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Title: Flower o' the Peach
Author: Gibbon, Perceval, 1879-1926
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Flower o' the Peach" ***

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                          FLOWER O’ THE PEACH


                            PERCEVAL GIBBON

    "Flower o’ the peach,
    Death for us all and his own life for each."
      _Fra Lippo Lippi_.

                                NEW YORK
                            THE CENTURY CO.

                          Copyright, 1911, by
                            THE CENTURY CO.

                       _Published, October, 1911_

                        JESSIE AND JOSEPH CONRAD

                         *FLOWER O’ THE PEACH*

                              *CHAPTER I*

It was late in the afternoon when the sheep moved off, and the west was
full of the sunset.  They flowed out from the cactus-ringed fold like a
broadening trickle of milk, with their mild idiot faces set southwards
towards the sparse pastures beyond the horizon, and the dust from their
feet hung over them in a haze of soft bronze.  Half-way along the path
between the house and the dam, Paul turned to watch their departure,
dwelling with parted lips on the picture they made as they drifted forth
to join themselves with earth and sky in a single mellowness of hue.

The little farmhouse with its outbuildings, and the one other house that
reared its steep roof within eyeshot of the farm, were behind him as he
stood; nothing interrupted the suave level of the miles stretching
forth, like a sluggish sea, to the sky-line.  In its sunset mood, its
barren brown, the universal tint into which its poor scrub faded and was
lost to the eye, was touched to warmth and softened; it was a wilderness
with a soul. The tall boy, who knew it in all its aspects for a
neighbor, stood gazing absorbed as the sheep came to a pause, with the
lean, smooth-coated dog at their heels, and waited for the shepherd who
was to drive them through the night.  He was nearing seventeen years of
age, and the whole of those years had been spent on the Karoo, in the
native land of dreams.  The glamour of it was on his face, where the
soft childish curves were not yet broken into angles, and in his gaze,
as his steady unconscious eyes pored on the distance, deep with
foreknowledge of the coming of the night.


Paul closed his lips and turned absently.  The old black shepherd was
eager to linger out a minute or two in talk before he went forth to his
night-long solitude. He stood, a bundle of shabby clothes, with his
strong old face seamed with gray lines and the corners of the eyes
bunched into puckers, waiting in the hope that the young baas might be
tempted into conversation.  He carried a little armory of smooth,
wire-bound sticks, his equipment against all the perils of the unknown,
and smiled wistfully, ingratiatingly, up into Paul’s face.

"Well?" said the boy.

It all depended on the beginning, for if he should merely nod and turn
away there would be nothing left but to follow the sheep out to the
silence.  The old man eyed him warily.

"Has the baas heard," he asked, "that there is a mad Kafir in the veld?"

"No," said Paul.  "A mad Kafir?"

The old man nodded half a dozen times.  "There is such a one," he
affirmed.  The thing was done; the boy would listen, and he let his
sticks fall at his feet that he might have two hands to talk with.  They
were speaking "Kitchen Kafir," the _lingua franca_ of the Cape, and
since that is a sterile and colorless tongue—the embalmed corpse of the
sonorous native speech—the tale would need pantomime to do it justice.

"There is such a one," repeated the shepherd.  "He goes about alone, in
the day and in the night, talking as he goes to companions who are not
there, and laughing sometimes as though they had answered him.  And that
is very strange."

"Yes," said the boy slowly.  His eyes traveled involuntarily to the veld
brooding under the sky.  "Who has seen him?" he asked.

"I have," said the shepherd, putting a big black forefinger to his own
breast.  "I have seen him."  He held out his great hand before him, with
the fingers splayed, and counted on them.  "Four nights ago I saw him
when the moon was rising."

"And he was mad?"

"Mad as a sheep."

Paul waited for the tale.  The old man had touched his interest with the
skill of a clever servant practising upon a master.  A hint of mystery,
of things living under the inscrutable mask of the veld, could not fail
to hold him.  He watched the shepherd with a kind of grave intensity as
he gathered himself to tell the matter.

"The moon was rising," he said, "and it lay low above the earth, making
long shadows of the stones and little bushes.  The sheep were here and
there, and in the middle of them was I, with a handful of fire and my
blanket.  It was very still, baas, for the wind was gone down, and I
heard nothing at all but the ash sliding in the fire and the slow noise
of the sheep eating.  There was not even a jackal to stand out of sight
and cry in the dark.

"Perhaps I was on the brink of sleep—perhaps I was only cloudy with
thoughts—I do not know.  But very suddenly I heard singing.—a voice
coming nearer that sang a curious music."

"Curious!" The boy was hanging on the words. "Curious!" he repeated.

"It was a song," explained the old Kafir, "but the words of it were
meaningless, just noises such as a baby makes—a babble.  I listened, for
I was not afraid. And soon I could hear footfalls among the stones and
the singer came between me and the young moon, very great and black
against the sky.  It was only when he stood by my fire that I saw he was
not a white man, but a Kafir.  He was young, a strong young man, wearing
clothes and boots."  He paused.  "Boots," he said again and thrust out
his own bare foot, scarred and worn with much traveling.  "Boots!"

In a town, it is conceivable that a Kafir may wear boots for purposes of
splendor; but not on the Karoo. Paul saw the old man’s point; here was
an attribute of the unnatural.

"Yes," he said; "go on."

"I was sitting, with my pipe.  He stood by the fire and looked down at
me, and I could see by the shine of his teeth that he was smiling.  But
when he spoke, it was like his song—just noises, no speech at all.  It
was then that I began to doubt him.  But I gave him greeting, and moved
that he might sit down and smoke with me.  He listened and shook his
head gently, and spoke again with his slow soft voice in his language of
the mad."

"What did it sound like?" demanded Paul.

"Baas, it sounded like English," replied the shepherd. "Yes, there are
many Kafirs who speak English; the dorps are noisy with them; but there
are none who do not speak Kafir.  And this man had come through the
night, singing in his strange tongue, going straight forward like one
that has a purpose.  I and my fire stayed him only for a minute; he was
not one of us; he stood, with his head on one side, smiling down, while
I began to feel fear and ill-ease.  I had it in my mind that this was a
ghost, but of a sudden he stooped to where my bread lay—I had newly
eaten my supper, and the things still lay about—and took a piece as
large as this fist.  He seemed to ask for it, but I could not understand
him.  Then he laughed and tossed something into my lap, and turned again
to the night and the long shadows and the things that belong there.  His
feet moved among the stones and he was gone; and later I heard him
singing again in the distance, till his voice dwindled and was lost."

"He threw you something," said the boy.  "What was it?"

The old shepherd nodded.  "I will show the baas," he said, and made
search among precarious pockets. "This is it; I have not spent it."

It was a shilling, looking no larger than sixpence on the flat of his
great horny palm.  Paul looked at it and turned it over, sensible that
something was lacking in it, since it differed in no respect from any
other shilling. The magic of madness and the stolid massiveness of Queen
Victoria’s effigy were not easy to reconcile.

"It looks like a good one," he commented.

"It is good," said the shepherd.  "But—" he paused ere he put it in its
true light—"the bread was not more than a pennyworth."

A hundred yards away the waiting sheep discharged a small volley of
bleats.  Paul raised his head.

"Yes," he said, "the veld is full of wonderful things.  But I would like
to hear that language of the mad."

He nodded in token of dismissal and walked slowly on towards the dam,
where the scarlet of the sky had changed the water to blood.  The old
shepherd picked up his sticks and went heavily after the sheep, a
grotesque and laborious figure in that wonder of evening light.  The
smooth dog slunk towards him, snuffling in welcome; the Kafir dog is not
a demonstrative animal, and his snuffle meant much.  The shepherd hit
him with the longest of the wire-bound sticks.

"Hup!" he grunted.  "Get on!"

At the top of the dam wall, the sloping bank of earth and stones that
held the water, Paul paused to watch them pass into the shifting
distance, ere he went to his concerns at the foot of it.  He could not
have put a name to the quality in them which stirred him and held him
gazing, for beauty is older than speech; but words were not needful to
flavor the far prospect of even land, with the sheep moving across it,
the squat, swart shape of the shepherd pacing at their heels, and the
strange, soft light making the whole unreal and mysterious.

Below the dam wall, the moisture oozing through had made a space of rank
grass and trailing weed-vines, and the ground underfoot was cool and
damp through the longest day of sun.  Here one might sit in the odor of
water and watch the wind lift tall spirals of dust and chase them over
the monotonous miles where the very bushes rustled like dead boughs at
their passage.  It had the quality of a heritage, a place where one may
be aloof and yet keep an eye on the world, and since there were no
others who needed elbow-room for their dreams, Paul had it to himself.
Here and there about the sloping bank, as on the walls of a gallery, his
handiwork cracked and crumbled in the sun—little masks and figures of
red clay which he fashioned to hold some shape that had caught his eye
and stayed in it.  He had an instinct for the momentary attitude, the
quick, unconscious pose which is life, the bunched compact shape of a
sheep grazing, the poise of a Kafir girl with a load on her head, a
figure revealed in wind-blown clothes and lost in a flash.  The sweet,
pliant clay was his confidant; it was not the fault of the clay that he
could tell it so much less than he knew.

He groped, kneeling, below a vine, and brought out the thing he had
hidden there the evening before when the light failed him.  A flattened
stone at the foot of the wall was his table; he set the clay down
tenderly and squatted beside it, with his back to the veld and all the
world.  It was to be the head of a negro, the negro as Paul knew him,
and already the clay had shape.  The shallow round of the skull was
achieved; he had been feeling, darkly, gropingly, for the brutal angle
of the brows that should brood like a cloud over the whole countenance.
It had evaded him and baffled him; he knew how it should be, but when
the time had come for him to leave it for the night, the brows still
cocked themselves in a suggestion of imbecility which was
heart-breaking.  He turned it round, frowning a little as his habit was
when he centered his faculties upon a matter; the chaos of the
featureless face below the smooth head fronted him.

"_Allemachtag!_" he cried aloud, as he set eyes on it.

There was no possibility that he could be mistaken; he remembered, in
their smallest exasperating detail, those brows as he had left them,
taunting him as bad work will.  Even now, he had but to close his eyes
and he could see them, absurd and clamorous for correction.  But—he
stared dumbly at the clay as he realized it—since then another creator
had played with it, or else the thing, left to itself, had frowned.  The
rampart of the brows had deepened above the empty face; Paul knew in it
the darkness for which he had sought, the age-old patience quenching the
spark of the soul.  It was as different from what he had left as living
flesh is from red clay, an inconsequent miracle.

"Somebody," said Paul, pondering over it—"somebody _knows_!"

The thing troubled him a little while, but he passed his hand over the
clay, to make yet more sure of it, and the cool invitation of its
softness was medicine for his wonder.  He smudged the clay to a ridge in
the place where the nose should be, and then, forgetting forthwith that
he was the victim of a practical joke, as it seemed, played upon him by
the powers of the air, he fell to work.

The colors in the west were burning low when he raised his head,
disturbed by a far sound that forced itself on his ear.  It was like a
pulse in the air, a dull rhythmical throb faintly resonant like the
beating of some great heart.  He came to consciousness of it slowly,
withdrawing himself unwillingly from the work under his hands, and
noting with surprise that the evening light was all but gone.  But the
face of the negro was a step nearer completion, and even the outline of
the gross mouth was there to aid the clay to return his look.  The far
sound insisted; he lifted his head with mild impatience to listen to it,
sighed, and tucked the unfinished head away in its hidingplace. Perhaps
another night would draw out the mouth to its destined shape of empty,
pitiful mirth.

The beat of the gourd-drum that hung at the farmhouse door still called,
and he hastened his steps along the homeward path.  It was the common
manner of summons on the farm.  For the European ear, the gourd sawed
across, with a skin stretched over it, is empty of music, but it has the
quality of sowing its flat voice over many miles, threading through the
voices of nature as a snake goes through grass.  Simple variants in the
rhythm of the strokes adapt it to messages, and now it was calling Paul.
"Paul, Paul, P-P-Paul!" it thrilled, and its summons was as plain as
words.  To silence it, he put fingers to his mouth and answered with a
shrill, rending whistle.  The gourd was silent.

His mother was in the doorway as he came through the kraals; she heard
his steps and called to him.

"Paul!  That you?  Where you bin all this time?"

"By the dam," he answered.

"I been callin’ you this half hour," she said.  "Mrs. Jakes is here—she
wants you."

The light from within the house showed her as a thin woman, with the
shape of youth yet upon her. But the years had taken tribute of her
freshness, and her small, rather vacant face was worn and faded. She
wore her hair coiled upon her head in a way to frame the thin oval of
the face, and there remained to her yet the slight prettiness of sharp
weak gestures and little conscious attitudes.  In her voice there
survived the clipped accent of London; Paul had come to know it as the
thing that distinguished his mother from other women.  Before her
marriage she had been an actress of the obscure sort to be found in the
lesser touring companies, and it was when the enterprise of which she
was a member had broken down at the town of Fereira that she met and
married the Boer, Christian du Preez, Paul’s father.  She preserved from
the old days a stock of photographs inscribed in dashing hands—"yours to
the dregs"—"your old pal"—"yours ever most sincerely"—and so on a few
cuttings from newspapers—"Miss Vivie Sinclair as Gertie Gottem was most
unique," said the _Dopfontein Courant_—a touch of raucousness in her
voice, and a ceaseless weary longing for the easy sham life, the foolish
cheerful companions, the stimulus of the daily publicity.

She drew the boy in, sliding her arm through his, to where Mrs. Jakes
sat waiting.

"Here he is at last," she said, looking up at him prettily.  She often
said she was glad her boy was tall enough to go into a picture, but a
mother must admire her son for one thing or another.

Mrs. Jakes acknowledged Paul’s arrival with a lady-like little smile.
"Better late than never," she pronounced.

She was the wife of the doctor at the Sanatorium, the old Dutch house
that showed its steep roofs within a couple of miles of the farm, where
came in twos and threes the consumptives from England, to mend their
broken lungs in the clean air of the Karoo.  They came not quite so
frequently nowadays, for a few that returned healed, or believing
themselves to be healed, had added to their travel-sketches of the
wonderful old house and its surroundings an account of Dr. Jakes and his
growing habit of withdrawing from his duties to devote himself to drink.
Their tales commonly omitted to describe justly the anxious, lonely
woman who labored at such times to supply his place, driving herself to
contrive and arrange to keep the life of the house moving in its course,
to maintain an assured countenance, and all the while to screen him from
public shame and ruin.  She was a wan little woman, clinging almost with
desperation to those trivial mannerisms and fashions of speech which in
certain worlds distinguished the lady from the mere person. She had lain
of nights beside a drunken husband, she had fought with him when he
would have gone out to make a show of his staggering gait and blurred
speech—horrible silent battles in a candle-lit room, ending in a gasping
fall and sickness—she had lied and cheated to hide the sorry truth, she
had bared her soul in gratitude to her kind God that her child had died.
These things as a matter of course, as women accept and belittle their
martyrdom; but never in her life had she left the spoon standing in her
tea-cup or mislaid her handkerchief.  The true standards of her life
were still inviolate.

She liked Paul because he was shy and gentle, but not well enough to
talk to him without mentioning the weather first.

"The evenings are drawing out nicely," she remarked, leaning to one side
in her chair to see through the door the darkness growing dense upon the
veld. "It reminds me a little of a June evening in England—if only the
rain holds off."

"Yes," said Paul.  There would be rain in the ordinary course in three
months or so, if all went well, but it was not worth while to go into
the matter with Mrs. Jakes.

"We are to have another guest," the lady went on. The doctor’s patients
were always "guests" when she spoke of them.  "A young lady this time.
And that is what I came about, really."

"Mrs. Jakes wants you to go in to the station with the Cape-cart and
fetch her out, Paul," explained his mother.  "You ’ll ’ave the first
look at her.  Mrs. Jakes takes her oath she is young."

Mrs. Jakes shuddered faintly, and looked at the floor.

"About twenty-six, I understand," she said.  "About that."  Her tone
reproached Mrs. du Preez for a lapse of good manners.  Mrs. Jakes did
not understand the sprightliness of mild misstatement.  She turned to

"If you could manage it," she suggested.  "If it wouldn’t be too much
trouble!  The doctor, I ’m sorry to say, has a touch of the sun; he is
subject, you know."  Her hands clasped nervously in her lap, and her
face seemed blind as she beat bravely on.  "The climate really does n’t
suit him at all; he can’t stand the heat. I ’ve begged and prayed him to
give it up and go back to private practice at home.  But he considers it
his duty to keep on."

"The morning train?" asked Paul.

"It is early," lamented Mrs. Jakes.  "But we should be so much obliged."

Paul nodded.  "All right," he said.  "I will bring her, Mrs. Jakes."

There are transactions consecrated to the humorous point of view,
landmarks in the history of laughter. Mrs. du Preez honestly believed
that a youth and a girl alone in the dawn were a spectacle essentially

"Catch him missing the chance," she said, with her slightly jarring
laugh.  "None of your larks, now, Paul!  Promise you ’ll behave!"

"Yes, mother," Paul promised gravely, and her face went blank before the
clear eyes he turned upon her. Mrs. Jakes in her chair rustled her stiff
dress in a wriggle of approval.

"Miss Harding is the name," she told Paul.  "You ’ll manage to find her?
I don’t know at all what she ’s like, but she comes of a very good
family, I believe. You can’t mistake her."

"Paul knows the look of the lungy ones by now," Mrs. du Preez assured
her.  "Don’t you, Paul?  It ’s lungs, of course, Mrs. Jakes?"

"Chest trouble," corrected Mrs. Jakes, nervously. She preferred the less
exact phrase, for there is indelicacy in localising diseases, and from
the lungs to the bowels it is but a step.  "Chest trouble, a slight
attack.  Fortunately, Miss Harding is taking it in time. The doctor lays
stress on the necessity for taking it in time."

"Well," said Mrs. du Preez, "whatever it is, she ’ll ’ave the fashions.
Lungs or liver, they ’ve got to dress, and it ’ll be something to see a
frock again. She ’s from London, you said?"

Mrs. Jakes rearranged her black skirts which had suffered by
implication, and suppressed an impulse to reply that she had not said

"The address is Kensington," she answered.  "Very good people live in

"There ’s shops there, at any rate," said Mrs. du Preez.  "Lord, don’t I
remember ’em!  I had lodgings at Hammersmith once myself, and an aunt in
the High Street.  There ’s not much you can tell me about that part."

She nodded a challenge to Mrs. Jakes, who shrank from it.

"Then I can tell the doctor that you ’ll meet Miss Harding?" Mrs. Jakes
asked Paul.  "He will be so obliged.  You see, he ’d go himself,
only—you quite see?  Then I ’ll expect Miss Harding for breakfast."

She rose and shook herself, the gentle expert shake that settles a
woman’s clothes into their place, and tendered him a vague, black-gloved
hand.  Gloves were among her defenses against the crudities of the
Karoo. She was prim in the lamp-light, and extraordinarily detached from
the little uncomfortable room, with its pale old photographs of
forgotten actors staring down from wall and mantel.

"She may as well see you first," she said, and smiled at him as though
there were an understanding between them.

                              *CHAPTER II*

At three o’clock in the morning it was still dark, though in the east,
low down and gradual, there paled an apprehension of the dawn.  From the
driving-seat of the high two-wheeled cart, Paul looked forward over the
heads of his horses to where the station lights were blurred like a
luminous bead on the thread of railway that sliced without a curve from
sky to sky.  It was the humblest of halting places, with no town at its
back to feed the big trains; it owed its existence frankly to a gaunt
water-tank for the refreshment of engines.  But for Paul it had the
significance of a threshold.  He could lose himself in the crowding
impressions of a train’s arrival, as it broadened and grew out of the
distance and bore down between the narrow platforms, immense and
portentous, and thudded to a standstill as though impatient of the
trivial delay.  The smell of it, the dull shine of glass and varnish,
were linked in his mind with the names of strange, distant cities; it
was freighted with the romance of far travel.  There were glimpses of
cushioned interiors, and tired faces that looked from the windows,
giving a perfunctory glance to the Karoo which Paul knew as the world.
And once he had watched four men, with a little folding table cramped
between their knees, playing cards, low-voiced, alert, each dark
predatory face marked with an impassivity that was like the sheath that
hides a blade.  He stared at them fascinated; not once did they raise
their eyes to glance through the window, nor for an instant did one of
them slacken his profound attention.  Ahead, at the platform’s end, the
great engine whined like a child that gropes for the breast, till the
feed-hose contented it and its gurgle-gurgle succeeded to the thin wail
of the steam.  The Kafir orange woman made melodious offers of
_naartjes_ and a hammer clinked critically along the wheels.  It was the
live season of the day, the poignant moment, its amends for the slow
empty hours.  But the men about the table had graver concerns.  The
feed-hose splashed back out of the way, the guard shouted, the brakes
whanged loose.  The long train jolted and slid, and still they had not
looked up.  Paul could not leave them; he even ran along the platform
till their window distanced him, and then stopped, panting, to watch the
tail of the train sink to the horizon.  He had seen the Jew in earnest
and it left him daunted.

"They wouldn’t even look," he was saying, as he went back to his cart.
"They wouldn’t even look."  It served as a revelation to one who looked
so much and so fervently.

The other train, which came and went before the daylight, had its equal
quality of a swift, brief visitor, and the further mystery of windows
lighted dimly through drawn curtains, whereon surprising shadow heads
would dawn and vanish in abrupt motion.  It was strange to stand beside
one and hear from within the crying of an infant and the soothing of a
mother, both invisible, arriving from the void on one hand and bound for
the void on the other, with the Karoo not even an incident in their
passage.  Paul wondered whether one day that infant might not pass
through again, with trousers and a mustache and a cigar, and another
trouble to perturb him and cards and partners to do the soothing.

He arrived well in advance of the time of the train, and tied his docile
horses to the hitching rail beside the road.  Within the station there
was the usual expectant group under the dim lamps, the two or three men
who attended to the tank, a Cape Mounted Policeman, spurred and trim,
and a few others, besides the half-dozen or so mute and timid Kafirs who
lounged at the end of the platform.  The white men talked together and
shivered at the cold of the night; only the Cape Policeman, secure in
his uniform great-coat, stood with legs astraddle and his whip held
behind his back, a model of correct military demeanor in the small
hours.  Paul noted the aggressive beauty of his attitude and his fine
young virility, and stared somewhat till the armed man noticed it.

"Well, young feller," he drawled.  "You haven’t fallen in love with me,
have you?"

"No," answered Paul, astonished.

Two or three of the bystanders laughed, and made him uncomfortable.  He
did not fully understand why he had been spoken to, and stared at his
questioner a little helplessly.  The policeman smacked his boot with his

"Nor yet me with you," he said.  "So if you want to stare, go and stare
at something else.  See?"

Paul backed away, angry and shy, and moved down the platform to be out
of the sound of their voices. The things that people laughed at were
seldom clear to him; it seemed that he had been left out of some
understanding to take certain things as funny and laugh at them.  His
mother’s mirth, breaking startlingly out of unexpected incidents, out of
words spoken without afterthought, out of little accidents and
breakages, always puzzled him.  It was as little to be understood as her
tears, when she would sit silent through a long afternoon of stagnant
heat, and burst suddenly into weeping when some one spoke to her.

He came to a standstill at the point where the station roof ended and
left the platform bare to the calm skies.  The metals gleamed before his
feet, ranging out to the veld whence the train would come.  He listened
for the sound of it, the low drum-note so like the call of the
gourd-drum at the farmhouse door, which would herald it even before its
funnel dragged its glare into view.  There was nothing to be heard, and
he turned to the Kafirs behind him, and spoke to one who squatted
against the wall apart from the rest.

"Is the train late?" he asked, in the "Kitchen Kafir" of his everyday
commerce with natives.

The black man raised his head at the question, but did not answer.  Paul
repeated it a little louder.

The native held his head as if he listened closely or were deaf.  Then
he smiled, his white teeth gleaming in the black circle of his shadowed

"I ’m sorry," he answered, distinctly; "I can’t understand what you say.
You ’ll have to speak English."

It was the voice of a negro, always vaguely musical, and running to soft
full tones, but there was a note in it which made it remarkable and
unfamiliar, some turn which suggested (to Paul, at any rate) that this
was a man with properties even stranger than his speaking English.  He
thrilled with a sense of adventure, for this, of course, was the mad
creature of the shepherd’s tale, who sang to himself of nights when the
moon rose on the veld.  If a dog had answered him in set phrases, it
would not have been more amazing than to hear that precise, aptly
modulated voice reply in easy English from the mouth of a Kafir.

"I—I ’ve heard of you," he said, stammering.

"Have you?"  He remembered how the old shepherd had spoken of the man’s
smile.  He was smiling now, looking up at Paul.

"You ’ve heard of me—I wonder what you ’ve heard.  And I ’ve seen you,

"Where did you see me?  Who are you?" asked Paul quickly.  The man was
mad, according to the shepherd, but Paul was not very clear as to what
it meant to be mad, beyond that it enabled one to see things unseen by
the sane.

The Kafir turned over, and rose stiffly to his feet, like a man spent
with fatigue.

"They ’ll wonder if they see me sitting down while I talk to you," he
said, with a motion to the group about the Cape Mounted Policeman.  His
gesture made a confidant of Paul and enlisted him, as it were, in a
conspiracy to keep up appearances.  It was possible to see him when he
stood on his feet, a young man, as tall as the boy, with a skin of warm
Kafir black. But the face, the foolish, tragic mask of the negro, shaped
for gross, easy emotions, blunted on the grindstone of the races of
mankind, was almost unexpected. Paul stared dumbly, trying to link it on
some plane of reason with the quiet, schooled voice.

"What was it you were asking me?" the Kafir inquired.

But Paul had forgotten.  "Don’t you speak anything but English?" he
demanded now.

The Kafir smiled again.  "A little French," he replied.  "Nothing to
speak of."  He saw that the lad was bewildered, and turned grave at
once.  "Don’t be frightened," he said quickly.  "There ’s nothing to be
frightened of."

Paul shook his head.  "I ’m not frightened," he answered slowly.  "It ’s
not that.  But—you said you had seen me before?"

"Yes," the Kafir nodded.  "One evening about a fortnight ago; you didn’t
notice me.  I was walking on the veld, and I came by a dam, with
somebody sitting under the wall and trying to model in clay."

"Oh!"  Paul was suddenly illuminated.

"Yes.  I ’d have spoken to you then, only you seemed so busy," said the
Kafir.  "Besides, I didn’t know how you ’d take it.  But I went there
later on and had a look at the things you ’d made.  That ’s how I saw

"Then," said Paul, "it was _you_—"

"Hush!" The Kafir touched him warningly on the arm, for the Cape
Policeman had turned at his raised voice to look towards them.  "Not so
loud.  You mean the head?  Yes, I went on with it a bit.  I hope you
didn’t mind."

"No," replied Paul.  "I did n’t mind.  No!"

His mind beat helplessly among these incongruities; only one thing was
clear; here was a man who could shape things in clay.  Upon the brink of
that world of which the station was a door, he had encountered a kindred
spirit.  The thought made him tremble; it was so vital a matter that he
could not stay to consider that the spirit was caged in a black skin.
The single fact engrossed him to the exclusion of all the other factors
in the situation, just as some sight about the farm would strike him
while at work, and hold him, absorbed and forgetful of all else, till
either its interest was exhausted or he was recalled to his task by a
shout across the kraals.

"I did n’t mind at all," he replied.  "How did you do it?  I tried, but
it wouldn’t come."

"You were n’t quite sure what you were trying for," said the Kafir.
"Was n’t that it?"

"Was it?" wondered Paul.

"I think so."  The Kafir’s smile shone out again. "Once you ’re sure
what you mean to do, it ’s easy. If I had a piece of clay, I ’d show
you.  There ’s a way of thumbing it up, just a trick, you know—"

"I ’m there every evening," said Paul eagerly.  "But tell me: _do_ other
people make things out of clay, too—over there?"

His arm pointed along the railway; the gesture comprehended sweepingly
the cities and habitations of men. The idea that there was a science of
fingering clay, that it was practised and studied, excited him wildly.

"Gently!" warned the Kafir.  He looked at the boy curiously.  "Yes," he
said.  "Lots of people do it, and lots more go to look at the things
they make and talk about them.  People pay money to learn to do it, and
there are great schools where they are taught to model—to make things,
you know, in clay, and stone, and bronze.  Did you think it was all done
behind dam walls?"

Paul breathed deep.  "I did n’t know," he murmured.

"Do you know Capetown?" asked the other.  "No? It doesn’t matter.  You
’ve heard of Jan van Riebeck, though?"

As it happened, Paul had heard of the Surgeon of the Fleet who first
carried dominion to the shadow of Table Mountain.

"Well," said the Kafir, "you can imagine Jan van Riebeek, shaped in
bronze, standing on a high pedestal at the foot of a great street, with
the water of the bay behind him, where his ships used to float, and his
strong Dutch face lifted to look up to Table Mountain, as it was when he
landed?  Don’t think of the bronze shape; think of the man.  That’s what
clay is for—to make things like that!"

"Yes, yes.  That’s what it’s for," cried Paul. "But—I never saw anything
like that."

"Plenty of time," said the other.  "And that’s only one of the things to
see.  In London—"

"You ’ve been in London?" asked Paul quickly.

"Yes," said the Kafir, nodding.  "Why?"

Paul was silent for a space of seconds.  When he answered it was in a
low voice.

"I ’ve seen nothing," he said.  "I can’t find out those ways to work the
clay.  But—but if somebody would just show me, just teach me those—those
tricks you spoke about—"

"All right."  The Kafir patted his arm.  "Under the dam wall, eh?  In
the evenings?  I ’ll come, and then—"

"What?" said Paul eagerly, for he had broken off abruptly.

"The train," said the Kafir, pointing, and sighed.

Paul had been too intent in talk to hear it, but he could see now,
floating against the distance, the bead of light which grew while he
watched.  The group further down the platform dissolved, and the
tank-men went past at a run to their work.  A voice at his elbow made
Paul turn quickly.  It was the Cape Mounted Policeman.

"You ’re not having any trouble with this nigger, hey?" he demanded.

"No," said Paul, flushing.  The Kafir bit off a smile and stood
submissive, with an eye on the boy’s troubled face.

"You don’t want to let them get fresh with you," said the policeman.  "I
’ve been keepin’ my eye on him and he talks too much.  Have you finished
with him now?"

His silver-headed whip came out from behind his back ready to dismiss
the negro in the accepted manner.  Paul trembled and took a step which
brought him near enough to seize the whip if it should flick back for
the cut.

"Let him alone," he said wrathfully.  "Mind your own business."

"Eh?" the policeman was astonished.

"You let him alone," repeated Paul, bracing himself nervously for
combat, and ready to cry because he could not keep from trembling.  He
had never come to blows in his life, but he meant to now.  The policeman
stared at him, and laughed harshly.

"He ’s a friend of yours, I suppose," he suggested, striving for a
monstrous affront.

"Yes," retorted Paul hotly, "he is."

For a moment it looked as though the policeman, outraged in the deepest
recesses of his nature, would burst a blood vessel or cry for help.  A
man whose prayer that he may be damned is granted on the nail could
scarcely have looked less shocked.  He recovered himself with a gulp.

"Oh, he is, is he?  A friend of yours?  A nigger!"  Then, with a
swelling of rage he dodged Paul’s grasping hand and swung the whip.  "I
’ll teach him to—"

He came to a stop, open-mouthed.  The Kafir was gone.  He had slipped
away unheard while they quarreled, and the effect of it was like a
conjuring trick. Even Paul gaped at the place where he had been and now
was not.

"Blimy!" said the policeman, reduced to an expression of his civilian
days, and vented a short bark of laughter.  "And _so_, young feller, he
’s a friend o’ yours, is he?  Now, lemme give you just a word of

His young, sun-roughened face was almost paternal for a moment, and Paul
shook with a yearning to murder him, to do anything that would wipe the
self-satisfaction from it.  He sought furiously for a form of anathema
that would shatter the man.

"Go to hell," he cried.

"Oh, well," said the policeman, tolerantly, and then the train’s
magnificent uproar of arrival gave Paul an opportunity to be rid of him.

In the complication of events Paul had all but forgotten his duty of
discovering the young lady with "chest trouble," and now he wondered
rather dolefully how to set about it.  He stood back to watch the
carriage windows flow past.  Would it be at all possible just to stand
where he was and shout "Miss Harding" till she answered?  To do that
needed some one more like the policeman and less like Paul; the mere
thought of it was embarrassing.  The alternative was, to wait until such
passengers as alighted—they would not be many—had taken themselves away,
and then to go up to the one that remained and say, "Is your name Miss
Harding, if you please?"  But supposing she answered, "Mind your own

The train settled and stood, and Paul became aware that from the
carriage nearest him a woman was looking forth, with her face in the
full light of a lamp. The inveterate picture-seeker in him suddenly
found her engrossing, as she leaned a little forward, lifting her face
to the soft meager light, and framed in the varnished wood of the
window.  It was a pale face, with that delicacy and luster of pallor
which make rose tints seem over-robust.  It was grave and composed;
there was something there which the boy, in his innocence, found at once
inscrutable and pitiful, like the bravery of a little child.
Distinctly, this was a day of surprises; it came to him that he had not
known that the world had women like this.  His eyes, always the
stronghold of dreams, devoured her, unconscious that she was returning
his gaze.  Perhaps to her, he also was a source of surprise, with his
face rapt and vague, his slender boyishness, his general quality of
standing always a little aloof from his surroundings. On the Karoo,
people said of him that he was "old-fashioned"; one word is as good as
another when folk understand each other.  The point was that it was
necessary to find some term to set Paul apart from themselves.

He saw the girl was making preparations to leave the carriage, and was
suddenly inspired.  He found the handle of the door and jerked it open,
and there she was above him, and looking down.  She wore some kind of
scent, very faint and elusive; he was conscious of her as a near and
gentle and fragrant personality.

"I hope," he said, letting the words come, "I hope you are Miss

The girl smiled.  It had been prettily spoken, with the accent of

"Yes," she answered.  "You have come to meet me?"

The thing about her to which Paul could put no name was that she was
finished, a complete and perfect product of a special life, which,
whatever its defects and shortcomings, is yet able to put a polish of
considerable wearing qualities on its practitioners. She knew her
effect; her education had revealed it to her early; she was aware of the
pale, intent figure she cut, and her appearance of enlightened
virginity.  The reverence in the boy’s eyes touched her and warmed her
at once; it was a charming welcome at the end of that night’s journey.
Paul’s guilelessness had served the specious ends of tact, for to
corroborate a woman’s opinion of herself is the sublime compliment.

He received the lesser luggage which she handed down to him and then she
came down herself, and one train, at least, had shed its marvel upon the
Karoo. She was not less wonderful and foreign on the platform than she
had been at the window; the Cape Policeman, coming past again, lost his
military-man air of a connoisseur in women and stiffened to a strutting
perfection of demeanor at sight of her.  South Africa is still so short
of women that it makes the most of those it can get, both as goddesses
and as beasts of burden.  Paul was free of the evil civilized habit of
thinking while he could feel, and the girl had to despatch the single
lanky porter for her baggage herself and attend to having it stacked at
the back of the cart.  Then she was beside him, with the poignant air
from the open south fresh on their faces, and the empty veld before
them.  The slow dawn was suddenly magical and the stillness was the hush
that attends miracles.

He had to give his mind to steering the big cart through the gateway to
the road, and it was here that he saw, against the white fence, a
waiting figure that looked up and was silent.  He bent forward and waved
his hand, but the Kafir did not respond.  The girl at his side broke
silence in her low rich voice.

"That was a native, was n’t it?" she asked.

Paul looked at her.  "It was a—a friend of mine," he answered seriously.
"A Kafir, you know."

The light in the eastern sky had grown and its lower edge, against the
rim of the earth, was tinged with a rose-and-bronze presentiment of the
sunrise.  The Karoo lay under a twilight, with the night stripping from
its face like a veil drawn westwards and away. In that half-light, its
spacious level, its stillness, its quality of a desert, were enhanced;
its few and little inequalities were smoothed out and merged in one
empty flatness, and the sky stood over in a single arch, sprinkled with
stars that were already burning pale.  In all the vast expanse before
them, there rose no roof, no tree, no token of human habitation; the eye
that wandered forward, returned, like the dove to the Ark, for lack of a
resting-place.  It was a world at gaze, brooding grimly.  The little
morning wind, which would die when the sun rose clear of the horizon and
leave the veld to its day-long torpor of heat, leaned upon their faces;
the girl raised her brows against it and breathed deeply of its

"Oh," she said; "this is what I came for."

"The air?"  Paul glanced sideways at her clear profile set against the
shadowy morning.  "They say it is good for—for—"

He hesitated; Mrs. Jakes had managed to make the word difficult.  But
Miss Harding took it in her stride.

"For the lungs?" she suggested without compunction. "Yes, I ’m sure it
is.  And you live here all the time, do you?"

"I was born here," Paul answered.

"How you must love it," she said, and met his eyes with a look in which
there was a certain curiosity.  "All this, I mean," she explained.
Then: "But do you?"

"Yes," he answered.  "It ’s—it’s fine to look at—if you like looking at

It was not all that he desired to say, for he was newly eager to make
himself clear to this wonderful person at his side, and he felt that he
was not doing himself justice.  But Miss Harding had seen inarticulate
souls before, aching to be confidential and to make revelations and
unable to run their trouble into a mould of speech.  They were not
uncommon in the neighborhood of her address in Kensington.  She smiled
her recognition of the phenomenon.  "There are not many kinds of men,
and only two kinds of boy," she said to herself.  She was twenty-six,
and she knew.

"Oh, I," she answered.  "Yes, I like looking at things."

Paul nodded, watching his horses.  "I was sure you did when I saw you at
the window," he said.  He turned to her, and she smiled at him,
interested in the strong simplicity with which he spoke.

"I was sure," he repeated, "and yet nobody like you ever came here
before, ever.  They always went on in the train.  I used to wonder if
one of them would never get out, but they never did.  They just sat
still by the window, with their faces tired and sleepy, and went on

He loosed the lash of his whip, and it made lightning circles over the
off horse, and the tail of the lash slapped that animal reproachfully on
the neck.  Miss Harding contented herself with a little incoherent noise
of general sympathy.  "If I say anything," she thought, "I ’ll be
knocked off my seat with a compliment."

But Paul had only wanted to tell her; it seemed necessary that she
should know something of her value. That done, he was content to drive
on in dreaming silence, while the pair of them watched the veld grow
momentarily lighter, its bare earth, the very hue and texture of
barrenness, spreading and widening before them like water spilt on a
floor.  The stronger light that showed it to them revealed only a larger
vacancy, a void extending where the darkness had stood like a presence.
Beside the cart, and no more than a dozen yards away, a heavy bird
suddenly uttered a cry and spouted up into the air, with laborious
wings, flapping noisily.  It rose perhaps thirty feet, with an
appearance of great effort, whistled and sank again forthwith, girl
laughed; it was such a futile performance.

"What was that?" she asked.

"A lark," was the answer, and Paul turned his eyes to the east.  "Look!"
he bade her, pointing.

Over the horizon which was like a black bar, set rigid against the
heavens, stood the upper edge of the sun, naked and red,—a fiery eye,
cocked arrogantly over the sky-line.  About it, the very air seemed
flooded with color, and the veld reflected it in dull gleams of red.

"And there!" said Paul again, pointing ahead.

They were at the top of a gentle slope, so gradual that it had made no
break in the flat prospect of ten minutes ago, and before them, and
still so far off that it had the appearance of a delicate and elaborate
toy, stood the Sanatorium.  In that diamond clearness of air, every
detail of it was apparent.  Its beautiful serene front, crowned by old
Dutch gables mounting in steps to the height of the rooftree, faced
them, frank and fair, over the shadowy reticence of the stone-pillared
stoep.  Beyond and behind it, the roof of the farm, Paul’s home, stood
in a dim perspective.

"Is that it?" asked Miss Harding.  "Where I am going, I mean."

"Yes," said Paul.

"It’s very beautiful," she said.

He smiled contentedly.  "I was sure you would say that," he replied.  "I
am so glad you have come here."

Miss Harding regarded him doubtfully, but decided that no rebuke was

"Yes," she said, soberly.  "It ought to give my lungs a chance."

Paul flicked the long lash towards the off horse again, and spoke no
more till he brought the cart to a stand-still at the foot of the
fan-shaped flight of steps that led up to the door on the stoep.  The
big house was voiceless and its windows blank; he was preparing to call
out when the front door opened, uncovering a vista of a stone corridor
within, simple and splendid, and there emerged Mrs. Jakes to the glory
of the new day. She crossed the stoep, challenging the dignity of smooth
cold stone with her little black figure of ceremony and her amiable,
empty face of formal welcome.

"Miss Harding?" she enquired.  "I scarcely expected you so early.  Isn’t
it charming weather?"

Paul helped the girl to alight, and watched the two women as they stood,
before entering the house, and exchanged perfunctory civilities.

"And now, to see your room," said Mrs. Jakes at last, and let her pass.
"Isn’t it fortunate that the rain has held off so nicely?"

Her small voice tinkled indefatigably, and she worked through all the
motions of hospitable politeness.  But behind her smile her eyes were
haggard and stale, and Paul thought that she looked at the girl, as they
went in, with the very hate of envy.

                             *CHAPTER III*

In the years of his innocence, when the art and practice of medicine
were rich with enticements like a bride, Dr. Jakes had taken his dreams
in hand to mold them to the shape of his desire.  A vision had beckoned
to him across the roofs and telegraph wires of South London, where he
scuffled for a livelihood as the assistant of a general practitioner;
and when he fixed his eyes upon it, it spread and took shape as a great
quiet house, noble and gray, harboring within its sober walls the
atmosphere of distinguished repose which goes with a practice of the
very highest class. Nothing of all its sumptuous appointment was quite
so clear to him as that flavor of footfalls muffled and voices subdued;
to summon it was to establish a refuge in which he might have brief ease
between a tooth-drawing and a confinement.  Kindly people who excused a
certain want of alacrity in the little doctor by the reflection that he
was called out every night might have saved their charity; his droop,
his vacancy were only a screen for the splendid hush and shadow of that
great visionary mansion.  It was peopled, too, with many dim folk,
resident patients in attitudes of relaxation; and among them, delicate
and urbane, went Dr. Jakes, the sweet and polished vehicle of healing
for the pulmonary complaints of the well-bred.  Nor was there lacking a
lady, rather ghostlike and faint in conformity with the dreamer’s ideal
of the highest expression of a lady-like quality, but touched, none the
less, with warm femininity, an angel and a houri in one, and answering,
in the voice of refinement, to the title of Mrs. Jakes.

She had no Christian name then; she was a haunting mellowness, a
presence delicate and uplifting.  In the murk of the early morning,
after a night spent behind drawn blinds in a narrow, tragic room, where
another human being entered the world between his hands, he would go
home along empty furtive streets, conscious of the comfort of her and
glad as with wine, and in such hours he would make it clear to himself
that she, at any rate, should never bear a child.

"No," he would say, half aloud and very seriously. "No; it’s not in the
part.  No!"

That gracious and mild presence—he did not entirely lose it even when
its place was assailed by the advent of the timid and amiable lady whom
he married.  She was a daughter of the landed interest; her father owned
"weekly property" about Clapham Junction, two streets of forlorn little
houses, which rang day and night with the passing of trains, and
furnished to the population a constant supply of unwelcome babies.  Dr.
Jakes knew the value of property of that kind, and perhaps his knowledge
did something to quicken his interest in a sallow, meager girl whom he
encountered in the house of his employer.  She brought him a thousand
pounds in money, means ready to his hand to anchor the old vision to
earth and run it on commercial lines; it puzzled him a little that the
vision no longer responded to his summons so readily as of old.  It had
degenerated from an inspiration to a mere scheme, best expressed in the
language of the prospectus; the fine zest of it was gone beyond
recovery.  There was no recapturing its gentle languors, the brooding
silence of it; still less was it possible when, by the mere momentum of
his plans, he had moved to South Africa and found him a house, to
reproduce that reposefulness as the main character of the establishment.
Such effects as he gained, during the brief strenuousness that he
manifested on taking possession, were the merest caricatures of the
splendid original, mocking his impotence.  The thousand pounds, too,
which at first had some of the fine, vague, inexhaustible quality of a
dream, proved inelastic, and by the time the baby came, Dr. Jakes was
already buying whisky by the case.  The baby was a brief incident, a
caller rather than a visitor, so ephemeral that it was scarcely a
nuisance before it departed again in search of a peace less dependent on
the arrangement of furniture than that which Dr. Jakes had sought to
bring into being.

All life is a compromise; between the dream and the exigencies of Dr.
Jakes’ position the Sanatorium had emerged.  The fine, simple, old house
had an air of its own, which no base use could entirely destroy.  Its
flat front, pedestaled upon a wide, flagged stoep, faced to the
southeast and made a stronghold of shade in the noonday vehemence of the
sun.  Its rooms were great and low, with wide solemn windows regarding
the monotony of the level veld; they stood between straight corridors
where one’s footsteps rang as one walked. The art of its builders had so
fashioned it that it stood on the naked ground like a thing native to
it, not interrupting nor affronting that sweep of vacant miles, but
enhancing it.  The stolid Dutch builders knew how to make their profit
out of wide horizons.  They had conceived a frame for lives which should
ripen in face of the Karoo, gleaming on its barrenness a measure of its
tranquillity.  They built a home; and of it Dr. Jakes had made a Home.

There remained yet, of all the decorous and ceremonial processes which
were to maintain and give color to the life of the Sanatorium as he had
conceived it of old, only one function.  The two men patients who were
left to him did as they pleased in most respects, but if they took tea
in the afternoon they took it from Mrs. Jakes in the drawing-room after
an established usage, with formal handing to and fro of plates and cups
in the manner of civilized society.  Jakes was seldom too unwell to be
present at this function, and it was here, with his household at his
back, that Margaret saw him first.

Weariness had come upon her with the rush of an overtaking pursuer as
Mrs. Jakes brought her into the house and away from the spreading dawn,
and that lady had cut short the forms of politeness to bid her go to
bed.  She woke to the warmth of afternoon and the glow of its sun
slanting upon the floor of her room and was aware at once of a genial
presence.  At the window a tall, stout Kafir woman, her head bound in a
red and yellow handkerchief in a fashion which reminded Margaret of
pictures of pirates, was tweaking the tails of the spring-blinds and
taking delight in watching them run up with a whir and click.  She
turned at the sound of Margaret’s movement, and flashed a brilliant
smile upon her.

"Missis sleeping too long," she observed.  "Tea now."

The mere good humor of her was infectious and Margaret smiled in return.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Me?  Fat Mary," was the answer.  She laughed easily, willing to make or
be a joke according to Margaret’s humor.  "Fat Mary, because—" she
sought for a word in the unfamiliar English and then gave it up.
"Because," she repeated, and traced her ample circumference with a black
finger.  "You see?"

"I see," said Margaret, and prepared to get up.

Her long sleep had restored her and there was comfort, too, in waking to
the willing humanity of Fat Mary’s smiles, instead of to the starched
cuffs and starched countenance of some formal trained and mechanical
nurse.  Fat Mary was not a deft maid; she was too easily amused at
niceties of the toilet, and Margaret could not help feeling that she
regarded the process of dressing as a performance which she could
discuss later with her friends; but at least she was interested.  She
revolved helpfully about the girl, to the noise of bumped furniture and
of large bare feet scraping on the mats, like a bulky planet about a wan
and diminutive sun, and made mistakes and laughed and was buoyant and
alight with smiles—all with a suggestion of gentle and reverent
playfulness such as a more than usually grown person might use with a

"Too much clothes," was her final comment, when Margaret at last was
ready and stood, slim and sober, under her inspection.  "Like bundles,"
she added, thoughtfully.  "But Missis is skinny."

"Where do we go now?" asked Margaret.

"Tea," replied Fat Mary, and led the way downstairs by a wide and noble
staircase to the gray shadows of the stone hall.  There was a simple
splendor about the house which roused the connoisseur in Margaret, a
grandeur which was all of proportion and mass, and the few articles of
furniture which stood about were dim and shabby in contrast to it.  She
had only time to note so much when Fat Mary opened a door for her, and
she was facing across a wide room to broad windows flooded with sunlight
and aware of Mrs. Jakes rising from behind a little tea-table and coming
forward to meet her.  Two men, a young one and an old one, rose from
their chairs near the window as she entered, and a third was standing on
the hearth-rug, with his back to the empty hearth.

"Quite rested now?" Mrs. Jakes was asking. "You ’ve had a nice long
sleep.  Let me introduce the doctor.  Eustace—this is Miss Harding."

Dr. Jakes advanced from the hearth-rug; Margaret thought he started
forward rather abruptly as his name was spoken.  He gave her a loose,
hot hand.

"Charmed," he said in a voice that was not quite free from hoarseness.
"We were just out of ladies, Miss Harding.  This is a great pleasure; a
great pleasure."

"Thank you," murmured Margaret vaguely.

He was a short plump man, with a big head and round spectacles that gave
him the aspect of a large, deliberate bird.  He was dressed for the
afternoon in formal black, the uniform of his calling, though the window
framed shimmering vistas of heat.  He peered up at her with a sort of
appeal on his plump, amiable face, as though he were conscious of that
quality in him which made the girl shrink involuntarily while he held
her hand, which no decent austerity of broadcloth could veil from her
scrutiny.  There was something about him at once sleepy and tormented,
the state in which a man lies all day full-dressed upon a bed and goes
habitually unbuttoned.  It was the salient character in him, and he
seemed to search her face in a faint hope that she would not recognize
it.  He dropped her hand with a momentary knitting of his brows like the
ghost of despair, and talked on.

"It ’s the air we depend on," he told her.  "Wonderful air here, Miss
Harding—the breath of healing, you know.  It doesn’t suit me, but then I
’m not here for my health."

He laughed uncertainly, and ceased abruptly when he saw that no one
laughed with him.  He was like a child in disgrace trying to win and
conciliate a circle of remorseless elders.

Mrs. Jakes interrupted with a further introduction. While the doctor
spoke, she had been standing by like an umpire.  "Mr. Ford," she said
now, and the younger of the two men by the window bowed to her without
speaking across the tea-table.  His back was to the window and he stood
silhouetted against the golden haze which filled it, and Margaret saw
only that he was tall and slender and moved with easy deliberation.

"Mr. Samson," said Mrs. Jakes next.

This was the elder man.  He came forward to her, showing a thin,
sophisticated old face with cloudy white eyebrows, and shook hands in a
pronounced manner.

"Ah, you come like a gleam of sunshine," he announced, in a thin voice
that was like a piece of bravado.  "A gleam of sunshine, by gad!  We ’re
not much to look at, Miss Harding; a set of crocks, you know—bellows to
mend, and all that sort of thing, but, by gad, we ’re English, and we
’re glad to see a countrywoman."

He cocked his white head at her gallantly and straddled his legs in
their neat gray trousers with a stiff swagger.

"My mother was Irish," observed Mrs. Jakes brightly. "But Miss Harding
must have some tea."

Mr. Samson skipped before to draw out a chair for her, and Margaret was
established at Mrs. Jakes’ elbow. The doctor came across the room to
hand her bread and butter; that done, he retired again to his place on
the hearth-rug and to his cup, lodged upon the mantel-shelf. It seemed
that this was his place, outside the circle by the window.

"Charming weather we ’re having," announced Mrs. Jakes, conscientiously
assailing an interval of silence. "If it only lasts!"

Mr. Samson, with his back to the wall and his teacup wavering in his
thin hand, snorted.

"Weather!" he said.  "Ya-as, we do get weather. ’Bout all we do get
here,—eh, Jakes?"

Behind Margaret’s back the doctor’s teaspoon clinked in his saucer, and
he said something indistinct, in which the words "wonderful air" alone
reached her.  She hitched her chair a pace sideways, so as to see him.

Mrs. Jakes was looking over her with the acute eyes of a shopper which
took in and estimated each detail of her raiment.

"I suppose, now," she remarked thoughtfully, "in England, the spring
fashions were just coming out."

"I don’t know, really," Margaret answered.  "When I left, the principal
wear seemed to be umbrellas.  It ’s been an awful winter—rain every

"Aha!"  Mr. Samson returned to the charge. "Rain, eh?  Cab-wheels
squirting mud at you all along the street, eh?  Trees blubbering over
the railings like bally babies, eh?  Women bunchin’ up their skirts and
hoppin’ over the puddles like dicky-birds, eh?  I know, I know; don’t I
just know!  How ’d you like a mouthful of that air, eh, Ford?  Bad for
the lungs—yes! But good, deuced good for the heart."

The young man in the window raised his head when he was addressed and
nodded.  From the hearth-rug Dr. Jakes murmured audibly: "Influenza."

"That of course," said Mrs. Jakes indulgently. "Were there many people
in town, Miss Harding?"

"People!"  Margaret was mystified for the moment. "Oh, yes, I think so."

She was puzzled by the general attitude of the others towards the little
doctor; it was a matter into which she had yet to be initiated.  It was
as though there existed a tacit understanding to suffer his presence and
keep an eye upon him.  It conveyed to her a sense that these people knew
things about him which would not bear telling, and held the key to his
manner of one dully afflicted.  When he moved or managed to make some
small clatter in setting his cup on the mantel-shelf, Mrs. Jakes turned
a swift eye upon him, inspected him suspiciously and turned away again.
If he spoke, the person addressed seemed to turn his remark over and
examine it for contraband meanings before making a perfunctory answer.
He was like a prisoner handicapped by previous convictions or a dog
conscious of a bad name.  When he managed to catch the girl’s eye, he
gave her weak, hopeful, little smiles, and subsided quickly if any one
else saw him, as though he had been caught doing some forbidden thing.
The thing troubled her a little.  Her malady had made a sharp
interruption in her life and she had come to the Karoo in the sure hope
that there she would be restored and given a warrant to return finally
to her own world and deal with it unhampered.  The doctors who had
bidden her go had spoken confidently of an early cure; they were smooth
men who made a good show of their expert knowledge.  She had looked to
find such a man at her journey’s end, a doctor with the marks of a
doctor, his social adroitness, his personal strength and style, his
confidence and superiority to the weaknesses of diseased flesh.  This
little man, dazed and dumb, standing apart like a child who has been put
in the corner, did not realize her expectations.  If medical skill, the
art and dexterity of a physician, dwelt in him, they had, she reflected,
fallen among thieves.

"You have only three patients here now?" she asked Mrs. Jakes.

"At present," answered Mrs. Jakes.  "It’s a convenient number.  The
doctor, you see, can give them so much more attention than if there were
a houseful. Yes, it’s really better for everybody."

As she finished, Margaret looked up and caught the eye of the young man,
Ford, fixed upon her, as though he watched to see how she would take it.
He was a tall youth with a dark impassive face and level brows, and his
malady announced itself in a certain delicacy of coloring and general
texture and in attitudes which slacked naturally to invalid languors.
While the others talked, he sat on the ledge of the window, looking out
to the veld prostrate under the thresh of the sun.  In any talkative
assembly, the silent man is at an advantage, and this tall youth seemed
to sit without the little circle of desultory tongues and dwarf it by
his mere aloofness.  His glance now seemed to convey a hint to her to
accept, to pass over, things that needed explanation and to promise
revelations at a more fitting time.

"You see," Mrs. Jakes continued, when Margaret had murmured noises of
acquiescence; "you see, each patient requires his individual attention.
And—" she sank her voice to a confidential undertone—"he ’s not

She nodded past Margaret’s shoulder at Jakes, who was drinking from his
cup with precautions against noise.  He caught her look over the rim of
it and choked.  Ford smiled faintly and turned to the window again.

"The Karoo does n’t suit him a bit," Mrs. Jakes went on.  "Too bracing,
you know.  He ’s often quite ill. But he won’t leave."

"Why?" asked Margaret.  The doctor was busy with his handkerchief,
removing the traces of the accident from his waistcoat.

Mrs. Jakes looked serious.  "Duty," she replied, and pursed her pale
lips.  "He considers it his duty to remain here.  It ’s his life-work,
you know."

Ford’s eye caught Margaret’s again, warning and inviting.  "It ’s—it’s
very unselfish of him," she said.

