so I had only two shillings. But it did not matter. The next day I got work at a wholesale store. My work was to pack and unpack goods, and to carry boxes, and I had to work from six in the morning to six in the evening; so I had plenty of time. I hired a little room, and subscribed to a library, so I had everything I needed; and in the week of Christmas holidays I went to see the sea. I walked all night to escape the heat, and a little after sunrise I got to the top of a high hill. Before me was a long, low, blue, monotonous mountain. I walked looking at it, but I was thinking of the sea I wanted to see. At last I wondered what that curious blue thing might be; then it struck me, it was the sea! I would have turned back again, only I was too tired. I page: 211 wonder if all the things we long to see—the churches, the pictures, the men in Europe—will disappoint us so! You see I had dreamed of it so long. When I was a little boy, minding sheep behind the ‘kopje;’ I used to see the waves stretching out as far as the eye could reach in the sunlight. My sea! Is the idea always more beautiful than the real?

“I got to the beach that afternoon, and I saw the water run up and down on the sand, and I saw the white foam breakers; they were pretty, but I thought I would go back the next day. It was not my sea.

“But I began to like it when I sat by it that night in the moonlight; and the next day I liked it better; and before I left I loved it. It was not like the sky and stars, that talk of what has no beginning and no end; but it is so human. Of all the things I have ever seen, only the sea is like a human page: 212 being; the sky is not, nor the earth. But the sea is always moving, always something deep in itself is stirring it. It never rests. It is always wanting, wanting, wanting. It hurries on; and then it creeps back slowly without having reached, moaning. It is always asking a question, and it never gets the answer. I can hear it in the day and in the night; the white foam breakers are saying that which I think. I walk alone with them when there is no one to see me, and I sing with them. I lie down on the sand and watch them with my eyes half shut. The sky is better, but it is so high above our heads. I love the sea. Sometimes we must look down too. After five days I went back to the town.

“I had glorious books, and in the night I could sit in my little room and read them; but I was lonely. Books are not the same things when you are living among people. I cannot tell page: 213 why, but they are dead. On the farm they would have been living beings to me; but here, where there were so many people about me, I wanted some one to belong to me. I was lonely. I wanted something that was flesh and blood. Once on this farm there came a stranger; I did not ask his name, but he sat among the karroo and talked with me. Now, wherever I have travelled I have looked for him—in hotels, in streets, in passenger waggons as they rushed in, through the open windows of houses I have looked for him, but I have not found him—never heard a voice like his. One day I went to the Botanic Gardens. It was a half-holiday, and the band was to play. I stood in the long raised avenue and looked down. There were many flowers, and ladies and children were walking about beautifully dressed. At last the music began. I had not heard such music before. At first it was slow and even, like the everyday life, when page: 214 we walk through it without thought or feeling; then it grew faster, then it paused, hesitated, then it was quite still for an instant, and then it burst out. Lyndall, they made heaven right when they made it all music. It takes you up and carries you away, away, till you have the things you longed for; you are in their own world. The walls about you break, and you spread out, you are shut in on no side. I could not see anything while it was playing; I stood with my head against my tree; but, when it was done, I saw that there were ladies sitting close to me on a wooden bench, and the stranger who had talked to me that day in the karroo was sitting between them. The ladies were very pretty, and their dresses beautiful. I do not think they had been listening to the music, for they were talking and laughing very softly. I heard all they said, and could even smell the rose on the breast of one. I was afraid he would page: 215 see me; so I went to the other side of the tree, and soon they got up and began to pace up and down in the avenue. All the time the music played they chatted, and he carried on his arm the scarf of the prettiest lady. I did not hear the music; I tried to catch the sound of his voice each time he went by. When I was listening to the music I did not know I was badly dressed; now I felt so ashamed of myself. I never knew before what a low, horrible thing I, dressed in tancord, was. That day on the farm, when we sat on the ground under the thorn-trees, I thought he quite belonged to me; now, I saw he was not mine.

“At last they turned to go to the gate, and I walked after them. When they got out he helped the ladies into a phaeton, and stood for a moment with his foot on the step talking to them. He had a little cane in his hand, and an Italian greyhound ran after him. Just when page: 216 they drove away one of the ladies dropped her whip.

“‘Pick it up, fellow,’ she said; and when I brought it her she threw sixpence on the ground. I might have gone back to the garden then; but I did not want music; I wanted clothes, and to be fashionable and fine. I felt that my hands were coarse, and that I was vulgar. I never tried to see him again.

“I stayed in my situation four months after that, but I was not happy. I had no rest. The people about me pressed on me, and made me dissatisfied. I could not forget them. Even when I did not see them they pressed on me, and made me miserable. I did not love books; I wanted people. When I walked home under the shady trees in the street I could not be happy, for when I passed the houses I heard music, and saw faces between the curtains. I did not want any of them, but I wanted page: 217 some one for mine, for me. I could not help it.

“Only one day something made me happy. A nurse came to the store with a little girl belonging to one of our clerks. While the maid went into the office to give a message to its father, the little child stood looking at me. Presently she came close to me and peeped up into my face.

“‘Nice curls, pretty curls,’ she said; ‘I like curls.’

“She felt my hair all over, with her little hands. When I put out my arm she let me take her and sit her on my knee. She kissed me with her soft mouth. We were happy till the nurse-girl came and shook the little one, and asked her if she was not ashamed to sit on the knee of that strange man. But I do not think my little one minded. She laughed at me as she went out.

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“If the world was all children I could like it; but men and women draw me so strangely, and then press me away, till I am in agony. I was not meant to live among people. Perhaps some day, when I am grown older, I will be able to go and live among them and look at them as I look at the rocks and bushes, without letting them disturb me, and take myself from me; but not now. So I grew miserable; a kind of fever seemed to eat me; I could not rest, or read, or think; so I came here. I knew you were not here, but it seemed as though I should be nearer you; and it is you I want—you that the other people suggest to me, but cannot give.”

He had filled all the sheets he had taken, and now lifted down the last from the mantelpiece. Em had dropped asleep, and lay slumbering peacefully on the skin before the fire. Out of doors the storm still raged; but in a fitful manner, as though growing half weary of itself. page: 219 He bent over his paper again, with eager flushed cheek, and wrote on.

“It has been a delightful journey, this journey home. I have walked on foot. The evening before last, when it was just sunset, I was a little footsore and thirsty, and went out of the road to look for water. I went down into a deep little ‘kloof.’ Some trees ran along the bottom, and I thought I should find water there. The sun had quite set when I got to the bottom of it. It was very still—not a leaf was stirring anywhere. In the bed of the mountain torrent I thought I might find water. I came to the bank, and leaped down into the dry bed. The floor on which I stood was of fine white sand, and the banks rose on every side like the walls of a room. Above there was a precipice of rocks, and a tiny stream of water oozed from them and fell slowly on to the flat stone below. Each drop you page: 220 could hear fall like a little silver bell. There was one among the trees on the bank that stood cut out against the white sky. All the other trees were silent; but this one shook and trembled against the sky. Everything else was still; but those leaves were quivering, quivering. I stood on the sand; I could not go away. When it was quite dark, and the stars had come, I crept out. Does it seem strange to you that it should have made me so happy? It is because I cannot tell you how near I felt to things that we cannot see but we always feel. To-night has been a wild, stormy night. I have been walking across the plain for hours in the dark. I have liked the wind, because I have seemed forcing my way through to you. I knew you were not here, but I would hear of you. When I used to sit on the transport waggon half-sleeping, I used to start awake because your hands were on me. In page: 221 my lodgings, night after night I have blown the light out, and sat in the dark, that I might see your face start out more distinctly. Sometimes it was the little girl's face who used to come to me behind the ‘kopje’ when I minded the sheep, and sit by me in her blue pinafore; sometimes it was older. I love both. I am very helpless; I shall never do anything; but you will work, and I will take your work for mine. Sometimes such a sudden gladness seizes me when I remember that somewhere in the world you are living and working. You are my very own; nothing else is my own so. When I have finished I am going to look at your room door—”

He wrote; and the wind, which had spent its fury, moaned round and round the house, most like a tired child weary with crying.

Em woke up, and sat before the fire, rubbing her eyes, and listening, as it sobbed about the page: 222 gables, and wandered away over the long stone walls.

“How quiet it has grown now,” she said, and sighed herself, partly from weariness and partly from sympathy with the tired wind. He did not answer her; he was lost in his letter.

She rose slowly after a time, and rested her hand on his shoulder.

“You have many letters to write,” she said.

“No,” he answered; “it is only one to Lyndall.”

She turned away, and stood long before the fire looking into it. If you have a deadly fruit to give it will not grow sweeter by keeping.

“Waldo, dear,” she said, putting her hand on his, “leave off writing.”

He threw back the dark hair from his forehead and looked at her.

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“It is no use writing any more,” she said.

“Why not?” he asked.

She put her hand over the papers he had written.

“Waldo,” she said, “Lyndall is dead.”

page: 224

CHAPTER XII.

GREGORY'S WOMANHOOD.

SLOWLY over the flat came a cart. On the back seat sat Gregory, his arms folded, his hat drawn over his eyes. A Kaffir boy sat on the front seat driving, and at his feet sat Doss, who, every now and again, lifted his nose and eyes above the level of the splash-board, to look at the surrounding country; and then, with an exceedingly knowing wink of his left eye, turned to his companions, thereby intimating that he clearly perceived his whereabouts. No one noticed the cart coming. Waldo, who was at work at his carpenter's table in the waggon-house, saw nothing, till chancing to page: 225 look down he perceived Doss standing before him, the legs trembling, the little nose wrinkled, and a series of short, suffocating barks giving utterance to his joy at reunion.

