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´╗┐Title: Vrouw Grobelaar and Her Leading Cases - Seventeen Short Stories
Author: Gibbon, Perceval, 1879-1926
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Vrouw Grobelaar and Her Leading Cases - Seventeen Short Stories" ***

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Copyright, 1906, by

Published, January, 1906





















The Vrouw Grobelaar, you must know, is a lady of excellent
standing, as much by reason of family connections (for she
was a Viljoen of the older stock herself, and buried in her
time three husbands of estimable parentage) as of her
wealth. Her farms extended from the Ringkop on the one side
to the Holgaatspruit on the other, which is more than a
day's ride; and her stock appears to be of that ideal
species which does not take rinderpest. Her Kafirs were
born on the place, and will surely die there, for though
the old lady is firmly convinced that she rules them with a
rod of iron, the truth is she spoils them atrociously; and
were it not that there is an excellent headman to her
kraals, the niggers would soon grow pot-bellied in

The Vrouw Grobelaar is a lady who commands respect. Her
face is a portentous mask of solemnity, and her figure is
spacious beyond the average of Dutch ladies, so that
certain chairs are tacitly conceded her as a monopoly. The
good Vrouw does not read or write, and having never found a
need in herself for these arts, is the least thing
impatient of those who practice them. The Psalms, however,
she appears to know by heart; also other portions of the
Bible; and is capable of spitting Scripture at you on the
smallest provocation. Indeed she bubbles with morality, and
a mention of "the accursed thing" (which would appear to be
a genus and not a species, so many articles of human
commerce does it embrace) will set her effervescing with
mingled blame and exhortation. But if punishment should
come in question, as when a Kafir waylaid and slew a
chicken of hers, she displays so prolific an invention in
excuses, so generous a partiality for mercy, that not the
most irate induna that ever laid down a law of his own
could find a pretext for using the stick.

She lives in her homestead with some half-dozen of nieces,
a nephew or two, and a litter of grandchildren, who know
the old lady to the core, cozen and blarney her as they
please, and love her with a perfect unanimity. I think she
sometimes blames herself for her tyrannical usage of these
innocents, who nevertheless thrive remarkably on it. You
can hardly get on your horse at the door without maiming an
infant, and you can't throw a stone in any direction
without killing a marriageable damsel. They pervade the old
place like an atmosphere; the kraals ring with their
voices, and the Kafirs spend lives of mingled misery and
delight at their irresponsible hands.

I do not think I need particularize in the matter of these
youngsters, save as regards Katje. Katje refuses to be
ignored, and she was no more to be overlooked than a tin-
tack in the sole of your foot. She was the only child of
Vrouw Grobelaar's youngest brother, Barend Viljoen, who
died while lion-hunting in the Fever Country. At the time I
am thinking of Katje might have been eighteen. She was like
a poppy among the stubble, so delicate in her bodily
fabric, and yet so opulent in shape and coloring. She was
the nicest child that ever gave a kiss for the asking (you
could kiss her as soon as look at her), but she was also
the very devil to deal with if she saw fit to take a
distaste of you. I saw her once smack a fathom of able-
bodied youth on both sides of the head with a lusty vigor
that constrained the sufferer to howl. And I have seen her
come to meet a man--well, me, with the readiest lips and the
friendliest hand in the world. Oh, Katje was like a blotch
of color in one's life; something vivid, to throw the days
into relief.

A stranger to the household might have put down Katje's
behavior towards the Vrouw Grobelaar as damnable, no less;
and in the early days of my acquaintance with the family I
was somewhat tempted to this opinion myself. For she not
only flouted the old lady to her face, but would upon
occasion disregard her utterly, and do it all with what I
can only call a swagger that seemed to demand a local
application of drastic measures. But Katje knew her victim,
if such a word can be applied to the Vrouw Grobelaar, and
never prodded her save on her armor. For instance, to say
the Kafirs were overdriven and starved was nothing if not
flattery--to say they were spoiled and coddled would have
been mere brutality.

With it all, the Vrouw Grobelaar went her placid way, like
an elephant over egg-shells. Her household did her one
service, at least, in return for their maintenance, and
that was to provide the old lady with an audience. It was
in no sense an unwilling service, for her imagination ran
to the gruesome, and she never planted a precept but she
drove it home with a case in point. As a result night was
often shattered by a yell from some sleeper whose dreams
had trespassed on devilish domains. The Vrouw Grobelaar
believed most entirely in Kafir magic, in witchcraft and
second sight, in ghosts and infernal possession, in
destiny, and in a very personal arch-fiend who presided
over a material hell when not abroad in the world on the
war-path. Besides, she had stores of tales from the lives
of neighbors and acquaintances: often horrible enough, for
the Boers are a lonely folk and God's finger writes large
in their lives.

I almost think I can see it now--the low Dutch kitchen with
its plank ceiling, the old lady in her chair, with an
illustrative forefinger uplifted to punctuate the periods
of her tale, the embers, white and red, glowing on the
hearth, and the intent shadow-pitted faces of the hearers,
agape for horrors.

There was a tale I heard her tell to Katje, when that
damsel had seen fit to observe, apropos of disobedience in
general, that her grandfather's character had nothing to do
with hers. The tale was in plaintive Dutch, the language
that makes or breaks a story-teller, for you must hang your
point on the gutturals or you miss it altogether.

"Look at my husband's uncle," said the old lady. "A sinful
man, forever swearing and cursing, and drinking. His farm
was the worst in the district; the very Kafirs were ashamed
of it when they went to visit the kraals. But Voss (that
was the name of my husband's uncle) cared nothing so long
as there was a horse to ride into the dorp on and some
money to buy whiskey with. And he drank so much and carried
on so wickedly that his wife died and his girls married
poor men and never went to stay with their father. So at
last he lived in the house, with only his son to help him
from being all alone.

"This son was Barend Voss, a great hulking fellow, with the
strength of a trek-ox, and never a word of good or bad to
throw away on any one. But his face was the face of a
violent man. He had blue eyes with no pleasantness about
them, but a sort of glitter, as though there were live
coals in his brain. He did not drink like his father; and
these two would sit together in the evenings, the one
bleared and stupid with liquor, and the other watching him
in silence across the table.

"They spoke seldom to one another; and it would often
happen that the father would speak to the son and get not a
word of answer--only that lowering ugly stare that had grown
to be a way with the boy.

"I think those two men must have grown to hate each other
in the evenings as they sat together; the younger one
despising and loathing his father, and the father hating
his son for so doing. I have often wondered how they never
came to blows--before they did, that is.

"One morning old Voss rode off to the dorp, and Barend
watched him from the door till he went out of sight in the
kloof. All the day he was away, and when he came back again
it was late in the night. Barend was sitting in his usual
place at the table scowling over his folded arms.

"Old Voss had not ridden off his liquor; and he staggered
into the house singing a dirty English song. He had a
bottle in his hands, and banged it down on the table in
front of his son.

"'Now, old sheep's head,' he shouted, 'have a drink and
drop those airs of yours.'

"Barend sat where he was, and said not a word--just watched
the other.

"'Come on,' shouted old Voss; 'I'm not going to drink
alone. If you won't take it pleasantly I'll make you take
it, and be damned to you!'

"Barend sat still, scowling always. I dare say a sober man
would have seen something in his eyes and let be. But old
Voss was blind to his danger, and shouted on.

"The younger man kept his horrid silence, and never moved,
till the father was goaded to a drunken rage.

"'If you won't drink,' he screamed, 'take that,' and he
flung a full cupful of the spirit right in the young man's

"Then everything was in the fire. The two men fought in the
room like beasts, oversetting table and lamp, and stamping
into the fire on the hearth. Barend was mad with a passion
of long nursing, and hewed with his great fists till the
old man fell heavily to the ground, and lay moaning.

"Barend stood over him, glowering. 'Swine!' he said to his
father; 'swine and brute!  get you out of this house to the
veld. You are no father of mine.'

"But the old man was much hurt, and lay where he had
fallen, groaning as though he had not heard.

"'I will have you out of this,' said the son. 'If you are
come to die, die on the road. I had wished you dead for

"So he wound his hand, with the knuckles all over blood, in
the old man's white hair, and threw open the door with his
other hand.

"'Out with you!' he shouted, and dragged him down the step
and into the yard. Yes, he dragged him across the yard to
the gate; and when he unfastened the gate the old man
opened his eyes and spoke.

"'Leave me here,' he said, speaking slowly and painfully.
'Leave me here, my son. Thus far I dragged my father.'"

The Vrouw Grobelaar, to point a weighty moral, turned her
face upon Katje. But that young lady was sleeping soundly
with her mouth open.


"I wish," said Katje, looking up from her book--"I wish a
man would come and make me marry him."

The Vrouw Grobelaar wobbled where she sat with

"Yes," continued Katje, musingly casting her eyes to the
rafters, "I wish a man would just take me by the hand--so--
and not listen to anything I said, nor let me go however I
should struggle, and carry me off on the peak of his saddle
and marry me. I think I would be willing to die for a man
who could do that."

The Vrouw Grobelaar found her voice at last. "Katje," she
said with deep-toned emphasis, "you are talking wickedness,
just wickedness. Do you think I would let a man--any man, or
perhaps an Englishman--carry you off like a strayed ewe?"

"The sort of man I'm thinking of," replied the maiden,
"wouldn't ask you for permission. He'd simply pick me up,
and away he'd go."

At times, and in certain matters, Vrouw Grobelaar would
display a ready acumen.

"Tell me, Katje," she said now, "who is this man?"

Then Katje dropped her book and, sitting upright with an
unimpeachable surprise, stared at the old lady.

"I'm not thinking of any man," she remarked calmly. "I was
just wishing there was a man who would have the pluck to do

The Vrouw Grobelaar shook her head. "Good Burghers don't
carry girls away," she said. "They come and drink coffee,
and sit with them, and talk about the sheep."

"And behave as if they had never worn boots before, and
didn't know what to do with their hands," added the maiden.
"Aunt, am I a girl to marry a man who upsets three cups of
coffee in half an hour and borrows a handkerchief to wipe
his knees?"

Now there could be no shadow of doubt that this was an
open-breasted cut at young Fanie van Tromp, whose affection
for Katje was a matter of talk on the farms, and whose
overtures that young lady had consistently sterilized with

The Vrouw Grobelaar was void of delicacy. "Fanie is a good
lad," she said, "and when his father dies he will have a
very large property."

"It'll console him for not adding me to his live stock,"
retorted Katje.

"He is handsome, too," continued the old lady. "His beard
is as black as--"

"A carrion-crow," added Katje promptly.

"Quite," agreed the Vrouw Grobelaar, with a perfect
unconsciousness of the unsavoriness of the suggestion.

"And he walks like a duck with sore feet," went on Katje.
"He is as graceful as a trek-ox, and his conversational
talents are those of a donkey in long grass."

"All that is a young girl's nonsense," observed the old
lady. "I was like that once myself. But when one grows a
little older and fatter, and there is less about one to
take a man's eye,--a fickle thing, Katje, a fickle thing,--
one looks for more in a husband than a light foot and a
smart figure."

Katje was a trifle abashed, for all the daughters of her
house, were they never so slender, grew tubby in their

"Besides," continued the worthy Vrouw, "your talk is chaff
from a mill. It must come out to leave the meal clean.
Perhaps, after all, Fanie is the man to carry you off. I
think you would not take so much trouble to worry him if
you thought nothing of him."

The Vrouw Grobelaar had never heard of Beatrice and her
Benedick, but she had a notion of the principle.

"I hate him," cried Katje with singular violence.

"I think not," replied the old lady. "Sometimes the thing
we want is at our elbows, and we cannot grasp it because we
reach too far. Did I ever tell you how Stoffel Struben
nearly went mad for love of his wife?"

"No," said Katje, unwillingly interested. "He was something
of a fool to begin with," commenced the Vrouw Grobelaar.
"He chose his wife for a certain quality of gentleness she
had, and though I will not deny she made him a good wife
and a patient, still gentleness will not boil a pot. He was
a fine fellow to look at; big and upstanding, with plenty
of blood in him, and a grand mat of black hair on top. He
moved like a buck; so ready on his feet and so lively in
all his movements. He might have carried you off, Katje,
and done you no good in the end.

"He was happy with his pretty wife for a while, and might
have been happy all his life and died blessedly had he but
been able to keep from conjuring up faces in his mind and
falling in love with them. Greta, his wife, had hair like
golden wheat, so smooth and rippled with light; and no
sooner had he stroked his fill of it than he conceived nut-
brown to be the most lovely color of woman's hair. Her eyes
were blue, and for half a year he loved them; then hazel
seemed to him a better sort. I said he was a fool, didn't

"So his marriage to Greta became a chain instead of a
union, while the poor lass fretted her heart out over his
dark looks and short answers. He was shallow, Katje,
shallow; he had the mere capacity for love, but it was a
short way to the bottom of it. You will see by and by that
the men who deserve least always want most. Stoffel had no
right to a woman at all; when he had one, and she a good
girl, he let his eyes rove for others.

"So he went about his farm with his mind straying and his
heart abroad. If you spoke to him, he paused awhile, and
then looked at you with a start as though freshly waked. He
saw nothing as he went, neither his wife with the questions
in her eyes that she shamed to say with her lips, nor the
child that crowed at him from her arms. He was deaf and
blind to the healthy world, to all save the silly dreams
his poisoned soul fed on.

"Well, wicked or not, it is at least unsafe not to look
where one is going. This was a thing Stoffel never did:
since he overlooked his wife, it was not to be expected he
would see a strand of fencing-wire on the ground. So he
rode on to it, and down came his horse. Down came Stoffel
too, and there was a stone handy on the place where his
head lit to let some of the moonshine out of him. He saw a
heavenful of stars for a moment, and then saw nothing for a
long time.  Save--one strange thing!

"When life came back to him he was in his bed very sore and
empty, and very mightily surprised to see himself alive,
after all. He was exceedingly weak and somewhat misty as to
how it all had happened. But one thing he seemed to
remember--more than seemed, so strong, so plain, so deep was
his memory of it. He thought he recalled pain and
blindness, and a sudden light, in which he saw a face close
to his, a girl's face, pitiful, tender, loving, and charged
with more than all the sweetness of beauty that his sick
heart could long for. The thing was like one of those
dreams from which one wakes sad and thoughtful, as when one
has overstepped the boundary mark of life and cast an eye
on heaven.

"It was no face that he knew, and he turned on his pillow
to think of it. He could not believe it was a dream. 'It
was a soul,' he said to himself. 'I knew, I was sure, that
somewhere there was such a face, but it only came to my
eyes when I was on the borderland of death. If ever God
gave a thing to a mortal man, he should have given me that

"So with such blasphemous thoughts he idled through the
days of his sickness, very quiet, very weak, and kind to
his wife beyond the ordinary.  Of course she, poor woman,
knew nothing of the silly tale, and when her husband gave
her those little caresses one would not withhold from an
affectionate dog, she blessed God that he was come to
himself again. You see, Katje dear, that as a man demands
more than he can claim with right, a woman must often make
shift with less. It is well to learn this early.

"Stoffel grew well in time, and got about again. But the
stone had made less of a dent in his skull than the face in
his heart, and he was changed altogether. He served a false
god, but served it faithfully. He was very gentle and
patient with every one, almost like a saint, and he took
infinite pains with the work of his farm. He would hurt no
living thing--not even so much as lash a team of lazy oxen.
You would have thought Kafirs would have done as they
pleased with him, but they obeyed his least word, and hung
on his eyes for orders as though they worshipped him.
Kafirs and dogs will sometimes see farther than a

"Meanwhile Greta came to die. It was a chill, perhaps, with
a trifle of fever on top of that, and it carried her off
like a candle-flame when it is blown out. She died well--
very well indeed. None of your whimpering and moaning and
slinking out of the back-door of life when nobody is
looking; nor that unconscious death that shuts out a chance
of a few last words. No; Greta saw with her eyes and spoke
with her mouth to the last, then folded her hands and died
as handsomely as one would wish to see. She prayed a
trifle, as she should; forgave her brother's wife for
speaking ill of her, and hoped her tongue would not lure
her to destruction. I have heard her brother's wife never
forgave her for it.

"On the last day she sent everybody out of the room save
only Stoffel, and him she held by the hand as he sat beside
the bed. She knew she was drawing to her end (the dying
always know it) and feared nothing. But there was a matter
she wanted to know.

"'Stoffel,' she said when they were alone, won't you tell
me now who that woman is?'

"'What woman?' said Stoffel amazed, for of his dream in his
sickness he had spoken to no living soul.

"She stroked his hand and shook her head at him.  Ah,
Stoffel,' she said, 'it is long since I first made place
for that woman, and if I grudged her you, I never grudged
you her. I was content with what you gave me, Stoffel; I
thought you right, whatever you did, and I go to God still
thinking so. All our life, Stoffel, she prevailed against
me, and I submitted; but now, at this last moment, I want
to have the better of it. Tell me, who was it?'

"And Stoffel, looking on the floor, answered, 'I swear to
you there was no woman.'

"She replied, 'And ere the cock crows thou shall deny me
thrice.' She turned her head and looked at him with a
pitiful drawn smile that would have dragged tears from a
demon. 'Was she dark, Stoffel? I am fair, you know; but my
hair--look at it, Stoffel,--my hair is golden. Did you never
notice it before? She was tall, I suppose? Well, I am
something short, but, Stoffel, I am slender, too. Will you
not so much as tell me her name, Stoffel? It is not as if I
blamed you.'

"A truth, hardly won, is always set on a pile of lies. 'How
do you know there was a woman?' asked Stoffel.

"'How?' she repeated. 'How I know! Stoffel, you never had a
thought I did not know; never a hope but I hoped it for
you, nor a fear but I thought how to safeguard you. I never
lived but in you, Stoffel.

"'Let us speak nothing but the truth now,' she went on.
'You and I have always been beyond the need for lies to one
another, and as I wait here for you to tell me, I have one
hand in yours and the other in Christ's. Let me not think
hardly of her as I go.'

"'You would not curse her?' he said quickly. "'Not even
that' she answered, smiling a little. 'And if you will not
tell me, I will die even content with that, since it is
your wish.'

"'Listen,' said Stoffel then. And forthwith, looking
backwards and forwards in shame and sorrow, he told the
tale. He told how he saw a face, which laid hold on his
life ever after, how it governed and compelled him with the
mere memory, and hung in his mind like a deed done. And he
also told how he hoped after death to see that face with
the eyes of his soul, and dwell with it in heaven.

"When he had finished he cast a glance at his wife. She was
lying on her back, holding his hand still, and smiling up
to the ceiling with a pleasant face of contentment.

"'Can you forgive me?' he cried, and would have gone on to
protest and explain, but she pressed his hand and he was

"'Forgive you!' she said at last. 'Forgive you! No; but I
will bless you for all of it. So it seems I have won after
all, but now I wish I had let be. It was no spirit you saw,
Stoffel. There was a woman there, and while you lay white
and lifeless she held you in her arms, and bent over you.
And just for one moment you opened your eyes and saw her,
while her face was close to yours. Then you died again, and
remained so for a day and a night Was there love in her
eyes, Stoffel?'

"'Love!' cried Stoffel, and fell silent.

"In a minute he spoke again. 'I am helpless,' he said, 'and
you are strong. But, curse and hate me as you will, you
must tell me who this woman was.'

"'A little time since it was I that asked,' she said, 'and
you would not tell me.'

"'I beseech you,' he said.

"'You shall never ask twice,' she answered gently. 'I will
tell you, but not this moment.'

"So for a while they sat together, and the sun began to go
down, and blazed on the window-panes and on the golden hair
of the dying woman. She lay as if in a mist of glory, and
smiled at Stoffel. He, looking at her, could not lack of
being startled by the beauty that had come over her face
and the joy that weighed her eyelids.

"She stirred a little, and sighed. Stoffel cast an arm
round her to hold her up, and his heart bounded woefully
when he felt how light she was. Her head came to his
shoulder, as to a place where it belonged, and their lips

"'Shall I tell you now?' she said in a whisper.

"Stoffel did not answer, so she asked again. 'Will you
know, Stoffel?'

"'No,' he answered. 'I'm cured.'

"'I will tell you, then,' she cried. 'No,' he repeated.
'Let it be.'

"So together they sat for a further while, and the time
grew on for going. She was to die with the sun; she had
said it. And as they sat both could see through the window
the sun floating lower, with an edge in its grave already,
and the rim of the earth black against it. The noises of
the veld and the farm came in to them, and they drew closer

"Neither wept; they were too newly met for that. But
Stoffel felt a dull pain of sorrow overmastering him, and
soon he groaned aloud.

"'My wife, my wife,' he cried.

"She rested wholly on his arm, and shivered a little.

"'Stoffel,' she said in a voice that henceforth was to
whisper forever, 'Stoffel, you love me?'

"'As God sees me,' he answered. "'Listen,' she said, and
fought with the tide that was fast drowning her words.
'That face--you--saw . . . was . . . mine!'

"She smiled as his arm tightened on her, and died so

There was silence in the shadowy room as the tale finished,
until it was broken by the Vrouw Grobelaar.

"You see?" she said.

"Yes," replied Katje, very quietly.


The Vrouw Grobelaar entered in haste, closed the door, and
sat down panting.

"If my last husband were alive," she said--"if any of them
were alive, that creature would be shot for looking at an
honest woman with such eyes," and she cast an anxious
glance over her shoulder.

"What is it?" demanded Katje.

"That old Hottentot hag." responded the old lady. "She
looks like a witch, and I am sure she is a witch. I would
make the Kafirs throw her on to the veld, but you can't be
too careful with witches. Why, as I came in just now, she
was squatting by the door like a big toad, and her eyes
made me go cold all through."

Katje made a remark.

"What! You say nonsense!" The old lady pricked herself into
an ominous majesty. "Nonsense, indeed! Katje, beware of
pride. Beware of puffing yourself up. Aren't there witches
in the Bible, and weren't they horrible and wicked? Didn't
King David see the dead corpses come up out of the ground
when the witch crooked her finger, like dogs running to
heel? Well, then!

"Oh, I know," continued the old lady, as Katje tossed a
mutinous head.  "They've taught you a lot in that school,
but they didn't teach you belief. Nor manners. You're going
to say there are no witches nowadays."

"I'm not," said Katje.

"Yes, you are," pursued the Vrouw Grobelaar. "I know you.
But you're wrong. You don't know anything. Young girls in
these days are like young pigs, all squeak and fight, but
no bacon. Didn't the brother of my half-brother's wife die
of a witch's devilry?"

"I'm sure I don't know," returned hapless Katje.

"Well, he did. I'll tell you." The old lady settled herself
comfortably and lapsed into history.

"His name was Fanie, and he was a Van der Merwe on his
father's side, but his mother was only a Prinsloo, though
her mother was a Coetzee, for the matter of that. He wasn't
what I should call good--at least, not always; but he was
very big and strong, and made a lot of noise, and folk
liked him. The women used to make black white to prove that
the things he did and said were proper things, although
they'd have screamed all night if their own men-folk had
done the same. They say, you know," said the Vrouw
Grobelaar, quoting a very old and seldom-heard Dutch
proverb, "that when women pray they think of God as a
handsome man.

"What I didn't like about him was his way with the Kafirs.
A Kafir is more useful than a dog after all, and one
shouldn't be always beating and kicking even a dog. And
Fanie could never pass a Kafir without kicking him or
flicking his whip at him. I have seen all the Kafirs run to
their kraals when they saw him riding up the road.

"There was one old Kafir we had,--very old and weak, and no
use at all. He used to sit by the gate all day, and mumble
to himself, and seem to look at things that weren't there.
His head was quite white with age, which is not a common
thing with Kafirs, as you know; and he was so foolish and
helpless that his people used to feed him with a spiked
stick, like a motherless chicken. And in case the fowls
should go and sit on his back while he crouched in the sun,
as I have seen them do, there was a little Kafir picaninny,
as black as a crow, that was sent to play about near him
every day. Dear Lord! I have seen those two sitting there,
looking at each other for an hour on end, without a word,
as though both had been children or both old men.  Nobody
minded them: we used to throw sugar to the picaninny, and
watch him fighting with the fowls for it, rolling about on
his little black belly like a new-hatched duckling himself.

"Well, Fanie, ... it was horrible. . . .

"I don't like to think of it to this day. He came over one
day in a great hurry to tell us that August de Villiers,
the father of the Predikant at Dopfontein, was choked with
a peach-stone. He was riding very fast, and as he came near
the house he rode off the road and jumped his horse at the
wall. And as he came over, up rose the little picaninny
right under his horse's hoofs. 'Twas a quick way to die,
and without much pain, no doubt; but a most awful thing to
see. The horse stumbled on to him, and I can remember now
how his knee, the near knee, crushed the little Kafirs
chest in. The little black legs and arms fought for a
moment, and then the horse struggled up, and he was dead.

"Fanie seemed sorry. He couldn't help killing the
picaninny, of course, and perhaps we had grown rather
foolish about him, having watched him and laughed at him so
long. So Fanie got off his horse and came in to tell us the

"When we went out the horse was standing at the door where
Fanie had left it. But the old Kafir was kneeling by the
steps fingering its hoofs, which were all bloody, and as
Fanie came forward he put out his hands and left a little
spot of blood on Fanie's shoes.

"Fanie stood for a moment, and his face went white as paper
over his black beard. He knew, you see. But in a flash he
went red as fire, and lashed the old man across the face
with his whip. The old man did not move at all; but my
brothers held Fanie and called to the Kafirs to come and
fetch the old man away. Oh, but I promise you Fanie was
angry, as men will be when they are obliged to be good by

"Well, that was all that happened that day. Fanie went
away, and we all saw that he galloped the horse as fast as
it could go. But down by the kraals the Kafirs who were
carrying the old man stopped and watched him as he went.

"Well, in a few days most of us forgot the ugly business,
though the little picaninny used to walk through my dreams
for a time. Still, blood-kin are blood-kin, and Kafirs are
Kafirs, and one day Fanie came over to see us again and we
gave him coffee. He told us a story about a rooinek that
bought a sheep, and the man gave him a dog in a sack, and
he paid for it and went away, and we all laughed at it. He
was very funny that day, and said that when he married he
would choose an old woman who would die quickly and leave
him all her farms. So it was late and dark before he up-
saddled to go away.

"Well, he was gone a quarter of an hour when we heard
hoofs, galloping, galloping, hard and furious, coming up
the road. And as we opened the door a horse came over the
wall and Fanie tumbled off it and came rushing in.

"We all screamed. He was white like ashes, and wet with
sweat, and trembling so that he could not stand.

"'Fanie,' cried my sister, 'what is it?' and he groaned and
put his face in his hands.

"By and by he spoke, and kept glancing about him and
turning to look behind him, and would not let one of us
move away.

"'There was something behind me,' he said.

"'Something?' we all asked.

"'Yes,' he said. 'Something . . . dead I It followed me up
here, and I could not get away from it, spur as hard as I
would. I think it is a death-call.'

"Then we were all frightened, but we could not help wanting
to hear more.

"'No,' said Fanie, 'I did not see it, nor hear it even, but
I knew it was there.'

"'It was a sign,' said my mother, a very wise old woman.
'Let us all thank God.'

"So we thanked God on our knees, but I'm sure I don't know
what for.

"Then Fanie told us all he knew, and that was just nothing.
As he came to the kloof he was afraid of something in front
of him. He said he felt like a man in grave-clothes. So he
turned, and then the ... whatever it was . . . seemed to
come after him; so he galloped and galloped as hard as the
horse could lay hoof to the earth, and prayed till his
heart nearly burst. And then, not knowing where he was
going, he jumped the wall and came among us. We were all
silent when he had told us.

"Then Oom Jan spoke. He was very old, and seldom said

"'You have done murder!' he said.

"'If I talk till my mouth is stopped with dust I shall
never be able to tell how cold I felt about the heart when
I heard that. For the little picaninny came plain before my
eyes, and oh! I was all full of pity for Fanie. I liked him
well enough in those days.

"He stopped with us that night. He would not go away nor be
alone, so he slept with my brothers, and held their hands
and prayed half the night. In the morning they took him
home on one of our horses, for his own was fit to die from
the night's work.

"That was the last I ever saw of Fanie. It was as though he
went from us to God. He kissed me on both cheeks when he
went away; he kissed us all, but me first of all, and held
both my hands. I think he must have liked me too,--don't you
think so, Katje?" "'Yes," said Katje softly.

"He went down the road between my brothers with his head
bent like an old man's, and I watched him out of sight, and
I was very, very sorry for him. I don't think I cried, but
I may have. He was a fine tall man.

"One night my brothers came in just as I was going to bed,
and one stood in the door while the other whispered to my
mother. She looked up and saw me standing there.

"'Go to bed,' she said.

"'What is it?' I asked.

"'Go to bed,' said my brother.

"'No.' I said. 'Tell me, is it Fanie?'

"My brother looked at me and threw up his hand like a man
who can do no more. 'Yes,' he said.

"Then I knew, as though he had shouted it out, that Fanie
was dead. I cannot say how, but I knew it.

"'He is dead,' I said. 'Bring him in here.'

"So they went out and carried Fanie in with his clothes all
draggled and his beard full of mud. They laid him on the
table, and I saw his face. . . . Dear God! . . There was
terror on that face, carven and set in dead flesh, that set
my blood screaming in my body. Sometimes even now I wake in
the night all shrinking with fear of the very memory of it.

"But there is one thing more.  We went about to put
everything in order and lay the poor corpse in decency, and
when we started to pull off his veldschoen, as I hope to
die in my bed, there was a little drop of blood still wet
on the toe.

"I think God's right hand was on my head that night that I
did not go mad.

"I heard the tale next morning.  My brothers, coming home,
found him ... it . . . in a spruit, already quite dead.
There was no horse by, but his spoor led back a mile to
where the horse lay dead and stiff. When it fell he must
have run on, ... screaming, perhaps, . . . till he fell in
the spruit. I would like to think peace came to him at the
last; but there was no peace in the dead face."

The Vrouw Grobelaar dropped her face on to her hands, and
Katje came and passed an arm of sympathy and protection
around her.