"Yes!" said Mrs. Jakes.  "It is."  And she nodded at Margaret as much as
to ask, "And now, what have you got to say?"

The doctor managed the tea stains to his satisfaction and came across
the room, replacing the cup and saucer on the table with a hand that was
not quite steady.  In the broad light of the window, he had a strained
look; one familiar with such matters would have known that the man was
raw and tense with the after effects of heavy drinking.  He looked down
at Margaret with an uncertain smile.

"I must have a little talk with Miss Harding," he said.  "We must find
out how matters stand.  Will you bring her to my study presently, my

"In a quarter of an hour?" suggested Mrs. Jakes. He nodded.  Ford did
not turn from his idle gazing through the window and old Samson did not
cease from looking at him with an arrogant fixity that seemed on the
point of breaking into spoken denunciations.  He looked from one to the
other with a hardy little smile, then sighed and went out.

His going was the signal for the breaking up of the gathering.  Old
Samson coughed and walked off and Ford disappeared with him.

"And what would you care to do now?" asked Mrs. Jakes of Margaret.  "I
have some very good views of Windsor, if you like.  You know Windsor?"

Margaret shook her head.  Windsor had no attractions for her.  What
interested her much more was the fact that this small, bleak woman was
on the defensive, patently standing guard over privacies of her life,
and acutely ready to repel boarders who might endeavor to force an
intimacy upon her.  It was plain in the rigor of her countenance, set
into a mask, and in each tone of her voice.  Margaret had yet to undergo
her interview with Dr. Jakes in his study, and till that was over, and
she definitely enlisted for or against him, Mrs. Jakes would preserve an
armed neutrality.

"I think," said Margaret, "I ’d like to go out to the veranda."

"We call it the stoep," corrected Mrs. Jakes.  "A Dutch word, I believe.
By all means; you ’ll probably find Mr. Ford there and I will call you
when the doctor is ready."

The stone hall held its cathedral shadows inviolate, and from it
Margaret went forth to a westering sun that filled the earth with light,
and painted the shadow of the house in startling black upon the ground.
She stood between the square pillars with their dead and ruined vines
and looked forth at a land upon which the light stood stagnant.  It was
as though the Karoo challenged her conception of it.  She had seen it
last vague with the illusions of the dawn, hemmed in by mists and
shadows that seemed to veil the distances and what they held.  Now these
were stripped from it to reveal only a vast nakedness, of red and
red-brown and gray, all ardent in the afternoon sun.  The shadows had
promised a mystery, the light discovered a void.  It ran from before her
yet in a single sweep to a horizon upon which the blue of remote hills
was a faint blur, and in all the far prospect of it there was not one
roof, no single interruption to its still level.  Margaret, quickly
sensitive to the quality of her environment, gazed at it almost with a
sense of awe, baffled by the fact that no words at her command were
pliant enough to fit it.  It was not "wild" nor "desolate" nor even
"beautiful"; none of the words allotted to landscapes, with which folk
are used to label the land they live upon, could be stretched to the
compass of this great staring vacancy.  It was outside of language; it
struck a note not included in the gamut of speech.  "Inhuman" came
nearest to it, for the salient quality of it was something that bore no
relation to the lives—and deaths—of men.

A sound of coughing recalled her from her contemplation of it, and she
walked along the stoep towards it.  Behind a pillar near the corner of
the house, Ford sat on a camp-stool, with a little easel before him, and
smudged with his thumb at the paint on a small canvas.

He looked up at her with no token of welcome, but rather as though he
withdrew himself unwillingly from his picture.

"Well?" he said, motioning with his head at the wide prospect before
them.  "What d’you think of it?"

"Oh, a lot," replied Margaret, refusing to commit herself with
adjectives.  "Can I see?"

He sat back to give her room to look.  She had in her time spent sincere
days at one of the art schools which help Kensington to its character
and was prepared to appreciate expertly.  It was a sketch in oils, done
mostly with the thumb and palette-knife, a _croûte_ of the most
obvious—paint piled in ridges as though the artist would have built his
subject in relief upon the canvas, perspective improvised by the light
of nature, crudities, brutalities of color, obtruded in the effort for
breadth.  They were all there.  She stared into this mist of blemishes
in an effort to see what the painter saw and could not set down, and had
to give it up.

In the art school it had been the custom to tell one’s fellows the curt,
unwelcome truth.

"You can’t paint," said Margaret.

"Oh, I know that," answered Ford.  "You weren’t looking for that, were

"For what, then?" asked Margaret.

He hitched himself up to the canvas again, and began to smudge with his
thumb at a mess of yellow ocre.

"There ’s something in it that I can see," he said. "I ’ve been watching
this—this desert for more than a year, you know, and I try to get in
what I see in it. You can’t see anything?"

"No," said Margaret.  "But I did try."  She watched his unskilful
handling of the ocre.  "I could show you a thing or two," she suggested.

She had all a woman’s love for technique, and might have been satisfied
with more skill and less purpose. But Ford shook his head.

"No, thank you," he said.  "It’s not worth while. I ’m only painting for
myself.  I know what I mean by these messes I make; if I could paint
more, I mightn’t be so pleased with it."

"As you like, of course," said Margaret, a little disappointed.

He worked in silence for about a minute.

"You didn’t like the looks of Dr. Jakes?" he suggested suddenly.  "I saw
you wondering at him in there."

"Well," Margaret hesitated.  "He seemed rather out of it," she answered.
"Is there anything—wrong—with him?"

Ford was making an irreparable mess of his picture and did not look up.

"Wrong?" he repeated.  "Well, depends what you call wrong.  He drinks."

"Drinks!" Margaret did not like the matter-of-fact way in which he said
it.  "Do you mean—"

"He ’s a drunkard—he goes to bed drunk.  His nerves were like banjo
strings this afternoon; he couldn’t keep his hands still.  You noticed
it?  That was last night’s drinking; he didn’t get to bed till daylight.
I heard him struggling up the stairs, with Mrs. Jakes whispering to him
not to make a noise and helping him.  That was just before you came."

"Poor thing!"

"Yes—poor thing!"  Ford looked up at the girl sharply.  "You ’ve got it,
Miss Harding.  It ’s Mrs. Jakes that suffers.  Jakes has got his liquor,
and that makes up to him for a lot.  You and I, we ’ve got—whatever we
have got, little or much.  Old Samson ’s got his memories and his pose;
he gets along all right with them.  But she ’s got nothing at all—only
the feeling that she ’s managed to screen him and prop him and fooled
people into thinking she ’s the wife of a decent man.  That ’s all."

"But," said Margaret, "is he safe?"

"Safe?  Oh, I forgot that he was to see you in his study.  He won’t reel
about and fall down, if that ’s what you mean.  _That_ part of it is all
done in private; Mrs. Jakes gets the benefit of _that_.  And as to his
patients, he really does know a little about lungs when he ’s sober, and
there ’s always the air.  Oh, he ’s safe enough."

"It’s dreadful," said Margaret.  She was at a loss; the men she knew did
not get drunk.  When they went to the bad, they chose different roads;
this one seemed ankle-deep with defilement.  She recalled Mrs. Jakes
when she had come forth from the silent house to meet her in the chill
dawn, and a vision flashed upon her of the vigil that must have been
hers through the slow night, listening to the chink of bottle on glass
and waiting, waiting in misery and fear to do that final office of
helping the drunken man to his bed.  Her primness, her wan gentility,
her little affectations of fashion, seemed monstrously heroic in the
light of that vision—she had carried them with her to the pit of her
humiliation and brought them forth again unsullied, the spotless armor
of a woman of no account.

"You understand now?" asked Ford, watching her.

"Yes," answered Margaret, slowly.  "But it frightens me.  I wish I
hadn’t got to see him in his study. What will he do?"

"Hush!" said Ford.  "Here comes Mrs. Jakes. Don’t let her hear you.  He
won’t do anything."

He fell to his work again, and Margaret turned to receive the doctor’s

"The doctor will see you now, Miss Harding," said Mrs. Jakes.  "Will you
come with me?"

She eyed the pair of them with a suspicion she could not altogether
hide, and Ford was careful to hold an impassive face.

"I am quite ready," returned Margaret, nerving herself for what had
assumed the proportions of an ordeal, and went with her obediently.

Jakes’ study was a small, rather dark room opening off the hall, in
which the apparatus of his profession was set forth to make as much show
as possible.  His desk, his carpet, his leather chairs and bookcases did
their best to counterfeit a due studiousness in his behalf, and a high
shelf of blue and green bottles, with a microscope among them,
counteracted their effect by suggesting to the irreverent that here
science was "skied" while practice was hung on the line.  This first
interview was a convention in the case of every new patient. Dr. Jakes
always saw them alone as a matter of professional honor.  Mrs. Jakes
would make a preliminary inspection of him to assure herself and him
that he was fit for it; old Mr. Samson, passing by the half-open door
once, had seen her bending over him, smelling his breath critically; and
then she would trust him to his patient’s good will and to the arbitrary
Providence which ruled her world.

"Miss Harding, Eustace," she announced at the door of the study and
motioned the girl to enter.

The little doctor rose with bustling haste, and looked at her with
melancholy eyes.  There was a smell of eau de Cologne in the room, which
seemed natural at the time to its rather comfortable shabbiness.

"Sit down, sit down, Miss Harding," he said, and made a business of
thrusting forward one of the leather chairs to the side of his desk.
Seated, she faced him across a corner of it.  In the interval that had
elapsed since she had seen him at tea, he seemed to have recovered
himself somewhat.  Some of the strain was gone from him, and he was
grave with a less effect of effort and discomfort.

He put his open hand upon a paper that lay before him.

"It was Dr. Mackintosh who ordered you south?" he asked.  "A clever man,
Miss Harding.  I have his letter here about your case.  Now, I want you
to answer a question or two before we listen to that lung of yours."

"Certainly," said Margaret.

She was conscious of some surprise that he should move so directly to
the matter in hand.  It relieved her of vague fears with which Ford’s
warning had filled her, and as he went on to question her searchingly,
her nervousness departed.  The little man who fell so far short of her
ideal of a doctor knew his business; even a patient like herself, with
all a patient’s prejudice and ignorance, could tell by the line his
questions took that he had her case by heart.  He was clearly on
familiar ground, a fact which had power to reassure her, and she told
herself that, after all, his resigned, plump face was not entirely

"A queer little man," she said to herself.  "Queer enough to be a
genius, perhaps."

"And, now, please, we ’ll just hear how things really are.  No, I don’t
think you need undo anything.  Yes, like that."

As he explored her chest and side with the stethoscope, his head was
just under her face, the back of it rumpled like the head of some huge
and clumsy baby. It was fluffy and innocent and comical, and Margaret
smiled above him.  Every one has his best aspect, or photographers would
crowd the workhouses and the manufacturers of pink lampshades would
starve.  Dr. Jakes should have made more of the back of his head and
less of his poor, uncertain face.

But he was done with the stethoscope at last, and as he raised his head
his face came close to hers and the taint of his breath reached her
nostrils.  Suddenly she understood the eau de Cologne.

"Well," he said, sitting down again; "now we know where we are."

He had seen her little start of disgust and annoyance at the smell of
him, and kept his eyes on the paper before him, playing with a corner of
it between his fingers as he spoke.

"Will I get well?" asked Margaret, directly.

"Yes," he answered, without hesitating.

"I ’m glad," she said.  "I ’m awfully glad.  Thank you."

"I ’ll see about your treatment," he said, without raising his eyes.
"But I needn’t keep you now.  Only—"


"You mustn’t be afraid," he continued.  "Not of anything.  Do you
understand?  You mustn’t be afraid."

Margaret wished he would look up.  "I ’m not afraid," she answered.
"Really I ’m not."

Dr. Jakes sighed and rose slowly.  The trouble had descended on him
again, and he looked sorry and dull.

"That ’s right," he said without heartiness, and moved to open the door
for her.  His appealing eyes dwelt on her for a moment.  "This isn’t
England," he added, with a heavy deliberation.  "We ’re none of us here
because we like it.  But—but don’t be afraid, Miss Harding."

"I ’m sure there ’s nothing to be afraid of," answered Margaret,
moved—he was so mournful in his shame.  He bowed to her, a slow peck of
his big head, and she went.

In the hall, Mrs. Jakes met her and challenged her.

"Well," she said; "and what does the doctor say about you?"

Margaret smiled at her.  "He says I shall get well, and I believe he
knows," she answered.

It was as though some stiffening in Mrs. Jakes had suddenly resigned its
functions.  She softened before the girl’s eyes.

"Of course he knows," she said contentedly.  "Of course he knows.  My
dear, he really does know."

"I ’m sure he does," agreed Margaret.

Mrs. Jakes put a hand on her arm.  "I feel certain we ’re going to be
friends," she said.  "You ’re so pretty and—and distinguished.  And—and
what a pretty frock you ’ve got!"

She hesitated an instant, and was very timid and humble.

"I should love to see you unpack," she said earnestly.

                              *CHAPTER IV*

The strength of a community, of almost any community, is its momentum;
it is easier to go on than to pull up, even though its progress be
erratic and the tear exceed the wear.  Dr. Jakes’ Sanatorium was a house
divided against itself and poised for a downfall; but the course of its
daily life had yet current enough to pick up a newcomer and float him
from his independent foothold.  The long languors of its days, its deep
whispering nights, were opiates for the critical and exacting, so that
before they had made it clear to themselves that this was no place for
them, they were absorbed, merged in, the eventless quiet of the house
and its people.  For some—for most of them, indeed—there came at last a
poignant day when Paul and his tall horses halted at the door to carry
them to the station, and it was strange with what a reluctance they rode
finally across the horizon that rose up to shut the big gray house from
view, and how they hesitated and frowned and talked curtly when the
station opened out before them and offered them the freedom of the
world.  And for the others, those who traveled the longer journey and
alone, there stood upon the veld, a mile from the house, an enclosure of
barbed wire—barbed against—what?  For them came stout packing cases,
which made the Kafirs sweat by their weight, and being opened, yielded
some small cross of marble, black-lettered with name and dates and
sorrowful texts; the lizards sunned themselves all day upon these
monuments, for none disturbed them.

At the Sanatorium, day began in the cool of morning with a padding of
bare feet in the long corridors and the fresh wakeful smell of coffee.
Africa begins its day with coffee; it is the stirrup-cup of the country.
Margaret opened her eyes to the brightness of morning and the brisk
presence of Fat Mary, radiant across her adventurously held tray of
coffee cups and reflecting the joy of the new light in her exulting
smile. She had caught from Mrs. Jakes the first rule of polite
conversation, though none of the subsequent ones, and she always began
with a tribute of words to the weather.

"Sun burning plenty; how ’s Missis?" was her usual opening gambit.

The wide-open windows flushed the room with air, sweet from the night’s
refreshment; and Margaret came to value that hour between the
administration of coffee and the time for rising; it was the _bonne
bouche_ of the day.  From her pillows she could lie and see the far
mists making a last stand against the shock of the sun, breaking and
diffusing before his attack and yielding up wider views of the rusty
plain at each minute, till at last the dim blue of infinitely remote
hills thickened the horizon.  At the farm, a mile away, figures moved
about and among the kraals, wonderfully and delicately clear in that
diamond air which stirred her blood like wine.  She could even make out
Paul; the distance robbed him of nothing of his deliberate, dreamy
character as he went to and fro with his air of one concerned with
greater things than the mere immediacies of every day.  There was always
a suggestion about him of one who stoops from cloudy altitudes of
preoccupation to the little concerns of men, and towards Margaret he
wore the manner of having a secret to divulge which was difficult to
name.  She met him sometimes on the veld paths between the two houses,
and each time he seemed to draw near the critical moment of confession
and fall back from it baffled. And though Margaret in her time had heard
many confidences from many men and had made much progress in the subtle
arts of the confidante, this was a case beyond her powers.  The deftly
sympathetic corkscrew failed to unbottle whatever moved in his mind; he
evidently meant to bide his time.  Meanwhile, seen from afar, he was a
feature of the before-breakfast hour, part of the upholstery of the

It was when she heard Mr. Samson pass her door on his way to the bath
that she knew the house was definitely awake.  He wore Turkish slippers
that announced him as he went with the slap-slap of their heels upon the
floor.  Once, putting her head forth from the door incautiously to scout
for Fat Mary she had beheld him, with his bath-robe girt about him by
its tasseled cord and bath towels round his neck, going faithfully to
the ritual initiation of his daily round, a figure consistent with the
most correct gentlemanly tradition.  The loose robe and the towels gave
him girth and substance, and on the wary, intolerant old face, with its
gay white mustache, was fixed a look of serious purpose.  Mr. Samson
never trifled with his toilet, by gad—what?  Later, on his return, she
would hear his debonair knock on Ford’s door.  "Out with you!" he would
pipe—he never varied it.  "Out with you!  Bright and early, my
boy—bright and early—what?"  An answer growled from within contented
him, and he would turn in at his room, there to build up the completed
personality which he offered daily to the world.  It took time, too, and
a meek Kafir valet, for a man is not made and perfected in a minute or
two, and the result never failed to justify the labor. When next he
appeared it would be as a member of the upper classes, armored and
equipped, treading the stoep in a five-minutes’ constitutional in a
manner that at once dignified and lightened it.  When one looked at him,
one thought instinctively of exclusive clubs, of fine afternoons in
Piccadilly, of the landed interest and the Church of England.  One
judged that his tailor loved him.  He had a cock of the head, with a
Homburg hat upon it, and a way of swelling his neck over the edge of his
conservative collar, that were the very ensign of gallantry and spirit.
It was only when he coughed that the power abandoned him, and it was
shocking and pitiful to see the fine flower of gentility rattled like a
dice-box in the throes of his malady and dropped at last against a wall,
wheezing and gasping for breath in the image of a weak and stricken old

"Against the ropes," he would stammer shakily as he gathered himself
together again, sniffling into his beautiful handkerchief.  "Got me
against the ropes, it did.  Damn it—what?"

He suffered somewhat in his aggressive effect from the lack of victims.
He had exhausted his black valet’s capacity for being blasted by a
glance, and had fallen back on Dr. Jakes.  The wretched little doctor
had to bear the brunt of his high severity when he came among his
patients racked and quivering from his restless bed, and his bleared and
tragic eyes appealed in vain for mercy from that high priest of correct
demeanor. Mr. Samson looked at him as a justice of the peace, detained
upon the bench when he should be at lunch and conscious that his
services to the State are gratuitous, might look upon a malefactor who
has gone to the length of being without visible means of subsistence.
The doctor might wriggle and smile painfully and seek the obscurity of
corners, but it could not serve him; there was no getting out of range
of that righteous and manly battery while he stayed in the same room
with it.  Once, however, he spiked its guns.  The glare across the
tea-table, the unspoken sheer weight of rebuke and condemnation, seemed
to suddenly break up the poisoned fog that clouded his faculties, and he
lifted his face, shining a little as with sweat, in a quick look at Mr.
Samson.  Margaret, who saw it, recognized it; just so he had looked in
his study when he questioned her on her case and bent his mind to the
consideration of it.  It was direct, expert, impersonal, the dehumanized
scrutiny of the man whose trade is with flesh and blood.  Something had
stirred the physician in the marrow of the man, and from a judge and an
executioner of justice, a drawing-room hangman, Mr. Samson had become a
case.  At the beginning of it, Mrs. Jakes, unfailingly watchful, had
opened her mouth to speak and save the situation, but she too saw in
time and closed her mouth again.  Mr. Samson glowered and the hectic in
his thin cheeks burned brighter.

"You ’ve seen me before, Jakes!" he said, crisply.

The little doctor nodded almost easily.  "Your hand, please," he said.

His forefinger found the pulse and dwelt on it; he waited with lips
pursed, frowning.

"As I thought," he said, dropping the stringy white hand again.  "Yes!
I ’ll see you in the study, Mr. Samson, please—in half an hour."

Mr. Samson gulped but stood up manfully.  He was at his best, standing,
by reason of a certain legginess which had been taken into account in
the design of his clothes, but now those clothes seemed big for him.

"What is it?" he demanded, throwing his courage into his voice.

Dr. Jakes warned him with an uplifted finger.

"Sit down," he said.  "Keep quiet.  I ’ll see you in half an hour."

He looked round at Margaret and the rest of them thoughtfully and went
back to his place by the mantel-piece, sighing.  It was his signal to
them that his brief display of efficiency was over, and as though to
screen his retreat, Mrs. Jakes coughed and hoped loudly that the rain
would hold off.

But Mr. Samson made his way to a chair and sat down in it heavily,
grasping its arms with his hands, and Margaret noticed for the first
time that he was an old man.

Apparently the thing that threatened Mr. Samson was not very serious, or
else the doctor had found means to head it off in time, for though he
went from the study to his bed, he was at breakfast next morning, with a
fastidious appetite and thereafter the course of his life remained

Breakfast at the Sanatorium was in theory a meal that might be taken at
any hour from eight till half past eleven.  In the days of his dream,
Dr. Jakes had seen dimly silver dishes with spirit lamps under them and
a house-party effect of folk dropping in as they came down and helping
themselves.  But Mrs. Jakes’ thousand pounds had stopped short of the
silver dishes and Mrs. Jakes herself could not be restrained from
attending in person to see that the coffee was hot.  Therefore, since it
was not possible in any conscience to bind Mrs. Jakes to her post till
noon, breakfast occurred between half-past eight and half-past nine.

The freshness, the exuberance, of the morning were not for her; already
she wore the aspect of one who has done a stage of the day’s journey and
shed the bloom of her vigor upon it.  The sunlight, waxing like a tide
in flood, was powerless to lift her prim, black-dressed personality from
the level of its cares and functions. She made to each as he entered the
same mechanical little bow across the crockery, smiled the same formal
smile from the lips outwards and uttered the same small comment on the
blaze of day that filled the earth without the window.  She had her life
trimmed down to a routine for convenience of handling; she was one of
those people—they are the salt of the earth!—whose passions are
monosyllabic, whose woes are inarticulate. The three who sat daily at
meat with her knew and told each other that her composure, her face
keyed up like an instrument to its pitch of vacant propriety, were a
mask.  Sometimes, even, there had been sounds in the night to assure
them of it; occasionally Jakes, on his way to bed in the small hours,
would slip on the stairs and bump down a dozen or so of them, and lie
where he fell till he was picked up and set on his way again; there
would be the rasp of labored breath as he was supported along the
corridor, and the mumble of his blurred speech hushed by prayerful
whispers.  A door slammed, a low cry bitten off short, and then silence
in the big house, and in the morning Mrs. Jakes with her coffee pot and
trivial tinkle of speech and treble armor of practised bearing against
the pity of those who knew!  The sheer truculence of it held them dumb;
it was the courage of a swashbuckler, of a bravo, and it imposed on them
the decorum of silence.

The doctor, she gave them to understand, suffered from the climate.

"He never was strong," she would say, with her eyes fixed on the person
addressed as though she would challenge him to dispute or question it.
"Never!  It ’s the sun, I think; he suffers from his head, you know.  He
used to take aspirin for it when we were first married, but it doesn’t
seem to do him any good now."

The three of them would nod sympathetically and look hastily elsewhere,
as though ashamed to be the spectators of her humiliation.

Poor Mrs. Jakes!  Seven thousand miles from the streets of Clapham
Junction, an exile from the cheeriness and security of its little decent
houses, she held yet with a frail hand to the skirts of its beatitude.
In the drawer in her bedroom which also contained Jakes’ dress suit, she
kept in tissue paper and sincere regard a morocco-bound mausoleum of
memory—an album. Only two or three times in Mr. Samson’s experience—and
he had been an inmate of the Sanatorium for four years—had she brought
it forth.  Once was on the night before young Shaw died, and when no
soothing would hold him at peace in his bed, he had lain still to look
through those yellowing portraits and hear Mrs. Jakes tell how this one
was doing very well as a job-master and that one had turned Papist.  But
Margaret Harding had seen it.  Mrs. Jakes had sat on her bed, quelling
Fat Mary with her eye, and seen her unpack her clothes, the frocks new
from dressmakers and tailors in London, the hats of only a month ago.
Margaret had been aided in buying them by a philosophic aunt who had
recently given up vegetarianism on the advice of her hairdresser.  "My
child, play light," had been the counsel of this relative.  "Don’t
surprise the natives; they never like it.  No frills; a vigorous
vicarage style is what you want."  And she had brought considerable
powers of personality and vocabulary to bear on Margaret’s choice, so
that in the result there predominated a certain austerity of raiment
which Margaret found unexciting.  But Mrs. Jakes received them as canons
of fashion, screwing up her mouth and nodding gravely as she mastered

"I can’t quite imagine them in these styles," she said; "the people in
the Park, I mean.  I suppose it’s this golf that’s done it."

In return for the exhibition, she had shown Margaret her album.  It had
many thick pages with beveled gilt edges, each framing from one to six
portraits or groups, and she had led her hearer through the lot of them,
from the first to the last.  They sat side by side on the bed in Mrs.
Jakes’ room, and the album lay open on their laps, and Mrs. Jakes’
finger traveled like a pointer among the pictures while she elucidated
them in a voice of quiet pride.  These pale and fading faces, fixed to
the order of the photographer in more than human smiles, with sleek and
decorative hair and a show of clothes so patently reserved for Sundays,
were neither pale nor faded for her.  She knew the life behind them,
their passions and their strength, and spoke of them as she might have
spoken had they been waiting in the next room.

"That ’s my sister," she said, her finger pausing. "Two years older than
me, but she never married. And what she used to suffer from indigestion,
words can’t tell.  And here ’s my Aunt Martha—yes, she died seven years
ago.  My mother’s sister, you know.  My mother was a Penfold—one of the
Penfolds of Putney. You ’ve heard of them?  Ah, and here ’s Bill
Penfold, my cousin Bill.  Poor Bill, he didn’t do well, ever. He had a
fancy for me, once, or so they said, but my father never could bear him.
No harm, you know, no real harm, but larky—sort of.  This one?  Oh, that
’s nobody—a Mr. Wrench, who used to collect for my father; he had a
hair-lip.  I did n’t like him."

The thick page turned, and showed on the other side a single cabinet
portrait of a thin woman, with her head a little on one side.

"My mother," said Mrs. Jakes, and shifted the album that Margaret might
see better.

"She was a Penfold of Putney," she said, gently. "I think she shows it,
you know.  A bit quiet and refined, especially about the eyes.  Don’t
you think so?"

It was the picture of the wife of a robust and hardy man, Margaret
thought, and as for the eyes and their slight droop, the touch of
listlessness which bespeaks an acquired habit of patience and
self-suppression, she had only to look up and they returned her look
from the face of Mrs. Jakes.

"And this?" she asked.

Mrs. Jakes smiled quite brightly; the photograph was one of a baby.

"That ’s little Eustace," she answered, with no trace of the softness of
regret which had hushed her tone when she spoke of her mother.  "My
little baby; he ’d have been a big boy now.  He was like his father—very
like. Everybody noticed it.  And that"—her finger passed on—"is George
Penfold, Sergeant-Major in the Guards.  His widow married again, a
gunner in the Navy."

No sorrow for little Eustace.  He, at any rate, would never see his
dreams dislimn and fail him; no wife would watch the slow night through
for his unsteady step nor read the dishonor written in his eyes. The
first of the crosses in the barbed wire enclosure, Mrs. Jakes’ empty and
aching heart and her quick smile of triumph at his easy victory over all
the snares of life—these and the faint, whitening photograph remained of
little Eustace.  Many a man leaves less when his time comes in South

"The weather is holding up nicely," she would say at breakfast.  "Almost
too fine, isn’t it?  But I suppose we oughtn’t complain."

It was a meal over which one lingered, for with the end of it there
closed the eventful period of the day. While it lasted, the Sanatorium
was at its best; one saw one’s fellows in faint hues of glamour after
the night’s separation and heard them speak with a sense of receiving
news.  But the hour exhausted them of interest and one left the table,
when all pretexts for remaining there had been expended, to face the
emptiness of a morning already stale.  That, in truth, was the price one
paid for healing, the wearing, smothering monotony of the idle days,
when there was nothing to do and one saw oneself a part of the
stagnation that ruled the place.  Mrs. Jakes withdrew herself to become
the motor of the domestic machinery, and till lunch time was not
available for countenance and support.  Ford occupied himself gravely
with his little canvases, plastering upon them strange travesties of
landscape, and was busy and intent and impatient of interruption for
long periods at a time, while Mr. Samson, keeping a sufficient offing
from all human contact, alternately strutted to and fro upon the stoep
in a short quarter-deck promenade of ten steps and a right about turn,
and lay in a deck chair with a writing case upon his knee and wrote
fitfully and with deep thought long, important looking letters which
never reached the post.

"You ’re feeling the need of something to do," Ford told Margaret, when
in desperation she came behind him and watched him modeling—as it
seemed—in burnt sienna.  "Why don’t you knit—or something?"

"Knit?" said Margaret with huge scorn.

"You ’ll come to it," he warned her.  "There was a chap here before you
came who taught himself the harp.  A nuisance he was, too, but he said
he ’d have been a gibbering idiot without it."

"That was n’t saying much, perhaps," retorted Margaret.

"Oh, I don’t know.  He was a barrister of sorts, I believe.  Not many
barristers who can play the harp, you know."

"For goodness’ sake, don’t knead the stuff like that!" cried Margaret,
watching his thumb at work.  "You ’re painting, not—not civil
engineering!  But what were you?"

"Eh?"  He looked up at her.

"Before you had to come here, I mean?  Oh, do talk for a minute," she

"Sorry," he said.  "I was in the army."

"And was it rather awful to have to give up and nurse yourself?"

"Well!"  He glanced at her consideringly, as though to measure her
intelligence.  "It was rough," he admitted.  "You see, the army ’s not
like barristering, for instance.  It ’s not a thing you can drop for a
bit and then take up again; once you ’re out, you ’re out for good."  He
paused.  "And I meant it," he added.

"Meant it?"

"Yes, there ’s a chance nowadays for a chap with a turn for soldiering.
There ’s a lot to know, you see, and, well—I was by way of knowing it.
That ’s all."

He turned to his canvas again, but did not fall to work.  Margaret saw
his back, thin under his silk coat but flat and trim as a drilled man’s
should be.

"So for you, it meant the end of everything?" she suggested.

"Looks like it, doesn’t it!" he answered.  "Still—we ’ll see.  They
trained me and there ’s just a chance, in the event of a row, that they
might have a use for me.  They ’d be short of officers who knew the
game.  You see—"

He hitched sideways on his camp-stool so that he might make himself
clear to her.

"You see, the business of charging at the head of your men is a thing of
the past, pretty nearly.  All that gallery play is done away with.  But
take a hundred Tommies and walk ’em about for half a year, dry-nurse
’em, keep them fed and healthy and moderately happy and as clean as you
can, be something between an uncle and a schoolmaster to them, and have
’em ready at the end of it to march forty miles in a day and then
fight—that’s an art in itself!  In fact, it’s a trade, and it can’t be
learned in a week."

"I ’m perfectly sure it can’t," agreed Margaret.

"Well, that was my trade," said Ford.  "That’s where I ’ll come in when
the band begins to play.  See?"

He nodded at her expressively but with finality.  If was plain that he
considered the subject drained dry, and only waited for her to go to
return to the mysteries of art.

"Oh, well," sighed Margaret, and left him to it.

Lunch lacked the character of breakfast.  For one thing, it was
impossible for three feeble people, debarred from exercise, to arrive at
a state of appetite during a morning of semi-torpor, with a prospect
before them of an afternoon of the same quality.  For another, tempers
had endured the heat and burden of four hours of enforced idleness and
emerged from the test frayed at the edges.

This meant more labor for poor Mrs. Jakes, who could by no means allow
the meal to be eaten in a bitter silence, and was driven by a stern
sense of duty to keep up a dropping fire of small talk.  Their sour
faces, the grimness with which they passed the salt, filled her with
nervous tremors, and she talked as a born hostess might talk to cover
the confusion induced by an earthquake under the table, trembling but
fluent to the last.  There were times when her small, hesitating voice
wrought Margaret up to the very point of flat interventions.  At one
such moment, it was Ford who saved the situation.

"Miss Harding," he said, in a matter-of-fact way. "You are a pig!"

Mrs. Jakes gasped and bounded in her chair, and old Mr. Samson choked.

"And you," replied Margaret with intensity, "are just a plain beast!"

"That ’s the idea," said Ford.  "You feel better now?"

"Ever so much better, thank you," answered Margaret. "It was just what I

Mrs. Jakes was staring at them as though convinced that sudden mania had
attacked them both at the same moment.

"It ’s all right," Ford assured her.  "It’s a dodge for blowing off
temper.  If you ’d just call Mr. Samson something really rude, he ’d be
ever so grateful. Call him a Socialist, Mrs. Jakes."

"Oh, I couldn’t," said Mrs. Jakes, while Mr. Samson, mastering his
emotions, glared and reddened. "You did alarm me," she said.  "I thought
for a moment—well, I don’t know what I did think."

She was distinctly not at her ease for the remainder of the meal, and
even at tea that afternoon, she kept an eye on the pair of them.  To her
mind, they were playing with edged tools.

It was at tea, as a rule, that Dr. Jakes was first visible, very
tremulous and thirsty, but always submissive and content to be
overlooked and forgotten. At dinner, later on, he would be better and
able to talk with a jerky continuity to Margaret who sat at his right
hand.  He bore himself always with an air of effort, like one who is not
at home and whose acquaintance with his fellows is slight, and drank at
table nothing but water.  His eyes kept the Kafir servants under
observation as they waited, and the black boys were full of alacrity in
the consciousness that he was watching.  "It ’s strange," Mrs. Jakes
used to say; "Eustace is so quiet, and yet the natives obey him
wonderfully."  Afterwards, in the drawing-room, he would flicker to and
fro restlessly, growing each moment more irritable and incapable of
hearing a sentence to the end.  Half-way through the evening, he would
seize an occasion to escape to his own quarters, and thereafter would be
invisible till next day.  Every one knew whither he went and for what
purpose; eyes met in significant glances as the door closed softly
behind him and Mrs. Jakes raised her voice in rapid speech to hide the
sound of his tiptoe crossing of the hall; his secret was anybody’s and
even the Kafirs shared it, and yet the man had the force of mystery. He
slid to and fro in the interstices of their lives and came to the
surface only to serve and heal them.  That done, he dropped back again
to the solace that was his behind his locked door, while about him the
house slept.  He knew himself and yet could look his patients and his
wife in the face.  Mingled with their contempt and disgust, there was an
acknowledgment of the quality of him, of a kind of wry and shabby

And thus the day came to its end.  One by one, Margaret, Ford and Mr.
Samson drew off and made their way to the dignified invitation of the
big staircase and their rooms.  Mrs. Jakes was always at hand to bid
them good night, for her day was yet a long way from its finish.

"Tired, my dear?" she would ask Margaret.  "It ’s been a tiring day; I
feel it myself.  Good night to you."

In her room, Margaret would find Fat Mary waiting for her, sleepy in her
vast, ridiculous way, but still prodigal of smiles, and ready to put her
to bed with two left hands equipped with ten thumbs.  She had a yawn
which would have reminded Jonah of old times, but nothing could damp her
helpful ardor, not even being discovered stretched fast asleep on
Margaret’s bed and being waked with the bath sponge.  She made it clear
that she would stop at few things to be of service.

"Missis not sleepy?  Ah!"  She stood in thought for five seconds.  "Me
nurse Missis, all same baby? Plenty strong—me!"

She dandled an imaginary child in her great arms, smiling cheerfully but
quite in earnest.  "Plenty strong," she assured the young lady from
Kensington. "No?  No?  All a-right!"

Darkness at last, and the window wide to the small, whispering winds
which people the veld at night!  A sky of blue-black powdered with misty
white stars, and from the distance, squeaks, small cries, the wary voice
of the wilderness!  Sometimes a jackal would range within earshot and
lift up his voice under the stars to cry like a child, in the very
accent of heartbroken, helpless woe.  The nightly traffic of the veld
was in full swing ere her eyes closed and its subdued clamor followed
her into her dreams.

Silence in the big house and along the matted corridors—and one voice,
speaking guardedly, in the hall. It never happened to Margaret to hear
it and go to the stair-head and look down.  Thence she might have seen
what would have made her less happy—Mrs. Jakes on her knees at the
locked door of the study, with her candle set on the floor beside her,
casting a monstrous shadow-caricature of her upon the gray stone wall.
In her sober black dress she knelt on the mat and her small,
kitchen-reddened hands tapped gently, carefully on the panels.  She
spoke through the keyhole and her fruitless whisperings rustled in light
echoes about the high ceiling.

"Eustace, it’s me.  Eustace!  I ’m so tired, Eustace. Please open the
door.  Please, Eustace!  It ’s only me, dear."

                              *CHAPTER V*

"Hardly smart," pronounced Mrs. du Preez, speaking low into Mrs. Jakes’
ear.  "Smart ’s not the word I ’d use for her myself.  _Distangay_, now,
or _chic_, if you understand what that means!"

"Oh, quite!" replied Mrs. Jakes coldly.

They were seated side by side upon the sofa in the little parlor of the
farm; its dimensions made it impossible for Mrs. Jakes to treat her
hostess as distantly as she could have wished.  There was nothing for it
but to leave her ear and her unresponsive profile, composed to a
steadfast woodenness, to the mercy of those critical and authoritative
whispers until deliverance should offer itself.  She settled her small
black-gowned figure and coughed behind three gloved fingers.

Near the window looking forth across the kraals, Margaret Harding, the
subject of Mrs. du Preez’s comments, had the gaunt Boer for a companion.
This was her visit of ceremony, her "return call"; two or three earlier
visits, mere incidents of morning walks, when she had stopped to talk to
Paul and been surprised and captured by Paul’s mother, were understood
not to count, and the Recording Angel would omit them from his notes.
Mrs. du Preez had taken the initiative in due order by appearing at the
Sanatorium one afternoon at tea-time; she had asked Dr. Jakes if he had
"a mouth on him" and Margaret if there were many people in town.  The
next step in the transaction was for Margaret to put on a real frock and
a real hat, and take herself and her card-case through the white,
scornful sunshine to the farm; and behold! by virtue of this solemnity,
two women marooned at the heart of an ocean of sun-swamped desert had
license to distinguish one another from common objects of the country

Even Mrs. Jakes, whose attitude towards Mrs. du Preez was one of
disapproval tempered by dread, could see no alternative to this course.
She shook her head at Margaret’s amusement.

"This is not London, of course," she said reasonably. "I know that.
But, my dear, we ’re Christian people—even here."

At Margaret’s side, the tall Boer, Christian du Preez, leaned against
the wall and regarded her with shy, intent eyes that were oddly like
Paul’s.  There was lacking in him that aloof and almost reverent quality
of the boy which made him seem as though he regarded all things with an
equal wonder and an equal kinship; he was altogether harder and more
immediately forceful, a figure at home in his narrow world; but the
relationship between him and his son was obvious. Margaret had only to
glance across the room to where Paul sat by the door, following the
trickle of conversation around the room from face to face with his eyes,
to see the resemblance.  What was common to them both was a certain
shadowy reserve, a character of relationship to the dumbness and
significance of the Karoo, and something else which had the gloom of
melancholy and the power of pride.  In each of them the Boer, the
world’s disinherited son, was salient.

Mrs. du Preez had secured his presence to grace the occasion after some
resistance on his part, for he entered the parlor seldom and was not at
his ease there. Its atmosphere of indoor formality daunted and oppressed
him, and he felt coarse and earth-stained under the eyes of the serene
young men who watched him from their plush and fret-work frames.  He had
nothing to set against their sleek beauty and their calm sophistication
but his fathom and odd inches of lean, slow-moving strength, his eyes of
patient expectancy and the wild beard that redeemed his countenance from
mildness.  He had come under protest and for the sake of peace, and sat
scowling in a chair, raw with shyness and irritation, in the dreadful
interval between the completion of Mrs. du Preez’s preparations and the
arrival of the guests, while in face of him "yours blithely, Boy
Bailey," set him a hopeless example of iron-clad complacency.

Then came Margaret and Mrs. Jakes, and at the first sign of them he was
screened as in a cloud by the welcome of Mrs. du Preez.  Their step upon
the threshold was her cue for a cordiality of greeting that filled the
room and overflowed into the passage in a rapid crescendo of compliment,
inquiries as to health, laughter and mere bustle; it was like the
entrance of two star performers supported by a full chorus and _corps de

"So here you are, the two of you," was her style. "On time to a tick,
too!  Come right in, Miss Harding, and look out for that step—it ’s a
terror.  A death-trap, _I_ call it!  And you, Mrs. Jakes.  I won’t say I
’m glad to see you, ’cause you ’ll believe that without me telling you.
You found it pretty hot walking, I know; we ’re all pretty warm members
in this community, aren’t we?  Sit down, sit down; no extra charge for
sitting down, y’know.  And now, how are you?  Sitting up and taking
nourishment, eh?  That’s the style!"

Margaret was aware, across her shoulder, of a gloomy male presence
inhabiting the background.

"Let me introduce my husband," said Mrs. du Preez, following her glance.
"Christian, this is Miss Harding.  And now, Mrs. Jakes, let you an’ me
have a sit-down over here.  You first—age before innocence, y’know.  And
how ’s the poor old doctor?"

"Thank you," said Mrs. Jakes firmly, "he is quite well."

She smiled graciously at Paul, who was watching her, and took her seat,
resigned to martyrdom.

Christian du Preez gave the girl a slack hand and murmured incoherently
some salutation, while his gaze took in avidly each feature of her and
summed up her effect of easy modernity.  He recognized in her a certain
feminine quality for which he had no name.  Once before he had glimpsed
it as in a revelation, when, as a youth newly returned from service on
commando against rebellious Kafirs, he had spent an evening in a small
town and there seen a performance by a traveling theatrical company.  It
was a crude and ill-devised show, full of improbable murders that
affronted the common-sense of a man fresh from various killings; but in
an interval between slaughters, there was a scene that brought upon the
stage a slim girl who walked erect and smiled and shrugged easily at the
audience.  Her part was brief; she was not visible for more than a few
minutes, and assuredly her shaft, so soon sped, struck no one else.  It
needed a Boer, with his feet in the mud and his head among the stars, to
clothe her with dignity as with a robe and add to her valuation of
herself the riches of his woman-haunted imagination.  She passed from
sight again, and for the time he scarcely regretted her, for she left
glamour behind her and a vision of womanhood equipped, debonnaire,
heart-breaking in its fragility and its daring.

The outcome of that revelation was marriage within the week; but it
never revisited the bored and weary woman whom Christian du Preez had
brought home to his farm and its solitudes.  It was as though he had
tried to pick an image from still water; the fruit of that endeavor was
memory and an empty hand.  Even as he greeted Margaret he turned slowly
and looked from her to his wife in unconscious comparison, and turned as
unconsciously back again.  Only Mrs. du Preez knew the meaning of that
glance; she answered it with an obstinate compression of the mouth and
went on talking to Mrs. Jakes about the hang of Margaret’s skirt.

"It ’s all right for her," she was saying.  "These leggy ones can wear
anything.  But think how you ’d look in it, for instance.  Why you ’d
make a horse laugh!"

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Jakes, unhappy but bristling. She never grew
reconciled to Mrs. du Preez’s habit of using her as a horrible example.

"You would that," Mrs. du Preez assured her. "You see, my dear, yours is
an elderly style."

At the window, Margaret was doing what she could to thaw the tall Boer
into talk, and meeting with some success.  He liked, while possibly he
did not quite understand, her relish for the view from the window, with
the rude circles of the kraals near at hand, the scattered huts of the
farm Kafirs beyond them, and the all-subduing brown of the Karoo
slipping forth to the edge of the sky.  He had once heard a young man
from the Sanatorium agree with Mrs. du Preez that the Karoo resembled a
brick-field established in a cemetery. Margaret did better than that.

"I suppose you ’ve traveled all over it?" she asked him.

"When I was a young man, I rode transport," he answered.  "Then I
traveled; now I sit still in the middle of it and try to grow wool."

"Is it all like this?" she asked.

"Sometimes there is grass—a little—not much, and milk bushes and prickly
pear," he told her.  "But it is hard ground, all of it.  It is very
peaceful, though."

She nodded comprehendingly, and he found a stimulant in her quiet
interest.  He had not Paul’s tense absorption in the harvest of the eye,
but he would have been no Boer had the vacant miles not exercised a
power over him.

"You ’re never—discontented with it?" asked Margaret.  "I mean, you find
it enough for you, without wanting towns and all that?"

He shook his head, hesitating.  "I do not know towns," he answered.
"No, I don’t want towns. But—every day the same sights, and the sun and
the silence—"

"Yes?" she asked.

He was little used to confessing himself and his shyness was an obstacle
to clear speech.  Besides, the matter in his mind was not clear to
himself; he was aware of it as a color to his thoughts rather than as a
fact to be stated.

"It makes you guess at things," he said at last. "You guess, but you
don’t ever know."

"What things?" asked Margaret.

"A lot of things," he answered.  "God, and the devil, and all that.
It’s always there, you see, and you must think."

A rattle in the passage and a start from Mrs. du Preez heralded tea,
borne in upon a reverberating iron tray by a timid and clumsy Kafir
maid, who set her burden insecurely upon the table and fled in panic.
Christian du Preez ceased to speak as if upon a signal and Mrs. du Preez
entered the arena hospitably.

"You ’re sure you wouldn’t rather have something else?" she asked
Margaret, as she filled the cups. "There ’s afternoons when a
whisky-and-soda is more in my line than tea.  Sure you won’t?  P’r’aps
Mrs. Jakes will, then?  We won’t tell, will we, Paul?  Well, ’ave it
your own way, only don’t blame me!  Christian, reach this cup to Miss

The tall man did as he was bidden, ignoring Mrs. Jakes.  In his world,
women helped themselves.  Paul carried her cup to Mrs. Jakes and sat
down beside her in the place vacated by his mother.  From there, he
could see Margaret and look through the window as well.

"If you ’ll have one, I ’ll keep you company," suggested Mrs. du Preez
privately to Mrs. Jakes.

"One what?" inquired Mrs. Jakes across her cup. The poor lady was
feeling very grateful for the strong tea to console her nerves.

"One what!" Mrs. du Preez was scornful.  "A drink, of course—a drink out
of a glass!"

"No, thank you," replied Mrs. Jakes hastily.  "I never touch

"Oh, well!" Mrs. du Preez resigned herself to circumstances.  "I
suppose," she enquired, nodding towards Margaret, "_she_ don’t either?"

"I believe not," replied Mrs. Jakes.

Mrs. du Preez considered the matter.  "You ’d think they ’d grow out of
it," she observed enigmatically. "She seems to be lively enough, too, in
her way.  First person I ever saw who could make Christian talk."

Christian was talking at last.  Margaret had paused to watch a string of
natives pass in single-file, after the unsociable Kafir fashion, before
the window, going towards the huts, with the sun-gilt dust rising about
them in a faint haze.  They were going home after their day’s work, and
she wondered suddenly to what secret joy of freedom they re-entered when
the hours of the white man’s dominion were over and the coming of night
made a black world for the habitation of black men.

"I suppose there is no knowing what they really feel and think?" she

That is the South African view, the white man’s surrender to the
impregnable reserve of the black races; native opinion is only to be
gathered when the native breaks bounds.  Christian du Preez nodded.

"No," he agreed.  "I have always been among them, and I have fought
them, too; but what they think they don’t tell."

"You have fought them?  How was that?"

"When I was young.  On commando," he explained, with his eyes on her.
It was luxury to see the animation of her pale, clear-cut face as she
looked up and waited for him to go on.

"It was a real war," he answered her.  "A real war. There was a
chief—Kamis, they called him—down there in the south, and his men
murdered an officer.  So the government called out the burghers and sent
Cape Mounted Rifles with us to go and punish him.  I was twenty years
old then, and I went too."

In the background Mrs. du Preez sniffed.  "He ’s telling her about that
old Kafir war of his," she said. "He always tells that to young women.
I know him!"

Christian went on, lapsing as he continued from the careful English he
had spoken hitherto to the cruder vernacular of the Cape.  He told of
the marching and the quick, shattering attack against Kafirs at bay in
the low hills bordering the Karoo, of a fight at night in a rain-squall,
when the "pot-leg," the Kafir bullets hammered out of cold iron, sang in
the air like flutes and made a wound when they struck that a man could
put his fist into.  His eyes shone with the fires of warm remembrance as
he told of that advance over grass-grown slopes slippery with wet, when
the gay desperadoes of the Cape Mounted Rifles went up singing, "Jinny,
my own true loved one, Wait till the clouds roll by," and on their flank
the burghers found cover and lit the night with the flashes of their
musketry.  It was an epic woven into the fiber of the narrator’s soul, a
thing lived poignantly, each moment of it flavored on the palate and the
taste remembered.  He had been in the final breathless rush that broke
the Kafirs and sent them scuttling like rock-rabbits—"dassies," he
called them—through the rocks to the kopje-ringed hollow where they
would be held till morning.

And then that morning!

"Man, it was cold," he said.  "There was no fires. We were lying in the
bushes with our rifles under our bellies till coffee-time, and that
Lascelles, our general, walked up and down behind us all the night.  He
was a little old soldier-officer from Capetown; his face was red and his
mustache was white.  The rain was falling on my back all the time, but
sometimes I slept a little. And when it was sun-up, I could see down the
krantz to the veld below, and there was all the Kafirs together, all in
a bunch, in the middle of it.  They didn’t look much; I was surprised to
see so few.  They were standing and lying on the wet grass, and they
seemed tired. Some were sleeping, even, stretched out like dead men
below us, but what made me sorry for them was, they were so few.

"I was sorry," he added, thoughtfully.

Margaret nodded.

"But it was a real war," he assured her quickly. "When the sun was well
up, we moved, and presently all the burghers were lying close together
with our rifles ready.  It was Lascelles that ordered it.  I didn’t
understand, then, for I knew a beaten Kafir when I saw one, and those
below were beaten to the ground.  By and by the Cape Mounted Rifles went
past behind us, and dipped down into a hollow on our right; we had only
to wait, and it was very cold.  I was wondering when they would let us
make coffee and talking to the next man about it, when from our right,
so sudden that I jumped up at the sound of it, the Cape Mounted Rifles
fired at the Kafirs down below.  Man, that was awful! It was like a
thunder on a clear day.  All of us were surprised, and some called out
and swore and said Lascelles was a fool.  But it was queer, all the
same, to see the Kafirs.  Twenty of them was killed, and one of them had
a bullet in his stomach and rolled about making screams like laughing.
The rest—they didn’t move; they didn’t run; they didn’t cry out.  A few
looked up at us; I tell you, it was near enough to see their white eyes;
but the others just stopped as they were.  They was like cattle, like
sick cattle, patient and weak and finished; the Cape Mounted Rifles
could have killed them all and they wouldn’t have lifted their hands.

"Our commandant—Van Zyl, he was called, a very fat man—clicked with his
tongue.  ’Wasting them,’ he said.  ’Wasting them!’

"Then we went down the hill and came all round them, standing among the
dead bodies, and Lascelles with his interpreter and his two young
officers in tight belts went forward to look for Kamis, the chief.  The
interpreter—he was a yellow-faced Hollander—called out once, and in the
middle of the Kafirs there stood up an old Kafir with a blanket on his
shoulders and his wool all gray.  He came walking through the others
with a little black boy, three or four years old, holding by his hand
and making big round eyes at us.  It was the son that was left to him;
the others, we found out, were all killed.  He was an old man and walked
bent and held the blanket round him with one hand.  He looked to me like
a good old woman who ought to have been sitting in a chair in a kitchen.

"’Are you Kamis?’ they asked him.

"’I am Kamis,’ he said, ’and this is my son who is also Kamis.’

"He showed them the little plump piccanin, who hung back and struggled.
One of the young officers with tight belts put an eye-glass in his eye
and laughed. Lascelles did not laugh.  He was a little man, as neat as a
lady, with ugly, narrow eyes.

"’Tell him he ’s to be hanged,’ he ordered.

"Old Kamis heard it without a sign, only nodding as the interpreter
translated it to him.

"’And what will they do to my son?’ he asked.

"Lascelles snuffled in his nose angrily.  ’The Government will take care
of his son,’ he said, and turned away.  But when he had gone a few steps
he turned back again.  ’Tell the old chap,’ he ordered, ’and tell him
plainly, that his son will be taken care of.  He ’ll be all right, he
’ll be well looked after.  Savvy?’ he shouted to Kamis.  ’Piccanin all
right; plenty _skoff_, plenty _mahli_, plenty everything.’

"The Hollander told the old chief while Lascelles waited, and the men of
the Cape Mounted Rifles who had the handcuffs for him stood on each
side.  Kamis heard it with his head on one side, as if he was a bit
deaf.  Then he nodded and put out his hands for the irons.

"Lascelles held out his hands to the baby Kafir.

"’Come with me, kid!’ he said.

"The baby hung back.  He was scared.  Old Kamis said something to him
and pushed him with his knee, and at last the child went and took
Lascelles’ hand.

"’That ’s it,’ said Lascelles, and lifted him up.  As he carried him
away, I heard him talking to the young officer with the eye-glass.
’That ’s a damned silly grin you ’ve got, Whitburn,’ he said, ’and you
may as well know I ’m sick of it.’

"I think he was a bit ashamed of carrying the baby. He had n’t any of
his own.  I saw his wife later, when we were disbanded—a skinny, yellow
woman who played cards every evening.

"And then, at Fereira, they hanged old Kamis, while we all stood round
with our rifles resting on the ground. There was a man to hang him who
wore a mask, and I was sorry about the mask, because I thought I might
meet him sometime and not know him and be friends with him.  He had red
hair though; his mask couldn’t hide that, and there is something about
red hair that turns me cold.  There were about fifty of his tribe who
were brought there to see the end of Kamis and take warning by him, and
when he came out of the jail door, between two men, with his hands tied
behind him, they all lifted a hand above their heads to salute him.  The
men on each side of him held him by the elbows and hurried him along.
They took him so fast that he tripped his foot and nearly fell.
’Slower, you swine!’ said Lascelles, who was there with a sword on.  He
walked across and spoke to Kamis.  ’Piccanin all right!’ he said, ’All-a
right!’ said Kamis, and then they led him up the steps.  They were all
about him there, the jail men and the man with the mask; for a minute I
couldn’t see him at all.  Then they were away from him, and there was a
bag on his head and the rope was round his neck.  The man with the mask
seemed to be waiting, and at last Lascelles lifted his hand in a tired
way and there was a crash of falling planks and a cry from the Kafirs,
and old Kamis, as straight and lean as a young man, was hanging under
the platform just above the ground and swinging a little."

Christian du Preez frowned and looked at Margaret absently.

"And then I was sick," he said reflectively.  "Quite sick!"

"I don’t wonder," said Margaret.  "But the baby! What happened to the
Kafir baby?"

"I didn’t see the baby any more," replied the Boer. "But I read in a
newspaper that they sent it to England.  Perhaps it died."

"But why send it to England?" asked Margaret. "What could it do there?"

Christian du Preez shrugged one shoulder.  "The Government sent it," he
replied, conclusively.  No Boer attempts to explain a government; it is
his eternal unaccountable.  "You see it was the Chief, that baby was, so
they wanted to send it a long way off, perhaps."

"And now, I suppose it ’s a man," said Margaret; "a poor negro all alone
in London, who has forgotten his own tongue.  He wears shabby clothes
and makes friends with servant girls, and never remembers how he held
his father’s hand while you burghers and the soldiers came down the
hillside.  Don’t you think that’s sad?"

"Yes," said the Boer thoughtfully, but without alacrity, for after all a
Kafir is a Kafir and his place in the sympathies of his betters is a
small one.  "Kafirs look ugly in clothes," he added after a moment.

At the other side of the room, the others had ceased their talk to
listen.  Mrs. du Preez laughed a little harshly.

"They ’re worse in boots," she volunteered.  "Ever seen a nigger with
boots on, Miss Harding?  He walks as if his feet weighed a ton.  Make a
clatter like clog-dancin’.  But round here, of course, there ’s no boots
for them to get."

"There ’s one now," said Margaret.  "Look—he ’s passing the kraals.  He
’s got boots on."