Em, whose eyes had ached with looking out across the plain, was now at work in a back-room, and knew nothing till, looking up, she saw Gregory, with his straw hat and blue eyes, standing in the door-way. He greeted her quietly, hung his hat up in its old place behind the door, and for any change in his manner or appearance he might have been gone only the day before to fetch letters from the town. Only his beard was gone, and his face was grown thinner. He took off his leather gaiters, said the afternoon was hot and the roads dusty, and asked for some tea. They talked of wool, cattle, and sheep, and Em gave him the pile of letters that had come for him during that seven months' absence, but of the page: 226 thing that lay at their hearts neither said anything. Then he went out to look at the kraals, and at supper Em gave him hot cakes and coffee. They talked about the servants, and then ate their meal in quiet. When it was ended Gregory went into the front-room, and lay in the dark on the sofa.

“Do you not want a light?” Em asked, venturing to look in.

“No,” he answered; then presently called to her, “Come and sit here; I want to talk to you.”

She came and sat on a footstool near him.

“Do you wish to hear anything?” he asked.

She whispered, “Yes, if it does not hurt you.”

“What difference does it make to me?” he said. “If I talk or am silent, is there any change?”

Yet he lay quiet for a long time. The light through the open door showed him to her, page: 227 where he lay, with his arm thrown across his eyes. At last he spoke. Perhaps it was a relief to him to speak.

To Bloemfontein in the Free State, to which through an agent he had traced them, Gregory had gone. At the hotel where Lyndall and her stranger had stayed he put up; he was shown the very room in which they had slept. The coloured boy who had driven them to the next town told him in which house they had boarded, and Gregory went on. In that town he found they had left the cart, and bought a spider and four greys, and Gregory's heart rejoiced. Now indeed it would be easy to trace their course. And he turned his steps northward.

At the farm-houses where he stopped the “ooms” and “tantes” remembered clearly the spider with its four grey horses. At one place the Boer-wife told how the Englishman had bought milk, and asked the way to the next page: 228 farm. At the next farm the Englishman had bought a bunch of flowers, and given half-a-crown for them to the little girl. It was quite true; the Boer-mother made her get it out of the box and show it. At the next place they had slept. Here they told him that the great bull-dog, who hated all strangers, had walked in in the evening and laid its head in the lady's lap. So at every place he heard something, and traced them step by step.

At one desolate farm the Boer had a good deal to tell. The lady had said she liked a waggon that stood before the door. Without asking the price the Englishman had offered a hundred and fifty pounds for the old thing, and bought oxen worth ten pounds for sixteen. The Dutchman chuckled, for he had the “Salt-reim's” money in the box under his bed. Gregory laughed too, in silence; he could not lose sight of them now, so slowly they would have to move with that page: 229 cumbrous ox-waggon. Yet, when that evening came, and he reached a little wayside inn, no one could tell him anything of the travellers.

The master, a surly creature, half stupid with Boer-brandy, sat on the bench before the door smoking. Gregory sat beside him, questioning, but he smoked on. He remembered nothing of such strangers. How should he know who had been there months and months before? He smoked on. Gregory, very weary, tried to wake his memory, said that the lady he was seeking for was very beautiful, had a little mouth, and tiny, very tiny, feet. The man only smoked on as sullenly as at first. What were little, very little mouths and feet to him. But his daughter leaned out in the window above. She was dirty and lazy, and liked to loll there when travellers came, to hear the men talk, but she had a soft heart. Presently a hand came out of the window, and a pair of velvet slippers touched his shoulder, tiny slippers page: 230 with black flowers. He pulled them out of her hand. Only one woman's feet had worn them, he knew that.

“Left here last summer by a lady,” said the girl; “might be the one you are looking for. Never saw any feet so small.”

Gregory rose and questioned her.

They might have come in a waggon and spider, she could not tell. But the gentleman was very handsome, tall, lovely figure, blue eyes, wore gloves always when he went out. An English officer, perhaps; no Africander, certainly.

Gregory stopped her.

The lady? Well, she was pretty, rather, the girl said; very cold, dull hair, silent. They stayed for, it might be, five days; slept in the wing over against the “stoep”; quarrelled sometimes, she thought—the lady. She had seen everything when she went in to wait. One day the gentleman touched her hair; she drew back page: 231 from him as though his fingers poisoned her. Went to the other end of the room if he came to sit near her. Walked out alone. Cold wife for such a handsome husband, the girl thought; she evidently pitied him. They went away early one morning, how, or in which way, the girl could not tell.

Gregory inquired of the servants, but nothing more was to be learnt; so the next morning he saddled his horse and went on. At the farms he came to the good old “ooms” and “tantes” asked him to have coffee, and the little shoeless children peeped out at the stranger from behind ovens and gables; but no one had seen what he asked for. This way and that he rode to pick up the thread he had dropped, but the spider and the waggon, the little lady and the handsome gentleman, no one had seen. In the towns he fared yet worse.

Once indeed hope came to him. On the page: 232 “stoep” of an hotel at which he stayed the night in a certain little village, there walked a gentleman, grave and kindly-looking. It was not hard to open conversation with him about the weather, and then;—Had he ever seen such and such people, a gentleman and a lady, a spider and waggon, arrive at that place. The kindly gentleman shook his head. What was the lady like, he inquired?

Gregory painted. Hair like silken floss, small mouth, underlip very full and pink, upper lip pink but very thin and curled; there were four white spots on the nail of the forefinger, the eyebrows very straight.

“Yes; and a rose-bud tinge in the cheeks; hands like lilies, and perfectly seraphic smile.”

“That is she! that is she!” cried Gregory.

Who else could it be? He asked where she page: 233 had gone to. The gentleman most thoughtfully stroked his beard. He would try to remember. Were not her ears—. Here such a violent fit of coughing seized him that he ran away into the house. An ill-fed clerk and a dirty barman standing in the door-way laughed aloud. Gregory wondered if they could be laughing at the gentleman's cough, and then he heard some one laughing in the room into which the gentleman had gone. He must follow him and try to learn more; but he soon found that there was nothing more to be learnt there. Poor Gregory!

Backward and forwards, backward and forwards, from the dirty little hotel where he had dropped the thread, to this farm and to that, rode Gregory, till his heart was sick and tired. That from that spot the waggon might have gone its own way and the spider another was an idea that did not occur to him. At last he saw page: 234 it was no use lingering in that neighbourhood, and pressed on.

One day, coming to a little town, his horses knocked up, and he resolved to rest them there. The little hotel of the town was a bright and sunny place, like the jovial face of the clean little woman who kept it, and who trotted about talking always—talking to the customers in the tap-room, and to the maids in the kitchen, and to the passers-by when she could hail them from the windows; talking, as good-natured women with large mouths and small noses always do, in season and out.

There was a little front parlour in the hotel, kept for strangers who wanted to be alone. Gregory sat there to eat his breakfast, and the landlady dusted the room and talked of the great finds at the Diamond Fields, and the badness of maid-servants, and the shameful conduct of the Dutch parson in that town to the English in- inhabitants page: 235 habitants. Gregory ate his breakfast and listened to nothing. He had asked his one question, and had had his answer; now she might talk on.

Presently a door in the corner opened and a woman came out—a Mozambiquer, with a red handkerchief twisted round her head. She carried in her hand a tray, with a slice of toast crumbled fine, and a half-filled cup of coffee, and an egg broken open, but not eaten. Her ebony face grinned complacently as she shut the door softly and said, “Good morning.”

The landlady began to talk to her.

“You are not going to leave her really, Ayah, are you?” she said. “The maids say so; but I'm sure you wouldn't do such a thing.”

The Mozambiquer grinned.

“Husband says I must go home.”

“But she hasn't got any one else, and won't have any one else. Come, now,” said the landlady.

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The Mozambiquer only showed her white teeth good-naturedly for answer, and went out, and the landlady followed her.

Gregory, glad to be alone, watched the sunshine as it came over the fuchsias in the window, and ran up and down on the panelled door in the corner. The Mozambiquer had closed it loosely behind her, and presently something touched it inside. It moved a little, then it was still, then moved again; then through the gap a small nose appeared, and a yellow ear overlapping one eye; then the whole head obtruded, placed itself critically on one side, wrinkled its nose disapprovingly at Gregory, and withdrew. Through the half-open door came a faint scent of toilet vinegar, and the room was dark and still.

Presently the landlady came back.

“Left the door open,” she said, bustling to shut it; “but a darkey will be a darkey, and never carries a head on its shoulders like page: 237 other folks. Not ill, I hope sir,” she said, looking at Gregory when she had shut the bed-room door.

“No,” said Gregory, “no.”

The landlady began putting the things together.

“Who,” asked Gregory, “is in that room?”