The Vrouw Grobelaar had no opinion of Kafirs, and was
forever ready to justify herself in this particular.

"Kafirs,' she said, 'are not men, whatever the German
missionaries may say. I do not deny we have a duty to them,
as to the beasts of the field; but as for being men, well,
a baboon is as much a man as a Kafir is.

"Kafirs are made to work, and ought to work. Katje, what
are you laughing about? Did not the dear God make
everything for a purpose, and what is the use of a Kafir if
he is not made to work? Work for themselves? Katje, you are
learning nothing but rubbish at that school, and I will not
have you say such things. How could the Burghers work the
farms if they had not the Kafirs? Well, be silent, then.

"Oh, I know the Kafirs. I have seen hundreds of them--yes,
and for the matter of that, thousands. Just beasts, they
are,--nothing--else. Did you hear how the Vrouw Coetzee came
to die? Well, I will tell you, and you will see that we
must hold the Kafirs with a hand of iron or they will
destroy us.

"It was a time when Piet Coetzee was away making laws in
Pretoria, and the Vrouw Coetzee, who was only married one
year, was alone on the farm with her little baby. There
were plenty of Kafirs to do the work; but, you see, there
was no man to have an eye to them, and take a sjambok to
them when they needed it. So one day the Kafirs came in
from the lands and would not work any more.

"Why wouldn't they work? How should I know? Who can tell
why a Kafir does anything? Perhaps a witch-doctor had come
among them. Perhaps the German missionaries had been
talking foolishness to them. Perhaps it began at a beer-
drink with some boasting by the young men before the girls.
Who can say? But however it was, they came in and sat down
before the house, and just waited there.

"Vrouw Coetzee came out with her baby on her arm and spoke
to them; but not one moved a finger or answered a word.
They sat still where they were and watched her, and others
came from the huts and sat down too, until there were close
on a hundred Kafirs before the house. Vrouw Coetzee watched
them come, and as she stood in the door the two Kafir girls
who worked about the house pushed her aside and went and
sat down too.

"Then Vrouw Coetzee, looking at the dumb black faces and
white eyes, got frightened and went backwards into the
house and closed the door. She put down the baby and drew
the iron bar across the door inside. From there she went to
the door at the back, and to all the windows, and closed
and secured them as far as possible. Then she took down the
old elephant-gun from the wall, and finding Piet's pouch
and the bullets, she loaded it and laid it on the table.
All the time the Kafirs made no sign, and from the keyhole
she saw them still sitting in silence, watching the house.

"When midday came she made some food ready to eat, and then
came a bang at the door.

"'What is it you want?' she cried, without opening.

"'Liquor!' cried one of the Kafirs. 'You have some brandy
in the house. Give it to us, or we will come and take it
and kill you at the same time.'

"'I have no brandy,' she cried, 'and when my husband comes
back I will tell him to shoot you all.'

"The Kafirs laughed, and one of the house-girls called out,
'There is brandy; we have seen it.'

"Then the Kafirs all began to shout together, and banged
the door with their knobkerries. 'Give us the brandy!' they
shouted, and she heard a stone smash through a window
against the shutters.

"The Vrouw Coetzee was a brave woman, and she hated Kafirs;
but, looking at the baby, she thought it best to give them
the brandy.

"'Stand away from the window,' she cried, 'and I will put
the brandy outside; but if one of you comes near me I will

"So she placed the brandy on the sill outside the window.
The Kafirs were standing about in groups, looking very
fierce, but they saw the elephant-gun and did nothing.  But
as she barred the shutter again, she heard them rush up and
snatch the bottles.

"Watching through the keyhole of the door, she saw them
troop off to the huts, shouting and capering and waving the
bottles in the air. They came to the door no more that day,
but she heard them howling in the kraal as the brandy began
to inflame them.

"When it got dark she sat down with her face to the door,
her child in her arms. The howling of the Kafirs was wilder
than ever, and shrieks of women mingled with the uproar.
The Vrouw Coetzee trembled there in the dark as she
remembered stories of the Kafir wars, and how the Kafirs
had treated the white women and children they caught on the

"Late in the night the Kafirs came back and commenced to
hammer on the door again.

"'Give us more brandy,' they shouted.

"'I have no more,' she said. 'I have given you all.'

"'You lie!' they screamed. 'If you do not give us more we
will come and kill you and tear your baby to pieces.'

"Then the Vrouw Coetzee began to tremble, and, putting down
the child, took the big gun in her hands.

"'That is you, Kleinbooi,' she cried out, recognizing the
voice of one of the Kafirs.  'Why do you behave like this?
What will the baas say when he comes back?'

"'We do not care for the baas,' they replied. 'If you do
not give us the brandy we will break in your door.'

"'I have no more,' she said again, and straightway the
Kafirs commenced to hammer at the door.

"The Vrouw Coetzee raised the gun to her shoulder and
pointed it at the door. Her arms were trembling so that she
could not keep it steady; so, going close up to the door,
she rested the muzzle on the iron bar. Then she pulled the

"The gun went off with a roar and filled the room with a
stifling smoke. The baby began to cry, but she paid it no
attention till the gun was loaded again. Then, as she
snatched up her child and soothed it, she heard wailing and
screaming from outside, where the heavy bullet had done its

"The Kafirs left her at peace for about an hour, and the
noise of the wounded sank to a sobbing. At last a voice
hailed her again.

"'We will kill you now,' it said. 'You have shot two men,'
and she was assailed with a string of horrid names such as
only a Kafir can think of.

"'Where are you?' she called, terrified.

"'Here,' came the reply, and a little stone fell down the

"'I will shoot!' she screamed, taking up the gun; but the
Kafir on the roof answered with only a laugh.

"'It will do no good,' he replied. 'We shall kill you, burn
you in a fire slowly, scald you with boiling water, cut you
in little pieces,' and he went on to threaten the lone
woman with the most fiendish and ghastly outrages, such as
I dare not even give a name to.

"The low devilish voice on the roof went on. 'And your
baby, vile thing!  You shall see it writhe in the flames,
and hear it cry to you, and watch the blood spout from its
skin. You shall see the dogs tearing it, while you lie in
anguish, powerless to aid it. Yes, we will kill the child
first, and slowly--slowly! It shall cry a long time before
it shall die at last.'

"Then the Vrouw Coetzee, calling aloud on God, pointed the
gun and fired through the roof. There was a laugh again,
and before the smoke cleared a big Kafir dropped down the
wide chimney and rushed at her.

"Her gun was empty, but the Vrouw Coetzee was the worthy
wife of a good Boer, and she raised the heavy weapon and
struck him down. He rolled, face upward, on the floor, and
as he lay she struck him again. He kicked once or twice
with his legs and clutched with his hands; and then he lay
still and died.

"It was their plan, you see, that she should fire off her
gun and then be taken before she had time to recharge it.

"'Have you got the woman, Martinus?' called a Kafir from

"'No,' cried the Vrouw Coetzee;  Martinus has not got the
woman, for I have killed him. Who comes next?'

"There was a while of silence then, till she heard them
moving about again and talking among themselves. Not daring
to think what they would do next, she stood hearkening,
with the great gun on her arm. At length came a sound that
froze the blood in her body. She heard the sheet-iron on
the roof grate as it was dragged off. Then she dropped the
gun at her feet and knew that her time was come.

"I cannot tell you in so many words what she did in the
next minutes, for my tongue refuses the tale. But the
Kafirs did not get into the house. By this time the news of
their doings was gone abroad, and as the roof was being
taken off the house, some Burghers arrived with guns, and
with them my husband. Of course they shot most of the
Kafirs that they could find, and then, being unable to get
any answer to their shouts, they broke in the door of the
house and entered.

"My husband used to weep as he told of what they found. The
Vrouw Coetzee was sitting in a chair, smiling with her eyes
closed, and her baby was lying in the crutch of her left
arm.  Her right hand was on his little soft throat--his face
blue and swollen, and his little arms stretched out with
tight closed fists. He was quite dead, but warm yet, for he
had missed life by but a few minutes.

"No, the Vrouw Coetzee was not dead. She died a year after;
but all that while she went witless, always smiling and
seeming to look for something.

"So you see that, after all, a Kafir is--Katje, what are you
crying about?"


On Sunday afternoons the Vrouw Grobelaar's household gave
itself up, unwillingly enough, to religious exercises. The
girls retired to their rooms in company with the works of
certain well-meaning but inexpressibly dreary authors, and
it is to be inferred they read them with profit. The
children sat around the big room with Bibles, their task
being to learn by heart one of the eight-verse
articulations of the 119th Psalm, while the old lady
meditated in her armchair and maintained discipline. Those
were stern times for the young students: to fidget in one's
seat was to court calamity; even to scratch oneself was a
risky experiment. David got little credit as a bard in that

But the work once done, the stumbling recitation dared and
achieved, there were compensations, for the Vrouw Grobelaar
was then approachable for a story. To be sure, the Sunday
afternoon stories were known to all the children almost by
heart, but what good tale will not bear repetition? The
history of Piet Naude's Trek was an evergreen favorite, and
bore a weighty moral.

The old lady began this story in the only possible way.
"Once upon a time, long before the Boers came to the
Transvaal, there lived a man named Piet Naude. He was a
tall, strong Burgher, with a long beard that swept down to
his waist, and a moustache like bright gold that drooped
lower than his chin. His eye was so clear that he could see
the legs of a galloping buck a mile away; his hand was so
sure that he never wasted a bullet; and his heart was so
good and true that all the Burghers loved him and followed
him in whatever he did.

"Well, when the English came to the Burghers and wanted
them to pay taxes for their farms that they had won in
battle from the Kafirs, all the men in Piet Naude's country
were very angry and said, 'Let us take our guns and shoot
the English into the sea, so that the land will be clear of
them.' Everybody was willing, and but for Piet Naude there
would have been a great and bloody war, and all the English
would have been killed.

"But Piet Naude said, 'Brothers, have patience. When we
fought the Kafirs we beat them, but many of us were killed
also. If we fight the English, many more will be killed,
and we are not too many now. But I will tell you what we
will do. We will not pay this tax. We will inspan our oxen
and load up our wagons, and we will take our sheep and our
cattle and our horses, and trek to the north until we find
a place where we can live in peace; and thus we shall have
a country of our own and pay no taxes to anybody.'

"As soon as the Burghers heard this they were agreed, and
chose out Piet Naude to lead them to the new country. So
when the English came to collect the tax they found nobody
to pay, but only an empty country, with trampled cornlands
and burned homesteads, and wild Kafirs living in the

"But Piet Naude and his Burghers trekked steadily on with
the wagons and the cattle,--sometimes through a fine level
country full of water and game, and sometimes through a
savage wilderness of rocks and dangerous beasts. The sun
scorched them by day and the mists froze them by night;
some died by the way, and some were killed by lions, and
some bitten by snakes. But month after month they held on,
crawling slowly over the desolate face of that great new
country, till at length the ragged weary men cried out and
said they would go no farther.

"'Let us go back to the grass-lands and water,' they said,
'and let us live there, else we shall die, forgotten of
God, in this inhospitable wilderness.' But Piet Naude
wrought with them, saying, 'Let us keep good hearts and
hold on. In time we shall surely come to the best place of
all, where we shall gain cattle and sheep and prosper all
our lives.' And after he had talked with them for a long
time, and shamed them with their weakness, they were
persuaded, and once again they faced the great unknown
country and trekked on.

"But one hot day one of the Burghers who had ridden away to
look for meat came galloping back. 'Over yonder,' he said,
pointing with his hand, 'there is a wide kloof, with a
stream in it. There is grass there as long and thick as the
best pasture of our farms, with trees and wild fruit, and
everything plentiful and beautiful. Without doubt it will
lead us to such a place as we have been seeking.'

"So the wagons were turned aside, and they went forward to
the kloof, all the Burghers uplifted with hope, and the
very oxen pulling their best. But Piet Naude said nothing,
for he had a strange doubt in his heart, and he rode on
anxiously. And when they came to the kloof they saw that
all the Burgher had said was even less than true. The veld
underfoot was soft and tender as satin, and the grass was
fresh and green. On each side the tall hills cast back the
sun, so that the beautiful cool shade fell like a blessing
on their scorched faces. There was wild hemp {dagga} for
the Kafirs to smoke; and wild apricots running over the
stones; water splashing, clear and fresh, beside the way;
mimosa-trees to give wood for the fires; and everywhere
they saw the spoor of every kind of buck. The Burghers were
overwhelmed with gladness, and pushed on gaily.

"On the next day the kloof widened out, and they came forth
into a most wonderful plain girt round with steep cliffs,
and all overgrown with grass and trees. At a little
distance they saw cattle grazing wild, and big herds of
buck roaming in the open. Birds started without fear from
under their feet, and in the streams fish swam plain to

"Then Piet Naude said, 'Brothers, let us go away from this
place. I am afraid of all I see. God did not send all this
wealth easy to our hands at no cost of labor. Let us go
away lest we be entrapped into some devilishness.' But the
others laughed him down and would not listen to him, saying
his brain was rotten in his head with the long trek and the

"So there they stayed and built themselves houses and
kraals, and set about gathering the hay and catching
cattle. But everything fell out so easily and all they
needed came so plentifully that there grew over them a sort
of sloth, and they slept without shame in the hours of
work, and gave no attention to the future.

"Then by degrees it began to be noticed that they were
growing fat. Soon they had bellies like sows, and their
necks and their limbs became so great that they were
obliged to go about without clothes, like the wild Kafirs
and the brutes that perish. And when one of them would lie
down, his fatness so burdened him that without help he
could scarcely rise to his feet. None were spared: even the
godly Piet Naude was as great as an ox; but the difference
was, he felt shame for it all, whereas the others felt

"Many a time he implored them to inspan and leave the
place; but each time they cried him down. And when he said
he would go himself, they reminded him that it was he who
had urged them to trek, and asked him if he would now
desert them. So for a while he stayed.

"But at length he resolved he would no longer be bound, and
he called to know who would go with him. But as he spoke a
storm came up, and the wind screamed and the rain threshed,
and the poor fat creatures waddled off to their houses, and
of all that people only one stayed to go with Piet Naude.
It was a young Burgher whose name was Hendrik Van der
Merwe, a decent lad; and the two set off together.

"But when they came to the beautiful kloof they were amazed
at the work of the storm. The wind had torn great boulders
from the hills and rolled them down; and the rain had
churned the earth into mud, and washed the roots of the
trees loose; so that where everything had once been so fair
and orderly there was now a crazy wilderness of rocks and
thorns and mud.

"But they breasted the obstacles gallantly, those two
alone; and at hazard of their lives they climbed over and
under great rocking crags, cutting their hands and tearing
their feet with the sharp stones and the thorns of the
mimosas. But as they went they saw with delight that their
fatness dwindled from them, and their limbs fell back to
their old shapeliness, while the blubber on their cheeks
retreated from their eyes and left them free as before.

"So after three days of climbing and slipping and
scrambling, the rain and the wind ceased, and they came
forth into the country beyond, tall and slender as they
were before."

This, in reality, is the end of the story, but the children
are wont to ask in chorus what the two heroes did next.

"They went back," says Vrouw Grobelaar, omitting all
details of how the return was accomplished; "and when the
Burghers went forth on the Great Trek, they went with them,
and lived long, had many children, and then died happy and
were buried."

"And what is the moral?" asked little Koos, who supplies
the part of the Greek chorus.

"The moral," replies the old lady in her most impressive
manner, "is that you should obey your elders, learn your
psalms, get up early, shut the door after you, tell the
truth, and blow your nose."

It will thus be seen that for a truly comprehensive parable
the above would be hard to beat.


For the most part the Vrouw Grobelaar's nephews and nieces
were punctually obedient. Doubtless this was policy; for
the old lady founded her authority on a generous complement
of this world's goods. However, man is as the grass of the
field (as she would constantly aver); and it fell that
Frikkie Viljoen, otherwise a lad of promise, became
enamored of a girl of lower caste than the Grobelaars and
Viljoens, and this, mark you, with a serious eye to
marriage. Even this, after a proper and orthodox reluctance
on the part of his elders and betters, might have been
condoned; for the Viljoens had multiplied exceedingly in
the land, and the older sons were not yet married. But, as
though to aggravate the business, Frikkie took a sort of
glory in it, and openly belauded his lowly sweetheart.

"Mark you," said the Vrouw Grobelaar with tremendous
solemnity, "this choice is your own. Take care you do not
find a Leah in your Rachel."

Frikkie replied openly that he was sure enough about the

The Vrouw Grobelaar shook a doubtful head. "Her grandfather
was a bijwohner," she said. "Pas op! or she will one day go
back to her own people and shame you."

The misguided Frikkie saw fit to laugh at this.

"Oh, you may laugh! You may laugh, and laugh, until your
time comes for weeping. I tell you, she will one day return
to her own people, bijwohners and rascals all of them, as
Stoffel Mostert's wife did."

The old lady paused, and Frikkie defiantly demanded further

"Yes," continued the Vrouw Grobelaar, "I remember all the
disgrace and shame of it to this day, and how poor Stoffel
went about with his head bowed and looked no one in the
face. He had a farm under the Hangklip, and a very nice
farm it was, with two wells and a big dam right up above
the lands, so that he had no need for a windmill to carry
his water. If he had stuck to the farm Stoffel might have
been a rich man; and perhaps, when he was old enough to be
listened to, the Burghers might have made him a feldkornet.

"But no!  He must needs cast his eyes about him till they
fell on one Katrina Ruiter, the daughter, so please you, of
a dirty takhaar bijwohner on his own farm. He went mad
about the girl, and thought her quite different from all
other girls, though she had a troop of untidy sisters like
herself galloping wild about the place. I will own she was
a well-grown slip of a lass, tall and straight, and all
that; but she had a winding, bending way with her that
struck me like something shameless. For the rest, she had a
lot of coal-black hair that bunched round her face like the
frame round a picture; but there was something in the color
of her skin and the shaping of her lips and nostrils, that
made me say to myself, 'Ah, somewhere and somewhen your
people have been meddling with the Kafirs.'

"Black? No, of course she wasn't black. Nor yet yellow; but
I tell you, the black blood showed through her white skin
so clearly that I wonder Stoffel Mostert did not see it and
drive her from his door with a sjambok.

"But the man was clean mad, and, spite of all we could do,--
spite of his uncle, the Predikant; spite of the ugly dirty
family of the girl herself,--he rode her to the dorp and
married her there; for the Predikant, godly man, would not
turn a hand in the business.

"Now, just how they lived together I cannot tell you for
sure; for you may be very certain I drank no coffee in the
house of the bijwohner's daughter. But, by all hearings,
they bore with one another very well; and I have even been
told that Stoffel was much given to caressing the woman,
and she would make out to love him very much indeed.

"Perhaps she really did? What nonsense! How can a
bijwohner's baggage love a well-to-do Burgher? You are
talking foolishness. But anyhow, if there was any trouble
between them, they kept it to themselves for close upon a

"Then (this is how it has been told to me) one night
Stoffel woke up in the dark, and his wife was not beside

"'Is it morning already?' he said, and looked through the
window.  But the stars were high and bright, and he saw it
was scarcely midnight.

"He lay for a while, and then got up and drew on his
clothes--doing everything slowly, hoping she would return.
But when he was done she was not yet come, and he went out
in the dark to the kitchen, and there he found the outer
door unlocked and heard the dog whining in the yard.

"He took his gun from the beam where it hung and went
forth. The dog barked and sprang to him, and together they
went out to the veld, seeking Katrina Ruiter.

"The dog seemed to know what was wanted, and led Stoffel
straight out towards the Kafir stad by the Blesbok Spruit.
They did not go fast, and on the way Stoffel knelt down and
prayed to God, and drew the cartridges from the gun. Then
they went on.

"When they got to the spruit they could see there was a big
fire in the stad and hear the Kafirs crying out and beating
the drums. The dog ran straight to the edge of the water,
and then turned and whined, for there was no more scent.
But Stoffel walked straight in, over his knees and up to
his waist, and climbed the bank to the wall of the stad.

"Inside the Kafirs were dancing. Some were tricked out with
ornaments and skins and feathers; some were mother-naked
and painted all over their bodies. And there was one, a
gaunt figure of horror, with his face streaked to the
likeness of a skull, and bones hanging clattering all about
him. They capered and danced round the fire like devils in
hell, and behind them the men with the drums kept up their
noise and seemed to drive the dancers to madness.

"And suddenly the figures round the fire gave way, save the
one with the painted face and the bones; for from the
shadow of a hut at the back of the fire came another, who
rushed into the light and swayed wildly to the barbarous
music. The newcomer was naked as a babe new born; wild as a
beast of the field; lithe as a serpent; and crazy to
savageness with the fire and the drums.

"Madly she danced, bending forwards and backwards, casting
her bare arms above her, while the horror who danced with
her writhed and screamed like a soul in pain.

"Stoffel, behind the wall, stood stunned and bound--for here
he saw his wife. He thought nothing, said nothing; but
without an effort his hand ran a cartridge into the gun,
and leveled it across the wall. He fired, and the lissome
body dropped limp across the fire."

Frikkie Viljoen rose in great wrath.

"This is how you talk of my sweetheart, is it?" he cried.
"Well, I will hear no more of your lies." And he forthwith
walked out of the house.

"Look at that!" said the Vrouw Grobelaar. "I never said a
word about his sweetheart."


THE horizon to the west was keen as the blade of a knife,
and over it all the colors swam and blended in an ecstasy
of sunset.

"There is more blood than peace in a sky like that,"
observed the Vrouw Grobelaar from her armchair on the
stoop.  "When I was a child, I never saw a mess of fire in
the west but I thought it betokened the end of the world.
Ah, well, one grows wiser!"

"Green is for love," said Katje. "Do you see any green in
the sunset?" I saw a mile of it edging on a sea of orange
and a mountain of azure.

"Where?" demanded the old lady. "Oh, that--that's almost
blue, which means sin in marriage. But naming the colors in
the sky is a wasteful foolishness, and the folk that are
guided by them always tumble in the end. When Jan Uys was
on his death-bed, he said Dia had always been counting the
colors with the Irishman, and that's what caused all the

Katje sighed.

"He was a man of sixty," the unconscious Vrouw continued,
"and a Boer of the best, with a farm below the Hangklip,
where my cousin Barend's aunt is now. He was a rich and
righteous man, too, and as upstanding and strong as any man
of his age that I ever saw. He had buried four good wives,
so nobody can say he wasn't a good husband, but he had a
way with him--something heavy and ugly, like a beast or a
Kafir--which many girls didn't like. His fifth wife was Dia,
who came from Lord knows where, somewhere down south, and
she was only sixteen.

"I believe in fitting a girl with a husband when she is
ripe, and sixteen is old enough with any well-grown maid.
But in the case of Dia, it is a pity somebody did not stop
to think. She was more than half a child; just a slender,
laughing, running thing that liked sweets and peaches
better than coffee and meat, and used to throw stones. She
threw one at my cart, with her arm low like a boy, and hit
my Kafir on the neck, and then squeaked and ran to hide
among the kraals. Yes, somebody should have stopped to
think before they coupled her to big Jan Uys, with his
scowl and his red eyes and white beard, and his sixty hard
years behind him."

"I should think so, indeed," was Katje's comment.

"What you think is of no importance," retorted the old lady
sharply. "I think so, and that settles it. Well, it did not
take long for Dia to lose all the froth and foolishness
that were in her. The child that was more than half of her
nature was simply trampled to death, for Jan Uys had a
short way of shaping his women-folk. She used to cry, they
say, but never dared to rebel, which I can understand,
knowing the man and the way he had of giving an order as
though it were impossible for any one to disobey him. In
particular, she could not learn to make cheese, and spoilt
enough milk to feed a dorp on.

"'Very well,' he said, 'if you cannot make the cheese the
Kafir woman shall do it. And you shall do her work at the
churn-handle. I want no idlers in my house.'

"And there he had her at the churn, grinding like a Kafir,
for three days in every week, a white woman and his wife.
Once she came to him and held out her hands.

"'Look,' she said. That was all: 'look!'

"Her fingers and her palms were flayed and raw and oozed
blood, but he simply glanced at them.

"'You should have learned to work before,' was all his
answer. 'Every one pays for learning, and you pay late. Go
back to the churn.'

"The next thing', of course, was that she was missing, but
Jan Uys was not troubled. He mounted his horse and rode out
along the Drifts Road, going quietly, with his pipe alight.
It was the road by which he had brought her from her home,
and he knew the girl would try to go to her mother. In a
few miles he picked up her spoor, and found some of the
sole of one of her shoes. A mimosa carried a shred of her
dress, and in another place she had sat down. As he went
farther, he found she had sat down in many places.

"'Good,' he said. 'She is tired, and soon I shall catch

"He came up with her twenty miles along the road, sitting
down again. Her hair was all about her shoulders, and her
face was white, with the great eyes burning in it like
those of a woman in a fever.

"'You are ready to come back?' he asked, sitting on his
horse, smoking and scowling down on her.

"'What are you going to do with me?' she asked in a
trembling voice.

"He laughed that short ugly laugh of his. 'You are a
child,' he answered. 'I shall whip you.'

"Then she commenced to plead with him to let her go, to
return without her, to spare her, to kill her. In the
middle of it he leaned from the saddle, and caught hold of
her arms and lifted her before him.

"'All this may stop,' he said, turning the horse. 'You have
brought disgrace on me; you shall be punished.' And he
carried her back.

"He did whip her--not brutally or terribly, I believe, as a
man might do from wounded pride and revenge, but as a child
is whipped, to warn it against future foolishness. And from
the time of that beating the course of their life changed.
She was no longer a child, but a very grave and silent
woman, not prayerful at all, as might have been hoped, but
just still and solemn. Dreadful, I call it. Then the young
man Moore entered their lives.

"Jan Uys was making a dam right below the Hangklip. You
know the dam: half of it is cut from the rock, and the
water all comes into it from the end. It was not a matter
of half a dozen Kafirs with spades, like most dams, but a
business for dynamite and all kinds of ticklish and awkward
work. So Jan wisely did not put his own fingers to it, but
sent to the Rand for an Uitlander to come out and burst the
rocks; and they sent him this young fellow, the Irishman
Moore. He was a tall youth, with hair like some of the red
in that sunset over yonder, and a most astonishing way of
making you laugh only by talking about ordinary things. And
when he joked anybody would laugh, even the Predikant, who
was always preaching about the crackling of thorns under a
pot. With him, in a black box like a little coffin, he had
a machine he called a banjo, upon which he would play lewd
and idolatrous music which was most pleasing to the ear;
and he would sing songs while he played, which all ended
with a yell. He was good at bursting the rocks, too. He
would load holes full of dynamite in three or four places
at once, and fetch tons of stone and earth out with each
explosion. Jan Uys was pleased with him, for the young man
cared nothing at all for his savage looks and ugly ways,
and called him the Old Obadiah, who was a writer of the

"'My wife,' he told him, 'is a young woman, and sad. You
must talk to her in the evenings and make her laugh.'

"The Irishman looked at him with a strange face. 'The poor
creature needs a laugh,' he said.

"So he used to talk to her on the stoop in the evenings,
while Jan sat within at his Bible, and heard the murmur of
their talk without. More than once, too, he heard a sound
that was no longer familiar to him--the sound of Dia's
pleasant childish laughter, and he scowled at his book and
told himself he was satisfied. I think, perhaps, he had
sometimes seen himself as he was, an old hard man crushing
the soul of a child. Vaguely, perhaps, and unwillingly, but
still he saw it sometimes.

"This went on. The Irishman blew up his dynamite and talked
with Dia and played with her. Jan, watching, saw the color
had returned to her cheeks and the life to her eyes. He
came into the kitchen once and she was singing. She stopped

"'Why do you not go on?' he asked, with his little red eyes
staring at her.

"She had nothing to say, and he went away, to go down to
the dam. The Irishman was sitting on an ant-heap away in
the sun, and Jan passed him without speaking, and walked
down to the place of explosions. He was looking at the
marks of fire on the rocks, when it seemed to him he heard
a shout, and he saw, as he turned his head, that the
Irishman was standing up. But he made no beck, and Jan
walked along. When he looked again the young man had both
hands to his head. Jan shaded his eyes to watch him.

"Moore walked a few paces to and fro, stood still, and
then, with a start, commenced to run furiously down to
where Jan was standing. He ran with long strides and very
fast, and was soon beside the old man, and seized him by
the arm.

"'Out of this!' he cried. 'Out of this! The holes are
loaded, and ye've sixty seconds to save yer life.'

"Jan stood still. 'Why did you not tell me before?' he
asked; but the other did not answer, but only dragged at
his arm.

"Jan shook his hand off. 'I have a mind to stay,' he said
in a calm voice. 'If Dia is made a widow, you will know how
to look after her.'

"'And that's true!' cried the Irishman. 'But you shan't
make a murderer of me.'

"And he drew back his fist and knocked the old man down.
Catching him by the collar, he dragged him to the shelter
of a big boulder, flung him close to it, and lay down on
top of his body. In the next moment the blast went off, and
the gust of fire and rocks and earth roared and whistled
through the air above them. The sound struck them like a
bludgeon, and they lay for a while, stunned and deafened,
while pieces of stone slid and tinkled on the boulder that
had sheltered them. At last they rose.

"'I made a mistake and I am glad,' said Jan.

"'Will you shake hands with me?'

"'I will not,' was the answer.

"'So be it. But there can be no need to tell Dia of this.'

"The Irishman nodded, and that afternoon, again, he and Dia
were in the garden, throwing stones at a sardine-tin on a
stick to see who could hit it first. Dia knocked it down
easily, and Jan, sitting indoors with his coat off, heard
them laughing.

"At supper that night he looked up to Dia.

"'This coffee has a sour taste,' he said.

"'Mine hasn't,' said the Irishman.

"'Try mine, then,' said Jan, and passed Dia his cup to hand
to him. She fumbled in taking it and dropped it on the
floor. The new cup that she poured out for him had no sour

"For several days after that there was a sour taste in many
things that he ate and drank, and he complained of it each

"'You must be getting ill,' Dia said.

"'It is possible,' he answered, watching her. 'I have felt
very strange of late days.'