They all looked with a quick curiosity that was a little strange to see;
one would have thought a passing Kafir would scarcely have interested
them by any eccentricity of attire.  Even Mrs. Jakes rose from her place
on the sofa and stood on tip-toe to see over Mrs. du Preez’s shoulders.
There is an instinct in the South African which makes him conscious, in
his dim, short-sighted way, that over against him there looms the
passive, irreconcilable power of the black races.  He is like a man
carrying a lantern, with the shifting circle of light about him, and at
its frontier the darkness pregnant with presences.

The Boer, learned in Kafir varieties, stared under puckered brows at the
single figure passing below the kraals.  He marked not so much any
unusual feature in it as the absence of things that were usual.

"Paul," he said, "go an’ see what he ’s after."

Paul was already at the door, going out silently.  He paused to nod.

"I ’m going now," he said.

"Strange Kafirs want lookin’ after," explained Mrs. du Preez to Margaret
as the boy passed the window outside.  "You never know what they ’re up
to.  Hang out your wash when they ’re around and you ’re short of linen
before you know where you are, and there ’s a nigger on the trek
somewhere in a frilled petticoat or a table-cloth.  They don’t care what
it is; anything ’ll do for them.  Why, last year one of ’em sneaked a
skirt off Mrs. Jakes here.  Didn’t he, now?"

"It was a very good skirt," said Mrs. Jakes, flushing. "A very good
one—not even turned."

"Well, he was in luck, then," said Mrs. du Preez. "And what he looks
like in it—well, I give it up!  Miss Harding, you ain’t going yet,

"I ’m afraid _I_ must," put in Mrs. Jakes, seizing her opportunity.  "I
have to see about dinner."

They shook hands all round.  "You must all come up to tea with me some
afternoon soon," suggested Margaret.  "You will come, won’t you?"

"Will a duck swim?" inquired Mrs. du Preez, genially. "You just try us,
Miss Harding.  And oh! if you want to say good-by to Paul, I know where
he ’s gone. He ’ll be down under the dam, makin’ mud pies."

"Not really?"

"You just step down and see; it won’t take you a moment.  He makes
things, y’know; he made a sort of statue of me once.  ’If that ’s like
me,’ I told him, ’it ’s lucky I ’m off the stage.’  And what d ’you
think he had the cheek to answer me?  ’Mother,’ he says, ’when you
forget what you look like, you look like this.’"

"I think I will just say good-by to Paul," said Margaret, glancing at
Mrs. Jakes.

"Come on after me, then," answered the doctor’s wife.  "I really must

"Pigs might fly," suggested Mrs. du Preez, enigmatically.

The Boer did not go to the door with them; he waited where he stood
while Mrs. du Preez, her voice waxing through the leave-takings to a
shrill climax of farewell, accompanied them to her borders.  When she
returned to the little room, he was still standing in his place,
returning "Boy Bailey’s" glazed stare with gloomy intensity.

His wife looked curiously at him as she moved to the table and began to
put the scattered tea-cups together on the tray.

"She ’s a nice girl, Christian," she said, as she gathered them up.

He did not answer, though he heard.  She went on with her work till the
tray was ready to be carried forth, glancing at his brooding face under
her eyebrows.

"Christian," she said suddenly.  "I remember when you told me about the
war and the Kafir baby."

He gave her an absent look.  "You said, ’Hang the Kafir baby!’" he

He turned from her, with a last resentful glare at the plump perfection
of Boy Bailey, and slouched heavily from the room.  Mrs. du Preez, with
a pursed mouth, watched him go in silence.

Mrs. Jakes was resolute in her homeward intentions; she had a
presentiment of trouble in the kitchen which turned out to be well
grounded.  So Margaret went alone along the narrow rut of a path which
ran down towards the shining water of the dam, which the slanting sun
transmuted to a bath of gold.  She was glad of the open air again, after
Mrs. du Preez’s carefully guarded breathing-mixture with its faint odor
of furniture polish and horsehair.  Paul, by the way, knew that elusive
fragrance as the breath of polite life; it belonged to the parlor, where
his father might not smoke, and to nowhere else, and its usual effect
was to rarefy human intercourse to the point of inanity.  In the parlor,
one spoke in low tones and dared not clear one’s throat and felt like an
abortion and a monstrosity. Years afterwards, when the doors of the
world had been forced and it had turned out to be a smallish place, only
passably upholstered, it needed but a sniff of that odor to make his
hands suddenly vast and unwieldy and reduce him to silence and

The path skirted the dam, at the edge of which grew rank grass, and
dipped to turn the corner of the sloping wall of earth and stones at its
deeper end.  As she went, she stooped to pick up a fragment of sun-dried
clay that caught her eye; it had been part of a face, and on it the
mouth still curved.  It was rudely done, but it was there, and it had,
even the broken fragment that lacked the interpretation of its context,
some touch of free vigor that arrested her in the act of letting it
drop. She went on carrying it in her hand, and at the corner of the wall
stopped again at the sound of voices.  Some one was talking only twenty
paces away, hidden from her by the bulk of the wall.

"You must shape it in the lump," she heard.  "You must go for the mass.
That’s everything—the mass! Do you see what I mean?"

She knew the tones, the clear modulations of the pundit-speech which
belonged to her class, but there was another quality in the voice that
was only vaguely familiar to her, which she could not identify.  It
brought to her mind, by some unconscious association, the lumbering
gaiety of Fat Mary.

"Ye-es," very slowly.  That was Paul’s voice answering.  "Yes.  Like you
see it in the distance."

"That ’s it," the baffling voice spoke again.  "That ’s it exactly.  And
work the clay like this, without breaking it, smoothly."

She still held the broken fragment in her hand as she stepped round the
corner of the wall to look.  Paul, sitting cross-legged on the ground,
had his back to her, and facing him, with a lump of red clay between his
hands, which moved upon it deliberately, molding it with care, sat a
Kafir.  He was intent upon his work, and the brim of his hat,
overhanging his eyes, prevented him from seeing her arrival.  She stood
for a moment watching; the two of them made a still group to which all
the western sky and the wide land were a background.  And then the clay
fragment dropped from her hand, hit on a stone underfoot and cracked
into pieces that dissolved the dumb curve of the mouth in ruin.

At the little noise it made, Paul turned sharply and the Kafir raised
his head and looked at her.  There was an instant of puzzled staring and
then the Kafir lifted his hat to her.

"I ’ll be going," he said, and began to rise to his feet.

"Don’t," said Paul.  "Don’t go."  He was looking at the girl
expectantly, waiting for her to justify herself.  Now was the time to
confirm his faith in her. "Don’t go," he repeated.  "It’s Miss Harding
that I told you about."  He hesitated a moment, and now his eyes
appealed to her.  "She ’s from London," he said; "she ’ll understand."

The Kafir waited, standing up, a slender, upright young man in worn
discolored clothes.  To Margaret then, as to Paul in his first encounter
with him at the station, there was a shock in the pitiful, gross negro
face that went with the pleasant, cultivated voice.  It added something
slavish to his travel-stained appearance that touched the girl’s quick

She stepped forward impulsively.

"Please don’t go," she begged, "I should be so sorry. And Paul will
introduce us."

He smiled.  "It shall be as you like, of course," he answered.  "Will
you sit down?  The grass is always dry here."

He made an oddly conventional gesture, as though the slope of the dam
wall were a chair and he were going to place it for her.

"Oh, thanks," said Margaret, and sat down.

                              *CHAPTER VI*

The Kafir seated himself again in his old place and let his hand fall
upon the mass of clay which he had been fashioning for Paul’s
instruction.  He was the least perturbed of the three of them.  He sank
his finger-tops in the soft plasticity of the stuff, and smiled across
it at the others, at the boy, embarrassed and not sure of Margaret yet,
and at her, still mastered by her curiosity.  It was almost as if he
were used to being regarded with astonishment, and his self-possession
had a touch of that deliberate lime-lit quality which distinguishes the
private lives of preachers and actors and hunchbacks.

For the rest, he seemed to be about Margaret’s age, clean run and of the
middle stature.  Watching him, Margaret was at a loss to discover what
it was about him that seemed so oddly commonplace and familiar till she
noted his clothes.  They were "tweeds."  Though he had apparently slept
on the bare ground in them and made them a buffer between his skin and
many emergencies of travel, they were still tweeds, such as any
sprightly youth of Bayswater might affect for a week-end in the country.

It needed only a complexion and an attitude to render him inconspicuous
on a golf-course, but in that place, under the majestic sun, with the
heat-dazzle of the Karoo at his back, his very clothes made him the more

Margaret realized that he was waiting for her to speak.

"You model, then?" she asked, striving to speak in an altogether
matter-of-fact tone, as though to come across gifted, English-speaking
negroes, giving art lessons in odd corners, were nothing unusual.

"Just a little," he answered.  "Enough to help Paul to make a beginning.
Eh, Paul?"

Paul nodded, turning to Margaret.  "He knows lots," he said.  "_He ’s_
been in London, too.  It was there he learned to—to model."

Paul had a way of uttering the word "London" which conveyed to
Margaret’s ready sympathies some little part of what it meant to him,
the bright unattainable home of wonderful activities, the land of
heart’s desire.

"In London?"  She turned to the Kafir, "London seems a long way from
here, doesn’t it?"

"Yes; a long way."  He was not smiling now.  "It is seven months since I
left London," he said; "and already it seems dim and unreal.  It’s as if
I ’d dreamed about it and only remembered parts of my dream."

Paul was listening with that profound attention he seemed to give to all

"I don’t feel it ’s as far as all that," said Margaret. "But then, I was
there two months ago.  Probably that makes a difference."

She was only now beginning to realize the strangeness of the encounter,
and as she talked her faculties, taken by ambush and startled from their
functions, regained their alertness.  She watched him composedly as he

"Yes," he said.  "And there are other differences, too.  Since I left
London I have not slept under a roof."

While he spoke he did not cease to finger the clay; as he turned it here
and there, Margaret was able to see it was the head of a negro that he
was shaping and the work was already well forward.  It was, indeed, the
same head whose unexpected scowl had astonished Paul; and as he moved it
about, the still gloomy face of clay seemed to glance backward and
forward as though it heard him and doubted.

"But why not?" demanded Margaret.

He seemed to hesitate before answering, and meanwhile his hands were
busy and deft.

"Why not?" she repeated.  "Seven months!  I don’t understand.  Why have
n’t you slept under a roof all that time?"

"Well!" He smiled as he spoke at last.  "You see—I don’t speak Kafir.
That’s where the trouble is. When first I came up here, I went across to
the southern districts, where Kafirs are pretty numerous.  My idea was
to live among them, in order to—well, to carry out an idea of mine."

He paused.  "They didn’t know what to make of you?" suggested Margaret.

"No—unless it was a corpse," he answered.  "I don’t really blame them;
they must have been horribly suspicious of me.  At the first kraal I
came to—the first village, that is—I tried to make myself known to a
splendid old chap, sitting over a little fire, who seemed to be in
charge.  That was awfully queer.  Every man, woman and child in the
place stood round and stared and made noises of distrust—that’s what
they sounded like; and the old chap just squatted in the middle and
blinked up at me without a word.  I ’d heard that most of the Kafirs
about here could understand a little English, so I just talked away and
tried to look innocent and useful and I hoped I was making the right
impression.  The chap listened profoundly till I had quite done, looking
as though he were taking in every word of it.  Then he lifted both arms,
with exactly the movement of a cock when it ’s going to crow, and two
young fellows behind him leaned down and took hold of them and helped
him very slowly to his feet.  I made sure I ’d done the trick and that
he was getting up to shake hands or something.  But instead of that he
groped about with his right hand in a blind, helpless kind of way, till
one of his private secretaries put a knobherry, a bludgeon with a knob
on the end, into it.  And then, the poor old thing who had to be helped
to his feet took one quick step in my direction and landed me a bang on
the head with the club.  I just remember that all the others burst into
screams of laughter; I must have heard them as I went down."

"What a horrible thing!" exclaimed Margaret.

He smiled again, his teeth flashing brilliantly in his black face.

"It was awkward at the time," he admitted.  "I came to later on the veld
where they dragged me, with a lump on my head the size of my fist.  And
sore—by Jove!  I was sore.  Still, it’s just possible I might have gone
back for another try, if the first thing I saw hadn’t been a tall black
gentleman sitting at the entrance to the kraal with an assegai—a spear,
that is—ready for me.  I concluded it was n’t good enough!"

"No!" Margaret agreed with him.  "I should think not.  But why should
they receive you like that?"

"Perhaps," he suggested, "they learned it from the white men!"

("He means to look ironical," Margaret thought. "It isn’t a leer; it ’s
irony handicapped by a negro face.  Poor thing!")

"Then you had a bad time somewhere else?" she asked aloud.  "Would you
mind telling how?  If you would, please don’t tell me.  But I ’d like to

"Then you shall.  Of course you shall."  The look that tried to be
ironical vanished.  "If you could only know how grateful I am for—for
this—for just your politeness.  For you being what you are—"

"Please," interrupted Margaret.  "Please don’t.  I want to hear.  Just
tell me."

There was something pathetic in his prompt obedience. He shifted ground
at once like a child that is snubbed.

"It was in Capetown," he said; "when I landed from the boat.  There was
trouble on the boat, too; it was full of South Africans, and I had to
have my meals alone and only use the deck at certain hours.  I could n’t
even put my name down for a sovereign in the subscription they raised
for the ship’s band; the others wouldn’t have it.  I only got rid of
that sovereign on the last evening, when the leader of the band came to
me as I walked up and down on the boat deck.  He passed me once or twice
before he stopped to speak to me—making sure that nobody was looking.
’Hurry up!’ he said, in a whisper.  ’Where ’s the quid you was going to
subscribe?’  ’Say Sir!’ I said—for the fun of the thing. He couldn’t
manage it for fully a minute; his share of it wasn’t more than
half-a-crown.  I went on walking and left him where I stood, but as I
came back again he was ready for me.  ’No offense, sir,’ he said, quite
clearly.  I gave him the money and passed on.  But he was still there
when I turned again, and ever so anxious to put himself right with his
conscience.  ’D’you know what I ’d do with you niggers if I had my way?’
he began, still in a large hoarse whisper, like air escaping from a
pipe.  ’I ’d ’ave you back into slavery, I would.  I ’d sell the lot of
you.’  I laughed.  ’You couldn’t buy many of us with that sovereign!’ I
told him.  Really, I rather liked that man."

"There are men like that," said Margaret thoughtfully. "And women, too."

"Yes, aren’t there?" he agreed quickly.  "But I ’d rather—it ’s a pity
you should know it.  However, you wanted to hear about Capetown."

The afternoon was waning; the Kafir, with his hat at the back of his
head and the rim of its brim framing his patient face, was set against a
skyful of melting color. Even in face of those two attentive hearers, he
sat as though in an immense and significant isolation, imposing himself
upon them by virtue of his strong aloofness. Margaret was conscious of a
great gulf set between them, an unbridgable hiatus of spirit and
purpose.  The man saw the life of the world not from above or below but
as through a barred window, from a room in which he was prisoned and

He was entirely matter-of-fact as he told of his troubles and
difficulties when he landed in Capetown; he spoke of them as things
accepted, calling for no comment. On the steamer from England he had
been told of the then recent experiences of a concert party of American
negroes who visited Africa and had been obliged to sleep in the streets,
but the tale had the sound of a smoking-room ingenuity and had not
daunted him.  But it was true for all that and he ran full-tilt into the
application of it, when nightfall of the day of his arrival found him
still seeking vainly for a lodging.  He had money in plenty, but neither
money nor fair words availed to bribe an innkeeper into granting him a

"But I saw a lot of Capetown," he said.  "I walked that afternoon and
evening full twenty miles—once all the way out to Sea Point and back
again.  And I was perhaps a little discouraged: there were so many
difficulties I hadn’t expected.  I knew quite well before I left England
that I should have difficulties with the whites, but I hadn’t allowed
for practically the same difficulties with the blacks.  There was a
place behind the railway station, a tumble-down house in which about a
dozen Kafirs were living, and I tried that.  They fetched a policeman
who ordered me away, and I had to go.  You see, they could n’t make head
or tail of me; I was much too unusual for them to keep company with. So
about midnight I found myself walking down towards the jetty at the foot
of Adderly Street.  You don’t know Capetown, I suppose?  The jetty
sticks out into the bay; it ’s no great use except for a few boats to
land and at night it serves the purpose of the Thames Embankment for men
who have nowhere else to go.  I was very tired by then.  As I passed the
Van Riebeck statue, a woman spoke to me."

He hesitated, examining Margaret’s listening face, doubtfully.

"I understand," she said.  "Go on.  A white woman, was it?"

"Yes, a white woman," he replied with the first touch of bitterness she
had seen in him.  "A poor devil who had fallen so far that she had lost
even the scruples of her trade.  I heard her coughing in the shadow when
she was some distance from me, and saw her come out into the lamplight
still breathless, with the shadows making a ruin of her poor painted
face.  But she had herself in hand; she was game.  At the moment I was
near enough, she smiled—I suppose the last thing they forget is how to
smile.  ’Koos!’ she called to me, softly. ’Koos!’  ’Koos’ is the Taal
for cousin, you know; it ’s a sort of familiar address.  I couldn’t pass
her without a word, so I stopped.  ’You ought to see to that cough,’ I
told her.  She was horribly surprised, of course, and I rather think she
started to bolt, but her cough stopped her.  It was a bad case, that—a
very bad case, and of course she wasn’t sufficiently clad or nourished.
I advised her to get home to bed, and she leaned against the wall wiping
her eyes with the corner of her handkerchief wrapped round her finger so
as not to smudge the paint, and stared at me with a sort of surrender.
I got her to believe at last that I was what I said—a doctor—"

"_Are_ you a doctor?" interrupted Margaret.

"Yes," he answered.  "I hold the London M.B.; oh, I knew what I was
talking about.  When she understood it, she changed at once.  She was
pretty near the end of her tether, and now she had a chance, her first
chance, to claim some one’s pity.  The lives they lead, those poor
smirched things!  She had a landlady; can you imagine that landlady?
And unless she brought money with her, she could not even go back to her
lodgings.  She told me all about it, coughing in between, under the
windows of a huge shopful of delicate women’s wear, with a big arc-light
spluttering above the empty street and Van Riebeck looking over our
heads to Table Mountain.  Wasn’t it strange—us two homeless people, cast
out by our own folk and rejected by the other color?"

"Yes," answered the girl; "very strange and sad."

"It was like a dream," said the Kafir.  "It was weird. But I like the
idea that she accosted a possible customer and found a deliverer.  I
gave her the money she needed, of course, and listened to her lungs and
wrote her a prescription on the back of a card she produced.  No real
use, you know—just something to go on with.  She was past any real help.
No use going into details, but it was a bad case!"

He shook his head thoughtfully, in a mood of gloom.

"And then?" asked Margaret.

"Oh, then she went away," he said, "and I watched her go.  She crossed
the road, holding up her skirt clear of the mud; she was a neat,
appealing little figure in spite of everything.  She passed with her
head drooped to the corner opposite and there she turned and waved her
hand to me, I waved back and she went into the shadows.  She ’s in the
Valley of the Shadows now, though; she hadn’t far to go.

"But you can’t conceive how still and wonderful it was on the jetty,
with the water all round and the moon making a broad track of beams
across it, and over the bay the bulk of inland hills massive and
inscrutable.  It was like looking at Africa from a great distance; and
yet, you know, I was born here!"

His hands had fallen idle on the clay, but as he ceased to speak he
began to work again, with eyes cast down to his task.  The light was
already failing, and as the three of them waited in the silence that
followed on his words, there reached them the dull pulse of the
gourd-drum at the farm, stealing upon their consciousness gradually.
Paul frowned as he recognized it, coming out of the trance of his
faculties unwillingly.  He had sat motionless with parted lips through
the Kafir’s story, so still in his absorption that the others had
forgotten his presence.

"That ’s for me," he said, slowly, but took his time about getting up.
He was looking at the Kafir with the solemn, sincere eyes of a child.

"I would like," he said, "to make a clay of that woman."

"Eh!"  The Kafir suppressed his smile.  "Time enough, Paul.  Plenty of
time and plenty of clay for you to do that—and plenty of women, too."

Paul was on his feet by now, looking down at the other two.

"But," he hesitated, "I _must_ make it," he said.  "I must."

The Kafir nodded.  "All right," he said.  "You make it, Paul, and show
it to me.  As you see her, you know; that ’s how you must do it."

"Yes," said Paul seriously.  "Brave and smiling and dying.  I know!"

The gourd-drum throbbed insistently.  He moved towards it reluctantly.
"Good night," he said.

"Goodnight, Paul!"

A moment later he was vague in the growing dusk, and they heard his long
whistle of answer to the drum.

Margaret, with her chin propped on her hand, sat on the slope of the
wall.  The Kafir began to put away the clay on which he had been
working.  Paul’s store was an abandoned ant-bear’s hole across which
there trailed the broad dry leaves of a tenacious gourd.  He put the
unfinished head carefully in this receptacle, and then drew from it
another object, which he held out to the girl.

"A bit of Paul’s work," he explained.

She took it in her hand, but for the time being her interest in the
immaturities of art gave place to the strange realities in whose
presence she felt herself to be.  She glanced at it perfunctorily, a
little sketch of a woman carrying a basket, well observed and

"Yes," she answered.  "He has a real gift.  But just now I can’t think
about that.  I ’m thinking about you."

"I ’ve saddened you," he said.  "I didn’t want to do that.  I should
have held my tongue.  But if you could know what it means to talk to you
at all, you ’d forgive me.  I ’m not regretting, you know; I ’m going
through it of my own free will; but it ’s a lonely business.  I ’m
always glad of a tramp making his way along the railway line, and Paul
was a godsend.  But you! Oh, you ’ll never understand how splendid it is
to tell you anything and have you listen to it."

He spoke almost humbly, but with a warmth of sincerity that moved her.

"You ’ll have to tell me more," she said.  "You ’ll be coming here

"Indeed I will," he replied quickly.  "I ’ll be here often, if only in
the hope that you ’ll come down to the dam sometimes.  But—there ’s one

"Yes?" asked Margaret.

"You know, it won’t do for you to be seen with me," he said gently.  "It
won’t do at all."

Margaret laughed.  "I think I can bear up against the ill-report of the
neighborhood," she said.  "My kingdom is not of this particular world.
We won’t bother about that, please."

The Kafir shook his head.  "There ’s no help for it," he answered.  "I
must bother about it.  It bothers me so much that unless you will let me
know best in this (for I really do know) I ’ll never come this way
again. Do you think I could bear it, if people talked about you for
suffering the company of a nigger?  You don’t know this country.  It ’s
a dangerous place for people who go against its prejudices.  So if I am
to see you, for God’s sake be careful.  I ’ll look forward to it
like—like a sick man looking forward to health; but not if you are to
pay for it.  Not at that price."

"Oh, well!"  Margaret found the topic unpleasant. "I don’t see any risk.
But you ’re rather putting me into the position of the bandmaster on the
ship, are n’t you?  I ’m to have the sovereign; that is, I ’m to hear
what I want to hear; but only when nobody ’s looking. However, it shall
be as you say."

"Thank you."  He managed to sound genuinely grateful.  "You ’re awfully
kind to me.  You shall hear everything you want to hear.  Paul can
always lay hands on me for you."

Margaret rose to her feet.  The evening struck chill upon her and she
coughed.  In the growing dark, the Kafir knit his brows at the sound of

"I must be going now," she said.  "Paul didn’t introduce me after all,
did he?  But I don’t think it’s necessary."

She stood a little above him on the slope of the wall, a tall, slight
figure seen against its dark bulk.

"I know your name," he answered.

"And I know yours," she put in quickly.  "Tell me if I ’m not right.
You ’re Kamis.  I ’ve heard about you this afternoon."

He stared at her for a space of seconds.  "Yes," he said slowly.  "I ’m
Kamis.  But—who told you?"

She laughed quietly.  "You see," she said, "I ’ve got something to tell,
too.  Oh, I know lots about you; you ’ll have to come and hear that, at
any rate."

She put out her hand to him.

"Good night, Mr. Kamis," she said.

The Kafir bared his head before he took her hand. He seemed to have some
difficulty in speaking.

"Good night," he said.  "Good night!  I’ll never forget your goodness."

He let her go and she turned back to the path that should take her past
the farmhouse and the kraals to the Sanatorium and dinner.  At the turn
of the wall, its lights met her with their dazed, unwinking stare,
shining from the dining-room which had no part in the spacious night of
the Karoo and those whose place is in the darkness.  She had gone a
hundred yards before she looked back.

Behind her the western sky treasured still the last luminous dregs of
day, that leaked from it like water one holds in cupped hands.  In the
middle of it, high upon the dam wall, a single human figure, swart and
motionless, stood to watch her out of sight.

                             *CHAPTER VII*

"Looks pooty bad for the huntin’," remarked Mr. Samson suddenly,
glancing up from the crinkly sheets of the letter he was reading.  "Here
’s a feller writin’ to me that the ground ’s like iron already.  You
hunt, Miss Harding?"

"Oh, dear, yes," replied Margaret cheerfully. "Lions and elephants
and—er—eagles.  Such sport, you know!"

"Hah!"  Mr. Samson shook his head at her indulgently. "Your grandmother
wouldn’t have said that, young lady.  But you youngsters, you don’t know
what ’s good for you—by gad!  Eagles, eh?"

Once in a week, breakfast at the Sanatorium gained a vivid and even a
breathless quality from the fact that one found the weekly letters piled
between one’s knife and fork, as though Mrs. Jakes knew—no doubt she
did—that her guests would make the chief part of their meal on the
contents of the envelopes.  The Kafir runner who brought them from the
station arrived in the early dawn and nobody saw him but Mrs. Jakes; she
was the human link between the abstractions of the post-office and those
who had the right to open the letters and be changed for the day by
their contents.  It was not invariably that the mail included letters
for her, and these too would be put in order on the breakfast table,
under the tap of the urn, and not opened till the others were down.
Then Mrs. Jakes also, like a well-connected Jack Horner, could pull from
the eloquence of her correspondents an occasional plum of information to
pass round the table.

"Only think!" she would offer.  "The Duchess of York has got another
baby.  Let me see now!  How many does that make?"

It was always Mr. Samson who was down first on mail-mornings, and his
was always the largest budget. His seat was at the end of the table
nearest the window, and he would read sitting a little sideways in his
chair, with the letter held well up to the light and his right eyebrow
clenched on a monocle.  Fat letters of many sheets, long letters on thin
foreign paper, newspapers, circulars—they made up enough to keep him
reading the whole morning, and thoughtful most of the afternoon. From
this feast he would scatter crumbs of fashionable or sporting
intelligence, and always he would have something to say about the state
of the weather in England when the post left, three weeks before.

"Just think!" he continued.  "Frost already—and fogs!  Frost, Miss
Harding; instead of this sultry old dust-heap.  How does that strike
you?  Eh?"

"It leaves me cold," returned Margaret agreeably.

"Cold!" he retorted, snorting.  "Well, I ’d give something to shiver
again, something handsome. What ’s that you ’re saying, Ford?"

Ford had passed a post-card to Mrs. Jakes to read and now received it
back from her.

"It ’s Van Zyl," he replied.  "He writes that he ’ll be coming past this
afternoon, about tea time, and he ’ll look in.  I was telling Mrs.

"Good!" said Mr. Samson.

"It’s a man I know," Ford explained to Margaret. "He looks me up
occasionally.  He ’s in the Cape Mounted Police and a Dutchman.  You ’ll
be in for tea?"

"When somebody ’s coming?  Of course I will," said Margaret.  "A
policeman, is he?"

"Yes," answered Ford.  "He ’s a sub-inspector, an officer; but he was a
trooper three years ago, and he ’s quite a chap to know.  You see what
you think of him."

"I ’ll look at him carefully," said Margaret.  "But tell me some more,
please!  Is he a mute, inglorious Sherlock Holmes, or what?"

Ford laughed.  "No," he said.  "No, it ’s not that sort of thing, at
all.  It ’s just that he ’s a noticeable person, don’t you know?  He ’s
the kind of chap who ’s simply born to put into a uniform and astride of
a horse; you ’ll see what I mean when he comes."

Mrs. Jakes leaned to the right to catch Margaret’s eye round the urn.

"My dear," she said seriously.  "Mr. Van Zyl is the image of a perfect

"All right!" said Margaret.  "Between you, you ’ve filled me with the
darkest forebodings.  But so long as it’s a biped, and without feathers,
I ’ll do my best."

Her own letters were three in number.  One was from an uncle who was
also her solicitor and trustee, the source of checks and worldly
counsel.  His letter opened playfully; the legal uncle, writing in the
inner chamber of his offices in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, hoped that she did
not find the local fashions in dress irksome, and made reference to
three mosquitos and a smile.  The break of a paragraph brought him to
business matters and the epistle concluded with an allusion to the
effect of a Liberal Government on markets. It was, thought Margaret, a
compact revelation of the whole mind of the legal uncle, and wondered
why she should get vaguely impatient with his implied suggestion that
she was in an uncivilized country.  The next was from the strong-minded
aunt who had imposed austerity upon her choice of clothes for her
travels—a Chinese cracker of a letter, detonating along three sheets in
crisp misstatements that had the outward form of epigrams.  The aunt
related, tersely, her endeavor to cultivate a physique with Indian clubs
and the consequent accident to her maid.  "But arms like pipe-stems can
be trusted to break like pipe-stems," she concluded hardily.  "I ’ve
given her cash and a character, and the new one is fat.  No pipe-stems
about her, though she bruises with the least touch!"

These two she read at the breakfast table, drinking from her coffee-cup
between the bottom of one sheet and the top of the next, savoring them
for a vintage gone flat and perished.  It came to her that their writers
lived as in dim glass cases, seeing the world beyond their own small
scope as a distance of shadows, indeterminate and void, while
trivialities and toys that were close to them bulked like impending
doom.  She laid down the legal uncle in the middle of a sentence to hear
of Van Zyl and did not look back to pick up the context when she resumed
her reading.  The legal uncle, in her theory, had no context; he ranked
as a printer’s error.  It was the third letter which she carried forth
when she left the table, to read again on the stoep.

The jargon of the art schools saves its practitioners much trouble in
accounting for those matters and things which come under their
observation, since a phrase is frequently indistinguishable from a fact
and very filling at the price.  But Margaret was not ready with a name
for that quality in the third letter which caused her to read it through
again and linger out its substance. It was from a girl who had been her
school-fellow and later her friend, and later still a gracious and
rarely-seen acquaintance, smiling a welcome at chance meetings and ever
remoter and more abstracted from those affairs which occupied Margaret’s
days.  The name of a Kensington square stood at the head of her letter
as her address; Margaret knew it familiarly, from the grime on the iron
railings which held its melancholy garden a prisoner, to the deep areas
of its houses that gave one in passing glimpses of spacious kitchens
under the roots of the dwellings.  Three floors up from the pavement,
Amy Hollyer, in her brown-papered room, with the Rossetti prints on the
wall and the Heleu etching above the mantel, had set her mild and
earnest mind on paper for Margaret’s reading, news, comment, small jest
and smaller dogma, a gentle trickle of gossip about things and people
who were already vague in the past.  It was little, it was trivial, but
through it there ran, like the red thread in a ripping-cord, a vein of
zest, of sheer gusto in the movement and thrill of things.  It suggested
an ant lost in a two-inch high forest of lawn-grass, but it rendered,
too, some of the ant’s passionate sense of adventure.

"She ’s alive," thought Margaret, laying the letter at last in her lap.
"Dear old Amy, what a wonderful world she lives in!  But then, she ’d
furnish any world with complications."

Twenty feet way, Ford had his little easel between his outstretched legs
and was frowning absorbedly from it to the Karoo and back again.  Twenty
feet away on her other side, Mr. Samson was crackling a three-weeks-old
copy of _The Morning Post_ into readable dimensions. Before her, across
the railing of the stoep, the Karoo lifted its blind face to the
gathering might of the sun.

"Even this," continued Margaret.  "She ’d find this inexhaustible.  She
was born with an appetite for life. I seem to have lost mine."

From the great front door emerged to the daylight the solid rotundity of
Fat Mary, billowing forth on flat bare feet and carrying in her hand a
bunch of the long crimson plumes of the aloe, that spiky free-lance of
the veld which flaunts its red cockade above the abomination of
desolation.  Fat Mary spied Margaret and came padding towards her, her
smile lighting up her vast black face with the effect of "some great
illumination surprising a festal night."

"For Missis," she remarked, offering the crimson bunch.

Margaret sat up in her chair with an exclamation. "Flowers!" she said.
"Are they flowers?  They ’re more like great thick feathers.  Where did
you get them, Mary?"

Fat Mary giggled awkwardly.  "A Kafir bring ’um," she explained.  "He
say—for Missis Harding, an’ give me a ticky (a threepenny piece).
Fool—that Kafir!"

Margaret stared, holding the fat, fleshy crimson things in her hands.

"Oh!" she said, understanding.  "Where is he, Mary?  The Kafir, I mean?"

Fat Mary shook her head placidly.  "Gone," she said; and waved a great
hand to the utter distance of the heat haze.  "That Kafir gone, Missis.
He come before breakfus’; Missis in bed.  Say for Missis Harding an’
give me ticky.  Fool!  Talk English—an’ boots!"

She shrugged mightily to express the distrust and contempt she could not
put into words.

"Boots!" she repeated darkly.

"Well," said Margaret, "they ’re very pretty, anyhow."

Fat Mary wrinkled her nose.  "Stink," she observed. "Missis smell ’em.
Stink like a hell!  Missis throw ’um away."

Margaret looked at the stout woman and smiled. Fat Mary’s hostility to
the Kafir and the aloe plumes and the ticky was plainly the fruit of

"I won’t throw them away yet," she said.  "I want to look at them first.
But did you know the Kafir, Mary?"

"Me!"  Fat Mary drew herself up.  "No, Missis—not know that _skellum_.
Never see him before. What for that Kafir come here, an’ bring
stink-flowers to my Missis?  An’ boots?  Fool, that Kafir!  _Fool_!"

"All right, Mary," said Margaret, conciliatingly. "Very likely he won’t
come again.  So never mind this time."

Fat Mary smiled ruefully.  Most of her emotions found expressions in

"That Kafir come again," she said thoughtfully, "I punch ’im!"

And comforted by this resolve, she retired along the stone stoep and
betook herself once more to her functions indoors.

At his post further along the stoep, Ford was looking up with a smile,
for the sounds of Fat Mary’s grievance had reached him.  Margaret did
not notice his attention; she was turning over the great bouquet of cold
flaunting flowers which had come to her out of the wilderness, as though
to remind her that at the heart of it there was a voice crying.

Ford’s friend was punctual to his promise to arrive for tea.  Upon the
stroke of half-past four he reined in his big horse at the foot of the
steps and swung stiffly from the saddle.  He came, indeed, with
circumstances of pomp, armed men riding before him and captives padding
in the dust between them.  Old Mr. Samson sighted him while he was yet
afar off and cried the news and the others came to look.

"Who ’s he got with him?" demanded Mr. Samson, fumbling his papers into
the pockets of his writing case.  "Looks like a bally army.  Can you see
what it is, Ford?"

Ford was staring with narrowed eyes through the sunshine.

"Yes," he said slowly.  "He ’s got prisoners.  But what ’s he bringing
them here for?"

"Prisoners?  Oh, do let me look!"

Margaret came to his side and followed his pointing finger with her
eyes.  A blot of haze was moving very slowly towards them over the
surface of the ground, and through it as she watched there broke here
and there the shapes of men and horses traveling in that cloud of dust.

"Why, they ’re miles away," she exclaimed. "They’ll be hours yet."

"Say half-an-hour," suggested Ford, his face still puckered with the
effort to see.  "They ’re moving briskly, you know.  He ’s shoving them

"But why prisoners?" enquired Margaret.  "What prisoners could he get on
the Karoo?  There ’s nobody to arrest."

"Van Zyl seems to have found somebody, anyhow," answered Ford.  "I had a
glimpse of people on foot. But I can’t imagine why he brings ’em here."

"Ask him," suggested Mr. Samson.  "What ’s your hurry?  Wait till he
comes and then ask him."

First Mrs. Jakes and then the doctor joined the spectators on the stoep
as the party drew out of the distance and defined itself as a string of
Kafirs on foot, herded upon their way by five Cape Mounted Police with a
tall young officer riding in the rear.  It was a monstrous phenomenon to
emerge thus from the vagueness and mystery of the haze, and Margaret
uttered a sharp exclamation of distress as it came close and showed
itself in all its miserable detail. There were perhaps twenty Kafirs,
men and women both, dusty, lean creatures with the eyes, at once
timorous and untameable, of wild animals.  They shuffled along
dejectedly, their feet lifting the dust in spurts and wreaths, their
backs bent to the labor of the journey.  Three or four of the men were
handcuffed together, and these made the van of the unhappy body, but
save for these fetters, there was nothing to distinguish one from
another.  Their separate individualities seemed merged in a single
slavishness, and as they turned their heads to look at the white people
elevated on the stoep, they showed only a row of white hopeless eyes.
Beside them as they plodded, the tall beautiful horses had a look of
nonchalance and superiority, and the mounted men, bored and thirsty,
looked over their heads as perfunctorily as drovers keeping watch on
docile cattle.

"How horrible!" said Margaret, in a low voice, for the officer, followed
by an orderly, was at the foot of the steps.

The prisoners and their guards did not halt; they continued their way
past the house and on towards the opposite horizon.  Their backs, as
they departed, showed gray with clinging dust.

Sub-Inspector Van Zyl, booted and spurred, trim in his dust-smirched
blue uniform, with his holster at his hip and the sling across his tight
chest, lifted his hand in the abrupt motions of a salute as he received
Mrs. Jakes’ greeting.

"Kind of you," he said, with a sort of curt cordiality and the least
touch in life of the thick Dutch accent. "Most kind!  Tea ’s the very
thing I ’d like.  Thank you."

At sight of Margaret, grave and young, as different from Mrs. Jakes as
if she had been of another sex, a slight spark lit in his eye for a
moment and there was an even stronger abruptness of formality in his
salute. His curiously direct gaze rested upon her several times during
the administration of tea in the drawing-room, where he sat upright in
his chair, with knees apart, as though he were still astride of a horse.
He was a man made as by design for the wearing of official cloth.  His
blunt, neatly-modeled Dutch face, blond as straw where it was not tanned
to the hue of the earth of the Karoo, had the stolid, responsible cast
that is the ensign of military authority.  His uniform stood on him like
a skin; and his mere unconsciousness of the spurs on his boots and the
revolver on his hip strengthened his effect of a man habituated to the
panoply and accoutrement of war.  Even his manners, precise and ordered
like a military exercise, never slackened into humanity; the Dutch
Sub-Inspector of Cape Mounted Police might have been a Prussian
Lieutenant with the eyes of the world on him.

"Timed myself to get here for tea," he explained to Ford.  "Just managed
it, though.  Hot work traveling, to-day."

Hotter, thought Margaret, for those of his traveling companions who had
no horses under them, and who would not arrive anywhere in time for tea.

"You seem to have made a bag," replied Ford. "What ’s been the trouble?"

"Fighting and looting," answered Sub-Inspector Van Zyl carelessly.  "A
row between two kraals, you know, and a man killed."

"Any resistance?" enquired Ford.

"A bit," said Van Zyl.  "My sergeant got his head split open with an
axe.  Those niggers in the south are an ugly lot and they ’ll always
fight.  You see, it ’s only about twenty years ago they were at war with
us; it ’ll need another twenty to knock the fighting tradition out of

"They looked meek enough as they passed," remarked Ford.  "There didn’t
seem to be a kick left among them."

Van Zyl nodded over the brim of his tea-cup. "There isn’t," he said
shortly.  "They ’ve had the kick taken out of ’em."

He drank imperturbably, and Margaret had a momentary blurred vision of
defeated, captured Kafirs in the process of having the kick extracted
from them and the serene, fair-haired sub-inspector superintending its
removal with unruffled, professional calm.

"Been here long, Miss Harding?"

Van Zyl addressed her suddenly across the room.

"Not quite long enough to understand," she replied. "Did you say those
poor creatures were fighting—among themselves?"


"But why?" she persisted.  "What did they fight for?"

He shrugged his neat shoulders.  "Why does a Kafir do anything?" he
enquired.  "They told a cock-and-bull story that seems to be getting
fashionable among them of late, about a son of one of their old chiefs
appearing among them dressed like a white man. He went from kraal to
kraal, talking English and giving money, and at one kraal the headman,
an old chap who used to be a native constable of ours, actually seems to
have laid his stick across some wandering nigger who couldn’t explain
what he wanted.  The next kraal heard of this, and decided at once that
a chief had been insulted, and the next thing was a fight and the old
headman with an assegai through him. But if you want my opinion, Miss
Harding—it does n’t make such a good story, but I ’ve had to do with
niggers all my life—"

"Yes?" said Margaret.  "Tell me."

"Well," said Van Zyl, "my opinion is that if the old headman had n’t
been the owner of twelve head of cattle, all ready to be stolen, he
might have gone on whacking stray Kafirs all his life without hurting
anybody’s feelings."

"Except theirs," suggested Mr. Samson.  "Hah, ha!  Except the chaps that
he whacked—what?"

"Quite so!" Sub-Inspector Van Zyl smiled politely. "He was a vigorous
old gentleman, and rather given to laying about him with anything that
came handy. Probably picked up the habit in the police; the Kafir
constables are always pretty rough with people of their own color.
Anyhow, he ’s done for; they drove a stabbing assegai clean through him
and pinned him to a post of his own hut.  I think I ’ve got the nigger
that did it."

Mrs. Jakes at the tea-table shook her skirts applaudingly.  At any rate,
the rustle of them as she shook came in like applause at the tail of the
sub-inspector’s narrative.

"He ought to be hanged," she said.

"He will be," said the sub-inspector.  "But we ’re not at the bottom of
it yet.  There is a fellow, so far as I can find out, coming and going
on the Karoo, dressed in clothes and talking a sort of English.  He ’s
the man I want."

"What for?" demanded Margaret, and knew that she had spoken too sharply.
Van Zyl seemed to remark it, too, for his eye dwelt on her inquiringly
for a couple of seconds before he replied.

"It’ll probably be sedition," he replied.  "The whole lot of ’em are
uneasy down in the south there and we ’re strengthening our posts.  No!"
he said, to Mrs. Jakes’ exclamation; "there ’s no danger.  Not the
slightest danger.  But if we could just lay hands on that wandering
nigger who talks English—"

He left the sentence unfinished, and his nod signified that dire
experiences awaited the elusive Kafir when he should come into the
strong hands of authority. The Cape Mounted Police, he replied, would
cure him of his eccentricities.

He passed on to talk with Ford and Mrs. Jakes about common
acquaintances, officers in the police and the Rifles and people who
lived in Dopfontein, sixty miles away, and belonged to a tennis club.
Then the sound of the softly-closing door advertised them of the tiptoe
departure of Dr. Jakes, and soon afterwards Van Zyl rose and announced
that he must leave to overtake his party.

"If you can come to Dopfontein, Miss Harding," he said, as he took his
leave, "hope you ’ll let me know.  Decent little place; we ’ll try to
amuse you."

The orderly, refreshed but dusty still, came quickly to attention as the
sub-inspector appeared in the doorway, and his pert cockney face took on
the blankness proper to discipline.  At a window above, Fat Mary shed
admiring glances upon him, and a certain rigor of demeanor might have
been taken to indicate that the warrior was not unconscious of them.  He
looked back over his shoulder as he cantered off in the wake of the

"What ’s the trouble?" asked Ford, discreetly, as the sun-warmed dust
fluffed up and enveloped the riders in a soft cloud of bronze.

Margaret turned impatiently from looking after them.

"I hate cruelty," she said, irritably.

Ford looked at her shrewdly.  "Of course you do," he said.  "But Van
Zyl’s not cruel.  What he said is true; he ’s been among Kafirs all his

"And learned nothing," retorted Margaret.  "It ’s beastly; it’s just
beastly.  He can’t even think they ever mean well; they only fight to
steal, according to him.  And then he ’takes the kick out of them!’
Some day he ’ll work himself up to crucify one of them."

"Hold on," said Ford.  "You mustn’t get excited; you know, Jakes doesn’t
allow it.  And you ’re really not quite just to Van Zyl."

"Isn’t he proud of it?" asked Margaret scornfully.

"I wonder," said Ford.  "But it ’s just as likely he ’s proud of
policing a smallpox district single-handed and playing priest and nurse
when he was only paid to be jailer and executioner.  He got his
promotion for that."

"Mr. Van Zyl did that?" asked Margaret incredulously. "Did he arrange to
have the deaths over in time for tea?"

Ford laughed shortly.  "You must ask him," he replied.  "He ’ll probably
say he did.  He ’s very fond of tea.  But at any rate, he sees as much
downright hard fighting in a year as a man in the army might see in a
lifetime and—" he looked at Margaret out of the corners of his eyes—"the
Kafirs swear by him."

"The Kafirs do?" asked Margaret incredulously.

"They swear by him," Ford assured her.  "You try Fat Mary some time; she
’ll tell you."

"Oh, well," said Margaret; "I don’t know.  Things are beastly, anyhow,
and I don’t know which is worse—cruelty to Kafirs or the Kafirs’
apparent enjoyment of it.  That man has made me miserable."

Ford frowned.  "Don’t be miserable," he said, awkwardly.  "I hate to
think you ’re unhappy.  You know," he went on, more fluently as an
argument opened out ahead of him, "you ’ve no business really to concern
yourself with such things.  You don’t belong among them.  You ’re a bird
of passage, just perching for a moment on your way through, and you
mustn’t eat the local worms.  It ’s poaching."

"There ’s nothing else to eat," replied Margaret lugubriously.

"You should have brought your knitting," said Ford.  "You really should!
Capital thing for staying the pangs of hunger, knitting!"

"Thank you," said Margaret.  "You ’re very good. But I prefer worms.
Not so cloying, you know!"

She did not, however, act upon Ford’s suggestion to ask Fat Mary about
the sub-inspector.  Even as rats are said to afford the means of travel
to the bacillus of bubonic plague, it is probable that the worms of a
country furnish vehicles for native prejudices and habits of mind.  At
any rate, when Margaret surveyed Fat Mary, ballooning about the room and
creased with gaiety, there came to her that sense of the impropriety of
discussing a white man with her handmaid which is at the root of South
African etiquette.

"Them flowers gone," announced Fat Mary tranquilly, when Margaret was in
bed and she was preparing to depart.

"Gone!  Where?" asked Margaret.

"I throw ’um away," was the contented answer. "Stink—pah!  So I throw
’um.  Goo’ night, missis."

                             *CHAPTER VIII*

"Don’t you some times feel," asked Margaret, "as though dullness had
gone as far as it possibly can go, and something surprising simply must
happen soon?"

Ford glanced cautiously about him before he answered.

"Lots of things might happen any minute to some of us," he said.  "You
haven’t been ill enough to know, but we are n’t all keen for surprises."

It was evening, and the big lamp that hung from the ceiling in the
middle of the drawing-room breathed a faint fragrance of paraffin upon
the inhabitants of the Sanatorium assembled beneath it.  From the piano
which stood against the wall, Mrs. Jakes had removed its usual load of
photographs and ornamental pottery, and now, with her back to her fellow
creatures, was playing the intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana."  Her
small hands moving upon the keys showed the red knuckles and uneven
nails which had come to her since first she learned that composition
within earshot of the diapason of trains passing by Clapham Junction,
mightily challenging her laborious tinkle-tinkle, and with as little
avail as now the night of the Karoo challenged it.  Like her gloves and
her company manners, it stood between her shrinking spirit and those
poignant realities which might otherwise have overthrown her.  So when
she came to the end of it she turned back the pages of the score which
was propped before her, and without glancing at the notes, played it
through again.

"For instance," whispered Ford, under cover of the music; "look at
Jakes.  He carries a catastrophe about with him, don’t you think?"

The doctor was ranging uneasily to and fro on the hearth-rug, where the
years of his exile were recorded in patches worn bare by his feet.
There was already a change to be remarked in him since Margaret had
first made his acquaintance; some of his softness and appealing
guiltiness was gone and he was a little more desperate and unresponsive.
She had mentioned this once to Ford, who had frowned and replied, "Yes,
he ’s showing the strain."  She looked at him now covertly.  He was
walking to and fro before the empty fireplace with quick, unequal steps
and the fingers of one hand fidgeted about his mouth.  His eyes,
flickering back and forth, showed an almost frantic impatience; poor
Mrs. Jakes’ melodious noises that smoothed balm upon her soul were
evidently making havoc with his nerves. He seemed to have forgotten, in
the stress of his misery, that others were present to see him and enter
his disordered demeanor upon their lists of his shortcomings. As he
faced towards her, Margaret saw the sideward sag of his mouth under his
meager, fair mustache and the panic of his white eyeball upturned.  His
decent black clothes only accentuated the strangeness of him.

"He looks dreadful," she said; "dreadful. Oughtn’t you to go to him—or

"No use."  Ford shook his head.  "_I_ know.  But I wish he ’d go to his
study, all the same.  If he stays here he may break down."

"Why doesn’t he go?" asked Margaret.

"He can’t make up his mind.  He ’s at that stage when to decide to do
anything is an effort.  And yet the chap ’s suffering for the only thing
that will give his nerves relief.  Can’t help pitying him, in spite of
everything, when you see him like that."

"Pitying him—yes," agreed Margaret.  Mrs. Jakes with her foot on the
soft pedal, was beginning the intermezzo again for the fifth time and
slurring it dreamily to accord with her brief mood of contentment and

"You know," Margaret went on, "it ’s awfully queer, really, that I
should be in the same room with a man in that condition.  Three months
ago, I couldn’t have borne it.  Except sometimes on the streets, I don’t
think I ’d ever seen a drunken man.  I must have changed since then in
some way."

"Learned something, perhaps," suggested Ford. "But you were saying you
found things dull.  Well, it just struck me that you ’d only got to lift
up your eyes to see the makings of a drama, and while you ’re looking
on, your lungs are getting better.  Aren’t you a bit hard to satisfy?"

"Am I?  I wonder."  They were seated at opposite ends of a couch which
faced them to the room, and the books which they had
abandoned—loose-backed, much-handled novels from the doctor’s inelastic
stock of literature—lay face down between them.  Margaret looked across
them at Ford with a smile; he had always a reasonable answer to her

"You don’t take enough stock in human nature," he said seriously.  "Too
fastidious—that’s what you are, and it makes you miss a lot."

"Perhaps you ’re right," she answered.  "I ’ve been thinking something
of the kind myself.  A letter I had—from a girl at home—put it in my
mind.  She writes me six sheets all about the most trivial and futile
things you can imagine, but she speaks of them with bated breath, as it
were.  If only she were here instead of me, she ’d be simply thrilled.
I wish you knew her."

"I wish I did," he said.  "I ’ve always had an idea that the good
Samaritan was a prying, inquisitive kind of chap, and that ’s really
what made him cross the road to the other fellow.  He wanted to know
what was up, in the first place, and the rest followed."

"Whereas—" prompted Margaret.  "Go on. What ’s the moral?"

Ford laughed.  "The moral is that there ’s plenty to see if you only
look for it," he answered.

"I ’ve seen one thing, at any rate, without looking for it, since I ’ve
been here," retorted Margaret. "Something you don’t know anything about,
Mr. Ford."

"What was that?" he demanded.  "Nothing about Jakes, was it?"

"No; nothing about him."

She hesitated.  She had it in her mind to speak to him about the Kafir,
Kamis, and share with him that mystery in return for the explanations
which he could doubtless give of its less comprehensible features.  But
at that moment Mrs. Jakes ceased playing and began to put the score

"I ’ll tell you another time," she promised, and picked up her book

The cessation of the music seemed to release Dr. Jakes from the spell
which had been holding him.  He stopped walking to and fro and strove to
master himself for the necessary moment before his departure. He turned
a writhen, twitching face on his wife.

"You played it again and again," he said, with a sort of dull

Mrs. Jakes looked up at him swiftly, with fear in her eyes.

"Don’t you like it, Eustace?" she asked.

He only stared without answering, and she went on speaking hurriedly to
cover him.

"It always seems to me such a sweet piece," she said. "So haunting.
Don’t you think so, Miss Harding? I ’ve always liked it.  I remember
there was a tea-room in Oxford Street where they used to have a band in
the afternoons—just fiddles and a piano—and they used to play it there.
Many ’s the time I ’ve dropped in for a cup of tea when I was
shopping—not for the tea but just to sit and listen.  Their tea wasn’t
good, for the matter of that, but lots of people went, all the same.
Tyler’s, was the name, I remember now.  Do you know Tyler’s, Miss

She was making it easy for the doctor to get away, after his custom, but
either the enterprise of making a move was too difficult for him or else
an unusual perversity possessed him.  At any rate, he did not go. He
stood listening with an owlish intentness to her nervous babble.

"I know Tyler’s very well," answered Margaret, coming to her aid.
"Jolly useful place it is, too.  But I don’t remember the band."

"_I_ used to go to the Queen’s Hall," put in Dr. Jakes hoarsely.
"Monday afternoons, when I could get away.  And afterwards, have dinner
in Soho."

From the window, where Mr. Samson lay in an armchair in apparent torpor,
came a wheeze, and the single word, "Simpson’s."

Margaret laughed.  "How sumptuous," she said. "Now, Mr. Ford, you tell
us where you used to go."

"Club," answered Ford, promptly.  "I had to have something for my
subscription, you know, so I went there and read the papers."

Mrs. Jakes was watching her husband anxiously, while Ford and Margaret
took up the burden of inconsequent talk and made a screen of
trivialities for her. But to-night Dr. Jakes needed expression as much
as whisky; there was the hopeless, ineffectual anger of a baited animal
in his stare as he faced them.

"Why aren’t any of you looking at me?" he said suddenly.

None answered; only Mr. Samson sat up on his creaking armchair of
basketwork with an amazed, "Eh?  What ’s that?"  Margaret stared
helplessly and Mrs. Jakes, white-faced and tense, murmured imploringly,

"Dodging with your eyes and babbling about tea-shops," said the doctor
hotly.  "You think, because a man ’s a bit—"

"Eustace," cried Mrs. Jakes, clasping her hands. "Eustace _dear_."

It was wonderful to notice how her habit of tone held good in that peril
which whitened her face and made her tremble from head to foot as she
stood.  From her voice alone, one would have implied no more than some
playful extravagance on the doctor’s part; she still hoped that it could
be carried off on the plane of small affairs.

"You would go out without a proper hat on, Jakes," said Ford suddenly.
"Feel stuffy in the head, don’t you?"

"What do you mean—stuffy?" demanded Jakes.

But already the vigor that had spurred him to a demonstration was
exhausted and the need for alcohol, the burning physical famine for
nerve-reinforcement, had him in its grip.

"Stuffy?" repeated Ford, watching him closely. "Oh, you know what I
mean.  I ’ve seen chaps like it heaps of times after a day in the sun;
they get the queerest fancies.  You really ought to get a proper hat,

Mrs. Jakes took him by the arm persuasively. "Don’t you think you ’d
better lie down for a bit, Eustace—in the study?"

"In the study?"  He blinked twice or thrice painfully, and made an
endeavor to smile.  "Yes, perhaps. This—er—stuffy feeling, you

His wife’s arm steered him to the door, and once out of the room he
dropped it and fairly bolted across the echoing hall to his refuge.  In
the drawing-room they heard his eager feet and the slam of the door that
shut him in to his miserable deliverance from pain, and the double snap
of the key that locked out the world and its censorious eyes.

"You—you just managed it," said Margaret to Ford.  The queer
inconsequent business had left her rather breathless.  "But wasn’t it

"Some day we shan’t be able to talk him down, and then it ’ll be worse,"
answered Ford soberly.  "That ’ll be the end for Mrs. Jakes’ home.  But
you played up all right, you know.  You did the decent thing, and in
just the right way.  And I was glad, because, you know, I ’ve never been
quite sure how you ’d shape."

"You thought I ’d scream for help, I suppose," suggested Margaret.