Glad to have a little innocent piece of gossip to relate, and some one willing to hear it, the landlady made the most of a little story as she cleared the table. Six months before a lady had come alone to the hotel in a waggon, with only a coloured leader and driver. Eight days after a little baby had been born. If Gregory stood up and looked out at the window he would see a blue gum-tree in the grave-yard; close by it was a little grave. The baby was buried there. A tiny thing, only lived two hours, and the mother herself almost went with it. After a while she was better; but one day she got page: 238 up out of bed, dressed herself without saying a word to any one, and went out. It was a drizzly day; a little time after some one saw her sitting on the wet ground under the blue gum-tree, with the rain dripping from her hat and shawl. They went to fetch her, but she would not come until she chose. When she did she had gone to bed and had not risen again from it; never would, the doctor said.

She was very patient, poor thing. When you went in to ask her how she was she said always “Better,” or “Nearly well!” and lay still in the darkened room, and never troubled any one. The Mozambiquer took care of her, and she would not allow any one else to touch her; would not so much as allow any one else to see her foot uncovered. She was strange in many ways, but she paid well, poor thing; and now the Mozambiquer was going, and she would have to take up with some one else.

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The landlady prattled on pleasantly, and now carried away the tray with the breakfast-things. When she was gone Gregory leaned his head on his hands, but he did not think long.

Before dinner he had ridden out of the town to where on a rise a number of transport-waggons were out-spanned. The Dutchman driver of one wondered at the stranger's eagerness to free himself of his horses. Stolen perhaps; but it was worth his while to buy them at so low a price. So the horses changed masters, and Gregory walked off with his saddle-bags slung across his arm. Once out of sight of the waggons he struck out of the road and walked across the “veld,” the dry, flowering grasses waving everywhere about him; half way across the plain he came to a deep gully which the rain torrents had washed out, but which was now dry. Gregory sprung down into its red bed. It was a safe place, and quiet. When he had looked about him he sat page: 240 down under the shade of an overhanging bank and fanned himself with his hat, for the afternoon was hot, and he had walked fast. At his feet the dusty ants ran about, and the high red bank before him was covered by a network of roots and fibres washed bare by the rains. Above his head rose the clear blue African sky; at his side were the saddle-bags full of women's clothing. Gregory looked up half plaintively into the blue sky.

“Am I, am I Gregory Nazianzen Rose?” he said.

It was also strange, he sitting there in that “sloot” in that up-country plain!—strange as the fantastic, changing shapes in a summer cloud. At last, tired out, he fell asleep, with his head against the bank. When he woke the shadow had stretched across the “sloot,” and the sun was on the edge of the plain. Now he must be up and doing. He drew from his breast pocket a little sixpenny looking-glass, and page: 241 hung it on one of the roots that stuck out from the bank. Then he dressed himself in one of the old-fashioned gowns and a great pinked out collar. Then he took out a razor. Tuft by tuft the soft brown beard fell down into the sand, and the little ants took it to line their nests with. Then the glass showed a face surrounded by a frilled cap, white as a woman's, with a little mouth, a very short upper lip, and a receding chin.

Presently a rather tall woman's figure was making its way across the “veld.” As it passed a hollowed-out ant-heap it knelt down, and stuffed in the saddle-bags with the man's clothing, closing up the ant-hill with bits of ground to look as natural as possible. Like a sinner hiding his deed of sin, Gregory started once and looked round, but yet there was no one near save a “meerkat,” who had lifted herself out of her hole and sat on her hind legs page: 242 watching. He did not like that even she should see, and when he rose she dived away into her hole. Then he walked on leisurely, that the dusk might have reached the village streets before he walked there. The first house was the smith's, and before the open door two idle urchins lolled. As he hurried up the street in the gathering gloom he heard them laugh long and loudly behind him. He glanced round fearingly, and would almost have fled, but that the strange skirts clung about his legs. And after all it was only a spark that had alighted on the head of one, and not the strange figure they laughed at.

The door of the hotel stood wide open, and the light fell out into the street. He knocked, and the landlady came. She peered out to look for the cart that had brought the traveller; but Gregory's heart was brave now he was so near the quiet room. He told her he had come page: 243 with the transport waggons that stood outside the town.

He had walked in, and wanted lodgings for the night.

It was a deliberate lie, glibly told; he would have told fifty, though the recording angel had stood in the next room with his pen dipped in the ink. What was it to him? He remembered that she lay there saying always, “I am better.”

The landlady put his supper in the little parlour where he had sat in the morning. When it was on the table she sat down in the rocking-chair, as her fashion was, to knit and talk, that she might gather news for her customers in the tap-room. In the white face under the queer, deep-fringed cap she saw nothing of the morning's traveller. The newcomer was communicative. She was a nurse by profession, she said; had come to the Transvaal hearing that good nurses were needed there. She had page: 244 not yet found work. The landlady did not perhaps know whether there would be any for her in that town?

The landlady put down her knitting and smote her fat hands together.

If it wasn't the very finger of God's Providence, as though you saw it hanging out of the sky, she said. Here was a lady sick and needing a new nurse that very day, and not able to get one to her mind, and now—well, if it wasn't enough to convert all the atheists and free-thinkers in the Transvaal, she didn't know!

Then the landlady proceeded to detail facts.

“I'm sure you will suit her,” she added; “you're just the kind. She has heaps of money to pay you with; has everything that money can buy. She is asleep now, but I'll take you in to look at her.”

The landlady opened the door of the next room, and Gregory followed her. A table stood page: 245 near the bed, and a lamp burning low stood on it; the bed was a great four-poster with white curtains, and the quilt was of rich crimson satin. But Gregory stood just inside the door with his head bent low, and saw no further.

“Come nearer! I'll turn the lamp up a bit, that you can have a look at her. A pretty thing, isn't it?” said the landlady.

Near the foot of the bed was a dent in the crimson quilt, and out of it Doss's small head and bright eyes looked knowingly.

Then Gregory looked up at what lay on the cushion. A little white, white face, transparent as an angel's with a cloth bound round the forehead, and with soft hair tossed about on the pillow.

“We had to cut it off,” said the woman, page: 246 touching it with her fore-finger. “Soft as silk, like a wax doll's.”

But Gregory's heart was bleeding.

“Never get up again, the doctor says,” said the landlady.

Gregory uttered one word. In an instant the beautiful eyes opened widely, looked round the room and into the dark corners.

“Who is here? Whom did I hear speak?”

Gregory had sunk back behind the curtain; the landlady drew it aside, and pulled him forward.

“Only this lady, ma'am—a nurse by profession. She is willing to stay and take care of you, if you can come to terms with her.”

Lyndall raised herself on her elbow, and cast one keen scrutinizing glance over him.

“Have I never seen you before?” she asked.

“No.”

She fell back wearily.

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“Perhaps you would like to arrange the terms between yourselves,” said the landlady. “Here is a chair. I will be back presently.”

Gregory sat down, with bent head and quick breath. She did not speak, and lay with half-closed eyes, seeming to have forgotten him.

“Will you turn the lamp down a little?” she said at last; “I cannot bear the light.”

Then his heart grew braver in the shadow, and he spoke. Nursing was to him, he said, a pleasure. He wanted no money: if— She stopped him.

“I take no service for which I do not pay,” she said. “What I gave to my last nurse I will give to you; if you do not like it you may go.”

And Gregory muttered humbly, he would take it.

Afterward she tried to turn herself. He lifted her. Ah! such a shrunken little body, he page: 248 could feel its weakness as he touched it. His hands were to him glorified for that service.

“Thank you! that is so nice. Other people hurt me when they touch me,” she said. “Thank you!” Then after a little while she repeated humbly, “Thank you; they hurt me so.”

Gregory sat down trembling. His little ewe-lamb, could he hurt her?

The doctor said of Gregory four days after, “She is the most experienced nurse I ever came in contact with.”

Gregory, standing in the passage, heard it and laughed in his heart. What need had he of experience? Experience teaches us in a millennium what passion teaches us in an hour. A Kaffir studies all his life the discerning of distant sounds; but he will never hear my step, when my love hears it, coming to her window in the dark over the short grass.

At first Gregory's heart was sore when page: 249 day by day the body grew lighter, and the mouth he fed took less; but afterward he grew accustomed to it, and was happy. For passion has one cry, one only—“Oh, to touch thee, Beloved!”

In that quiet room Lyndall lay on the bed with the dog at her feet, and Gregory sat in his dark corner watching.

She seldom slept, and through those long, long days she would lie watching the round streak of sunlight that came through the knot in the shutter, or the massive lion's paw on which the wardrobe rested. What thoughts were in those eyes? Gregory wondered; he dared not ask.

Sometimes Doss where he lay on her feet would dream that they two were in the cart, tearing over the “veld,” with the black horses snorting, and the wind in their faces; and he would start up in his sleep and bark aloud. Then page: 250 awaking, he would lick his mistress's hand almost remorsefully, and slink quietly down into his place.

Gregory thought she had no pain, she never groaned; only sometimes, when the light was near her, he thought he could see contractions about her lips and eyebrows.

He slept on the sofa outside her door.

One night he thought he heard a sound, and, opening it softly, he looked in. She was crying out aloud, as if she and her pain were alone in the world. The light fell on the red quilt, and the little hands that were clasped over the head. The wide-open eyes were looking up, and the heavy drops fell slowly from them.

“I cannot bear any more, not any more,” she said in a deep voice. “Oh, God, God! have I not borne in silence? Have I not endured these long, long months? But now, now, oh, God, I cannot!”

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Gregory knelt in the door-way listening.

“I do not ask for wisdom, not human love, not work, not knowledge, not for all things I have longed for,” she cried; “only a little freedom from pain! Only one little hour without pain!”

She sat up, and bit the little hand Gregory loved.