"He saw the color leave her cheeks, and a light come into
her eyes.

"'What can it be?' he said. 'Should I have a doctor, do you

"'I am afraid of doctors,' she answered. 'Let me give you
some of my herb medicine.'

"He drank what she brought him and put the cup down.

"'I was hard to you once. Dia,' he said, 'I have been sorry

"That night he sent a mounted Kafir for his brother, and
when, at noon next day, that brother came, Dia and her
Irishman were already gone. But Jan would not have them

"'I whipped her once,' he said, 'and I am paid for it.'

"His brother, a great simple soul, was dumbfounded.

"'Do you mean that she has poisoned you?' he demanded.

"The dying man shook his head.

"'They used to count the colors,' he said. 'There was much
of love in the colors, but there was nothing of me. Let
them go!'

"And so," concluded the Vrouw Grobelaar impressively, "he
died, and it all came of counting the colors in the sunset,
which is a warning to you, Katje--"

"To count colors," interrupted that maiden hotly. "I think
the old wretch got just what he deserved."


The old yellow-fanged dog-baboon that was chained to a post
in the yard had a dangerous trick of throwing stones. He
would seize a piece of rock in two hands, stand erect and
whirl round on his heels till momentum was obtained, and
then--let go. The missile would fly like a bullet, and woe
betide any one who stood in its way. The performance
precluded any kind of aim; the stone was hurled off at any
chance tangent: and it was bad luck rather than any kind of
malice that guided one three-pound boulder through the
window, across the kitchen, and into a portrait of Judas de
Beer which hung on the wall not half a dozen feet from the
slumbering Vrouw Grobelaar.

She bounced from her chair and ballooned to the door with a
silent swift agility most surprising to see in a lady of
her generous build, and not a sound did she utter. She was
of good veld-bred fighting stock, which never cried out
till it was hurt, and there was even something of
compassion in her face as Frikkie jumped from the stoop
with a twelve-foot thong in his hand. It was, after all,
the baboon that suffered most, if his yells were any index
to his feelings. Frikkie could smudge a fly ten feet off
with just a flick of his whip, and all the tender parts of
the accomplished animal came in for ruthless attention.

"He ought to be shot," was Frikkie's remark as he curled up
the thong at the end of the discipline. "A baboon is past
teaching if he has bad habits. He is more like a man than a

The Vrouw Grobelaar seated herself in the stoop chair which
by common consent was reserved for her use, and shook her

"Baboons are uncanny things," she answered slowly. "When
you shoot them, you can never be quite sure how much murder
there is in it. The old story is that some of them have
souls and some not: and it is quite certain that they can
talk when they will. You have heard them crying in the
night sometimes. Well, you ask a Kafir what that means. Ask
an old wise Kafir, not a young one that has forgotten the
wisdom of the black people and learned the foolishness only
of the white."

"What does it mean, tante?" It was I that put the question.
Katje, too, seemed curious.

The old lady eyed me gloomily.

"If you were a landed Boer, instead of a kind of
schoolmaster," she replied, witheringly, "you would not
need to ask such a question. But I will tell you. A baboon
may be wicked--look at that one showing his teeth and
cursing--but he is not blind nor a fool. He runs about on
the hills, and steals and fights and scratches, and all the
time he has all the knowledge and twice the strength of a
man, if it were not for the tail behind him and the hair on
his body. So it is natural that sometimes he should be
grieved to be such a mean thing as a baboon when he could
be a useful kind of man if the men would let him. And at
nights, particularly, when their troop is in laager and the
young ones are on watch among the high rocks, it comes home
to the best of them, and they sob and weep like young
widows, pretending that they have pains inside so that the
others shall not feel offended and turn on them. Any one
may hear them in the kloofs on a windless night, and, I can
tell you, the sound of their sorrow is pitiful."

Katje threw out a suggestion to console them with buckshot,
and the Vrouw Grobelaar nodded with meaning.

"To hate baboons is well enough in the wife of a Burgher,"
she said sweetly. "I am glad to see there is so much
fitness and wifeliness about you, since you will naturally
spend all your life on farms."

Katje's flush was a distress signal. First blood to the

"Baboons," continued the old lady, "are among a farmer's
worst enemies. They steal and destroy and menace all the
year round, but for all that there are many farmers who
will not shoot or trap them. And these, you will notice,
are always farmers of a ripe age and sense shaped by
experience. They know, you may be sure. My stepsister's
first husband, Shadrach van Guelder, shot at baboons once,
and was so frightened afterwards that he was afraid to be
alone in the dark."

There was a story toward, and no one moved.

"There were many Kafirs on his farm, which you have not
seen," pursued the Vrouw Grobelaar, adjusting her voice to
narrative pitch. "It was on the fringe of the Drakensberg,
and many spurs of hill, divided by deep kloofs like gashes,
descended on to it. So plenty of water came down, and the
cattle were held from straying by the rocks, on one side at
any rate. The Kafirs had their kraals dotted all about the
land; and as they were of the kind that works, my
stepsister's husband suffered them to remain and grow their
little patches of mealies, while they worked for him in
between. He was, of course, a cattle Boer, as all of our
family have always been, but here were so many Kafirs to be
had for nothing, that he soon commenced to plough great
spaces of land and sow valuable crops. There was every
prospect that he would make very much money out of that
farm; for corn always sells, even when cattle are going for
only seven pounds apiece, and Shadrach van Guelder was very
cheerful about it.

"But when a farmer weighs an ungrown crop, you will always
find that there is something or other he does not take into
account. He tells of the weather and the land and the
Kafirs and the water on his fingers, and forgets to bend
down his thumb to represent God--or something. Shadrach van
Guelder lifted up his eyes to the hills from whence came
the water, but it was not until the green corn was six
inches high that he saw that there came with it baboons.
Armies and republics of them; more baboons than he had
thought to exist,--they swooped down on his sprouting lands
and rioted, ate and rooted, trampled and wantoned, with
that kind of bouncing devilishness that not even a Kafir
can correctly imitate. In one night they undid all his work
on five sown morgen of fat land, and with the first wink of
the sun in the east they were back again in their kopjes,
leaving devastation and foulness wherever they passed.

"It was my stepsister's husband that stood on one leg and
cursed like a Jew. He was wrathful as a Hollander that has
been drinking water, and what did not help to make him
content was the fact that hardly anything would avail to
protect his lands. Once the baboons had tasted the
sweetness of the young corn, they would come again and
again, camping in the kloofs overhead as long as anything
remained for them, like a deaf guest. But for all that, he
had no notion of leaving them to plunder at their ease. The
least one can do with an unwelcome visitor is to make him
uncomfortable; and he sent to certain kraals on the farm
for two old Kafirs he had remarked who had the appearance
of cunning old men.

"They came and squatted before him, squirming and
shuffling, as Kafirs do when a white man talks to them. One
was quite a common kind of Kafir, gone a little gray with
age, a tuft of white wool on his chin, and little patches
of it here and there on his head. But the other was a small
twisted yellow man, with no hair at all, and eyes like
little blots of fire on a charred stick; and his arms were
so long and gnarled and lean that he had a bestial look,
like a laborious animal.

"'The baboons have killed the crop on the lower lands,'
said Shadrach, smacking his leg with his sjambok. 'If they
are not checked, they will destroy all the corn on this
farm. What is the way to go about it?'

"The little yellow man was biting his lips and turning a
straw in his hands, and gave no answer, but the other

"'I am from Shangaanland,' he said, 'and there, when the
baboons plague us, we have a way with them, a good way.'

"He sneered sideways at his yellow companion as he spoke,
and the look which the latter returned to him was a thing
to shrink from.

"'What is this way?' demanded Shadrach.

"'You must trap a baboon,' explained the old Kafir. 'A
leading baboon, for choice, who has a lot to say in the
government of the troop. And then you must skin him, and
let him go again. The others will travel miles and miles as
soon as they see him, and never come back again.'

"'It makes me sick to think of it,' said Shadrach. 'Surely
you know some other way of scaring them?'

"The old Kafir shook his head slowly, but the yellow man
ceased to smile and play with the straw and spoke.

"'I do not believe in that way, baas. A Shangaan baboon'--he
grinned at his companion--'is more easily frightened than
those of the Drakensberg. I am of the bushmen, and I know.
If you flay one of those up yonder, the others will make
war, and where one came before, ten will come every night.
A baboon is not a fat lazy Kafir; one must be careful with

"'How would you drive them away, then?' asked Shadrach.

"The yellow man shuffled his hands in the dust, squatting
on his heels. There! There! See, the baboon in the yard is
doing the very same thing.

"'If I were the baas,' said the yellow man, 'I would turn
out the young men to walk round the fields at night, with
buckets to hit with sticks, and make a noise. And I--well, I
am of the bushmen--' he scratched himself and smiled

"'Yes, yes?' demanded Shadrach. He knew the wonderful ways
of the bushmen with some animals.

"'I do not know if anything can be done,' said the yellow
man, 'but if the baas is willing I can go up to the rocks
and try.'


"But he could tell nothing. None of these wizards that have
charms to subdue the beasts can tell you anything about it.
A Hottentot will smell the air and say what cattle are
near, but if you bid him tell you how he does it, he
giggles like a fool and is ashamed.

"'I do not know if anything can be done,' the yellow man
repeated. 'I cannot promise the baas, but I can try.'

"'Well, try then,' ordered Shadrach, and went away to make
the necessary arrangements to have the young Kafirs in the
fields that night.

"They did as he bade, and the noise was loathsome,--enough
to frighten anything with an ear in its head. The Kafirs
did not relish the watch in the dark at first, but when
they found that their work was only to thump buckets and
howl, they came to do it with zest, and roared and banged
till you would have thought a judgment must descend on
them. The baboons heard it, sure enough, and came down
after a while to see what was going on. They sat on their
rumps outside the circle of Kafirs, as quiet as people in a
church, and watched the niggers drumming and capering as
though it were a show for their amusement. Then they went
back, leaving the crops untouched, but pulling all the huts
in one kraal to pieces as they passed. It was the kraal of
the old white-tufted Shangaan, as Shadrach learned

"Shadrach was pleased that the row had saved his corn, and
next day he gave the twisted yellow man a lump of tobacco.
The man tucked it into his cheek and smiled, wrinkling his
nose and looking at the ground.

"'Did you get speech of the baboons last night among the
rocks?' Shadrach asked.

"The other shook his head, grinning. 'I am old,' he said.
'They pay no attention to me, but I will try again.
Perhaps, before long, they will listen.'

"'When they do that,' said Shadrach, 'you shall have five
pounds of tobacco and five bottles of dop.'

"The man was squatting on his heels all this time at
Shadrach's feet, and his hard fingers, like claws, were
picking at the ground. Now he put out a hand, and began
fingering the laces of the farmer's shoes with a quick
fluttering movement that Shadrach saw with a spasm of
terror. It was so exactly the trick of a baboon, so
entirely a thing animal and unhuman.

"'You are more than half a baboon yourself,' he said. 'Let
go of my leg! Let go, I say! Curse you, get away--get away
from me!'

"The creature had caught his ankle with both hands, the
fingers, hard and shovel-ended, pressing into his flesh.

"'Let go!' he cried, and struck at the man with his

"The man bounded on all fours to evade the blow, but it
took him in the flank, and he was human--or Kafir--again in a
moment, and rubbed himself and whimpered quite naturally.

"'Let me see no more of your baboon tricks,' stormed
Shadrach, the more angry because he had been frightened.
'Keep them for your friends among the rocks. And now be off
to your kraal.'

"That night again the Kafirs drummed all about the green
corn, and sang in chorus the song which the mountain-Kafirs
sing when the new moon shows like a paring from a
fingernail of gold. It is a long and very loud song, with
stamping of feet every minute, and again the baboons came
down to see and listen. The Kafirs saw them, many hundreds
of humped black shapes, and sang the louder, while the
crowd of beasts grew ever denser as fresh parties came down
and joined it. It was opposite the rocks on which they sat
that the singing men collected, roaring their long verses
and clattering on the buckets, doubtless not without some
intention to jeer at and flout the baffled baboons, who
watched them in such a silence. It was drooping now to the
pit of night, and things were barely seen as shapes, when
from higher up the line, where the guardians of the crops
were sparser, there came a discord of shrieks.

"'The baboons are through the line,' they cried, and it was
on that instant that the great watching army of apes came
leaping in a charge on the main force of the Kafirs. Oh,
but that was a wild, a haunting thing! Great bull-headed
dog-baboons, with naked fangs and clutching hands alert for
murder; bounding mothers of squealing litters that led
their young in a dash to the fight; terrible lean old
bitches that made for the men when others went for the
corn,--they swooped like a flood of horror on the aghast
Kafirs, biting, tearing, bounding through the air like
uncouth birds, and in one second the throng of the Kafirs
melted before them, and they were among the corn.

"Eight men they killed by rending, and of the others, some
sixty, there was not one but had his wound--some bite to the
bone, some gash, where iron fingers had clutched and torn
their way through skin and flesh. When they came to
Shadrach, and woke him wearily with the breathless timidity
of beaten men, it was already too late to go with a gun to
the corn-lands. The baboons had contented themselves with
small plunder after their victory, and withdrew orderly to
the hills; and even as Shadrach came to the door of the
homestead, he saw the last of their marshaled line, black
against the sky, moving swiftly towards the kloofs.

"He flung out his hands like a man in despair, with never a
word to ease his heart, and then the old Shangaan Kafir
stood up before him. He had the upper part of his right arm
bitten to the bone and worried, and now he cast back the
blanket from his shoulder and held out the quivering wound
to his master.

"'It was the chief of the baboons that gave me this,' he
said, 'and he is a baboon only in the night. He came
through the ranks of them bounding like a boulder on a
steep hillside, and it was for me that his teeth were
bared. So when he hung by his teeth to my arm and tore and
snarled, I drew my nails across his back, that the baas
should know the truth.'

"'What is this madness?' cried Shadrach.

"'No madness, but simple devilry,' answered the Shangaan,
and there came a murmur of support from the Kafirs about
him.  'The leader of the baboons is Naqua, and it was he
who taught them the trick they played us tonight.'

"'Naqua?' repeated Shadrach, feeling cold and weak.

"'The bushman,' explained the old man. 'The yellow man with
the long lean arms who gave false counsel to the baas.'

"'It is true,' came the chorus of the Kafirs. 'It is true;
we saw it.'

"Shadrach pulled himself together and raised a hand to the
lintel of the door to steady himself.

"'Fetch me Naqua!' he ordered, and a pair of them went upon
that errand. But they came back empty; Naqua was not at his
hut, and none had news of him.

"Shadrach dismissed the Kafirs to patch their wounds, and
at sun-up he went down to the lands where the eight dead
Kafirs still lay among the corn, to see what traces
remained of the night's work. He had hoped to find a clue
in the tracks, but the feet of the Kafirs and the baboons
were so mingled that the ground was dumb, and on the grass
of the baboons' return there remained, of course, no sign.
He was no fool, my stepsister's first husband, and since a
wild and belly-quaking tale was the only one that offered,
he was not ready to cast it aside till a better one were
found. At any rate it was against Naqua that his
preparations were directed.

"He had seven guns in his house for which ammunition could
be found, and from among all the Kafirs on the land he
chose a half dozen Zulus, who, as you know, will always
rather fight than eat. These were only too ready to face
the baboons again, since they were to have guns in their
hands; and a kind of ambush was devised. They were to lie
among the corn so as to command the flank of the beasts,
and Shadrach was to lie in the middle of them, and would
give the signal when to commence firing by a shot from his
own rifle. There was built, too, a pile of brushwood lying
on straw soaked in oil, and this one of them was to put a
light to as soon as the shooting began.

"It was dark when they took their places, and then
commenced a long and anxious watch among the corn, when
every bush that creaked was an alarm and every small beast
of the veld that squealed set hearts to thumping. From
where he lay on his stomach, with his rifle before him,
Shadrach could see the line of ridge of rocks over which
the baboons must come, dark against a sky only just less
dark; and with his eyes fixed on this he waited. Afterwards
he said that it was not the baboons he waited for, but the
yellow man, Naqua, and he had in his head an idea that all
the evil and pain that ever was, and all the sin to be, had
a home in that bushman. So a man hates an enemy.

"They came at last. Five of them were suddenly seen on the
top of the rocks, standing erect and peering round for a
trap; but Shadrach and his men lay very still, and soon one
of these scouts gave a call, and then was heard the pat!
pat! of hard feet as the body of them came up. There was
not light enough to tell one from another, except by size,
and as they trooped down among the corn Shadrach lay with
his finger throbbing on his trigger, peering among them.
But he could see nothing except the mass of their bodies,
and waiting till the main part of them was past him, so
that he could have a shot at them as they came back, should
it happen that they retired at once, he thrust forward his
rifle, aimed into the brown, and fired.

"Almost in the same instant the rifles of the Zulus spoke,
and a crackle of shots ran up and down their line. Then
there was a flare of light as the bonfire was lit, and they
could see the army of baboons in a fuss of panic dashing to
and fro. They fired again and again into the tangle of
them, and the beasts commenced to scatter and flee, and
Shadrach and his men rose to their full height and shot
faster, and the hairy army vanished into the darkness,

"There was a guffaw of laughter from the Zulus, but ere it
was finished a shout from Shadrach brought their rifles
leaping up again, The baboons were coming back,--a line of
them was breaking from the darkness beyond the range of the
fire, racing in great leaps towards the men. As they came
into the light they were a sight to terrify a host, all big
tuskers, and charging without a sound. Shadrach, aiming by
instinct only, dropped two as they came, and the next
instant they were upon him. He heard the grunt of the Zulu
next him as a huge beast leaped against his chest and bore
him down, and there were screams from another. Then
something heavy and swift drove at him like a bullet and he
clubbed his rifle. As the beast flew, with hands and feet
drawn in for the grapple, he hewed at it with the butt and
smashed it to the ground. The stock struck on bone, and he
felt it crush and fail, and there was the thing at his

"How they broke the charge, with what a frenzy of battle
they drove the baboons from them, none of the four who
spoke again could ever tell. But it must have been very
soon after Shadrach clubbed his rifle that the beasts
wavered, were beaten, and fled screaming, and the farmer
found himself leaning on his weapon and a great Zulu,
shining with sweat, talking to him.

"'Never have I had such a fight,' the Zulu was saying, 'and
never may I hope for such another. The baas is a great
chief. I watched him.'

"Something was picking at Shadrach's boots, and he drew
back with a shudder from the form that lay at his feet.

"'Bring a stick from the fire,' he ordered. 'I want to see
this--this baboon.'

"As the man went, he ran a cartridge into the breach of his
rifle, and when the burning stick was brought, he turned
over the body with his foot.

"A yellow face mowed up at him, and pale yellow eyes
sparkled dully.

"'Tck!' clicked the Zulu in surprise. 'It is the bushman,
Naqua. No, baas,' as Shadrach cocked his rifle, 'do not
shoot him. Keep him and chain him to a post. He will like
that less.'

"'I shoot,' answered Shadrach, and shattered the evil grin
that gleamed in the face on the ground with a quick shot.

"And, as I told you, my stepsister's first husband,
Shadrach van Guelder, was afraid to be alone in the dark
after that night," concluded the Vrouw Grobelaar. "It is
ill shooting baboons, Frikkie."

"I'm not afraid," retorted Frikkie, and the baboon in the
yard rattled his chain and cursed shrilly.


The business was something before my time, but I can
remember several versions of it, which were commonly
current when I first came into the Dopfontein district. It
was not much of a tale as a general thing, except that, if
you happened to have a strain of hot blood in you, it
discovered a quality of very picturesque pathos. However,
as you shall see, only the tail end of the story was
generally known, and it was the Vrouw Grobelaar, the
transmitter of chronicles, who divulged it to Katje and
myself one evening in its proper proportions.

As I first heard it the tale was about thus. The drift
across the Dolf Spruit, below the Zwaartkop, was a ragged
gash in the earth, hidden from all approaches by dense
bushes of wacht een beetje thorn. The spruit was here
throttled between banks of worn stone, and the water roared
over the drift at a depth that made it impassible to foot-
farers. Its name Morder Drift (Murder Ford), was secured to
it no less by its savage aspect than by the incident
associated with it.

One morning a Kafir brought news to a farm of a strange
thing at the drift, a tale of violent death at criminal
hands. Straightway four men got to horse and rode over.
Arriving, they found their information justified in a
strange fashion. Seated in the deep southern approach to
the water was a Boer woman, a young one, pillowing on her
lap the head of a murdered man, whose body oozed blood from
a dozen wounds. The woman paid no heed to the approach of
the Burghers, and they, on nearing the body, observed that
her eyes were fixed across the spruit, and that a smile, a
dreadful twisted smile of contempt, ruled her face as
though frozen there.

The woman was recognized as a girl of good Boer family who
had recently married in opposition to the strong objections
of her family;  the dead man at her feet was soon
identified as all that was left of her husband.

That was the tale: it ended there like a broken string, for
while the matter was under investigation at the hands of
the feldkornet, a Kafir chief in the Magaliesberg commenced
to assert himself and the commando of the district was
called out to wait on him. And there the matter dropped,
for during the two years that elapsed before she died the
woman never uttered a word. But (and here, for me, at any
rate, the wonder of the story commenced) every day and all
day, come fine or rain, sun or storm, there she would sit
in the drift, damning the traitor's road of escape with
that smile the Burghers had shuddered at. The scene, and
the unspeakable sadness of it, used to govern my dreams.

I was telling Katje the story, for she said she had never
heard it, but this I since learned to have been untrue. At
first the conversation had been varied even to the point of
inanity, but in time it turned--as such conversations will,
you know--to the wonder and beauty of the character of women
in general. I think it must have been at this stage that
the Vrouw Grobelaar, who had been dozing like a dog, with
one ear awake, commenced to listen; and I have always
thought the better of the good lady for not annihilating
the situation with some ponderously arch comment, as was a
habit of hers.

When my tale was finished, though, the contempt of the
artist for the mere artisan moved her to complete the

"You are wrong when you say the truth never came to light,"
she said. "I know the whole story."

"But," I answered in surprise, "nothing was ever done in
the matter."

"Certainly not," she said with spirit. "It was not a Kafir
murder. It was a killing by Burghers, and, though God knows
I utterly condemn all such doings, it cannot be denied that
there was as much on the one side as on the other."

The due request was proffered.

"It is not a tale to carry abroad," observed the old lady.
"It concerns some of my family. The woman was Christina van
der Poel, a half sister of my second husband, and what I am
now telling you is the confession of Koos van der Poel, her
brother, on the day he died. I remember he was troubled
with an idea that he would be buried near her, and that she
would cry out on him from her grave to his."

The suggestion, as you must agree, quite justified Katje's
moving closer to me.

"It was like this," resumed the Vrouw Grobelaar, after an
expressionless glance at the two of us. "Christina was a
wild fanciful girl, with an eye to every stranger that off-
saddled at the farm, Katje; and she had barely a civil word
to waste on a bashful Burgher. I can't say I ever saw much
in her myself. She was a tall young woman, with a face that
drew the eye, as it were; but she was restless and unquiet
in her motions, and, to my mind, too thin and leggy. But
men have no taste in these things; and if Christina had
been of a decent turn, she might have had her pick of all
the unmarried men within a day's ride, and there used to be
some very good men about here.

"But, as I said, she kept them all on the far side of the
fence, and for a long time their only comfort was in seeing
no one else take her. Till one day a surprising thing

"A tall smart man rode into the farm one afternoon and hung
up his horse on the rail. He swaggered with his great
clumping feet right into the house, and went from one room
to another till he found the old father.

"'Are you Mynheer van der Poel?' he asked him in a loud
voice, standing in the middle of the chamber with his hat
on his head and his sjambok in his hand.

"'I am,' answered the other.

"'I am John Dunn,' said the stranger. 'I have a store at
Bothaskraal, and I am come to ask for your daughter to

"'An Englishman?' asked the old man.

"'To be sure,' said the stranger.

"'But where have you seen the girl?' asked Mynheer van der

"'Oh, in many places,' replied the Englishman, laughing.
'We are very good friends, she and I, and have been meeting
every evening for a long time. Indeed, you have to thank me
for giving you a chance to consent to the wedding.'

"Now the Heer van der Poel was always a quiet man, but
there was nothing weak in him.

"'I do thank you,' he said, 'for playing the part of an
honest man, and no doubt the girl has been foolish. A girl
is, you know; and you are big enough to have taken her eye.
But there will be no marriage; Christina is to marry a

"'So you object to an Englishman?' sneered the other.

"'Yes,' said the old man.

"'What have you against the English?'

"'In general, nothing at all. I have found them brave men
and good fighters; at Potchefstroom I killed three. But,'
and the old man held up his forefinger, 'I will not have
one in my family.'

"'I see,' said the other. 'So you refuse me your daughter?'

"'Yes,' answered the father.

"'So be it,' returned the stranger, turning to the door.
'In that case I shall take her without your leave.' And off
he went at a canter, never looking back.

"Next day Mynheer van der Poel took Christina into a kraal,
and when she had confessed her meetings with the
Englishman, he gave her a sound beating with a stirrup-
leather, and told her that for the future she must not go
alone outside of the house.

"'And either I or one of your brothers will always be at
home,' concluded the old man, 'so that if this Mynheer Dunn
comes, he will be shot.'

"So Christina for upwards of a month never saw her
Englishman. Of course the matter was a great scandal, and
her people said as little as they could about it; but,
nevertheless, it got about, and the number of visitors to
the farm for the next week or two was astonishing. But call
as often as they pleased, the Englishman stayed away and
they saw nothing of him.

"But one morning when daylight came Christina was missing.
They looked about, and there was no trace of her, but in
the road outside there was the spoor of a cart that had
halted in passing during the night.

"'It is plain enough,' said the old man 'She is with her
Englishman at Bothaskraal. Sons, get your rifles, and we
will ride over.'

"But on the way they had to pass Morder Drift, and thinking
only of the shame to their house, they rode altogether into
the water, none looking ahead. There had been rains, and
each man was compelled to give all his care to guiding his
horse through the torrent, while holding his rifle aloft in
one hand.

"When they were thus all in the water together they heard a
shout, and the Englishman on a big horse rode down to the
water's edge. He had a gun at his shoulder covering them
all, and they headed their horses up-stream and halted to
hear him speak.

"He was prideful and contemptuous. 'Six of you,' he cried,
'no less than six, who have come out to kill one man, and
the whole lot bottled up in the middle of a ditch and
waiting to be shot. The first one that moves his rifle till
I give permission dies.'

"Not one of them answered, but all kept their eyes on him.
Old Mynheer van der Poel had a cartridge in his rifle, and
he touched his horse with the spur under water that it
might fidget round towards the Englishman.

"'Well,' said the man on the bank, 'if I shot each one of
you as you sit, I should be in my right, and not one could
blame me. But where I come from one does not shoot even a
duck sitting, and I am going to let you go. You shall have
a chance to do the thing decently, so come back and fight
me openly. Or,' and he laughed as he spoke, 'you can do it
another way. I am leaving this cursed country shortly with
Christina. See if you can get at me and kill me before
then. It's a fair offer; but I warn you you'll find it a
dangerous game, and there'll be blood-letting on the one
side or the other.'

"He drew back his horse a little, still covering them with
the rifle. 'Now,' he cried, 'drop your guns into the water,
and you can go. Drop them, I say!'

"One by one the young men let their rifles fall into the
stream; but the old father fumbled with his finger.
Suddenly there was a shot, and the Englishman's big horse
shied at the spurt of mud at his feet. Of course the old
man could not shoot without aiming.

"Then the Englishman brought round his gun, and the old
man, sitting on his horse, with the water streaming over
his saddle, knew that a tremble of the finger would send
him to God.

"'But that you are Christina's father,' said the
Englishman, in a voice as clear as falling pebbles, 'I
would put a bullet through your white head this minute.
This time, though, you shall go alive, but by--! you shall
have your ducking.'

"And dropping his muzzle, he suddenly shot the straining
horse through the head, so that it fell immediately, and
the old man was plunged out of sight in the rushing water.

"When he got to the bank, fifty yards down the stream, the
Englishman was gone.

"They went home soberly, all busy with thoughts of their
own. When they neared the home kraals the father spoke.

"'This is a business to be wiped out,' he said. 'This shame
cannot rest with us. For my part, I could not pray with a
clear mind and that Englishman alive.'

"They all agreed with him, though, as Koos admitted, with
the death-rattle shaking him, they were all dreadfully
afraid of that big swaggering man. The old man had done a
fair share of fighting before, and at Potchefstroom, as he
said, he had killed three rooineks, so he was ready enough
for the business.

"But the young men had only been out against the Kafirs,
and there is not very much in that.

"Now old Mynheer van der Poel was not such a fool as to
risk his life or the lives of his sons in fighting the
Englishman. The war against the rooineks had made him slim;
for it is chiefly by wits and knowledge that the Boers have
beaten the English. So instead of going out to be shot like
a fool, he made a plan.

"You know how Bothaskraal lies. At the back of it there is
nothing but the Kafir country and the thorn bush; and if
you would get to the dorp, or to the road, or to the
railway, you must cross the Dolf Spruit, and for miles the
only crossing place is Morder Drift. So at Morder Drift
they set a watch, four in the day time and three in the
night, never losing sight of the drift.

"In this manner they waited a month till the evil night
came. It was a night sent by the devil's own design, a
gruesome, cloud-heavy, sulphurous night, and at the drift
were the old man, Koos, and the lad Hendrik. Koos was on
watch among the bushes; the other two crouched below the
bank out of the wind. A little rain dribbled down, and of a
sudden Koos whistled like a korhaan.

"The two got their rifles and went down into the water on
foot, the old man up stream, the lad down, stepping
carefully, for the stream was very strong and pulled at
their waists dangerously. Koos walked into the road, above
the water and in the shadow, and waited.

"Three horses came down the other side of the drift, and
three persons on them. The one was the Englishman, the
other was Christina, the third a Kafir. In the darkness of
the drift they could not see the watchers, and in the swirl
of the water they could not hear the click of the rifles.