"No," he replied slowly.  "But I often wondered whether, when the time
came, you ’d go to your room or stay and lend a hand.  Not that you
wouldn’t be quite right to stand out, for it ’s a foul business, all
this, and there ’s nothing pretty in it.  Still, taking sides is a sign
of life in one’s body—and I ’m glad."

"That’s all right, then," said Margaret.  "And it ’s enough about me for
the present, too.  You said that some day it won’t be possible any more
to talk him down.  Did you mean—some day _soon_?"

"Goodness knows," said Ford.  He leaned back and turned his head to look
over the back of the couch at Mr. Samson.  "Samson," he called.

"Yes; what?"

"That was bad, eh!  What’s the meaning of it?"

Mr. Samson blew out his breath windily and uncrossed his thin legs.
"Don’t care to go into it before Miss Harding," he said pointedly.

"Oh, bother," exclaimed Margaret.  "Don’t you think I want to know too?"

"Well, then," said Mr. Samson, with careful deliberation, "since you ask
me, I ’d say it was a touch of the horrors casting its shadow before.
He doesn’t exactly see things, y’ know, but that ’s what ’s coming.
Next thing he knows, he ’ll see snakes or cuttle-fish or rats all round
the room and he ’ll—he ’ll gibber. Sorry, Miss Harding, but you wanted
to know."

"But—but—"  Margaret stared aghast at the feeble, urbane old man asprawl
in the wicker chair, who spoke with genial authority on these matters of
shadowy horror.  "But how can you possibly know all this?"

Mr. Samson smiled.  He considered it fitting and rather endearing that a
young woman should be ignorant of such things and easily shocked when
they were revealed.

"Seen it all before, my dear young lady," he assured her.  "It ’s
natural you should be surprised, but it’s not so uncommon as you think.
Why, I remember, once, in ’87, a feller gettin’ out of a cab because he
said there was a bally great python there—a feller I knew; a member of

Margaret looked at Ford, who nodded.

"He knows all right," he said, quietly.  "But I don’t think you need be
nervous.  When it comes to that, we ’ll have to do something."

"I ’m not nervous—not in that way, at least," said Margaret.  "Only—must
it come to that?  Isn’t there anything that can be done?"

"If we got a doctor here, the chances are he ’d report the matter to the
authorities," said Ford.  "This place is licensed or certified or
something, and that would be the end of it.  And then, even if there
wasn’t that, it isn’t easy to put the matter to Mrs. Jakes."

"I—I suppose not," agreed Margaret thoughtfully. "Still, if you decided
it was necessary—you and Mr. Samson—I ’d be willing to help as far as I
could.  I wouldn’t like to see Mrs. Jakes suffer for lack of anything I
could do."

"That’s good of you," answered Ford.  "I mean—good of you, really.  We
won’t leave you out of it when the time comes, because we shall need

"Always knew Miss Harding was a sportsman," came unexpectedly from Mr.
Samson in the rear.  And then the handle of the door, which was loose
and arbitrary in its workings, rattled warningly and Mrs. Jakes

She made a compunctious mouth, and expressed with headshakes a sense
that all was not well, though perfectly natural and proper, with the
doctor.  Her eyes seemed rather to dwell on Margaret as she gave her

"Mr. Ford was perfectly right about the hat," she said.  "Perfectly
right.  He ought to have one of those white ones with a pugaree.  He
never was really strong, you know, and the sun goes to his head at once.
But what can I do?  He simply won’t listen to me when I tell him we
ought to go Home.  The number of times I ’ve said to him, ’Eustace, give
it up; it ’s killing you, Eustace,’—you wouldn’t believe.  But he ’s
lying down now, and I think he ’ll be better presently."

Mr. Samson spoke again from the background.  He didn’t believe in
hitting a man when he was down, Mr. Samson didn’t.

"Better have that pith helmet of mine," he suggested. "That ’s the thing
for him, Mrs. Jakes.  No sense in losin’ time while you ’re writin’ to

"You ’re very good, Mr. Samson," answered Mrs. Jakes, gratefully,
pausing by the piano.  "I ’ll mention it to the doctor in the morning; I
’m sure he ’ll be most obliged.  He ’s—he ’s greatly troubled, in case
any of you should feel—well—annoyed, you know, at anything he said."

"Poor Dr. Jakes," said Margaret.  "Of course not," chorused the others.
"Don’t know what he means," added Mr. Samson.

Mrs. Jakes looked from one to another, collecting their responses and
reassuring herself.

"He ’ll be so glad," she said.  "And now, I wonder—would you mind if I
just played the intermezzo a little again?"

The easy gradual cadences of the music resumed its government of the
room as Mrs. Jakes called up images of less poignant days to aid her in
her extremity, sitting under the lamplight very upright and little upon
the pedestal stool.  For the others also, those too familiar strains
induced a mood of reflection, and Margaret fell back on a word of Ford’s
that had grappled at her mind and fallen away again.  His mention of the
need of a doctor and the difficulty of obtaining one who could be relied
upon to keep a shut mouth concerning Dr. Jakes’ affairs returned to her,
and brought with it the figure of Kamis, mute, inglorious, with his
London diploma, wasting his skill and knowledge literally on the desert
air.  While Mrs. Jakes, quite involuntarily, recalled the flavor of the
music-master of years ago, who played of nights a violin in the
orchestra of the Putney Hippodrome and carried a Bohemian glamour about
him on his daily rounds, Margaret’s mind was astray in the paths of the
Karoo where wandered under the stars, unaccountable and heartrending, a
healer clothed with the flesh and skin of tragedy.  She remembered him
as she had seen him, below the dam wall, with Paul hanging on his words
and the humble clay gathering shape under his hands, lifting his blunt
negro face to her and speaking in deliberate, schooled English of how it
fared in Africa with a black man who was not a savage.  He had thanked
her then very movingly for merely hearing him and being touched by the
pity and strangeness of his fate, and had promised to come to her
whenever she should signify a wish to speak with him again.  The wish
was not wanting, but the opportunity had failed, and since then the only
token of him had been the scarlet aloe plumes, fruit of the desert
gathered in loneliness, which he had conveyed to her by the hands of Fat
Mary.  Like himself, they came to her unexpected and unexplained, and
she had had them only long enough to know they existed.

Her promise to Kamis to keep her acquaintance with him a secret had
withheld her so far from sharing the matter with Ford, though she told
herself more than once that in his particular case the promise could not
apply.  With him she was sure there could be no risk; he would take his
stand on the clear facts of the situation and be free from the first
from the silly violence of thought which complicates the racial question
in South Africa.  She had even pictured to herself his reception of the
news, when he received it, say, across the top of his little easel; he
would pause, the palette knife between his fingers, and frown
consideringly at the sticky mess before him on the canvas.  His lean,
sober, courageous face would give no index to the direction of his mind;
he would put it to the test of his queer, sententious logic with all due
deliberation, till at last he would look up decidedly and commit himself
to the reasonable and human attitude of mind.  "As I see it," he would
probably begin; or "Well, the position ’s pretty clear, I think.  It ’s
like this."  And then he would state the matter with all his harsh,
youthful wisdom, tempered a little by natural kindliness and gentleness
of heart.  And all would be well, with a confidant gained into the
bargain.  But, nevertheless, he had not yet been told.

Mrs. Jakes was perfunctory, that evening with her good nights; with all
her efforts to appear at ease the best she could do was to appear a
little absent-minded. She gave Margaret her breakfast smile instead of
her farewell one and stared at her curiously as she stood aside to let
the girl pass up-stairs.  She had the air of passing her in review.

It seemed to Margaret that she had been asleep for many hours when she
was awakened and found the night still dark about her.  Some blurred
fragments of a dream still clung to her and dulled her wits; she had
watched again the passing before the stoep of Van Zyl’s captives and
seen their dragging feet lift the dust and the hopelessness of their
white eyes.  But with them, the mounted men seemed to ride to the
accompaniment of hoofs clattering as they do not clatter on the dry
earth of the Karoo; they clicked insistently like a cab horse trotting
smartly on wood pavement, and then, when that had barely headed off her
thoughts and let her glimpse a far vista of long evening streets,
populous with traffic, she was awake and sitting up in her bed, and the
noise was Mrs. Jakes standing in the half-open door and tapping on the
panels to wake her. She carried a candle which showed her face in an
unsteady, upward illumination and filled it unfamiliarly with shadows.

"What is it?" called Margaret.  "Come in, Mrs. Jakes. Is there anything

Mrs. Jakes entered and closed the door behind her. She was fully dressed
still, even to the garnet brooch she wore of evenings, which she had
once purchased from a countess at a bazaar.  Stranger far, she wore an
embarrassed, confidential little smile as though some one had turned a
laugh against her.  She came to Margaret’s bedside and stood there with
her candle.

"My dear," she said; "I know it’s very awkward, but I feel I can trust
you.  We are friends, aren’t we?"

"Yes," said Margaret, staring at her.  "But what is it?"

"Well," said Mrs. Jakes, very deliberately, and still with the same
little smile, "it ’s an awkward thing, but I want you to help me.  I
don’t care to ask Mr. Samson or Mr. Ford, because they might not
understand.  So, as we ’re friends—"

"Is anybody dead?" demanded Margaret.

Mrs. Jakes made a shocked face.  "Dead.  No.  My dear, if that was it,
you may be sure I should n’t trouble you.  No, nobody ’s dead; it ’s
nothing of that kind at all.  I only just want a little help, and I

"You ’re making me nervous," said Margaret.  "I ’ll help if I can, but
do say what it is."

Mrs. Jakes’ smile wavered; she did not find it easy to say what it was.
She put her candle down upon a chair, to speak without the strain of
light on her face.

"It’s the doctor," she said.  "He’s had a—a fit, my dear.  He thought a
little fresh air would do him good and he went out.  And the fact is, I
can’t quite manage to get him in by myself."

"Eh?" Margaret stared.  "Where is he?" she asked.

"He got as far as the road and then he fell," said Mrs. Jakes.  "I
wouldn’t dream of troubling you, my dear, but I ’m—I ’m rather tired
to-night and I really couldn’t manage by myself.  And then I remembered
we were friends."

"Not till then?" asked Margaret.  "You don’t care to wake Mr. Ford?  He
wouldn’t misunderstand."

"Oh, no—please," begged Mrs. Jakes, terrified. "No, _please_.  I ’d
rather manage alone, somehow—I would, really."

"You can’t do that," said Margaret, decidedly.  She sat a space of
moments in thought.  The doctor’s fit did not deceive her at all; she
knew that for one of the euphemisms that made Mrs. Jakes’ life livable
to her. He was drunk and incapable upon the road before the house, and
Mrs. Jakes, helpless and frightened, had waked her in the middle of the
night to help bring the drunken man in and hide him.

"I ’ll help you," she said suddenly.  "Don’t you worry any more, Mrs.
Jakes; we ’ll manage it somehow.  Let me get some things on and we ’ll
go out."

"It ’s very kind of you, my dear," said Mrs. Jakes humbly.  "You ’ll put
some warm things on, won’t you?  The doctor would never forgive me if I
let you catch cold."

Margaret was fumbling for her stockings.

"I ’m not very strong, you know," she suggested. "I ’ll do all I can,
but hadn’t we better call Fat Mary? She ’s strong enough for anything."

"Fat Mary!  A Kafir!"  Mrs. Jakes forgot her caution and for the moment
was shrill with protest. "Why—why, the doctor would never hold up his
head again.  It wouldn’t do at _all_; I simply couldn’t _think_ of it."

"Oh, well.  As you like; I did n’t know.  Here ’s me, anyhow; and
awfully willing to be useful."

But Mrs. Jakes had been startled in earnest.  While Margaret completed a
sketchy toilet she stood murmuring: "A Kafir!  Why, the very idea—it
would break the doctor’s heart."

With her dressing-gown held close about her, Margaret went down-stairs
by the side of Mrs. Jakes and her candle, with the abrupt shadows
prancing before them on wall and ceiling like derisive spectators of
their enterprise.  But there was no sense of adventure in it; somehow
the matter had ranged itself prosaically and Mrs. Jakes, prim and
controlled, managed to throw over it the commonplace hue of an
undertaking which is adequately chaperoned.  The big hall, solemn and
reserved, had no significant emptiness, and from the study there was
audible the ticking of some stolid little clock.

The front door of the house was open, and a faint wind entered by it and
made Margaret shiver; it showed them a slice of night framed between its
posts and two misty still stars like vacant eyes.

"It ’s not far," said Mrs. Jakes, on the stoep, and then the faint wind
rustled for a moment in the dead vines and the candle-flame swooped and
went out.

"You haven’t matches, my dear?" enquired Mrs. Jakes, patiently.  "No?
But we ’ll want a light.  I could fetch a lantern if you wouldn’t mind
waiting. I think I know where it is."

"All right," agreed Margaret.  "I don’t mind."

It was the first thrill of the business, to be left alone while Mrs.
Jakes tracked that lantern to its hiding-place. Margaret slowly
descended the steps from the stoep and sat down on the lowest of them to
look at the night. There was a touch of chill in it, and she gathered
herself up closely, with her hands clasped around her knees. The wide
sleeves of the dressing-gown fell back and left her arms bare to the
elbow and the recurring wind, like a cold breath, touched her on the
chest where the loose robe parted.  The immensity of the night, veiling
with emptiness unimaginable bare miles, awed her like a great presence;
there was no illumination, or none but the faintest, making darkness
only apparent, from the heavenful of pale blurred stars that hung over
her. Behind her, the house with those it held was dumb; it was the Karoo
that was vocal.  As she sat, a score of voices pressed upon her ears.
She heard chirpings and little furtive cries, the far hoot of some bold
bird and by and by the heartbroken wailing of a jackal.  She seemed to
sit at the edge of a great arena of unguessed and unsuspected destinies,
fighting their way to their fulfilment in the hours of darkness.  And
then suddenly, she was aware of a noise recurring regularly, a civilized
and familiar noise, the sound of footsteps, of somebody walking on the
earth near at hand.

She heard it before she recognized it for what it was, and she was not
alarmed.  The footsteps came close before she spoke.

"Is anybody there, please?" she called.

The answer came at once.  "Yes," it said.

"Who is it?" she asked again, and in answer to her question, the
night-walker loomed into her view and stood before her.

She rose to her feet with a little breathless laugh, for she recognized

"Oh, it ’s you," she exclaimed.  "Mr. Kamis, isn’t it?  But what are you
doing here at this time of night?"

It was not light enough to see his face; she had recognized him by the
figure and attitude; and she was glad.  She was aware then that she
rather dreaded the negro face of him.

"What are you doing, rather?" he asked.  "Does anybody know you ’re out
here like this?  Is it part of some silly treatment, or what?"

"I ’m waiting for Mrs. Jakes," said Margaret. "She ’s coming with a
lantern in a minute or two and you ’ll have to go.  It’s all right,
though; I shan’t take any harm."

"I hope not."  He was plainly dissatisfied, and it was very strange to
catch the professional restraint in his voice.  "Your being here—if I
may ask—hasn’t got anything to do with a very drunk man lying in the
road over there?"

"You ’ve seen him, then?" asked Margaret.  "It is just drunkenness, of

He nodded.  "But why—?" he began again.

"That’s Dr. Jakes," explained Margaret.  "And I ’m going to help Mrs.
Jakes to fetch him in, quietly, so that nobody will know.  So you see
why you must keep very quiet and slip away before she sees you—don’t

There was a pause before he answered.

"But, good Lord," he burst out.  "This is—this is damnable.  You can’t
have a hand in this kind of thing; it ’s impossible.  What on earth are
these people thinking of?  You mustn’t let them drag you into
beastliness of this kind."

"Wait," said Margaret.  "Don’t be so furious. Nobody is dragging me into
anything, and I don’t think I ’m a very draggable person, anyhow.  I ’d
only to be a little shocked once or twice and I should never have heard
of this.  I ’m doing it because—well, because I want to be useful and
Mrs. Jakes came to me and asked, ’Was I her friend?’  That isn’t very
clear to you, perhaps, but there it is."

"Useful."  He repeated the word scornfully.  "Useful—yes. But do you
mean that this is the only use they can find for you?"

"I ’m an invalid," said Margaret placidly.  "A crock, you know.  I ’ve
got to take what chances I can find of doing things.  But it ’s no use
explaining such a thing as this.  If you ’re not going to understand and
be sympathetic, don’t let ’s talk about it at all."

He did not at once reply.  She stood on the last step but one and looked
down towards him where he stood like a part of the night, and though she
could see of him only the shape, she showed to him as a tall
slenderness, with the faint luminosity of bare arms and face and neck.
He seemed to be staring at her very intently.

"Anyhow," he said suddenly—"what is wanted principally is to bring him
in.  That is so, is n’t it?  Well, I ’ll fetch him for you.  Will you be
satisfied with that?"

"No, you mustn’t," said Margaret.  "Mrs. Jakes wouldn’t allow it.  Never
mind why.  She simply wouldn’t."

"I know why," he answered.  "I ’ve come across all that before.  But
this Kafir has seen the state of that white man.  That does n’t make any
difference?  No?"

Margaret had shaken her head.  "I ’m awfully sorry," she said.  "I feel
like a brute—but if you had seen her when I suggested getting help.  It
was the one thing that terrified her.  You see, it ’s her I want to
help, much more than Dr. Jakes, and she must have her way.  So please
don’t be hurt, will you?"

He laughed a little.  "Oh, _that_ doesn’t hurt me," he said.  "If it
were you, it would be different, but Mrs. Jakes can’t help it.
However—do you know where this man keeps his drugs?"

"In the study," answered Margaret.  "In there, on the left.  But why?"

"I ’m a doctor too; you ’d forgotten that, had n’t you? If I had two or
three things I could mix something that would sober him in a couple of

"Really?"  Margaret considered it for a minute, but even that would not
do.  She could not bring herself to brave Mrs. Jakes’ horror and sense
of betrayal when she should see the deliverer who came out of the night.
And, after all, it was she who had claimed Margaret’s help.  "We’re
friends, aren’t we?" she had asked, and the girl had answered "Yes."  It
was not the part of a friend to press upon her a gift that tasted
pungently of ruin and shame.

"No," said Margaret.  "Don’t offer any more help, please.  It hurts to
keep on refusing it.  But it isn’t what Mrs. Jakes woke me up to beg of
me and it isn’t what I got up from bed to grant her.  Can’t you see what
I mean?  I ’ve told you all about it, and I ’m trusting you to

"I understand," he answered.  "But I hate to let you go down to that
drunken beast.  And suppose the pair of you can’t manage him—what will
you do then? You ’ll have to get help somewhere, won’t you?"

"I suppose so," said Margaret.

"Well, get me," he urged, and came a pace nearer, so that only the width
of the two bottom steps separated them and she could feel his breath
upon the hands that hung clasped before her.  "Let me help, if you need
it," he begged.  "I ’ll wait, out of sight. Mrs. Jakes shan’t guess I ’m
there.  But I won’t be far, and if you just call quietly, I ’ll hear.
It—it would be kind of you—merciful to let me bear just a hand.  And if
you don’t call, I ’ll not show myself.  There can’t be any harm in

"No," agreed Margaret, uncertainly.  "There can’t be any harm in that."

She saw that he moved abruptly, and had an impression that he made some
gesture almost of glee. But he thanked her in quiet tones for her grace
of consent.

Mrs. Jakes, returning, found Margaret as she had left her.  She had in
her hand one of those stable lanterns which consist of a glass funnel
protected by a wire cage, and she spilled its light about her feet as
she went and walked in a shifting ring of light through a darkness made
more opaque by the contrast.  There was visible of her chiefly her worn
elastic-sided boots as she came down the steps with the lantern swinging
in her hand; and the little feet in those uncomely coverings were
somehow appealing and pathetic.

"I found it in Fat Mary’s room," she explained. "She nearly woke up when
I was taking it."

Margaret wondered whether Kamis were near enough to hear and acute
enough to picture the tiptoe search for the lantern by the bedside of
snoring Kafirs, the breathless halts when one stirred, the determination
that carried the quest through, and the prosaic matter-of-factness of it

They stumbled their way arm in arm across the spit of patched grass that
stood between the house and the road, and the lantern diffused about
them a yellow haze. Then their feet recognized soft loose dust and they
were on the road and moving along it.

"It is n’t far," said Mrs. Jakes, in her flat quiet voice. "Be careful,
my dear; there are sometimes snakes on the road at night."

Dr. Jakes was apparent first as an indeterminate bulk against the dust
that spread before them under the lantern.  Mrs. Jakes saw him first.

"He has n’t moved," she remarked.  "I was rather afraid he might have.
These fits, you know—he ’s had them before."

She stood at his head, with the lantern held before her, like a sentinel
at a lying-in-state, and the whole unloveliness of his slumbers was
disclosed.  He sprawled upon the road in his formal black clothes, with
one arm outstretched and his face upturned to the grave innocence of the
night.  It had not the cast of repose; he seemed to have carried his
torments with him to his couch of dust and to brood upon them under his
mask of sleep.  What was ghastly was the eyelids which were not fully
shut down, but left bare a thin line of white eyeball under each, and
touched the broken countenance with deathliness.  His coat, crumpled
about him and over him, gave an impression of a bloated and corpulent
body, and he was stained from head to foot with dust.

Mrs. Jakes surveyed him without emotion.

"He ’s undone his collar, anyhow," she remarked.

"Did n’t you do it?" asked Margaret, seeing the white ends that rose on
each side of his chin.

"No; I forgot," was the answer.  "He can’t be very bad, since he did

Margaret detected the hand of Kamis in this precaution. She said
nothing, but stooped with Mrs. Jakes to try to rouse the doctor.  The
sickening reek of the man’s breath affronted her as she bent over him.

Mrs. Jakes shook him and called on him by name in a loud half-whisper,
lowering her face close to his ear. She was persuasive, remonstrant; she
had the manner of reasoning briskly with him and rousing him to better

"Eustace, Eustace," she called, hushing her tones as though the night
and the desert were perilous with ears.  "Come, Eustace; you can get up
if you try. Make just one effort, now, and you ’ll be all right."

The gurgle of his breath was the only answer.

"We ’ll have to lift him," she said, staring across his body at

"All right," agreed the girl.

"Get hold of his right arm and I ’ll take his left," directed Mrs.
Jakes.  "If we get him on his feet, perhaps he ’ll rouse.  Are you

Margaret closed her lips and put forth the strength that she had, and
between them they dragged him to a sitting posture, with his head
hanging back and his heels furrowed deep in the dust.

"Now, if I can just get behind him," panted Mrs. Jakes. "Don’t let go.
That’s it.  Now!  Could you just help to lift him straight up?"

Margaret went quickly to her aid.  It had become horrible.  The gross
carcass in their hands was inert like a flabby corpse, and its mere
weight overtaxed them. They wrestled with it sobbingly, to the noise of
their harsh breath and the shuffle of their straining feet on the grit
of the road.  Suddenly Margaret ceased her laboring and the doctor
collapsed once more upon the ground.

"Why did you do that?" cried Mrs. Jakes.  "He was nearly up."

"It was my chest," answered Margaret weakly.  "It—it hurt."

There was a warm feeling in her throat and a taste in her mouth which
she knew of old.  She found her handkerchief and dabbed with it at her
lips.  The feeble light of the lantern showed her the result—the red
spots on the white cambric.

"It ’s just a strain," said Mrs. Jakes, dully. "That ’s all.  The doctor
will see to it to-morrow.  If you rest a moment, you ’ll be all right."
She hesitated, but her husband and her life’s credit lay upon the ground
at her feet, and she could not weigh Margaret’s danger against those.
"You wouldn’t leave me now, my dear?" she supplicated.

"No," said the girl, after a moment’s pause.  "I won’t leave you."

"What ’s that?" cried Mrs. Jakes and put a quick frightened hand upon
her arm.  "Listen!  Who is it?"

Steps, undisguised and clear, passed from the grass to the stone steps
of the house and ascended, crossed the stoep and were lost to hearing in
the doorway.

The two women waited, breathless.  It sprang to Margaret’s mind that the
lantern must have shown her clearly to Kamis, where he waited in the
darkness, and he must have seen the climax of her efforts and her
handkerchief at her lips, and gone forthwith to the study for the drugs
which would put an end to the matter.

"Look," whispered Mrs. Jakes.  "Some one is striking matches—in the

The window brightened and darkened again and then lit with a steady
glow; the invader had found a candle. Mrs. Jakes dropped Margaret’s arm.

"I must see who it is," she said.  "Walking into people’s houses like

Margaret held her back; she was starting forthwith to bring the majesty
of her presence to bear on the unknown and possibly dangerous intruder.
Mrs. Jakes had a house as well as a husband and could die at need for

"No, don’t go," said Margaret.  "I know who it is. It’s all right, if
only you won’t be—well, silly about it."

"Who is it, then?" demanded Mrs. Jakes.

Margaret felt feeble and unequal to the position.  Her chest was
painful, she was cold, and now there was about to be a delicate affair
with Mrs. Jakes.  She could have laughed at the growing complexity of
things, but had the wit not to.

"It ’s a doctor," she said; "a real London doctor.  He was passing when
you left me to get the lantern, and I wouldn’t let him stay because I
thought you ’d be annoyed.  He ’s gone into the house to—"

"Does he know?" whispered Mrs. Jakes, feverishly, thrusting close to
her.  "Does he know—about this?"  Her downward-pointing finger indicated
the slumbers of Dr. Jakes.  "Say, can’t you—does he know?"

"He ’d seen him," said Margaret.  "I expect he loosened the collar—you
know.  He wanted to help but I wouldn’t let him."

"Is he a friend of yours?" asked Mrs. Jakes again, still in the same
agitated whisper.

"Yes," answered Margaret.  "He is.  It ’s all right, really, if only you
’ll be sensible and not make a fuss. He ’ll help us and then he ’ll go
away and he ’ll say nothing.  You did n’t think I ’d do anything to hurt
you, did you?  Are n’t we friends?"

Mrs. Jakes stood silent; she asked no questions as to how a London
doctor, a friend of Margaret’s, chanced to be walking upon the Karoo at

"Well," she said at last, with a long sigh; "perhaps we might have
needed some help, in any case."

That was all she said, till the footsteps came again across the stoep
and down the steps, more deliberately this time, as though something
were being carried with precaution.  Then they were noiseless for a
minute or more on the grass, and at last the figure of Kamis came into
the further edge of the lighted circle.

"I had to do it," he said, before either of them could speak, and showed
the graduated glass in his hand.  "I saw you with your handkerchief."

Margaret, with an instinct of apprehension, looked at Mrs. Jakes.  At
the first dim view of him, she had roused herself from her dejection,
and put on her prim, social face to meet the London doctor effectively.
Her little meaningless smile was bent for him; she would make a
blameless and uneventful drawing-room of the August night and guard it
against unseemly dramatics.

He turned from Margaret towards her and came further into the
lamp-light, and she had a clear view of the black face and sorrowful,
foolish negro features.  She uttered a gasp that was like a low cry and
stood aghast, staring.

"Madam," began Kamis.

She shivered.  "A Kafir," she said.  "The doctor will never forgive us."
And then, wheeling upon Margaret, "And I ’ll never forgive you.  You
said we were friends—and this is what you do to me."

"Mrs. Jakes," implored Margaret.  "You must be sensible.  It ’s all
right, really.  This gentleman—"

"This gentleman," Mrs. Jakes uttered a passionate spurt of laughter.
"Do you mean this nigger? Gentleman, you call it?  A London doctor?  A
friend of yours?  A friend.  Ha, ha!"  She spun round again towards
Kamis, waiting with the glass in his hand, the liquid in which shone
greenish to the lamp.  "_Voetzaak!_" she ordered, shrilly.  "_Hamba
wena—ch’che. Skellum.  Injah.  Voetzaak!_"

Kamis stood his ground.  He cast a look at Margaret, past Mrs. Jakes,
and spoke to her.

"Will she let me give him this?" he asked.  "Tell her I am a doctor and
this will bring him to very quickly.  And then I ’ll go away at once and
never say a word about it."

"Don’t you dare touch him," menaced Mrs. Jakes. "A filthy Kafir—I should
think so, indeed."

Kamis went on in the same steady tone.  "If she won’t you must go in at
once and send for another doctor to-morrow.  This man ought to be

"You dare," cried Mrs. Jakes.  "You ’d report him—a Kafir."  She edged
closer to the prostrate body of Dr. Jakes and stood beside it like a
beast-mother at bay. "I ’ll have you locked up—walking into my husband’s
study like that."

"Mrs. Jakes."  Margaret tried once more.  "Please listen.  If you ’ll
only let the doctor have this drink, he ’ll be able to walk.  If you
don’t, he ’ll have to stay here.  I am your friend; I got up when you
came to me and I said I wouldn’t leave you even when I hurt my chest.
Doesn’t that prove that I am?  I wouldn’t do you any harm or shame you
before other people for anything.  What will Dr. Jakes say if he finds
out that you let me stay here pleading when I ought to be in bed? He ’s
a doctor himself and he ’ll be awfully annoyed—after telling me I should
get well, too.  Aren’t you going to give him a chance—and me?"

Mrs. Jakes merely glared stonily.

"Come," said Margaret.  "Won’t you?"

Kamis uttered a smothered exclamation.  "I won’t wait," he said.  "I ’ll
count ten, slowly.  Then Miss Harding must go in and I go away."

"Oh, don’t begin that sort of thing," cried Margaret. "Mrs. Jakes is
going to be sensible.  Aren’t you?"

There was no reply, only the stony and hostile stare of the little woman
facing them and the gray image of disgrace.

"One," counted Kamis clearly.  "Two.  Three."

He counted with the stolid regularity of a clock; he made as though to
overturn the glass and waste its contents in the dust as soon as he
should have reached ten. "Ten," he uttered, but held it safely still.

Mrs. Jakes did not move for some moments.  Then she sighed and, still
without speaking, moved away from the slumbering doctor.  She walked a
dozen paces from the road and stood with her back to them.

With quick skilful movements, Kamis lifted the unconscious man’s head to
the crook of his arm and the rim of the glass clicked on his teeth.
Margaret walked after Mrs. Jakes.

"Come," she said gently.  "I don’t misunderstand. You trusted me or you
would n’t have waked me.  Everything will be all right soon and then you
’ll forgive me."

"I won’t—never."

Mrs. Jakes would not face her.  She stood looking into the blackness,
tense with enmity.

"Well, I hope you will," said Margaret.

They heard grunts from the doctor and then quavering speech and one rich
oath, and a noise of spitting. The Kafir approached them noiselessly
from behind and paused at Margaret’s side.

"That’s done the trick," he said; "and he doesn’t even know who gave him
the draft.  You ’ll go in now?"

"Yes," said Margaret.  "You _have_ been good, though."

Mrs. Jakes had returned to her husband; they were for the moment alone.

"I didn’t mean to force your hand," he whispered. "But I had to.  A
doctor has duties."

She gave him her hand.  "There was something I wanted to tell you, but
there ’s no time to explain now. Did you know you were wanted by the

"Bless you, yes."  He smiled with a white flash of teeth.  "Were you
going to warn me?  How kind! And now, in you go, and good night."

Dr. Jakes was sitting up, spitting with vigor and astonishment.  He had
taken a heroic dose of hair-raising restoratives on the head of a
poisonous amount of whisky, and his palate was a moldering ruin.  But
the clearness of his faculties left nothing to be desired.

"Who ’s that?" he demanded at sight of Margaret. "Miss Harding.  How do
you come to be out here at this time?"

"You should time your fits more decently, doctor," answered Margaret

Mrs. Jakes hastened to explain more acceptably.  "I was frightened,
Eustace.  You looked so bad—and these fits are terrible.  So I asked
Miss Harding if she wouldn’t come and help me."

"A patient," said the doctor.  He turned over and rose stiffly to his
feet, dust-stained all over.  He stood before her awkwardly.

"I am unfortunate," he said.  "You are in my care and this is what
happens.  It is my misfortune—and my fault.  You ’ll go back to bed now,
Miss Harding, please."

"Sure there ’s nothing more you want?" inquired Margaret.

"At once, please," he repeated.  "In the morning—but go at once now."

On the stoep she paused to listen to them following after her and heard
a portion of Mrs. Jakes’ excuses to her husband.

"You looked so dreadful, Eustace, and I was frightened. And then, you
’re so heavy, and I suppose I was tired, and to-night I couldn’t quite
manage by myself, dear."

Margaret passed in at the door in order to cough unheard, that nothing
might be added to the tale of Mrs. Jakes’ delinquencies.

                              *CHAPTER IX*

"And what have we here?" said the stranger loudly. "What have we here,

Paul, sitting cross-legged in his old place under the wall of the dam,
with a piece of clay between his fingers, looked round with a start.
The stranger had come up behind him, treading unheard in his burst and
broken shoes upon the soft dust, and now stood leaning upon a stick and
smiling down upon him with a kind of desperate jauntiness.  His attitude
and manner, with their parody of urbane ease, had for the moment power
to hide the miserable shabbiness of his clothes, which were not so much
broken and worn as decayed; it was decay rather than hardship which
marked the whole figure of the man.  Only the face, clean-shaven save
for a new crop of bristles, had some quality of mobility and temper, and
the eyes with which he looked at Paul were wary and hard.

"Oh, nothing," said Paul, uneasily, covering his clay with one hand.
"Who are you?"

The stranger eyed him for some moments longer with the shrewdness of one
accustomed to read his fortune in other men’s faces, and while he did so
the smile remained fixed on his own as though he had forgotten to take
it off.

"Who am I!" he exclaimed.  "My boy, it ’d take a long time to tell you.
But there ’s one thing that perhaps you can see for yourself—I ’m a

Paul considered this information deliberately.

"Are you?" he said.

"I ’m dusty," admitted the other; "dusty both inside and out.  And I ’m
travelin’ on foot—without luggage.  So much I admit; I ’ve met with
misfortunes. But there ’s one thing the devil himself can’t take away
from me, and that ’s the grand old name of gentleman.  An’ now, my lad,
to business; you live at that farm there?"

"Yes," replied Paul.  This tramp had points at which he differed from
other tramps, and Paul stared at him thoughtfully.

"So far, so good," said the stranger.  "Question number two: does it run
to a meal for a gentleman on his travels, an’ a bed of sorts?  Answer me
that. I don’t mean a meal with a shilling to pay at the end of it,
because—to give it you straight—I ’m out of shillings for the present.
Now, speak up."

"If you go up there, they ’ll give you something to eat, and you can
sleep somewhere," said Paul, a little puzzled by the unusual rhetoric.

The stranger nodded approvingly.  "It’s all right, then?" he said.
"Good—go up one.  But say!  Ain’t you going there yourself pretty soon?"

"Presently," said Paul.

"Then, if it ’s all the same to you," said the stranger, "I ’ll wait and
go up with you.  Nothing like being introduced by a member," he added,
as he lowered himself stiffly to a seat among the rank grass under the
wall.  "Gives a feller standing, don’t it?"

He took off his limp hat and let himself fall back against the slope of
the wall, grunting with appreciation of the relief after a day’s tramp
in the sun.  His rather full body and thin legs, ending in a pair of
ruinous shoes that let his toes be seen, lay along the grass like an
obscene corpse, and above them his feeble, sophisticated face leered at
Paul as though to invite him to become its confidant.

"You go on with what you ’re doing," urged the stranger.  "Don’t let me
hinder you.  Makin’ marbles, were you—or what?"

"No," said Paul.  He hesitated, for an idea had come to him while he
watched the stranger.  "But—but if you ’ll do something for me, I ’ll
give you a shilling."

"Eh?"  The other rolled a dull eye on him.  "It isn’t murder, is it?  I
should want one-and-six for that.  I never take less."

Paul flushed.  "I don’t know what you mean," he said.  "I only want you
to keep still like that while I—while I make a model of you.  You said
you had n’t got any shillings just now."

"Did I say that?" inquired the stranger.  "Well, well!  However, chuck
us over your shilling and I ’ll see what I can do for you."

He made a show of biting the coin and subjecting it to other tests of
its goodness while the boy looked on anxiously.  Paul was relieved when
at last he pocketed it and lay back again.

"I ’ll get rid of it somehow," he said.  "It’s very well made.  And now,
am I to look pleasant, or what?"

"Don’t look at all," directed Paul.  "Just be like—like you are.  You
can go to sleep if you like."

"I never sleep on an empty stomach," replied the stranger, arranging
himself in an attitude of comfort.

"Is this all right for you?  Fire away, then, Mike Angelo.  Can I talk
while you ’re at it?"

"If you want to," answered Paul.  The clay which he had been shaping was
another head, and now he kneaded it out of shape between his hands and
rounded it rudely for a sketch of the face before him.  The Kafir,
Kamis, had bidden him refrain from his attempts to do mass and detail at
once, to form the features and the expression together; but Paul knew he
had little time before him and meant to make the most of it. The tramp
had his hands joined behind his head and his eyes half-closed; he
offered to the boy the spectacle of a man beaten to the very ground and
content to take his ease there.

"D’you do much of this kind of thing?" asked the tramp, when some silent
minutes had passed.

"Yes," said Paul, "a lot."

"Nothing like it, is there?" asked the other.  He spoke lazily, absorbed
in his comfort.  "We ’ve all got our game, every bally one of us.  Mine
was actin’."

"Acting?"  Paul paused in his busy fingering to look up.  "Were you an

The actors he knew looked out of frames in his mother’s little parlor,
intense, well-fed, with an inhuman brilliance of attire.

"Even me," replied the tramp equably.  He did not move from his posture
nor uncover his drowsy eyes; the swollen lids, in which the veins stood
out in purple, did not move, but his voice took a rounder and more
conscious tone as he went on: "And there was a time, my boy, when actin’
meant me and I meant actin’. In ’87, I was playing in ’The Demon
Doctor,’ and drawing my seven quid a week—you believe me.  Talk of
art—why!  I ’ve had letters from Irving that ’d make you open your

"I ’ve heard about Irving," said Paul, glancing back and fore from his
clay to the curiously pouched mouth of his recumbent model.

"Fancy," exclaimed the tramp softly.  "But it was a great game, a great
game.  Sometimes, even now, I sort of miss it.  And the funny thing
is—it is n’t the grub and the girls and the cash in my breeches pocket
that I miss so much.  It ’s the bally work.  It ’s the work, my boy."
He seemed to wonder torpidly at himself, and for some seconds he
continued to repeat, as though in amazement: "It ’s the work."  He went
on: "Seems as if once an actor, always an actor, don’t it?  A feller ’s
got talent in him and he ’s got to empty it out, or ache.  Some sing,
some write, some paint; you prod clay about; but I ’m an actor.  Time
was, I could act a gas meter, if it was the part, and that ’s my trouble
to this day."

He ceased; he had delivered himself without once looking up or
reflecting the matter of his speech by a change of expression.  For all
the part his body or his features had in his words, it might have been a
dead man speaking.  Paul worked on steadily, giving small thought to
anything but the shape that came into being under his hands.  His
standard of experience was slight; he knew too little of men and their
vicissitudes to picture to himself the processes by which the face he
strove to reproduce sketchily could have been shaped to its cast of
sorrowful pretense; he only felt, cloudily and without knowledge, that
it signaled a strange and unlovely fate.

His knack served him well on that evening, and besides, there was not an
elusive remembrance of form to be courted, but the living original
before him.  The tramp seemed to sleep; and swiftly, with merciless
assurance, the salient thing about him came into existence between
Paul’s hands.  Long before the light failed or the gourd-drum at the
farmhouse door commenced its rhythmic call, the thing was done—a mere
sketch, with the thumb-prints not even smoothed away, but stamped none
the less with the pitiless print of life.

"Done it?" inquired the tramp, rousing as Paul uncrossed his legs and
prepared to put the clay away. "Let ’s have a look?"

"It wants to be made smooth," explained Paul, as he passed it to him.
"And it’s soft, of course, so don’t squeeze it."

"I won’t squeeze it," the tramp assured him and took it.  He gazed at it
doubtfully, letting it lie on his knee.  "Oho!" he said.

"It’s only a quick thing," said Paul.  "There was n’t time to do it

"Wasn’t there?" said the tramp, without looking up. "It ’s like me, is
it?  Damn you, why don’t you say it and have done with it?"

"Why," cried Paul bewildered, and coloring furiously. "What’s the
matter?  It _is_ like you.  I modeled it from you just now as you were
lying there."

"An’ paid me a shilling for it."  The tramp thrust an impetuous hand
into his pocket; possibly he was inspired to draw forth the coin and
fling it in Paul’s face.  If so, he decided against it; he looked at the
coin wryly and returned it to its place.

"Well," he said finally; "you ’ve got me nicely. The cue is to shy you
and your bally model into the dam together—an’ what about my supper?
Eh?  Yes, you ’ve got me sweetly.  Here, take the thing, or I might make
up my mind to go hungry for the pleasure of squashing it flat on your
ugly mug."

"You don’t like it?" asked Paul, as he received the clay again from the
tramp’s hands.  He did not understand; for all he knew, there were men
who surprised their mothers by being born with that strange stamp upon

The tramp gave him a slow wrathful look.  "The joke ’s on me," he
answered.  "_I_ know.  I look a drunk who ’s been out all night; I ’m
not denying it. I ’ve got a face that ’ll get me blackballed for
admission to hell.  I know all that and you ’ve made a picture of it.
But don’t rub it in."

Paul looked at the clay again, and although the man’s offense was
dawning on his understanding, he smiled at the sight of a strong thing
strongly done.

"I didn’t mean any joke," he protested.

"Let ’s call it a joke," said the tramp.  "Once when I was nearly dying
of thirst up beyond Kimberly, a feller that I asked for water gave me a
cup of paraffin. That was another joke.  Tramps are fair game for you
jokers, aren’t they?  Well, if that meal you spoke about wasn’t a joke,
too, let ’s be getting up to the house."

"All right," said Paul.  He hesitated a minute, for he hated to part
with the thing he had made.  "Oh, it can go," he exclaimed, and threw
the clay up over the wall.  It fell into the dam above their heads with
a splash.

"I didn’t mean any joke, truly," he assured the tramp.

"Don’t rub it in," begged the other.  "We don’t want to make a song
about it.  And anyhow, I want to try to forget it.  So come on—do."

They came together through the kraals and across the deserted yard to
the house-door, the tramp looking about him at the apparatus of well-fed
and well-roofed life with an expression of genial approval.  Paul would
have taken him round to the back-door, but he halted.

"Not bad," he commented.  "Not bad at all, considering.  An’ this is the
way in, I suppose."

"We ’d better go round," suggested Paul, but the tramp turned on the
doorstep and waved a nonchalant hand.

"Oh, this ’ll do," he said, and there was nothing for Paul to do but to
follow him into the little passage.

The door of the parlor stood open, and within was Mrs. du Preez,
flicking a duster at the furniture in a desultory fashion.  The tramp
paused and looked at her appraisingly.

"The lady of the house, no doubt," he surmised, with his terrible showy
smile, before she could speak.  "It ’s the boy, madam; he wouldn’t take
no for an answer. I _had_ to come home to supper with him."

His greedy quick eyes were busy about the little room; they seemed to
read a price-ticket on each item of its poor pretentious furniture and
assess the littleness of those signed and framed photographs which
inhabited it like a company of ghosts.

"Why," he cried suddenly, and turned from his inspection of these last
to stare again at Mrs. du Preez.

His plausible fluency had availed for the moment to hide the quality of
his clothes and person, but now Mrs. du Preez had had time to perceive
the defects of both.

"What d’you mean?" she demanded.  "How d ’you get in here?  Who are

The tramp was still staring at her.  "It ’s on the tip of my tongue," he
said.  "Give me a moment. Why"—with a joyous vociferation—"who ’d ha’
thought it?  It ’s little Sinclair, as I ’m a sinnair—little Vivie
Sinclair of the old brigade, stap my vitals if it ain’t."


The man filled the narrow door, and Paul had to stoop under his elbow to
see his mother.  She was leaning with both hands on the table, searching
his face with eyes grown lively and apprehensive in a moment.  The old
name of her stage days had power to make this change in her.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"Think," begged the tramp.  "Try!  No use? Well—" he swept her a
spacious bow, battered hat to heart, foot thrown back—"look on this
picture"—he tapped his bosom—"and on that."  His big creased forefinger
flung out towards the photograph which had the place of honor on the
crowded mantel-shelf and dragged her gaze with it.

"It ’s not—"  Mrs. du Preez glanced rapidly back and forth between the
living original and the glazed, immaculate counterfeit—"it isn’t—it
can’t be—_Bailey_?"

"It is; it can," replied the tramp categorically, and Boy Bailey, in the
too, too solid flesh advanced into the room.

Mrs. du Preez had a moment of motionless amaze, and then with a flushed
face came in a rush around the table to meet him.  They clasped hands
and both laughed.

"Why," cried Mrs. du Preez; "if this don’t—but Bailey!  Where ever do
you come from, an’ like this? Glad to see you?  Yes, I am glad; you ’re
the first of the old crowd that I ’ve seen since I—I married."

"Married, eh?"  The tramp tempered an over-gallant and enterprising
attitude.  "Then I mustn’t—eh?"

His face was bent towards hers and he still held her hands.

"No; you mustn’t," spoke Paul unexpectedly, from the doorway, where he
was an absorbed witness of the scene.

They both turned sharply; they had forgotten the boy.

"Don’t be silly, Paul," said his mother, rather sharply.  "Mr. Bailey
was only joking."  But she freed her hands none the less, while Mr.
Bailey bent his wary gaze upon the boy.

The interruption served to bring the conversation down to a less
emotional plane, and Paul sat down on a chair just within the door to
watch the unawaited results of promising a meal to a chance tramp.  The
effect on his mother was not the least remarkable consequence.  The veld
threw up a lamentable man at your feet; in charity and some bewilderment
you took him home to feed him, and thereupon your mother, your weary,
petulant, uncertain mother, took him to her arms and became, by that
unsavory contact, pink and vivacious.

"There ’s more of you," said Mrs. du Preez, making a fresh examination
of her visitor.  "You ’re fatter than what you were, Bailey, in those
old days."

Boy Bailey nodded carelessly.  "Yes, my figure ’s gone too," he agreed;
"gone with all the rest. Friends, position, reputation—all but my
spirits and my talents.  I know.  Ah, but those were good times, weren’t

"Too good to last," sighed Mrs. du Preez.

"They didn’t last for me," said Boy Bailey. "When we broke down at
Fereira—lemme see!  That must be nearly twenty years ago, ain’t it?—I
took my leave of Fortune.  Never another glance did I get from her; not
one bally squint.  I did advance agent for a fortune-teller for a bit; I
even came down to clerking in a store.  I ’ve been most things a man can
be in this country, except rich.  And why is it? What ’s stood in my way
all along?  What ’s been my handicap that holds me back and nobbles me
every time I face the starter?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Mrs. du Preez sympathetically.

"I don’t need to tell you," continued Boy Bailey, "you not being one of
the herd, that it ’s temperament that has me all the time.  I don’t
boast of it, but you know how it is.  You remember me when I had scope;
you ’ve seen me at the game; you can judge for yourself.  A man with
temperament in this country has got as much chance as a snowflake in
hell.  Perhaps, though, you ’ve found that out for yourself before now."

"Don’t I know it," retorted Mrs. du Preez.  "Bailey, if you ’ll believe
me, I have n’t heard that word ’temperament,’ since I saw you last.
Talk of scope—why you can go to the winder there and see with your eyes
all the scope I ’ve had since I married.  It ’s been tough, Bailey; it
’s been downright tough."

"Still—" began Mr. Bailey, but paused.  "We must have another talk," he
substituted.  "There ’s a lot to hear and to tell.  Do you think you
could manage to put me up for a day or two?  I suppose your husband
wouldn’t mind?"

"Why should he?" demanded Mrs. du Preez. "You ’re the first in all these
years.  Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you was to have a change of
clothes before he sees you, Bailey.  It isn’t me that minds, you know;
so far as that goes, you ’d be welcome in anything; but—"

Boy Bailey waved her excuses away.  "I understand," he said.  "I
understand.  It’s these prejudices—have your own way."

The resources of Christian du Preez’s wardrobe were narrow, and
Christian’s wife was further hampered in the selection of clothes for
her guest by a doubt whether, if she selected too generously, Christian
might not insist on the guest stripping as soon as he set eyes on him.
Her discretion revealed itself, when Mr. Bailey was dressed, in a
certain sketchiness of his total effect, an indeterminate quality that
was not lessened by the fact that all of the garments were too narrow
and too long; and though no alteration of his original appearance could
fail to improve it, there was no hiding his general character of slow

"It ’s hardly a disguise," commented Boy Bailey, as he surveyed himself
when the change was made. "Disguise is n’t the word that covers it, and
I ’m hanged if I know what word does.  But these pants are chronic."

"You can roll ’em up another couple of inches," suggested Mrs. du Preez.

"It isn’t that," complained Mr. Bailey.  "If they want to cover my feet,
they can.  But I ’d need a waist like a wasp before the three top
buttons would see reason.  Damme, I feel as if I was going to break in
halves.  What ’s that dear boy of yours grinning at?"

"I wasn’t grinning," protested Paul.  "I was only going to say that
father ’s coming in now."

The tramp and his mother exchanged a glance of which the meaning was
hidden from him, the look of allies preparing for a crucial moment.
Already they were leagued to defeat the husband.

Christian du Preez came with heavy footsteps along the passage from the
outer door, saw that there was a stranger in the parlor and paused.

"Christian," said Mrs. du Preez, with a false sprightliness.  "Come in;
here ’s a—an old friend of mine come to see us."

"An old friend?"

The Boer stared at the stranger standing with straddled legs before the
fireplace, and recognized him forthwith.  Without speaking, he made a
quick comparison of the bold photograph, whose fleshy perfection had so
often invited him to take stock of his own imperfections, and then met
the living Boy Bailey’s rigid smile with a smile of his own that had the
effect of tempering the other’s humor.

"I see," said the Boer.  "What’s the name?"  He came forward and read
from the photograph where the bold showy signature sprawled across a
corner. "’Yours blithely, Boy Bailey,’" he read.  "And you are Boy

"You ’ve got it," replied the photograph’s original. "Older, my dear
sir, and it may be meatier; but the same man in the main, and happy to
make the acquaintance of an old friend’s husband."

His impudence cost him an effort in face of the Boer’s stare of
contemptuous amusement, a stare which comprehended, item by item, each
article of his grotesque attire and came to rest, without diminishing
its intensity, upon the specious, unstable countenance.

"_Allemachtag,_" was the Boer’s only reply, as he completed his survey.

"I don’t think you saw Bailey, that time we were married, Christian,"
said Mrs. du Preez.  "But he was a dear old friend of mine."

Christian nodded.  "You walked here?" he inquired of the guest.  On the
Karoo, the decent man does not travel afoot, and none of the three
others who were present missed the implication of the inquiry. Mrs. du
Preez colored hotly; Boy Bailey introduced his celebrated wave of the

"I see you know what walking means," he replied. "It ain’t a human
occupation—is it now?  What I say is—if man had been meant for a
_voetganger_ (a walker)"—he watched the effect of the Dutch word on the
Boer—"he ’d have been made with four feet.  Is n’t that right?  You bet
your shirt it is."

"My shirt."  Christian seemed puzzled for the moment, though the phrase
was one which his wife used. She watched him uneasily.  "Oh, I see.
Yes, you can keep that shirt you ’ve got on.  I don’t want it."

Boy Bailey made him a bow.  "Ah, thanks.  A shirt more or less don’t
matter, does it?"

Christian turned to Paul.  "You brought him in?"

"Yes," answered Paul.

"Well, come and help me with the sacks.  Your mother an’ her friend
wants to talk, an’ we don’t want to listen to them talking."

Boy Bailey watched them depart.

"What ’s he mean by that?" he asked of Mrs. du Preez.

"Never mind what he means," she answered.  "He can’t have his own way in
everything.  Sit down an’ tell me about the others an’ what happened to
them after I left.  There was Kitty Cassel—what did she do?  Go home?"

Boy Bailey pursed his lips.  "No," he answered slowly.  "She and I went
down to Capetown together. She did n’t come to any good, Kitty did n’t.
Ask me about some one else; I don’t want to offend your ears."

But Mrs. du Preez was in error in one particular: Christian had seen Boy
Bailey "that time we were married," and remembered him very clearly.
Those were days when he, too, lived vividly and the petty incidents and
personalities of the moment wrote themselves deep on his boyish mind.
As he worked at the empty sacks, telling them over by the stencils upon
them, while Paul waded among them to his knees and flung them towards
him, he returned in the spirit to those poignant years when a thin girl
walking across a little makeshift stage could shake him to his

He remembered the little town to which the commando had returned to be
paid off and disbanded, a single street straggling under a rampart of a
gray-green mountain, with the crude beginnings of other streets budding
from it on either side, and the big brown, native location like a
tuberous root at its lower end.  Along its length, beetle-browed shops,
with shaded stoeps and hitching-rails for horses, showed interior
recesses of shade and gave an illusion of dignified prosperous commerce,
and at the edge of it all there was a string of still pools, linked by a
dribble of water, which went by the name of a river and nurtured along
its banks gums and willows, the only trees of greater stature than a
mimosa-bush that Christian had ever seen.

It was a small, stagnant veld dorp, in fact, one of hundreds that are
littered over the face of the Colony, and have for their districts a
more than metropolitan importance.  Christian knew it as a focus of
life, the center of incomprehensible issues and concerns and when his
corps returned to it, flavored in its single street the pungencies of
life about town.  The little war in the neighborhood had drawn to it the
usual riff-raff of the country that follows on the heels of troops,
wherever armed men are gathered together, predatory women too wise in
their generation, a sample or two of the nearly extinct species of
professional card-sharper, a host of the sons of Lazarus intent upon
crumbs that should fall from the pay-table, and a fair collection of
ordinary thieves.  These gave the single street a vivacity beyond
anything it had known, and the armed burgher, carrying his rifle slung
on his back from mere habit, would be greeted by the name of "Piet" and
invited to drink once for every ten steps he took upon it.

Hither came Christian—twenty-two years of age, six-foot in his bare
soles of slender thew and muscle, not yet bearded and hungry with many
appetites after a campaign against Kafirs.  The restless town was a bait
for him.

At that time, there was much in him of that solemn-eyed quality which
came to be Paul’s.  The steely women laughed harshly as he passed them
by, with all the sweetness of his youth in his still face, his lips
parted, his look resting on them and beyond them to the virtues and the
delicacy they had thrown off to walk the faster on their chosen road.
His ears softened their laughter, his eyes redeemed their bitterness;
everything was transfigured for him by the dynamic power of his mere
innocence and his potent belief in his own inferiority to the splendor
of all that offered itself to his vision.  He saw his comrades, fine
shots and hard men on the trek, lapse into drunkenness and evil
communications, and it was in no way incompatible with his own ascetic
cleanliness of apprehension that he excused them on the grounds of the
hardships they had undergone.  He could idealize even a sot puking in a

It was here that he saw a stage-play for the first time in his life,
sitting in a back-seat in the town hall among young shop-assistants and
workmen, not a little distracted between the strange things upon the
stage which he had paid to witness and the jocular detachment from them
by the young men about him.  The play at first was incomprehensible; the
chambermaid and the footman, conversing explanatorily, with which it
opened, were figures he was unable to recognize, and he could not share
the impression that seemed to prevail among the characters in general
that the fat, whitish heroine was beautiful.  The villain, too, was
murderous in such a crude fashion; not once did he make a clean job of
an assassination.  Christian felt himself competent to criticize, since
it was only a week or so since he had pulled a trigger and risen on his
elbow to see his man halt in mid-stride and pitch face forward to the
earth.  He was confirmed in his dissatisfaction by the demeanor of his
neighbors; they, men about town, broken to the drama and its surprises,
were certainly not taking the thing seriously.  After a while,
therefore, he made no effort to keep sight of the thread of the play; he
sat in an idle content, watching the women on the stage, curious to
discover what it was in each one of them that was wrong and vaguely

His neighbors had no doubts about it.  "There ’s not a leg in the whole
caboodle," one remarked.  "It ’s all mouth and murder, this is."