He crept away to the front door, and stood looking out at the quiet starlight. When he came back she was lying in her usual posture, the quiet eyes looking at the lion's claw. He came close to the bed.

“You have much pain to-night?” he asked her.

“No, not much.”

“Can I do anything for you?”

“No, nothing.”

She still drew her lips quivering together, and motioned with her fingers toward the dog who page: 252 lay sleeping at her feet. Gregory lifted him and laid him at her side. She made Gregory turn open the bosom of her night-dress, that the dog might put his black muzzle between her breasts. She crossed her arms over him. Gregory left them lying there together.

Next day, when they asked her how she was, she answered “Better.”

“Some one ought to tell her,” said the landlady; “we can't let her soul go out into eternity not knowing, especially when I don't think it was all right about the child. You ought to go and tell her, Doctor.”

So, the little doctor, egged on and on, went in at last. When he came out of the room he shook his fist in the landlady's face.

“The next time you have any devil's work to do, do it yourself,” he said, and he shook his fist in her face again, and went away swearing.

When Gregory went into the bed-room he page: 253 only found her moved, her body curled up, and drawn close to the wall. He dared not disturb her. At last, after a long time, she turned.

“Bring me food,” she said, “I want to eat. Two eggs, and toast, and meat—two large slices of toast, please.”

Wondering, Gregory brought a tray with all that she had asked for.

“Sit me up, and put it close to me,” she said; “I am going to eat it all.” She tried to draw the things near her with her fingers, and re-arranged the plates. She cut the toast into long strips, broke open both eggs, put a tiny morsel of bread into her own mouth, and fed the dog.

“Is it twelve o'clock yet?” she said, fingering the meat; “I think I do not generally eat so early. Put it away, please, carefully,—no, do not take it away,—on the side table. When the clock strikes twelve I will eat it.”

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She lay down trembling. After a little while she said,

“Give me my clothes.”

He looked at her.

“Yes; I am going to dress to-morrow. I should get up now, but it is rather late. Put them on that chair. My collars are in the little box, my boots behind the door.”

Her eyes followed him intently as he collected the articles one by one, and placed them on the chair as she directed.

“Put it nearer,” she said, “I cannot see it;” and she lay watching the clothes, with her hand under her cheek.

“Now open the shutter wide,” she said; “I am going to read.”

The old, old tone was again in the sweet voice.

He opened the shutter, and raised her up among the pillows.

“Now bring my books to me,” she said, page: 255 motioning eagerly with her fingers; “the large book, and the reviews and the plays; I want them all.”

He piled them round her on the bed; she drew them greedily closer, her eyes very bright, though her face was white.

“Now the big one off the drawers. No, you need not help me to hold my book,” she said; “I can hold it for myself.”

Gregory went back to his corner, and for a little time the restless turning of many leaves was to be heard.

“Will you open the window,” she said, almost querulously, “and throw this book out? It is so utterly foolish. I thought it was a nice book; but the words are merely strung together, they make no sense. Yes—so!” she said with approval, seeing him fling it out into the street. “I must have been very foolish when I thought that book nice.”

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Then she turned to read, and leaned her little elbows resolutely on the great volume, and knit her brows. This was Shakespeare—it must mean something.

“I wish you would take a handkerchief and tie it tight round my head, it aches so.”

He had not been long in his seat when he saw drops fall from beneath the hands that shaded the eyes, on to the page.

“I am not accustomed to so much light, it makes my head swim a little,” she said. “Go out and close the shutter.”

When he came back, she lay shrivelled up among the pillows. He heard no sound of weeping, but the shoulders shook.

When Gregory went to his sofa that night, she told him to wake her early, for she must be up before breakfast. Nevertheless, when morning came, she said it was a little cold, and lay all day watching her clothes upon the chair. Still page: 257 she sent for her oxen in the country; they would start on Monday.

In the afternoon she told him to open the window wide, and draw the bed near it.

It was a leaden afternoon, the dull rain-clouds rested close to the roofs of the houses, and the little street was silent and deserted. Now and then a gust of wind eddying round caught up the dried leaves, whirled them hither and thither under the trees, and dropped them again into the gutter; then all was quiet. She lay looking out. Presently the bell of the church began to toll, and up the village street came a long procession. They were carrying an old man to his last resting-place. She followed them with her eyes till they turned in among the trees at the gate.

“Who was that?” she asked.

“An old man,” he answered, “a very old man; they say he was ninety-four; but his name I do not know.”

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She mused a while, looking out with fixed eyes.

“That is why the bell rang so cheerfully,” she said. “When the old die it is well; they have had their time. It is when the young die that the bells weep drops of blood.”

“But the old love life?” he said; for it was sweet to hear her speak.

She raised herself on her elbow.

“They love life, they do not want to die,” she answered, “but what of that? They have had their time. They knew that a man's life is three-score years and ten; they should have made their plans accordingly! But the young,” she said, “the young, cut down, cruelly, when they have not seen, when they have not known, when they have not found—it is for them that the bells weep blood. I heard in the ringing it was an old man. When the old die— Listen to the bell! it is laughing—‘It is right, it is right; he page: 259 has had his time.’ They cannot ring so for the young.”

She fell back exhausted; the hot light died from her eyes, and she lay looking out into the street. By-and-bye stragglers from the funeral began to come back and disappear here and there among the houses; then all was quiet, and the night began to settle down upon the village street. When the room was quite dark, so that they could not see each other's faces, she said,

“It will rain to-night;” and moved restlessly on the pillows. “How terrible when the rain falls down on you drop by drop!”

He wondered what she meant. She moved again.

“Will you presently take my cloak—the new grey cloak from behind the door—and go with it. You will find a little grave at the foot of the tall blue gum-tree; the water drips off the long, pointed leaves; you must cover it up with that.”

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Gregory assented, and there was silence again. It was the first time she had ever spoken of her child.

“It was so small,” she said; “it lived such a little while—only three hours. They laid it close by me, but I never saw it; I could feel it by me.” She waited; “Its feet were so cold; I took them in my hand to make them warm, and my hand closed right over them they were so little.” There was a tremor in the voice. “It crept close to me; it wanted to drink, it wanted to be warm.” She moved her hand: “I did not love it; its father was not my prince; I did not care for it; but it was so little.” Uneasily she moved upon her pillows. “They might have kissed it, one of them, before they put it in. It never did any one any harm in all its little life. They might have kissed it.”

Gregory thought he felt rather than heard some one sobbing in the room.

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Late on in the evening, when the shutter was closed and the lamp lighted, and the rain-drops beat on the roof, he took the cloak from behind the door and went away with it. On his way back he called at the village post-office and brought back a letter. In the hall he stood reading the address. How could he fail to know whose hand had written it? Had he not long ago studied those characters on the torn fragments of paper in the old parlour? A burning pain was at Gregory's heart. If now, now at the last, one should come, should step in between! He carried the letter into the bed-room and gave it to her. When she had read it, “Give me my desk,” she said; “open it before me.”

Then Gregory sat down in the lamp-light on the other side of the curtain, and heard the pencil move on the paper. When he looked round the curtain she was lying on the pillow with a flushed face, the hand writing quickly. page: 262 The open letter lay at her side; she glanced at it with soft eyes. The man with the languid eyelids must have been strangely moved before his hand set down those words:—“Let me come back to you! My darling, let me put my hand round you, and guard you from all the world. As my wife they shall never touch you. I have learnt to love you more wisely, more tenderly, than of old; you shall have perfect freedom. Lyndall, grand little woman, for your own sake be my wife!

“Why did you send that money back to me? You are cruel to me; it is not rightly done.”

She rolled the little red pencil softly between her fingers, and her face grew very soft. Yet—

“It cannot be,” she wrote; “I thank you much for the love you have shown me; but I cannot listen. You will call me mad, foolish—the world would do so; but I know what I need and the kind of path I must page: 263 walk in. I cannot marry you. I will always love you for the sake of what lay by me those three hours; we may be friends, but there it ends. I must know, see, suffer, taste of life; I cannot be bound to one whom I love as I love you. I am not afraid of the world—I will fight the world. One day—perhaps it may be far off—I shall find what I have wanted all my life; something nobler, stronger than I, before which I can kneel down. You lose nothing by not having me now; I am a weak, selfish, erring woman. One day I shall find something to worship, and then I shall be a nobler woman—”

“Nurse,” she said; “take my desk away; I am suddenly so sleepy; I will write more to-morrow.” She turned her face to the pillow; it was the sudden drowsiness of great weakness. She had dropped asleep in a moment, and Gregory moved the desk softly, and then sat in the chair watching. Hour after hour passed, but page: 264 he had no wish for rest, and sat on, hearing the rain cease, and the still night settle down everywhere. At a quarter-past twelve he rose, and took a last look at the bed where she lay sleeping so peacefully; then he turned to go to his couch. Before he had reached the door she had started up and was calling him back.

“You are sure you have put it up?” she said, with a look of blank terror at the window. “It will not fall open in the night, the shutter—you are sure?”

He comforted her. Yes, it was tightly fastened.

“Even if it is shut,” she said, in a whisper, “you cannot keep it out! You feel it coming in at four o'clock, creeping, creeping, up, up; deadly cold!” She shuddered.

He thought she was wandering, and laid her little trembling body down among the blankets.

“I dreamed just now that it was not put up,” she said, looking into his eyes; “and it crept right in and I was alone with it.”