"Into the water they rode, and then Koos, who had a
magazine rifle, suddenly stood up and shot the Kafir. He
screamed and fell into the water, and his horse turned and
galloped on.

"'Keep still, Mynheer Dunn,' cried Koos. 'A movement and
you are dead. Better raise your hands, I think. That is
right. Now, Christina, ride out of the water on this side.'

"'Stay where you are, Christina,' said the Englishman.
'Sir,' he called to Koos, 'you have trapped me sure enough,
and I ask and expect nothing. But what are you going to do
to Christina?'

"'Are you Christina's husband?' asked Koos. 'Are you
married to her?'

"'I am,' answered the other.

"'That is well for Christina. Otherwise she would be shot.
We have little patience with wrongdoers, I can tell you.'

"'But what are you going to do with her?'

"'I? Nothing at all,' answered Koos. 'She is no longer my
business. It will be for Christina's father to decide what
shall be done to her.'

"'Will you promise--' began the Englishman; but Koos

"'I promise nothing,' he replied. 'In a few moments you
will be dead, and past bargaining. Christina, ride on.'

"'Stay a moment,' called the Englishman again. 'I will ask
you a favor, anyhow. It is not well to refuse a dying man,
and perhaps in a few moments I shall have more power over
you. So I beg you, spare Christina.'

"'I promise nothing at all,' answered Koos. 'I am not
afraid of ghosts.'

"'I wasn't thinking of that,' said the other. 'So I have
nothing to gain whether by talking or holding my tongue?'

"'Nothing at all!'

"'Very well; if that be the case, take that!' and very
suddenly he snatched a pistol--one of those things which
hold six bullets--from his pocket and shot Koos in the leg.

Christina screamed as her horse bounded and carried her
forward out of the water. Koos did not fall, but caught it
by the rein and dragged her from the saddle. He held her
close, with his left arm about her and his rifle in his
right hand, pistol-fashion.

"'Shoot again, rooinek,' he cried mockingly. 'You will be
sure to hit one of us.' And then he fired.

"At the same moment Mynheer van der Poel, in the water up-
stream, fired, and the Englishman fell on to the bow of his
saddle. The horse dashed down the water, and Koos, gripping
the screaming girl, heard young Hendrik shoot again.

"There was silence for a minute then, and Mynheer van der
Poel climbed out of the water and called to Hendrik.

"'Have you got him?' he cried.

"'Yes,' answered the boy; 'I am holding him up, but he is
still alive.'

"'Can he stand?' cried the old man.

"'No,' came the answer from the water.

"'Then drown him,' commanded the father. 'I will come down
and help.'

"When he had climbed down into the water again Koos laid
the girl down. She was still white; her senses had fled.
Presently as he was binding his leg he heard the father

"'Now raise him a little, and I will shoot again to make
sure'; and immediately the sound of shot burst out. At this
the girl opened her eyes, and Koos, looking at her, saw
with astonishment that she smiled.

"'Have you killed him, Koos?' she asked very gently.

"'Be quiet,' answered Koos.

"'But tell me,' she persisted.

"'Yes.' he replied at length.

"She closed her eyes and sighed. 'That was cruel,' she
said; 'I loved him so.'

"But she sat up again as the old father and the lad dragged
the body out of the water.

"'Four wounds,' panted the old man. 'Not one of us missed.
That was very good, considering the darkness.' And as he
flung the bleeding corpse down he turned upon Christina.

"'Here,' he cried, calling her by a dreadful word of shame.
'Here is your husband.'

"'Father,' said young Hendrik, 'there is money in his
pockets. If I take it people will say this was done by

"'Take it then,' said the old man, and when the boy had
emptied the pockets he bade him throw the money into the

"Then they mounted and rode away, but not homewards. They
rode across the stream to cross it twenty miles down, that
their spoor should not betray them.

"And as Koos told me, while his eyes glazed, he turned and
looked back, and there he saw Christina with the
Englishman's head on her lap, looking after them with a
face that set him trembling."

As the old lady concluded I passed an arm round Katje.


One of the most awe-inspiring traits of the Vrouw Grobelaar
was her familiarity with the subject of death. She had a
discriminating taste in corpses, and remembered of several
old friends only the figure they cut when the life was gone
from them. She was as opinionative in this regard as in all
others; she had her likes and dislikes, and it is my firm
belief to this day that she never rose to such heights of
conversational greatness as when attending a death-bed. It
is on record that more than one invalid was relieved of all
desire to live after being prepared for dissolution by the
Vrouw Grobelaar.

On the evening following the burial of Katrina Potgieter's
baby, which died of drinking water after a surfeit of dried
peaches, the old lady was in great feather. Never were her
reminiscences so ghoulish and terrifying, and never did she
hurl her weighty moralities over so wide a scope.
Eventually she lapsed into criticism, and announced that
the art of dying effectively was little practiced nowadays.

"I hate to see a person slink out of life," she said. "Give
me a man or a woman that knows all clearly to the last, and
gives other people an opportunity to see some little way
into eternity. After all, there's nothing more in dying
than changing the style of one's clothes, and even the most
paltry folk have some consideration as corpses. I can't see
what there is to be afraid of."

"I don't think that," observed Katje. "Even if it wasn't
that I was soon to be dead and buried, the whole business
seems horrible. Fancy all the people crowding round to look
at you and cry, while they talked as if you were already
dead. When Polly Honiball was dying, old Vrouw Meyers asked
her if she could see anything yet. Ugh!"

The old lady shook her head. "That's not the way to look at
it," she replied. "A good death is the sign of a good life;
or anyhow, that's how people judge it. It's as well to give
no room for talk afterwards, Katje. And as for the mere
death, no good Christian fears that. Why, I have known a
man seek death!"

"Did he kill himself?" inquired Katje.

"Kill himself! Indeed he didn't. That would be a crime, and
a dreadful scandal. No, he took death by the hand in a most
seemly and respectable way, and his family were always
thought the better of for it.

"Yes, I'll tell you about it. It will be a lesson to you,
Katje, and I hope you will think about it and take it to

"The man I am talking about was Mynheer Andries van der
Linden, a most godly and prosperous Burgher, whose farm was
on the High Veld. All the days of his life he walked
uprightly, and married twice. His sons and daughters were
many, and all good, save for one sidelong skellum, Piet,
his second son, who afterwards went to live among the
English. He had cattle and sheep at pasture for miles, and
a kerk on his land, where his nephew, the Predikant, used
to preach. And by reason of his sanctity and cleverness
Andries grew richer and richer till the Burghers respected
him so much that they made him a commandant and a member of
the Church Council.

"All prospered with him, as I was telling you, until one
day it seemed as if God's hand had fallen from him. He was
smitten with a disease of which not the oldest woman in the
district had ever seen the like, and his own flesh became a
curse to him. The very marrow in his bones bred fire to
feed on his body, and he lay on his bed in the torments of
hell. For weeks he writhed and screamed like a madman,
tossing on his blankets and tearing at his body, or
struggling and howling as his sons held him down for fear
he should injure himself in his frenzy. The whole thing was
very terrible and mysterious; and it was said among the
farms that Andries van der Linden could not have been so
good after all, or God would not thus visit him with such a

"For myself, I never believed this, and what he afterwards
did will show that I had the right of it. Still, good or
bad, the affliction was undeniable, for I myself heard him
screaming like a beast as I drove to Nachtmaal.

"The malady lasted for months, and all herbs and pills that
were given him did not an atom of good. Even the Kafirs
could do nothing, though Klein Andries, the old man's
eldest son and a good lad, caught a witch-doctor and
sjamboked him to pieces to make him help. In short, the
illness was plainly beyond mortal cure, and the old man at
last came to see this.

"I should have told you that he had times of peace, when
the agony forsook him, and left him limp like a wet clout.
Then he would sweat and quake with terror of the pains that
would return; and so pitiful was his condition that he
could not even listen with a proper patience to the reading
of Scripture or the singing of David's psalms. You will see
from this what a terrible visitation to a God-fearing man
this illness was.

"So he made up his mind. One morning early, while quietness
was with him, he called for Klein Andries and bade him shut
the door of the room.

"'Andries,' he said, 'I have been thinking the matter to a
finish, and I am determined to have an end to this

"'Have you found any means?' began Klein Andries.

"'Listen,' said the old man. 'It is plain to me, that I
shall gain no cure on earth, and I have decided to die. So
I shall die at the end of a week about two hours after

"Andries was of course very much taken aback. 'I do not
understand,' he said. 'You cannot mean to kill yourself?'

"'Of course not,' answered the old man. 'That will be your

"'How do you mean?' cried Andries.

"'I shall lie here in my bed, with clean pillows and fresh
sheets, and the best coverlet. Our people will all be
here,--you will see to that,--and when I have spoken to them
and shaken their hands, you shall bring in your rifle--'

"'That will do,' said Klein Andries. 'You need tell me no
more. I will not do it.'

"'But you are my first-born,' said the father.

"'It is all the same; I will not do it.'

"'Then you can get out of my house, with your wife and your
children, and go look for a stone on which to lay your

"'That is very easy,' answered Klein Andries, quite calmly.
'No doubt we shall find that stone you speak of.'

"'And I will get Piet to do it,' said the old man.

"'No,' replied Klein Andries.  'Piet shall not do it.
Nobody shall do it. I will not have it done.'

"'Andries,' said the old man, 'you and I must not talk
thus. I am your father, and I tell you to do me this
service. Say rather, I ask it of you. It is no more than an
act of kindness to a stricken man; your hand on the gun
will be the hand of mercy.'

"'But I cannot do it,' cried out Klein Andries in a sort of

"'You will do it,' said the old man. 'Remember you are the
eldest of my sons. You will do it, Andries?'

"'No,' said Andries.

"'You will do it?'


"'Then, Andries,' said the old man, half raising himself as
he lay, and pointing a finger at his son--'then, Andries,
eldest son and dearest and all, I will curse you.'

"For a full minute the two looked each other in the eyes,
and then Klein Andries let his hand fall on his knee like a
man beaten and broken.

"'It shall be as you say,' he answered at last. 'I will do
what you ask, but--it will spoil my life for me.'

"'Thank you, my son,' said the old man, sinking back.

"'Oh, I will do it,' said Andries. 'But I hold it a sin, a
black and bloody sin, that I commit with open eyes and a
full knowledge. But I will do it.'

"So the thing happened, and all that week before his death
the old man suffered little. As he said himself, his last
taste of life was sweet in his mouth. He thought much upon
his grave and the manner of his burying, and would often
talk with Klein Andries and Piet, and give them directions.

"'I will not be buried in the kraal,' he said one day. 'My
sister Greta never had any love for me, and I had just as
lief not disturb her. Put me on top of the hill there; I
was always one for an open view.'

"From where he lay he could see through the window the
place where he desired to be buried, and the grave of his
cousin Cornel, dead twenty years before..

"'Put me, then, on top of the hill,' he said, 'and I shall
be able to overlook Cornel. He has a head-board with a
round top, so you will give me two boards, one at my head
and one at my feet, both with round tops. You would not
have that carrion triumph over me?'

"'It shall be done,' said Andries.

"'And you might carve a verse on my headboard,' the old man
went on. 'Cornel has only his name and dates, and no doubt
he counts on my having no more. His board is only painted;
see that you carve mine.'

"'I do not carve letters very well,' began Andries, 'but--'

"'Oh, you carve well enough,' said the old man. 'Very well
indeed, considering. You won't have to do very much. There
are plenty of short verses in the Psalms, and some--very
good ones, too--in Proverbs. The Predikant will soon choose
a verse of the right sort. Say a verse, Andries; it is not

"'I will see to it,' said Andries.

"Then Piet, whose mind was a dunghill, had a horrible
thought. 'But what about the water?' he cried, for the
stream from which they took their drinking-water ran past
the foot of the hill.

"'You must draw your water higher up, answered the old man.
'If I were not about to die, Piet, and therefore under a
need to judge not, lest I be judged, I would cut down your
oxen and sheep for that. Go out; I will say what I have to
say to Andries.'

"When Piet was gone he went on. 'Remember, Andries, a bare
four foot, no more. I would not wish to be late when the
dead arise. Just four foot of cool earth, and a black
coffin with plenty of room in it.'

"'I will take care,' replied Klein Andries.

"'Very well, do as I have told you, and I shall be very
well off. I shall sleep without pain till the last day, and
perhaps dream in peace about the verse on my head-board and
the round tops.'

"Although I like a man to take it bravely, I can very well
understand that that week must have been a terrible one for
Klein Andries, who, though a good lad, and a wealthy man at
this day, never was particularly quick at taking up an
idea. He went about with a bowed head and empty eyes, like
a man in mortal shame; and I believe that never since has
he quite cast off the load his father laid on him. Not that
I see any harm in the affair myself.

"Well, in proper course the day came, and Andries van der
Linden lay in his bed between the fresh sheets, propped up
with fine clean pillows. His people had come from near and
far, for the curious story was well known, and they were
proud of their kinsman. They crowded the room in which he
lay, all in their best clothes, a little uneasy, as most
folks are on great occasions, and all very quiet.

"Old Andries van der Linden was free from pain, and spoke
to them all in very cheerful and impressing words. As he
lay among his pillows with his white hair thrown back and
his beard on his breast, he was a fine man to see--a picture
of a good and a brave man. He read aloud from the Bible,
and then prayed awhile, giving out his words grandly and
without a quaver. Then he shook them all by the hand and
bade each one good-bye.

"'Now, Andries,' he said, and lay back smiling.

"Klein Andries stood at the foot of the bed with his rifle
resting across the rail, but he dropped his head with a

"'I cannot,' he said, 'I cannot.'

"'Come, Andries,' said the old man again. 'Come, my son.'

"Then Klein Andries caught his breath in his throat and
steadied the rifle. The old man lay calmly, still smiling,
with fearless eyes.

"'Close your eyes,' said Andries hoarsely, and as the old
man did so he fired.

"The windows of the room were blown outwards and broken,
but the shot was a true one, and the work was well and
workmanlike done."

"It must have spoiled the sheets," observed Katje.


"As to that," said the Vrouw Grobelaar, answering a point
that no one had raised, "it has been seen over and over
again that sin leaves its mark. Do you not trust or avoid a
man because there is honor or wickedness in his face? Ah,
men's faces are the writing on the wall, and only the
Belshazzars cannot read them.

"But the marks go deeper than a lowering brow or a cruel
mouth. Men may die and leave behind them no monuments save
their sin. Of such a case I remember one instance.

"Before my second husband was married to his first wife he
lived out yonder, on the Portuguese border, and in the
thick of the fever country. I have not seen the place, but
it is badly spoken of for a desolate, unchancy land, bad
for cattle, and only good to hunters. My second husband was
a great hunter, and died, as you know, through having his
body crushed by a lion. The people out there are not good
Boer stock, but a wild and savage folk, with dark blood in

"I only know this story from my second husband, but it took
hold of me, as he used to tell it. There was a family in
those parts of the name of Preez. No relation to the Du
Preez you know, who are well enough in their way, but Preez
simply,--a short name and a bad one. They were big holders
of land, with every reason to be rich, but bad farmers,
lazy hunters, and deep drinkers. The Kafirs down there make
a drink out of fruit which is very fiery and conquers a man
quickly, and these people were always to be seen half
drunk, or else stupid from the stuff. Old Preez, the
father, in particular, was a terrible man, by all tellings;
full threescore and ten years of age, but strong, fiery,
and full of oaths. My second husband used to say there was
something in the look of him that daunted one; for his hair
and his beard were white, his face was savagely red, and
his eyes were like hot coals. And with it all he had a way
of looking on you that made you run from him. When he was
down with drink and fever he would cry out in a terrible
voice that his mother was a queen's daughter and he was a

"I have heard of the people you speak of," I said. "They
are half-Portuguese, and perhaps the old man was not wholly

"Um! Well, prince or not, he married in his youth a woman
of the half-blood, and begot of her a troop of devils. Five
sons he had, all great men, knowing not God and fearing
none of God's works. And after them came a daughter, a
puling slip of a thing, never meant to live, whom they did
to death among them with their drinking and blaspheming and

"My second husband told me tales of that family that set my
blood freezing. He had his own way of telling stories, and
made you see pictures, as it were. Once, he used to say,
for a trifle spoken concerning them and their ways, they
visited a missionary by night, dragged him from his bed,
and crucified him against his door, while his wife clung to
the old man's knees and besought the mercy they never gave
and never got. Even the wild folk of the countryside were
stricken with the horror and impiety of the deed; and it
says much for the fear in which the Preez family were held
that none molested them or called them to account.

"In the end the eldest of the five sons took a mind to
marry and to leave some of his accursed stock to plague the
world when it should be delivered from him and his
brothers. They cast about for a wife for him, and were not
content with the first that offered. They had their pride,
the Preez, and in their place a fair measure of respect,
for among the wicked, you know, the devil is king. From one
farmhouse to another they rode, dragging forth women and
girls to be looked at like cattle. Many a tall, black-
browed hussy would have been content to go away with Vasco
Preez (such was his unchristian name), but he was not
willing to do right by any of them.

"They were returning home from one of these expeditions
when they passed a lowly house beside the road with no
fence around it. But before the house a girl stood on the
grass, with her kapje in her hand, to see the six big men
ride by. She was little and slim, and, unlike the maidens
of the country, whitish, with a bunch of yellow hair on the
top of her head and hanging over her ears. The others would
have passed her by, judging her unworthy even an insult,
but Vasco reined in his horse and shouted a great oath.

"'The woman for me!' he cried. 'The woman I was looking
for! I never knew what I wanted before.'

"The others halted to look, and the girl, frightened, ran
into the house. Vasco got down from his horse.

"'Fetch the filly out,' shouted the old man. 'Fetch her out
and let us see her paces.'

"Vasco walked straight into the little house, while the
others waited, laughing. They heard no screams and no
fighting, and presently out comes Vasco alone.

"He went over to his horse and mounted. 'There is nothing
to wait for,' he said. 'Let us be getting on.'

"'But the girl?' cried one of his brothers. 'Is she dead,
or what?'

"'No,' said Vasco, 'but she would not come.'

"'Would not come!' bellowed the old father, while the
others laughed. 'Did you say she would not come?'

"'That is what I said,' answered Vasco, sitting his horse
very straight, and scowling at the lot of them.

"'He has a fever,' cried the old man, looking from one to
another. 'He is light in the head. My faith! I believe the
girl has been beating him with a stick. Here, one of you,'
he roared, turning on them, 'get down and kick the girl out
of the door. We'll have a look at the witch!'

"Koos, the youngest, sprang from his saddle and made
towards the house; but he was not gone five paces before
Vasco spurred his horse on to him and knocked him down.

"'Keep off,' he said then, turning to face them all, as
Koos rose slowly. 'If I cannot bring the girl out none of
you can, and you had better not try. Whoever does will be
hurt, for I shall stand in front of the door.'

"And he went straight to the house, and, dismounting, stood
in the doorway, with his hands resting on the beam above
his head. He was a big man, and he filled the door.

"'Hear him,' foamed the old father. 'God, if I were as
young as any of you, I would drag the girl across his body.
Sons, he has defied us, and the girl has bewitched him. Run
at him, lads, and bring them both out!'

"'They all came towards the house in a body, but stopped
when Vasco raised his hand.

"'I warn you,' he told them--'I warn you to let the matter
be. This will not be an affair of fighting, with only
broken bones to mend when it is over. If I take hold of any
one after this warning, that man will be cold before the
sun sets. And to show you how useless this quarrel is, I
will ask the girl once more if she will come out. You all
saw her?'

"'Yes,' they answered; 'but what is this foolery about
asking her?'

"'You saw her--very well.' He raised his voice and called
into the house, 'Meisje, will you not come out? I ask you

"There was silence for a moment, and then they heard the
answer. 'No,' it said; 'I will stay where I am. And you are
to go away.'

"'As soon as may be, my girl,' called Vasco in answer.
'Now,' he said to the men, 'you see she will not come.'

"'But, man, in the name of God, cast her over your shoulder
and carry her out,' cried the father.

"'Vasco looked at him. 'Not this one,' he said. 'She shall
do as she pleases.'

"Then they rushed on him, but he stepped out from the door,
and caught young Koos round the middle. With one giant's
heave he raised him aloft and dashed him at the gang,
scattering them right and left, and knocking one to the
ground, where he remained motionless. But Koos lay like a
broken tool or a smashed vessel, as dead men lie. And all
the while Vasco talked to them.

"'Come on,' he was saying. 'Come all of you. We shall never
do anything but fight now. I see plainly we ought to have
fought long ago. Bring her out, indeed!'

"They paused after that, aghast at the fury of the man they
were contending against. But the old man gave them no rest.

"'Get sticks,' he cried to them--get sticks and kill him.'

"They dragged beams from a hut roof, and one of them took a
heavy stone. Vasco stood back and watched them till they
came forward again.

"The one with the stone came first, but it was too big to
throw from a distance, and he dared not go near. The others
approached with caution, and Vasco stood still, with his
hands resting as before at the top of the door. They were
bewildered at his manner, and very cautious, but at length
they drew near and rushed at him.

"Then a most astonishing thing happened. With one wrench
Vasco tore the thick architrave from the wall, a beam as
thick as a man's thigh, and smote into the middle of them.
Where he hit the bone gave and the flesh fell away, and as
they ran from before him the wall fell in.

"Down came the wall, and with it the heavy beams on the
roof. The old father, cursing over a broken arm, heard the
girl scream, and saw the wreck come crashing about Vasco's
shoulders till he disappeared below it. And then, where the
house had been stood a ruin, with two souls buried in the
midst of it.

"It steadied them like a dash of cold water. However they
might fight among themselves, they were loyal to one
another. Besides the old father, with his broken arm, there
was only one other that could put a hand to the work, and
together they started to drag away the beams and bricks and
stones that covered Vasco and the girl.

"I know they were wicked men who are in hell long since,
but I cannot contain a sort of admiration for the spirit
that fastened them to their toil all that long night,--the
old man with his broken arm, the young one with a dozen
horrid wounds. As the sky paled towards morning, they
discovered the girl dead, and leaving her where she lay
they wrought on to uncover Vasco.

"When they found him he was crushed and broken, and pierced
in many places with splinters and jagged broken ends of
wood. But he had his senses still, and smiled as they
cleared the thatch from above his face.

"The old man looked at him carefully.  'You are dying, my
son,' he said.

"'Of course,' answered Vasco. 'Is that Renault?' He smiled
again at his brother. 'So there are two of you alive,
anyhow. How about the others?'

"'Two dead,' answered his father. 'And the other will not
walk again all his days. You are a terrible fighter, my

"'Yes,' answered Vasco, in a faint voice. 'It was the girl,
you see.'

"'She was a witch, then?' asked the old man.

"'No,' said Vasco smiling. 'Or perhaps, yes. I do not know.
But I will fight for her again if you like.'

"'Oho! so that is it,' and the old man knelt down beside
him. 'Now, I see,' he said. 'I never guessed before--did not
know it was in you. My son, I ask you to forgive us.'

"'I forgive, but where is she?'

"'Dead. No, it was none of our doing. You did it,--the roof
fell on her. We will lay you together.'

"'Do so,' replied Vasco. 'I think I am dying now.'

"'Yes,' answered the father.  Your face is becoming gray.
Your throat will rattle in a minute. Look here; this is
what my mother used to do.'

"'And he did thus," said the Vrouw Grobelaar, giving a very
good imitation of the sign of the cross.

"But that was not a bad ending," cried Katje. "I think it
was beautiful. I hope Vasco and the girl went straight to

The Vrouw Grobelaar sighed.


FROM her pocket Katje produced stealthily a clean-scoured
wish-bone.  The Vrouw Grobelaar was sleeping in her chair
with tight-shut eyes. So I took one end of the bone, and we
broke it, and the wish remained with Katje.

"Wish quick," I said.

She puckered her pretty brows with a charming childish

"I can't think of anything to wish for," she answered.

"Wish to be delivered from the sin of playing with
witchcraft and dirty old bones!" The suggestion echoed
roundly in the old lady's deep tones, and we, startled and
abashed, looked up to find her wide awake, and in her
didactic mood. The Vrouw Grobelaar never slept to any real
purpose. One might have remembered that.

"Yes, witchcraft," she pursued.  "For if bones are not
witchcraft, tell me what is? When a Hottentot wants to find
a strayed ox, he makes magic with bones, doesn't he? And
the bones of a dead baboon are dangerous things too. Katje,
throw that bone away."

Katje, who hated to be found out, threw it over the rail of
the stoop into the kraal. When the good Vrouw had kept her
steady eye on me for a few seconds, I threw my half after

"I thought so," said the Vrouw Grobelaar, with a twitch of
the lips like a smile stillborn.

"It's only a game," said Katje plaintively. "There's no
harm in it."

The old lady shook her head.

"There's harm in things you don't understand," she
pronounced.  "There's harm in failing in love, for
instance, if you don't know what you are doing. But
witchcraft is worse than anything. You've seen how hard it
is to make a Kafir doctor show his tricks. That's because
he's never certain which is master, he or the devil. I knew
a man once, a Peruvian, who burned his fingers badly."

A Peruvian, for the Vrouw Grobelaar, was any one for whose
nationality she had no name. In Johannesburg it means a
Polish Jew; in this instance I believe the man was a Greek.

"He was a smouser" (pedlar), she went on, "a little
cowering man, with a black beard and a white face, who
spoke Kafir better than he spoke the Taal. He sold thimbles
and pills and hymn-books to the wives and daughters of
Burghers, and grand watches and cheap diamonds to the
Kafirs. It was a dirty little trade, and there was nothing
about the man that streaked it with nobility. I remember a
Scotch smouser, who was called Peter Piper, who sold pills
like a chemist, and everybody liked him and respected him,
till he had his great dispute with the Predikant at
Dopfontein. But this little man was like a slimy thing made
to crawl on its belly; and many is the time he would have
been sjamboked from a door, were it not for--well, I don't
know. But he was such a mean helpless thing, that, when he
shrank away and looked up, with his white eyes staring and
his lips parted, not the most wrathful Burgher could lift a

"And even as he seemed to fear everything, the Kafirs
certainly feared him. Kafirs, you know, go naked to all the
little winds, and the breezes that will not hurt a thatch
carry death to them. They are deaf to God. but the devil
has but to whisper, and they hear.  They bought shameful
watches and sleepy diamonds from the Peruvian, as they kill
a goat at the flowering of the crops--to appease something
that might else visit them in the night. It was a thing
much spoken of, and since even among the Burghers there are
folks who dirty their fingers with magic and wish-bones--ay,
you may well pout!--perhaps this had something to do with
the fact that he was never flogged to the beacons and
kicked across.

"In fact, there grew up about him a something of mystery,
uncanny and not respectable. The little plodding man who
went so meekly past our gates had a shadow one feared to
tread on.

"You won't remember, but you will have heard of, the
terrible to-do there was when Freda van der Byl
disappeared. She was a most ordinary girl, perhaps eighteen
years old, with a fine appetite, and nothing whatsoever
about her that was strange or extraordinary: and yet one
night she was missing, and it has never been set past doubt
who saw her last. She was on the stoop in the afternoon,
ate well at supper, went out then in the usual way to the
hut where the tobacco-sacks were, and never came in again.
She disappeared like a flame blown out, with never a spoor
to give direction to those that sought her, without a shred
of clothing on a thorn-bush to hint at a tale. She seemed
to have fled clean out of the world--a big ten--stone girl
with red hair melted like a bubble.

"And how they hunted for her! Old Johannes van der Byl and
his sons went through the country like locusts, and with
them were a mob of relations and friends, and some
prospectors from the Hangklip who betted about it. Every
kloof was scoured, every Kafir stad and kraal turned inside
out, and the half of them burned. Their ponies streaked the
long grass of the veld for miles; the men, their loaded
rifles in hand, were abroad late and early; and yet they
never found even a shoe-sole or a shred of hair to give
them a clue. The witch-doctors would have been glad enough
to find her, for they were flogged from morning to night,
and Barend van der Byl beat the life out of one who did not
seem to be doing his best. If Freda had been anywhere in
the veld she would have been found, so fervently did the
Kafirs hunt her in order to get a little peace and

"But nothing availed; no trace of her came to light, and
even the women of her family grew tired of weeping. But one
hot dusty afternoon, when her brothers Jacobus and Piet
were riding home from the fruitless search, they came upon
the Peruvian sitting under a bush smoking his yellow
cigarettes. He glanced up at them as they went past,
slavish as ever, yet still with that subtle significance of
mien that made him noteworthy, and suddenly Jacobus reined

"'Piet,' he called, pointing with his sjambok. Look--our
last chance!'

"Piet did not understand.

"'We have been cutting the Kafir doctors into ribbons,'
explained Jacobus, 'and they were no good. But here is a
wizard, and a white one, who won't wait to be flogged. If
he can do nothing, then there is nothing to do. Let us
bring him along, Piet.'

"Piet was a fat youth, deadly strong, who never spoke while
there was work to do. He merely dropped from his saddle and
caught the Peruvian deftly by the back of the neck. The
smouser, of course, whined and squirmed, but Piet was the
man who broke the bullock's neck at Bothaskraal, and he
made no difficulty of tying the little man's wrists to his
off stirrup. All his trinkets and fallals they left behind,
and riding at a walk, talking calmly between themselves of
the buck with wide horns that the Predikant's cousin
missed, they dragged the little smouser to the homestead.

"'Several of the men had already come back, and when they
heard Jacobus's plan, some were openly afraid and wished to
have the Peruvian set loose. But Oom Johannes cursed at
them and smacked Jacobus on the back.

"'My daughter is lost, and evil tongues are active about
her,' he roared. 'I want her back, and I don't care how she
comes. Come to supper, Jacobus; and afterwards you shall
take your smouser into a hut and persuade him.'

"It was not an easy thing to make the Peruvian understand
what was wanted of him. But by and by, when he had been
argued with in Dutch and Kafir, and shown a skull that was
found in a kloof, and the dol oss, and a picture in the
Bible of the Witch of Endor, he suddenly grasped the idea,
and grinned. Piet spat on the ground as the white teeth
gleamed through the greasy black beard.