Christian did not clearly understand the first phrase, but the second
was plain and he smiled in agreement. He looked up to take stock of
another character, a girl who made her entrance at that moment, and
ceased to smile.  Her share in the scene was unimportant enough, and she
had but a few words to speak and nothing to do but to walk forward and
back again.  She was thin and girlish and carried herself well, moving
with a graceful deliberation and speaking in an appealing little tinkle
to which the room lent a certain ring and resonance; she accosted the
villain who replied with brutality; she smiled and turned from him, made
a face and passed out again.  And that was all.

The young man who had deplored the absence of legs nudged his neighbor
to look at the tall young Boer and made a joke in a cautious whisper.
His precaution was unnecessary; he might have shouted and Christian
would not have heard.  He was like a man stunned by a great revelation,
sitting bolt upright and staring at the stage and its lighted activity
with eyes dazzled by a discovery.  For the first time in his life he had
seen a woman, little enough to break like a stick across his knee, brave
and gay at once, delicate and tender, touching him with the sense of her
strength and courage while her femininity made all the male in him surge
into power.  Gone was his late attitude of humorous judgment, that could
detach the actress from her work and assess her like a cow; the smile,
the little contemptuous grimace had blown it all away.  He was aghast,
incapable of reducing his impression to thoughts.  For a while, it did
not occur to him that it would be possible to see her again.  When it
did, he leaned across the two playgoers who were next to him and lifted
a program from the lap of the third, who gaped at him but found nothing
to say.

"That _meisjie_, the one in a red dress—is her name in this?" he
inquired of his neighbor, and surprised him into assistance.  Together
they found it; the unknown was Miss Vivie Sinclair.

"Skinny, wasn’t she?" commented the helpful neighbor sociably.

But Christian was already on his feet and making his way out, and the
conversational one got nothing but a slow glare for an answer across
intervening heads.

And yet the truth of it was, a connoisseur in girls could have matched
Miss Vivie Sinclair a hundred times over, so little was there in her
that was peculiar or rare.  The connoisseur would have put her down
without hesitation for a product of that busy manufactory which melts
down the material of so many good housemaids to make it into so many bad
actresses.  Her sex and a grimace—these were the total of her assets,
and yet she was as good a peg as another for a cloudy youth to drape
with the splendors of his inexperienced fancy and glorify with the hues
of his secret longings. Probably she had no very clear idea of herself
in those days; she was neither happy nor sad, as a general thing; and
her aspirations aimed much more definitely at the symptoms of
success—frocks, bills lettered large with her name, comely young men in
hot pursuit of her, gifts of jewelry—than at success itself.  As she
passed down the main street next morning, on her way to the telegraph
office in the town hall, she offered to the slow, appraising looks from
the stoeps a sketchy impression of a rather strained modernity, an
effect of deftly managed skirts and unabashed ankles which in themselves
were sufficient to set Fereira thinking.  It was as she emerged from the
telegraph office that she came face to face with Christian.

"Well, where d’you think you ’re comin’ to?"

This was her greeting as he pulled up all standing to avert a collision.
Clothes to fit both his stature and his esthetic sense had not been
procurable, and he had been only able to wash himself to a state of
levitical cleanliness.  But his youthful bigness and his obvious
reverence of her served his purpose.  She stood looking at him with a

"I saw you," he said, "in the play."

"Did you?  What d’ you think of it?"

"_Allemachtag,_" he answered.  "I have been thinking of it all night."

To his eye, she was all she had promised to be.  The fragility of her
was most wonderful to him, accustomed to the honest motherly brawn of
the girls of his own race.  The rather aggressive perkiness of her
address was the smiling courage that had thrilled and touched him.  He
stood staring, unable to carry the talk further.

But it was for this kind of thing that Miss Vivie Sinclair had "gone on
the stage," and she was not at all at a loss.

"I ’m going this way," she said, and in her hands, Christian was
wax—willing wax.  He found himself walking at her side under the eyes of
the town.  She waited before she spoke again till they were by the stoep
of Pagan’s store, where a dozen loungers became rigid and watchful as
they passed.

"You ’ve heard about the smash-up?" she inquired then.


"Our smash-up?  Oh, a regular mess we ’re in, the whole lot of us.  You
had n’t heard?"

"No," he answered.

"Padden ’s cleared out.  He was our manager, you know, and now he ’s run
away with the treasury and left us high and dry.  Went last night, it
seems, after the show."

"Left you?" repeated Christian.  The old story was a new one to him and
he did not understand.  Miss Sinclair thought him dense, but proceeded
to enlighten him in words of one syllable, as it were.

"That ’s why I was telegraphing," she concluded. "There was a feller in
Capetown I used to know; I want to strike him for my fare out of this."

So she was in trouble; there was a call upon her courage, an attack on
her defenselessness.  Miss Sinclair, glancing sidelong at his face, saw
it redden quickly and was confirmed in her hope that the "feller" in
Capetown was but an alternative string to her bow.

"That telegram took all I ’d got but a couple of shillings," she added.
"Padden had been keeping us short for a long time."

The long street straggled under the sun, bare to its harsh illumination,
a wide tract of parched dust hemmed between walls and roofs of gray
corrugated iron.  The one thing that survived that merciless ordeal of
light without loss or depreciation was the girl.  They halted at the
door of the one-storied hotel where her room was and here again the
shaded stoep was full of ears and eyes and Christian had to struggle
with words to make his meaning clear to her and keep it obscure to every
one else.

"It ’ll be all right," he assured her stammeringly. "I ’ll see that it
’s all right.  I ’ll come here an’ see you."

"When?" she asked, and helped him with a suggestion. "This evening?
There ’ll be no show to-night."

"This evening," he agreed.

Miss Sinclair gave him her best smile, all the better for the mirth that
helped it out.  She was as much amused as she was relieved.  As she
passed the bar on her way indoors, she winked guardedly to a florid
youth within who stood in an attitude of listening.

If Christian had celebrated the occasion with libations in the local
fashion, if he had talked about it and put his achievement to the test
of words—if, even, he had been capable of thinking about it in any clear
and sober manner instead of merely relishing it with every fiber of his
body—the evening’s interview might have resolved itself into an act of
charity, involving the sacrifice of nothing more than a few sovereigns.
As it was, he spent the day in germinating hopes and educating his mind
to entertain them.  Under the stimulating heat of his sanguine youth,
they burgeoned superbly.

As he walked away from the hotel, the florid youth spoke confidentially
to the fat shirt-sleeved barman.

"Hear that?" he asked.  "_She_ ’ll do all right, she will.  That ’s
where a girl ’s better off than a man. Who ’s the feller, d’you know?"

The barman heaved himself up to look through the window, and laughed
wheezily.  He was a married man and adored his children, but it was his
business to be knowing and worldly.

"It ’s young Du Preez," he answered, as Christian stalked away.  "One of
them Boers, y’know.  Got a farm out on the Karoo."

"Rich?" queried the other.

"Not bad," said the barman.  "Most of those Dutch could buy you an’ me
an’ use us for mantel ornaments, if they had the good taste."

"So—ho," exclaimed the florid youth.  "But they don’t carry it about
with ’em, worse luck."

He sighed and grew thoughtful.  He was thoughtful at intervals for the
rest of the morning, and by the afternoon was melancholy and uncertain
of step.  But he was on hand and watchful when Christian arrived.

Christian was vaguely annoyed when a young man of suave countenance and
an expression of deep solemnity thrust up to him at the hotel door and
stood swaying and swallowing and making signs as though to command his

"What d’you want?" he demanded.

"Word with you," requested the other.  "Word with you."

He was sufficiently unlike anything that was native to Fereira to be
recognizable as an actor and Christian suffered himself to be beckoned
into the bar.

"Shall I do it or you?" asked the other.  "I shtood so many to-day,
sheems to me it ’s your turn.  Mine ’s a whisky.  Now, ’bout this li’l
girl upshtairs."

"Eh?"  Christian was startled.

"I ’m man of the world," the other went on, with the seriousness of the
thoroughly drunken.  "Know more ’bout the world then ever you knew in
yer bally life. An’ I don’t blame you—norra bit.  Now what I want shay
is this: I can fix it for you if you ’re good for a fiver.  Jush a
fiver—shave trouble and time, eh? Nice li’l girl, too.  Worth it."

Christian watched him lift his glass and drink.  He was perplexed; these
folk seemed to have a language of their own and to be incomprehensible
to ordinary folk.

"Worth it?" he repeated.  "Fix _what_?" he demanded.

"Nod ’s good ’s wink," answered the other.  "Don’t want to shout it.
Bend your long ear down to me—tell you."

They had a corner by the bar to themselves.  Near the window the barman
had a customer after his own heart and was repeating to him an oracular
saying by his youngest daughter but two, glancing sideways while he
spoke to see if Christian and the other were listening.

Christian bent, and the hot breath of the other, reeking of the day’s
drinking, beat on his neck and the side of his head.  The hoarse
whisper, with its infernal suggestion, seemed to come warm from a pit of
vileness within the man’s body.

"Is that plain ’nough?"

Christian stood upright again, trembling from head to foot with some
cold emotion far transcending any rage he had ever felt.  For some
instant he could not lift his hand; he had seen the last foul depths of
evil and was paralyzed.  The other lifted his glass again. His movement
released the Boer from the spell.

He took the man by the wrist that held the glass with so deadly a
deliberation that the barman missed his hostile purpose and continued to
talk, leaning with his fat, mottled arms folded on the bar.

"What you doin’, y’ fool?"  The cry was from the florid youth.

"Ah!"  Christian put out his strength with a maniac fury, and the
youth’s hand and the glass in it were dashed back into that person’s
face.  No hand but his own struck him, and the countenance Christian saw
as a blurred white disk broke under the blow and showed red cracks.  He
struck again and again; the barman shouted and men came running in from
outside.  Christian dropped the wrist he held and turned away.  Those in
the doorway gave him passage.  On the floor in the corner the florid
youth bled and vomited.

Christian knew him later as a bold and serene face in a plush photograph
frame, signed across the lower right corner: "Yours blithely, Boy

How he made inquiries for the girl’s room and came at last to the door
of it was never a clear memory to him.  But he could always recall that
small austere interior of whitewash and heat-warped furniture to which
he entered at her call, to find her sitting on the narrow bed.  He came
to her bereft of the few faculties she had left him, grave, almost
stern, gripping himself by force of instinct to save himself from the
outburst of emotion to which the scene in the bar had made him prone.
Everything tender and protective in his nature was awake and crying out;
he saw her as the victim of a sacrilegious outrage, threatened by
unnamable dangers.

She looked at him under the lids of her eyes, quickly alive to the
change in him.  It is necessary to record that she, too, had made
inquiries since the morning, and learned of the farm that stood at his
back to guarantee him solid.

"I wondered if you ’d come," she said.  "That feller in Capetown has n’t

"I said I ’d come," he replied gravely.

"Yes, I know.  All the same, I thought—you know, when a person ’s in
hard luck, nothing goes right, an’ a girl, when she ’s in a mess, is
anybody’s fool.  Is n’t that right?"

She knew her peril then; she lived open-eyed in face of it.

"You shall not be anybody’s fool," he answered.  "If anybody tries to be
bad to you, I ’ll kill him."

He was still standing just within the closed door, no nearer to her than
the size of the little chamber compelled.

"Won’t you sit down?" she invited.

"Eh?"  His contemplation of her seemed to absorb him and make him
absent-minded.  "No," he replied, when she repeated her invitation.

"As you like," she conceded, wondering whether after all he was going to
be amenable to the treatment she proposed for him.  It crossed her mind
that he was thinking of getting something for his money and her silly
mouth tightened.  If her sex was one of her assets, her virtue—the
fanatic virtue which is a matter of prejudice rather than of
principle,—was one of her liabilities. She had nothing to sell him.

"You know," she said, "the worst of it is, none of us have n’t had any
salary for weeks.  That’s what puts us in the cart.  We ’re all broke.
If Padden had let us have a bit, we would n’t be stranded like this.
And the queer thing is, Gus Padden ’s the last man you ’d have picked
for a wrong ’un.  Fat, you know, and beaming; a sort of fatherly way, he
had.  He used to remind me of Santa Claus.  An’ now he ’s thrown us down
this way, and how I ’m going to get up again I can’t say."  She gave him
one of her shrewd upward glances; "tell me," she added.

"I can tell you," he replied.

"How, then?" she asked.

"Marry me," said Christian.  "This acting—it’s no good.  There ’s men
that is bad all around you.  One of them—I broke his face like a
window-glass downstairs just now—he said you was—bad, like him.  And it
was time to see what he was worth.  Unless you can you are ach—so—so
little, so weak.  Marry me, my _kleintje_ and you shall be nobody’s

The girl on the bed stared at him dumbly: this was what she had never
expected.  Salvation had come to her with both hands full of gifts.  She
began to laugh foolishly.

"Marry me," repeated Christian.  "Will you?"

She jumped up from her seat, still laughing and took two steps to him.

"Will I?" she cried.  "Will a duck swim?  Yes, I will; yes, yes, yes!"

Christian looked at her dazed; events were sweeping him off his feet.
He took one of her hands and dropped it again and turned from her
abruptly.  With his arm before his face he leaned against the door and
burst into weeping.  The girl patted him on the back soothingly.

"Take it easy," she said kindly.  "You’ll be all right, never fear."

"That ’s all the Port Elizabeth ones," said Paul. "How many do you make

Christian du Preez looked up uncertainly.  "_Allemachtag,_" he said.  "I
forgot to count.  I was thinking."

"Oh.  About the tramp?"

"Yes.  Paul, what did you bring him in for? Couldn’t you see he was a

Paul nodded.  "Yes, I could see that.  But—_skellums_ are hungry and
tired, too, sometimes."

His father smiled in a worried manner.  He and Paul never talked
intimately with each other, but an intimacy existed of feeling and
thought.  They took many of the same things for granted.

"Like us," he agreed.  "Come on to supper, Paul."

                              *CHAPTER X*

It was nearing the lunch hour when Margaret walked down from the
Sanatorium to the farm, leaving Ford and Mr. Samson to their unsociable
preoccupations on the stoep, and found Paul among the kraals.  He had
some small matter of work in hand, involving a wagon-chain and a number
of yokes; these were littered about his feet in a liberal disorder and
he was standing among them contemplating them earnestly and seemingly
lost in meditation.  He turned slowly as Margaret called his name, and
woke to the presence of his visitor with a lightening of his whole

"Were you dreaming about models?" inquired Margaret. "You were very deep
in something."

Paul shook his head.  "It was about wagons," he answered seriously.  "I
was just thinking how they are always going away from places and coming
to more places.  That’s all."

"Wishing you had wheels instead of feet?  I see," smiled the girl.
"What a traveler you are, Paul."

He smiled back.  In their casual meetings they had talked of this before
and Paul had found it possible to tell her of his dreams and yearnings
for what lay at the other end of the railway and beyond the sun mist
that stood like a visible frontier about his world.

"I shall travel some day," he answered.  "Kamis says that a man is
different from a vegetable because he hasn’t got roots.  He says that
the best way to see the world is to go on foot."

"I expect he ’s right," said Margaret.  "It’s jolly for you, Paul,
having him to talk to.  Do you know where he is now?"

"Yes," answered the boy.

"Well, then, when can I see him?  He told me you could always let him

"This afternoon?" suggested Paul.  "If you could come down to the dam
wall then, he can be there. There is a signal I make for him in my
window and he always sees it."

"I ’ll come then," promised Margaret.  "Thank you, Paul.  But that
signal—that ’s rather an idea.  Did you think of it or did he?"

"He did," answered Paul.  "He said it wouldn’t trouble him to look every
day at a house that held a friend.  And he does, every day.  There was
only once he didn’t come, and then he had twisted his ankle a long way
off on the veld, walking among ant-bear holes in the dark."

"Which window is it?" asked Margaret.

Paul pointed.  "That end one," he showed her.

Margaret looked, and a figure lounging against one of the doorposts of
the house took her look for himself and bowed.

"That’s nobody," said Paul quickly.  "Don’t look that way.  It ’s—it ’s
a tramp that came to me—and I gave him a shilling to keep still and be
modeled—and he knows my mother—and he ’s staying in the house. He ’s
beastly; don’t look that way."

His solicitude and his jealousy made Margaret smile.

"I shouldn’t see him if I did," she said.  "Don’t you worry, Paul.
Then—this afternoon?"

"Under the dam," replied Paul.  "Good-by.  He’s waiting for a chance to
come and speak to you."

"Let him wait," replied Margaret, and turned homewards, scrupulously
averting her face from the ingratiating figure of Boy Bailey.

That pensioner of fortune watched her pass along the trodden path to the
Sanatorium till she was clear of the farm, and then put himself into
easy movement to go across to Paul.  The uncanny combination of
Christian’s clothes and his own personality drifted through the arrogant
sunlight and over the sober earth, a monstrous affront to the temperate
eye.  He was like a dangerous clown or a comical Mephistopheles.  Paul,
pondering as he came, thought of a pig equipped with the venom of the
puff-adder of the Karoo.  As he drew near, the boy fell to work on the
chain and yokes.

"Well, my dear boy."  The man’s shadow and his voice reached Paul
together.  He did not look up, but went on loosening the cross bar of a
yoke from its link.

"There ’s more in this place of yours than meets the eye at a first
glance," said Boy Bailey.  "You ’re well off, my lad.  Not only milk and
honey for the trouble of lifting ’em to your mouth, but dalliance,
silken dalliance in broad daylight.  What would your dear mother say if
she knew?"

"I don’t know," said the boy.  "Ask her?"

"And spoil sport?  Laddie, you ’ll know me better some day.  Not for
worlds would I give a chap’s game away.  It’s not my style.  Poor I may
be, but not that. No.  I admire your taste, my boy.  You ’ve an eye in
your head.  But you forgot to introduce the lady to your mother’s old
friend.  However, you ’ll be seeing her again, no doubt, an’ then—"

"I didn’t forget," said Paul.  Still he did not look up.  The iron links
shook in his hands, and he detached the stout crosspiece and laid it
across his knees.

"Eh?"  Boy Bailey’s face darkened a little, and his wary eyes narrowed.
He looked down on the boy’s bent back unpleasantly.

"You didn’t?" he said.  "I see.  Well, well.  A chap that ’s poor must
put up with these slights."  His slightly hoarse voice became bland
again.  "But have it your own way; Heaven knows, _I_ don’t mind.  She ’s
a saucy little piece, all the same, an’ p’r’aps you ’re right not to
risk her with me.  If I got her by herself, there ’s no saying—"

He stopped; the boy had looked up and was rising. His face stirred
memories in Boy Bailey; it roused images that were fogged by years, but
terrible yet.  In the instant’s grace that was accorded him, he felt his
wrist gripped once more and saw the livid clenched face, tense with the
spirit of murder, that burned above his ere his own hand and the glass
it held were dashed athwart his eyes.  The boy was rising and he held
the cross-bar of the yoke like a weapon.

Boy Bailey made to speak but failed.  With a sort of squeak he turned
and set off running towards the house, pounding in panic over the ground
with his grotesque clothes flapping about him like abortive wings.
Paul, on his feet amid the tangled chains, watched him with the heavy
cross-bar in his hand.

If he had any clear feeling at all, it was disappointment at the waste
of a rare energy.  He could have killed the man in the heat of it, and
now it was wasted. Boy Bailey was whole, his pulpy face not beaten in,
his bones functioning adequately as he ran instead of creaking in
fractures to each squirm of his broken body.  It was an occasion
squandered, lost, thrown away.  It had the unsatisfying quality of mere
prevention when it might have been a complete cure.

Margaret returned to the Sanatorium in time to meet Mrs. Jakes in the
hall as she led the way to lunch and to receive the unsmiling movement
of recognition which had been her lot ever since the night of Dr. Jakes’
adventure.  Contrary to Margaret’s expectation, Mrs. Jakes had not come
round; no treatment availed to convince her that she had not been made a
victim of black treachery and the doctor wantonly exposed and
humiliated. When she was cornered and had to listen to explanations, she
heard them with her eyes on the ground and her face composed to an
irreconcilable woodenness. When Margaret had done—she tried the line of
humorous breeziness, and it was a mistake—Mrs. Jakes sniffed.

"If you please," she said frigidly, "we won’t talk about it.  The
subject is very painful.  No doubt all you say is very true, but I have
my feelings."

"So have I," said Margaret.  "And mine are being hurt."

"I am extremely sorry," replied the little wan woman, with stiff
dignity.  "If you wish it, I will ask the doctor to recommend you a
Sanatorium elsewhere, where you may be more comfortable."

"You know that is n’t what I want," protested Margaret. "This is all
very silly.  I only want you to understand that I have n’t done you any
harm and that I did the best I could and let’s stop acting as if one of
us had copied the other’s last hat."

"No doubt I am slow of understanding, Miss Harding," retorted Mrs. Jakes
formidably.  "However—if you have quite finished, I ’m in rather a hurry
and I won’t detain you."

And she made her escape in good order, marching unhurried down the
matted corridor and showing to Margaret a retreating view of a rigid
black alpaca back.

Dr. Jakes was equally effective in his treatment of the incident.  He
went to work upon her lungs quite frankly, sending her to bed for a
couple of days and gathering all his powers to undo the harm of which he
had been the cause.  On the third day, there was a further interview in
the study, a businesslike affair, conducted without unnecessary
conversation, with monosyllabic question and reply framed on the most
formal models.  At the close of it, he leaned back in his chair and
faced her across the corner of his desk.  He was irresistibly plump and
crumpled in that attitude, with his sad, uncertain eyes expressing an
infinite apprehension and all the resignation of a man who has lost
faith in mercy.

"That is all, then, Miss Harding.  Unless—?"

The last word was breathed hoarsely.  Margaret waited.  He gazed at her
owlishly, one nervous hand fumbling on the blotting-pad before him.

"There is nothing else you want to say to me?" he asked.

"I can’t think of anything," said Margaret.

He continued to look at her, torpidly, helplessly.  It was impossible to
divine what fervencies of inarticulate emotion burned and quickened
behind his mask of immobile flesh.  The rumpled hair, short and blond,
lay in disorder upon his forehead and his lips were parted impotently.
He had to blink and swallow before he could speak again, visibly
recalling his wits.

"If you don’t tell me, I can’t answer," he said, and sighed heavily.  He
raised himself in his big chair irritably.

"Nothing more, then?" he asked.  "Well—take care of yourself, Miss
Harding.  That ’s all you have to do. Whatever happens, your business is
to take care of yourself; it’s what you came here for."

"I will," answered Margaret.  She wished she could find a plane on which
it would be possible to talk to him frankly, without evasions and free
from the assumptions which his wife wove about him.  But the resignation
of his eyes, the readiness they expressed to accept blows and penalties,
left her powerless.  The gulf that separated them could not be bridged.

"Then—" he rose, and in another pair of moments Margaret was outside the
study door in the hall, where Mrs. Jakes, affecting to be concerned in
the arrangement of the furniture, examined her in sidelong glances, to
know whether she had used the weapon which the doctor’s adventure had
put into her hand.  Apparently there was no convincing her that the
girl’s intentions were not hostile.

It did not simplify life for Margaret, this enmity of Mrs. Jakes.  Lunch
and breakfast under her pale, implacable eye, that glided upon
everything but skipped Margaret with a noticeable avoidance, had become
ordeals to be approached with trepidation.  Talk, when there was
anything to talk about, died still-born in that atmosphere of lofty
displeasure.  It was done with a certain deftness; Mrs. Jakes was
incapable of anything crude or downright; and when it was necessary, in
order that the state of affairs should not be conspicuous, she could
smile towards the wall at the girl’s back and spare her an empty word or
so, in a way that was sometimes as galling as much more dexterous snubs
that Margaret had seen administered.  One can "field" a snub that
conveys its purpose in its phrasing and return it with effect to the
wicket; but there is nothing to be done with the bare word that just
stops a gap from becoming noticeable.

Ford was waiting outside the front door when Margaret came out after
exercising the virtue of forbearance throughout a meal for which she had
had no appetite.

"What ’s the row with Mrs. Jakes?" he asked, without wasting words on

"Oh, nothing," answered Margaret crossly.  "You ’d better ask her if you
want to know.  I ’m not going to tell you anything."

"Well, don’t, then.  But you couldn’t arrange a truce for meal-times,
could you?  It turns things sour—the way you two avoid looking at each

"I don’t care," said Margaret.  "It ’s not my fault. I ’ve been as loyal
as anybody—more loyal, I think, and certainly more helpful.  I ’ve done
simply everything she asked of me, and now she ’s like this."

Ford gave her a whimsical look of question.

"Sure you haven’t at some time done more than she asked you?" he

"Why?"  Margaret was surprised.  She laughed unwillingly.  "Is it
shrewdness or have you heard something?"

"I haven’t heard a word," he assured her.  "But is that it?"

"It ’s just your natural cleverness, then?  Wonderful," said Margaret.
"You ought to go on the stage, really.  Yes, that ’s what it is—I
suppose.  And now d’you think she ’ll see the reasonable view of it?
Not she!  I ’m a villain in skirts and if I won’t stand it, she ’ll ask
the doctor to recommend a Sanatorium where I can be more comfortable.
And just at this moment, I don’t think I can stand much more of it."

"Eh?"  Ford scowled disapprovingly.  "That ’s a rotten thing to say.
You don’t feel inclined to tell me about it?"

"I can’t; I mustn’t.  That ’s the worst of it," answered Margaret.  "I
can’t tell you anything."

"At any rate," said Ford, "don’t take it into your head to go away.
This won’t do you any harm in the end.  You weren’t thinking of it
seriously, were you?"

"Wasn’t I?  I was, though.  I hate all this."

Ford took a couple of steps toward the door and a couple back.

"It won’t weigh with you," he said, "but I ’d be sorry if you went.  _I_
would, personally—awfully sorry. But if you must go, you must.  It ’s a
thing you can judge for yourself.  Still, I ’d be sorry."

Margaret shrugged impatiently.

"Oh, I ’d be sorry, too.  It ’s been jolly, in a way, with you here, and
all that.  I ’d miss you, if you want to know.  But—"

She stopped.  Ford was looking at her very gravely.

"Don’t go," he said, and put his thin, sun-browned hand upon her
shoulder.  "It ’ll make things simpler for me if you say you won’t.
Things will arrange themselves, but even if they don’t—don’t go away."

"Simpler?  How do you mean?"

"Just that," he answered.  "If you stay, here we are—friends.  We help
each other out and talk and see each other and have time before us and
there ’s no need to say anything.  And it’s because a lunger like me
must n’t say anything till he sees whether he ’s going to get well or—or
stay here forever, that it ’ll be simpler if you don’t go.  Do you see?"

His hand upon her shoulder was pleasant to feel; she liked the freedom
he took—and gave—in resting it there; and his young, serious face,
touched to delicacy by the disease that governed him, was patient and

"It ’s not because of that _that_ you mustn’t say anything," she
answered.  "I did n’t know—you ’ve given me no warning.  What can I

"Say you won’t go," he begged.  "Say you won’t act on any decision you
’ve made at present.  And then we can go on—me lecturing you, and you
flouting me, till—till I can say things—till I ’m free to say what I
like to anybody."

She smiled rather nervously.  "If I agree now," she answered, "it will
look as if—" she paused; the thing was difficult to put in its nicety.
But he was quick in the uptake.

"It won’t," he said.  "I ’m not such a bounder as that."

"But I ’d rather be here than take my chance among other people," she
went on.  "I suppose I can stand Mrs. Jakes if I give my mind to it,
particularly if you ’ll see me through."

"I ’ll do what I can," he promised.  "You ’ll do it, then?  You’ll

"I suppose so," said Margaret.  His hand for a moment was heavier on her
shoulder; she felt as though she had been slapped on the back, with the
unceremoniousness of a good friend; and then he loosed her.

"Good of you," he answered shortly.

Both were weighted by the handicap of their race; they had been, as it
were, trapped into a certain depth of emotion and self-revelation, and
both found a difficulty in stepping down again to the safe levels of
commonplace intercourse.  Ford shoved both hands into his pockets and
half-turned from her.

"Well—doing anything this afternoon?" he inquired in his tersest manner.

"Yes," said Margaret, whom the position could amuse.


"Oh—going yachting," she retorted.

He sniffed and nodded.  "I ’m going to paint," he announced.  "So long."

Margaret smiled at his back as he went, and its extravagant slouch of
indifference and ease.  She knew he would not look round; once his mood
was defined, it was reliable entirely; but she felt she would have
forgiven him if he had.  The last word in such a matter as this is
always capable of expansion, and probably some such notion was in the
mind of the oracle who first pronounced that to women the last word is

He was still at his easel when she set forth to keep her appointment
under the dam wall, working on his helpless canvas with an intensity
that spared not a look as she went by on the parched grass below the
stoep.  It was a low easel, and he sat on a stool and spread his legs to
each side of it, like a fighter crouched over an adversary, and his
thumb was busy smudging among masses of pigment.  Margaret could see the
canvas as a faintly shining insurrection of colors which suggested that
he had broken an egg upon it.  A score of times in the past weeks those
cryptic messes had irritated her or showed themselves as a weakness in
their author. The domineering thumb and the shock tactics of the palette
knife had supplied her with themes for ridicule, and the fact that the
creature could not paint and yet would paint and refused all instruction
had put the seal of bitterness on many a day of weary irritation.  But
suddenly his incompetence and his industry, and even the unlovely fruit
of their union—the canvases that he signed large with his name and hung
unframed upon the walls of his room—were endearing; they were laughable
only as a little child is laughable, things to smile at and to prize.

Her smiling and thoughtful mood went with her across the grass and dust
and around the curved shoulder of the dam wall, where Kamis, obedient to
Paul’s signal, sat in the shade and awaited her.  At her coming he
sprang up eagerly with his face alight.  His tweed clothes were, if
anything, shabbier than before, but it seemed that no usage could subdue
them to congruity with the broad black face and its liberal smile.

"This is great luck," he said.  "I half expected you ’d find it too hot
for you.  Are you all right again after that night?"

Margaret seated herself on the slope of the wall and rested with one
elbow on the freshness of its water-fed grass.

"Quite all right," she assured him.  "Dr. Jakes has done everything that
needed to be done.  But I didn’t thank you half enough for what you

He smiled and murmured deprecatingly and found himself a place to sit on
at the foot of the wall, with legs crossed and his back to the sun.
Leaning forward a little in this posture, with his drooping hat-brim
shadowing him, it was almost possible for Margaret to avoid seeing the
blunt negro features for which she had come to feel something akin to
dread; they affected her in the same way that darkness with people
moving in it will affect some children.

"I saw Paul’s signal," said Kamis.  "We have an understanding, you know.
He hangs a handkerchief in his window when he wants me and when you want
me he hangs two.  It shows as far as one can see the window; all the
others are just black squares, and his has a white dash in it.  That ’s
rather how I see Paul, you know.  Other people are just blanks, but he
means something—to me, at any rate.  By the way, before I forget—did you
want me for anything in particular?"

Margaret shook her head.  "I wanted to talk," she said; "and to make
that police matter clear to you."

"Oh, that."  He looked up.  "Thank you."

"Do you know of a Mr. Van Zyl, a police-officer?" she asked him.  "He
thinks you are guilty of sedition among the natives.  I suppose it ’s
nonsense, but he means to arrest you, and I thought you ’d better know."

"It ’s awfully good of you to bother about it," he answered.  "I ’ll
take care he doesn’t lay hands on me. But it is nonsense, certainly, and
anybody but he would know it.  He ’s been scouring the kraals in the
south for me and giving the natives a tremendous idea of my importance.
They were nervous enough of me before, but now—"

He shrugged his shoulders disgustedly, but still smiled.

"That is what he said—they ’re uneasy," agreed Margaret.  "But why are
they?  You see, I know scarcely more of you than Mr. Van Zyl.  What is
it that troubles them about you?"

"Oh," the Kafir deliberated.  "It’s simple enough, really.  You see," he
explained, "the fact is, I ’m out of order.  I don’t belong in the
scheme of things as the natives and Mr. Van Zyl know it.  These Kafirs
are the most confirmed conservatives in the world, and when they see a
man like themselves who can’t exist without clothes and a roof to sleep
under, who can’t walk without boots or talk their language and is
unaccountable generally, they smell witchcraft at once.  Besides, it has
got about that I ’m Kamis, and they know very well that Kamis was hanged
about twenty years ago and his son taken away and eaten by the soldiers.
So it’s pretty plain to them that something is wrong somewhere. Do you

"Still"—Margaret was thoughtful—"Mr. Van Zyl is n’t an ignorant savage."

"No," agreed Kamis.  "He isn’t that.  For dealing with Kafirs, he ’s
probably the best man you could find; the natives trust him and depend
on him and when they ’re in trouble they go to him and he gives them the
help they want.  When they misbehave, he ’s on hand to deal with them in
the fashion they understand and probably prefer.  And the reason is,
Miss Harding—the reason is, he ’s got a Kafir mind.  He was born among
them and nursed by them; he speaks as a Kafir, understands as a Kafir
and thinks as a Kafir, and he ’ll never become a European and put away
Kafir things. They ’ve made him, and at the best he ’s an ambassador for
the Kafirs among the whites.  That ’s how they master their masters.
Oh, they ’ve got power, the Kafirs have, and a better power than their
hocus-pocus of witchcraft."

The afternoon was stored with the day’s accumulated heat and the cool of
the grass beneath and the freshness of the water, out of sight beyond
the wall but diffusing itself like an odor in the air, combined to
contrast the spot in which they talked with the dazed sun-beaten land
about them and gave to both a sense of privacy and isolation.  The
Kafir’s words stirred a fresh curiosity in Margaret.

"He thinks you are making the natives dangerous," she said.  "I don’t
believe that, of course, but what are you doing?"

"What am I doing?"

The black face was lifted to hers steadily and regarded her for a space
of moments without replying.  Nothing mild or subtle could find
expression in its rude shaping of feature; the taciturnity of the Karoo
itself governed it.

"What am I doing?" repeated Kamis.  He dropped his eyes and his hands
plucked at the grass absently. "Well, I ’m looking for a life for

Margaret waited for him to continue but he was silent, plucking the
grass shoots and shredding them in his fingers.

"A life," she prompted.  "Yes; tell me."

Kamis finished with the grass in his hand and threw it with an abrupt
gesture from him.

"I ’ll tell you if you like," he said, as though suppressing a feeling
of reluctance.  "It isn’t anything wonderful; still—.  You know already
how I began; Paul told me how you learnt that; and you can see where I
’ve got to with my education and my degree and my profession and all
that.  I ’m back where I came from, and besides what I ’ve learned, I
’ve got a burden of civilized habits and weaknesses that keep me tied by
the leg.  I need friendship and company and equality with people about
me, just as you do, and I ’m apt to find myself rather forlorn and lost
without them.  In England, I had those things—I had some of them, at any
rate; but what was there for a black doctor to do, do you think, among
all those people who look on even a white foreigner as rather a

"Wasn’t there anything?"  Margaret was watching the nervous play of his
gesticulating hands, so oddly emphasizing his pleasant English voice.

"Nothing worth while.  That ’s another of my troubles, you see.  They
taught me and trimmed me till I could n’t be content with occasional
niggers at the docks suffering from belaying-pin on the brain.  It was
n’t odd jobs I wanted, handed over to me to keep me happy; I wanted
work.  We niggers, we ’re a strong lot and we can stand a deal of wear
and tear, but we don’t improve by standing idle.  I wanted to come out
of that glass case they kept me in, with tutors and an allowance from
the Government and an official guardian and all that sort of thing, and
make myself useful."

He paused.  "You understand that, don’t you?" he asked.

"Of course I do," replied Margaret.  "If I could only come out too!  But
I ’ve got all those weaknesses of yours and this as well."  Her hand
rested on her chest and he nodded.

"You ’re different," he said.  "You must n’t be worn and torn."

"Well, so you came out here?"

"It ’s my country," he answered, and waved a hand at its barrenness.
"It was my father’s, a good deal of it, in another sense too.  When I
saw that living in England wasn’t going to lead to anything, I thought
of this.  Somebody ought to doctor the poor beggars who live here and
give them a lead towards a more comfortable existence, and I hoped I was
the man to do it.  I must have relations among them, too; that ’s queer,
is n’t it?  Aunts—my father had lots of wives—and lashings of cousins.
I thought the steamer was bringing me out to them and I had a great idea
of a welcome and all that; but I ’m no nearer it now than I was when I
started.  If ever I seem too grateful to you for your acquaintance, Miss
Harding—if I seem too humble to be pleasant when I thank you for letting
me talk to you—just remember I know that over there my poor black aunts
are slaving like cattle and my uncles are driving them, and when I come
they dodge among the huts and maneuver to get behind me with a club."

"No," answered Margaret slowly.  "I ’ll remind you instead of all you
’re doing while I do nothing."

He shook his head.  "I know what you do to me," he said.  "And I can’t
let you pity me.  It was n’t for want of warnings I came out here.  I
even had a letter from the Colonial Secretary.  And I must tell you
about the remonstrances of my guardian."

He laughed, with one of those quick transitions of mood which
characterize the negro temperament.  It jarred a little on Margaret.

"He was the dearest old thing," he went on.  "He ’s one of the greatest
living authorities on the Bantu tongues—those are the real old negro
languages, I believe—and he was out here once in his wild youth.  The
Colonial Office appointed him to take charge of me and he used to come
down to the schools where I was and give me a sovereign.  He ’d have
made a capital uncle. He had a face like a beefy rose, one of those big
flabby ones that tumble to pieces when you pick them—all pink and round
and clean, with kind, silly blue eyes behind gold spectacles.  I had to
get his consent before I could move, and I went to see him in a little
room at the British and Foreign Bible Society’s place in Queen Victoria
Street, where they grow the rarer kinds of Bible under glass in holes in
the wall; you know.  He was correcting the proofs of a gospel in some
Central African dialect and he had smudges of ink round his mouth.
Sucking the wrong end of the pen, I suppose.  He really was rather like
a comic-paper professor, but as kind as could be.  I sat down in the
chair opposite to him, with the desk between us, and he heard what I ’d
got to say, wiping his pen and sucking it while I told him.  I fancy I
began by being eloquent, but I soon stopped that.  He ’s good form to
the finger-tips and he looked so pained. So I cut it short and told him
what I wanted to do and why.  And when I ’d finished, he gave me a
solemn warning.  I must do what seemed right to me, he said; he wouldn’t
take the responsibility of standing in my way; but there were grave
dangers.  He had known young men, promising young men, talented young
men—all negroes, of course—who had returned to Africa after imbibing and
accepting the principles of our civilization.  They, it was true, were
West Africans, but my danger was the same.  They had left England in
clothes, with a provision of soap in their trunks, and the result of
their return to their own place was—they had lapsed!  They had
discontinued the clothes and forsworn the soap.  ’One of them,’ he said,
’presented a particularly sad example.  He whom we had known and
respected as David Livingstone Smith became the leader of a faction or
party whose activities necessitated the despatch of a punitive
expedition. Under a name which, being interpreted, signifies "The
Scornful," he presided over the defeat and massacre of that armed
force.’  And he went on warning me against becoming an independent
monarch and forcing an alliance on Great Britain by means of an
ingenious war.  He seemed relieved when I assured him that I had no
ambition to sit in the seat of the Scornful."

He laughed again, looking up at Margaret with his white teeth flashing

"Yes," she said.  "That was—funny."

Odd!  It made her vaguely restive to hear the Kafir make play with the
shortcomings of the white man.  It touched a fund of compunction whose
existence she had not suspected.  Something racial in her composition,
something partizan and unreasoning, lifted its obliterated head from the
grave in which her training and the conscious leanings of her mind had
buried it.

He had no thoughts of what it was that kept her from returning his
smile.  He imagined that his mission, his loneliness and his danger had
touched her and made her grave.

"Well, you see how it all came about?" he went on. "It isn’t really so
extraordinary, is it?  And I ’m not discouraged, Miss Harding.  I shall
find a way, sooner or later; they ’re bound to get used to me in the
end. In the meantime, Paul is teaching me Kafir, and there ’s you.  You
make up to me for a lot."

"Do I?"  Margaret roused herself and sat up, deliberately thrusting down
out of her consciousness that instinctive element which bade her do
injustice and withhold from the man before her his due of

"Do I?" she said.  "I ’d be glad if that were so."

He made to speak but stopped at her gesture.

"No," she said.  "I _would_ be glad.  It ’s a wonderfully great thing
you ’ve started to do, and you ’re lucky to have it.  You feel that,
don’t you?"

"Yes," he said thoughtfully.  "Oh, yes."

She eyed him with a moment’s hesitation, for he had not agreed with any
alacrity, and a martyr who regards his stake with aversion is always

"Oh, you ’re sure to succeed," she said.  "People who undertake things
like this don’t fail.  And if, as you say, I ’m any kind of help to you,
I ’m glad.  I ’m awfully glad of it.  It makes coming out here worth
while, and I shall always be proud that I was your friend."

"Will you?  Does it strike you like that?"

"Yes," said Margaret.

She was above him on the bank and he sat on the ground with his head at
the level of her knees.  His worn and shabby clothes, the patience of
his face, and even the hands that lay empty in his lap, joined with his
lowly posture to give him an aspect of humility. He was like a man
acclimatized to oppression and ill fortune, accepting in a mild
acquiescence, without question and without hope, the wrongs of a
tyrannous destiny.

"I shall be proud," she repeated.  "Always."  She held forth her hand to
him in token of that friendship, leaning down that he might take.

He did not do so at once.  His eyes flashed to her with a startled
glance, and he seemed at a loss.  He lifted himself to his knees and put
his own hand, large and fine for all the warm black of the back of it,
the hand of a physician, refined to nice uses, under hers without
clasping it.  His movement had some of the timidity and slavishness of a
dog unused to caresses; a dumb-brute gratitude was in his regard.  He
bent his black head humbly and printed a kiss upon her slender fingers.

It was a thing that exhausted the situation; Margaret, a little
breathless and more than a little moved, met his gaze as he rose with a
smile that was not clear of embarrassment.  Neither knew what to say
next; the kiss upon her hand had transformed their privacy into secrecy.

    "My love is like a black, black rose."

It sounded above them, from the top of the dam wall, an outrageous
bellow of melody that thrust itself obscenely between them and split
them asunder with the riving force of a thunderbolt.  Intolerably
startled by the suddenness of it, Margaret nearly fell down the slope,
and saving herself with her hands turned her face, whitened by the
shock, towards the source of the noise.  Another face met hers, parting
the long grasses on the crown of the wall.

Her amazed and ambushed faculties saw it as a face only.  It was
attached to no visible body, solitarily self-sufficient in an unworthy
miracle.  It did not occur to her that the owner of it must be lying on
his belly at the water’s edge, and for the moment she was not equal to
deducing that he must have heard, and possibly even seen, all that had
passed.  She saw merely a face projected over her, that grinned with a
fixity that was not without an imbecile suggestion.  It was old with a
moldy and decayed quality, bunched into pouches between deep wrinkles,
and yet weak and appealing.  A wicked captive ape might show that
mixture of gleeful sin and slavishness.

"Don’t think I ’m not shocked, because I am," it uttered distinctly.
"Kissing!  _I_ saw you.  An’ if anybody had told me that a lady of your
looks would take on a Kafir, I wouldn’t ha’ believed it."

The face heaved and rose and lifted to corroborate it the cast-off
clothes of Christian du Preez, enveloping the person of Boy Bailey.  He
shuffled to a sitting position on the edge of the wall, and it was a
climax to his appearance that his big and knobly feet were bare and wet.
He had been taking his ease with his feet in the water while they talked
below, a hidden audience to their confidences.  He shook his head at

"Dam walls have got dam ears," he observed.  "You naughty things, you."

Margaret turned helplessly to Kamis for light.

"What is it?" she asked.

He had jumped to his feet and away from her at the first sound, and now
turned a slow eye upon her. The negro countenance is the home of crude
emotions; the untempered extremes have been its sculptors through the
ages.  Its mirth is a guffaw, its sorrow is a howl, its wrath is the
naked spirit of murder.  He looked at her now with a face alight and
transfigured with slaughterous intention.

"Go away," he said, in a whisper.  "Go away now. He must have heard.  I
’ll deal with him."

"Don’t," said Margaret.  She rose and put a hand on his arm.  "Will you
speak to him, or shall I?"

"Not you," he answered quickly.  "But—" he was breathless and his face
shone as with a light sweat. "He ’ll _tell_," he urged, still
whispering.  "You don’t know—it would be frightful.  Go quickly away and
leave me with him."

"They ’re at it still," sounded the voice above them. "Damme, they can’t

Kamis was desperate and urgent.  He cast a wild eye towards the man on
the top of the wall, and went on with agitated earnestness.

"I tell you, you don’t know.  It ’s enough that you were here with a
Kafir and he kissed your hand."  He slapped his forehead in an agony.
"Oh, I ought to be hanged for that.  They ’ll never believe—nobody will.
In this country that sort of thing has only one meaning—a frightful one.
I can’t bear it.  If you don’t go"—he gulped and spoke aloud—"I ’ll go
up and kill him before your eyes."

"Now, now!"  The voice remonstrated in startled tones.

Margaret still had her hand on his arm, and could feel that he was
trembling.  She had recovered from the shock of the surprise and was
anxious to purge the situation of the melodramatic character which it
seemed to have assumed.  Kamis’ whispered fears failed to convince her.

"You ’ll do nothing of the kind," she said.  "I don’t care what people
think.  Speak to the man or I will."

Kamis lifted his head obediently.

"Come down," he said.  "Come down and say what you want."

Mr. Bailey recovered his smile as he shook his head.

"I can say it here," he replied.  "Don’t you worry, Snowball; it won’t
strain my voice."

Kamis gulped.  "What do you want?" he repeated.

"Ah!  What?" inquired Boy Bailey rhetorically. "I come here of an
afternoon to collect my thoughts an’ sweeten the dam by soaking my
Trilbies in it an’ what happens?  I ’m half-deafened by the noise of
kissing. I look round, an’ what do I see?  I ask you—what?"

He brought an explanatory forefinger into play, thick and cylindrical
like a damaged candle.

"First, thinks I, here ’s a story that’s good for drinks in any bar
between Dopfontein and Fereira—with perhaps a tar-and-feathering for the
young lady thrown in."  He nodded meaningly at Margaret. "And it
wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened either."

"Ye-es," said Kamis, who seemed to speak with difficulty.  "But you
won’t get away alive to tell that story."

"Hear me out."  Boy Bailey shook his finger. "That ’s what I thought
_first_.  My second thought was: what ’s the sense of making trouble
when perhaps there ’s a bit to be got by holdin’ my tongue?  How does
that strike you?"

Margaret had been leaning on her stick while he spoke, prodding the
earth and looking down.  Now she raised her eyes.

"The first thought was the best," she said.  "You won’t get anything

"Eh?"  Mr. Bailey was astonished.  "You don’t understand, Miss," he
said.  "Ask Snowball, there—he ’ll tell you.  In this country we don’t
stand women monkeying with niggers.  Hell—no.  It ’s worth, well—"

"Not a penny," said Margaret.  "I don’t care in the least whom you tell.
But—not one penny."

Kamis was listening in silence.  Margaret smiled at him and he shook his
head.  On the top of the wall Mr. Bailey leaned forward persuasively.
He had something the air, in so far as his limitations permitted, of
benevolence wrestling with obstinacy, the air which in auctioneers is an

"You don’t mean that, I know," he said indulgently. "I can see you ’re
going to be sensible.  You would n’t let a trifle of ready money stand
between you an’ keepin’ your good name—a nice, ladylike girl like you.
Why, for less than what you ’ve done, women have been stoned in the
streets before now.  Come now; I ’m not going to be hard on you.  Make
an offer."

He sat above them against the sky, beaming painfully, always with a wary
apprehension at the back of his regard.

"You won’t go away?" demanded Kamis suddenly. "You won’t?  You know I
can’t do it if you ’re here. Then I ’m going to pay."

"You shan’t," retorted Margaret.  "I won’t have it, I tell you.  I don’t
care what he does."

"I ’m going to pay," repeated Kamis.  "It ’s that or—you won’t go away?"

"No," said the girl angrily.

"Then I ’m going to pay."  He turned from her. "I ’ll give you twenty
pounds," he called to Bailey.

"Double it," replied Boy Bailey promptly; "add ten; take away the number
you thought of; and the answer is fifty pounds, cash down, and dirt
cheap at that.  Put that in my hand and I ’ll clear out of here within
the hour and you ’ll never hear of me again."

Kamis nodded slowly.  "If I do hear of you again," he said, "I ’ll come
to you.  Paul will bring you the money to-morrow morning, and then you
’ll go."

"Right-O."  Mr. Bailey rose awkwardly to his feet and made search for
his boots.  With them in his hands, he looked down on the pair again.

"It’s your risk," he warned them.  "If that cash don’t come to hand, you
look out; there ’ll be a slump in Kafirs."

He went off along the wall, disappearing in sections as he descended its
shoulder.  His gray head in its abominable hat was the last to
disappear; it sailed loftily, as became the heir to fifty pounds.

Margaret frowned and then laughed.

"What an absurd business," she cried.  "Supposing he had told and there
had been a row—it would have been better than this everlasting
stagnation.  It would have been more like life."

The Kafir sighed.  "Not life," he answered gently. "Not your life.  It
meant a death in life—like mine."

His embarrassed and mournful look passed beyond her to the Karoo,
spreading its desolation to the skies as a blind man might lift his eyes
in prayer.

                              *CHAPTER XI*

The deplorable hat which shielded Mr. Bailey from the eye of Heaven
traveled at a thoughtful pace along the path to the farmhouse, cocked at
a confident angle upon a head in which faith in the world was
re-established.  Boy Bailey had no doubt that the money would be
forthcoming.  What he had heard of the conversation between Margaret and
Kamis had assured him of the Kafir’s resources and he felt himself
already as solvent as if the minted money were heavy in his pockets.  A
pleasant sense of security possessed his versatile spirit, the sense
that to-morrow may be counted upon.  For such as Mr. Bailey, every day
has its price.

He gazed before him as he walked, at the house, with its kraals
clustered before it and its humble appanage of out-buildings, with a
gentle indulgence for all its primitive and domestic quality.  Meals and
a bed were what they stood for, merely the raw framework of intelligent
life, needing to be supplemented and filled in with more stimulating
accessories.  They satisfied only the immediate needs of a man adrift
and hungry; they offered nothing to compensate a lively mind for its
exile from the fervor of the world.  Fifty pounds, the fine round sum,
not alone made him independent of its table and its roof, but opened
afresh the way to streets and lamplight, to the native heath of the
wandering Bailey, who knew his fellow men from above and below—Kafirs,
for instance, he saw from an altitude—but had few such opportunities as
this of meeting them on a level of economic equality.  There came to
him, as he dwelt in thought upon his good fortune, a clamorous appetite
for what fifty pounds would buy. Capetown was within his reach, and he
recalled small hotels on steep streets, whose back windows looked forth
on flat roofs of Malay houses, where smells of cooking and people loaded
the sophisticated air and there was generally a woman weeping and always
a man drunk.  A little bedroom with an untidy bed and beer bottles
cooling in the wash-hand basin by day; saloons where the afternoon sun
came slanting upon furtive men initiating the day’s activities over
glasses; the electric-lit night of Adderley Street under the big
plate-glass windows, where business was finished for the shops and
offices and newly begun for the traders in weakness and innocence—he
knew himself in such surroundings as these.  He could slip into them as
noiselessly as a snake into a pool, with no disturbance to those
inscrutable devotees of daylight and industry who carry on their plain
affairs and downright transactions without suspecting the existence of
the world beneath them, where Boy Bailey and his fellows stir and dodge
and hide and have no illusions, save that hunger is ever fed or thirst

He paused at the open door of the farmhouse, recalled to the present by
the sound of voices from the kitchen at the end of the passage, where
Christian du Preez and his wife were engaged in bitter talk.  Boy Bailey
stepped delicately over the doorstep on to the mat within and stood
there to listen, if there should be anything worth listening to.  A
smile played over his large complacent features, and he waited with his
head cocked to one side.  Something in which the word "tramp" occurred
as he came through the door flattered him with the knowledge that the
dispute was about himself.

Mrs. du Preez spoke, and her shrill tones were plainly audible.

"I don’t make no fuss when your dirty old Doppers outspan here an’ come
sneakin’ in for coffee, an’ some of them would make a dog sick.  Bailey
’s got his troubles, but he don’t do like Oom Piet Coetzee did when—"

An infuriate rumble from Christian broke in upon her.  Boy Bailey smiled
and shook his head.

"Now, now," he murmured.  "Language, please."

"He ’s worse than a Kafir in the house," Christian went on.  "Woman, it
makes me sick when he looks at you, like an old silly devil."

"So long as he don’t look like an old silly Dutchman, I don’t mind,"
retorted his wife.  "I ’m fairly sick of it all—you an’ your Doppers and
all.  And just because you can’t tell when a gentleman ’s having his bit
of fun, you come and howl at me."

"Howl."  The word seemed to sting.  "Howl.  Yes, instead of howling I
should take my gun and let him have one minute to run before I shoot at
him.  You like that better, eh?  You like that better?"

"Christian."  There was alarm in Mrs. du Preez’s voice.  Behind the shut
door of the kitchen, Bailey could picture Christian reaching down the
big Martini that hung overhead with oiled rags wrapped about its breech.

"Time for me to cut in at this," reflected Mr. Bailey. "I never was much
of a runner."

He walked along the passage with loud steps, acting a man returned from
a constitutional, restored by the air and at peace with the whole human

Mrs. du Preez and Christian were facing one another over the length of
the table; they turned impatient and angry faces towards the door as he
opened it and thrust his personality into the scene.  He fronted them
with his terrible smile and his manner of jaunty amity.

"Hot, ain’t it?" he inquired.  "I ’ve been down by the dam and the water
’s nearly on the boil."

Neither answered; each seemed watchful of the other’s first step.
Christian gave him only a dark wrathful look and Mrs. du Preez colored
and looked away.  Boy Bailey, retaining his smile under difficulties,
tossed his hat to a chair and entered.

"Not interrupting anything, am I?" he inquired.

"You ’re not interrupting _me_," replied Mrs. du Preez.  "I ’ve said all
I ’d got to say."

"But I haven’t said all I ’ve got to say," retorted Christian from his
end of the table.  "We was talking about you."

"About me?" said Bailey, with mild surprise.  "Oh."

"Yes."  The Boer, leaning forward with his hands gripping the thick end
of the table, had a dangerous look which warned Bailey that impudence
now might have disastrous consequences.

"Yes—about you.  My wife says you are a gentleman and got gentleman’s
manners and you are her old friend.  She says you don’t mean harm and
you don’t look bad and dirty.  She says I don’t know how gentlemen speak
and look and I am wrong to say you are a beast with the mark of the

Bailey shifted uncomfortably under his gaze of fury held precariously in
leash, and edged a little towards Mrs. du Preez.  He was afraid the big,
bearded man might spring forward and help out his words with his fist.

"Very kind of Mrs. du Preez," he murmured warily.

"She says all that.  But _I_ say"—the words rasped from Christian’s
lips—"_I_ say you are a man rotten like an old egg and the breath in
your mouth is a stink of wickedness.  And I tell her that sometimes I
get up from my food and go out because if I don’t I shall stamp you to
death.  _Gott verdam_!  Your dirty eyes and your old yellow teeth
grinning—I stand them no longer.  You have had rest and _skoff_—now you

Bailey’s face showed some discomposure.  His disadvantage lay in the
danger that the Boer was plainly willing to be violent.  He had returned
to the house with the intention of announcing that on the morrow he
would take his departure, but it was not the prospect of spending a
night in the open that disconcerted him. It was simply that he disliked
to be treated thus loftily by a man he despised.  He stole a glance at
Mrs. du Preez.

She was staring at her husband with shrewdness and doubt expressed in
her face, as though she were checking her valuation of him by the fierce
figure at the other end of the table, with big, leathery hands clutched
on the edge of the board and thin, sun-tanned face intent and wrathful
above the uneven beard.  She was revisiting with an unsympathetic eye
each feature of that irreconcilable factor in her life, her husband.

"D’you hear me?" thundered the Boer.  "You go."

He pointed with sudden forefinger to the door, and his gesture was
unspeakably daunting and wounding.