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“What do you fear?” he asked tenderly.

“The Gray Dawn,” she said, glancing round at the window. “I was never afraid of anything, never when I was a little child, but I have always been afraid of that. You will not let it come in to me?”

“No, no; I will stay with you,” he continued.

But she was growing calmer. “No; you must go to bed. I only awoke with a start; you must be tired. I am childish, that is all;” but she shivered again.

He sat down beside her, after some time she said: “Will you not rub my feet?”

He knelt down at the foot of the bed and took the tiny foot in his hand; it was swollen and unsightly now, but as he touched it he bent down and covered it with kisses.

“It makes it better when you kiss it; thank you. What makes you all love me so?” Then dreamily she muttered to herself: “Not utterly page: 266 bad, not quite bad—what makes them all love me so?”

Rubbing, rubbing softly, with his cheek pressed against the little foot, Gregory dropped to sleep at last. How long he knelt there he could not tell, but when he started up awake she was not looking at him.

The eyes were fixed on the far corner, gazing wide and intent, with an unearthly light.

He looked round fearfully. What did she see there? God's angels come to call her? Something fearful? He saw only the purple curtain with the shadows that fell from it. Softly he whispered, asking what she saw there.

And she said: “I see the vision of a poor weak life, striving after good. It was not cut short, and in the end it learnt, through tears and much pain, that holiness is an infinite compassion for others; that greatness is to take the common things of life and walk grandly page: 267 among them; that happiness is a great love and much serving. It was not cut short; and it loved what it had learnt—it loved!”

Was that all she saw in the corner?

Gregory told the landlady the next morning that she had been wandering all night. Nevertheless, when he came in to give her her breakfast, she was sitting up against the pillows, looking as he had not seen her look before.

“Put it close to me,” she said, “and when I have had breakfast I am going to dress.”

She finished all he had brought her eagerly.

“I am sitting up quite by myself,” she said. “Give me his meat;” and she fed the dog herself, cutting his food small for him. She moved to the side of the bed.

“Now bring the chair near and dress me. It is being in this room so long, and looking at that miserable little bit of sunshine that comes in through the shutter that is making me so ill. page: 268 Always that lion's paw!” she said, with a look of disgust at it. “Come, dress me.” Gregory knelt on the floor before her, and tried to draw on one stocking, but the little swollen foot refused to be covered.

“It is very funny that I should have grown so fat since I have been so ill,” she said, peering down curiously. “Perhaps it is want of exercise?” She looked troubled and said again, “Perhaps it is want of exercise?” She wanted Gregory to say so too. But he only found a larger pair; and then tried to force the shoes, oh, so tenderly! on to her little feet.

“There,” she said, looking down at them when they were on, with the delight of a small child over its first shoes, “I could walk far now. How nice it looks!”

“No,” she said, seeing the soft gown he had prepared for her, “I will not put that on. Get one of my white dresses—the one with the pink page: 269 bows. I do not even want to think I have been ill. It is thinking and thinking of things that makes them real,” she said. “When you draw your mind together, and resolve that a thing shall not be, it gives way before you; it is not. Everything is possible if one is resolved,” she said. She drew in her little lips together, and Gregory obeyed her; she was so small and slight now it was like dressing a small doll. He would have lifted her down from the bed when he had finished, but she pushed him from her, laughing very softly. It was the first time she had laughed in those long, dreary months.

“No, no; I can get down myself,” she said, slipping cautiously on to the floor. “You see!” She cast a defiant glance of triumph when she stood there. “Hold the curtain up high, I want to look at myself.”

He raised it, and stood holding it. She looked into the glass on the opposite wall. Such a page: 270 queenly little figure in its pink and white. Such a transparent little face, refined by suffering into an almost angel-like beauty. The face looked at her, she looked back, laughing softly. Doss, quivering with excitement, ran round her, barking. She took one step toward the door, balancing herself with outstretched hands.

“I am nearly there,” she said.

Then she groped blindly.

“Oh, I cannot see! I cannot see! Where am I?” she cried.

When Gregory reached her she had fallen with her face against the sharp foot of the wardrobe and cut her forehead. Very tenderly he raised the little crushed heap of clothes and flesh, and laid it on the bed. Doss climbed up, and sat looking down at it. Very softly Gregory's hands disrobed her.

“You will be stronger to-morrow, and then we page: 271 shall try again,” he said, but she neither looked at him nor stirred.

When he had undressed her, and laid her in bed, Doss stretched himself across her feet and lay, whining softly.

So she lay all that morning, and all that afternoon.

Again and again Gregory crept close to the bedside and looked at her; but she did not speak to him. Was it stupor or was it sleep that shone under those half-closed eyelids. Gregory could not tell.

At last in the evening he bent over her.

“The oxen have come,” he said; “we can start to-morrow if you like. Shall I get the waggon ready?”

Twice he repeated his question. Then she looked up at him, and Gregory saw that all hope had died out of the beautiful eyes. It was not stupor that shone there, it was despair.

“Let us go,” she said.

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“It makes no difference,” said the doctor; “staying or going; it is close now.”

So the next day Gregory carried her out in his arms to the waggon which stood “inspanned” before the door. As he laid her down on the “kartel” she looked far out across the plain. For the first time she had spoken that day.

“That blue mountain,” she said, “far away; let us stop when we get to it, not before.” She closed her eyes again. He drew the sails down before and behind, and the waggon rolled away slowly.

Very silently the great waggon rolled along the grass-covered plain. The driver on the front box did not clap his whip or call to his oxen, and Gregory sat beside him with folded arms. Behind them, in the closed waggon, she lay with the dog at her feet, very quiet with folded hands. He, Gregory, dared not be in there. Like Hagar, when she laid her treasure down in the wilderness, page: 273 he sat afar off;—“For Hagar said, Let me not see the death of the child.”

Evening came, and yet the blue mountain was not reached, and all the next day they rode on slowly, but still it was far off. Only at evening they reached it; not blue now, but low and brown, covered with long waving grasses and rough stones. They drew the waggon up close to its foot for the night. It was a sheltered, warm spot.

When the dark night had come, when the tired oxen were tied to the wheels, and the driver and leader had rolled themselves in their blankets before the fire, and gone to sleep, then Gregory fastened down the sails of the waggon securely; fixed a long candle near the head of the bed, and lay down himself on the floor of the waggon near the back. He leaned his head against the “kartel,” and listened to the chewing of the tired oxen, and to the crackling of the fire, page: 274 till, overpowered by weariness he fell into a heavy sleep. Then all was very still in the waggon. The dog slept on his mistress's feet, and only two mosquitoes, creeping in through a gap in the front sail, buzzed drearily round.

The night was grown very old when from a long, peaceful sleep Lyndall awoke. The candle burnt at her head, the dog lay on her feet; but he shivered; it seemed as though his resting-place was growing cold. She lay with folded hands, looking upwards; and she heard the oxen chewing, and she saw the two mosquitoes buzzing drearily round and round, and her thoughts,—her thoughts ran far back into the past.

On her mind through those months of anguish a mist had rested; it was rolled together now, and the old clear intellect awoke from its long torpor. It looked back into the past; it saw the present; there was no future now. The old strong soul gathered itself page: 275 together for the last time; it knew where it stood.

Slowly raising herself on her elbow, she took from the sail a glass that hung pinned there. Her fingers were stiff and cold. She put the pillow on her breast, and stood the glass against it. Then the white face on the pillow looked into the white face in the glass. They had looked at each other often so before. It had been a child's face once, looking out above its blue pinafore; it had been a woman's face, with a dim shadow in the eyes, and a deep assurance. “We are not afraid, you and I; we will fight the world and conquer.” Now to-night it had come to this. The dying eyes on the pillow looked into the dying eyes in the glass; they knew that their hour had come. She raised one hand and pressed the stiff fingers against the glass. They were growing very stiff. She tried to speak to it, but she would never speak again. Only, page: 276 the wonderful yearning light was in the eyes still. The body was dead now, but the soul, clear and unclouded, looked forth.

Then slowly, without a sound, the beautiful eyes closed. The dead face that the glass reflected was a thing of marvellous beauty and tranquillity. The Grey Dawn crept in over it and saw it lying there.

Had she found what she sought for—something to worship? Had she ceased from being? Who shall tell us? There is a veil of terrible mist over the face of the Hereafter.

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CHAPTER XIII.

DREAMS.

TELL me what a soul desires, and I will tell you what it is.” So runs the phrase.

“Tell me what a man dreams, and I will tell you what he loves.” That also has its truth.

For, ever from the earliest childhood to the latest age, day by day, and step by step, the busy waking life is followed and reflected by the life of dreams—waking dreams, sleeping dreams. Weird, misty, and distorted as the inverted image of a mirage, or a figure seen through the mountain mist, they are still the reflections of a reality.

On the night when Gregory told his story, page: 278 Waldo sat alone before the fire, his untasted supper before him. He was weary after his day's work—too weary to eat. He put the plate down on the floor for Doss, who licked it clean, and then went back to his corner. After a time the master threw himself across the foot of the bed without undressing, and fell asleep there. He slept so long that the candle burnt itself out, and the room was in darkness. But he dreamed a lovely dream as he lay there.