"'Yes, perhaps I can do that,' said the Peruvian, in the
Taal. 'Perhaps, but one cannot be sure. You will pay, eh?'

"Jacobus wanted to threaten, but Oom Johannes would not
have it.

"'Find my girl,' he said, 'and you shall be paid. Fifty
pounds for any news of her, more if she is alive and well.'

"But the smouser explained that he could only find her if
she were dead.

"'I can get her to speak, perhaps,' he said. 'More? No!'

"At last Jacobus and Piet took him into one of the big huts
and gave him the little lamp that he demanded. He set it in
the middle of the floor, and when they pulled to the door
behind them the big domed hut was still almost dark, save
for the ring of quiet light in the centre that flickered a

"'I wish he could do this kind of thing when I'm not
there,' grumbled Jacobus, who hated creepy things.

"'Hush! be quiet!' commanded the Peruvian, and the two
young men sat down, very close together, with their backs
to the door.

"'The first thing that the Peruvian did was to take off all
his clothes, and then he came into the dim circle of light
mother-naked. He was a little man at best, but Piet said
afterwards the muscles stood out under his swarthy skin in
knots and ridges. And there he stood, facing them across
the lamp, with his arms stretched forwards and his hands
just fluttering loosely. Nothing more. His eyes were
upturned and his face lifted, so that a streak of shadow
rose across it, and the black beard against his neck rose
and fell with his breathing. But for the gentle flutter of
his hands and the heave of his chest he was still as stone--
so still that for those who watched him all relation to
human kind seemed to leave him, and he was a being alone in
a twilight world of his own, a creature as remote and as
little to be understood as the spirits of the dead.

"Have you ever, when wakeful in a hot night, with darkness
all about you, called yourself by name again and again? It
was a trick we dared sometimes when I was a girl. After a
while it is something else that is calling, something of
you but not in you, to which your soul answers at last; and
if you go on till the will to call is no longer your own,
the soul goes forth in response to it, and you are dead.
And even so, gaunt in the beam of the lamp, the Peruvian
seemed to insist upon himself, till the eyes of the
watchers were for him only, till that which they saw was
less the mean body of the smouser than the vehicle of the
potent soul within.

"Piet was a youth as solid in mind as in body, and ere the
scene grasped him against his will he says he saw with an
angry impatience the flicker of a leer on the darkened face
of the Peruvian. But it did not last. In a few minutes the
two young Burghers were not the only ones whom the spell
had subdued--the wizard was netted too. And then, as he
stood, his hands still fluttering, they heard him drone a
string of words, a dull chant, level like an incantation,
inevitably apt to the hour and the event.

"They did not know how long they crouched, watching
unwinkingly till their eyes grew sore; but at last it
seemed that the posturing and the words had made something
due. Jacobus started as though from sleep, and Piet, who
was not till then frightened, looked up quickly. He caught
sight of something--a shadow, a hint, a presence in the
darkness behind the naked man, and knew, somehow, with a
coldness of alarm, that IT had arrived. He barely realized
this knowledge when the power of the quietness and the
jugglery were rudely sundered, and the Peruvian, shrieking
and clucking in his throat, dived towards them and tried to
hide. He plunged frantically against the door, which gave
and let him fall through, and in a moment, with the cold
sweat of horror upon them, Piet and Jacobus struggled
through after him and ran with still hearts for the house.

"But in that moment that he was jammed in the narrow
doorway with his brother, Piet saw into the hut, and there
was something there. There was another with them.

"They came fast to the lighted room upon the heels of the
naked Peruvian, who fell on his face and writhed, weeping
in sheer terror. There was alarm, and chairs overturned,
and screaming of women, and it was long before they could
get the smouser to his feet and bring him to speech. And
then he would not go a foot away from them.

"'It came; it came!' he babbled, quivering under the table-
cloth they had cast over his nakedness. 'It came--behind
me!' and forthwith he began to stammer in his own strange

"'What was it?' demanded Oom Johannes, who was beginning to
feel nervous.

"'There was a ghost!' was all that Piet could tell him. 'It
frightened the smouser. It frightened all of us.'

"And by this time the smouser was babbling again, turning
from one to the other, like one who excuses himself.

"'I did not bring it,' he wailed. 'I did nothing--only
tricks. Just tricks to get money--and it came behind me.
Mother of God! It came behind me!'

"Not one of them ventured beyond the door that night. They
had not even the heart to turn the smouser out, though he
expected nothing less, and clung howling to Piet's knees
when the lad rose to bolt the door. But in the morning he
was gone, and"--here the Vrouw Grobelaar became truly
impressive--"he had not even fetched his clothes from the

"So you see, Katje, what comes of messing your fingers with

"Pooh!" sneered Katje, "I'm not afraid of the ghost of the


When we came to the farmhouse, Katje and I, the Vrouw
Grobelaar asked if we had been down by the spruit. We had--
all the afternoon. There are cool and lonely places in the
long grass beside the spruit, where its midsummer trickle
of water sojourns peacefully in wide pools of depth and

"You can't mind that, anyhow," said Katje patiently.

"Why can't I?" demanded the Vrouw Grobelaar. "Why can't I
mind that as well as anything else? I tell you, my girl,
that things are not quite so simple as you take them to be.
Even a herd of swine can house a devil, mark you. A bit of
stick in the path can be a puff adder, and there are spells
tucked away in the words of the Psalms even. And the
spruit!  Why, you crazy child, a spruit is just the place
for things to lurk in wait. Yes, slippery things that have
no name in man's speech. Even the Kafirs know of a spirit
that lives in a pool."

Katje laughed, "Oh, Tagalash!" she said.

Tagalash is the little god who abducts girls who go down to
fetch water in the evening, and carries them away to the
dim world under the floor of the pools to be his brides. He
lives in the water, and sings in the reeds, sometimes, of
an evening and at other times works mischief among the
crops and the cattle with spells that baffle the

So Katje laughed as she mentioned him, and the Vrouw
Grobelaar bridled ominously.

"You laugh," she said scathingly--"you laugh in the face of
wisdom and counsel as they laughed in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Yes; Tagalash, Katje! What have you to say against
Tagalash? You think, I suppose, that he doesn't exist. I
tell you, my girl, there's many a god of the heathen who is
a devil of the Christians. That's what Christianity is for--
to make devils of the gods of the heathen. And besides,
this Tagalash is not like the others. He has been seen."

She paused. "Who by, Tante?" I asked, while Katje affected
to whistle carelessly.

"Ah," she said, "you want to know? Well, Tagalash was seen
and felt and had speech of by one who told it afterwards
with white lips and fevered eyes that compelled belief. A
Boer woman, mind you, and no liar; the young wife of an
upright and well-seen Burgher, who had his farm an easy
four hours from here.

"It is Folly Joubert I mean, who married when she was
eighteen one Johannes Olivier, a youth with hair like an
Irishman--all red. I had known her somewhat, and she was
just that kind of girl in whom one feels the thrust of a
fate. She was thin, for one thing, and without any of the
comfortable comeliness that makes young men doubtful and
old men sure. She had a face that was always rapt, lips
that parted of themselves as if in wonder at great things
newly seen, and big troubled eyes that spoke, despite her
leanness and long legs, of a spring of hot blood crouching
within her. Yes, she seemed doomed to something far and
tragic, and outside the lives of decent stupid men.

"There was much bother, I believe, to persuade her to a
marriage with Johannes, though he was rich enough.

"Perhaps it was hard on her, but then it must have been
hard on him too. For he was another kind than she; just a
big youth that ate four times a day with desperation, and
lived the rest of the time as a tree lives. There is no
harm in such men, though; it is they that people this world
and have the right to guide it, for they put most into it
and hew most from it; but for those who are born with a
streak of heaven or hell in their fabric, they are heavy
companions at the best. But these two married at last, and
faced life like oxen that pull different ways in the same
yoke. And within a month Johannes walked about with a face
like one who tries to guess a riddle-troubled and puzzled;
and Polly was walking elsewhere, carving herself a new
religion from the stones of the bitterness of life.

"I have the rest from her own lips, as she told it when she
came back. Yes, she went away--I will make that plain
enough. It was after a quarrel with Johannes over some
little grossness of no consequence that she walked forth
from the house and down towards the spruit. It was between
afternoon and evening, and she sought a quiet place to sit
and prey on her heart. There was a pool that summer, deep
and very black, lying between steep banks on which grew
bushes and tall grass, and to this she came and sat by the
edge of the water, and dabbled her long thin fingers in its
coolness and let her thoughts surge in her.

"'I thought of death,' she said, as she sat in her chair
and told of it--'of death, and peace, and hatred glutted,
and dead enemies, and love, and sin. A wild storm of
dreams, was it not? A grim tempest to lay waste a sore
heart. And she only eighteen, with eyes like lakes on a
mountainside!' As she told it, she cast back on her memory--
you could see she was aching to strip her fault naked and
scourge it before us all--'And the thoughts were like a
sleeping draught to my anger,' she went on pitifully. 'I
drowned my wrath in dreams of vengeance and sinful hopes of
a joy to find in the future.'

"'I conjured up faces of eager, bold men who should court
me, and one that I had thought on before--a small man, lean
at the waist, who moved like a spark among burning wood,
and laughed ere he struck.' Her finger traveled in the air,
and he was plain to see.

"She went on: 'I was looking in the water between my hands,
creating my lover by the spell of desire, and I could see
his face in the vortex my fingers made as I moved them to
and fro. I gazed and gazed and gazed, and then, suddenly,
some fear gripped me, for the face became a face of a man,
with the idle water swilling across it. But it was a face:
my mind battled against the realization till the fact
governed it. It was a face, brown and keen and smiling with
a gleam of white teeth, and then a hand met my hand in the
water and drew me forward. I did not drag back. I think I
fell on my face, but here I have no memory.'

"When again she came to a sense of things, she was lying in
a dim place where all that moved seemed shadows only. At
first it was her thought that she was yet on the bank by
the pool, but as her mind renewed its hold she knew this
was not so. She breathed an air alien to her living
nostrils, and knew that here she had no part in a world of
human creatures, and the thought rose in her that she was
dead, drowned in the pool, and had reached the next world.
'Can this be hell?' she wondered, as she rose to a sitting
posture and strove to see about her.

"It was a grassed mound she sat on, in a kind of plain, and
she heard the creaking of bushes about her where no wind
breathed on her cheek. The dimness was not the part
darkness of a summer night, but a shadow where no sun had
ever shone, a barren gloom that was lugubrious and uneasy.
A dozen feet from her all was blurred and not to be
distinguished, but it seemed to her that many people moved
round about her, and now and again there was a rustle of
hushed voices, as of folk who met stealthily and spoke with
checked breath. In the dimness shapes moved, faintly
suggested to her eyes, and presently, though she had no
thrill of fear, a loneliness oppressed her that nearly made
her weep. She was not as one that has no comrade in the
world, for such a one is at least kin by blood and flesh to
all others. She was alone, as a living man in a tomb is

"With a little fervor of troubled recollection, like a
child reciting a psalm, she told us how she rose to her
feet and gazed about her, pondering which way to take. And
while she was yet doubtful a hand touched her elbow, and
she started to face a man that had come from behind her.
Staring at his face with wits clenched like a fist, the
contours of the face in the water returned to her mind, the
sharp brown face that had grown up in the middle of the
countenance she dreamed upon, and she knew in a moment that
here was the face again and the rest of the man with it.

"'I knew it at once when his teeth shone through his
smile,' she said. 'He was not so tall as I, and very brown
in that sorrowful light, but not black. There was a robe he
wore from his neck to his ankles that left one arm bare and
the little feet below its hem, and his head was bare with
straight black hair upon it. His hand was on my arm, and he
stood before me and looked in my face and smiled a little
at me, very gently and timidly.'

"It seems he found her scarcely less strange than she found
him. In his bearing was something of awe and wonder, while
she stared with a mere surprise.

"'Are you a man?' she asked at length, stupidly.

"He smiled yet. 'No,' he answered gently. 'But oh, you are

"She replied nothing at first, and he went on with a soft
voice like the voice of a tender child. 'I saw you in the
water long ago, I looking up to you, you looking down to
where I was hidden. I smiled to you and reached my hand,
but there was no smile on your face, and I did not dare
take you till--till this time. Then your hands were
stretched forward, and as I clasped them you sank to me,--my
beloved! my beloved!'

"His brown face glowed upon his words with a fire of
worship. She started back from him with a quick terror,
hands clasped and lips parted.

"'Tell me,' she cried, 'tell me, where am I? What is this
place? Am I dead at last?'

"He soothed her. 'You are in my country,' he said very
gently. 'Now it is your country, as I am yours. You are not
dead but living, and brimming with the love I languish for;
and here you will stay with me, and we will love one
another very tenderly in the heart of my gloom, and you
will be my bride.

"'Oh, listen to me!' he cried, when she would have
answered. 'Many slim and delicate girls have come to me
through the mirror of the pool, but none such as you, with
a warm soul floating on your face and a bosom aching for
love. When first I saw you I yearned for you, I coveted
you. The thought of you was my food and drink, and stayed
my eyes from sleep; I set my spell on the waters that they
should slumber and hold your image unbroken, and now I have
you; you are here with me. You are mine.'

"He was glowing with a kind of eagerness it hurts one to
rebuff, and she watched him, her fears under control, with
a growing wonder.

"'Yes,' she said slowly. 'It must be true, then--that old
tale. You are Tagalash!'

"He smiled.  I am Tagalash,' he answered.

"'But,' she said, 'I am white!' For no one had ever heard
of any but Kafir brides for Tagalash.

"He shrank a little, but smiled yet beseechingly, as he
would have her cease that part of the tale.

"'You are so beautiful,' he urged, come with me to my
house, will you not?'

"But that she would not do, and moved not from her place on
the grassed knoll throughout her stay in the shadows--
something like a week.

"'I am the wife of Johannes Olivier,' she said, and her
words sounded foolish in her own ears. 'I am a wife,' she
persisted, there in that dead land of the black gods. 'I
want to go back,' she cried like a strayed child. 'I want
to go back. I am afraid. Take me back to the light.'

"'He tried to comfort her with gentle words and talk of his
passion and her beauty, but to no effect. She shrank from
the unnatural flesh of him; she panted as though the dust
of tombs were in her nostrils; and at last he stood off,
looking at her with a mild trouble, and then he went away,
and she was sitting once more alone amid the traffic of
hushed voices and moving shadows.

"'There came no night,' she told us, in a voice that
quavered uncertainly, 'always that unlovely twilight only;
and I sat on the grass and wept. She had no sensation of
hunger or sleep in that world, the whole of her stay. She
stayed in the same place, dreary and waiting, with no
active hope and little fear--only a longing for the
sunlight; and at last a dull pain of yearning for the rough
red head and beefy texture of her human husband. A week,
mind you--a week she stayed there thus, save when Tagalash
would come up unheard to court her again.

"After that first time he was a more cautious lover, and
sat at her feet with lowered eyes pleading with her. One
answer always stilled him, and that was her cry of 'Take me
back; I am afraid.'

"'You were not fashioned for a rude love,' he said to her

"'Ah,' she answered then, 'but there is that in me that
welcomes a heavy hand and a strong arm.'

"'The others are like that,' he answered, as though
speaking to himself. 'But they have no such hungry beauty
as you.'

"'My beauty,' she told him, 'is a chance vessel for a mere
woman's soul.'

"At last he became wistful, and seemed afraid to ask: for
what he desired. 'But I can yet give to you,' he told her.
'Say what you would have. I can bring it you.'

"'Then give me back to my world,' she cried. 'Do that, and
I will thank you on my knees.'

"He sighed. 'Is that all you desire?' he said. 'Supposing I
granted you that, is there nothing you would take back with

"'No,' she answered.

"'No charm?' he asked again. 'Not a charm to compel love? I
can give you even that.'

"'Take me back,' she begged, 'and teach me how to win my
husband to forgive me.'

"He smiled very sadly, and she could almost have pitied
him, so poor he seemed, bereaved of his desire.

"'You are greater than Tagalash,' he said slowly, 'since
you make a slave of him. You shall have what you will. Go
back to your world, my beloved, my love that shall
henceforth dread the still pools.'

"'So I came back,' she said, looking-round on us as though
all were explained.

"'How?' we asked.

"'Why, I came,' she answered plaintively, and had no more
to tell. She had been found sleeping on the grass near the
spruit, after a week of absence during which the men of the
district had combed the very bushes for a trace of her.

"'But the charm?' asked one of us. 'The charm to win
forgiveness? What was that?'

"She looked timidly at the tall Johannes who stood by her
chair in silence.

"'I have forgotten what it was,' she answered with wet

"'No,' he cried, bending to her lips. 'No!  It is a true
charm that, my kleintje.'"

"Good old Tagalash!" remarked Katje cheerfully.


After sunset on a summer's day, when evening has overcome
the oppression of the still heat and breezes grow up like
thoughts, the world of veld becomes odorous, and every air
has its burden of unforgettable scents.

As we sat in the stoop, steeped in a flood of shadow,
looking down over the kraals to where the grasses are ever
green about the spruit, the Vrouw Grobelaar spoke gently.

"I should remember this," she said, "after a hundred years
of heaven. The winds of Mooimeisjes would call me even

Katje's hand moved in mine.

"It is home," said Katje.  "It--it makes me want to cry."

The Vrouw Grobelaar smiled. "As for me," she answered, "it
makes me think of nothing so much as that hollow beside
Cornel's grave, where, in my time, I shall go to my long
dreaming. This place has peace written large on its face;
and ah! it is at home that one would like to lie at last.
Yes, none of your damp churchyards for me! The home kraal,
like a Boer vrouw; for the grave and the home are never
quite two things to us Boers. How some have striven for the
home kraal, that feared to lie with strangers. Allemachtag,

She moved a little in her armchair, and we waited in
silence for the tale to come. Katje came closer to me, in
that way she has, like a dear child or a little dog.

"The Vrouw van der Westhuizen," said the old lady, "had but
one child, a son.  Emmanuel, she called him, for a dozen
poor reasons; and for him and in him she had her whole
life. The poor, they say, are rich in poor things, and this
lad grew to manhood with a multitude of mean little vices
and dirty ways which showed like a sign on his pale weak
face, and summed up the trivial soul within for you at the
first glance. Most of us have cause to thank God that He
has not written on our faces; but Emmanuel could have
carried no writing large enough for his mother to read.
Because he was weak and idle, two of her nephews lived on
the farm, Barend and Peter van Trump, great slow true men,
with hearts like children; yet she esteemed Emmanuel as
much above them as they in truth, in all points of worth
and virtue, were over him. Ah, but a mother is a traitor to
the whole world.

"I remember this Emmanuel well. A bony small man of the
color of straw, with eyes that moved too quickly and a cold
hand, a body like a wisp of linen-cloth-so flimsy and
slight--and some slenderness at the knee that made him
shamble like a thief! Peter stood with a great brown hand
on his shoulder, smiling at me with a frank open mouth and
cheeks creased with pleasantry. When he laughed, his body
shook mightily, and the motion of his hand made the other
stagger. And the Vrouw van der Westhuizen stood there
looking, with eyes like pools of pride for her son.

"There was nothing in the farm to hold Emmanuel, no charm
in the veld nor interest in the work. He was barely a man
when he would ride on to the dorp and its saloons, and in
time he was there oftener and oftener, drinking and soiling
his hands with all the strange foulness of life the English
bring with them. We, the neighbors round about, marked it
of course; but none thought much of Emmanuel and his
doings; and the thing was little talked of till it became
known that at last he was gone for good, and had betaken
himself to live in a great town, among devilries that have
no name in our clean Taal.

"It was a grievous blow for the Vrouw van der Westhuizen.
From the time he departed, she became old; as she went
about her affairs, the woe at her heart was plain to see.
She was a stricken woman, the world had been cut from under
her; and about her, now that her child was gone, she felt
nothing familiar, but lived, dumb and bewildered, in a maze
of strangers. Barend and Peter had no wits to console her.
How, indeed, should they have hoped to console a mother
thus bereft? The days lounged by inexorably, bringing no
word of Emmanuel with them, and no mercy. Their footprints
were the wounds upon the Vrouw van der Westhuizen's heart;
and, in the end she sickened wearily and lay listless, due
to death.

"Then only did the silence break and let through a word of
news. Some one--I cannot remember now who it was--had been to
the town to a law-case to be cheated of some land, and he
brought back news of Emmanuel--news that he was deadly ill
in a mean place, and lacking money. He told it shortly to
the Vrouw van der Westhuizen, and she sent at once for
Barend and Peter.

"'Get to your horses,' she told them, 'and bring my
kleintje back to me. Be quick to bring him--why do you stand
gaping like sick cows while he is dying? And take money.
Take all the money that is in my box under the bed, in case
he should need something. Get the box out quickly, now!'

"They obeyed her. In the box was the money of the house, as
the Boers need to keep it, a great deal of money in
sovereigns, very heavy to carry. But she would not even
suffer them to count it, so they filled a bag with it, and
Barend tied it to his belt, and then they caught the horses
and started on the long trek to the town.

"It is a journey of fifteen days by wagon, yet those two,
by killing horses--they who used all beasts so gently--did it
in three, and on the fourth, much troubled by the great
throng of people all about them, came to a narrow street,
smelling of poor food, and found the house in which
Emmanuel lay. A woman with a cruel face and naked breasts
opened to them, staring at their great size and their
beards, and showed them up a long stair to a room with a
bed, from which Emmanuel looked up at them.

"It was a small room, tucked close under the roof, and held
but the tumbled frowsy bed, an uneasy table and a chair. On
the floor, clothes and boots lay heaped with old
newspapers, and the place was hot with stale air. From the
pillows, the face of Emmanuel met them with something of
expectancy; and the two big men, fresh from the wind of the
veld, saw with a quick dismay how his pale skin stood tight
over the bones of him, and a clear pink burned like a
danger lamp high up on each cheek.

"'I thought you would come,' said the sick man in a weak
voice, 'I knew it. I was sure I should not die alone in
this hole, while my mother's horses were sound. It is bad
enough to die at all, but no man deserves to die away from

"Peter kneeled down beside the bed and would have passed an
arm under his shoulder. But he would not have it.

"'No need to slobber,' he said, with a note of contempt in
the voice that rang so faintly. The woman, who was leaning
in the door, laughed harshly, and a passing smile flickered
over Emmanuel's face.

"'I couldn't live, could I, Flo?' he said to her. 'But I
can die. You watch--it'll be worth seeing. What's that you
have at your belt, Barend? Not money?'

"Barend nodded. 'Yes, it is money,' he said. 'The ou ma
sent it, if you should need it.'

"'Need it!' Emmanuel laughed harshly.

"'God, but I do need it. When didn't I? How much is it,

"'She would not have us stay to count it,' answered Barend.
'But it is a very great sum.' He loosened the bag from his
belt. 'All gold,' he added, and poured the sovereigns in a
heap on the tumbled bed.

"'God! said Emmanuel again, striving to sit up. The woman
at the door uttered a short oath and came forward with
parted lips and bent over the gold.

"'Laddie, it's a pile,' she said hoarsely. 'A jugfull!' Her
twitching hands ploughed through the heap, and the coins
tinkled among her fingers. She was glancing from one to
another of the men, and drew forth her hand clenched on a
full fist of sovereigns. Peter, still kneeling beside the
bed, made a noise in his throat.

"She bent her look on him, a look of narrow warlike eyes
and bared teeth, the first stare of a savage animal
disturbed on its kill; but the big Boer met her with a face
of calm.

"'The ou ma sent it for Emmanuel,' he said slowly, and rose
to his feet.

"She snarled at him, but Barend, with his teeth clenched on
his beard, moved to the door and stood there with his legs
apart and his great hands on his hips, filling up the way.
Emmanuel lay on his back, breathing a little hard, the
color pulsing in and out on his cheeks and a twisted smile
on his lips. She turned a second to him, as though to
appeal, but saw him as he lay and said nothing.

"'Put that money, Emmanuel's money, back on the bed!' said

"She lifted it to her bosom as though to pouch it, but
Peter moved his arm and she flung the coins suddenly on the
floor, and laughed gratingly at him.

"'D'you see that, laddie?' she called to Emmanuel. 'Oh, you
sneering devil, gasping there, ain't you got a word to say
to me? Say, can't I have some of this cash? There's enough
here to spare me a fistfull.'

"'Lift me up, Peter,' said Emmanuel. Peter raised him till
he sat upright, and held him with a long arm about his
shoulders. Emmanuel reached forward hands thin as films of
milk, and shuffled the gold to and fro.

"'Can you have some?' he said, looking up at the woman.
'You! Yes, you man-wrecking pirate, go down on your knees
and whine for it, beg for it, pray with clasped hands for
it, and you shall take as much as you can grasp. Do that,
d'you hear? I want to see you on your knees for once and
groveling for a handful of sovereigns. Go on; get down with

"Barend gave a short laugh. It was amusing of Emmanuel, he
thought, to promise this on a condition so impossible. The
woman spun on her heel and faced him sharply with bent
brows and a heaving bosom.

"'Kneel, my beauty,' said Emmanuel again mockingly, but
watching the woman as she stared at Barend. There was a
kind of wonder on her dark cruel face as she studied the
big Boer's serene countenance and masterful poise of head,
and noted there the mild amusement which is the scorn of a
good man.

"'Kneel now, and plead for it,' said Emmanuel again; and of
a sudden a doubt came over Barend. There was a distress
plain to see, something remorseful and newly born surging
in this harlot; there was an appeal, fiercely shameful, in
the hard eyes bent on his.

"Of a sudden she wheeled round and spat an awful curse at
the sick man. 'Keep your damned money!' she went on, while
the thick veins in her neck grew to dark ridges. 'D'you
think you can buy everything? You've sold your life and
your innocence for filth--d'you suppose it's all to buy? You
an' me's in the same box, my boy--bad 'ems both, but you
don't make a dog of me.'

"She turned to Barend. 'Let me pass, you big hulking--'
she hesitated, looking at him.

"'Oh, you poor innocent,' she cried, with a laugh, and ran
past him and out at the door.

"Emmanuel called after her, and bade her come back and take
what she would, but her heels rattled on the stairway and
she was gone.

"'Is that the strange woman?' asked Peter, quoting from the

"Emmanuel laughed. 'Strange as the devil,' he said, with
his voice running weak. 'You see souls in this town,
cousins--not bodies only, as on the farm. Souls that blush
and bleed, I tell you. But go to the head of the stairway,
Barend, and shout as loud as you can for Jim. Just shout

"Barend went and roared the name half a dozen times. There
came at last a man with a dirty coat buttoned to the neck,
grimy, ill-shod and white-eyed, and to him Emmanuel,
speaking from behind the heap of sovereigns, to which the
man's evil pale eyes strayed every moment, gave orders.

"'Tell the boys,' he said, 'that there's a spree here
tonight. Get the whole gang, Jim, and particularly Walters.
And take what money you want, and send what is necessary up
here. Steal what you must, you hound, but leave us short of
nothing, or my big cousins here will cut you to ribbons. Is
that not so, Barend?'

"'Whenever you please, Emmanuel,' said Barend.

"The man Jim took the money and went, and

Emmanuel lay in Peter's arm, picking at the gold.

"'Shall I count it for you?' said Peter at last.

"'God, no!' said Emmanuel. 'Leave it, man. It's luxury not
to know how much it is.' A dribble of coins tinkled from
the blanket to the floor. 'Don't pick them up,' he cried,
as Barend stooped. 'This is like water in a long trek to
me.' He picked up a handful of money and strewed it abroad.
'I can die,' he said, 'now I've money to throw away, and
tonight there'll be the end.'

"It was an orgy that evening. There came men and women to
that high room, where the evil man Jim had already disposed
of bottles of spirits and of wine. The big Boers stood
there like trees among poppies. 'Tis an evil, leering
flower, the poppy, with its color of blood and love mounted
on its throat of death. Barend and Peter, upright and
still, stood at the head of the bed watching them as they
entered, lean, cruel-mouthed dogs of the city, whose eyes
went to the gold on the blanket ere they greeted the man
that had bidden them thither. Emmanuel, propped in his
pillows, his face a mask of hard mastery, his eyes like
blurs of fire on a burned stick, looked at them as they
came in, yet ever his eyes returned to the door, as though
he sought some one who should yet come.

"Women spoke to him--handsome bold women with free lips, and
eyes that commanded eyes of men, and these he barely
answered. But a crisp step on the stairs brought the death
spot hot and quick to his fevered cheeks, and there entered
a man.

"A small man, a dark man! Barend, talking afterwards, with
a pucker of wonder between his brows, said he was smooth.
He had a face that was keen and alert without being hard;
eyes that were quiet and yet judged; lips upon which there
dwelt an armed peace and also a humorous curve. He seemed
to have his own world, to blot from his consciousness that
which displeased him; yet he himself was for those who
looked upon him a man blocking the horizon of life. A great
man, I judge--that is, a man great in the qualities which
need but an aim to move mountains. God gives few such men
an aim, or there would be more gods.

"Emmanuel spoke very quietly to him, but with no wheeze of
weakness in his voice.

"'Good-evening, Walters,' he said.

"The newcomer but cast a glance over his shoulder. 'Ah!' he
said, and his eye lighted on the gold, and his pleasant lip
curled further.

"'Has your mother died?' he asked. 'I suppose that's why
you're so gay. What a funny little beast you are, Van der

"'These are my cousins,' said Emmanuel.

"'They ought to suit you. They are as stupid as honest men,
and as honest as stupid ones, This is Barend--that is

"Walters looked up at them, and Peter held out a hand to
him. He took it, and smiled, and when Barend saw the grace
and friendship of that smile, he too gave his hand.

"'You have come to take Emmanuel home?' said Walters.
'Well, use him tenderly. If he is worth handling at all he
is to be tenderly handled. But I am sure you will be
gentle. You are too big to be rough.'

"He turned from them to a woman that was prattling near by,
and at once entered her life, it seemed. She turned to him
as one who worships.

"'Come, drink!' Emmanuel called to them. 'This is my
farewell, you people. I've come to the jump-off place.
Reach me a glass, somebody, and put something in it. What
will you have, Walters? Help yourselves, all of you.'