"Ye-es," hesitated Boy Bailey, and sighed.  The pointing finger
compelled him like a hand on his collar, and he moved with shuffling and
unwilling feet to the chair where his hat lay.  He fumbled with it as he
picked it up and it fell to the floor.  The finger did not for a moment
pretermit its menacing command. He sighed again and drew the door open.

"Bailey."  Mrs. du Preez spoke sharply, with a trembling catch in her
voice.  "Bailey, you stop here."

"Eh?"  He turned in the doorway with alacrity. Another moment and it
might have been too late.

"Go on," cried the Boer.  "Out you go, or I ’ll—"

"Stop where you are, Bailey," cried Mrs. du Preez.

She came across the room with a run and put herself in front of Bailey,
facing her husband.

"Now," she said, "_now_ what d’you think you’ll do?"

The Boer heaved himself upright, and they fronted one another stripped
of all considerations save to be victor in the struggle for the fate of
Boy Bailey.  It was the iron-hard cockney against the Boer.

"I told him to go," said Christian.  "If he doesn’t go—I’ll shoot."

He cast an eye up to the gun in its place upon the wall.

"You will, will you?" The bitter voice was mocking. "Now, Christian, you
just listen to me."

"He ’ll go," said the Boer.

"Oh, he ’ll go," answered Mrs. du Preez.  "He ’ll go all right, if you
say so.  But mark my words.  You go turning my friends out of the house
like this, and so help me, I ’ll go too.  Get that straight in your
head, old chap—it’s right.  Bailey ’s not fretting to stay with you, you
know.  You ’re not such good company that you need worry about it.  It
’s me he came to see, not you.  And you pitch him out; that ’s all.
Bailey goes to-night, does he?  Then I go in the morning."

She nodded at him, the serious, graphic nod that promises more earnestly
than a shaken fist.

"What!"  The Boer was taken by surprise.  "If he goes—"

"I ’ll go—yes."

She was entirely in earnest; her serious purpose was plain to him in
every word she spoke.  She threatened that which no Boer could live
down, the flight of a wife.  He stared at her almost aghast.  In the
slow processes of his amazed mind, he realized that this, too, had had
to come—the threat if not the deed; it was the due and logical climax of
such a marriage as his. Her thin face, still pretty after its fashion,
and her slight figure that years had not dignified with matronly curves,
were stiffened to her monstrous purpose. Whether she went or not, the
intention dwelt in her. It was another vileness in Boy Bailey that he
should have given it the means of existence.

Both of them, his wife and Mr. Bailey, screened by her body, thought
that he was vanquished.  He stood so long without answering that they
expected no answer.  Bailey was framing a scene for the morrow in which
he should renounce the reluctant hospitality of the Boer: "I can starve,
but I can’t stand meanness."  He had got as far as this when the Boer
recovered himself.

With an inarticulate cry he was suddenly in motion, irresistibly swift
and forceful.  A sweep of his arm cleared Mrs. du Preez from his path
and sent her reeling aside, leaving Boy Bailey exposed.  Christian
seemed to halt at the threshold of the room and thrust a long arm out,
of which the forked hand took Boy Bailey by the thick throat and dragged
him in.  He held the shifty, ruined face, now contorted and writhen from
his grip like the face of a hanged man, at the level of his waist and
beat upon it with the back of his unclenched right hand again and again.
Boy Bailey’s legs trailed upon the floor lifelessly; only at each dull
blow, thudding like a mallet on his blind face, his weak arms fluttered
convulsively.  Mrs. du Preez, who had fallen against the table, leaned
forward with hands clasped against her breast and watched with a
fascinated and terror-stricken stare.

Boy Bailey uttered a windy moan and Christian dropped him with a gesture
of letting fall something that defiled his hand.  The beaten creature
fell like a wet towel and was motionless and limp about his feet. Across
his body, Christian looked at his wife.  He seemed to her to tower above
that meek and impotent carcass, to impend hatefully and dreadfully.

"Throw water on him," he said.  "In an hour, I will come back and if I
see him then, I will shoot."

She did not answer, but continued to stare.

"You hear?" he demanded.

She gulped.  "Yes."

"Good," he said.  He stepped over the body of Boy Bailey and mounted on
a chair, where he reached down the rifle.  He gave his wife another
look; she had not moved.  He shrugged and went out with the gun under
his arm.

It was not till the noise of his steps ceased at the house-door that
Mrs. du Preez moved from her attitude of defeat and fear.  She came
forward on tiptoe, edged past Boy Bailey’s feet and crouched to peer
round the doorpost.  She had to assure herself that Christian was gone.
She went furtively along the passage and peeped out over the kraals to
be finally certain of it and saw him, still with the gun, walking down
to the further fold where Paul was knee-deep in sheep.  She came back to
the room and closed the door carefully, going about it with knitted
brows and a face steeped in preoccupation.  Not till then did she turn
to attend to Boy Bailey.

"Oh, God," she cried in a startled whisper as she bent above him, for
his eyes were open in his bloody face and the battered features were
feeling their way to the smile.

She fell on her knees beside him.

"Bailey," she said breathlessly.  "I thought you—I thought he ’d killed

Boy Bailey rose on one elbow and felt at his face.

"Him!" he exclaimed, with all the scorn that could be conveyed in a
whisper.  "Him!  He couldn’t kill me in a year.  Why, he never even shut
his fist."

He wiped the blood from his fingers by rubbing them on the smooth earth
of the floor and sat up.

"Why," he said, "take his gun away and I wouldn’t say but what I ’d
hammer him myself.  Him kill me—why, down in Capetown once I had a
feller go for me with a bottle an’ leave me for dead, an’ I was havin’ a
drink ten minutes after he ’d gone.  He isn’t coming back yet, is he?"

"No—not for an hour."

She had hardly heard him, so desperately was she concentrated on the one
idea that occupied her mind.

"Well, I won’t wait for him," said Mr. Bailey. "I ’ll get some of this
muck off my face an’—an’ have a drink, if you ’ll be so kind, and then I
’ll fade.  But if ever I see him again—"

"Bailey," said Mrs. du Preez, "where ’ll you go?"

"Where?  Well, to-night I reckon to sleep in plain air, as the French
say—or is it the Germans?—somewhere about here till I can get word with
a certain nigger who owes me money.  And then, off to the station on my
tootsies and take train back to the land of ticky (threepenny) beer and

"England?" asked Mrs. du Preez.

"England be—" Boy Bailey hesitated—"mucked," he substituted.  "Capetown,
me dear; the metropolis of our foster motherland.  It ’s Capetown for
me, where the Christian Kafirs come from."

"Bailey," said Mrs. du Preez.  "Bailey, take me."

"What?" demanded Boy Bailey.  "Take you where?"

"Take me with you."  She was still kneeling beside him and she put a
hand on his arm urgently, looking into his blood-stained and smashed
face.  "I won’t stay with him now.  I said I wouldn’t and I won’t.  I ’d
die first.  And you and me was always good pals, Bailey.  Only for that
breakdown at Fereira, we ’d have—we might have hitched up together.  You
were always hinting—you know you were, Bailey.  Don’t you know?"

"Hinting?"  He was surprised at last, but still wary.  "But I wasn’t
hinting at—supporting you?"

"I didn’t say you were," she answered eagerly. "Bailey, I ’m not a fool;
I ’ve got temperament too. You said yourself I had, only the other day.
And—and I can’t stop with him now."

Mr. Bailey looked at his fingers thoughtfully and felt his face again.

"Fact is," he said deliberately, "you ’re off your balance.  You ’ll
live to thank me for not taking advantage of it.  You ’ll say, ’Bailey
had me and let me go, as a gentleman would.  He remembered I was a
mother.  Bless him.’  That ’s what you ’ll say when you ’re an old woman
with your grandchildren at your knee.  And anyhow, what d’you think you
’d do in Capetown?  You ain’t far off forty, are you?"

She shook him by the arm she held to fix his attention.

"Bailey," she said.  "That don’t matter for a time. I ’ve got a bit of
money, you know.  I ’m not leaving that behind."

"Money, have you?"

The wonderful thing in women such as Mrs. du Preez is that they see so
clearly and yet act so blindly. They know they are sacrificed for men’s
gain and do not conceal their knowledge.  They count upon baseness,
cruelty and falsity as characteristics of men in general and play upon
these qualities for their purposes. But furnish them with a reason for
depending upon a man, and they will trust him, uphold him, obey him,
lean upon him and compensate the flimsiest rascal for the world’s
contempt and hardness by yielding him a willing victim.

They looked at each other.  Bailey still sitting on the floor, she on
her knees, and each read in the other’s eyes an appraisement and a
stratagem.  The coffee-pot that stood all day beside the fire to be
ready for Boer visitors, sibilated mildly at their backs.

"It would n’t last for ever, the bit you ’ve got," said Bailey.  "There
’s that to think of."

"It ’s a good bit," she replied.

"Is it—is it as much as fifty pounds?" he asked.

"It ’s more," she answered.  "Never you mind how much it is, Bailey.
It’s a good bit and it ’s mine, not his."

He thought upon it with his under-lip caught up between his teeth,
almost visibly reviewing the possibilities of profit in the company of a
woman who had money about her.  Mrs. du Preez continued to urge him in
hard whispers.

"I ’d never manage it by myself, Bailey, or I wouldn’t be begging you
like this.  I ’ve tried to bring myself to it again and again, but I was
n’t game enough. And it isn’t as if I was goin’ to be a burden to you.
It won’t be long before I ’ll get a job—you ’ll see. A barmaid, p’r’aps,
or I might even get in again with a show.  I haven’t lost my figure,
anyhow.  And as for staying here now, with him, after this—Bailey, I ’ll
take poison if you leave me."

Boy Bailey frowned and looked up at the clock which swung a pendulum to
and fro against the wall, as though to invite human affairs to conduct
themselves in measure.

"Well, we haven’t got too much time to talk about it," he said.  "He
said an hour.  Now supposin’ I take you, you know it’s a case of footin’
it down the line to the next siding?  It wouldn’t suit me to be nabbed
with you on my hands.  He ’d shoot as soon as think about it, and then
where would I be?"

"I can walk," Mrs. du Preez assured him eagerly. "You ’ll take me with
you, then, Bailey?"

Boy Bailey sighed.  "Oh, I’ll take you," he said. "I ’ll take you, since
your mind ’s made up.  My good nature has been the ruin of me—that and
my temperament. But don’t forget later on that I warned you."

Mrs. du Preez jumped up.  "I won’t forget," she promised.  "This is my
funeral.  Get up from there, Bailey, and we ’ll have a drink on it."

They made their last arrangements over the glasses. Christian’s absence
was to be counted upon for the greater part of the next day; their road
would be clear.

The first word above a whisper which had been spoken since Christian
left them was by Mrs. du Preez. She sat down her glass at the last with
a jolt.

"But, Bailey," she cried, on a note of hysterical gaiety, "Bailey—we got
to be careful, I know, and all that—but what a lark it ’ll be."

He stared at her, not quick enough to keep up with her mounting mood.
She was flushed and feverish with excitement and the reaction of strong
feeling and her eyes danced like a child’s on the brink of mischief.

"The woman ’s a fool," thought Boy Bailey.

His own attitude towards the affair, as he reviewed it that night in the
forage-shed, where he reposed full dressed in the scent of dry grasses
and stared reflectively through a gap in the roof at the immortal
patience of the stars, was strictly businesslike.  Not even a desire to
be revenged upon Christian du Preez, who had called him names and beaten
him, impaired the consistency of that attitude.  Boy Bailey allowed for
a certain proportion of thrashings in his experiences; they ranked in
the balance-sheet of his transactions as a sort of office expenses.
They had to be kept down to the lowest figure compatible with
convenience and good business, but they were not to be weighed against a
lucky deal.  The one thing that engaged his fancy was the fact that the
woman, though close on forty, would come with money about her—more than
fifty pounds. It would make up his equipment to a handsome, an imposing,
figure.  Never before had he possessed a round hundred pounds in one
sum.  The mere possibilities that it opened out were exciting; it seemed
as large and as inexhaustible as any other large sum.  He did not dwell
on the fact that it belonged to Mrs. du Preez and not to him; he did not
even give his mind to a scheme for securing it.  All that was detail, a
thing to be settled at any advantageous moment.  A dodge, a minute of
drowsiness on her part—or perhaps, at most, a blow on the breasts—would
secure the conveyance of the money to him.  In the visions of Capetown
that hovered on the outskirts of his thought, a ghostly seraglio
attending his nod, there moved many figures, but Mrs. du Preez was not
among them.  His imagination made a circuit about her and her fate, or
at most it glanced with brevity and distaste on the spectacle of a
penniless woman weeping on a bench at a wayside station, seeing the
tail-lights of a vanishing train blurred through tears.

"I knew I ’d strike it lucky one of these days," was Mr. Bailey’s
reflection, as he composed himself to slumber.  "With two or three more
like her—I ’ll be a millionaire yet."

The stars watched his upturned face as he slept with a still scrutiny
that must have detected aught in its unconscious frankness that could
redeem it or suggest that once it had possessed the image of God.  He
slept as peacefully, as devotedly, as a baby, confiding his
defenselessness to the night with no tremors or uncertainty.  He left
unguarded the revelations of his loose and feeble face that the mild
stars searched, always with their stare of stagnant surprise.

In the farmhouse, there was yet a light in the windows when dawn paled
the eastward heaven.  Christian du Preez slept in his bed unquietly,
with clenched hands outstretched over the empty place beside him, and in
another room Paul had transferred himself from waking dreams to a
dream-world.  Tiptoeing here and there in the house, Mrs. du Preez had
gathered together the meager handful of gear that was to go with her;
she had shaken out a skirt that she treasured and made ready a hat that
smelt of camphor.  Her money, in sovereigns, made a hard and heavy knob
in a knotted napkin.  All was gathered and ready for the journey and yet
the light shone in the window of the parlor where she sat through the
hours.  Her hands were in her lap and there were no tears in her eyes—it
was beyond tears.  She was taking leave of her furniture.

She saw her husband at breakfast, facing him across the table with a
preoccupied expression that he took for sullenness.  She did not see the
grimness of his countenance nor mark his eye upon her; she was thinking
in soreness of heart of six rosewood chairs, upholstered in velvet, a
rosewood table, a sofa, and the rest of it—the profit of her marriage,
her sheet-anchor and her prop.  She felt as though she had given her
life for them.

Christian rode away with his back to the sun, with no word spoken
between them, and as his pony broke into a lope—the Boer half-trot,
half-canter,—he caught and subdued an impulse to look back at the house.
Even if he had looked, he would hardly have seen the cautious
reconnoiter of Boy Bailey’s head around the corner of it, as that
camp-follower of fortune made sure of his departure.  Thrashings Mr.
Bailey could make light of, but the Boer’s threat of shooting had stuck
in his mind.  He rested on his hands and knees and stuck his chin close
to the ground in prudent care as he peered about the corner of the house
to see the owner of the rifle make a safe offing.

Even when the Boer had dwindled from sight, swallowed up by the
invisible inequalities of the ground that seemed as flat as a table, he
avoided to show himself in the open.  He lurked under the walls of
kraals, frightening farm Kafirs who came upon him suddenly and finally
made a sudden appearance before Paul at the back of the house.

"I won’t waste words on you," he said to the boy. "I ’ve got something
better to do, thank God.  But I ’m told you have a message for me."

"Two messages," said Paul.

"One ’ll do," replied Boy Bailey.  "I don’t want to hear you talking.  I
’ve been insulted here and I ’m not done with you yet.  Mind that.  So
hand over what you ’ve got for me and be done with it—d’you hear?"

"Here it is."  Paul put his hand into the loose bosom of his shirt and
drew out a small paper packet.  He held it out to Boy Bailey.

"That!" Boy Bailey trembled as he seized it, with a frightful sense of
disappointment.  He had seen the money as gold, a brimming double
handful of minted gold, with gold’s comforting substance and weight. The
packet he took into his hand was no fatter than a fat letter and held no

He rent the covering apart and stared doubtfully at the little wad of
notes it contained, sober-colored paper money of the Bank of Africa.  It
had never occurred to him that the Kafir, Kamis, would have his riches
in so uninspiring a shape.  Two notes of twenty pounds each and one of
ten and all three of them creased and dirty. No chink, no weight to drag
at his pocket and keep him in mind of it, none of the pomp and panoply
of riches.

"Why—why," he stammered.  "I told him—cash down.  Damn the dirty Kafir
swindler, what does he call this?"

"Blackmail, I think he said," replied Paul.  "That was the other
message.  If you don’t do what you said you ’d do, you ’ll go to _tronk_
(jail) for it, and I am to be a witness.  That ’s if he does n’t kill
you himself—like I told him he ’d better do."

Boy Bailey arrived by degrees at sufficient composure to pocket the
notes, thrusting them deep for greater security and patting them through
the cloth.

"Oh, you told him that, did you?" he said.  "And you call yourself a
white man, do you?  Murder, is it? You look out, young feller.  You
don’t know the risks you ’re running.  I ’m not a man that forgets."

But Paul was not daunted.  He watched the battered face that threatened
him with an expression which the other did not understand.  There was a
curious warm interest in it that might have flattered a man less bare of
illusions as to his appearance.

"I suppose you ’ve never seen a black eye before, you gaping moon-calf,"
he cried irritably.  "What are you staring like that for?"

Paul smiled.  "I would give you a shilling again to let me make a model
of you," he answered.  "I ’d give you two shillings."

Boy Bailey swore viciously and swung on his heel. He was stung at last
and he had no answer.  He made haste to get around the corner and away
from eyes that would keep the memory of him as he appeared to Paul.

It was more than an hour later that Mrs. du Preez discovered him,
squatting under the spikes of a dusty aloe, humped like a brooding
vulture and grieving over that last affront.  He lifted mournful eyes to
her as she stood before him.

"Bailey," she said breathlessly.  "I hunted everywhere for you.  I
thought you ’d gone without me."

She was ready for the long flight on foot.  All that she had in the way
of best clothes was on her body, everything she could not bring herself
to leave.  The seemliness of Sunday was embodied in her cloth coat and
skirt, her cream silk bosom and its brooches, the architectural
elaborateness of her hat.  She stood in the merciless sun in all her
finery, with sweat on her forehead and a small bundle in each hand.

"You ’re coming, then?" he asked stupidly.

She stamped her foot impatiently.  "Of course I ’m coming," she said.
"Don’t go into all that again, Bailey.  D’ you think I ’d stop with him
now, after—after everything?"

She was holding desperately to her resolution, eager to be off before
the six rosewood chairs, the table and the sofa should overcome her and
make good their claim to her.

"What ’s those?"  Bailey nodded at the bundles torpidly.

"Oh," she was burning to be moving, to be committed, to see her boats
flaming and smoking behind her.  "This is grub, Bailey.  We ’ll want
grub, won’t we?  And this is my things."

"The—er—money, I suppose, an’ all that?"

"Yes, yes.  Oh, do come on, Bailey.  The money ’s all here.  Everything
’s here.  You carry the grub an’ let ’s be going."

"The grub, eh?"  Mr. Bailey rose grunting to his feet.  "You ’d
rather—well, all right."

None viewed that elopement to mark how Mrs. du Preez slipped her free
hand under Bailey’s arm and went forth at his side in the bravery she
had donned as though to bring grace to the occasion.  Paul was down at
the dam with sheep, and before he returned the brown distances of the
Karoo had enveloped them and its levels had risen behind them to blot
out the dishonored roof of the house.

At the hour of the midday meal, Paul ate alone, contentedly and
unperturbed by his mother’s absence. For all he knew she had one of her
weeping fits upstairs in her bedroom, and he was careful to make no

                             *CHAPTER XII*

Margaret entered the drawing-room rather late for tea and Mrs. Jakes
accordingly acknowledged her arrival with an extra stoniness of regard.
In his place by the window, Ford turned from his abstracted
contemplation of the hot monotony without and sent her a discreet and
private smile across the tea-table.  Mrs. Jakes, noting it and the
girl’s response, tightened her mouth unpleasantly as the suspicion
recurred to her that there was "something between" Mr. Ford and Miss
Harding.  More than once of late she had noticed that their intercourse
had warmed to the stage when the common forms of expression need to be
helped out by a code of sympathetic looks and gestures.  She addressed
the girl in her thinnest tones of extreme formality.

"I thought perhaps you were n’t coming in," she said. "I ’m afraid the
tea ’s not very hot now."

"I ’ll ring," said Mr. Samson, diligently handing a chair.

"Please don’t," said Margaret, taking it.  "I don’t mind at all.  Don’t
bother, anybody."

"I forget if you take sugar, Miss Harding," said Mrs. Jakes, pouring
negligently from the pot.  Ford grinned and turned quickly to the window

"No sugar, thanks," answered Margaret agreeably; "and no milk and no

"No tea?"  Mrs. Jakes raised her eyebrows in severe surprise and looked
up.  The movement sufficed to divert the stream from the tea-pot so that
it flowed abundantly on the hand which held the cup and splashed thence
into the sugar basin.  She sat the pot down sharply and reached for her
handkerchief with a smothered ejaculation of annoyance.

"Oh, I ’m sorry," said Margaret.  "But how lucky you didn’t keep it hot
for me.  You might have been scalded, might n’t you?"

"Thank you," replied Mrs. Jakes, with all the dignity she could summon
while she mopped at her sleeve. "Thank you; I am not hurt."

That was the second time Margaret had turned her own guns, her own
little improvised pop-guns of ineffectual enmity, back upon her; and she
did not quite understand how it was done.  The first time had been when
she had pretended not to hear a remark Margaret had addressed to her.
The girl had crossed the room and joined Dr. Jakes in his hearth-rug
exile, and Mr. Samson had stared while Ford laughed silently but
visibly.  Mrs. Jakes had not understood the implication of it; she was
only aware, reddening and resentful, that Margaret had scored in some
subtle fashion.

The hatred of Mrs. Jakes was a cue to consistency of action no less
plain than her love.  "I like people to know their own minds," was one
of her self-revelations, and she believed that worthy people, decent
people, good people were those who saw their way clear under all
circumstances of friendship and hostility and were prepared to strike
and maintain a due attitude upon any encounter.  Her friends were those
who indulged her the forms of courtesy and consideration; her enemies
those who opposed her or were rude to her.  To her friends she returned
their indulgence in kind; her enemies she pursued at each meeting and
behind their backs with an implacable tenacity of hate.  One conceives
that in the case of such lives as hers, only those survive whose
feebleness is supplemented by claws. Take away their genuine capacity
for making themselves disagreeable at will, and they would be trodden
under and extinguished.  Mrs. Jakes’ girlhood was illuminated by the
example of an aunt, who lived for fourteen years with only a thin wall
between her and a person with whom she was not on speaking terms.  The
aunt had known her own mind with such a blinding clearness that she was
able to sit with folded hands, listening through the wall to the sounds
of a raving husband murdering her enemy, and no impulse to cry for help
had arisen to dim the crystal of that knowledge.  "She was a bad one at
forgiving, was your Aunt Mercy," Mrs. Jakes had been told, always with a
suggestion in the speaker’s voice that there was something admirable in
such inflexibility.  Primitive passions, the lusts of skin-clad
ancestors, fortified the anemia of the life from which she was sprung.
Marriage by capture would have shocked her deeply, but she would not
have been the worse squaw.

She dropped into a desultory conversation with Mr. Samson, with
occasional side-references to Dr. Jakes, and managed at the same time to
keep an eye on the other two.  Margaret had walked across to Ford, and
was sitting at his side on the window-ledge; he had a three-days-old
copy of the _Dopfontein Courant_, in which the scanty news of the
district was printed in English and Dutch and they were looking it over
together.  Ford held the paper and Margaret leaned against his arm to
share it; the intimacy of their attitude was disagreeable to Mrs. Jakes.
An alliance between the two of them would be altogether too strong for
her, and besides, it was warfare as she understood it to destroy the
foe’s supports whenever possible.

"Nothing in the rag, I suppose, Ford?" asked Mr. Samson, in his high,
intolerant voice.

"Not a thing," answered Ford, "unless you ’re interested in the price of

"Grease wool per pound," suggested Margaret. "Guess how much that is,
Mr. Samson."

"It ought to be cheap," said Mr. Samson.  "It sounds beastly."

"Well, then, how ’s this?"  Margaret craned across Ford’s shoulder and
read: "’Mr. Ben Bongers of Tomtown, the well-known billiard-marker,
underwent last week the sad experience of being kicked at the hands of
Mr. Jacobus Van Dam’s _quaai_ cock.  Legal proceedings are pending.’
There now.  But does anybody know what kicked him?"

"Cock ostrich," rumbled Dr. Jakes from the back of the room.
"_Quaai_—that means bad-tempered."

"You see," said Ford, "ostriches are common hereabouts. They say cock
and ostrich is understood.  What would they call a barn-door cock,

"A poultry," said Mr. Samson.  "But we must watch for those legal
proceedings; they ought to be good."

Mrs. Jakes had listened in silence, but now an idea occurred to her.

"There ’s nothing about that woman in Capetown this week?" she asked,
and smiled meaningly as she caught Margaret’s eye.

"No," said Ford.  "I was looking for that, but there ’s nothing."

"What woman was that?" inquired Margaret.

"Oh, a rotten business.  A woman married a Kafir parson—a white woman.
There ’s been a bit of a row about it."

"Oh," said Margaret, understanding Mrs. Jakes’ smile.  "I didn’t see the
paper last week."

She looked at Mrs. Jakes with interest.  Evidently the little woman saw
the matter of Kamis, and Margaret’s familiar acquaintance with him, as a
secret with which she could be cowed, a piece of dark knowledge that
would be held against her as a weapon of final resort. The fact did more
than all Kamis’ warnings and Boy Bailey’s threats to enlighten her as to
the African view of a white woman who had relations, any relations but
those of employer and servant, with a black man.  Not only would a woman
in such a case expose herself to the brutal scandal that flourishes in
the atmosphere of bars where Boy Baileys frame the conventions that
society endorses, but she would be damned in the eyes of all the Mrs.
Jakes in the country.  They would tar and feather her with their
contumely and bury her beneath their disgust.

She returned Mrs. Jakes’ smile till that lady looked away with a
long-drawn sniff of defiance.

"But why a row?" asked Margaret.  "If she was satisfied, what was there
to make a row about?"

She really wanted to hear what two sane and average men would adduce in
support of Mrs. Jakes’ views.

Old Mr. Samson shook his head rebukingly.

"Men and women ain’t on their own in this world," he said seriously.
"They ’ve got to think of the rest of the crowd.  We ’re all in the same
boat out here—white people holdin’ up the credit of the race.  Can’t
afford to have deserters goin’ over to the other camp, don’t y’ know.
Even supposin’—I say, _supposin’_—there was nothing else to prevent a
white girl from taking on a nigger, it’s lowerin’ the flag—what?"

"A woman like that deserves to be horsewhipped," cried Mrs. Jakes, with
sudden vigor.  "To go and marry a _Kafir_—the vile creature."

"This is very interesting," said Margaret.  "Do you mean the Kafir is
vile, Mrs. Jakes, or the woman?"

"I mean both," retorted Mrs. Jakes.  "In this country we know what such
creatures are.  A respectable woman does n’t let a Kafir come near her
if she can help it.  She never speaks to them except to give them their
orders.  And as to—to marrying them, or being friendly with them—why,
she ’d sooner die."

Margaret had started a subject which no South African can exhaust.  They
discuss it with heat, with philosophic impartiality, with ethnological
and eugenic inexactitudes, and sometimes with bloodshed; but they never
wear it out.

"You see, Miss Harding, there are other reasons against it," Mr. Samson
struck in again.  "There ’s the general feelin’ on the subject and you
can’t ignore that.  One woman mustn’t do what a million other women feel
to be vile.  It ’s makin’ an attack on decency—that ’s what it comes to.
A woman might feel a call in the spirit to marry a monkey.  It might
suit her all right—might be the best thing she could do, so far as a
woman of that sort was concerned; but it would n’t be playin’ the game.
It wouldn’t be cricket."

He shook his spirited white head with a frown.

"I see," said Margaret.  "But there ’s one other point.  I only want to
know, you know."

"Naturally," agreed Mr. Samson.  "What’s the point?"

"Well, there are about ten times as many black people as white in this
country.  What about their sense of decency?  Doesn’t that suffer a
little by this—this trades-union of the whites?  That woman in Capetown
has all the whites against her and all the blacks for her—I suppose.
There ’s a majority in her favor, at any rate."

"Hold on," cried Mr. Samson.  "You can’t count the Kafirs like that, you
know.  They ’re not in it. We ’re talking about white people.  The whole
point is that Kafirs _are n’t_ whites.  A white woman belongs to her own
people and must stand by their way of lookin’ at things.  If we take
Kafir opinion, we ’ll be chuckin’ clothes next and goin’ in for

"Would we?" said Margaret.  "I wonder.  D’you think it will come to that
when the Kafirs are all as civilized as we are and the color line is

"The color line will never go," replied Mr. Samson, solemnly.  "You
might as well talk of breakin’ down the line between men and beasts."

"Well, evolution did break it down," said Margaret. "Think, Mr. Samson.
There will come a day when we shall travel on flying machines, and all
have lungs like drums.  We shall live in cities of glazed brick beside
running streams of disinfectant.  There will be no poverty and no crime
and no dirt, and only one language. Where will the Kafirs be then?
Still in huts on the Karoo being kept in their place?"

"I ’m not a prophet," said Mr. Samson.  "I don’t know where they ’ll be.
It won’t bother me when that time comes.  I ’ll be learning the harp."

"There ’ll be a statue in one of those glazed-brick cities to the woman
in Capetown," Margaret went on.

"It ’ll be inscribed in letters of gold—’To —— (whatever her name was):
She felt the future in her bones.’"

Mr. Samson blew noisily.  "Evolution ’s not in my line," he said.  "It
’s all very well to drag in Darwin and all that but black and white
don’t mix and you can’t get away from that."

"I should think not, indeed."  Mrs. Jakes corroborated him with a shrug.
She had found herself intrigued by the glazed-brick cities, and shook
them from her as she remembered that she was not "friends" with their

But Margaret was keen on her theory and would not abandon it for a
fly-blown aphorism.

"You ’d never have been satisfied with that woman," she said.
"Supposing she had n’t married the Kafir? Supposing that being fond of
him and believing in him, she had bowed down to your terrible decency
and not married?  You ’d still have been down on her for liking him, and
she ’d have been persecuted if she spoke to him or let him be friendly
with her.  Is n’t that so?"

Mr. Samson pursed his lips and bristled his white mustache up under his

"Yes," he said.  "That is so.  I won’t pretend I ’ve got any use for
women who go in for Kafirs."

"Nobody has."  Mrs. Jakes came in again at the tail of his reply with
all the confidence of a faithful interpreter.

Margaret, marking her righteous severity, had an impulse to stun them
both with a full confession.  She found in herself an increasing
capacity for being irritated by Mrs. Jakes, and had a vision of her,
flattened beyond recovery, by the revelation.  She repressed the impulse
because the vision went on to give her a glimpse of the tragedy that
would close the matter.

Ford had not yet spoken.  He sat beside her, listening. Across the room,
Dr. Jakes was listening also. She put the question to him.

"What do you think, Dr. Jakes?" she asked.

"Eh?"  He started at the sound of his name and put up an uncertain hand
to straighten his spectacles.

"About all this—about the general principle of it?" she particularized.

"Oh, well."  He hesitated and cleared his throat. There was a fine
clear-cut idea floating somewhere in his mind, but he could not bring it
into focus with his thoughts.

"It’s simply that—Kafirs are Kafirs," he said dully. Mrs. Jakes
interposed a warm, "Certainly," and further disordered him.  He gave her
a long and gloomy look and tried to go on.  "When they are—further
advanced, that will be the time to—to think about inter-marriage, and
all that.  Now—well, you can see what they are."

He wiped his forehead nervously with his handkerchief, and Ford entered
the conversation.

"Jakes has got it," he said.  "Intermarriage may come—perhaps; but at
present every marriage of a white person with a Kafir means a loss.
It’s a sacrifice of a civilized unit.  D’ you see, Miss Harding?  You
’ve got to reckon not only what that woman in Capetown does but what she
doesn’t do as well.  She might have been the mother of men and women.
Well, now she ’ll bear children to be outcasts.  She ought to have
waited a couple of hundred years."

"Perhaps she was in a hurry," answered Margaret. "But there ’s the other
question—what if she hadn’t married?"

"Oh," said Ford.  "In point of reason and all that, she ’d have been
right enough.  But people are n’t reasonable.  Look at Samson—and look
at me."

"You mean—you ’ve ’no use’ for her?"

"It’s prejudice," he answered.  "It’s anything you like.  But the plain
fact is, I ’d probably admire such a woman if I met her in a book; but
as flesh and blood, I decline the introduction.  Does that shock you?"

Margaret smiled rather wryly.  "Yes," she said. "It does, rather."

He turned towards her, humorous and whimsical, but at that moment Dr.
Jakes made a movement doorward and Mrs. Jakes began her usual brisk fire
of small-talk to cover his retreat.

"I only wish there was some way we could get the papers regularly—such a
lot of things seem to be happening just now," she prattled.  "Some of
the papers have cables from England and they are most interesting. That
_Cape Times_ you lent me, Mr. Samson—it had the names of the people at
the Drawing-Room. Do you know, I ’ve often been to see the carriages
drive up, and it ’s just like reading about old friends.  There was one
old lady, rather fat, with a mole on her chin, who always went, and once
we saw her drinking out of a flask in the carriage.  My cousin
William—William Penfold—nicknamed her the Duchess de Grundy, and when we
asked a policeman about her, it turned out she really was a Duchess.
Was n’t that strange?"

Mr. Samson heard this recital with unusual attention.

"A flask?" he asked.  "Leather-covered thing, big as a quart bottle?
Fat old girl with an iron-gray mustache?"

"Why," cried Mrs. Jakes.  "You ’ve seen her too."

Mr. Samson glared around him.  "Seen her," he exclaimed.  "Why, ma ’am,
once—she would walk with the guns, confound her—once I put a charge of
shot into her.  And why I didn’t give her the other barrel while I was
about it, I ’ve never been able to imagine. Seen her, indeed.  I ’ve
seen her bounce like a bally india-rubber ball with a gunful of lead to
help her along.  Used to write to me, she did, whenever a pellet came to
the surface and dropped out.  I should just think I had seen her."

"Fancy," said Mrs. Jakes.

Mr. Samson did not go off forthwith, as his wont was. He showed a
certain dexterity in contriving to keep Margaret in the room with
himself till the others had gone.  Then he closed the door and stood
against it, smiling paternally but still with gallantry.

"I wanted just a word with you, if you ’ll allow me," he said, with a
hand to the point of his trim mustache. He was a beautifully complete
thing as he stood with his back to the door, groomed to a hair,
civilized to the eyebrows.  He presented a perfected type of the utterly
conventionalized, kindly and uncharitable gentleman of England.

"Oh, Mr. Samson, this is so sudden," said Margaret.

"What’s that?  Oh, you be—ashamed of yourself," he answered.  "Tryin’ to
fascinate an old buffer like me. But, I say, Miss Harding, I wish you ’d
just let me say something I ’ve got on my mind—and forgive beforehand
anything that sounds like preaching.  We old crocks—we ’ve got nothing
to do but worry the youngsters, and we have to be indulged—what?"

"Go ahead," agreed Margaret.  "But if you preach at me, after shooting a
duchess,—I’ll scream for help. What is it?"

"It’s a small matter," said Mr. Samson.  "I want you just to let us go
on likin’ and admirin’ you, without afterthought or anything to spoil
the effect.  You’re new out here, and of course you don’t know and could
n’t know; you ’re too fresh and too full of sweetness and innocence;
but—well, it kind of jars to hear you standin’ up for a woman like that
woman in Capetown.  You mean a lot to us, Miss Harding.  We have n’t got
much here, you know; we had to leave what we had and run out here for
our lives—run like bally rabbits when a terrier comes along.  It ’ud be
a kindness if you wouldn’t—you know."

There was no mistaking the kindliness with which he smiled at her as he
spoke.  It was another warning, but conveyed differently from the others
she had received. Mr. Samson managed to make his air of pleading for a
matter of sentiment convincing.

"You—you ’re awfully kind," she said.

"Not kind," he replied.  "Oh no; it is n’t that.  It ’s what I said.  It
’s us I ’m thinking of.  You ’ve no idea of what you stand for.  You ’re
home, and afternoons when one meets pretty girls who are all goin’ to
marry some bally cub, and restaurants full of nice women with jolly
shoulders, and fields with tailor-made girls runnin’ away from cows.
You ’re the whole show.  But if you start educatin’ us, though we ’re an
ignorant lot, we lose all that."

He looked at her with a trace of anxiety.

"It ’s cheek, I know, puttin’ it to you like this," he added.  "But I ’m
relyin’ on your being a sportsman, Miss Harding."

"It is n’t cheek," Margaret answered.  "It’s awfully good of you.  I—I
see what you mean, and I should be sorry if I—well, failed you."

He stood aside from the door at once, throwing it open as he did so.

"Sportsman to the bone," he said.  "Bless your heart, did n’t I know it.
Though I could n’t have blamed you if you ’d kicked at all this pow-wow
from a venerable ruin old enough to be your grandfather."

Hand to mustache, crooked elbow cocked well up, brows down over bold
eyes, the venerable ruin challenged the title he gave himself.  Margaret
found his simple and comely tricks of posture and expression touching;
he played his little game of pose so harmlessly and faithfully.  She
stopped in front of him as she walked to the door.

"If you ’ll shut your eyes and keep quite still, I ’ll give you
something," she offered.

"Ha!" snorted Mr. Samson zestfully.

He closed his eyes and stood to attention, smiling. The lids of his eyes
were flattened and seamed with blue veins, and they gave him, as he
waited unmoving, some of the unreality and remoteness of a corpse.  He
looked like a man who had died suddenly while proposing a loyal toast or
paying a compliment, who carries his genial purpose with him into the
dark and leaves only the shell of it behind.

Margaret put a light hand on his trim gray shoulder and rising on tiptoe
touched him with her lips between the eyes.  Then she turned and went
out, unhurrying, and Mr. Samson still stood to attention with closed
eyes till the sound of her feet was clear of the stone-flagged hall and
had passed out to the stoep.

She did not go at once to the spot where a square stone pillar screened
Ford’s easel, as her custom was.  She came to rest at the side of the
steps and stood thoughtfully looking out to the veld, where the brown
showed hints of gold as the sun went westward.  It hung now, very great
and blinding, above the brim of the earth, and bathed her with steep
rays that riddled the recesses of the stoep with their radiant
artillery.  To one hand, a road came from the horizon and passed to the
opposite horizon on the other hand, linking unseen and unheard-of
stopping-places across the gulf of that emptiness.

"What has all this got to do with me?" was her thought, as her eyes
traveled over the flat and unprofitable breast of land, whose
featurelessness seemed to defy her even to fasten it in her memory.  She
recollected Ford’s saying that she was a bird of passage, with all this
but a stage in her flight from sickness to health. Her starting and
halting points were far from Karoo; she touched it only as the dust that
moves upon it when a chance wind raises fantastic spirals and drives
them swaying and zigzagging till they break and are gone. Nothing that
she did could be permanent here; her pains would be spent in vain.  Even
the martyrdom that had been held up to her for a warning—even that, if
she accepted it, would be ineffectual, the "sacrifice of a civilized

Along the stoep, Ford’s leg protruded from behind the pillar as he sat
widely asprawl on his camp-stool; the heel of the white canvas shoe was
on the flags and the toe cocked up energetically.  He found things
simple enough, reflected Margaret; as simple as Mrs. Jakes found them.
Where knowledge and reason failed him, he availed himself frankly of
prejudices and dealt honestly with his instincts.  He permitted himself
the indulgence of plain dislikings and was not concerned to justify or
excuse them.  It was possible to conceive him wrong, irrational,
perverse, but never inconsistent or embarrassed.  In the drawing-room he
had spoken lightly, but Margaret knew the steadfastness of mind that was
behind the trivial manner of speech.  Well, he would have to be told,
sooner or later, of the secret she shared with the veld.  That
confession was pressing itself upon her.  With Mrs. Jakes and Boy Bailey
already privy to it, it could not be withheld much longer.  She stood,
gazing at the outstretched leg, and tried to foresee his reception of
the news.

"Well," said Ford, looking up absently when presently she walked down to
him.  "Did Samson crush you or did you crush him?"

"It was a draw," answered Margaret.  "He ’s a dear old thing, though.
And what a guarantee of good faith to be able to cap a duchess story
like that.  Wasn’t it good?"

"Rotten shooting, though," said Ford.  "He wouldn’t have admitted he ’d
peppered a commoner."

"You’re jealous," retorted Margaret.  "Mr. Samson ’s quite all right,
and I won’t have him sneered at after he ’s been paying me compliments."

"Once I hit an Honorable with a tennis racket.  It slipped out of my
hand just as I was taking a fearful smack at a high one and hit him like
a boomerang.  So I ’m not as jealous as you might think."

"One can’t throw a tennis racket without hitting an Honorable nowadays.
That ’s nothing," said Margaret. "And you ’re just an ordinary person,
anyhow.  Mr. Samson, now—he ’s not only a gentleman, but he looks like
it and sounds like it, and you could tell him with a telescope twenty
miles off for the real thing."

"Ye-es."  Ford drew a leisurely thumb across the foreground of his
picture and surveyed the result with his head on one side.  "You know,"
he went on, kneading reflectively at the sticky masses of paint, "some
of that ’s true.  He does sound exactly like it.  If you wanted to know
the broad general view of the class that he represents, and all the
other classes that take a pattern from it, you ’d be fairly safe in
asking Samson.  Those dashing men of the world, you know—they ’re all
for the domestic virtues and loyalty and fair play.  If you find fault
with gambling and drinking and cursing, they say you ’ve got the
Nonconformist Conscience.  But when they stand for a principle, they ’ve
got the consciences of Sunday School pupil-teachers.  Samson’s ideal of
England is a nation of virtuous women and honest men, large families,
Sunday observance, and no damned French kickshaws.  For that, he ’d go
to the stake smiling."

"Well," said Margaret, "why not?"

"Oh, I ’m not saying anything against him," answered Ford.  "I ’m
telling you what he stands for and how far he counts when he turns on
the oracle."

"You mean that Kafir business, of course?"

"Yes," said Ford.  "That ’s what I mean."

"I gathered," said Margaret slowly, "that you agreed with him about

He was still at work with his colors and did not raise his head as he

"Not a bit of it.  I don’t agree with him at all.  He talks absolute
drivel as soon as he begins to argue."

"But," began Margaret.

"I say I don’t agree with him," continued Ford; "but that ’s not to say
I don’t feel just the same.  As a matter of fact I do."

"Oh, you ’re too subtle," said Margaret impatiently.

"That ’s not subtle," said Ford imperturbably.  "You were sounding us
all inside there and you got eloquence from old Samson and a shot in the
dark from Jakes and thunder and lightning from Mrs. Jakes.  Now, if you
listen, you ’ll get the real thing from me.  As you said, I ’m just an
ordinary person.  Well, the ordinary person knows all right that a
matter of tar-brush in the complexion doesn’t make such a mighty
difference in two human beings.  He sees they ’re both bustling along to
be dead and done with it as soon as possible, and that they ’ll turn
into just the same kind of earth and take their chance of the same
immortality or annihilation—as the case may be.  He sees all right; he
even sees a sort of romance and beauty in it, and makes it welcome when
it doesn’t suggest the real thing too clearly.  But all that doesn’t
prevent him from barring niggers utterly in his own concerns.  It
doesn’t stop his flesh from creeping when he reads of the woman in
Capetown, and imagines her sitting on the Kafir’s knee.  And it does n’t
hinder him from looking the other way when he meets her in the street.
It isn’t reason, I know.  It isn’t sense.  It is n’t human charity.  But
it is a thing that’s rooted in him like his natural cowardice and his
bodily appetites.  Is that at all clear?"

Margaret did not answer at once.  She seemed to be looking at the

"Yes," she said finally.  "It ’s clear enough.  But tell me—is that you?
I mean, were you describing your own feelings about it?"

"Yes," he said.

"You and I are going to quarrel before long," Margaret answered.  "We
’ll have to.  You won’t be able to help yourself."

"Oh," said Ford.  "Why ’s that?"

"Because you ’re such an ordinary person," retorted Margaret.

He lifted his head at the tone of her voice, but further talk was
arrested by the sight of a man on horseback coming across from the road
towards them.  Both recognized Christian du Preez.  They saw him at the
moment that he switched his cantering pony round towards the house, and
came swiftly over the grass.  He had his rifle slung upon his back by a
sling across the chest, and he reined up short immediately below them,
so that he remained with his face just above, the rail of the stoep.

"_Daag,_" he said awkwardly.

"Afternoon," replied Ford.  "Are you painted for war, or what, with that
gun of yours?"

The Boer, checking his fretting pony with heel and hand, gave him a
bewildered look.  The dust was thick in his beard, as from long
traveling, and lay in damp streaks in each furrow of his thin face.  The
faint, acrid smell of sweating man and horse lingered about him. He
moistened his lips before he could speak further.

"My wife is gone out," he said, speaking as though he restrained many
eager words.  "I must speak to her at once.  She is not here—not?"

"I don’t think so," said Ford.

Margaret was more certain.  "Mrs. du Preez has n’t been here this
afternoon," she assured the Boer. "There ’s nothing wrong, I hope."

Christian looked from one to the other as they answered with quick
nervous eyes.

"No," he said.  "But it is something—I must speak to her.  She is not
here, then?"

They answered him again, wondering somewhat at his strangeness.  He
tried to smile at them but bit his lip instead.

"Well—" he hesitated.

"I will fetch Mrs. Jakes if you like," said Margaret. "But I ’m quite
sure Mrs. du Preez hasn’t been here."

"No," he said forlornly.  "Thank you.  Good-by, Miss Harding."

The pony leaped under the spur, and they saw him gallop back to the road
and across it towards the farm.

"Queer," said Ford.  "Did you notice how humble he was while his eyes
looked like murder?"

But Margaret had been struck by something else.

"I thought he looked like Mrs. Jakes," she said, "when I answer her

                             *CHAPTER XIII*

It was Kamis, the Kafir, ranging upon one of his solitary quests, who
came upon them in the late afternoon, arriving unseen out of the
heat-haze and appearing before them as incomprehensibly as though he had
risen out of the ground.

Mrs. du Preez had groaned and sat down for the fourth or fifth time in
three miles and Mr. Bailey’s patience was running dry.  For himself, the
trudge through the oppression of the sun was not a new experience; he
was inured to its discomforts and pains by many years of use while he
had been a pilgrim from door to distant door of the charitable and
credulous, and he had gathered a certain adeptness in the arts of the
trek. He had set a good lively pace for this journey, partly because a
single vigorous stage would see them at the railway line, but also
because he sincerely believed in Christian du Preez’s willingness to
shoot him, and was concerned to be beyond the range of that vengeance.
Therefore, at this halt, he turned and swore.

Mrs. du Preez fanned herself feebly with one hand while the other still
held the little bundle that contained her money.

"I can’t help it, Bailey," she said painfully.  "I mus’ have a rest.  I
’m done."

"Done."  He spat.  "Bet I could make you walk if I started.  Are you
goin’ to come on?"

She shook her head slowly, with closed eyes.

"I can’t," she said.  "I mus’ jus’—have a sit down, Bailey."

Her elaborate hat nodded drunkenly on her head, and all the dust of the
long road could not make her clothes at home in the center of the wide
circle of dumb and forsaken land in which she sat, surrendered to her
weariness, but never relaxing her hold on her money.  Not once since
their setting out had she loosed her grip on that, save when she changed
the burden of it from one hand to the other.  Her faith was in the worth
and power of that double handful of sovereigns, and she would have felt
poorer on a desert island by the loss of a single one of them.

"I ’ve been patient with you," Boy Bailey said, looking at her fixedly.
"I ’ve been very patient with you. But it ’s about time there was an end
of this two-steps-and-a-squat business.  There ’s no knowing what minute
that husband of yours might come ridin’ up with his gun."

"I ’ll be—all right—soon," she said.  "Give me a half hour, Bailey."

"Take your own time," he replied.  "Take all the time there is.  Only—I
’m goin’ on."

She opened her eyes at that and blinked at him in an effort to see him
through the hot mist that stood before them.

"Goin’—to leave me?"

"Yes," he said.  "What d’ you think?"

Her look, her parted lips and all her accusing helplessness were before
his eyes; he looked past them and shuffled.  To the weak man, weakness
is horrible.

"I warned you about comin’," he said, seeking the support of reasonable
words as such men do.  "You ’ve got yourself to blame, and I don’t see
why I should stop here to be shot by a man that grudged me a bite and a
bed.  It isn’t as if I ’d asked you to come."

"I ’ll be better soon," was all she could say, still holding him with
that look of a wounded animal, the reproach that neither threatens nor
defies and is beyond all answer.

"Better soon," he grumbled scornfully, and fidgeted. Her hand never left
the little bundle.  Would she struggle much, he was thinking.  He could
take it from her, of course, but he did n’t want her to scream, even in
that earless solitude.  The thought of her screams made him uneasy.  She
might go on crying out even when he had torn the bundle from her and the
cries would follow at his back as he carried it off, and he would know
that she was still crying when he had passed out of hearing.

Still—a kick, perhaps.  Boy Bailey looked at her bowed body and at the
toe of his shoe.  He began to breathe short and to tremble.  It was
necessary to wait a moment and let energy accumulate for the deed.

"Don’t—go off," gasped Mrs. du Preez, with her face bent over her knees,
and Bailey relaxed.  The words had snapped the tension of his resolve,
and it would have to be keyed up again.

"Give me that bundle," he said hoarsely.  "Give it to me, or else—"

She sat up with an effort and he stopped in the middle of his threat.
He was pale now and trembling strongly. She drew the bundle closer to
her defensively.

"No," she answered.  "I won’t."

"Give it here," he croaked, from a dry throat. "Come on—God!  I’ll—"

The moment of resolution had come to him, and for the instant he was fit
and strong enough to do murder. He plunged forward with his lower lip
sucked in and his ragged teeth showing in a line above his chin, and all
his loose and fearful face contorted into a maniac rage.  The woman fell
over sideways with a strident cry, her bundle hugged to her breast.  Boy
Bailey gasped and flung back his foot for the swinging kick that would
save him from the noise of her complainings.

He kicked, blind to all but the woman on the ground, alone with her in a
narrow theater of bestial purpose and sweating terrors.  He neither
heard nor saw the quick spring of the waiting Kafir, who charged him
with a shoulder, football fashion, while the kick still traveled in the
air and pitched him aside to fall brutally on his ear and elbow.  He
tumbled and slid upon the dust with the unresisting lifelessness of a
sack of flour and lay, making noises in his throat and moving his head
feebly, till the world grew visible again and he could see.

The Kafir stood above Mrs. du Preez, who lay where she had thrown
herself, and stared up at him with eyes in which the understanding was

"Don’t be frightened," he said.  "I know who you are.  I ’ll take you
safely where you want to go."

He spoke in tones as matter-of-fact as he could make them, for his
professional eye told him that the woman was at the limit of her
endurance and could support no further surprises.  But he took in the
pretentious style of her dress with the dust upon it and the fact that
she was in company with the tramp upon a path that led to the railway
and wondered darkly.  It was almost inconceivable, in spite of the
situation in which he found her, that she could be running away from her
husband in favor of the creature who now lay in the road, moving his
limbs tentatively and watching with furtive eyes to see if it was safe
to sit up.

Mrs. du Preez moistened her lips.  "I got nowhere to go, now," she said.

"Then you ’d better go home," said Kamis.  "Rest a little first—there ’s
plenty of time, and it ’ll be cooler presently.  Then I ’ll take you

He turned to look over his shabby tweed shoulder at Boy Bailey and
addressed him curtly.

"You can go now," he said.

Boy Bailey sat up awkwardly, with an expression of pain, as though it
hurt him to move.  He had not yet mastered the change in the state of
affairs and attempted to temporize till matters should define

"I ’ve got to see first if I can stand," he said.  "It’s all very well,
but you can’t slam a man down on his funny-bone and then order him to do
the goose-step."

"Hurry," said the Kafir.

Mr. Bailey passed an exploring hand about his shoulder.  "Ouch!" He
winced.  "Broken bone," he explained.  "You say you ’re a doctor—see for
yourself.  And anyhow, I want a word in private with the lady."

Kamis took two deliberate steps in his direction and—

"Hey!" yelled Boy Bailey, and scrambled to his feet.  "What d’you kick
me like that for, you black swine?"

He backed before the Kafir, with spread hands in agitated protestation.

"Kickin’ a man when he ’s down," he cried.  "Is that a game to play?
All right, all right; I ’m goin’, aren’t I?  You keep where you are and
let me turn round.  No, you stop first.  I ’m not goin’ to be kicked
again like that if I can help it."

Kamis came to a halt.

"Next time I see you, I ’ll murder you," he promised.  "Murder you."  He
paused at Mr. Bailey’s endeavor to save his dignity with a sneer.
"Don’t you believe that?" he asked.  "Say—don’t you believe I ’ll do

Mr. Bailey’s sneer failed as he looked into the black face that
confronted him.  By degrees the sheer sinister power that inhabited it,
lighting it up and making it imminently terrible with its patent
willingness to kill, burned its way to his slow intelligence.  His
pendulous underlip quivered.

"Don’t you?" repeated the Kafir, with a motion of his shoulders like a
shrug.  "Don’t you believe I ’ll slaughter you like a pig next time I
see you? Answer—don’t you believe it?"

"Ye-es," stammered Boy Bailey.

The Kafir’s deliberate nod was indescribably menacing.

"That’s right," he said.  "It’s very true indeed. And you remember what
I paid you fifty pounds for, too.  A word about that, Bailey, and I ’ll
have you. Now go."

A hundred paces off, Boy Bailey halted, to get breath and ideas, and
stood looking back.

He waited, watching the Kafir bring Mrs. du Preez to a condition in
which she could stand again and bear the view of the backward road
coiling forth to the featureless skyline, and thence to further and
still featureless skylines, traversing intolerably far vistas that gave
no sign of a destination.  With his returning wits, he found himself
wondering what arguments the man had to induce her to brave her husband.

As it happened, there was need of none.  The woman was broken and beyond
thought.  She was reduced to instincts.  The homing sense that sets a
wounded rock-rabbit of the kranzes crawling in agony to die in its
burrow moved in her dimly; she could not even summon force to wonder at
the apparition of the English-speaking, helpful Kafir.  Under the
practised deftness of his suggestion and persuasion she rose and put her
limp arm in his, and they moved away together, following their long
shadows that went before them, gliding upon the dust.

"There they go," said Mr. Bailey bitterly.  "There they go.  And what
about _me_?"

He saw that the Kafir propped the exhausted woman with his arm and
helped her.  He was protecting and assured, a strength and a shield.
Almost unconsciously Boy Bailey followed after them.  He could not have
given a reason for doing so; he only knew that he was very unwilling to
be left alone with his bruises and his sense of failure and defeat.  In
less than a quarter of an hour, the veld that had been comfortingly
empty had become lonely.  He went on tiptoe, with long ungainly strides
and much precaution to be unheard.

He followed perhaps for half a mile and then the Kafir looked back and
saw him.  Mr. Bailey stopped within speaking distance.

"I was coming to apologize," he called.  "That ’s all.  I lost my temper
and I want to apologize."

The Kafir let Mrs. du Preez sit down and came walking back slowly.  When
half the distance to Mr. Bailey was covered he broke suddenly into a
run.  For some seconds Mr. Bailey abode, his mind racing, and then he
too turned and ran as he had never run before. With fists clenched and
head back, he faced the west and fled in leaps, and as he went he
emitted small squeals and fragments of speech.

"My mistake," he would utter, through failing breath.  "As long as I
live, I ’ll never—I swear it—I swear it.  O-o-oh.  You ’re very—hard—on

The Kafir had ceased to run when Mr. Bailey turned to flee.  He stood
and watched him go, unpursued and terrified, with the dust spirting
under his feet like the smoke of a powder-train.  Then he went back and
aided Mrs. du Preez to rise and together they set out again.