In his dream, to his right rose high mountains, their tops crowned with snow, their sides clothed with bush and bathed in the sunshine. At their feet was the sea, blue and breezy, bluer than any earthly sea, like the sea he had dreamed of in his boyhood. In the narrow forest that ran between the mountains and the sea the air was rich that the scent of the honey-creeper that hung from dark green bushes, and through the velvety grass little streams ran purling down into the page: 279 sea. He sat on a high square rock among the bushes, and Lyndall sat by him and sang to him. She was only a small child, with a blue pinafore, and a grave, grave, little face. He was looking up at the mountains, then suddenly when he looked round she was gone. He slipped down from his rock, and went to look for her, but he found only her little footmarks; he found them on the bright green grass, and in the moist sand, and there where the little streams ran purling down into the sea. In and out, in and out, and among the bushes where the honey-creeper hung, he went looking for her. At last, far off, in the sunshine, he saw her gathering shells upon the sand. She was not a child now, but a woman, and the sun shone on her soft brown hair, and in her white dress she put the shells she gathered. She was stooping, but when she heard his step she stood up, holding her skirt close about her, and waited for his coming. One hand she put page: 280 in his, and together they walked on over the glittering sand and pink sea-shells: and they heard the leaves talking, and they heard the waters babbling on their way to the sea, and they heard the sea singing to itself, singing, singing.

At last they came to a place where was a long reach of pure white sand; there she stood still, and dropped on to the sand one by one the shells that she had gathered. Then she looked up into his face with her beautiful eyes. She said nothing; but she lifted one hand and laid it softly on his forehead; the other she laid on his heart.

With a cry of suppressed agony Waldo sprung from the bed, flung open the upper half of the door, and leaned out, breathing heavily.

Great God! it might be only a dream, but the pain was very real, as though a knife ran through his heart, as though some treacherous murderer crept on him in the dark! The strong man drew his breath like a frightened woman.

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“Only a dream, but the pain was very real,” he muttered, as he pressed his right hand upon his breast. Then he folded his arms on the door, and stood looking out into the starlight.

The dream was with him still; the woman who was his friend was not separated from him by years—only that very night he had seen her. He looked up into the night sky that all his life long had mingled itself with his existence. There were a thousand faces that he loved looking down at him, a thousand stars in their glory, in crowns, and circles, and solitary grandeur. To the man they were not less dear than to the boy they had been not less mysterious; yet he looked up at them and shuddered; at last turned away from them with horror. Such countless multitudes stretching out far into space, and yet not in one of them all was she! Though he searched through them all, to the farthest, page: 282 faintest point of light, nowhere should he ever say, “She is here!” To-morrow's sun would rise and gild the world's mountains, and shine into its thousand valleys; it would set and the stars creep out again. Year after year, century after century, the old changes of nature would go on, day and night, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest; but in none of them all would she have part!

He shut the door to keep out their hideous shining, and because the dark was intolerable lit a csndle candle , and paced the little room, faster and faster yet. He saw before him the long ages of eternity that would roll on, on, on, and never bring her. She would exist no more. A dark mist filled the little room.

“Oh, little hand! oh, little voice! oh, little form!” he cried; “oh, little soul that walked with mine! oh, little soul, that looked so fearlessly down into the depths, do you exist no more for page: 283 ever—for all time?” He cried more bitterly: “It is for this hour—this—that men blind reason, and crush out thought! For this hour—this, this—they barter truth and knowledge, take any lie, any creed, so it does not whisper to them of the dead that they are dead! Ah, God! God! God! for a Here-after!”

Pain made his soul weak; it cried for the old faith. They are the tears that fall into the new-made grave that cement the power of the priest. For the cry of the soul that loves and loses is this, only this: “Bridge over Death; blend the Here with the Here-after; cause the mortal to robe himself in immortality; let me not say of my Dead that it is dead! I will believe all else, bear all else, endure all else!”

Muttering to himself, Waldo walked with bent head, the mist in his eyes.

To the soul's wild cry for its own there are many answers. He began to think of them. page: 284 Was not there one of them all from which he might suck one drop of comfort?

“You shall see her again,” says the Christian, the true Bible Christian. Yes; you shall see her again. ‘And I saw the dead, great and small, stand before God. And the books were opened, and the dead were judged from those things which were written in the books. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.’ Yes; you shall see her again. She died so—with her knee unbent, with her hand unraised, with a prayer unuttered, in the pride of her intellect and the strength of her youth. She loved and she was loved; but she said no prayer to God; she cried for no mercy; she repented of no sin. Yes; you shall see her again.”

In his bitterness Waldo laughed low:

“Ha, I have long ceased to hearken to your hellish voice.”

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But yet another speaks.

“You shall see her again,” said the nineteenth century Christian, deep into whose soul modern unbelief and thought have crept, though he knows it not. He it is who uses his Bible as the pearl-fishers use their shells, sorting out gems from refuse; he sets his pearls after his own fashion, and he sets them well. “Do not fear,” he says, “hell and judgment are not. God is love. I know that beyond this blue sky above us is a love as widespreading over all. The All-Father will show her to you again; not spirit only—the little hands, the little feet you loved, you shall lie down and kiss them if you will. Christ arose, and did eat and drink, so shall she arise. The dead, all the dead, raised incorruptible! God is love. You shall see her again.”

It is a heavenly song, this of the nineteenth century Christian. A man might dry his tears page: 286 to listen to it, but for this one thing,—Waldo muttered to himself confusedly;—

“The thing I loved was a woman proud and young; it had a mother once, who, dying, kissed her little baby, and prayed God that she might see it again. If it had lived the loved thing would itself have had a son, who, when he closed the weary eyes and smoothed the wrinkled forehead of his mother, would have prayed God to see that old face smile again in the Here-after. To the son heaven will be no heaven if the sweet worn face is not in one of the choirs; he will look for it through the phalanx of God's glorified angels; and the youth will look for the maid, and the mother for the baby. ‘And whose then shall she be at the resurrection of the dead?’”

“Ah, God! ah, God! a beautiful dream,” he cried; “but can any one dream it not sleeping?”

Waldo paced on, moaning in agony and longing.

He heard the Transcendentalist's high answer.

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“What have you to do with flesh, the gross and miserable garment in which spirit hides itself? You shall see her again. But the hand, the foot, the forehead you loved, you shall see no more. The loves, the fears, the frailties that are born with the flesh, with the flesh they shall die. Let them die! There is that in man that cannot die—a seed, a germ an embryo, a spiritual essence. Higher than she was on earth, as the tree is higher than the seed, the man than the embryo, so shall you behold her; changed, glorified!”

High words, ringing well; they are the offering of jewels to the hungry, of gold to the man who dies for bread. Bread is corruptible, gold is incorruptible; bread is light, gold is heavy; bread is common, gold is rare; but the hungry man will barter all your mines for one morsel of bread. Around God's throne there may be choirs and companies of angels, cherubim page: 288 and seraphim, rising tier above tier, but not for one of them all does the soul cry aloud. Only perhaps for a little human woman full of sin, that it once loved.

“Change is death, change is death,” he cried. “I want no angel, only she; no holier and no better, with all her sins upon her, so give her me or give me nothing!”

And, truly, does not the heart love its own with the strongest passion for their very frailties? Heaven might keep its angels if men were but left to men.

“Change is death,” he cried, “change is death! Who dares to say the body never dies, because it turns again to grass and flowers? And yet they dare to say the spirit never dies, because in space some strange unearthly being may have sprung up upon its ruins. Leave me! Leave me!” he cried in frantic bitterness. “Give me back what I have lost, or give me nothing!”

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For the soul's fierce cry for immortality is this—this only:—Return to me after death the thing as it was before. Leave me in the Here-after the being that I am to-day. Rob me of the thoughts, the feelings, the desires that are my life, and you have left nothing to take. Your immortality is annihilation, your Here-after is a lie.

Waldo flung open the door, and walked out into the starlight, his pain-stricken thoughts ever driving him on as he paced there.

“There must be a Here-after because man longs for it?” he whispered. “Is not all life from the cradle to the grave one long yearning for that which we never touch? There must be a Here-after because we cannot think of any end to life. Can we think of a beginning? Is it easier to say ‘I was not’ than to say ‘I shall not be’? And yet, where were we ninety years ago? Dreams, dreams! page: 290 Ah, all dreams and lies! No ground anywhere.”

He went back into the cabin and walked there. Hour after hour passed, and he was thinking—dreaming.

For, mark you, men will dream; the most that can be asked of them is but that the dream be not in too glaring discord with the thing they know. He walked with bent head.

“All dies, all dies!” he muttered; “the roses are red with the matter that once reddened the cheek of the child; the flowers bloom the fairest on the last year's battle-ground; the work of death's finger cunningly wreathed over is at the heart of all things, even of the living. Death's finger is everywhere. The rocks are built up of a life that was. Bodies, thoughts, and loves die: from where springs that whisper to the tiny soul of man, ‘You shall not die’? Ah, is there no truth of which this dream is shadow?”

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He fell into perfect silence. And, at last, as he walked there with his bent head, his soul passed down the steps of contemplation into that vast land where there is always peace; that land where the soul, gazing long, loses all consciousness of its little self, and almost feels its hand on the old mystery of Universal Unity that surrounds it.

“No death, no death,” he muttered; “there is that which never dies—which abides. It is but the individual that perishes, the whole remains. It is the organism that vanishes, the atoms are there. It is but the man that dies, the Universal Whole of which he is part reworks him into its inmost self. Ah, what matter that man's day be short!—that the sunrise sees him, and the sunset sees his grave; that of which he is but the breath has breathed him forth and drawn him back again. That abides—we abide.”