"With chattering and laughter the bottles passed about, and
a woman at the foot of the bed raised her glass with a
flourish and drank to the sick man. 'You're game, boy,' she
cried; 'you finish like a ferret!'

"Barend stood for three hours watching them, Peter by his
side. 'It was like reading in Chronicles and Kings,' he
said, when he related it later. 'There was a boil of
business all about, and drinking and gabbling, and I saw
faces, flushed and working, that I am sick to remember. The
wine they drank came soon to possess them as Legion
possessed the swine; in an hour they were lost to all
reason and decency, and women were cursing in the voices of
men and men weeping loosely like women. They cast off their
outer garments when the room grew hot, and lounged half-
naked; and of all of them, only two seemed to live aloof,
like men among beasts--Emmanuel and the young man Walters.

"'This young man passed in and out like an eel in water.
Nothing clung to him of all the filth in which he trod. He
drank, but was not less the master of himself; he jested,
but his laughter was the mirth of the pure in heart,
without harshness in it, and they made him way and listened
when he spoke; and even the gross, hot-eyed women dulled
their terrible speech when he stood before them. The eyes
of Emmanuel, propped in his bed, his blankets wet with the
wine he spilled from his glass, were ever upon him. I think
the boy admired him. Whenever he stirred, sovereigns
dribbled to the floor, but he looked not once after them;
he was all for watching Walters, who barely turned towards
him. Ah, but he was very sick, our Emmanuel! His breath
rasped as he drew it; there was a fire in his great eyes
that made one tremble--that fire that makes you think of
hell-fire and naked souls writhing in it. A look of savage
hunger, but far off, as though desiring things not of

"A strange scene, was it not, for a chamber overshadowed by
the wings of death. Towards midnight, Emmanuel sighed, and
slipped down a little. Peter moved to lift him and started
at the pinch of death on his face. His exclamation drew
most of the others to look, but as they crowded near
Emmanuel opened his eyes.

"'Walters,' he said faintly.

"'Well, my boy,' said Walters.

"'What-do-you-think-of-this?' Emmanuel asked, his weakness
watering his speech.

"Walters laughed quietly. 'I'll tell you in the morning,'
he said. 'But you're a good actor, my friend.'

"You'll see,' whispered Emmanuel, and closed his eyes

"Then Barend bade them all go forth, and after awhile, when
he had taken one lewd man in his hands and cast him on the
stair, they went, and the noise of their voices, raw and
ungentle, filtered away. The two Boers were left at the
bedside, among the bottles and the gold and the strewn
clothes; and Emmanuel lay rigid, with a buzz in his throat
and a spot of blood on his lips. Peter kneeled and prayed.

"But in a couple of hours, when his face had grown thin and
his nose sharp, and his hands cold as clods, they saw he
was dead, and spoke together of what they must do. They
knew nothing of that treacherous web of law and custom
which is the life of a city; they knew only that their feet
were among pitfalls, and that they must move quickly if
they would take Emmanuel away to the farm and the kraal. So
while Peter went forth to bring three horses, Barend sought
among the garments scattered about the room and dressed the
thin body in them, and put his own broad-brimmed hat on the
fair head that should henceforth need no shelter from the
sun. When he had done, Peter returned, and came up the
stairs quietly.

"They took the body of Emmanuel under the armpits, one on
each side of him, and thus carried him down the stairs. A
man met them on the way, his face bland and foolish in the
glow of a candle he carried.

"'Drunk, eh?' he said, without particular curiosity.
'Almost dead, by the looks of him.'

"'Quite dead,' answered Barend, and they passed him and
came down to the horses, hitched at the sidewalk.

"They put the body in the saddle, and rode on either side,
close in, and Peter held it upright with a hand on its
shoulder, as a man might conceivably ride by a comrade.
There was yet no light of day, only a grayness that
streaked the night sky, and a bitterness in the air like a
note of mourning. Slowly, walking their sleepy horses, they
passed along the streets, dark save where a lamp at a
corner shed a yellow and dismal light about it. Creatures
of the night, slouching here and there, looked at them;
policemen, screening from the wind in dark corners, thrust
forth heads; but they rode on, and none stopped them, and
thus they came forth of the city and faced the veld again.

"They raised their faces to its freshness, familiar and
friendly as the voice of one's kin, and pushed the horses
to a trot, while behind them the blur of light that was the
city paled and died down as the miles multiplied under
their hoofs. Peter had the leading rein of the middle horse
while Barend steadied its burden, and thus they traveled
towards the east and home.

"When the sun was high, they no longer dared follow the
road. Out of those they must meet and exchange words with,
there would surely be some whom they could not deceive-some
who had seen death before and knew the signs of it. So they
pulled aside, and made for the high land of Baviaan's Nek,
riding across the gray grass and among the yellow ant-hills
till close on noon. Then, dipping to a hollow, where some
willows cast a shade upon a pool of a spruit, they
dismounted and laid the dead man in the cool, while they
off-saddled the horses and rested themselves. There were
biltong and bread in their saddle-bags, and tobacco they
did not lack, and the need for food drove them to make a
big meal. They were concerned with this so deeply that they
did not notice that a Kafir, carrying the bundles which
Kafirs always carry on the trek, had come up to them.

"He was an old Kafir, his wool gray and his skin rough with
age, but his eyes were bright with the full of strength and
peaceful with wisdom. He lay down at the pool's brink and
drank, and then gave them good day.

"'Will the baas permit me to sit in the shade of the
trees?' he asked. 'It is hot traveling.'

"He looked from them to the stretched body of Emmanuel as
he spoke.

"'Sit over there, then,' said Barend, 'and see you keep

"'Oh, I shall not wake that baas, at all events,' said the
old Kafir, pointing to the body.

"Both the Boers were startled at this, but the man walked
calmly to the farthest tree, and piled his bundles there.

"'We all have our troubles,' he said, as he shook out his
brown blanket. 'Age for some of us, sorrow for others. And
then there is death, too. I am not dead, at least.'

"'Why do you talk of death?' demanded Peter sharply.

"The old Kafir held up a finger. There was a kind of mirth
in his motion. 'Hush, or you will wake him,' he replied.
'But I know all about death, except the taste of it. I know
how it looks, and how it lies on the ground, and how it
comes, and how it is concealed.'

"He raised his hard old face with eyes half-closed, and
snuffled at the air.

"'And how it smells, too,' he said.

"'You will learn the taste of it in a minute,' cried
Barend, springing to his feet with a white face. 'You old
scarecrow, what is it you are hinting about? Do you take us
for murderers?'

"The old Kafir sat down among his bundles and fumbled for
his pipe. There was no concern on him; he had the still
ease of one who comes upon his own special task, sees it,
and knows he is the master of it. While Barend, shaking a
little, stood gauntly over him, he filled his pipe, lit it,
and blew forth a cloud of smoke.

"'Pooh!' he said. 'The baas gives too much importance to
trifles. A dead man is of less worth than a living one. It
is the baas I am interested in--not the carrion.'

"He spat very leisurely and took the pipe to his lips

"Barend, after a little hesitation, sat down again.

"'I have known white men,' said the old Kahr, leaning back
against his tree, 'who scratched crosses in the ground, and
traced them on their breasts with a finger, when they came
upon death or the dead. That is a strong charm. And in the
east, yonder, are others who spill wine on the earth. But
in my tribe we neither make crosses nor waste liquor. We
spit. Where is the baas going?'

"'Across Baviaan's Nek,' said Barend, very quietly.

"'Ah! That is a long way. Tonight the baas should camp by
the huts that are over the drift where the great rocks are.
There are Kafirs there who will not fear this luggage of
yours. They will sell food and shelter, and refrain from
curiosity. Will that serve the baas?'

"'Surely,' said Barend, and tossed him some tobacco.

"The old Kahr caught the horses for them and helped them to
lift the dead man to the saddle. By this time the body had
become stiff, and needed a constant effort to hold it
steady. The sun was hot as they rode on, and the dust
smoked up about the fetlocks of the horses. The stiff feet
of the dead man were in the stirrups, and as now and again
they broke into a short canter, he seemed as though he
would stand up in his stirrups to look ahead.

"'So Emmanuel always did when he rode among ant-heaps,'
said Peter once.

"Barend only grunted in reply; the strain on his arm and
wrist was a heavy one.

"They camped that night at the huts the old Kafir had
spoken of. The Kafirs there were of a large build, strong
and silent. They glanced once or twice at the body, but
said nothing.

Food was forthcoming--, and a big clean hut, and here the
two Boers slept beside the corpse. It was only next
morning, when they had mounted and were about to start,
that one, with the head-ring of dignity about his scalp,
gave a word of counsel.

"He stood at Barend's bridle, looking up to him with a sort
of pity.

"'The day will be hot, baas,' he said, 'and that will be
doubly burdensome. So you may know that beyond the Nek,
where the mimosas grow on a damp plain, the ground is very
soft. There are huts there, and shovels.'

"Barend nodded his thanks, and they rode through the drift
and up the Nek. It was, as the Kafir had predicted, a hot
day. One of those days which come in the throng of the
summer, when the sun is an oppressor, ruthless and joying
in pain, when the earth is dead with heat and dryness and
the very air forbears to take a freedom I When they came
down the slopes beyond the crest, the flanks and rumps of
the horses were slimy with running sweat, and red nostrils
spoke of distress. The dead man sat in the saddle with a
thin show of eyeball under each lowered lid, and a gleam of
teeth above the sunken lower lip, yet for all the world
like one that follows a purpose, like one guiding himself
to a steadfast end. In the face there was a growing hue
that does not visit the living, but the hat-brim cast a
shadow over it that lent it an effect of deep gravity and
solemn intention.

"'He means to reach the farm.' said Barend, after glancing
at him.

"Peter drew rein.  'And yet,' he said, 'he will never do it
if we travel thus. We killed horses to make the city in
three days; going at this rate, it will take us six to

"'Well,' replied Barend, 'what else is there to do?'

"'Only one thing,' said Peter, 'your horse is the weight-
carrier. You must take Emmanuel over your saddle-bow, and
we must kill more horses.'

"'But a dead man,' said Barend. 'It is like a blasphemy.'

"'We can do nothing else,' said Peter, and after a little
more talking they made the change."

The Vrouw Grobelaar paused and looked at us. Katje was
tight in the crook of my arm.

"Words limp while horses stride free," she said, "but
conceive that ride. Taking horses where they could find
them, they rested no more, nor drew rein save to fill and
light their pipes. From Baviaan's Nek they traveled at the
canter across the mimosa swamp, and so by the Rhenoster
Drift to Ookiep, where Barend's horse fell and he and that
other rolled on the veld together. When Peter had found and
brought another horse, they made one stage to Jantje's
Kraal, and thence, galloping wordless through the night, to
Zwartvark. Long rides, you will say! Aye, rides to
remember; but think of the brimming stillness of the
journey, hushed and governed by that silent companion,
while thought could not stray nor fancy escape from the
death that chased at the elbow of each. When, on the third
morning, as the sun came spouting up from the low country,
they saw afar the roof that was their goal, Peter cried
aloud like a child awaking from evil dreams.

"Ere noon their hoofs knocked on the stones in the front
kraal, and they bore the body to the shade of the tobacco

"'And now,' said Peter, when that was done, 'who is to tell
the ou tante?'

"Barend leaned at the door-post with his arm cast up over
his face and said nought, but there came from the house a
girl of the neighborhood, who laid a finger to her lips.

"'Hush,' she said. 'Make no noise about this house. Where
have you been, the two of you? An hour earlier, and you had
been in time. As it is, the Vrouw van der Westhuizen died
with no kin about her.'"


"Do not think," said the Vrouw Grobelaar, looking at me
with a hard unwinking eye, "that idle men should have
pretty wives. Though Katje will lose that poppy red-and-
white when she begins to grow fat. Still--"

Katje made an observation.

"Her mother," pursued the Vrouw Grobelaar, still holding me
fixed, "spent seventeen years in one room, because she
could not go through the door; and when she died they took
the roof on and hoisted her out like a bullock from a well.
But as I was saying, it is not well that idle men--those
with leisure for their littlenesses, like schoolmasters and
doctors and Predikants should have pretty wives, or they
tend to waste themselves. A man with real work and money
matters and the governing of cattle and land and Kafirs to
fill his day, for such a one it is very well. Her
prettiness is an interval, like the drink he takes in the
noonday. But for an idle man it becomes the air he
breathes. He is all-dependent on it, and it is a small and
breakable thing.

"Look how men have been wrecked upon a morsel of pink-and-
white, how strong brains have scattered like seed from a
burst pod for a trifle of hunger in a pair of eyes! I
remember many such cases which would make you stare for the
foolishness of men and the worthlessness of some women.
There was the Heer Mostert, Predikant at Dopfontein, who
fell to blasphemy and witchcraft when his wife Paula was
sick and muttered emptily among her pillows."

The old lady shifted in her wide chair and took her eyes
from me at last.

"She was pretty, if you like," she said. "A tall girl, with
a small red mouth, and hair that swathed her head like
coils of bronze. The Predikant, who had more fire in him
than a minister should have, and more fullness of blood
than is good for any man, spent the half of his life in the
joy of being near to her. She was full in the face and slow
with a sleek languor, but on his coming there was to see a
quickness of welcome spread itself in her. She would flush
warmly, and her eyes would cry to him. Their love glowed
between them; they were children together in that mighty
bond. So when a spring that came down with chill rains
smote Paula with a fever, and laid her weakly on her bed,
the Predikant was a widower already, and walked with a face
white and hard, drawn suddenly into new lines of pain and

"Women are strange in sickness. Some are infants, greatly
needing caresses and the neighborhood of one tender and
familiar. Others grow bitter, with an unwonted spite and
temper, venting their ill-ease on all about them. But after
the first, Paula was neither of these. The sense of things
left her, and she lay on her bed with wide eyes that saw
nothing and spoke brokenly about babies. For she had none.
The doctor, a man of much brisk kindness, whose face was
grown to a cheerful shape, frowned as he bent above her and
questioned her heart and pulse. Paula was very ill, and as
he looked up he saw the Predikant, tall and still, standing
at the foot of the bed, gazing on the girl's face that gave
no gaze back; and there was little he could say.

"'Speak to her,' he told him.

"The Predikant kneeled down beside her, and took her hand,
that pinched and plucked upon the quilt, into his.

"'Paula!' he said gently. 'Wife!' and oh! the yearning that
shivered nakedly in his voice.

"'Little hands,' moaned Paula weakly--'little hands beating
on my breasts.  Little weak hands; oh, so little and weak!'

"The Predikant bowed his head, and the doctor saw his
shoulders bunch in a spasm of grief.

"'Paula!' he called again. 'Paula, dear. It is I--John.
Don't you know John, Paula? Won't you answer me, dear?'

"With eyes shut tight, he lifted a face of passionate

"'Say daddy!' said Paula, crooning faintly. 'Say daddy.'

"The doctor passed his arm across the Predikant.

"'Come away,' he said gently. 'This does no good. Come
away, now. There is plenty of hope.'

"He led him outside, rocking like a sightless man. When he
sat down on the edge of the stoop, he stared straight
before him for a little while, fingering a button on his
coat till it broke off. Then he flung it from him and
laughed--laughed a long quiet laugh that had no tincture of

"'Look here,' said the doctor, 'unless you go and lie down,
you'll not be fit to help me with Paula when I need you.
Lie down or work, whichever you please. But one or the
other, my man.'

"'Suppose,' said the Predikant quietly--'suppose I go and

"'That'll do capitally,' answered the doctor. 'But pray
hard, mind. It might even do some good. There's nothing
certain in these cases.'

"'I have just been thinking that,' said the Predikant,
turning to him with a face full of doubt.  But we can try
everything, at any rate.'

"'We will, too,' said the doctor cheerfully; and then the
Predikant passed to his room to pour out the soul that was
in him in prayer for the life of Paula.

"It was a great battle the doctor fought in the dark room
in which she lay. When late that night the Predikant, his
face dull white in the ominous gloom, came again to the
rail at the foot of the bed, his hand fell on something
soft that hung there.  It was Paula's long bronze hair they
had cut off for coolness to her head.

"The doctor did not wait for the question.

"'There will be a crisis before day,' he said.

"'What does that mean?' asked the other. The doctor
explained that Paula would rise, as it were, to the crest
of a steep hill, whence she would go down to life or death
as God should please.

"'But what can we do?' demanded the Predikant.

"'Very little,' replied the doctor. 'Beyond the care I am
giving her now, the thing is out of our hands. We can only
look on and hope. There is always hope.'

"'And always hope betrayed,' said the Predikant.  'But is
she worse now than she was this afternoon when she babbled
of the little hands?'

"'Yes,' answered the doctor.

"'But I prayed,' said the Predikant, with a faint note of
argument and question.

"'Quite right, too,' replied the doctor.' Go and pray
again,' he suggested.

"The Predikant shook his head.' It is wasting time,' he
whispered, and turned to tiptoe out. But at the door he
turned and crept back again.

"'It is my wife, you see,' he said mildly--'my wife, so if
one thing fails we must try another. You see?'

"The doctor nodded soothingly, and the Predikant crept out

"The doctor sat beside the bed and watched the sick woman,
and heard her weak murmur of children born in the dreams of
fever. It was a still night, cool, and hung with a white
glory of stars, and the point at which life and death
should meet and choose drew quickly near.

There was this and that to do, small offices that a woman
should serve; but the doctor had ordered the women away and
did them himself. He was a large man, who continually fell
off when he mounted a horse, but in a sick-room he was
extraordinarily deft, and trod velvet footed. So in the
business of leading Paula to the point where God would
relieve him time went fast, and presently he knew the
minute was at hand.

"He was sitting, intent and strung, when he heard from the
garden outside the house a bell tinkle lightly. He frowned,
for it was no time for noises; but it tinkled again and yet
again, louder and more insistent, while a change grew
visibly on the face of the sick woman, and he knew that the
issue was stirring in the womb of circumstance. Then,
brazenly, the bell rang out, and with an oath on his breath
he rose and slipped soundlessly from the room.

"When he reached the garden all was still, and he loosed
his malediction upon the night air. But even as he turned
to go back the bell fluttered near at hand, and he dived
among the bushes to silence it He nearly fell over one that
kneeled between two big shrubs and wagged a little ram

"'What in hell is this?' demanded the doctor fiercely,
seizing the bell.

"'It is me,' answered a voice, and the Predikant rose to
his feet. 'Be careful where you tread. There are things
lying about your feet you had better not touch. Has it done
her any good?'

"'You stricken fool!' cried the doctor, 'do you know no
better than to go rattling your blasted bells about the
place tonight? You're mad, my man--mad and inconvenient.'

"'But is she better?' persisted the Predikant.

"'I'll tell you in ten minutes.' replied the doctor. 'But
if you make any more noise you'll kill her, mind that.'

"The Predikant went with him to the stoop, and stayed there
while the doctor returned to the bedside. At the end of an
interval he was out again, and took the husband by the arm.

"'It's over,' he said. 'She's doing finely. Sleeping like a
child. You can thank God now, Mynheer Mostert.'

"The Predikant stared at him dumbly.

"'Thank God, did you say?' he asked at last.

"'And me,' answered the doctor, smiling.

"'I do thank you,' answered the Predikant. 'I do thank you
from my heart, doctor. But for the rest--'

"And here, with a voice as even as one who speaks on the
traffic of every day, with a calm face, he poured forth an
awful, a soul-wracking blasphemy.

"'Here!' cried the doctor, startled. 'Draw the line
somewhere, Predikant. That sort of thing won't do at all,
you know.'

"'Now let me see my wife,' said the Predikant; and after a
while, when he had warned him very solemnly on the need for
silence, the doctor took him in and showed him Paula, thin
and shorn, sleeping with level breath. The Predikant looked
on her with parted lips and clenched hands, and when he was
outside again he turned to the doctor.

 "' I value my soul,' he said simply. 'But it is worth it.'

"'I haven't a notion what you are gibbering about,'
answered the doctor, who had a glass in his hand. 'But
there's long sleep and a dream killer in this tumbler, and
you've to drink it.'

"'I need nothing,' said the Predikant, but at the doctor's
urgency he drank the dose, and was soon in his bed and

"Next day, when he was let in to Paula's bedside, she
smiled and murmured at him, and nodded weakly when he
spoke. The doctor warned him about noise.

"'We've won her back,' he explained, 'and she's going to do
well. But she has had a hard time, and there's no denying
she is very weak and ill. So if you go back to your bell--
ringing or any of those games you'll undo everything. She's
to be kept quiet, do you hear?'

"'I hear,' answered the Predikant. 'There shall be
stillness. Not that it matters for all your words, but
there shall be stillness.'

"'I warn you,' retorted the doctor seriously, 'that it
matters very much. You're off your axle, my friend, and I
shall have to doctor you. But if I hear of any foolishness,
Predikant or no Predikant, I'll have you locked up as sure
as your name's Mostert.'

"He left him there, and started through the garden to his
cart that stood in the road. On his way he stubbed his foot
against something that lay on the earth--a great metal cup.
He picked it up.

"'I am not a heathen,' he said, as he brought it to the
Predikant, 'and therefore a Communion-cup is no more to me
than a sardine tin, when it is out of its place. I don't
want to know what you were doing out here the other night,
my friend; but you had better put this back in the Kerk
before somebody misses it.'

"The Predikant took it from him, but said nothing.

"'And look here,' went on the doctor, 'it was my skill and
knowledge that saved your wife. Nothing else. Good-day.'

"As he drove off, he saw the Predikant still standing on
the stoop, the great cup, stained here and there with
earth, in his hand.

"From that hour Paula mended swiftly. Even the doctor was
surprised at the manner in which health sped back to her,
and the young roses returned to her cheeks.

"'There's more than medicine in this,' he said one day. 'Do
you know what it is, Predikant?'

"'Yes,' said the Predikant.

"'You do, eh? Well, it's clean young blood, my friend, and
nothing else,' answered the doctor, watching him with a
slight frown of shrewdness.

"The Predikant said nothing. For days there had been a kind
of gloom on him, lit by a savage satisfaction in the
betterment of his wife. His manner was like a midnight, in
which a veld-fire glows far off. He had grown thinner, and
his face was lean and gray, while in his eyes smouldered a
spark that had no relation to joy or triumph.

"'Clean young blood,' repeated the doctor. 'No miracles, if
you please.' He thought, you see, he had divined the
Predikant's secret.

'I'm a man of science,' he went on, 'and when I come across
a miracle I'll shut up shop.'

"Paula, from her pillows, heard them with a little wonder,
and she was not slow to see the trouble and change in her
husband's haunted face. So that night, when he came to say
good-night to her, she drew his hand down to her breast,
and searched for the seed of his woe.

"'You look so thin and ill, my dear,' she said gently. 'You
have worried too much over me. You have paid too great a
price for your wife.'

"She felt him tremble between her arms.

"'A great one,' he answered, 'but not too great.'

"'Not?' she smiled restfully, as he lifted his face from
her bosom and looked into her eyes.

"'Never too great a price for you,' he said. 'Never that.'

"'My love!' she answered, and for a while they were silent

"Then she stirred. 'Do you know, John,' she said, 'that you
and I have not prayed together since first this sickness
took me? Shall we thank God together, now that He has
willed to leave us our companionship for yet a space?'

"'No!' he said quietly.

"'Dear!' She was surprised. 'I was asking you to thank God
with me.'

"He nodded. 'I heard you, but it serves no purpose. God
forgot us, Paula.'

"His eyes were like coals gleaming hotly.

"'I prayed,' he cried, 'and yet you slipped farther from me
and nearer the grave. I strewed my soul in supplication,
and there was talk of winding-sheets. And then, in the keen
hour of decision, when you tilted in the balance, I sought
elsewhere for aid; and while I defiled all holiness, ere
yet I had finished the business, comes to me that doctor
and tells me all is well. What think you of that, Paula?'

"She had heard him with no breaking of the little smile
that lay on her lips--the little all-forgiving smile that is
the heritage of mothers,--and now that he was done she
smiled still.

"'I remember the old tales,' she answered.

"'How does the witch call the devil, John? Water in the
Communion-cup, bread and blood and earth--is that it? and
two circles--two, is it?'

"'Three,' he corrected.

"'Ah, yes; three.' She laughed soothingly, 'You poor
muddled boy,' she murmured. 'Do you prize me so much, John?
Poor John. You must let me be wise for both of us, John. I
am not afraid of the devil, at all events.'

"'Nor I,' he answered, 'so long as you are well.'

"'But I am getting well now,' she answered, 'And I do want
you to pray with me, dear. Put your head down, dear, and
let me whisper to you.'

"She soothed him gently and sweetly, buttressing his
weakness with her love. How can I know what she said or
what he answered? She wrought upon him with the kind arts
God gives a woman to pay her for being a woman, and soon
she had softened something of the miserable madness that
possessed him, and he kneeled beside the bed, sobbing
rendingly, and prayed. Her hand lay on his head, and after
a while, when the violence had passed by, he was taken with
a serene peace.

"He bade her good-night, tenderly.

"'Good-night,' she answered, 'and, John--I would that I
could give you half of what you would have given for me.'

"As he went out at the door he saw her face smiling at him,
with a great warmth of love and pity transfiguring it.

"'Nest morning, when the doctor came, he stayed near an
hour in her room, and then came to the Predikant.

"'Just tell me,' he said to him,--'just tell me straight and
short, what you did to your wife last night.'

"The Predikant told him in a few words what had passed
between them, while the doctor watched him and curled his

"'Exactly,' he said, when the Predikant had done. 'Quite
what I should have guarded against in you. Now you may go
to your wife as quickly as you like. She is dying!'

"It was so. She died in his arms in half an hour, with the
little smile of baffled motherhood yet on her lips."

Katje clenched her hands and looked out to the veld in


"After all," said the Vrouw Grobelaar weightily, "a coward
is but one with keener eyes than his fellows.  No young man
fears a ghost till it is dark, but the coward sees the
stars in the daytime, like a man at the bottom of a well,
and ghosts walk all about him.

"A coward should always be a married man," she added, "You
may say, Katje, that it is hard on the woman. It is what I
would expect of you. But when you have experience of
wifehood you will come to the knowledge that it is the
man's character which counts, and it is the woman's part to
make up his deficiencies. With what men learn by practicing
on their wives, the world has been made.

"If you would cease to cackle in that silly fashion I would
tell you of Andreas van Wyck, the coward--a tale that is
known to few. Well, then."

"He was a bushveld Boer, farming cattle on good land, not a
day's ride from the Tiger River. His wife, Anna, was of the
de Villiers stock from over the borders of the Free State,
a commandant's daughter, and the youngest of fourteen
children. They were both people of a type common enough.
Andreas was to all seeming just such a Burgher as a hundred
others who have grown rich quietly, never heard of outside
their own districts, yet as worthy as others whom every one
nods to at Nachtmaal. Anna, too, was of an everyday
pattern, a short plump woman, with a rosy solemn face and
pleasant eyes--a sound Boer woman, who could carry out her
saddle, catch her horse and mount him without help. You
see, in her big family, the elders were all men, and most
had seen service against the Kafirs, and a girl there won
esteem not by fallals and little tripping graces, but by
usefulness and courage and good fellowship. She saw Andreas
first when he was visiting his mother's aunt in her
neighborhood. There was shooting at a target, for a prize
of an English saddle, and no one has ever said of him that
he was not a wonderful shot. He carried off the prize
easily, against all the Boers of those parts, and Anna's
father and brothers among them. A few months later they
were married.

"They drove from Anna's home to Andreas' farm on the
bushveld in a Cape cart with two horses, and sat close
under the hood while the veld about them was lashed with
the first rains of December. It was no time for a journey
by road, but in those days the country was not checkered
with railway lines as it is now, and Anna had nothing to
say against a trifle of hardship. For miles about them the
rolling country of the Free State was veiled with a haze of
rain, and the wind drove it in sheets here and there, till
the horses staggered against it, and the drum of the storm
on the hood of the cart was awesome and mournful. Towards
afternoon, after a long, slow trek, they came down the
slope towards Buys' Drift, and Andreas pulled his horses up
at the edge of the water.

"The rains had swelled the river to a flood, and it ran
with barely a ripple where ordinarily the bushes were clear
of the water. Full a hundred and fifty yards it spanned,
and as they looked, they saw it carry past a dead ox and
the rags of uprooted huts.

"'We can never cross till it goes down,' said Andreas. 'I
am sorry for it, but there is no choice. We must go back to
your father's house.'

"Anna pressed his arm and smiled.

"'You are joking,' she said. 'You know well that I will not
go back there tonight for all the floods in ten years. No
girl would that valued her husband and herself.'

"'But look at the drift!' he urged.

"'It is a big head of water,' she agreed. 'I was once
before upset in such a flood as this. You must head them
up-stream a little, and then strike down again to the
opposite bank.'

"'Not I,' he answered. 'I am not going to drown myself for
a trifle of pride, nor you either. We must go back.'

"She shook her head. 'Not that!' she replied. 'Give me the
reins and the whip.' Before he could resist she had taken
them from his hands. 'Put your feet on our box,' she
directed, 'or the water will float it away. Now then!'

"She drew the whip across the horses' quarters, and in a
minute they were in the river, while Andreas sat marveling.

"'You understand that it was first necessary to move up-
stream to a point in the middle of the river. She steadied
the horses with a taut hold on the reins, for her young
wrists were strong as iron, and spoke to them cheerily as
the flood leaped against their chests, and they stood and
hesitated. The rain drove in their faces viciously:
Andreas, his face sheltered by the wide brim of his hat,
had to rub away the water again and again in order to see;
but Anna knit her brows and endured the storm gallantly,
while with whip and rein and voice she pushed the team on
towards the place of turning.

"The rushing of the water filled their ears, and before
them, between the high banks of the Vaal, they saw only a
world of brown water, streaked with white froth, hurling
down upon them. It rose above the foot-board and swilled to
the level of the seat. The horses, with heads lifted high,
were often, for an anxious moment or two, free of the
shifting bottom and swimming. A tree, blundering down-
stream, struck the near wheel, and they were nearly
capsized, the water rushing in over their knees. As they
tilted Andreas gave a cry, and shifted in his place. Anna
called to her horses and knit her brows.