The last of Boy Bailey was a black blot against the sky; he was too far
off for Kamis to see whether he still ran or stood.  It merely testified
that a degenerate human frame will stand blows and much emotion and
effort under a hot sun and yet hold safe for further evil the life
within it.  Man of all animals is the most tenacious of his existence;
he lives not for food but for appetite.  What was assured was that the
far blot that represented Boy Bailey was still avid and still
unsatisfied.  He had not even gratified his last desire to apologize.

The sun dawdled over the final splendid ceremony of his setting, drawing
out the pomp of departure while night waited in the east for his going
with pale premature stars.  The small wind that clears the earth of the
sun’s leavings of heat sighed about them, and produced from each side of
their path a faint rustle as though it stirred trees at a little
distance.  Above them the sky began to light up with a luminous powder
of stars, that strained into radiant clearness before the west was empty
of its last pink stain.  They went slowly, Mrs. du Preez leaning heavily
on Kamis’ arm, and still faithfully carrying her bundle.  She had not
spoken since they started.  She went with her eyes on the ground, and
unequal steps, till the evening breeze touched her and she lifted her
face to its gentle refreshment.

She had to sit down every little while, but she was stronger after the
setting of the sun, and it was not till the night had surrounded them
that she spoke.

"When I saw you first," she said suddenly, "the sun was in my eyes.  And
I thought you was—_black_?"

"Yes?" said Kamis.  "That wasn’t the sun," he said slowly.  "I am

"But—" she hesitated.  "I don’t mean just black," she said vaguely.  "I
meant—a black man, a nigger."

She was peering up at him anxiously, while her weight rested in his arm.

"Well, wouldn’t you have let a nigger help you?" asked Kamis quietly.
"Isn’t it a nigger’s business, when he sees a white woman in trouble, to
do what he can for her?  One of your farm niggers, now—wouldn’t you have
called to him if he ’d been there?"

"Yes," fretfully.  "But I thought _you_ was a nigger."

"I ’m a doctor," said Kamis.  "I was at schools and colleges in England.
The English Government gives me hundreds of pounds a year.  You ’re
quite safe with me."

"It was the sun in my eyes," she murmured uncertainly. "I said it was
the sun."

"No, it wasn’t the sun," he said.  "You saw quite well.  I am a nigger."

"How can a doctor be a nigger?" she asked.  "Niggers—why, I know all
about niggers.  You can’t fool me."

"I won’t try," answered Kamis.  "But—one thing; you ’ve got to get home,
haven’t you?  And you can’t do it alone.  You wouldn’t refuse to let a
nigger help you to walk, would you?"

"No," she said wonderingly.  "I _got_ to get home. I got to."

"All right," said Kamis.  "Then look here.  Take a good look and satisfy
yourself.  There ’s no sun now to get in your eyes."

He had halted and drawn his arm from hers.  A match crackled and its
flame showed him to her, illuminating his negro features, and her drawn
face, frowning in an effort to comprehend.  He held it till it burned to
his fingers and then dropped it, and the darkness fell between them
again like a curtain.

"Now do you see?" he asked.  "A Kafir like any other, flat nose, big
lips, woolly hair, everything—just plain Kafir; but a doctor none the
less.  The Kafir will help you to walk and the doctor will see to you if
you find by and by that you can’t walk any further.  Will that satisfy

She did not answer immediately; she stood as though she were still
trying to scan the face which the match flame had revealed.  She was
searching for a formula, he told himself with a momentary bitterness,
which would save her white-skinned dignity and yet permit her to avail
herself of his services.

Then her moving hand touched him on the arm, gently and unexpectedly,
and she answered.

"You poor devil," she said.  "You poor devil."

Kamis stood quite still, her timid touch upon him, the ready pity of her
voice in his ears.  Mingled with his surprise he felt a sense of
abasement in the presence of this other outcast, so much weaker than he,
and he could have begged for her pardon for the wrong which his thoughts
had done her.

"Thank you," he said abruptly.  "Thank you, Mrs. du Preez.  It’s—it’s
kind of you.  You shall be very safe with me."

It was a strange companionship in which they went forward through the
night, he matching his slow steps to her weariness, with her thin arm,
bony and rigid through the cloth sleeve, weighing within his.  She was
too far spent for talk; they moved in a silence of effort and desperate
persistence, with only her harsh and painful breathing sounding in reply
to the noises which the darkness evoked upon the veld.  Every little
while she had to sit down on the ground, and at each such occasion she
would make her small excuse.

"I ’ll have to take a spell, now," she would say apologetically.  "You
see, I was walking since before noon."

Then her arm would slide from his and she would sink to earth at his
feet, panting painfully, with her head bowed on her bosom and her big
hat roofing her over.  Thus she would remain motionless for a space till
her breath came more easily, and then the hat would tilt up again.

"I could move on a bit, now, if you ’d give me a hand up."

Her courage was a thing he wondered at.  Again and again, as the hours
spun themselves out, she rose to her feet, groped for his sustaining
arm, with her face a pallid disk against the shadow of her hat, and
faced the cruel miles.  Her feet, in her smart town boots, tormented her
without ceasing; her strength was drained from her like blood from an
opened vein; and the slowness of their progress protracted the dreary
horror of the road that remained to be covered.  At times she seemed to
talk to herself in whispers between sobbing breaths, and his ear caught
hints of words shaped laboriously, but nothing that had meaning.  But
she uttered no complaint.

At one point where she rested rather longer than usual, he tried to find
out what she expected at the journey’s end.

"Have you thought what you ’ll say," he asked, "when you get home?"

She raised her head slowly.

"I don’t know," she answered.  "I—I got to take my gruel, I suppose.
Whatever it is, I got to take it. It ’s up to me."

It was the sum of her wisdom; those free-lances of their sex add it
early into the conclusion that saves them the futile effort of evading
payment for the fruit they snatch when the world is not looking.  After
the fun, the adventure, the thrill, comes the gruel, and they have to
take it.  It is up to them.  By the short cut of experience, they reach
thus the end and destination of a severe morality.

"He can’t shut you out, at any rate," said Kamis, half-aloud.

"Can’t he?" she said.  "Can’t he, though!  Can’t stand there feelin’
noble and righteous and point to the veld and shut the door with a big
slam?  You don’t know him."

She rose again presently, clicking her tongue between her teeth at the
anguish of her swollen and abraded feet.

"The Boers got sense," she said.  "A person ’s a fool to go on foot."

It was the only reference she made to her pain and weariness.

It was long past midnight when they came at last past the sheds behind
the farmhouse and saw that there was yet a light in the kitchen.  The
window shone broad and yellow in the vague bulk of the house, and as
they lifted their faces towards it, a shadow moved across it, grotesque
and abrupt after the manner of shadows, which seem to have learned from
men how to mock their makers.

"That ’s Christian," said Mrs. du Preez, whispering harshly.

"Are you afraid?" asked Kamis.  "Will you sit here while I go and speak
to him first?"

"No," she replied.  "No use.  This is where I get what’s comin’ to me.
I wish I wasn’t so done up, though.  If he knew, I believe p’r’aps he ’d
let me off till the morning.  But he doesn’t know, and it wouldn’t be
him if he did."

"Better let me speak to him first," urged Kamis. "I could tell him—"

"No," she said again.  "No use dodging it.  We ’ll go to the back door;
I ’d rather have him shut that on me than the front."

Near the door she drew her arm away from the Kafir’s and left him
standing to one side, while she approached and knocked upon it with the
back of her hand.  She meant to eat the dreaded gruel alone.

Silence succeeded upon her knocking, and then deliberate footsteps
within that came towards the door. A pair of bolts were thrust back,
crashing in their sockets.  Mrs. du Preez gathered her sparse energies
and stood upright as the door opened and the figure of her husband
appeared, tall and black against the light inside which leaked past him
and spilt itself about her feet.  For some moments they stood facing
each other, and neither spoke.

There was drama in the atmosphere.  The Kafir standing without its
scope, watched absorbedly.

"Christian," said Mrs. du Preez, at length; "it’s me."

"Yes."  The Boer’s deep voice was grave.  "Where have you been?"

She lifted her shoulders in a faint hopeless shrug.

"I ran away," she said.  "Like I said I would.  But I wasn’t up to it."

"You ran away," he repeated slowly.  "With that Bailey?"

"Yes, Christian.  But—"

Christian caught sight of the dark figure of the Kafir and started

"Is that him there?" he cried.  "Is that Bailey?"

"No, no," she answered eagerly.  "That ’s—that ’s a Kafir, Christian; he
helped me to get back.  He came up when I was too tired to go any
further, and Bailey was starting to kick me to get my money away from
me—I ’ve got it here, Christian, all safe—an’ he knocked Bailey over and
chased him off.  If it hadn’t ha’ been for him—"

"What?"  Christian interrupted strongly.  "What did you say?  Bailey was
going to—kick you?  You was too tired to walk and he was going to kick

"Yes, Christian.  And if it hadn’t ha’ been for this Kafir, he would ha’
done.  I was sitting down, you see, and he got mad with me and wanted me
to hand him over the money.  So when I screamed—what did you say,

"I swore," answered the Boer.

"Oh," exclaimed Mrs. du Preez, as though she apologized for
interrupting.  "And then the Kafir came up.  If it was n’t for him,
Christian, I ’d—I ’d ha’ had to die out of doors.  I could never have
managed to get back by myself."

The effort merely to stand upright taxed her sorely, but she went on
doggedly to praise the Kafir and to try in her confused and inadequate
tongue to convey to the Boer that this Kafir was not as other Kafirs.
Her small voice, toneless and desperate, beat on pertinaciously.

"He ’s a doctor, Christian," she concluded.  "He ’s been educated an’
all that, an’ he speaks English like a gentleman.  And he ’s been a
white man to me."

"Yes," said the Boer.  His mind was stuck fast upon one point of her
story.  "Yes.  But—you said Bailey was going to _kick_ you—out there all
alone by yourselves in the veld?"

It daunted him; his intelligence shrank from the picture of that
brutality unleashed under the staring skies.

"Yes, Christian," answered Mrs. du Preez submissively.

"Here—come in," he bade abruptly, and stood aside to make room for her
to pass.  "Come in.  Come in."

It was a couple of seconds before she fully comprehended.  She made a
small moaning sound and began to totter.  The Boer took her by the arm.

"Wait," he said curtly, over her head, to the Kafir, and led her within.

Kamis waited, leaning against the wall of the house. He had brought his
task to an end and the finish had arranged itself fortunately; it had
been worthy of his pains.  The Boer had been startled from his balance;
he had seen that nothing he could do would bear an equality with Boy
Bailey’s natural impulses; pardon and generosity were the only course
left open to him. The work was complete and pleasing; and now he had
leisure to feel how weary he was.  He shut his eyes with an exhausted
man’s content at the relaxation of effort, and opened them again to find
the Boer had returned and was standing in the doorway.  He started
upright, amazed to find that sleep had trapped him while he leaned and
was aware that the Boer made a sudden and indistinct movement.
Something heavy struck the ground at his feet.

He looked down at it where it lay, white and rounded, and recognized
Mrs. du Preez’s bundle, for which Boy Bailey had been ready to kick her
into dumbness.  Without addressing a word to him, the Boer had tossed
him that double handful of money.

It took him a moment to realize what had taken place.

"What’s this for?" he demanded then, possessed by a sudden anger that
forgot he spoke from the mouth of a negro to ears of a white man.

"It is true you speak English, then?" said the Boer. "That is
money—about a hundred pounds.  It is for you.  Pick it up."

"Pick it up yourself," retorted the Kafir.  "I don’t want your money."

"Eh?"  The Boer did not understand in the least. "It is for you," he
repeated.  "A hundred sovereigns, because you have been good, very good,
to the Vrouw du Preez.  It is in that bundle."

The Kafir turned on his heel.  "Take care of your wife," he said
shortly.  "If you worry her now, she ’ll be ill.  Good night."

"Here," cried the Boer, as Kamis walked away. "Here, boy, wait.  Come

Kamis halted.  "I ’ve plenty of money," he answered.  "I ’m not Boy
Bailey, you know."

"Come here," called the Boer.

Kamis did not move, so he stepped down and went forward himself.  The
Kafir’s last word stuck in his thought.

"No," he agreed.  "But who are you?  Man, why don’t you take the money?"

"If I were a Boer, I should take it," answered Kamis.  "I ’d pick it up
from a dunghill, wouldn’t I? But, then, you see, I ’m not a Boer.  I ’m
a Kafir."

"What do you want, then?" demanded Christian.

"Oh, nothing that you can give," was the retort.

"Well—but you must have something," urged Christian.  "You—you have
saved my wife."

"And you haven’t even said ’thank you,’" replied the Kafir.

"I threw you the money," protested Christian.  "It is a hundred pounds.
But—well—you have been good and I thank you."

The Kafir laughed.  He knew the mere words created an epoch, for Boers
do not thank Kafirs. They pay them, but no more.  Strange how a matter
of darkness abrogates a difference of color.  It would never have
happened in the daytime.

"You ’re satisfied, then?" he inquired.

"Me?"  The Boer was puzzled.  "You will take the money now?"

"No, thanks.  I ’m too—oh, much too tired and hungry to carry it.  You
see, I brought your wife a long way."

"Yes," said Christian.  "She said so—a very long way.  I will wake the
boys [the Kafirs of the household]. They will find you a place to sleep
and I will make them bring you some food."

"No, thanks," said the Kafir again.  "I don’t speak their language.
You—you haven’t a man who speaks English, I suppose?"

"No," said Christian.  "You want—yes, I see. But—you ’d better take the

"I don’t want it."

"But take it," urged the Boer.  "A hundred pounds—it is much.  Perhaps
it is more; I have not counted it.  If it is less, I will give the rest,
to make a hundred pounds.  You will take it—not?"

"No."  The answer was definite.  "No—I won’t take it, I tell you."

"Then—"  Christian half-turned towards the house, with a heaviness in
his movements which had not been noticeable before.  "Come in and eat,"
he bade gloomily.  "_Gott verdam_—come and eat."

The Kafir checked another laugh.  "With pleasure," he said, and followed
at the Boer’s back.

The Boer stooped to pick up the bundle of money where it lay on the
earth and led the way without looking round to the kitchen where he had
left his wife.  The Kafir paused in the kitchen door, looking in,
acutely alive to the delicacy of a situation in which he figured, under
the Boer’s eye, as part of the company which included the Boer’s wife.
He waited to see how Christian would adjust matters.

The table was spread with the materials of supper. Mrs. du Preez had a
chair by it, and now leaned over it, with her head resting on her arms,
to make room for which plates and cups were disordered.  Her flowery hat
was still on her head; she had not commanded the energy necessary to
withdraw the long pins that held it and take it off.  In her dust-caked
best clothes, she sprawled among the food and slept, and the paraffin
lamp on the wall shed its uncharitable glare on her unconscious back.

Christian dumped the heavy little bundle on the table beside her and she
moved and muttered.  He called her by name.  With a sigh she dragged her
heavy head up and her black-rimmed tragic eyes opened to them in an
agony of weariness.  They rested on the waiting Kafir on the doorway.

"You ’ve brought him in?" she said.  "Christian, I hoped you would."

"He is going to eat with me," said Christian, with eyes that evaded

"Yes," she said dully.

"And you go to bed," he urged, with an effort to seem natural.
"You—you’re too sleepy; you go to bed now.  I ’ll be up soon."

"But, Christian," she protested, while she wrestled with the need for
slumber that possessed her; "I got to speak to you.  There—there ’s
something I want to say to you first about—about—"

"No."  His hand rested on her shoulder.  "It’s all right.  There ’s
nothing to say; I don’t want to hear anything.  It ’s all right now; you
go on up to bed."

She rose obediently, but with an effort, and her hands moved blindly in
front of her as she made for the door, as though she feared to fall.

"Good night, Christian," she quavered.  "You ’re awful good.  An’ good
night, you"—to the Kafir. "You been a white man to me."

"Good night," replied Kamis, and made way for her carefully.

The queer little scene was sufficiently clear to him. He understood it
entirely.  The Boer, face to face with an emergency for which his
experience and his training prescribed no treatment, could stoop to sit
at meat with a Kafir, but he could not suffer his wife to share that
descent.  The white woman must be preserved at any cost in her
aloofness, her sanctity, none the less strong for being artificial, from
contact and communion with a black man.  Better anything than that.

"Sit down," bade Christian.  "Take one of those cups, and I will bring
you coffee."

"Thank you," replied the Kafir, and obeyed.

The paraffin lamp shed its unwinking light on a scene that challenged
irresponsible fancy with the reality of crazy fact.  The Boer’s
consciousness of the portentous character of the event governed him
strongly; there was majesty in his bearing as he brought the coffee pot
from the fire and stood at the side of the seated Kafir and poured him a
cupful.  It was done with the high sense of ceremony, the magnificent
humility, of a Pope washing the immaculate feet of highly sanitary and
disinfected beggars.

"There is mutton," he said, pointing; "or I have sardines.  Shall I
fetch a tin?"

"I will have mutton, thanks," replied Kamis, with an equal formality,
and drew the dish towards him.

The Boer seated himself at the opposite side of the table.  The compact,
as he understood it, required that he should eat also.  He cut himself
meat and bread very precisely, doubtfully aware that he was rather
hungry.  This, he felt vaguely, stained a situation where all should
have been formal and symbolic.  He ate slowly, with a dim, religious

Kamis might have found the meal more amusing if he had been less weary.
An idea that he would insist upon conversation visited him, but he
dismissed it; he was really too tired to assault the heavy solemnity
which faced him across the table.  It would yield to no casual advances;
he would have to exert himself, to be specious and dexterous, to waylay
the man’s interest.

He pushed his unfinished food from him.

"I will go home, now," he said.

"You have had enough?" questioned the Boer.

"Thank you," said Kamis, and rose.

The Boer rose, too, very tall and aloof.  His hand touched the money
which still lay on the table.

"You will take this with you?" he questioned. "No?" as the Kafir shook
his head.  "You are sure? You will not have it?  Nor anything else?"

"I have had all I want," replied Kamis, taking up his battered hat.
"You ’ve done everything, and more than I thought you would."

The Boer was insistent.

"I want you to be—satisfied," he said, still standing in the same place.
Kamis found his lofty, still face rather impressive.  It had a certain
high austerity.

"You must say if you want anything more," he went on, with a grave
persistence.  "All you want you shall have—till you are satisfied."

("Can’t rest under an obligation to me," thought Kamis).

"I ’m quite satisfied," he replied.  "You don’t owe me anything, if
that’s what ’s worrying you.  I ’m paid in full."

"In full," repeated the Boer.  "You are paid in full?"


"Very well, then.  And now you shall go."

He went before and stood at the side of the door while Kamis went forth,
ready to bolt it at his back.

"Tell me," he said, as the Kafir stepped over the threshold.  "Who are

The other turned.  "My name is Kamis," he replied.

"Kamis?"  The Boer leaned forward, trying to peer at him.  "You
said—Kamis?  You are the little Kafir that the General Lascelles took

"Yes," said the Kafir.

The Boer did not answer at once.  He hung in the doorway, staring.

"I saw them hang your father," he said at last, very slowly.

"Did you?" said Kamis.  "Good night."

"Good night," replied the Boer when he was some paces distant and closed
the door carefully.

The noise of its bolts being shot home was the last sound the Kafir
heard from the house.  The wind that comes before the dawn touched him
and he shivered. He turned up the collar of his coat and set off walking
as briskly as his fatigue would allow.

                             *CHAPTER XIV*

The drawing-room of the Sanatorium was available until tea-time for the
practice of correspondence. It offered for this purpose a small table
with the complexion of mahogany and a leather top, upon which reposed an
inkstand containing three pots, marked respectively in plain letters,
"black," "red," and "copying," and a number of ancient pens.  When a new
arrival had overcome his wonder and consternation at the various
features of the establishment, he usually signalized his acceptance of
what lay before him by writing to Capetown for a fountain-pen.  As old
inhabitants of the Cape reveal themselves to the expert eye by carrying
their tobacco loose in a side pocket of their coats, so the patient who
had conceded Dr. Jakes’ claims to indulgence was to be distinguished by
the possession of a pen that made him independent of the establishment’s
supply and frequently by stains of ink upon his waistcoat in the region
of the left-hand upper pocket, where custom has decided a man shall
carry his fountain-pen.

Margaret had brought her unanswered letters to this privacy and her
fountain-pen was busy in the undisturbed interval following the
celebration of lunch. Hers was the common task of the exile in South
Africa, to improvize laboriously letters to people at home who had
plenty to see and do and no need of the post to inject spice into their
varied lives.  There was nothing to write about, nothing to relate; the
heat of the sun, the emptiness of the veld, the grin of Fat Mary—each of
her letters played over these worn themes.  Yet unless they were written
and sent, the indifferent folk to whom they were addressed would not
write to her, and the weekly mail, with its excitements and its
reminders, would fail her.  No dweller in lands where the double knock
of the postman comes many times in the day can know the thrill of the
weekly mail, discharged from the steamship in Capetown and heralded in
its progress up the line by telegrams that announce to the little dorps
along the railway the hour of its coming.  They have not waited with a
patient, preoccupied throng in the lobby of the post-office where the
numbered boxes are, and heard beyond the wooden partition the slam of
the bags and the shuffle of the sorters, talking at their work about
things remote from the mail.  The Kafir mail-runners, with their skinny
naked legs and their handfuls of smooth sticks know how those letters
are awaited in the hamlets and farms far remote from the line, by
sun-dried, tobacco-flavored men who are up before the dawn to receive
them, by others whose letters are addressed to names they are not called
by, and by Mrs. Jakes, full-dressed and already a little tired two hours
before breakfast.  All those letters are paid for by screeds that suck
dry the brains of their writers, desperately searching over the chewed
ends of penholders for suggestions on barren ground.

There was one letter which Margaret had set herself to compose that had
a different purpose.  There were not lacking signs that her position in
Dr. Jakes’ household would sooner or later become impossible, and it was
desirable to clear the road for a retreat when no other road would be
open to her.  It was not only that Mrs. Jakes burned to be rid of her
and had taken of late to dim hints of her desire in this respect, for
Margaret was prepared, if she were forced to it, to find Mrs. Jakes’
enmity amusing and treat it in that light.  Such a course, she judged
would paralyze Mrs. Jakes; in the face of laughter, the little woman was
impotent.  But there was also the prospect, daily growing nearer and
more threatening, of an exposure which would show her ruthlessly forth
as the friend and confidante of the Kafir, Kamis, the woman for whom
Ford and Mr. Samson, had, in their own phrase, "no use."  The hour when
that exposure should be made loomed darkly ahead; nothing could avert
its sinister advance upon her, nor lighten it of its quality of doom.
She no longer invited her secret to make itself known.  By degrees the
warnings of Kamis, the threats of Boy Bailey, the malice of Mrs. Jakes,
had struck their roots in her consciousness, and she was becoming
acclimatized to the South-African spirit which threatens with vague
penalties, not the less real for being vague, such transgressors as she
of its one iron rule of life and conduct.  When it should come upon her,
she decided, she would summon her strength to accept it, and confront it
serenely, in the manner of good breeding.  But when that was done, she
would have to go.

She was writing therefore to the legal uncle of Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
who controlled her affairs and manifested himself with sprightly letters
and punctual cheques.  He was an opinionative uncle, like most men who
jest along the established lines of humor, but amenable to a reasonable
submissiveness on the part of his ward and niece.  He liked to be
inflexible—good-naturedly inflexible, like an Olympian who condescends
to earth, but he could be counted upon to repay an opportunity for a
display of his inflexibility by liberal indulgence upon other points.
Therefore Margaret, after consideration, commenced the serious part of
her epistle to the heathen with a suggestion in regard to investments
which she knew would rouse him.  Then, in a following paragraph:

I am better than I was when I came out, but not better than I was a
month ago, and I don’t think I am improving as rapidly as Dr. David
hoped.  It may be that I am a little too far to the East of the Karoo.
Was it you or somebody else who advised me to keep to the West?

"That ’ll help to fetch him," murmured Margaret, as she wrote the last

Perhaps, later on, if Dr. Jakes thinks well of it, I might move to a
place I hear of over in the West.  I ’m letting you know now in plenty
of time; but I don’t want you to think there is anything seriously
wrong. Please don’t be at all anxious.

"Now something fluffy," pondered Margaret.  "If I get it right, he ’ll
order me to go."

What makes me hesitate, she wrote, is the trouble it will cost me to
move from here.  Would you please show this letter to Dr. David and ask
his opinion?

"That ’ll do the trick," she decided unscrupulously. "Dr. David will see
there ’s something in it and he ’ll back me up.  And then, when the row
comes, they shall each have a cut at me,—Mrs. Jakes and Fat Mary and
all—they shall each have their chance to draw blood, and then I ’ll go."

While she wrote, there had been the sound of footsteps on the stone
floor of the hall outside the room, but she had been too busy to note
them.  Otherwise, she would quickly have marked an unfamiliar foot among
them. They were reduced to that at the Sanatorium; they knew every foot
that sounded on its floors and a strange one fetched them running to
look from doors.  But Margaret’s occupation had robbed her of that mild
exhilaration, and she looked up all unsuspiciously as Mrs. Jakes pushed
open the door of the drawing-room, entered and closed it carefully
behind her.

She came a couple of paces into the room and halted, looking at the girl
in a manner that recalled to Margaret that fantastic night when she had
come with a candle to seek aid for Dr. Jakes.  Though she had not now
her little worried smile, she wore the same bewildered and embarrassed
aspect, as of a purpose crossed and complicated by considerations and

"Are you looking for me, Mrs. Jakes?" asked Margaret, when she had
waited in vain for her to speak.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Jakes, in a hushed voice, and remained where she

Again Margaret waited in vain for her to speak.

"I ’m rather busy just now," she said.  "What is it you want with me,

Mrs. Jakes looked to see that the door was closed before she answered.

"It isn’t me," she said then.  "We—we don’t get on very well, Miss
Harding; but this isn’t my doing. I ’ve never whispered a word to a
soul.  I haven’t, indeed, if I never speak another word."

Margaret stared at her, perceiving suddenly that the small bleak woman
was all a-thrill with some nervous tension.  Her own nerves quivered in
response to it.

"What is it?" she demanded.  "What has happened?"

"It ’s the police," breathed Mrs. Jakes.  She gave the word the accent
in which she felt it.  "The police," she said, with a stricken sense of
all that police stand for, of which unbearable and public shame is
chief. She was trembling, and her small hands, with their rough red
knuckles like raw scars upon them, were picking feverishly at her loose
black skirt.

Margaret’s heart beat the more quickly at the mere tone of her whisper,
fraught with dim fears; but the words conveyed nothing to her.  If
anything, they relieved her.  In the hinterland of her consciousness the
forward-cast shadow of that impending hour was perpetually dark; but the
police could have no concern in that.

"Oh, do please talk plainly," she said irritably. "What exactly do you
want to tell me?  And what have I got to do with the police?"

The stimulus of her impatient tones was what was needed to restore Mrs.
Jakes to coherence.  She stared at the girl with a sort of stupefaction.

"What have you got to do with it," she repeated. "Why—it ’s all about
you.  Somebody ’s told about you and that Kafir—about you knowing him
and all about him, and now Mr. Van Zyl is in the doctor’s study. He ’s
come to inquire about it."

"Oh," said Margaret slowly.

It had struck then, the bitter hour of revelation; it had crept upon her
out of an ambush of circumstance when she least expected it, and the
reckoning was due. There was to be no time allowed her in which to build
up her courage; even her retreat must be over strange roads.  Before the
gong went to gather the occupants of the house for tea, the stroke would
have fallen, and her place in the minds of her fellows would be with Dr.
Jakes on the hearth-rug, an outcast from their circle. Unless, indeed,
Dr. Jakes should also decline her company, as seemed likely.

It was the image in her mind of a scornful and superior Jakes that
excited the smile with which she looked up at Jakes’ frightened wife.

"So long as he does n’t bother me, he can inquire as much as he likes,"
she said.

Mrs. Jakes did not understand.  "It ’s you he ’s going to inquire of,"
she said.  "I suppose, of course—I suppose you ’ll tell him about—about
that night?"

"I shan’t tell him anything," replied Margaret. "Oh, you needn’t be
afraid, Mrs. Jakes.  I ’m not going to take this opportunity of
punishing you for all your unpleasantness.  I shall simply refuse to
answer any questions at all."

"You can’t do that."  Mrs. Jakes showed her relief plainly in her face
and in the relaxation of her attitude. She had forgotten one of the
first rules of her manner of warfare, which is to doubt the enemy’s
word.  But in spite of a reluctant gratitude for the contemptuous mercy
accorded to her, she felt dully resentful at this high attitude of
Margaret’s towards the terrors of the police.

"You can’t do that," she said.  "He ’s got a right to know—and he ’s a
sub-inspector.  He ’ll insist—he ’ll make you tell—"

"I think not," said Margaret quietly.

"But he ’s—"

Mrs. Jakes broke off sharply as a hand without turned the handle of the
door and pushed it open.  Ford appeared, and paused at the sight of them
in conversation.

"Hallo," he said.  "Am I interrupting?"

Mrs. Jakes hesitated, but Margaret answered with decision.

"Not at all," she said.  "Come in, please."

It occurred to her that the blow would be swifter if Ford himself were
present when it fell and there were no muddle of explanations to drag it

Ford entered reluctantly, scenting a quarrel between the two and
suspicious of Margaret’s intentions in desiring his presence.

"There ’s a horse and orderly by the steps," he said. "Is Van Zyl
somewhere about?  That’s why I came in, to see if he was here."

"He—he is in the study," answered Mrs. Jakes, in extreme discomfort.
She turned to Margaret.  "If you will come now, I will take you to him."

Ford turned, surprised.

"What for?" asked Margaret.

"He—sent for you."  Mrs. Jakes did not understand the question; she only
perceived dimly that some quality in the situation was changed and that
she no longer counted in it.

"But what the dickens did he do that for?" asked Ford.

"We ’ll see," said Margaret, forestalling Mrs. Jakes’ bewildered reply.
"Please tell him, Mrs. Jakes, that I am here and can spare him a few
minutes at once."

"Yes," acquiesced Mrs. Jakes, helplessly, and departed.

Ford came lounging across the room to Margaret.

"What’s up?" he inquired.  "You haven’t been murdering somebody and not
letting me help?"

Margaret shook her head.  She was standing guard over her composure and
could not afford to jest.

"Sit down over there," she bade him, motioning him towards the couch at
the other side of the wide room. "And don’t go away, even if he asks you
to.  Then you ’ll hear all about it."

He wondered but obeyed slowly, leaning back against the end of the couch
with one long leg lying up on the cushions.

"If he talks in the tone of his message to you," he said meditatively,
"I shall be for punching his head."

Sub-Inspector Van Zyl had had the use of a clothes-brush before
expressing his desire to see Margaret; it was a tribute he paid to his
high official mission.  He had cleared himself and his accoutrement of
dust and the stain of his journey; and it was with the enhanced
impressiveness of spick-and-span cleanliness that he presented himself
in the drawing-room, pausing in the doorway with his spurred heels
together to lift his hand in a precise and machine-like salute.  At his
back, Mrs. Jakes’ unpretentious black made a relief for his rigid
correctitude of attire and pose, and the pallid agitation of her
countenance, peering in fearful curiosity to one side of him, heightened
his military stolidity.  His stone-blue eyes rested on Ford’s recumbence
with a shadow of surprise.

"Afternoon, Ford," he said curtly.  "You ’ll excuse me, but I ’ve a word
or two to say to Miss Harding."

"Afternoon, Van Zyl," replied Ford, not moving. "Miss Harding asked me
to stay, so don’t mind me."

Van Zyl looked at him inexpressively.  "I ’m on duty," he said.  "Sorry,
but I wish you ’d go.  My business is with Miss Harding."

"Fire away," replied Ford.  "I shan’t say a word unless Miss Harding
wishes it."

Margaret moved in her chair.

"You will say what you please," she said.  "Don’t regard me at all, Mr.
Ford.  Now—what can I do for you, Mr. Van Zyl?"

Van Zyl finished his scrutiny of Ford and turned to her.

"I sent to ask you to see me in the other room, Miss Harding, because I
thought you would prefer me to speak to you in private," he said, with
his wooden preciseness of manner.  "That was why.  Sorry if it offended
you.  However—"

He stood aside and held the door while Mrs. Jakes entered, and closed it
behind her.  Stalking imperturbably, he placed a chair for her and drew
one out for himself, depositing his badged "smasher" hat on the ground
beside it.  Seated, he drew from his smoothly immaculate tunic a large
note-book and snapped its elastic band open and laid it on his knee.
Ford, from his place on the couch, watched these preparations with
gentle interest.

Van Zyl looked up at Margaret with a pencil in his fingers.  His pale,
uncommunicative eyes fastened on her with an unemotional assurance in
their gaze.

"First," he said; "where were you, Miss Harding, on the afternoon of the

He mentioned a date to which Margaret’s mind ran back nimbly.  It was
the day on which Boy Bailey had made terms from the top of the dam wall,
the day on which the Kafir had kissed her hand, nearly two weeks before.

She had herself sufficiently in hand, and returned his gaze with a faint
smiling tranquillity that told him nothing.

"I have no information to give you, Mr. Van Zyl," she replied evenly.
"It is quite useless to ask me any questions; I shan’t answer them."

He was not disturbed.  "Sorry," he said, "but I ’m afraid you must.  I
hope you ’ll remember that I have my duty to do, Miss Harding."

"Must, eh?"

That was Ford, thoughtfully, from the couch.  Van Zyl looked in his
direction sharply with a brief frown, but let it pass.

"It’s no use, Mr. Van Zyl," said Margaret.  "I simply am not going to
answer any questions, and your duty has nothing to do with me.  So if
there is nothing else that you wish to say to me, your business is

"No," he said; "it isn’t finished yet, Miss Harding. You refuse to say
where you were on that afternoon?"

Margaret smiled slowly and he made a quick note in his book.

"I ought to say, perhaps," he went on, looking up when he had finished
writing, "that the information I am asking for relates to a—a person,
who is wanted by the police on a charge of sedition and incitement to
commit a breach of the peace.  You were seen on the afternoon in
question in the company of that—person, Miss Harding; and I believe—I
_believe_ you can help us to lay hands on him."

"Is it Samson?" inquired Ford, raising his head. "I ’ve always had my
suspicions of Samson."

"Oh, Mr. Ford," exclaimed Mrs. Jakes, pained.

"It ’s not Mr. Samson," said the sub-inspector calmly; "and it is not
any business of yours, Ford."

"Oh, yes; it is," answered Ford.  "Because if it isn’t Samson it must be
me—unless it ’s Jakes.  You seem to think we see a good deal of company
here, Van Zyl."

"I don’t think anything at all," retorted the sub-inspector stiffly;
"and I ’ve nothing to say to you.  My business is with Miss Harding, and
you won’t help her by making a nuisance of yourself."

"Eh?"  Ford sat up suddenly.  "What’s that—won’t help her?  Are you
trying to frighten Miss Harding by suggesting that you can use any sort
of compulsion to her?  Because, if that ’s your idea, you ’d better look
out what you ’re doing."

"I ’m not responsible to you, Ford," replied Van Zyl shortly.  "You can
hold your tongue now.  Miss Harding understands well enough what I

"Oh, yes," said Margaret, as Ford looked towards her.  "I understand,
but I don’t care."

It was taking its own strange course, but she was not concerned to
deflect it or make it run more directly. She conserved her powers for
the moment when the thing would be told, and Ford’s indignant
championship arrested brusquely by the mere name of her offense.
Presently Van Zyl would cease to speak of "a person" and come out with
the plain word, "Kafir."  How he had gained his information she did not
attempt to guess; but that he had the means to break her there was no
doubting.  She would answer no questions; she was determined upon that;
but now that the hour of revelation was come, she would do nothing to
fog it.  It should pass and be done with and leave her with its
consequences clear to weigh and abide.

She made a motion of the hand that hung over the back of her chair to
Ford, as though she would hush him.  He was puzzled and looked it, but
subsided provisionally against the end of the couch again.

Van Zyl eased his shoulders in their bondage of slings and straps with a
practised shrug, crossed one booted leg over the other and faced her

"Now, Miss Harding, you see that I am not speaking by guess; and it ’s
for you to say whether you will have the rest of this here or in
private.  I ’m anxious to give you every possible consideration."

"I shan’t answer any questions," said Margaret, "and I decline any
privacy, Mr. Van Zyl."

"No?  Very well.  I must do my duty as best I can," replied the
sub-inspector, with official resignation. He referred to a back page of
his note-book perfunctorily.

"On the —th of this month, man discovered weeping and disorderly on the
platform at Zeekoe Siding, stated to Corporal Simms that he had been
robbed of five hundred pounds by confidence trick on down train.  Under
examination, varied the sum, and finally adhered to figure of
forty-three pounds odd, which he alleged was part of fifty pounds he had
received from the—person in whose company he had seen you."

"Ah!"  Margaret found herself smiling absently at the memory of Boy
Bailey making his bargain on the top of the dam wall, with his bare
unbeautiful feet fidgeting in the grass.

Sub-inspector Van Zyl surveyed her with his impersonal stare and

"He gave the name of Claude Richmond, but was afterwards identified as
one Noah Bailey, alias Boy Bailey, alias Spotted Dog, etc., wanted by
the police in connection with—a certain affair.  On being charged,
feigned to fall in a fit but came to under treatment, and made a certain
communication, which was transmitted to me as bearing upon my search for
this—person.  The communication was detailed, Miss Harding, and he stood
to it under a searching examination, and satisfied us that we were
getting the truth out of him.  Acting upon the information thus
received, I next called upon you."

He looked up.  "You see what I have to go upon?" he said.  "Since you
know yourself what took place on the afternoon about which I asked you,
you can understand that the police require your assistance.  Do you
still refuse to answer me, Miss Harding?"

"Of course," replied Margaret.

Now it would come, she thought.  Van Zyl would spare her no longer.  She
watched his smooth, tanned face with nervous trepidation.

He frowned slightly at her answer, and leaned forward with the note-book
in his hand, his forefinger between the pages to keep the place.

"You do?" he demanded, his voice rising to a sharp note.  Ford sat up
again, watchful and angry.  "You refuse, do you?  Now, look here, Miss
Harding, we ’ll have to make an end of this."

Ford struck in crisply.  "Good idea," he said.  "I suggest Miss Harding
might quit the room for that purpose, and leave you to explain to me
what the devil you mean by this."

Van Zyl turned on him quickly.  "You look out," he said.  "If I ’ve got
to arrest you to shut your mouth, I ’ll do it—and quick too."

"Why not?" demanded Ford.  "That ’ll be as good a way for you to get the
lesson you need as any other."

"_You’ll_ get a lesson," began Van Zyl, making as though to rise and put
his threat into action.

"Oh, please," cried Margaret; "none of this is necessary.  Sit down, Mr.
Ford; please sit down and listen. Mr. Van Zyl, you have only to speak
out and you will be free from further trouble, I ’m sure."

"I ’ve taken too much trouble as it is," retorted the sub-inspector.  "I
’ll have no more of it."

He glared with purpose at Ford.  Though he had not at any moment doffed
his formality of demeanor, the small scene had lit a spark in him and he
was newly formidable and forceful.  Ford met his look with the narrow
smile with which a man of his type masks a rising temper, but so far
yielded to Margaret’s urgency as to lean back upon one elbow.

"You ’ll be sorry for all this presently," Margaret said to him

"Very soon, in fact," added the sub-inspector, "if he repeats the

He settled himself again on his chair, confronting Margaret.

"Now, Miss Harding," lie resumed briskly.  "Out with it?  You admit you
were there, eh?"

"Oh, no," said Margaret.  "You ’re asking questions again, Mr. Van Zyl."

"And I ’m going to have an answer, too," he replied zestfully.  "You ’ve
got a wrong idea entirely of what ’s before you.  You can still have
this in private, if you like; but here or elsewhere, you ’ll speak or
out comes the whole thing.  Now, which is it going to be—sharp?"

"I ’ve nothing to tell you," she maintained.

His blond, neat face hardened.

"Haven’t you, though.  We’ll see?  You know a Kafir calling himself—" he
made a lightning reference to his book—"calling himself Kamis?"

She made no answer.

"You know the man, eh?  It was with him you spent the afternoon of the
—th, was n’t it?  Under the wall of the dam down yonder—yes?  You ’ve
met him more than once, and always alone?"

She kept a constraint on herself to preserve her faintly-smiling
indifference of countenance, but her face felt stiff and cold, and her
smile as though it sagged to a blatant grin.  She did not glance across
to see how Ford had received the news; that had suddenly become

"You see?"  There was a restrained triumph in Van Zyl’s voice.  "We know
more than you think, young lady—and more still.  You won’t answer
questions, won’t you?  You let a Kafir kiss you under a wall, and then
put up this kind of bluff."

There was an explosion from Ford as he leaped to his feet, with the
hectic brilliant on each cheek.

"You liar," he cried.  "You filthy Dutch liar."

Van Zyl did not even turn his head.  A hard smile parted his
squarely-cut lips as he watched Margaret. At his word, she had made a
small involuntary movement as though to put a hand on her bosom, but had
let it fall again.

"You may decide to answer that, perhaps," suggested the sub-inspector.
"Do you deny that he kissed you?"

There was a pause, while Ford stood waiting and the sound of his
breathing filled the interval.  The fingers of Margaret’s left hand bent
and unbent the flap of the envelope destined for the legal uncle, but
her mind was far from it and its contents.  "You liar," Ford had cried,
and it had had a fine sound; even now she had but to rise as though
insulted and walk from the room, and his loyalty would endure,
unspotted, unquestioning, touchy and quick.  She might have done well to
choose the line that would have made that loyalty valid, and she felt
herself full of regrets, of pain and loss, that it must find itself
betrayed.  The vehemence of the cry was testimony to the faith that gave
it utterance.

And then, for the first time in the interview, she dwelt upon the figure
that stood at the back of all this disordered trouble—that of Kamis,
remote from their agitated circle, companioning in his solitude with
griefs of his own.  He came into her mind by way of comparison with the
directness and vivid anger of Ford, standing tense and agonized for her
reply, with all his honest soul in his thin dark face.  His flimsy silk
clothes made apparent the lean youth of his body.  The other went to and
fro in the night and the silence in shabby tweeds, and his face denied
an index to the strong spirit that drove him.  He suffered behind
blubber lips and a comical nose; he was humble and grateful.  The two
had nothing in common if it were not that faith in her, to which she
must now do the peculiar justice that the situation required.

"Let ’s have it," urged the sub-inspector.  "He kissed you, this nigger
did, and you let him?  Speak up."

Boy Bailey had said, imaginatively: "She held out both her arms to
him—wide; and he took hold of her an’ hugged her, kissin’ her till I
couldn’t stand the sight any longer.  ’You shameless woman!’ I
shouted"—at that point he had been kicked by a scandalized corporal, and
had screamed.  "I wish I may die if he did n’t kiss her," was the form
that kicking finally reduced it to, but they could not kick that out of
him.  He stood for one kiss while bruises multiplied upon him.

"Well, did he kiss you or didn’t he?"

Margaret sighed.  "I will tell you that," she said wearily.  "Yes, he
did—he kissed my hand."

Sub-inspector Van Zyl sat up briskly.  "I thought we ’d get something
before we were done," he said, and smiled with a kind of malice at Ford.
"You ’d like to apologize, I expect?"

Ford did not answer him; he was staring in mere amazement at Margaret’s
immovable profile.

"Is that true?" he demanded.

Margaret forced herself to look round and meet the wonder of his face.

"Oh, quite," she answered.  "Quite true."

His eyes wavered before hers as though he were ashamed and abashed.  He
put an uncertain hand to his lips.

"I see," he said, very thoughtfully, and sat again upon the couch.

"Well, after that, what ’s the sense of keeping anything back?" Van Zyl
went on confidently.  "You see what comes of standing out against the
police?  Now, what are your arrangements for meeting this Kafir? Where
do you send to let him know he ’s to come and see you?"

"No," said Margaret.  "It ’s no use; I won’t tell you any more."

"Oh, yes, you will."  Van Zyl felt quite sure of it. He eyed her acutely
and decided to venture a shot in the dark.  "You ’ll tell me all I
ask,—d’you hear?  I have n’t done with you yet.  You ’ve seen him at
night, too, when you were supposed to be in bed.  You can’t deceive me.
I ’ve seen your kind before, plenty of them, and I know the way to deal
with them."

His shot in the dark found its mark.  So he knew of that night when Dr.
Jakes had fallen in the road. Mrs. Jakes must have told him, and her
protests had been uneasy lies.  Margaret carefully avoided looking at
her; in this hour, all were to receive mercy save herself.

Van Zyl went on, rasping at her in tones quite unlike the thickish
staccato voice which he kept for his unofficial moments.  That voice she
would never hear again; impossible for her ever to regain the status of
a person in whom the police have no concern.

"You ’ll save yourself trouble by speaking up and wasting no time about
it," he urged, with the kind of harsh good nature a policeman may use to
the offender who provides him with employment.  "You ’ve got to do it,
you know.  How do you get hold of your nigger-friend when you want him?"

She shook her head without speaking.

"Answer!" he roared suddenly, so that she started in her chair.  "What
’s the arrangement you ’ve got with him?  None of your airs with me, my
girl.  Out with it, now—what ’s the trick?"

She looked at him affrightedly; he seemed about to spring upon her from
his chair and dash at her to wring an answer out of her by force.  But
from the sofa, where Ford sat, with his head in his hands, came no sign.
Only Mrs. Jakes, frozen where she sat, uttered a vague moan.

"Wha—what ’s this?"

The door opened noiselessly and Dr. Jakes showed his face of a fallen
cherub in the opening, with sleepy eyes mildly questioning.  Margaret
saw him with quick relief; the intolerable situation must change in some
manner by his arrival.

"I heard—I heard—was it _you_ shouting, Van Zyl?" he inquired,
stammeringly, as he came in.

"Yes," replied the sub-inspector, shortly.

"Oh!"  Jakes felt uncertainly for his straggling mustache.  "Whom were
you shouting at?" he inquired, after a moment of hesitation.

"I was speaking to her," replied the other impatiently.

The doctor followed the movement of his hand and the light of his
spectacles focused on Margaret stupidly.

"Well."  He seemed baffled.  "Miss Harding, you mean, eh?"

The sub-inspector nodded.  "You ’re interrupting an inquiry, Dr. Jakes."

"Oh."  Again the doctor seemed to wrestle with thoughts.  "Am I?"

"Yes.  You ’ll excuse us, but—"

"No," said Jakes, with an appearance of grave thought.  "No; certainly
not.  You—you mustn’t shout here."

"Look here," began Van Zyl.

The doctor turned his back on him and came over to Margaret, treading
lumberingly across the worn carpet.

"Can’t allow shouting," he said.  "It means—temperature. I—I think you
’d better—yes, you ’d better go and lie down for a while, Miss Harding."

He was as vague as a cloud, a mere mist of benevolence.

As unexpectedly and almost as startlingly as Van Zyl’s sudden loudness,
Mrs. Jakes spoke from her chair.

"You must take the doctor’s advice, Miss Harding," she said.

Margaret rose, obediently, her letters in her hand. Van Zyl rose too.

"Once and for all," he said loudly, "I won’t allow any—"

"I ’ll report you, Van Zyl," said the little doctor, huskily.  "You
’re—you ’re endangering life—way you ’re behaving.  Go with Mrs. Jakes,
Miss Harding."

"_You ’ll_ report me," exclaimed Van Zyl.

"Ye-es," said Jakes, foggily.  "I—I call Mr. Ford to witness—"

He turned quaveringly towards the couch and stopped abruptly.

"What ’s this?" he cried, in stronger tones, and walked quickly toward
the bent figure of the young man.  "Van Zyl I—I hold you responsible.
You ’ve done this—with your shouting."

Margaret was in the door; she turned to see the doctor raise Ford’s head
and lift it back against the cushions. Van Zyl went striding towards
them and aided to place him on his back on the couch.  As the doctor
stood up and stepped back, she saw the thin face with the high spot of
red on each cheek and the blood that ran down the chin from the wry and
painful mouth.

"Hester," Dr. Jakes spoke briskly.  "The ergotin—and the things.  In the
study; you know."

"I know."  And Mrs. Jakes—so her name was Hester—ran pattering off.

They shut Margaret out of the room, and she sat on the bottom step of
the stairs, waiting for the news Mrs. Jakes had promised, between
breaths, to bring out to her.  Van Zyl, ordered out unceremoniously—the
doctor had had a fine peremptory moment—and allowing a certain
perturbation to be visible on the regulated equanimity of his features,
stood in the hall and gave her side glances that betrayed a disturbed

"Miss Harding," he said presently, after long thought; "I hope you don’t
think it ’s any pleasure to me to do all this?"

Margaret shook her head.  "You can do what you like," she said.  "I
shan’t complain."

"It is n’t that," he answered irritably, but she interrupted him.

"I don’t care what it is," she said.  "I don’t care; I don’t care about
anything.  Stand there, if you like, or come and sit here; but don’t
talk any more till we know what ’s happened in there."

Sub-inspector Van Zyl coughed, but after certain hesitation, he made up
his mind.  When Mrs. Jakes came forth, tiptoe and pale but whisperingly
exultant, she found them sitting side by side on the stairs in the
attitude of amity, listening in strained silence for sounds that
filtered through the door of the room.  She was pressed and eager, with
no faculty to spare for surprise.

"Splendid," she whispered.  "Everything ’s all right—thank God.  But if
it hadn’t been for the doctor, well!  I’m going to fetch the boys with
the stretcher to carry him up to his room."

"I ’m awfully glad," said Van Zyl as she hurried away.

"So am I," said Margaret.  "But I ought to have seen before the doctor
did.  I ought to have known—and I did know, really—that he would have
taken you by the throat before then, if something hadn’t happened to

She had risen, to go up the stairs to her room and now stood above him,
looking down serenely upon him.

"Me by the throat," exclaimed Van Zyl, slightly shocked.

Margaret nodded.

"As Kamis would," she said slowly.  "And choke you, and choke you, and
choke you."

She went up then without looking back, leaving him standing in the hall,
baffled and outraged.

                              *CHAPTER XV*

Not the stubbornness of a race too prone to enthusiasms, any more than
increasing years and the _memento mori_ in his chest, could withhold Mr.
Samson from the zest with which he initiated each new day. Bathed,
razored and tailored, he came out to the stoep for his early
constitutional, his hands joined behind his back, his soft hat cocked a
little forward on his head, and tasted the air with puffs and snorts of
appetite, walking to and fro with a eupeptic briskness in which only the
closest observer might have detected a delicate care not to over do it.
Nothing troubled him at this hour of the morning; it belonged to a duty
which engrossed it to the exclusion of all else, and not till it was
done was Mr. Samson accessible to the claims of time and place.

He looked straight before him as he strode; his manner of walking did
not allow him to bestow a glance upon the Karoo as he went.  Head well
up, chest open—what there was of it—and neck swelling over the purity of
his collar: that was Mr. Samson.  It was only when Mrs. Jakes came to
the breakfast-room door and set the gong booming melodiously, that he
relaxed and came back to a mild interest in the immediate earth, as
though the gong were a permission to stand at ease and dismiss.  He
halted by the steps to wipe his monocle in his white abundant
handkerchief, and surveyed, perfunctorily at first and then with a
narrowing interest, the great extent of brown and gray-green that
stretched away from the foot of the steps to a silvery and indeterminate

A single figure was visible upon it, silhouetted strongly against the
low sky, and Mr. Samson worked his monocle into his eye and grasped it
with a pliant eyebrow to see the clearer.  It was a man on a horse,
moving at a walk, minutely clear in that crystal air in spite of the
distance.  The rider was far from the road, apparently aimless and at
large upon the veld; but there was something in his attitude as he rode
that held Mr. Samson gazing, a certain erectness and ease, something
conventional, the name of which dodged evasively at the tip of his
tongue.  He knew somebody who sat on a horse exactly like that; dash it,
who was it, now?  It wasn’t that Dutchman, Du Preez, nor his long-legged
youngster; they rode like Dutchmen.  This man was more like—more
like—ah! Mr. Samson had got it.  The only folk who had that look in the
saddle were troopers; this must be a man of the Mounted Police.

A tinge of annoyance colored his thoughts, for the far view of the
trooper, slowly quartering the land, brought back to his mind a matter
of which it had been purged by the ritual morning march along the stoep,
and he found it returning again as distasteful as ever.  He had been
made a party to its details by Mrs. Jakes, when he inquired regarding
Ford’s breakdown. The communication had taken place at the foot of the
stairs, when he was preparing to ascend to bed, on the evening of Van
Zyl’s visit.  At dinner he had noted no more than that Ford was absent
and that Margaret was uneasy; he kept his question till her skirt
vanished at the bend of the stairs.

"I say; what ’s up?" he asked then.

Mrs. Jakes, standing by to give good night, as her wont was, fluttered.
She gave a little start that shook her clothes exactly like the movement
of an agitated bird in a cage, and stared up at him, rather
breathlessly, while he leaned against the balustrade and awaited her

"I don’t know what you mean."  It was a formula that always gave her
time to collect her thoughts.

"Oh, yes, you do," insisted Mr. Samson, with severe geniality.  "Ford
laid up and Miss Harding making bread pills, and all that.  What ’s the

Mrs. Jakes regarded him with an eye as hard and as wary as a fowl’s, and
then looked round to see that the study door was securely shut.

"I ’m afraid, Mr. Samson," she said, in the low tones of confidential
intercourse—"I ’m afraid we ’ve been mistaken in Miss Harding."

"Eh?  What ’s that?"

Old Mr. Samson _would_ speak as though he were addressing a numerous
company, and Mrs. Jakes’ nervousness returned at his loud exclamation.
She made hushing noises.

"Yes, but what’s all this nonsense?" demanded Mr. Samson.  "Somebody ’s
been pullin’ your leg, Mrs. Jakes."

"No, indeed, Mr. Samson," Mrs. Jakes assured him hastily, as though
urgent to clear herself of an imputation. "There is n’t any doubt about
it,—I ’m sorry to gay.  You see, Mr. Van Zyl came here this afternoon
and wanted to see Miss Harding in the study.  Well, she would n’t go to

"Why the deuce should she?" inquired Mr. Samson warmly.  "Who ’s Van Zyl
to send for people like this?"

"It was about a Kafir," said Mrs. Jakes.  "The police are looking for
the Kafir and Miss Harding refused to help them.  So—"

Mr. Samson’s lips moved soundlessly, and he changed his position with a
movement of lively impatience.

"Let ’s have it from the beginning, please, Mrs. Jakes," he said, with
restraint.  "Can’t make head or tail of it—way you ’re telling it.  Now,
why did this ass Van Zyl come here?"

It was the right way to get the tale told forthright. His indignation
and his scorn fanned the spark of spite in the core of Mrs. Jakes, who
perceived in Mr. Samson another victim to Margaret’s duplicity.  She was
galled by the constant supply of champions of the girl’s cause who had
to be laid low one after the other. She addressed herself to the
incredulity and anger in the sharp old face before her, and spoke
volubly and low, telling the whole thing as she knew it and perhaps a
little more than the whole.  As she went on, she became consumed with
eagerness to convince Mr. Samson. Her small disfigured hands moved
jerkily in incomplete gestures, and she rose on tiptoe as though to
approach nearer to the seat of his intelligence.  He did not again
interrupt her, but listened with intentness, watching her as the swift
words tumbled on one another’s heels from her trembling lips.  His
immobility and silence were agonizing to her.

"So that’s why I say that we ’ve been mistaken in Miss Harding," she
concluded at last.  "You wouldn’t have thought it of her, would you, Mr.
Samson?  And it is a shocking thing to come across here, in the house,
isn’t it?"

Mr. Samson withdrew a hand from his pocket, looked thoughtfully at three
coins in the palm of it, and returned them to the pocket again.

"You ’re quite certain," he asked, "that she admitted the kissin’?
There ’s no doubt about that?"

"If I never speak another word," declared Mrs. Jakes, with fervor.  "If
I die here where I stand.  If I never move from this spot—those were her
exact words.  It was then that poor Mr. Ford had his attack—he was so

"Well," said Mr. Samson, with a sigh, after another inspection of his
funds, "so that ’s the trouble, is it?"