For the little soul that cries aloud for con- continued page: 292 tinued personal existence for itself and its beloved, there is no help. For the soul which knows itself no more as a unit, but as a part of the Universal Unity of which the Beloved also is a part; which feels within itself the throb of the Universal Life; for that soul there is no death.

“Let us die, beloved, you and I, that we may pass on forever through the Universal Life!” In that deep world of contemplation all fierce desires die out, and peace comes down. He, Waldo, as he walked there, saw no more the world that was about him; cried out no more for the thing that he had lost. His soul rested. Was it only John, think you, who saw the heavens open? The dreamers see it every day.

Long years before the father had walked there, and seen quires of angels, and a prince of peace like unto men, but clothed in immortality. The son's knowledge was not as the father's, page: 293 therefore the dream was new-tinted, but the sweetness was all there, the infinite peace, that men find not in the little cankered kingdom of the tangible. The bars of the real are set close about us; we cannot open our wings but they are struck against them, and drop bleeding. But, when we glide between the bars into the great unknown beyond, we may sail forever in the glorious blue, seeing nothing but our own shadows.

So age succeeds age, and dream succeeds dream, and of the joy of the dreamer no man knoweth but he who dreameth.

Our fathers had their dream; we have ours; the generation that follows will have its own. Without dreams and phantoms man cannot exist.

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CHAPTER XIV.

WALDO GOES OUT TO SIT IN THE SUNSHINE.

IT had been a princely day. The long morning had melted slowly into a rich afternoon. Rains had covered the karroo with a heavy coat of green that hid the red earth everywhere. In the very chinks of the stone walls dark green leaves hung out, and beauty and growth had crept even into the beds of the sandy furrows, and lined them with weeds. On the broken sod walls of the old pigsty chick-weeds flourished, and ice-plants lifted their transparent leaves. Waldo was at work in the waggon-house again. He was making a kitchen-table for Em. As the long curls gathered in heaps before his plane, he page: 295 paused for an instant now and again to throw one down to a small naked nigger, who had crept from its mother who stood churning in the sunshine, and had crawled into the waggon-house. From time to time the little animal lifted its fat hand as it expected a fresh shower of curls; till Doss, jealous of his master's noticing any other small creature but himself, would catch the curl in his mouth and roll the little Kaffir over in the saw-dust, much to that small animal's contentment. It was too lazy an afternoon to be really ill-natured, so Doss satisfied himself with snapping at the little nigger's fingers, and sitting on him till he laughed. Waldo, as he worked, glanced down at them now and then, and smiled; but he never looked out across the plain. He was conscious without looking of that broad green earth; it made his work pleasant to him. Near the shadow at the gable the mother of the little nigger stood churning. Slowly she raised page: 296 and let fall the stick in her hands, murmuring to herself a sleepy chant such as her people love; it sounded like the humming of far-off bees.

A different life showed itself in the front of the house, where Tant' Sannie's cart stood ready inspanned, and the Boer-woman herself sat in the front room drinking coffee. She had come to visit her step-daughter, probably for the last time, as she now weighed two hundred and sixty pounds, and was not easily able to move. On a chair sat her mild young husband nursing the baby—a pudding-faced, weak-eyed child.

“You take it and get into the cart with it,” said Tant' Sannie. “What do you want here, listening to our woman's talk?”

The young man arose, and meekly went out with the baby.

“I'm very glad you are going to be married, my child,” said Tant' Sannie, as she drained the last drop from her coffee cup. “I wouldn't say page: 297 so while that boy was here, it would make him too conceited; but marriage is the finest thing in the world. I've been at it three times, and if it pleased God to take this husband from me I should have another. There's nothing like it, my child; nothing.”

“Perhaps it might not suit all people, at all times, as well as it suits you, Tant' Sannie,” said Em. There was a little shade of weariness in the voice.

“Not suit every one!” said Tant' Sannie. “If the beloved Redeemer didn't mean men to have wives what did He make women for? That's what I say. If a woman's old enough to marry and doesn't she's sinning against the Lord—it's a wanting to know better than Him. What, does she think the Lord took all that trouble in making her for nothing? It's evident He wants babies, otherwise why does He send them? Not that I've done much in that way myself,” said page: 298 Tant' Sannie, sorrowfully; “but I've done my best.”

She rose with some difficulty from her chair, and began moving slowly toward the door.

“It's a strange thing,” she said, “but you can't love a man till you've had a baby by him. Now there's that boy there,—when we were first married if he only sneezed in the night I boxed his ears; now if he lets his pipe-ash come on my milk-cloths I don't think of laying a finger on him. There's nothing like being married,” said Tant' Sannie, as she puffed toward the door. “If a woman's got a baby and a husband she's got the best things the Lord can give her; if only the baby doesn't have convulsions. As for a husband, it's very much the same who one has. Some men are fat, and some men are thin; some men drink brandy, and some men drink gin; but it all comes to the page: 299 same thing in the end; it's all one. A man's a man, you know.”

Here they came upon Gregory, who was sitting in the shade before the house. Tant' Sannie shook hands with him.

“I'm glad you're going to get married,” she said. “I hope you'll have as many children in five years as a cow has calves, and more too. I think I'll just go and have a look at your soap-pot before I start,” she said, turning to Em. “Not that I believe in this new plan of putting soda in the pot. If the dear Father had meant soda to be put into soap what would He have made milk-bushes for, and stuck them all over the ‘veld’ as thick as lambs in the lambing season?”

She waddled off after Em in the direction of the built-in soap-pot, leaving Gregory as they found him, with his dead pipe lying on the bench beside him, and his blue eyes gazing out far page: 300 across the flat, like one who sits on the sea-shore watching that which is fading, fading from him. Against his breast was a letter found in the desk addressed to himself, but never posted. It held only four words: “You must marry Em.” He wore it in a black bag round his neck. It was the only letter she had ever written to him.

“You see if the sheep don't have the scab this year!” said Tant' Sannie as she waddled after Em. “It's with all these new inventions that the wrath of God must fall on us. What were the children of Israel punished for, if it wasn't for making a golden calf? I may have my sins, but I do remember the tenth commandment. ‘Honour thy father and mother that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee!’ It's all very well to say we honour them, and then to be finding out things page: 301 that they never knew, and doing things in a way that they never did them! My mother boiled soap with bushes, and I will boil soap with bushes. If the wrath of God is to fall upon this land,” said Tant' Sannie, with the serenity of conscious virtue, “it shall not be through me. Let them make their steam-waggons and their fire-carriages; let them go on as though the dear Lord didn't know what He was about when He gave horses and oxen legs,—the destruction of the Lord will follow them. I don't know how such people read their Bibles. When do we hear of Moses or Noah riding in a railway? The Lord sent fire-carriages out of heaven in those days: there's no chance of His sending them for us if we go on in this way,” said Tant' Sannie sorrowfully, thinking of the splendid chance which this generation had lost.

Arrived at the soap-pot she looked over into it thoughtfully.

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“Depend upon it you'll get the itch, or some other disease; the blessing of the Lord'll never rest upon it,” said the Boer-woman. Then suddenly she broke forth. “And she eighty-two, and goats, and rams, and eight thousand morgan, and the rams real angora, and two thousand sheep, and a shorthorn bull,” said Tant' Sannie, standing upright and planting a hand on each hip.

Em looked at her in silent wonder. Had connubial bliss and the joys of motherhood really turned the old Boer-woman's head?

“Yes,” said Tant' Sannie; “I had almost forgotten to tell you. By the Lord if I had him here! We were walking to church last Sacrament Sunday, Piet and I. Close in front of us with old Tant' Trana, with dropsy and cancer, and can't live eight months. Walking by her was something with its hands under its coat-tails, flap, flap, flap; and its chin in the air, page: 303 and a stick-up collar, and the black hat on the very back of the head. I knew him! ‘Who's that?’ I asked. ‘The rich Englishman that Tant' Trana married last week.’ ‘Rich Englishman! I'll rich Englishman him,’ I said; ‘I'll tell Tant' Trana a thing or two.’ My fingers were just in his little white curls. If it hadn't been the blessed Sacrament, he wouldn't have walked so ‘sourka, sourka, courka,’ any more. But I thought, wait till I've had it, and then—. But he, sly fox, son of Satan, seed of the Amalekite, he saw me looking at him in the church. The blessed Sacrament wasn't half over when he takes Tant' Trana by the arm, and out they go. I clap my baby down to its father, and I go after them. But,” said Tant' Sannie, regretfully, “I couldn't get up to them; I am too fat. When I got to the corner he was pulling Tant' Trana up into the cart. ‘Tant' Trana,’ I said, ‘you've married a Kaffir's dog, page: 304 a Hottentot's brakje.’ I hadn't any more breath. He winked at me; he winked at me,” said Tant' Sannie, her sides shaking with indignation, “first with one eye, and then with the other, and then drove away. Child of the Amalekite!” said Tant' Sannie, “if it hadn't been the blessed Sacrament. Lord, Lord, Lord!”