"At last it was time to humor them around, and this, as I
need not tell you, is the risky business in crossing a
flooded drift. With somewhat of a draw on the near rein,
Anna checked the team, and then, prodding with her whip,
headed the horses over and started them. They floundered
and splashed, and Andreas half rose from his seat, with
lips clenched on a cry. The traces tightened under the
water, a horse stumbled and vanished for a moment, and, as
the cart tilted sickeningly, the man, ashen-faced and
strung, leaped from it and was whirled away.

"The water took him under, drew him gasping over the
bottom, and spat him up again to swim desperately. His head
was down-stream, and, as there was a sharp bend half a mile
below, he had no extraordinary difficulty in bringing his
carcass to shore. He lay for a minute among the bushes, and
then ran back to see what had become of the cart, the
horses, and his wife. He found them ashore, safe and
waiting for him, and Anna wringing the wet from her hair as
she stood beside the horses' heads.

"'You are not hurt?' she asked, before he could speak. Her
face was grave and flushed, her voice very quiet and

"'No.' he said.

"'Ah!' she said, and climbed again into the cart, and made
room for him in the place of the driver.

"That was how he discovered himself to his wife. In that
one event of their wedding-day he revealed to Anna what was
a secret from all the world--perhaps even from himself. He
was a coward, the thing Anna had never known yet of any
man--never thought enough upon to learn how little it may
really matter or how greatly it may ruin a character. When
her brothers, having drunk too much at a waapenschauw,
wished to make a quarrel quickly, they called their man a
coward. But for her it had been like saying he was a devil--
a futile thing that was only offensive by reason of its
intention. And now she was married to a coward, and must
learn the ways of it.

"They spoke no more of the matter. Anna shrank from a
reference to it. She could not find a word to fit the
subject that did not seem an attack on the man with whom
she must spend her life. They settled down to their
business of living together very quietly, and I think the
commandant's daughter did no braver thing than when she
recognized the void in her husband, and then, holding it
loathsome and unforgivable, passed it over and put it from
her mind out of mere loyalty to him.

"The years went past at their usual pace, and there
occurred nothing to ear-mark any hour and make it
memorable, till the Kafirs across the Tiger River rose. I
do not remember what men said the rising was about.
Probably their chief was wearied with peace and drunkenness
and wanted change; but anyhow the commando that was called
out to go and shoot the tribe into order included Andreas,
the respected Burgher and famous shot. The feldkornet rode
round and left the summons at his house, and he read it to

"'Now I shall get some real shooting,' he said, with bright

"She looked at him carefully, and noted that he lifted down
his rifle with the gaiety of a boy who goes hunting. It
brought a warmth to her heart that she dared not trust.

"'It is a pity you should go before the calves are weaned,'
she said.

"'Pooh! You can see to them,' he answered.

"'But you could so easily buy a substitute. It would even
be cheaper to send a substitute,' she urged half-heartedly.

"You see she had no faith at all in his courage. The years
she had lived with him had brought forth nothing to undo
the impression he had left in her mind when he sprang from
the cart and abandoned her in the middle of the Vaal River,
and this emergency had awakened all her old fear lest he
should be proclaimed a coward before the men of his world.

"'I dare say it would be cheaper and better in every way,'
he answered with some irritation. 'But for all that I am
going. This is a war, the first I have known, and I am not
going to miss the chance. So you had better get my gear

"With that he commenced to tear up rags and to oil and
clean his rifle.

"She bade him adieu next day and saw him canter off with
some doubt. He had shown no hesitation at all in this
matter. From the time of the coming of the summons he had
been all eagerness and interest. It might have led another
to think she had been wrong, that the man who feared water
feared nothing else; but Anna knew well, from a hundred
small signs, that her husband had no stability of valor in
him, that he was and would remain--a coward.

"Next day the fighting had commenced, and Anna, working
serenely about her house, soon had news of it. There was a
promise of interest in this little war from the start. The
commando, under Commandant Jan Wepener, had made a quick
move and thrust forward to the crown of the little hills
that overlook the Tiger River and the flat land beyond it,
which was the home of the tribe. Here they made their
laager, and it was plain that the fighting would consist
either of descents by the Burghers on the kraals, or of
attacks by the Kafirs upon the hills. Either way, there
must be some close meetings and hardy hewing, a true and
searching test for good men. The young Burgher that told
her of it, sitting upon his horse at the door as though he
were too hurried and too warlike to dismount and enter,
rejoiced noisily at the prospect of coming to grips.

"Anna puckered her brows. 'It is not the way to fight,' she
said doubtfully. 'A bush and a rifle and a range of six
hundred yards is what beat the Basutos.'

"'Pooh!' laughed the young Burgher. 'You say that because
your husband shoots so well, and you want him to be marked
for good fighting.'

"She frowned a little, inwardly accusing herself of this
same meaning. She would gladly have put these thoughts from
her, for brave folk, whether men or women, have commonly
but one face, and she hated to show friendship to her
husband and harbor distrust of him in her bosom. When the
young Burgher at last rode away, galloping uselessly to
seem what he wished to be--a wild person of sudden habits--
she sat on the stoop for a while and thought deeply. And
she sighed, as though pondering brought her no decision,
and went once more about her work, always with an eye
cocked to the window to watch for any rider coming back
from the laager with news of affairs.

"But there was a shyness on both sides for a week. The
Kafirs had not yet ripened their minds to an attack on the
hills, nor had the Burghers quite sloughed their custom of
orderliness and respect for human life. There was a little
shooting, mostly at the landscape, by those whose trigger-
fingers itched; but at last a man coming back with a hole
in his shoulder to be doctored and admired halted at the
door and told of a fight.

"He sat in a long chair and told about the pain in his
shoulder, and opened his shirt to show the wound.  Anna
leaned against the door-post and heard him. Outside his
brown pony was rattling the rings of the bit and switching
at flies, and she perceived the faint smell of the sweat-
stained saddlery and the horse-odour she knew so well.
Before her, the tall grimy man, with bandages looped about
him, his pleasant face a little yellow from the loss of
blood, babbled boastfully. It was a scene she was familiar
with, for of old on the Free State border the Burghers and
the Basutos were forever jostling one another, and--I told
you her father was a commandant!

"'But tell me about the battle,' she urged.

"'Allemachtag!' exclaimed the wounded man. 'But that was a
fight! It was night, you know, about an hour after the
dying of the moon, and there was a spit of rain and some
little wind. The commandant was very wakeful, I can tell
you, and he had us all out from under the wagons, though it
was very cold, and sent us out to the ridge above the
drift. And there we lay in the long grass among the bushes
on our rifles, while the feldkornet crawled to and fro
behind us on his belly and cursed those who were talking. I
didn't talk--I know too much about war. But your man did. I
heard him, and the feldkornet swore at him in a whisper.'

"'What was he saying?' Anna asked quickly.

"'Oh, dreadful things. He called him a dirty takhaar with a
hair-hung tongue, and--'

"'No, no!' cried Anna impatiently. 'What did my husband
say, I mean? What was he talking about when the feldkornet
stopped him?'

"'Oh, he was just saying that it would be worth turning out
into the cold if only the Kafirs would come. And then he
cried out, 'What's that moving?' and the feldkornet crawled
up and cursed him.'

"'Go on about the fight,' said Anna, looking from him, that
he might not see what spoke in her eyes.

"'Yes. Well, I was just getting nicely to sleep, when
somebody down on my left began firing. Then I saw down the
hill, the flashes of guns, and soon I could hear great
lumps of pot-leg screaming through the air. They are firing
a lot of pot-leg, those Kafirs. I fired at a flash that
came out pretty regularly, and by and by it ceased to
flash. Then, as I rose on my knees, a great knob of pot-leg
hit me in the shoulder, and I cried out and fell down. Your
husband came to me and helped me to go back to the rocks,
and soon after all the shooting stopped. The Burghers found
three dead Kafirs in the morning, so we won.'

"'You were very brave,' said Anna.

"'Yes, wasn't I? And so was your husband, I believe,' said
the wounded man. 'I couldn't see him, but I've no doubt he
was. They'll try to rush the drift again tonight.'

"'What makes you think so?' Anna demanded, starting.

"'Oh, they've been gathering for some days,' answered the
other. 'It's what they are trying to do. You see there are
no farms to plunder on the other side of the river, so they
must cross.'

"'I see,' said Anna slowly.

"When he was ready, she helped the wounded man again to his
saddle, and saw him away, then turned, with the light of a
swift resolution in her eyes, to the task of getting ready
to go to Andreas. The river and the hills were but a short
six hours from her farm, and on a horse she could have
ridden it in less. But it was no wish of hers to bring any
slur upon her husband, so she prepared to go to him in a
cart, taking shirts and shoes and tobacco, like a dutiful
wife visiting her husband on commando. And for a purpose
she took no trouble to name to herself, she put in her
pocket a little pug-nosed revolver which Andreas had once
bought, played with for a while, and then forgotten.

"A Kafir came with her, to see to the horses and so on, for
she was to travel in no other manner than that in which
Burghers' wives travel every day; but once clear of the
farm she took the reins and the whip to herself, and drove
swiftly, pushing the team anxiously along the way. So well
did she guide her path, that by evening they were slipping
down the road towards the drift of the Tiger River, and
when the light of day began to be mottled with night, they
had crossed the drift and were passing up the right bank.
When at length the darkness came, they were at the foot of
the hills which the commando held.

"Here Anna alighted, and left the 'boy' to outspan and
watch the cart. In a basket on her arm she had a bottle of
whiskey and a bottle of medicine for rheumatism, that would
make her coming seemly, and with the little revolver in her
pocket knocking against her knee at every step, she faced
the dark and the empty veld, and began the ascent of the
hill alone. She was come to be a spur to her husband. This
she knew clearly enough, yet as she went along, with the
thin wind of the night on her forehead, she wasted no
thoughts, but bent herself to the business of finding the
laager and coming to Andreas. About her were the sombre
hills, that are, in fact, mere bushy kopjes, but in the
darkness, and to one alone, portentous and devious
mountains. Veld-bred as she was, the business of path-
finding was with her an instinct, like that of throwing up
your hand to guard your eyes when sparks spout from the
fire. Yet in an hour she lost herself utterly.

"She strove here and there, practicing all the tricks of
the hunter to avoid moving in a circle, and so on. She
wrenched her skirts through bushes that seemed to have
hands. She plunged over stones that were noisy and ragged
underfoot; she tumbled in ant-bear holes and bruised
herself on ant-hills. And after a long time she sat down
and listened--listened patiently for the alarm of firing to
beckon a course to her. And there she waited, her basket on
her knee, her arms folded across it, for all the world like
a quiet woman in church, with no tremors, but only a mild
and enduring expectancy.

"It came at last, a tempest of shooting that seemed all
round her. Below her, and to her left, there were splashes
of white flame. The fighter's daughter knew at once that
these were from Kafir guns. Overhead, the rip-rip-rip of
the Burghers' rifles pattered like rain on a roof, like
hoofs on a road. And all was near at hand. Despite her
endeavors, she had come nearly the whole way round the
hill, and was now barely outside the cross-fire. She stood
up, shaking her skirts into order, and took in the
position. It was a bad one, but it pointed the way to
Andreas, and, with a pat to her tumbled clothes she settled
the bottles safely again in the basket and resumed her

"She thrust along through the bushes, while the clatter of
the rifles grew nearer, and presently there was a flick--
like a frog diving into mud--close by her feet, and she knew
there were bullets coming her way.  Flick-plop! It came
again and again and again.

"'Some one sees me moving and is shooting at me,' said Anna
to herself, and stopped to rest where a rock gave cover.
The bullets, lobbing like pellets tossed from a window,
came singing down towards her, clicking into the bushes,
while below she could see the progress of the battle
written in leaping dots of fire.

The Kafirs were spreading among the boulders--so much could
be read from the growing breadth of the line of their fire,
and Anna was quick to grasp the meaning of this movement.
They were preparing to rush the hill, as of old the Basutos
had done. The Kafirs with guns were being sent out to the
flanks of the line to keep up a fire while the centre went
forward with the assegais. It was an old manoeuvre; she had
heard her brothers talk of it many times, and also--she
remembered it now--of the counter-trick to meet it. There
must be bush at hand, to set fire to, that the advance may
be seen as soon as it forms and withered with musketry.

"Regardless of that deft rifleman among the Burghers who
continued to drop his bullets about her, Anna took her
basket again on her arm, came forth from her rock, and
resumed the climb. She was obliged to make a good deal of
noise, for it was too dark and uncomfortable to enable her
to choose her steps well, Up above, the Burghers must have
heard her plainly, though none but a keen eye would pick
the blackness of her shape from the bosom of the night. The
summit and the foot of the hill were alive with the
spitting of the guns, and all the while the unknown
sharpshooter searched about her for her life with clever
plunging shots that flicked the dirt up. One bullet whisked
through a piece of her skirt.

"'Now, I wonder if it can be Andreas who shoots so neatly,'
said Anna, half-smiling to herself. 'He would be surprised
if he knew what he is shooting at. Dear me, this is a very
long and tiresome hill.'

"It was almost at that moment that she heard it--the
beginning of the rush. There came up the hill, like a slow
and solemn drum-music, the droning war-song of the Kafirs
as they moved forward in face of the fire. It was an awful
thing to hear, that bloody rhythm booming through the dome
of the night. It is a song I have heard in the daytime, for
a show, and it rings like heavy metal. Anna straightened
herself and looked about her; there was nothing else for it
but that she must start a fire, ere the battle-line swept
up and on to the laager. It would draw more shooting upon
her; but that gave her no pause. She had matches in her
pocket, and fumbled about her and found a little thorn-bush
that crackled while it tore her naked hands. Crouching by
it, she dragged a bunch of the matches across the side of
the box,--they spluttered and flamed, and she thrust them
into the bush. It took light slowly, for there were yet the
dregs of sap in it; but as it lighted, the deft rifleman
squirted bullet after bullet all around her, aiming on the
weakling flame she nursed with her bleeding hands.

"But for this she had no care at all. She had ceased to
perceive it. Sheltering the place with her body, she drew
out more matches, tore up grass, and built the little flame
to a blaze that promised to hold and grow. As it cracked
among the twigs, she wrenched the bush from the ground and
ran forward with it upheld.

"'Burghers, Burghers!' she screamed. 'Pas op! The Kafirs
are coming up the hill!'

"And whirling it widely she flung the burning bush from her
with all her force, and watched its fire spread in the
grass where it fell. Then she, too, fell down, and lay
among the rocks and plants, scarcely breathing.

"Up above, the old commandant, peering under the pent of
his hand, saw the torch waved and the figure that flung it.

"'Allemachtag!' he cried. 'It's the Vrouw van Wyck!'

"The next instant he was shouting, 'And here come the
Kafirs! Shoot, Burghers, shoot straight and hard.'

"Where she lay, near the fire that now spread across the
flank of the hill in broad bands among the dry grass and
withered bushes, the Vrouw van Wyck heard that last cry and
lifted her head as a torrent of shooting answered it. The
Kafirs and the Burghers were at grips, and it seemed that
all around her the night rustled with secret men that slunk
about. There was great danger to her at last, for either in
going forward or going back she might fall into the hands
of the Kafirs, and--oh, you can never tell what that may
mean! At the best and choicest it is death, but at the
worst it is torment with loathly outrage, the torment and
the degradation of Sheol. Anna knew that, knew it well and
feared it. That daunted her, and as the thought grew
clearer in her mind, dread gripped her, and she huddled
among the stones with ears alert and a heart that clacked
as it beat.

"Noises threatened her, and to them, the casual noises of
the night, she gave ear anxiously, while above her the
fight raged direfully and all unheard. At one time she
truly saw naked Kafirs go up the hill,--the light of the
fire glinted on the points of their assegais and threw a
dull gleam on the muscle-rippled skin of them. Next, stones
falling made her start, and ere this alarm was passed she
heard the unmistakable clatter of shod feet among the
boulders, and--plain and loud--an oath as some man stumbled.
He was already to be seen, vaguely; then he was near at
hand, coming upon her.

"'Now, what in God's name is this?' she cried, and rose.
In her hand was the little blunt-nosed revolver.

"The man ran through a bush towards her, 'Anna,' he cried,

"It was Andreas, and he took hold of her body and pressed
her close to him.

"She thrilled with a superb exaltation of pride and joy,
and put her arms about him.

"'What are you doing here?' he demanded.

"'I was coming to you,' she said, and with a little laugh,
as of a girl, she showed him the basket, with the bottles
yet in it. 'And you?' she asked, then.

"'Me?' he said. 'Why, I've come for you, of course. The
Kafirs are at the ridge, and God knows what might happen to
you. Was it you I was shooting at down there all the time?'

"'You shot very well,' she answered, and showed him the
hole in her skirt where the bullet had pierced it. She
heard him mutter another oath.

"'But we must be going,' he said; 'this is no place to be
talking--no place at all. We must get round to the laager
again. Let me have your arm, and tread quietly, and we must
leave the basket.'

"'Not I,' she answered. 'I have brought it all this way,
and I will not leave it now.'

"He answered with a short laugh, and they commenced to move
upward. But by now the fire had hold of the thorn-trees all
about, and their path was as light as day. It was too
dangerous to attempt to climb to the ridge, and after
walking for a while they were compelled to find the cover
of a rock and remain still. Anna sat on the ground, very
tired and content, and her husband peered out and watched
what was to be seen.

"'We have beaten them,' he said. 'I can see a lot of them
running back. Pray God none come this way. I wish I had not
left my rifle.'

"'Yes,' said Anna, 'you left your rifle, and came unarmed
to help me.'

"'It would have been awkward among the bushes,' he
explained, and was suddenly silent, looking out over the
top of the rock.

"'What is it?' asked Anna. He gave no answer, so she rose
and went to his side and looked too, with her arms on his

"The rip-rip of the Burghers' rifles sounded yet, but there
was now another sound. The bushes creaked and the stones
rocked with men returning down the hill.  Not two hundred
paces away they were to be seen--many scores of Kafirs
dodging down-hill, taking what cover they could, pausing
and checking at each rock and mound that gave shelter from
the bullets.

"Anna felt her husband quiver as he saw the crowd swooping
upon him.

"'Take this,' she said, and pressed the little revolver
into his hand. 'It would be well not to be taken. But kiss
me first.'

"He looked from the retreating and nearing Kafirs to her,
with a face knotted in perplexity.

"'It is the only thing,' she urged, and drew his lips to

"He looked down at the little weapon in his palm, and spoke
as with an effort.

"'I was never a brave man, Anna,' he said, 'and I can't do
this. Will you not do it?'

"She nodded and took the pistol. The Kafirs found nothing
to work their hate upon."


"But what are you going to live on?" asked the Vrouw
Grobelaar.  "You haven't got a farm."

"We're going to live in a town," answered Katje proudly.

I interrupted here, and tried to make the old lady
understand that even schoolmasters received some money for
their work, and that there would be enough for two, without

She had no answer for the moment, but sat and looked at us
both very thoughtfully. Still, there was no hostility in
her aspect; she had not her warlike manner, and seemed
engrossed rather with an estimate of the situation than of
its consequences. I had looked for opposition and
disparagement at least, volubly voiced and backed with a
bloody example of a failure in marriage, and I know that
Katje shared my misgivings. But here was something

"You--you are not angry?" asked Katje after a while.

The old lady started.  "Angry! No, of course not. It is not
altogether my affair, Katje. As time goes on, I grow
nervous of stirring any broth but my own. If it were a
matter of mere wisdom, and knowledge of life, and the cool
head of an elder, I should not be afraid to handle you to
suit my ideas; but this is a graver piece of business.
Wisdom has nothing to do with it; those who are wise in
their love are often foolish in their life. You've got your
man, and if you want him you'll marry him in despite of the
tongues of men and of angels. I know; I did it myself."

"You?" cried Katje.

"Yes, me," retorted the Vrouw Grobelaar. "Why not? Do you
think that a person of sense has no feelings? When I was a
girl I was nearly as big a fool as some others I could
name, and got more out of it, in happiness and experience,
than ever they will."

"Tell us about it," suggested Katje.

"I am telling you," snapped the old lady.

"Don't interrupt. Sit down. Don't fidget; nor giggle.

"When I was a girl," she began at last, "my father's farm
was at Windhoek, and beyond the nek to the south, an easy
two hours from our beacons, there lived one Kornel du
Plessis. I came to know him, somehow. I saw him here and
there, till I had no wish to see any but him, and we
understood one another very well. Ah, Katje, girls are
light things; but I truly think that in those days few Boer
maids had much mind for trivial matters in their loves when
once the man was found right and sound. Even at this length
of time I have a thrill in remembering Kornel: a big man,
and heavy, with thick shoulders, but very quick on his
feet, and eyes that were gray, with pleasant little puckers
at the corner. He sat far back in his saddle and lolled to
the gait of the horse easily; such men make horse-masters,
and masters of women. That is to say, they are masters of

"There was no kissing behind the kraal and whispering at
windows. Neither of us had a mind for these meannesses. He
came to my father's house and took food with us, and told
my father the tale of his sheep and cattle, and the weight
of the mortgage on his farm. Though he was not rich, he was
young and keen, and my father knew well that the richest
are not those who begin life with riches. There would have
been no hindrance to a marriage forthwith, but for some law
business in the town, of which I never understood the
truth. But it concerned the land and house of Kornel, and
my father would not say the last word till that should be

"It dragged on for a long while, that law matter, and the
conversations between Kornel and my father ran mainly in
guesses about it, with much talk that was very forlorn of
interest. But what did it matter to me? I had the man, and
knew I could keep him; had I foreseen the future, even then
I would not have cared. But for all that, I was very uneasy
one hot day when Kornel rode over with a grave face and
eyes that looked as though he had not slept the night

"My father gave him a sharp look, and pulled strongly at
his pipe, like a man who prepares for ticklish business.

"'You have news?' he asked.

"'Kornel nodded, and looked at me. It was a look as though
he would ask me to spare and forgive. I smiled at him, and
came and stood at his side.

"'From what you have told me,' began my father, looking
very wise, 'the water right may cut you off from the
pastures. Is that so?'

"'No,' said Kornel; 'all that is wrong.'

"'H'm. Indeed! Then you will have to carry your north
beacon farther to the east and lose the dam.'

"'Wrong again,' answered Kornel patiently.

"'Then you have won your case,' said my father, very eager
to name the truth and prove his wisdom.

"'Dear me!' said Kornel;' you have no idea at all of the
matter. You are quite out in your guesses. I have not won
my case. I have lost it, and the land and the house and the
stock along with it. I came over on a horse that is no more
mine than this chair is. For all I know my very trousers
may belong to the other man. There you have it. What do you
say to that?'

"'Then you have nothing at all?' asked my father.

"'I have a piece of waste on the dorp road, near the
spruit,' answered Kornel. 'There is a kind of hut on it.
That is all. It is only two morgen' (four acres).

"My father sat shaking his head in silence for a long time,
while Kornel clenched and unclenched his hands and stared
at the floor and frowned. I put my hand on his shoulder,
and he trembled.

"'It is an affliction,' said my father at last, 'and no
doubt you know very well what you have done to deserve it.
But it might be worse. You might have had a wife, and then
what would you have done?'

"One is wise to honor one's parents always, but one cannot
be blind. I think my father might sometimes have spoken
less and done better for it.

"'We have talked about Christina yonder,' continued my
father, pointing at me with the stem of his pipe. 'It is a
good thing it went no further than talk.'

"'But it did,' I said quickly. 'It went much further. It
went to my promise and Kornel's; and if I am ready to keep
mine now, I shall not look to see him fail in his.'

"Ah! He never needed any but the smallest spur. Your true
man kindles quickly. At my word he sprang up and his arm
folded me. I gasped in the grip of it.

"'My promise holds,' he said, through clenched teeth.

"My father had a way of behaving like a landdrost
(magistrate) at times, and now he wrinkled his forehead and
smiled very wisely.

"'When one's bed is on the veld,' he said,' it is not the
time to remember a promise to a girl. It is easier to find
a bedfellow than a blanket sometimes. And then, I am to be
considered, and I cannot suffer this kind of thing.'

"'I think you will have to manage it,' answered Kornel.

"'Do you?' said my father. 'Well, I have nothing to give
you. Christina, come here to me!'

"Kornel loosed his arm and set me free, but I stayed where
I was.

"'Father,' I cried, 'I have promised Kornel!'

"'Come here!' he said again. Then, when I did not move,
disobeying him for the first time in my life, his face
darkened.  'Are you not coming?' he said.

"'No,' I answered, and my man's arm took me again, tight--
tight, Katje.

"'Well,' said my father, 'you had better be off, the two of
you. Do not come here again.'

"'We can do that much to please you,' answered Kornel, with
his head very high. 'Come, Christina!'

"And I followed him from my father's house. I had not even
a hat for my head.

"We were married forthwith, of course--no later than the
next day,--and the day after that I rode with my man to the
plot beside the dorp spruit to see our home that had to be.
That was a great day for me; and to be going in gentle
companionship with Kornel across the staring veld and along
the empty road was a most wonderful thing, and its flavor
is still a relish to my memory. I knew that he feared what
we were to see--the littleness and mean poverty of it, after
the spaciousness of the farm; but most of all it galled him
that I should see it on this our first triumphant day. He
was very gentle and most loving, but shadows grew on his
face, and there was a track of worry between his brows that
spurred me. I knew what I had to do, now that our fortunes
were knitted, and I did it.

"The plot was a slope from the edge of the dorp to the
little spruit, not fenced nor sundered in any way from the
squalid brick which houses the lower end of Dopfontein.
Full in face of it was the location of the Kafirs; around
it and close at hand were the gross and dirty huts of the
off-colors (half-castes). The house, which was in the
middle of the plot, was a bulging hovel of green brick, no
more stately or respectable than any of the huts round
about. As our horses picked their way through the muck
underfoot, and we rode down to it, the off-colors swarmed
out of their burrows and grinned and pointed at us.

"Kornel helped me from my saddle, and we went together to
see the inside of the house. It was very foul and broken,
with the plain traces of Kafirs in each of its two rooms,
and a horrid litter everywhere. As I looked round I saw
Kornel straighten himself quickly, and my eyes went to his.

"'This is our home,' he said bluntly, with a twitching of
the cheek.

"I nodded.

"'Perhaps,' he said in the same hard tone, as if he were
awaiting an onslaught of reproach,--'perhaps I was wrong to
bring you to this, but it is too late to tell me so now. It
is not much--'

"I broke in and laughed. 'You will not know it when I have
set it to rights,' I answered. 'It shall be a home indeed
by the time I am through with it.'

"His cheek twitched yet, as though some string under the
flesh were quivering with a strain.

"'It's you and me against all the evil luck in the world,'
he cried, but his face was softening.

"I cowered within the arm he held out to me, and told him I
was all impatience to begin the fight. And he cried on my
shoulder, and I held him to me and soothed him from a
spring of motherhood that broke loose in my heart.

"Within a week we were living in the place, and, Katje, I
hope you will feel yet for some roof what I felt for that,
with all its poorness. It was the first home of my
wifehood: I loved it. I worked over it, as later I worked
over the children God bestowed on me, purging it, remaking
it, spending myself on it, and gilding it with the joy of
the work. From the beams of the roof to the step of the
door I cleansed it with my hands, marking it by its
spotlessness for the habitation of white folk among the
yellow people all around. Kornel did little to aid me in
that--for the most part he was seeking work in the town; and
even when he was at home I drove him sharply from the labor
that was mine, and mine alone. The yellow people were very
curious about it all, and would stand and watch me through
the door till Kornel sjamboked them away; and even then
some of their fat talkative women would come round with
offers of help and friendship. But though we were fallen to
poverty, we had not come so low as that; and few came to me
a second time, and none a third.

"Still, though Kornel humbled himself and asked very little
money, there was no work to be had in the dorp. No
storekeeper had a use for him, and the transport agents had
too many riders already. Day after day went by, and each
day he came back more grim, with a duller light in those
kind eyes of his and a slower twinkle.

"'You must trust in yourself,' I told him, as he sat by the
table and would have it that he was not hungry.

"'I trust in you,' he answered, with a pitiable attempt at
his old sparkle. 'You have proved yourself; I have not--yet,
and I could do the work of three Kafirs, too.'

"The next day he came home at noon, with a swing in his
gait and his fingers working.

"'I've got work,' he said, 'at last.'

"I stopped sewing and looked at him. 'Is it a white man's
work?' I asked.

"'It is work,' he retorted.

"'Very well,' I said; 'but remember, we sink or soar
together, and in neither case will I blame you. If you get
white man's work, you shall have a white man's wife; but if
you are going to do the work of Kafirs--'

"'Yes,' he said; 'and what then?'

"'In that case,' I answered, 'I shall do washing to eke it
out and be a level mate for you.'

"'By God, you won't!' he cried, and his hand came down hard
on the table. There was no mistaking his face: the command
and the earnestness of it lighted up his eyes. I stared at
him in a good deal of surprise, for though I had known it
was there, this was the first I had seen of the steel
strain in my man.

"'Call it Kafir work, or what you please,' he went on, with
a briskness of speech that made answer impossible. 'You
will keep this house and concern yourself with that only.
The gaining of money is my affair. Leave it to me,

"I cast down my eyes, knowing I must obey, but a little
while after I asked him again what the work was to be.

"'Making bricks,' he answered. 'Here we have the spruit at
our door and mud for the picking up. It needs only a box-
mould or two, and it will be funny if I can't turn out as
many good bricks in a day as three lazy Kafirs. Old Pagan,
the contractor, has said he will buy them, so now it only
remains to get to work.'

"As he said this, I noticed the uneasiness that kept him
from meeting my eye, for in truth it was a sorry employ to
put his strength to,--a dirty toil, all the dirtier for the
fact that only Kafirs handled it in Dopfontein, and the pay
was poor. From our door one could always see the brick-
making going on along the spruit, with the mud-streaked
niggers standing knee-deep in the water, packing the wet
dirt into the boxes, and spilling them out to be baked in
the sun or fired, as the case might be. There was too much
grime and discomfort to it to be a respectable trade.

"But Kornel went to work at once, carrying down box-moulds
from the contractor's yard, and stacking them in the stiff
gray mud at the edge of the spruit, I went with him to see
him start. He waded down over his boots, into the slow
water, and plunged his arms elbow-deep into the mud.

"'Here's to an honest living,' he said, and lilted a great
lump of slime into the first box and kneaded it close.
Then, as he set it aside and reached for the next, he
looked up to me with a smile that was all awry. My heart
bled for him.

"'But there's no time to be polite,' he said, as the mud
squelched into the second box. 'Here's the time to prove
how a white man can work when he goes about it. So run back
to the house, my kleintje, and leave me to make my

"And forthwith he braced himself and went at that sorry
work with all his fine strength. I had not the heart to
stay by him; I knew that my eyes upon him were like
offering him an insult, and yet I never looked at him save
in love. But once or twice I glanced from the doorway, and
saw him bowed still over that ruthless task, slaving
doggedly, as good men do with good work.

"When the evening meal was due he came in, drenched from
head to foot, and patched and lathered with the pale sticky
mud; but though he was so tired that he drooped like a sick
man where he stood, his face was bright again and his eyes
were once more a-twinkle with hope and confidence.

"As he changed his clothes and washed himself, he talked
cheerily to me through the wall, with a spirit like a

"'I've begun, at any rate,' he called out, 'and that's a
great thing. If I go as far forward as I've gone back, I
shall be satisfied. Where did you say the comb was?'

"And all through supper he chattered in the same vein,
rejoicing in the muscles that ached with work and in his
capacity to do more and bear more than the Kafirs who were
his rivals.

For me, I was pleased enough and thankful to hear the heart
of him thus vocal, and to mark the man I knew of old and
chose to be my mate come to light in this laborer, new from
his toil.

"We did not sit late that night, for, with all his elation
and reawakened spirits. Kornel was weary to the honest bone
of him, and swayed with sleep as he stood on his feet. He
rolled into my clean, cool sheets with a grunt of utter
satisfaction. 'This is comfort indeed,' he said drowsily,
as I leaned over him, and he was asleep before I had

"At daylight he rose and went forth to the spruit again,
and there all day he labored earnestly. Each time that I
looked towards him I saw his back bent and his arms
plunging in the mud, while the rows of wet bricks grew
longer and multiplied. I heard him whistling at it,--some
English melody he had gathered long before at a
waapenschauw,--with a light heart, the while he was up to
his knees in the dirty water, with the mud plastered all
over him.

"By and by I went down to the bank and asked him how he
did. He straightened himself, grimacing humorously at the
stiffness of his back, and answered me cheerily.

"'Tomorrow old Pagan will come down and pay for what I have
done,' he said. I think he will be surprised at the amount.
His Kafirs have no such appetite for it as I.' And he

"It was a dreadful business he had taken in hand, and work
hard beyond believing. The boxes stood in a pile above the
stream, and each had to be reached down as one was filled,
and as soon as two were full Kornel must climb the bank to
set them aside. When all were full, they had to be turned
out on the level ground, and all this, as you can see,
meant that he must scramble up and down in the heavy mud,
taxing every spring in his poor body. Yet he toiled
ceaselessly, attacking the job with a kind of light-hearted
desperation that made nothing of its hardships, bringing to
it a tough and unconquerable joy in the mere effort, which
drove him ever like a spur.

"As I watched him delving, I thought that here a woman
could render some measure of help, and as he turned from
talking to me I began to empty out the boxes that were
ready and stack them again on the pile. I had not yet
turned out ten bricks when he saw me, and paused in his
melancholy work.

"'Stop that!' he cried, and scrambled out of the spruit to
where I stood. 'I suppose,' he went on, 'you would like
your father to know that I had suffered you to work for me
like a Kafir.'

"'Kornel!' I cried in horror.

"But he was white on the cheek-bones and breathing hard,
and I could not soften him.

"'Rich man's daughter or poor man's wife,' he said, 'you
are white, and must keep your station. It is my business to
sell myself, not yours. Get you back to the house I have
given you, and stay there.'

"And with that he picked up the soft bricks I had turned
for him, and threw them one by one into the spruit.

"'Poverty and meanness and all,' he added, 'it shall not be
said at your father's house that you worked for me. Nor
that you lacked aught it became you to have, neither,' he
added, with a quick heat of temper. 'Get to your house.'

"I slunk off, crying like a child, while he went back to
the mud--and the labor.

"Next day came Pagan to pay for the work that was done. He
drove up in his smart cart, and tiptoed his way daintily to
the edge of the spruit where the bricks lay. He was an old
man, very cleanly dressed, with hard white hair on his head
and face, and a quick manner of looking from side to side
like a little bird. In all his aspect there was nothing but
spoke of easy wealth and the serenity of a well-ordered
life; there was even that unkindly sharpness of tone and
manner that is a dead-weight on the well-to-do. My husband
was at work when he drove up, but he straightened his back,
squared his broad shoulders, and came up from the mud,
walking at the full of his height and smiling down at the
rich man with half-closed eyes.

"'Daag, Heer Pagan,' he said to him, in the tone of one who
needs and desires nothing, and held out his hand--mud from
the elbow--with something lordly in the gesture. The rich
man cocked his head quickly, in the way he had, and hung in
the breeching for a moment, ere he rendered his hand to
Kornel, with a reddening of the cheek above his white
whisker that betrayed him, I thought, for a paltry soul.

"'I've come to see your bricks,' he said curtly, 'and to
pay for 'em, if they're all right.'

"'Ah, the bricks,' said Kornel airily. 'Yes, to be sure.
There they are. Go and count them, if you like, and then
you can come to me at my house where the Vrouw du Plessis
(which was me) will give us some coffee.'

"I was watching, you may be sure, and again I saw the
wintry red swell above the white whisker, and I clenched my
hands in wrath and contempt at the creature's littleness. I
was sure he would have liked to sweep my man's courtesy
aside, and certainly the politeness had a prick in it. He
was rich, and old, and fat, with a consequence in his mien
and an air that hinted he was used to deference, and Kornel
was but a muddy brick-moulder. Yet there stood my man, so
easy in his quiet speech, so sure of himself, so dangerous
a target for contempt, that the rich man only stammered.
Kornel nodded as though he understood the invitation to be
accepted, and walked up to the house, leaving old Pagan to
count the bricks and follow.

"I kissed him as he came in. 'You've trampled his dirty
soul under your heel,' I said, 'and I love you for it. I
love to see you upright and a man of purpose; whatever
comes of it, I shall honor you always.'

"He kissed me and laughed. 'Nothing will happen, if we are
lucky,' he said. 'There is more in John Pagan than the big
stomach and the money. But we mustn't crawl to him; I'll
wager he never crawled himself when he was poor.'

"I set the coffee ready, spreading the table with a fine
cloth I had brought from Kornel's farm, one of the few
things we had taken with us, and presently in came old
Pagan. Directly I saw him I felt a doubt of him; there was
a kind of surreptitious viciousness showing in his sour
smile that warned me. He was like a man who is brewing an
unpleasant joke.

"'Ah, Mrs. du Plessis,' he said, 'your man will have been
working very hard.'

"'You know what brick-moulding is, then?' I said.

"He grinned. 'A little,' he said; 'yes, a little. There's
few jobs I haven't put a hand to in my time. Work's a fine
thing, when a man knows how to work.'

"'You are very right,' agreed Kornel.

"'This is good coffee,' said John Pagan, as he stirred his
cup. 'In fact, it's better than the bricks.'

"'A better hand was at work on it,' said Kornel.

"'So I should judge,' answered Pagan sleekly. 'I should
like another cup of this coffee, if I may trouble you, Mrs.
du Plessis.'

"He laid his cup on the table and bit his nails while I
filled it, glancing round at my poor room the while and
smiling to himself.

"'Yes,' he said, 'I like the coffee, but I don't like the
bricks. They're no good at all.'

"We both stared at him, silent and aghast, and the white-
haired old man chuckled in our stricken faces.

"'What is wrong with them?' demanded Kornel at last. His
face was white, but he spoke quite naturally.

"'Aha!' laughed old Pagan.  'Ye see, there's no trade, that
ye can take up without a bit o' learning, not even makin'
mud-bricks. The very same thing happened to me. Lord, it's
past forty years ago, I turned out six hundred dozen, and
had 'em thrown on my hands. It nearly broke my heart.'

"'I can understand that,' said Kornel. 'But what is wrong
with my bricks?'

"Old Pagan set his cup back on the table and sat up in his
chair. As he began to speak he hitched back the sleeves of
his coat and moved his neck in his white collar.

"'See here!' he said. 'It's a little thing, like turning up
the toe of a horseshoe, but just as essential. When ye set
your full moulds out to dry, did ye set 'em on edge, to
drain away the water? Ye did not? Well, that's what's
wrong. They're just mud-pies-lumps o' damp dirt, that'll
crumble as soon as they're dry. There's ninety dozen of
'em, by my count, and there'll not be three dozen that ye
could use in any way consistent wi' conscience. Do ye take
my meanin'?'

"Kornel nodded very thoughtfully.

"'Well, you'll just need to get to work again,' said the
old man. 'Maybe I'm not exactly keen on greetings and
invitations and the like, but you'll not be able to teach
me anything on bricks. So if ye're thinking anything about
the splendor o' your work, wait dll ye're master of it
before you waste more thought. I'm your better as a
craftsman,' he said, with a glance towards me.

"I was red all over, what with shame and sorrow, but I
marked that the paltriness seemed to have gone from John
Pagan as soon as he began to talk of work. He turned then
to Kornel with a briskness that was not unkindly.

"'I was relying on you for bricks,' he said, 'for you can
work, and that's a fact. Perhaps you can let me have a
hundred dozen by Thursday, eh? I'm waitin' on them. And if
you make sure of it, I'll do wi' ye what's my common
custom, and that's pay half the price in advance. How's
that suit?'

"Kornel rose from his chair and stammered thanks, and John
Pagan paid the money on to the table.

"'I'll be down on Thursday to see the bricks,' he said,
'and don't forget the dodge I told ye. And maybe Mrs. du
Plessis 'll be willing to give me coffee again when I come.
So good-day to ye, and mind--drain 'em!'

"When he was gone Kornel and I looked at each other and
laughed emptily. Then he went out to the mud again to make
ready for Thursday.

"So it was we lived for a time that was shorter than it
seemed, building on the mud of our shaky fortunes a pride
that our poverty could not overturn. Kornel had a saying
that seemed irreligious but very true. 'There are ministers
and farmers and lawyers who are rich,' he would observe,
'but there's no money in work,' I have since been won to
believe that there is a flaw in the argument, but for us it
was true, and bitterly true. We were never on the right
side of ten shillings; we were never out of sight of the
thin brink of want. That we were preserved and kept clear
of disaster was due only to the toil of Kornel and my own
anxious care for the spending of the money. I found out
that a wife who is strong has a great trade to drive in
upholding her house; and I, at any rate, was proficient in
maintaining cleanliness, in buying and making food, and
preserving to my home the atmosphere of happiness and
welcome that anchors a man to his own place. Take it all in
all, we were happy, and yet I would not pretend that there
were not grim hours when we wondered if the mere living
were worth all that it cost. Kornel, hard as iron always,
grew lean and stooped, and there appeared in his face a
kind of wild care that frightened me. From the chill
upcoming of the dawn to the rising of the wind at evening
he taxed himself remorselessly at the sorry work in the
mud, while I scrubbed and scraped and plotted and prayed to
make the meagre pay cover wants that were pared meagre
enough. Yes, there were certainly times when we thought the
cost too great, but, God be praised, we never thought it at
the same moment, and the stronger always upheld the weaker.

"And there was never any shame in the matter. Even as we
feared nothing, we were never ashamed. Never!

"One morning--, about an hour before high sun, when the dust
lay thick on the road into the town that passed our land,
and the neighborhood around was feverish with the fuss of
the Kafirs and yellow folk, I stood for a moment at my
door, looking down to where Kornel was fervently at work in
the spruit. There was always traffic on the road at that
hour, and something drew me to look towards it. At once I
saw my father. He was riding in, dressed in his black
clothes, very solemn and respectable, with his beard
flowing over his chest. At the same moment he saw me, and
seemed to start in his saddle and glance quickly at all
about--at my poor little house, the litter that lay about,
the squalor of the town-end we lived in, and the laborious
bent back of my man as he squattered about in the mud. He
checked his horse an instant, as though by an impulse; for
my father, though I honored him, was a weak man, in whom no
purpose was steadfast. I saw the wavering in his face and
the uncertainty of his big pale eyes; and then, half-
nodding to me as though in an embarrassment, he pushed on
and entered the town. I went down and told Kornel.

"'H'm!' He stood as though in thought, looking up to me
from the water. 'Your father, eh? Would you like him to
come and see you?'

"I nodded.

"He laughed and climbed up the bank to me. 'So would I,' he
said. 'I have a stiffness in my back that makes me inclined
for anything rather than this work. Even your father.'

"We walked up to the house together, and Kornel's brow was
creased with thought, while his lips smiled.

"'You see,' he said, 'we want nothing from him--nothing at
all, so we can't afford to be humble. Have we any money at

"'We have three shillings,' I answered, 'and I owe one
shilling for food.'

"'That's not enough,' he said, shaking his head. 'You say
he saw me working? We must have thirty shillings at least;
we must treat him well; I can't let him off now that he has
seen so much. We'll stuff him till he bulges like a rotten
cask, and wishes he could make bricks as I can. I wonder if
Pagan would pay me in advance for a thousand dozen. I'll go
and ask him.'

"He started for the door at once, but turned and came back
to me.

"'He said once he had nothing to give me,' he whispered to
me.  Do you grudge me this, kleintje.'

"'Not I,' I answered. 'I only wish we could do more.'

"He kissed me and was off in a moment. Pagan made no
difficulty about the money. He looked at Kornel shrewdly
when my man made the request, and paid at once.

"'It suits me ye should be a wee thing in my debt,' he
said. 'But you're so damned proud, there's times I'm scared
o' ye. Sign yer name here.'

"'Now,' said Kornel, when he had put the money in my hand,
'get what you need for a dinner that will tickle the ou
pa's stomach, and a bottle of whiskey. There never was a
deacon that did not suffer from some complaint that whiskey
would ease; and I'll get into what clean clothes I have and
go to look for him.'

"So I bought the dinner. I was willing enough to suffer the
emptiness to come, if only I could wipe from my father's
memory his impression of my man's poverty; but all the
same, in case he should refuse to visit us, I bought things
that would last long enough to serve ourselves until the
thirty shillings should have been earned. They made a good
show: for I have never been a fool in the matter of food,
and I knew my father's tastes. I promised myself that his
dinner should be his chief memory of that day, at all
events. He was, I fear, the kind of man who remembers his
good dinners better than anything else.

"It was a long time before they came, and I had given up
all hope of the visit when I heard their voices. Or rather,
it was Kornel's voice that I heard, in a tone of careless
civility, like one who performs a casual duty of
politeness. He was talking nonsense in a slow drawl, and as
they picked their way from the road to the house my father
looked up to him in a kind of wonder.

"'The evenings are pleasant here,' Kornel was saying. 'We
have a little time to ourselves then, for people have
learned at last not to trouble us much. One sees the sun go
down yonder across the hills, and it is very pretty, Now,
on the farm, nobody ever knew how handsome the sunset is.
We were like Kafirs on the farm; but life in the town is
quite different.'

"He chattered on in the same strain, and my father was
plainly dazed by it, so that his judgment was all fogged,
and he took the words at their face value. I noticed that
my father seemed a little abashed and doubtful; it was easy
to see that this was the opposite of what he had expected.

"He greeted me with a touch of hesitation in his manner;
but I kissed him on the forehead and tried to appear a
fortunate daughter--smiling assuredly, you know, glad to
exercise hospitality and to receive my father in my own
house. It was not all seeming, either; for I had no shame
in my condition and my husband's fortune,--only a resentment
for those who affected to expect it.

"'You are looking well,' said my father, staring at me.
'How do you like the life you are living?'

"Kornel smiled boldly across to me, and I laughed.

"'I was never so happy in my life,' I answered--and that, at
any rate, was true.

"My father grunted, and sat listening to the gentle flow of
talk with which Kornel gagged him the while I busied myself
with the last turn of the cooking and set the table to
rights. But he glanced at me from time to time with
something of surprise and disapproval; perhaps a white
woman with no Kafir servant had never met his eyes before.
Kornel did not miss the expression of his face.

"'We will show you something new in the dinner line,' he
remarked knowingly. 'There are things you can't teach to a
Kafir, you know.'

"'What things?' demanded my father.

"'Ah, you shall see in a moment,' answered Kornel, nodding
mysteriously. 'Christina will show you. Have you ever heard
of a ragout?'

"My father shook his head. Neither had I; but I held my

"'Well,' said Kornel, 'a ragout is a fowl cooked as
Christina has cooked it. It is a very favorite dish among
the rich men in Johannesburg. If you will draw up your
chair to the table you shall see.'

"It is true that I had a good hand with a fowl, stewed in a
fashion of my own, which was mainly the outcome of
ignorance and emergency; but it was very fortunate that on
that day of all days the contrivance should have turned out
so well. It was tender, and the flesh was seasoned to just
the right flavor by the stuff I stewed with it--certain
herbs, Katje, and a hint of a whiff of garlic. Garlic is a
thing you must not play with: like sin, you can never undo
it, whatever forgiveness you win. But a leaf or two bruised
between two clean pebbles, and the pebbles boiled with the
stew, spices the whole thing as a touch of devil spices a

"You maybe sure I was anxious about it, and watched Kornel
and my pa as they started to eat. Kornel swallowed his
first mouthful with an appearance of keen judgment; then he
winked swiftly to me, and nodded slightly. It was his
praise of the dish. Oh, if you had known my man, you would
not need telling that that was enough for me. My father
commenced to eat as though curious of the food before him.
He gave no sign of liking or otherwise; but presently he
squared his shoulders, drew his chair closer to the table,
and gave his mind to the matter.

"'That's right, walk into it,' said Kornel. "'It is very
good indeed,' said my father, eating thoughtfully, and
presently I helped him to some more. Kornel gave him soda-
water with whiskey in it, and thereafter there were other
things to eat--nearly thirty shillings' worth. After that
they sat and smoked, and drank the strong coffee I made for
them, and passed the whiskey bottle to and fro between
them. All the while Kornel babbled amiably of foolish
things, sunsets, and Shakespeare and the ways of women,
till I caught myself wondering whether indeed he relished
the change from the wide clean veld of the farm to this
squalid habitation of toil.

"'I suppose,' said my father at last, when Kornel had
finished talking about sunsets,--'I suppose a ragoo, as you
call it, is very expensive to make?'

"'I really couldn't say,' answered Kornel. 'But I should
think not.'

"'H'm; and you think a Kafir could not be taught to make

"Kornel laughed. 'I should be sorry to try,' he said.

"My father pondered on that for a while, smoking strongly
and glancing from time to time at me.

"'I'm growing an old man,' he said at last, 'and old men
are lonely at the best.'

"'Some seem to wish it,' said Kornel.

"'I say they are lonely,' repeated my father sharply. 'I
have no wife, and I cannot be bothered with getting another
at my time of life.'  He shook his gray head sadly. 'Not
that I should have to look far for one,' he added, however.

"Kornel laughed, and my father looked at him angrily.

"'If it had not been for you,' he said, 'I should still
have had my daughter Christina to live with me. I am tired
of being alone, and I cannot nurse the wrong done me by my
own flesh and blood. You and Christina had better come out
to the farm and live with me.'

"'And leave my business?' asked Kornel.

"'Oh, there is mud and water on the farm, if your business
pleases you,' retorted my father. 'But out there we do not
take the bread out of the mouths of Kafirs.'

"'I see,' answered Kornel briefly; and I, who watched him,
knew from his voice that there was to be no truce after
that, that we should still earn our livelihood by the mud

"'You will come?' asked my father.

"'Good Lord, no!' replied Kornel. 'You would weary me to
death in a week, I don't mind being civil when we meet, but
live with you! It would be to make oneself a vegetable.'

"My father heard him out with a grave face, and then rose
to his feet. There was a stateliness in his manner that
grieved me, for when a man meets a rebuff with silence and
dignity he is aging.

"'You are right, perhaps,' he said. 'I don't know, but you
may be. Anyhow, I have enjoyed an excellent meal, and I
thank you. Good-bye, Christina!'

"When he was gone, Kornel turned to me.

"'It is evident you cannot have both a husband and a
father,' he said; 'but I am sorry for the rudeness,
kleintje. He is a greater man than I.'

"'I think you might have made it otherwise,' I answered,
for my heart ached for my father.

"He shrugged his shoulders. 'You must manage to forgive
me,' he said. 'I have a thousand dozen bricks to make, and
that will be punishment enough.'

"'But you will not start again tonight!' I cried, for it
was already the thin end of evening, and he was taking off
his clean clothes.

"'A thousand dozen is a big handful,' he answered, smiling.
'There's nothing like getting a grip on the work ahead.'

"So in a few minutes he was down in the water again, and
the mud flew as he worked at the heart-breaking task he had
taken upon him. After all, the ragout was expensive to
make. It came dearer than we expected.

"Late into the night he held on, though thrice I went out
to the bank of the stream to beg him to quit it and come to
bed. There was a great pale moon that night, which threw up
the colors of things strongly, and I have yet in my mind--
and my heart--that picture,--the stained water, and the bank
of gray mud over it, and between the two my Kornel bent
over the endless boxes, vehemently working with no
consideration for the limits of his strength. His arms
gleamed with the wet, and were ceaseless; he might have
been a dumb machine, without capacity for weariness. If he
had toiled before, now he toiled doubly; there was a
trouble in his mind to be sweated out and a debt of money
to be repaid. And also, like a peril always near at hand,
there was the thin margin that stood between us and

"When he came to bed at length, he lay down without the
greeting he was wont to give me--lapsed into his place
beside me with the limpness of a man spent to the utmost
ounce. He slept without turning on his side, his worn
hands, half-closed, lying loosely on the quilt. Yet within
an hour after daylight he rose with narrow, sleep-burdened
eyes, fumbled into his clothes, and staggered out to the
spruit again, to resume his merciless work with the very
fever of energy.  The Kafirs that worked leisurely on the
next plot stopped to look at him and to wonder at the speed
with which the rows of drying bricks lengthened and
multiplied. I saw them pointing as I stood at the door,
heavy-hearted and anxious, and envied the ease of their
manner of life, and the simplicity that could be content
with such work at such a wage. Yes, I have envied Kafirs,
Katje; there are times for all women when we envy the dead.

"But it was the day after that that the trouble came upon
us, great and violent and unawaited. Kornel had been up at
daybreak again, working as strongly as ever, though his
mouth was loose with the strain and his face very yellow
and white. The drying and the dry bricks were lying on the
ground in long rows, and some which were hard were already
stacked to make room for others. It was a tremendous output
for one man in the time it had taken; and when the Kafirs
turned out, gabbling and laughing as usual, they stopped to
look in surprise at our plot and the great quantity of
bricks. They gathered in a group, and talked among
themselves and pointed, and presently I was aware there was
something toward. One of them in particular,--a great brown
brute, with bulky shoulders and huge arms, seemed to be
concerned in the affair; he stared continually towards
Kornel, and talked loudly, his voice running up into the
squeak of a Kafir when he is excited, or angry, or afraid;
and presently he stepped over our border line and walked
down to the bricks. He was jabbering to himself all the
time as he stooped and picked up bricks and examined them
closely, and glanced down to the spruit where Kornel was
still working.

"I watched him, but I said nothing, hoping he would go away
before Kornel saw him; but he kept on, and presently my man
looked up.

"He saw the Kafir at once, and climbed up the bank pretty
quickly. There was something like a smile on his face, a
look as though he had found the relief he needed. He walked
swiftly over to the Kafir.

"'What are you doing here?' he demanded, keeping his eyes
unwinkingly on the staring eyes of the Kafir.

"The latter held a dried brick in his great paw, and now he
thrust it forward and broke into a torrent of speech. He
accused Kornel of having trespassed in the night and stolen
the bricks of the Kafirs. No man, he said, could have made
so many by himself, and then he began to call names. I
shuddered and put my hands before my face, and took them
down again in time to see Kornel's fist fly up and out, and
the great Kafir reel back from a vicious blow in the face.

"But he gave way for a moment only. Next instant he
recovered and his huge arm rose, and I screamed and ran
forward as the brick, dry and hard as a stone, struck
Kornel on the head and tumbled him, loosely like a dead
man, among the rows of bricks about him. I did not see the
Kafir run away; I saw only the thin white face of my man
turned up to the sun, and the blood that ran from his brown
hair. I lifted his head and called to him; but his head
lolled on his shoulders, and I let him lie while I ran out
crying to find help.

"It was some of the yellow folk who carried him in for me,
and brought the German doctor.

"Kornel was on the bed when he came, and he caused the cut
to be bandaged, and then spoke abstrusely of the effect of
the blow, so that I understood nothing at all. I learned,
however, how I was to tend him, how feed him, and how he
would lie unconscious for long intervals when there would
be nothing at all to do for him. But he told me I had
nothing to fear in the end. Indeed, he had a kind of
cheeriness which seems to belong to doctors, which did much
to comfort me and steady me for what was to come. Kornel
would not die, he said; and it was that assurance I chiefly

"The day went slowly for me, I can tell you. There was yet
food enough in the house to last us a little while, and I
made a mess for Kornel, and ate what I wanted myself. He
recovered his sense of things once or twice, but when night
came he dropped off again into a stupor from which he was
not to be roused, and it was then I left him. I felt as
though I were a traitor to him in his weakness; but my mind
had buzzed hopelessly all day about the problem of our mere
living, and I saw nothing else for it, so down I went to
the spruit to earn what I might for my sick husband.

"The moon gave me light, and I had watched Kornel often
enough to know how to go about the work. But the water, as
it flowed about my legs, bit me with a chill that made me
gasp, and the effort of the work, the constant bending and
lifting, tried every muscle in my body. I had seen the
cruelty of the work in its traces on Kornel, and knew how
little it gave and how much it took; but with this first
trial of it came the realization, never lost since, of how
gallant a man I had chosen to stand between me and the
world, and how much I owed him. I had not time to think a
great deal, for the torture of brick-making is partly in
the tact that while it wrenches the body, it joins the mind
to its infinite triviality. If you think, you do not pack
the mud as it must be packed, and the sun crumbles your
bricks to dust. It is no task for a real man at all; even
for a woman, it debases, it unmakes, it breaks.

"I worked hard at it, husbanding my strength, and within an
hour I was weak and foolish with the effort. Twice I had
left it to go in and see if all was well with Kornel, and
this rested me; but I was now resolved that I must rest no
more, if ever our debt was to be paid and bread earned for
the grim days to come. So I stayed in the bitter water and
worked on, till even the sense of pain was dulled and it
seemed that I was past the capacity of feeling.

"I was toiling thus (never mind my old troubles, Katje,
dear; this is years ago) when a sound came to my ears that
caused me to look up. It had been going on for some time,
persisting till it gained my notice, and suddenly I became
aware that there were men on our ground among the bricks. I
climbed half-way up the bank to look at them, where they
could not see me; and I saw several dark figures bent to
some business or moving here and there. I caught the sound
of hushed voices, too, though no words; and then the hot
wrath set my blood racing as I realized what was going on.
The Kafirs, who knew my man was wounded and helpless--the
very beast who had felled him--were stealing the bricks he
had labored so stoutly to make. My head swam with a
delirium of vivid anger at the meanness of the crime, and
without calculation, with no thought of fear, I scrambled
up and ran at them, shouting.

"I suppose they were surprised at my coming out of the
spruit, and some of them ran as soon as they heard me.
Others stood and waited ominously--you know what a Kafir is
with a woman,--and doubtless I should have met my last
earthly troubles then and there, but that from the road
beyond us there were other shouts, and men came running.

"I saw the forms of the rescuers as they raced up, and
marked one tall young man who ran past me with his arm
lifted before him. There was a flash and a bang, and I sat
down heavily as the white men shot at the Kafirs who were
now all running to cover. It took but an instant, and I
remember it as one remembers a thing seen at night by a
lightning flash, sharp and feverish.

"'Ye've no need to be feared,' someone said to me. 'They're
only my clerks, but they're a handy lot.'

"A short stout man was standing over me, and as I looked up
I saw it was old Pagan. Away in the darkness there were yet
cries and the sound of blows, where the white men pursued
the Kafirs.

"'Ye see,' continued the old man, 'I heard o' what had
happened, an' I counted on this. I'm a man o' experience,
Mrs. du Plessis, an' the very same thing happened to me
once. So I got a few o' my lads along, and we've been
waitin' for what ye might call the eventuality. I'm no'
exactly a negrophilist, ye ken. An' after seem' you
squatterin' about in the mud yonder, while yer husband was
sick a-bed, there was no holdin' the lads. No' that I
endeavored to restrain them, in any precise sense.'

"Away in the darkness a Kafir shrieked agonizedly.

"'There ye are,' said the old man. 'Yon's chivalry. If ye
had been a man, they'd never ha' put their hearts into it
like that.'

"He helped me to my feet and gave me an arm towards the

"'There's just one thing,' he said, 'and it's this. I'm no'
quite the slave-driver ye might take me for--workin' in the
night to drag a pittance out o' me! For instance, I've a
job in the store that yer man can have, if it'll suit him,
and if you're willing yerself. It's no' a big thing, but
it's white. And for the present while, I dare say I can
advance ye enough to be going on with. And me and the lads
'll say no word about seein' you at yer work.'

"What is the use of carrying this tale on? It was there we
ceased to have the troubles that go to making tales, and
entered upon the ordered life of good industry and clean
living. But, Katje, of all that came afterwards, money and
success, and even children, there was nothing to knit us as
did the sorry months by the spruit, when my Kornel proved
himself the man I knew him to be. Be happy, Katje; be happy
at any rate."

I think she has been happy.


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