Here the little Bush-girl came running to say that the horses would stand no longer, and still breathing out vengeance against her old adversary she laboured toward the cart. Shaking hands and affectionately kissing Em, she was with some difficulty drawn up. Then slowly the cart rolled away, the good Boer-woman putting her head out between the sails to smile and nod. Em stood watching it for a time, then as the sun dazzled her eyes she turned away. There was no use in going to sit with Gregory: he liked best sitting there alone, staring across the the green karroo; and till the maid had done churning page: 305 there was nothing to do; so Em walked away to the waggon-house, and climbed on to the end of Waldo's table, and sat there, swinging one little foot slowly to and fro, while the wooden curls from the plane heaped themselves up against her black print dress.

“Waldo,” she said at last, “Gregory has given me the money he got for the waggon and oxen, and I have fifty pounds besides that once belonged to some one. I know what they would have liked to have done with it. You must take it and go to some place and study for a year or two.”

“No, little one, I will not take it,” he said, as he planed slowly away; “the time was when I would have been very grateful to any one who would have given me a little money, a little help, a little power of gaining knowledge. But now, I have gone so far alone I may go on to the end. I don't want it, little one.”

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She did not seem pained at his refusal, but swung her foot to and fro, the little old wrinkled forehead more wrinkled up than ever.

“Why is it always so, Waldo, always so?” she said; “we long for things, and long for them, and pray for them; we would give all we have to come near to them, but we never reach them. Then at last, too late, just when we don't want them any more, when all the sweetness is taken out of them, then they come. We don't want them then,” she said, folding their hands resignedly on her little apron. After a while she added: “I remember once, very long ago, when I was a very little girl, my mother had a work-box full of coloured reels. I always wanted to play with them, but she would never let me. At last one day she said I might take the box. I was so glad I hardly knew what to do. I ran round the house, and sat down with it on the back steps. page: 307 But when I opened the box all the cottons were taken out.”

She sat for a while longer, till the Kaffir maid had finished churning, and was carrying the butter toward the house. Then Em prepared to slip off the table, but first she laid her little hand on Waldo's. He stopped his planing and looked up.

“Gregory is going to the town to-morrow. He is going to give in our bans to the minister; we are going to be married in three weeks.”

Waldo lifted her very gently from the table. He did not congratulate her; perhaps he thought of the empty box, but he kissed her forehead gravely.

She walked away toward the house, but stopped when she got half-way. “I will bring you a glass of buttermilk when it is cool,” she called out; and soon her clear voice came ringing out through the back windows as she page: 308 sang the ‘Blue Water’ to herself, and washed the butter.

Waldo did not wait till she returned. Perhaps he had at last really grown weary of work; perhaps he felt the waggon-house chilly (for he had shuddered two or hree three times), though this was hardly likely in that warm summer weather; or, perhaps, and most probably, one of his old dreaming fits had come upon him suddenly. He put his tools together, ready for to-morrow, and walked slowly out. At the side of the waggon-house there was a world of bright sunshine, and a hen with her chickens was scratching among the gravel. Waldo seated himself near them with his back against the red-brick wall. The long afternoon was half spent, and the kopje was just beginning to cast its shadow over the round-headed yellow flowers that grew between it and the farm-house. Among the flowers the white butterflies hovered and on the old “kraal” page: 309 mounds three white kids gamboled, and at the door of one of the huts an old grey-headed Kaffir-woman sat on the ground mending her mats. A balmy, restful peacefulness seemed to reign everywhere. Even the old hen seemed well-satisfied. She scratched among the stones and called to her chickens when she found a treasure; and all the while tucked to herself with intense inward satisfaction. Waldo, as he sat with his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms folded on them, looked at it all and smiled. An evil world, a deceitful, treacherous, mirage-like world, it might be; but a lovely world for all that, and to sit there gloating in the sunlight was perfect. It was worth having been a little child, and having cried and prayed so one might sit there. He moved his hands as though he were washing them in the sunshine. There will always be something worth living for while there are shimmery afternoons. Waldo chuckled with intense page: 310 inward satisfaction as the old hen had done—she, over the insects and the warmth; he, over the old brick-walls, and the haze, and the little bushes. Beauty is God's wine, with which He recompenses the souls that love Him; he He makes them drunk.

The fellow looked, and at last stretched out one hand to a little ice-plant that grew on the sod wall of the sty; not as though he would have picked it, but as it were in a friendly greeting. He loved it. One little leaf of the ice-plant stood upright, and the sun shone through it. He could see every little crystal cell like a drop of ice in the transparent green, and it thrilled him.

There are only rare times when a man's soul can see Nature. So long as any passion holds its revel there, the eyes are holden that they should not see her.

Go out if you will, and walk alone on the page: 311 hill-side in the evening, but if your favourite child lies ill at home, or your lover comes to-morrow, or at your heart there lies a scheme for the holding of wealth, then you will return as you went out; you will have seen nothing. For Nature, ever, like the old Hebrew God, cries out, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Only then, when there comes a pause, a blank in your life, when the old idol is broken, when the old hope is dead, when the old desire is crushed, then the Divine compensation of Nature is made manifest. She shows herself to you. So near she draws you, that the blood seems to flow from her to you, through a still uncut cord: you feel the throb of her life.

When that day comes, that you sit down broken, without one human creature to whom you cling, with your loves the dead and the living-dead; when the very thirst for knowledge through page: 312 long-continued thwarting has grown dull; when in the present there is no craving, and in the future no hope, then, oh, with a beneficent tenderness, Nature enfolds you.

Then the large white snow-flakes as they flutter down, softly, one by one, whisper soothingly, “Rest, poor heart, rest!” It is as though our mother smoothed our hair, and we are comforted.

And yellow-legged bees as they hum make a dreamy lyric; and the light on the brown stone wall is a great work of art; and the light through the leaves makes the pulses beat.

Well to die then; for, if you live, so surely as the years come, so surely as the spring succeeds the winter, so surely will passions arise. They will creep back, one by one, into the bosom that has cast them forth, and fasten there again, and peace will go. Desire, ambi- ambition page: 313 tion, and the fierce agonizing flood of love for the living—they will spring again. Then Nature will draw down her veil; with all your longing you shall not be able to raise one corner; you cannot bring back those peaceful days. Well to die then!

Sitting there with his arms folded on his knees, and his hat slouched down over his face, Waldo looked out into the yellow sunshine that tinted even the very air with the colour of ripe corn, and was happy.

He was an uncouth creature with small learning, and no prospect in the future but that of making endless tables and stone-walls, yet it seemed to him as he sat there that life was a rare and very rich thing. He rubbed his hands in the sunshine. Ah, to live on so, year after year, how well! Always in the present; letting each day glide, bringing its page: 314 own labour, and its own beauty; the gradual lighting up of the hills, night and the stars, fire-light and the coals! To live on so, calmly, far from the paths of men; and to look at the lives of clouds and insects; to look deep into the heart of flowers, and see how lovingly the pistil and the stamens nestle there together; and to see in the thorn-pods how the little seeds suck their life through the delicate curled-up string, and how the little embryo sleeps inside! Well, how well, to sit so on one side taking no part in the world's life; but when great men blossom into books looking into those flowers also, to see how the world of men too opens beautifully, leaf after leaf. Ah! life is delicious; well to live long, and see the darkness breaking, and the day coming! The day when soul shall not thrust back soul that would come to it; when men shall not be driven to seek solitude because of the crying out of their page: 315 hearts for love and sympathy. Well to live long and see the new time breaking. Well to live long; life is sweet, sweet, sweet! In his breast pocket, where of old the broken slate used to be, there was now a little dancing-shoe of his friend who was sleeping. He could feel it when he folded his arm tight against his breast; and that was well also. He drew his hat lower over his eyes and sat so motionless that the chickens thought he was asleep, and gathered closer around him. One even ventured to peck at his boot; but he ran away quickly. Tiny, yellow fellow that he was, he knew that men were dangerous; even sleeping they might awake. But Waldo did not sleep, and coming back from his sunshiny dream, stretched out his hand for the tiny thing to mount. But the chicken eyed the hand askance, and then ran off to hide under page: 316 its mother's wing, and from beneath it it sometimes put out its round head to peep at the great figure sitting there. Presently its brothers ran off after a little white moth, and it ran out to join them; and when the moth fluttered away over their heads they stood looking up disappointed, and then ran back to their mother.

Waldo through his half-closed eyes looked at them. Thinking, fearing, craving, those tiny sparks of brother life, what were they, so real there in that old yard on that sunshiny afternoon? A few years—where would they be? Strange little brother spirits! He stretched his hand toward them, for his heart went out to them; but not one of the little creatures came nearer him, and he watched them gravely for a time; then he smiled, and began muttering to himself after his old fashion. Afterward he folded his arms upon his knees, and rested his page: 317 forehead on them. And so he sat there in the yellow sunshine, muttering, muttering, muttering, to himself.

It was not very long after when Em came out at the back-door with a towel thrown across her head, and in her hand a cup of milk.

“Ah,” she said, coming close to him, “he is sleeping now. He will find it when he wakes, and be glad of it.”

She put it down upon the ground beside him. The mother-hen was at work still among the stones, but the chickens had climbed about him and were perching on him. One stood upon his shoulder, and rubbed its little head softly against his black curls: another tried to balance itself on the very edge of the old felt hat. One tiny fellow stood upon his hand, and tried to crow; another had nestled itself down comfortably on the old coat-sleeve, and gone to sleep there.

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Em did not drive them away; but she covered the glass softly at his side. “He will wake soon,” she said, “and be glad of it.”

But the chickens were wiser.

THE END.

CLAY AND TAYLOR, PRINTERS, BUNGAY, SUFFOLK. S & H.

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