"The doctor and I are much disturbed," continued Mrs. Jakes.  "Naturally
disturbed.  Such a thing has never happened here before."

Mr. Samson heaved himself upright and put one foot on the bottom stair.

"It’s only ignorance, of course," he said.  "The poor little devil don’t
know what she ’s letting herself in for.  If she ’d only taken a bad
turn after a month or so and—and gone out, Mrs. Jakes, we ’d have
remembered her pleasantly enough then.  Now, of course, she ’ll have
this story to live with.  Van Zyl ’ll put it about; trust him.  Poor
little bally fool."

"I ’m sorry for her, too, of course," replied Mrs. Jakes, putting out
her hand to shake his.  "Only of course I ’m—I ’m disgusted as well.
Any woman would be."

"Yes," said Mr. Samson thoughtfully, commencing the ascent; "yes, she
’ll be sure to get lots of that, now."

It was a vexation that abode with him that night and through the next
day; it kept him from the sincere repose which is the right of
straightforward and uncompromising minds, whose cleanly-finished effects
have no loose ends of afterthought dangling from them to goad a man into
revising his conclusions.  Lying in the dark, wide awake and regretful,
he had a vision of her in her room, welcoming its solitude and its
freedom from reproachful eyes, glad now not of fellows and their
companionship but of this refuge.  It gave him vague pain.  He
experienced a sense of resentment against the arrangement and complexity
of affairs that had laid open this gulf at Margaret’s feet, and made its
edges slippery to trap her.  A touch of a more personal anger entered
his thoughts as he dwelt on the figure of the girl, the fine, dexterous,
civilized creature that she had been.  She had known how to hold him
with a pleasant humor, a light and stimulating irreverence, and to
soften it to the point at which she bade him close his eyes and kissed
him.  But—and Mr. Samson flushed to the heat at which men swear—the
Kafir, the roaming criminal nigger, had had that much out of her.  Mrs.
Jakes had not been faithful to detail on that head.  "Kiss," she had
said, not "kissed her hand."  Mr. Samson might have seen a difference
where Van Zyl, lacking his pretty discrimination of degrees in the
administration and reception of kisses, had seen none.

The morning had brought no counsel; the day had delivered itself of
nothing that enlightened or consoled him.  Margaret had managed somehow,
after a manner of her own, to withdraw herself from his immediate
outlook, and there were neither collisions nor explanations.  It was not
so much that she preserved a distance as avoided contact, so that meals
and meetings in the drawing-room or about the house suffered from no
evidences of a change in their regard for each other.  The adroitness
with which it was contrived moved him to new regrets; she might, he
thought, have done so well for herself, whereas now she was wasted.

This was the second morning since he had invaded Mrs. Jakes’ confidences
at the foot of the stairs and extracted her story from her.  The gong at
the breakfast-room door made soft blurred music at his back while he
stood watching the remote figure of the trooper, sliding slowly across
the skyline.  It finished with a last note of added emphasis, a frank
whack at the middle of the instrument, and he turned deliberately from
his staring to obey it.

Mrs. Jakes, engine-driving the urn, was alone in the room when he
entered, and gave him good morning with the smile which she had not
varied for years.

"A beautiful day, is n’t it?" she said.

"Oh, perfect," agreed Mr. Samson, receiving a cup of coffee from her.
"I say.  You haven’t seen any signs of Van Zyl to-day, have you?"

"To-day?  No," replied Mrs. Jakes, surprised. "Were you expecting—did he

Mr. Samson shook his head.  "No; I don’t know anything about him," he
told her.  "It ’s just that matter of Miss Harding, you know.  From the
stoep, just now, I was watching a mounted man riding slowly about on the
veld, and it looks as if they were arranging a search.  Eh?"

"Oh, dear," exclaimed Mrs. Jakes, "I do hope they won’t come here again.
I ’ve never had any trouble with the police before.  And Mr. Van Zyl,
generally so gentlemanly—when I saw how he treated Miss Harding, I was
really sorry for her."

Mr. Samson sniffed.  "Man must be a cad," he said. "Anyhow, I don’t see
what right he ’s got to put his foot inside these doors.  It was simply
a bluff, I fancy. Next time he comes, I hope you ’ll let me know, Mrs.
Jakes.  Can’t have him treatin’ that poor little fool like that, don’t
y’ know."

"But they ’ve got a _right_ to search, surely?" protested Mrs. Jakes.
"And it never does to have the police against you, Mr. Samson.  I had a
cousin once—at least, he wasn’t exactly a cousin—but he took a
policeman’s number for refusing to arrest a man who had been rude to
him, and the policeman at once took him in custody and swore the most
dreadful oaths before the magistrate that he was drunk and disorderly.
And my cousin—I always used to call him a cousin—was next door to a

"Perhaps the teetotaller bribed the policeman," suggested Mr. Samson,
seriously.  "Still—what about Miss Harding?  She has n’t said anything
to you about goin’ back home, has she?"

"No," said Mrs. Jakes.  She let the teetotaller pass for the time being
as the new topic opened before her.  "But I wanted to speak to you about
that, Mr. Samson."

"Best thing she can do," he said positively. "There ’s a lot of people
at Home who don’t mind niggers a bit.  Probably would n’t hurt her for a
month and her doctors can spot some other continent for her to do a cure

"Now I ’m very glad to hear you say so, Mr. Samson," declared Mrs.
Jakes.  "You see, what to do with her is a good deal on our minds—the
doctor’s and mine.  My view is—she ought to go before the story gets

"Quite right," agreed Mr. Samson.

"But Eustace—he ’s so considerate, you know.  He thinks of her feelings.
He ’s dreadfully afraid that she ’ll fancy we ’re turning her out and be
hurt.  He really doesn’t quite see the real state of affairs; he has an
idea it ’ll all blow over and be forgotten."

Mr. Samson shook his head.  "Not out here," he said.  "That sort of
story don’t die; it lives and grows. Might get into the papers, even."

"Well, now," Mrs. Jakes’ voice was soft and persuasive; "do you mind my
telling the doctor how you look at it?  He doesn’t pay any attention to
what I say, but coming from you, it ’s bound to strike him. It would be
better than you talking to him about it, because he would n’t care to
discuss one of his patients with another; but if I were just to mention,
as an argument, you know—"

"Oh, certainly," acquiesced Mr. Samson, "certainly. Those are my views;
anybody can know ’em.  Tell Jakes by all means."

"Thank you," said Mrs. Jakes, with feeling.  "It does relieve me to know
that you agree with me.  And it is such a responsibility."

Margaret’s entrance shortly afterwards brought their conference to a
close, and Mr. Samson was able to return to his food with undivided

Margaret’s demeanor since the exposure was a phenomenon Mrs. Jakes did
not profess to understand. The tall girl came into the room with a high
serenity that stultified in advance the wan little woman’s efforts to
meet her with a remote dignity; it suggested that Mrs. Jakes and her
opinions were things already so remote from her interest that they could
not recede further without becoming invisible.  What she lacked, in Mrs.
Jakes’ view, was visible scars, tokens of punishment and suffering; she
could conceive no other attitude in a person who stood so much in need
of the mercy of her fellows.  To a humility commensurate with her
disapproval, she would have offered a forbearance barbed with
condescension, peppered balm of her own brand, the distillation of her
narrow and purposeful soul.  As it was, she not only resented the girl’s
manner—she cowered.

"Good morning," said Margaret, smiling with intention.

"Good morning, Miss—ah—Miss Harding," was the best Mrs. Jakes could do.

"Morning," responded Mr. Samson, lifting his white head jerkily, hoping
to convey preoccupation and casual absence of mind.  "Morning, Miss
Harding.  Jolly day, what?"

"Oh, no end jolly," agreed Margaret, dropping into her place.  "Yes,
coffee, please, Mrs. Jakes."

"Certainly, Miss Harding," replied Mrs. Jakes, who had made offer of
none, and fumbled inexpertly with the ingenious urn whose chauffeur and
minister she was.

"How is Mr. Ford?" inquired Margaret next.

"Oh, yes," chimed in Mr. Samson, anxious to prevent too short a reply;
"how ’s he this morning, Mrs. Jakes.  Nicely, thank you, and all

Mrs. Jakes was swift to seize the opportunity to reply in Mr. Samson’s
direction exclusively.

"He ’s not to get up to-day," she explained.  "But he ’s doing very
well, thank you.  When I asked him what he ’d like for breakfast, he
said: ’Oh, everything there is, please.’  But, of course, he ’s had a

"Er—yes," said Mr. Samson hurriedly.  "I ’ll look him up before lunch,
if I may."

"Certainly," said Mrs. Jakes graciously.

"Good idea," said Margaret.  "So will I."

Mrs. Jakes shot a pale and desperate glance at her and then looked for
support to Mr. Samson.  But that leaning tower of strength was eating
devotedly and would not meet her eye.

She envisaged with inward consternation a future punctuated by such
meals, with every meal partaking of the nature of a hostile encounter
and every encounter closing with a defeat.  Her respectability, her sad
virtue, her record clean of stain, did not command heavy enough metal to
breach the gleaming panoply of assurance with which Margaret opposed all
her attacks, and she felt the grievance common to those who are
ineffectually in the right.  The one bright spot in the affair was the
possibility that she might now bend Jakes to her purpose, and be deputed
to give the girl notice that she must leave the Sanatorium.  She felt
she could quote Mr. Samson with great effect to the doctor.

"Mr. Samson feels strongly that she should leave at once.  He said so in
the plainest words," she would report, and Jakes would be obliged to
take account of it.  Hitherto, her hints, her suggestions and even her
supplications, had failed to move him.  He had a way, at times, of
producing from his humble and misty mildness a formidable obstinacy
which brooked no opposition.  With bent head, he would look up at her
out of the corners of his eyes, while she added plausibility to
volubility, unmoving and immovable.  When she had done, for he always
heard her ominously to an end, he would shake his head slightly and emit
a negative.  It was rather impressive; there was so little show of force
about it; but Mrs. Jakes had long known that it betokened a barrier of
refusal that it was useless to hope to surmount.  If he were pressed
further, he would rouse a little and amplify his meaning with phrases of
a deplorable vulgarity and force.  In his medical student days, the
doctor had been counted a capable hand at the ruder kinds of out-patient

The last time she had pressed him to decree Margaret’s departure was in
the study, where he sat with his coat off and his shirt-sleeves turned
up, as though he contemplated an evening of strenuousness; the bottles
and glasses were grouped on the desk at his elbow.  Mrs. Jakes had
represented vivaciously her sufferings in having to meet Miss Harding
and contain the emotions that effervesced in her bosom.  She sat in the
patient’s chair, and carefully guided her eyes away from the drinking
apparatus.  The doctor had uttered his "No" as usual, and she tried,
against her better sense, to reason with him.

"There ’s me to think of, too," she urged anxiously. "The way she walks
past me, Eustace, you ’d think I ’d never had a silk lining in my life."

"No," said the doctor again, with a little genteel cough behind three
fingers.  "No, we can’t.  ’T would n’t do, Hester.  Bringing her out o’
bed in her night-gown that night—it was doing her dirt.  Yes, I know all
about the nigger, and dam lucky it was for me she ’d got him handy.  I
might have been there yet for all you did.  And as for silk linings,
don’t you get your shirt out, Hester.  She ’s all right."

He put out a hand to the whisky bottle, looking at her impatiently with
red-rimmed eyes, and she had risen with a sigh, knowing it was time for
her to go. She fired one parting shot of sincere feeling.

"Well, I suppose I ’ve got to suffer in silence, if you say so,
Eustace," she observed resignedly.  "But it ’s as bad as if we kept a

But as the mouthpiece of Mr. Samson, she would be better equipped.  It
could be made to appear to Jakes that remonstrances were in the air and
that there was a danger of losing Samson and Ford, and he would have to
give ground.  Mrs. Jakes thought well of the prospects of her enterprise
now.  She would have been alarmed and astonished if any responsible
person had called her spiteful and unscrupulous, for she knew she was
neither of these things.  She was merely creeping under obstacles that
she could not climb over, going to work with such means as came to her
hand to secure an entirely worthy end.  She knew her own mind, in short,
and if it had wavered in its purpose, she would have known it no longer.

Margaret, all unconscious of the ingenuity that spent itself upon her,
ate a leisurely breakfast, giving Mr. Samson ample time to escape to the
stoep alone and establish himself there.  She didn’t at all mind being
left alone with Mrs. Jakes.  That lady’s stiffness and the facial
expressions which she tried on, one after the other, in an endeavor to
make her countenance match her mind, could be made ineffective by the
simple process of ignoring them and her together.  By dint of preserving
a seeming of contented tranquillity and speaking not one word, it was
possible to abash poor Mrs. Jakes utterly and leave her writhing in
impotence behind her full-bodied urn.  This was the method that
commended itself to Margaret and which she employed successfully.
Everybody should have a cut at her, she had decided; she would not baulk
one of them of the privilege; but Mrs. Jakes had had her turn, and could
not be permitted to cut and come again.

There were several remarks that Mrs. Jakes might have made with effect,
but none of them occurred to her till Margaret had left the room,
departing with an infuriating rustle of silk linings.  Mrs. Jakes moved
in her chair to see her cross the hall and go out.  A look of
calculation overspread her sour little face.

"I didn’t notice the silk in _that_ one," she murmured thoughtfully.

Mr. Samson, with a comparatively recent weekly edition of the _Cape
Times_ to occupy him did not notice her rubber-soled approach till her
shadow fell on the page he was reading.  He looked up sharply.

"Ah, Miss Harding," he said weakly.

She leaned with her back against the rail, looking down at him in his
basket chair, half-smiling.

"You want to speak to me, don’t you?" she asked.

Mr. Samson did not understand.  "Do I?" he said. "Did I say so?  I
wonder what it was."

"You didn’t say so," Margaret answered, "But I know you do.  You
wouldn’t send me finally to Coventry without saying anything at all,
would you?"

"Ah!"  He made a weary gesture with one hand, as though he would put the
subject from him. "But—but I ’m not sending you to Coventry, my—Miss
Harding, I mean.  Don’t think it, for a moment."

He shook his white head with a touch of sadness, looking up at her
slender, civilized figure as she stood before him with a gaze that
granted in advance every claim she could make on his consideration and

"You know what I mean," said Margaret steadily.

"Do I though?  Well, yes, I suppose I do," he said.  "No use fumbling
with it, is there?  And you’re not the fumbling kind.  Each of us knows
what the other means all right, so what’s the use of talking about it?"

Margaret would not let him off; she did not desire that he should spare
her and could see no reason for sparing him.

"I want to talk about it, this once," she answered. "You won’t have many
more chances to tell me what you think of me.  I know, of course; but I
was n’t going to shirk it.  I ’ve disappointed you, have n’t I?"

"I don’t say so," he replied, with careful gentleness. "I don’t say
anything of the kind, Miss Harding. You took your own line as you ’d
every right to do.  If I had—sort of—imagined you were different, you
’re not to blame for my mistake.  God knows I don’t set up for an
example to young ladies.  Not my line at all, that sort of thing."

"Nothing to say, then?" queried Margaret.  He shook his head again.
"You know," she added, "I ’m not a bit ashamed—not of anything."

"Of course you ’re not," he agreed readily.  "You did what you thought
was right."

"But you don’t think so?" she persisted.

"Miss Harding," replied Mr. Samson; "so far as I can manage it, I don’t
think about the matter at all."

Margaret had a queer impulse to reply to this by bursting into tears or
laughter, whichever should offer itself, but at that moment Mrs. Jakes
came out, and restrained a too obvious surprise at the sight of the pair
of them in conversation.  Circumstances were forever lying in ambush
against Mrs. Jakes and deepening the mystery of life by their unexpected
poppings up.

She addressed Mr. Samson and pointedly ignored Margaret.

"Mr. Ford could see you now, if you cared to go up," she announced.

"Certainly, certainly," said Mr. Samson, with alacrity.

Margaret spoke, smiling openly at Mrs. Jakes’ irreconcilable side-face.

"Oh, would you mind if I went first?" she asked. "I rather want to see

"By all means," agreed Mr. Samson, with the same alacrity.  "I ’m not
perishin’ to inspect him, you know.  Tell him I ’ll look him up

Mrs. Jakes turned a fine bright red, and swallowed two or three times.
She had matured a plan for declaring that Ford must not be disturbed
again after Mr. Samson’s visit, and she was fairly sure that Margaret
had suspected it.  She watched the girl’s departure with angry and
baffled eyes.

"She ’s doing it on purpose," was her thought. "She swings them like
that so as to make me hear the frow-frow."

Ford was propped against pillows in his bed, with most of the books in
the house piled alongside of him on chairs and a bedside table.  He was
expecting Mr. Samson and sang out a hearty, "Come in; don’t stand
drumming there," at Margaret’s rap on the door.

"It’s me," announced Margaret, pushing it open; "not Mr. Samson.  He ’ll
look you up afterwards.  Do you mind?"

He flushed warmly, staring at her unexpected appearance.

"Of course I don’t mind," he said.  "It ’s awfully good of you.  If you
’d shove these books off on the floor, I could offer you a chair."

Margaret did as he suggested, but rose again at once and set the door
wide open.

"The proprieties," she remarked, as she returned to her seat.  "Also
Mrs. Jakes.  That keyhole might tempt her beyond her strength."

The room was a large one, with a window to the south full of sunshine
and commanding nothing but the eternal unchanging levels of the Karoo
and the hard sky rising from its edge.  Its walls were rainbow-hued with
unframed canvasses clustering upon them, exemplifying Ford’s art and
challenging the view through the window.  She liked vaguely the
spareness of the chamber’s equipment and its suggestions of
uncompromising masculinity.  The row of boots and shoes, with trees
distributed among the chief of them, the leather trunks against the
wall, the photographs about the dressing table, and the iron bath
propped on end under the window,—these trifles seemed all to corroborate
the impression she had of their owner.  They were so consistent with the
Ford she knew, units in the sum of him.

"Well," she said, looking at him frankly; "are we going to talk or just
exchange civilities?"

"We won’t do that," he answered, meeting her look. "Civilities be
blowed, anyhow."

"But I ’d like to ask you how you feel, first of all," said Margaret.

"Oh, first-rate.  I ’d get up if it wasn’t for Jakes," he assured her
eagerly.  "And I say," he added, with a quick touch of awkwardness, "I
hope, really, you haven’t been bothering about me, and thinking it was
that affair in the drawing-room that made the trouble. Because it
wasn’t, you know.  I ’d felt something of the kind coming on before
lunch.  Jakes says that running up stairs may have done it—thing I ’m
always forgetting I mustn’t do.  A chap can’t always be thinking of his
in’ards, can he?"

"No," agreed Margaret.

She recognized a certain tone of politeness, of civil constraint, in his
manner of speaking.  He was doing his best to be trivial and ordinary,
but she could not be deceived.

"It was rotten, though," he went on quickly.  "That brute Van Zyl—look
here!  I ’m most fearfully sorry I wasn’t able to put a stop to his
talk, Miss Harding. It makes me sick to think of you being badgered by
that fellow."

"It didn’t hurt me," said Margaret thoughtfully. "All that is nothing.
But are n’t we being rather civil, after all?"

He made a slight grimace.  He looked very frail against the pillows,
with his nervous, sun-tanned hands fidgeting on the coverlet.  One
button of his pyjamas was loose at the throat, and let his lean neck be
seen, with the tan stopping short where the collar came and giving place
to white skin below.

"Oh, well," he said, in feeble protest.  "Why bother?"

"I thought you ’d want to," replied Margaret.  "I don’t expect you to—to
approve, but I did rely on your bothering about it all a little.  But if
you ’d rather not, that ends the matter."

"I didn’t mean it like that," he said.

"Tell me," demanded Margaret; "don’t you think I owe you an

He considered her gravely for some seconds.

"Yes," he answered finally.  "I think you ought to tell me about it."

"I ’m willing to," she said earnestly.  "Oh, I wanted to often and often
before.  But I had to be careful.  This Kafir is in danger of arrest by
Mr. Van Zyl, and though he could easily clear himself before a court,
you know what it means for a native to be arrested by him.  He ’takes
the kick out of them.’  So I was n’t really free to speak."

"Perhaps you weren’t," granted Ford.  "But you were free to keep away
from him, and from niggers in general—were n’t you?"

"Quite," agreed Margaret.  "It is n’t niggers in general, though—it ’s
just this one."

She leaned forward, with both elbows on the edge of the bed and her
fingers intertwined.  She felt that the color had mounted in her face,
but she was sedulous to keep her eyes on his.

"He ’s a nigger—yes," she said; "black as your hat, and all that.  But
there ’s a difference.  This—nigger—I hate that word—was taken away when
he was six years old and brought up in England.  He was properly
educated and he ’s a doctor, a real doctor with diplomas and degrees,
and he ’s come out here to try and help his own people.  As yet, he
can’t even speak Kafir, and he ’s had a fearful time ever since he
landed. Talking to him is just like talking to any one else. He ’s read
books and knows a bit about art, and all that; and he ’s ever so humble
and grateful for just a few words of talk.  He ’s out there in the veld,
all day and all night, lonely and hunted.  Of course I spoke to him and
was as friendly as I could be.  Don’t you see, Mr. Ford?  Don’t you

He nodded impartially.

"Yes, I see," he answered.  "Well?"

"Well, that’s all," said Margaret.  "Oh, yes—you mean the—the kiss?
That was absolutely nothing.  I used to make him talk and he ’d been
telling me about how hard it was to make a start with his work, and how
grateful he was to me for listening to him, and I said there was no need
to be so grateful, and that it was a noble thing he had undertaken and
that—yes—that I ’d always be proud I ’d been a friend of his. I held out
my hand as I was saying this, and instead of shaking it, he kissed it."

"That was what the blackmailer saw, was it?" asked Ford.  Margaret
nodded.  "By the way, who paid him?"

"_He_ did," Margaret answered.  "I wouldn’t have paid a penny.  He
insisted on paying."

She was watching him anxiously.  He was frowning in deep thought.  She
felt her heart beat more rapidly as he remained for a time without

"It was worth paying for, if the fellow had kept faith," he said at
last.  "The whole thing ’s in that—you don’t know what such a secret is
worth.  It ’s the one thing that binds people together out here, Dutch
and English, colonials and Transvaalers and all the rest—the color line.
But you didn’t know."

"Oh, yes," Margaret made haste to correct him.  "I did know.  But I
didn’t care and I don’t care now. I ’m not going to take that kind of
thing into account at all.  I won’t be bullied by any amount of

"It isn’t prejudice," said Ford wearily.  "Still—we can’t go into all
that.  I ’m glad you explained to me, though."

"You ’re wondering still about something," Margaret said.  She could
read the doubt and hesitation that he strove to hide from her.  "Do let
’s have the whole thing out.  What is it?"

He had half-closed his eyes but now he opened them and surveyed her

"You ’ve told me how reasonable the whole thing was," he said, in
deliberate tones.  "It was reasonable. That part of it ’s as right as it
can be.  I understand the picturesqueness of it all and the sadness; it
is a sad business.  I could understand your connection with it, too, in
spite of the man’s hiding from the police, if only he wasn’t a nigger.
Beg pardon—a negro."

Margaret was following his words intently.

"What has that got to do with it?" she asked.

"You don’t see it?" inquired Ford.  "Didn’t you find it rather awful,
being alone with him?  Didn’t it make you creepy when he touched your

He was curious about it, apart from her share in the matter.  He was
interested in the impersonal aspect of the question as well.

"I didn’t like his face, at first," admitted Margaret.

"And afterwards?"

"Afterwards I didn’t mind it," she replied.  "I ’d got used to it, you

He nodded.  Upon her answer he had dropped his eyes and was no longer
looking at her.

"Well, that ’s all," he said.  "Don’t trouble about it any more.  You
’ve explained and—if you care to know—I ’m quite satisfied."

Margaret sat slowly upright.

"No, you ’re not," she answered.  "That isn’t true; you ’re not
satisfied.  You ’re disappointed that I did n’t shrink from him and feel
nervous of him.  You are—you are!  I ’m not as good as you thought I
was, and you’re disappointed.  Why don’t you say so?  What’s the use of
pretending like this?"

Ford wriggled between the sheets irritably.

"You ’re making a row," he said.  "They ’ll hear you downstairs."

Margaret had risen and was standing by her chair.

"I don’t care," she said, lowering her voice at the same time.  "But why
are n’t you honest with me? You say you ’re satisfied and all the time
you ’re thinking: ’A nigger is as good as a white man to her.’"

"I ’m not," protested Ford vigorously.

"I _did n’t_ shrink," said Margaret.  "My flesh didn’t crawl once.  When
I shake his hand, it feels just the same as yours.  That disgusts you—I
know.  There ’s something wanting in me that you thought was there. Mrs.
Jakes has got it; her flesh can crawl like a caterpillar; but I have
n’t.  You did n’t know that when you asked me not to go away, did you?"

"Sit down," begged Ford.  "Sit down and let me ask you again."

"No," said Margaret.  "You shan’t overlook things like that.  I ’m
going—going away from here as soon as I can.  I ’m not ashamed and I
won’t be indulged."

She walked towards the door.  There was a need to get away before the
tears that made her eyes smart should overflow and expose themselves.

"Come back," cried Ford.  "I say—give a fellow a chance.  Come back.  I
want to say something."

She would not answer him without facing him, even though it revealed the

"I ’m not coming," she replied, and went out.

She had fulfilled her purpose; they had all had their cut at her, save
Dr. Jakes, who would not take his turn, and Mrs. Jakes, to whom that
privilege was not due. Only one of them had swung the whip effectually
and left a wheal whose smart endured.

Mrs. Jakes did not count on being left out of the festival.  Her rod was
in pickle.  She was on hand when the girl came out of her room, serene
again and ready to meet any number of Mrs. Jakeses.

"Oh, Miss Harding."

Mrs. Jakes arrested her, glancing about to see that the corridor was

"The doctor wishes me to tell you," said Mrs. Jakes, aiming her words at
the girl’s high tranquillity, "that he considers you had better make
arrangements to remove to some other establishment.  You understand, of

"Of course," agreed Margaret.

"A month’s notice, then," said Mrs. Jakes smoothly. "That is usual.  But
if it should be convenient for you to go before, the doctor will be
happy to meet you."

"Very good of the doctor," smiled Margaret, and walked on, her skirts

                             *CHAPTER XVI*

Voices below the window of her room that alternated briskly and yet
guardedly, drew Margaret to look out.  On the stoep beneath her, Fat
Mary was exchanging badinage of the most elementary character with a
dusty trooper of the Mounted Police, who stood on the ground under the
railing with his bridle looped over his arm and his horse awaiting his
pleasure at his elbow.  Seen from above, the main feature of Fat Mary
was her red-and-yellow headkerchief tied tightly over her large and
globular skull, presenting the appearance of a strikingly-colored bubble
at the summit of her person.

"You savvy tickle?" the trooper was saying.  "By’-mby I come up there
and tickle you.  You like that plenty."

Fat Mary giggled richly.  "You lie," she returned, with immense

"Tickle do you good," rejoined the trooper.

He was a tall lathy man, with the face of a tired Punchinello, all nose
and chin with a thin fastidious mouth hidden between.  His eyes wandered
restlessly while he talked as though in search of better matter for his
interest; and he chaffed the stout Kafir woman with a mechanical ease
suggesting that this was a trick he had practised till it performed
itself.  The tight-fitting blue uniform, in spite of the dust that was
thick upon it, and all his accoutrement of a horseman, lent a dandified
touch to his negligent attitude; and he looked like—what he probably
was—one of those gentlemen of sporting proclivities in whom the process
of decay is arrested by the preservative discipline and toil of service
in a Colonial force.

Margaret, examining him unseen from above, with hatpins in her hands,
found his miserable and well-bred face at once repellent and distantly
terrible; he seemed to typify so completely what she had learned to fear
in the police, a humanity at once weak and implacable. His spurs, his
revolver, his authority were means of inflicting pain given into feeble
hands to supply the place of power.  Within a few days she had come to
know the dread which the street-hawker in the gutter feels for the
policeman on the pavement who can destroy him when he chooses.  It did
not call for much imagination to see how dreadful the bored perfunctory
man below might become when once he had fastened on his quarry and had
it to himself to exercise upon it the arts of which the revolver and the
rest were the appliances.

His presence under her window was a sign that the search for Kamis’
hiding-place was still going forward. At any hour of the day now the
inmates of the Sanatorium might lift up their eyes to see the unusual
phenomenon of a human being sharing with them the solitude and the
silence.  Van Zyl had high hopes of laying his hands on the mysterious
Kafir who had committed the crime of being incomprehensible to nervous
kraals, whose occupants had a way of shaking off wonder and alarm by
taking exercise with their weapons among the cattle of their neighbors.
The Sanatorium, under his orders, was being watched for any indications
of messages passing between Margaret and the Kafir, and the dusty, armed
men came and went continually, a succession of drilled shoulders,
tanned, unconcerned faces, and expressionless eyes puckered against the
sun’s stare.

Their chief effect was to keep Margaret in a state of anxious fear lest
their search should be successful, and she should be a witness of their
return, riding past at the walk with a handcuffed figure trudging
helplessly before them.  She saw in painful dreams the dust that rose
about them cloudily and the prisoner’s bowed back as he labored to
maintain the pace.  The worst of the dreams followed their progress to a
moment when the man on foot flagged, or perhaps fell, and one of the
riders pressed forward with a foot disengaged from its stirrup and the
spur lifted to rowel him to livelier efforts.  Such was the fruit of Van
Zyl’s pregnant word when he spoke of prisoners who had had "the kick
taken out of them."

She had had no opportunity of seeing Paul, to send through him a warning
message to Kamis, since her interview with Van Zyl; but on this day she
had glimpsed him from the stoep, as he moved about among the farm
buildings, and she lost no time in preparing to go to him.  She was
putting on her hat as she watched the trooper and Fat Mary.

The couple of them were still at work upon their flirtation when she
came out of the Sanatorium and descended the steps.  The man’s wandering
eyes settled on her at once with grateful interest, and followed her as
she went across to the path at a pace suited to the ardor of the sun.
His Punchinello features brightened almost hopefully.

Fat Mary, observing the direction of his gaze, giggled afresh and gave
information in a whisper.

"What—her?  That lady there?"

Fat Mary nodded corroboratively.  The trooper swore softly in mere

"You’re sure that’s her?" he demanded.  "Well, I ’m—"

He stared at Margaret’s receding back with a frown of perplexity, then
drew the reins over his horse’s head and prepared to mount.

"You go now?" asked Fat Mary, disappointed at the effect of her news.

"You bet," was the answer, as he swung up into the saddle and moved his
horse on.

Margaret turned as the sound of hoofs padding on the dust approached
from behind and was met by a salute and bold avaricious eyes above the
drooping beak.  He reined up beside her, looking down from the height of
his saddle at her.

"Miss Harding, isn’t it?" he said.  "May I ask where you ’re goin’?"

There was jocular invitation in his manner of saying it, the gallantry
of a man who despises women.

"I ’m going to the farm, there," Margaret answered. The unexpected
encounter had made her nervous, and she found herself ill at ease under
his regard. "Why?"

"Because I ’ll ask you for the pleasure of accompanyin’ you so far, if
you don’t mind," he returned. "I want a look at the happy man you ’re
goin’ to see. Hope you don’t object?"

"I can’t stop you," replied Margaret.  "You will do as you please, of

She turned and walked on, careful not to hurry her steps.  The trooper
rode at her side, and though she did not look up, she felt his eyes
resting on her profile as they went.

"Bit slow, livin’ out here, Miss Harding," he remarked, after they had
gone for a minute or so in silence. "Not what you ’ve been use to, I
imagine.  Found yourself rather short of men, didn’t you?"

"No," replied Margaret thoughtfully; "no."

"Oh, come now."  The mounted man laughed thinly, failing utterly to get
his tolerant and good-natured effect.  "If you ’d had a supply of decent
chaps to do the right thing by a girl as pretty as you—admire you, an’
flirt, and all that, I mean—you wouldn’t have fallen back on this nigger
we ’re lookin’ for, would you, now?"

This was what it meant, then, to have one’s name linked with that of a
Kafir.  She was anybody’s game; not the lowest need look upon her as
inaccessible.  She had to put a restraint upon herself to keep from
quickening her pace, from breaking into a run and fleeing desperately
from the man whose gaze never left her. Its persistence, though she was
aware of it without seeing it, was an oppression; she imagined she could
detect the taint of his breath blowing hot upon her as she walked.

He saw the flush that rose in her cheek, and laughed again.

"You needn’t answer," he said.  "I can see for myself I ’m right.  Lord,
whenever was I wrong when it came to spottin’ a girl’s feelings?  Say,
Miss Harding—did n’t I hit it first shot?  Of course I did. Of course I
did," he repeated two or three times, congratulating himself.  "Trust

"I say," he began again presently.  "This little meetin’—I hope it ’s
not goin’ to be the last.  I expect you ’ve learnt by now that niggers
have their drawbacks, and it is n’t a safe game for you to play.  People
simply won’t stand it, you know.  Now, what you want is a friend who ’ll
stand by you and show you how to make the row blow over.  With savvy and
a touch of tact, it can be done.  Now, Miss Harding—I don’t know your
Christian name, but I fancy we could understand each other if you ’d
only look up and smile."

The farm was not far now.  Paul had seen them coming and was standing at
gaze to watch them approach, with that appearance of absorbed interest
which almost anything could bring out.  Soon he must see, he could not
fail to see, that she was in distress and needing aid, and then he would
come forward to meet them.

"No?" the trooper inquired, cajolingly.  "Come now—one smile.  No?  No?"

He waited for an answer.

"I wouldn’t try the haughty style," he said then. "Lord, no.  You
wouldn’t find it pay.  After the nigger business, haughtiness is off.
What I ’m offering you is more than most chaps would offer; it isn’t
everybody ’ll put on a nigger’s boots, not by a long sight. Now, we
don’t want to be nasty about it, do we?  One smile, or just a word to
say we understand each other, and it ’ll be all right."

It was insupportable, but now Paul was coming towards them, shyly and
not very fast.

"Who ’s this kid?" demanded the trooper.  "Quick, now, before he ’s
here.  Look up, or he ’ll smell a rat."

Margaret raised her eyes to his slowly, cold fear and disgust mingling
in her mind.  He met her with a smile in which relief was the salient

"When Mr. Van Zyl hears how you have insulted me," she began trembling.

"Eh?"  He stared at her suspiciously.  "Van Zyl?"  He seemed suddenly
enlightened.  "I say, I could n’t tell you ’d—you ’d made your
arrangements.  Could I, now?  I would n’t have dreamed—look here, Miss
Harding; I ’m awfully sorry.  Couldn’t we agree to forget all this?  You
can’t blame a chap for trying his luck."

She did not entirely understand; she merely knew that what he said must
be monstrous.  No clean thing could issue from that hungry, fastidious
mouth.  She walked on, leaving him halted and staring after her,
perturbed and apprehensive.  His patient horse stood motionless with
stretched neck; he sat in the saddle erect as to the body, with the easy
secure seat which drill had made natural to him, but with the
Punchinello face drooped forward, watching her as she went.  He saw her
meet Paul, saw the pair of them glance towards him and then turn their
backs and walk down to the farm together. Pain, defeat and patience
expressed themselves in his countenance, as in that of an ignoble
Prometheus. Presently he pulled up the docile horse’s head with a jerk
of the bridoon.

"My luck," he said aloud, and swung his horse about.

Paul had not time to question Margaret as to her trouble, for she spoke
before he could frame his slow words.

"Paul," she cried, "I want to speak to you.  But—oh, can I sit down
somewhere?  I feel—I feel—I must sit down."

She looked over her shoulder nervously, and Paul’s glance followed.

"Is it him?" he inquired.  "Sit here.  I ’ll go to him."

"No," she said vehemently.  "Don’t.  You mustn’t. Let ’s go to your
house.  I want to sit down indoors."

Her senses were jangled; she felt a need of relief from the empty
immensity of sun and earth that surrounded her.

"Come on," said Paul.  "We ’ll go in."

He did not offer her his arm; it was a trick he had yet to learn.  He
walked at her side between the kraals, and brought her to the little
parlor which housed and was glorified by Mrs. du Preez’s six rosewood
chairs, upholstered in velvet, sofa to match, rosewood center-table and
the other furniture of the shrine.  He looked at her helplessly as she
sank to a seat on the "sofa to match."

"You want some water," he said, with an inspiration, and vanished.

Margaret had time somewhat to recover herself before he returned with
his mother and the water.

Mrs. du Preez needed no explanations.

"Now you ’ll have a bit of respect for our sun, Miss Harding," she said,
after a single, narrow-eyed look at the girl.  "Hand that water here,
Paul; you didn’t bring it for show, did you?  Well, then.  And just you
let me take off this hat, Miss Harding.  Bond Street, I ’ll bet a pound.
They don’t build for this sun in Bond Street.  Now jus’ let me wet this
handkerchief and lay it on your forehead.  Now, ain’t that better?"

She turned her head to drive a fierce whisper at Paul.

"Get out o’ this.  Come in by an’ by."

"Thanks awfully."  Margaret shivered as the dripping handkerchief
pressed upon her brow let loose drops that gravitated to her neck and
zigzagged under the collar of her blouse.  "I ’m feeling much better
now.  I ’d rather sit up, really."

"So long as you haven’t got that tight feeling," conceded Mrs. du Preez.

She stood off, watching the girl in a manner that expressed something
striving within her mind.

"All right now?" she asked, when Margaret had got rid of the wet

"Quite," Margaret assured her.  "Thanks ever so much."

Mrs. du Preez arranged the glass and jug neatly upon the iron tray on
which they had made their appearance.

"Miss Harding," she said suddenly.  "I know."

"Oh?  What do you know?" inquired Margaret.

Mrs. du Preez glanced round to see that Paul had obeyed her.

"I know all about it," she answered, with reassuring frowns and nods.
"Your Fat Mary told my Christian Kafir and she told me.  About—about
Kamis; _you_ know."

"I see."

The story had the spreading quality of the plague; it was an infection
that tainted every ear, it seemed.

"You mean—you ’d like me to go?" suggested Margaret.

"No!  _No_!  NO!"

Mrs. du Preez brought both hands into play to aid her face in making the
negatives emphatic.  "Go?  Why, if it was n’t for the mercy of God I ’d
be in the same box myself.  I would—Me!  I ’ve got nothing to come the
heavy about, even if I was the sort that would do it.  So now you know."

"I don’t understand," said Margaret.  "Do you mean that you—?"

"I mean," interrupted Mrs. du Preez, "that if it wasn’t for that Kafir I
’d ha’ been hopping in hell before now; and if people only knew it—gosh!
I ’d have to hide.  I wanted to tell you so ’s you should know there was
some one that could n’t throw any stones at you. You ’re beginnin’ to
find things rather warm up there, aren’t you?"

Margaret smiled.  The true kindness of Mrs. du Preez’s intention moved
her; charity in this quarter was the last thing she had expected to

"A little warm," she agreed.  "Everybody ’s rather shocked just now, and
Mrs. Jakes has given me notice to leave."

"_Has_ she?" demanded Mrs. du Preez.  "Well, I suppose it was to be
expected.  I ’ve known that woman now for more years than I could count
on my fingers, and I ’ve always had my doubts of her.  She ’s no more
got the spirit of a real lady than a cow has.  That ’s where it is, Miss
Harding.  She can’t understand that a lady ’s got to be trusted.  For
two pins I ’d tell her so, the old cross-eyed _skellpot_.  So you ’re
going?  Well, you won’t be sorry."

"But—how did you come across Kamis?" asked Margaret.

"Oh, it ’s a long story.  I was clearin’ out of here—doing a bolt, you
know, an’ I got into trouble with a feller that was with me.  It was a
feller named Bailey that was stoppin’ here," explained Mrs. du Preez,
who had not heard the whole history of Margaret’s exposure. "He was
after a bit of money I ’d got with me, and he was startin’ in to kick me
when up jumps that nigger and down goes Bailey.  See?"

Margaret saw only vaguely, but she nodded.

"That ’s Bailey," said Mrs. du Preez, drawing her attention to the Boy’s
photograph.  "Christian warned me against smashing it when I wanted to.
He ’s got notions, Christian has.  ’Leave it alone,’ he says; ’we ’re
not afraid of it.’  So of course I had to; but I ’d be more ’n a bit
thankful if it was gone.  I can’t take any pleasure in the room with it

"I could help you in that, perhaps," suggested Margaret. "You ’ve helped
me.  It was sweet of you to tell me what you did, the friendliest thing
I ever knew."

"I ’d rather you did n’t speak about it to Christian," objected Mrs. du

"I did n’t mean to," Margaret assured her, rising.

She crossed to the narrow mantel as though to look more particularly at
Boy Bailey’s features.  She lifted the plush frame from its place.

"There are people who would call this face handsome," she remarked.

"Heaps," agreed Mrs. du Preez.  "In his best days, he ’d got a
style—Lord!  Miss Harding."

Margaret had let the photograph fall face-downwards on the edge of the
fender and the crash of its glass cut Mrs. du Preez short.  She stared
at Margaret in astonishment as the girl put a foot on the picture and
broke it.

"Wasn’t that clumsy of me?" she asked, smiling.

"Well, of all the cheek," declared Mrs. du Preez, slowly.  "I never
guessed what you were after.  But I don’t know what Christian will say."

"He can’t mend it, anyhow," replied Margaret. "You did want it gone, did
n’t you?"

"You bet," said Mrs. du Preez.  "But—but that was a dodge.  Here, let’s
make sure of it while we ’re at it; those two pieces could be easily
stuck together.  I ’ll stamp some of that smashed glass into it.
Still—I should think, after this, you ’d be able to hold your own with
Mrs. Jakes."

She kicked the pieces of the now unrepairable photograph into a little

"I ’ll leave it like that for Christian to see," she said. "But, look
here.  Didn’t you want to speak to Paul? You ’ll be wondering when I ’m
goin’ to give you a chance.  I ’ll just tap the drum for him."

Paul’s whistle from behind the house answered the first strokes and Mrs.
du Preez, with an unusual delicacy, did not return to the parlor with

"You ’re all right now?" he asked, as he entered.

"Oh, yes.  That was nothing," said Margaret.

Paul took his stand by the window, leaning with a shoulder against it,
looking abstractedly at her face, and waiting to hear her speak.

"Paul," asked Margaret, "do you know where Kamis is now?"

"Yes," he said.

"Do you see him?  Can you speak to him for me?"

"I don’t see him much now," answered Paul.  "That is because the
policemen are riding about looking for him. But I can speak to him

"He must take care not to be caught," said Margaret. "They ’re very
anxious to find him just now.  You ’ve heard, Paul, that they ’ve found
out about me and him?"

"Ye-es," answered Paul.  "I heard something."

"It’s true," said Margaret.  "So I ’ve got to go away from here.  They
won’t have me at the Sanatorium any longer and the police are watching
to see if Kamis comes anywhere near me and to catch him if he does.  You
must warn him to keep right away, Paul.  He mustn’t send any messages,

"I will tell him," said Paul.  "But—you are going away?  To England?"

"Perhaps," replied Margaret.  "I expect I shall have to now.  They tell
me that people won’t let me live in South Africa any more.  I ’m a sort
of leper, and I must keep my distance from healthy people.  So we shan’t
see each other again after a few more days.  Are you sorry, Paul?"

He reddened boyishly and fidgeted.

"Oh, it is best for you to go," he answered, uncomfortably.

"Paul!  But why?"

"It ’s—it ’s not your place," he said, facing the difficulty of putting
an elusive thought into words.  "This country—people don’t know what ’s
good and what ’s bad—and there isn’t enough people.  Not like London.
You should go to London again.  Kamis was telling me—theaters and
streets and pictures to see, and people everywhere.  He says one end of
London is just like you and the other end is like that Bailey. That is
where you should go—London, not here.  I will go to London soon, too."

"I see," said Margaret.  "I was afraid at first that you were sick of me
too, Paul.  I needn’t have been afraid of that, need I?  Wouldn’t it be
fine if we could meet in London?"

"We can," said Paul seriously.  "I have got a hundred and three pounds,
and I will go."

"That’s a good deal," said Margaret.

"It’s a lot," he agreed.  "My father gave it to me the other day, all
tied up tight in a little dirty bundle, and there was my mother’s
marriage lines in it too. He said he didn’t mean me to have those but
the money was for me.  It was on the table in the morning and he rolled
it over to me and said: ’Here, Paul. Take this and don’t bring any more
of your tramps in the house.’  That was because I brought that Bailey
here, you know.  So now—soon—I will go to London and Paris and make
models there.  Kamis says—"

"What?" asked Margaret.

"He says I will think my eyes have gone mad at first when I see London.
He says that coming to Waterloo Station will be like dying and waking in
another world.  But he says too—blessed are the pure in heart, for they
will see God even in Waterloo Station."

"He ought to go back himself," said Margaret, with conviction.  "He ’s
wasted here."

"Will you see him before you go?" asked Paul.

"No," said Margaret.  "No; I daren’t.  Tell him, Paul, please, that I ’d
like to see him ever so much, but that it ’s too dangerous.  Say I wish
him well with all my heart, and that I hope most earnestly that he won’t
let himself be caught."

"He won’t," said Paul, with confidence.  "But I ’ll tell him."

"And say," continued Margaret—"say he ’s not to feel sorry about what
has happened to me.  Tell him I ’m still proud that I was his friend,
and that all this row is worth it.  Can you remember all that?"

Paul nodded.  "I can remember," he assured her. "It is—it is so fine to
hear, for me, too.  I won’t forget anything."

"Please don’t, if you can help it.  I want him to have that message,"
said Margaret.  "And now, Paul, I ’ll have to say good-by to you,
because I shan’t come here again."

Paul stood upright as she rose.  His slow smile was very friendly.

"It doesn’t matter," he said.  "You are going to London, and soon I
shall see you there."

"I wonder," she said, giving him her hand.  "I ’ll write you my address
and send it you before I leave, Paul."

"I should find you anyhow," he assured her confidently.

Mrs. du Preez, also, had to be taken leave of, and shed a tear or so at
the last.  In her, a strong emotion found a safety valve in ferocity.

"As for that Jakes woman," she said, in conclusion, "you tell her from
me, Miss Harding—from _me_, mind,—that it wouldn’t cost me any pain to
hand her a slap acrost the mug."

Margaret went homeward through the late light dreamily.  Far away,
blurred by the sun’s horizontal rays, the figure of the trooper occupied
the empty distance, no larger than an ant against the flushed sky. Peace
and melancholy were in the mood of the hour, a cue to lead her thoughts
towards sadness.  It caused her to realize that she would not leave it
all without a sense of loss.  She would miss its immensity, its effect
of setting one at large on an earth without trimmings under a heaven
without clouds, to make the most of one’s own humanity.  It would be a
thing she had known in part, but which henceforth she would never know
even as she herself was known.  She could never now find the word that
expressed its wonder and its appeal.

Mr. Samson was on the stoep as she went up the steps to enter the
Sanatorium.  He put down his paper and toddled forward to open the door
for her, anxiously punctilious.

"Ford was down for tea," he said.  "Askin’ for you, he was."

"Oh, was he?" replied Margaret inanely, and went in.

At supper that evening in the farmhouse kitchen, Christian du Preez,
glancing up from the food which occupied him, observed by a certain
frowning deliberation on Paul’s face, that his son was about to deliver
himself in speech.

"Well, what is it, Paul?" he inquired encouragingly.

Paul looked up with a faint surprise at having his purpose thus

"That money," he said doubtfully.

"Oh."  The Boer glanced uneasily at his wife, who laid down her knife
and fork and began to listen with startled interest.

"That ’s all right," said Christian.  "Do what you like with it.  Go to
the dorp and spend it; it ’s yours. Now eat your supper."

"I am going to London," said Paul then, seriously, and having got it off
his mind, said, heard and done with, he resumed his meal with an

"London," echoed the Boer.  "London?" exclaimed Mrs. du Preez.

"Yes," said Paul.  "To make models.  Here there is nobody to see them."

"He is gone mad," said the Boer with conviction. "He has been queer for
a long time and now he is mad.  Paul, you are mad."

"Am I?" asked Paul respectfully, and continued to eat.

His father and mother had much to say, agitatedly, angrily,
persuasively, but people were always saying things to him that had no
real meaning.  It was ridiculous, for instance, that the Boer should
call him a dumb fool because at the close of a lecture he should ask for
more coffee.  He wasn’t dumb and didn’t believe he was a fool.  People
were n’t fools because they went to London; on the contrary, they had to
be rather clever and enterprising to get there at all.  And at the back
of his mind dwelt the thing he could not hope to convey and did not
attempt to—a sense he had, which warmed and uplifted him, of nearing a
goal after doubt and difficulty, the Pisgah exaltation and tenderness,
the confidence that to him and to the work which his hands should
perform, Canaan was reserved, virgin and welcoming.  It was a strength
he had in secret, and the Boer knew himself baffled when after an hour
of exhortation to be sane and explanatory and obedient and
comprehensible, he looked up and said, very thoughtfully:

"In London, people pay a shilling to look at clays, father."

                             *CHAPTER XVII*

Ford’s return to normal existence coincided with the arrival of
mail-morning, when the breakfast menu was varied by home letters heaped
upon the plates.  Mrs. Jakes had one of her own this morning and was
very conscious of it, affecting to find her correspondent’s caligraphy
hard to read.  Old Mr. Samson had his usual pile and greeted him from
behind a litter of torn wrappers and envelopes.

"Hullo, Ford," he cried, "up on your pins, again? Feelin’ pretty

"Nice way you ’ve got of putting it," replied Ford, taking his seat
before the three letters on his plate. "I ’m all right, though.  You
seem fairly well supplied with reading-matter this morning."

"The usual, the usual," said Mr. Samson airily. "People gone to the
country; got time to write, don’t you know.  Here ’s a feller tells me
that the foxes down his way are simply rotten with mange."

"Awful," said Ford, glancing at the first of his own letters.  "And here
’s a feller tells _me_ that he ’s sent in the enclosed account nine
times and must press for a cheque without delay.  What ’s the country
coming to?  Eh?"

"You be blowed," retorted Mr. Samson, and fell again to his reading.

From behind the urn Mrs. Jakes made noises indicative of lady-like

"The way some people write, you ’d never believe they ’d been educated
and finished regardless of expense," she declared.  "There ’s a word
here—she ’s telling me about a lady I used to know in Town—and whether
she suffers from her children (though I never knew she was married) or
from a chaplain, I can’t make out.  Can you see what it is, Mr. Ford?
There, where I ’m pointing?"

"Oh, yes," said Ford.  "It ’s worse than you think, Mrs. Jakes.  It ’s

"O-oh."  Mrs. Jakes was enlightened.  "Why, of course.  I remember now.
Even when she was a girl at school, she used to suffer dreadfully from
them.  I thought she couldn’t have been married, with such feet.  But is
n’t it a dreadful way to write?"

She would have indulged them with further information regarding the lady
who suffered, but Margaret’s entrance drove her back behind the
breastwork of the urn.  She distrusted her own correctness when the
girl’s eyes were on her, and her sure belief that Margaret had revealed
herself as anything but correct by every standard which Mrs. Jakes could
apply, failed to reassure her.

"Good morning, Miss Harding," she said frostily. "You will take coffee?"

"Good morning," replied Margaret, passing to her place at the table.
"Yes, it is lovely."

"Er—the coffee?" asked Mrs. Jakes, suspicious and uncomprehending.

"Oh, coffee.  Yes, please," said Margaret.  "I thought you said
something about the weather."

Ford grinned at the letter he was reading and greeted her quietly.

"Glad you ’re better," she replied, not returning his smile, and turned
at once to the letters which awaited her.

He was watching her while she sorted them, examining first the envelopes
for indications of what they held.  One seemed to puzzle her, and she
took it up to decipher the postmark.  Then she set it down and opened
the fattest of all, a worthy, linen-enveloped affair, containing a
couple of typewritten sheets as well as a short letter.  She read it
perfunctorily and looked through the business-like typescripts
impatiently, folded them all up again and tucked them back into the
linen envelope.  Then followed the others, and the one with the smudged
postmark last of all.  She scrutinized the outside of this again before
she opened it; it was not an English letter, but one from some
unidentifiable postal district in South Africa.  At last she opened it,
and drew out the dashing black scrawl which it harbored.  A glance at
the end of the letter seemed to leave her in the dark, and Ford saw her
delicate brows knit as she began to read.

He found himself becoming absorbed in the mere contemplation of her.  He
was aware of a character in her presence at once familiar to him by long
study and intangible; it had the quality of bloom, that a touch
destroys.  She had hair that coiled upon her head and left its shape
discernible, and beneath it a certain breadth and frankness of brow upon
which the eyebrows were etched marvelously.  She was like a lantern
which softens and tempers the impetuous flame within it, and turns its
ardor into radiance.  The Kafir and the shame and the imprudence of that
affair did not suffice to darken that light; at the most, they could but
cause it to waver and make strange shadows for a moment, like the candle
one carries, behind a guarding hand, through a windy corridor.  It did
not cool the strong flame that was the heart of the combination.

Suddenly Margaret laid the letter down.  She put it back on her plate
with an abrupt gesture and he noted that she had gone pale, and that her
mouth was wry as though with a bitter taste.  She even withdrew her
fingers from the sheet with exactly the movement of one who has by
accident set his hand on some unexpected piece of foulness.

She went on with her breakfast quietly enough, but she did not look at
her letters again.  They were perhaps the first letters in years to come
to the Sanatorium and be dismissed with a single perusal.

"Fog in London," said Mr. Samson, suddenly. "Feller writes as though it
was the plague.  _He_ does n’t know what it is to have too much bally

The glare that shone through the window returned his glance unwinking.

"Fog?" responded Mrs. Jakes, alertly.  "That is bad.  Such dreadful
things happen in fogs.  I remember a lady at Home, who was divorced
afterwards, who lost her way in a fog and didn’t get home for two days,
and even then she had somebody else’s umbrella and could no more
remember where she ’d got it than fly.  And she was so confused and
upset that all she could say to her husband was: ’Ed,’—his name was
Edwin—’Ed, did you remember to have your hair cut?’"

"Had he remembered?" demanded Mr. Samson.

"I think not," replied Mrs. Jakes.  "What with the worry, and the things
the servant said, I don’t believe he ’d thought of it.  He always did
wear it rather long."

"Think of that," said Mr. Samson, with solemn surprise.

Margaret finished her breakfast in silence and then gathered up her
letters.  Ford thought that as she picked up the sheet which had
distressed her, she glanced involuntarily at him.  But the look conveyed
nothing and she departed in silence.  He was careful not to follow her
too soon.

It was not difficult to find her.  For some two hours after breakfast
was over, the only part of the Sanatorium which it was possible to
inhabit with comfort was the stoep.  The other rooms were given over to
Fat Mary and her colleagues for the daily ceremony known as "doing the
rooms," a festival involving excursions and alarms, skylarking,
breakages and fights. To seek seclusion in the drawing-room, for
example, was to be subjected to a cinematograph impression of surprised
and shocked black faces peering round the door and vanishing, to
scuffling noises on the mat and finally to hints from Mrs. Jakes
herself: "_Would_ you mind the girls just sweeping round your feet? They
’re rather behindhand this morning."

Margaret had betaken herself and her chair to the extreme end of the
stoep, beyond the radius of Ford’s art and Mr. Samson’s meditations.
Her letters were in her lap, but she was not looking at them.  She was
gazing straight before her at the emptiness which stretched out
endlessly, affording no perch for the eye to rest on, an everlasting
enigma to baffle sore minds.

Ford was innocent of stratagem in his manner of approach.

"I say," he said, and she looked up listlessly.  "I say—I ’m sorry.
Can’t we make it up?"

"All right," she answered.

He looked at her closely.

"But is it all right?" he persisted.  "You ’re hurt about something; I
can see you are; so it ’s not all right yet.  Look here, Miss Harding:
you were wrong about what I was thinking."

"Oh no."  Margaret shifted in her chair with a tired impatience.  "I
wasn’t wrong," she answered.  "I could see; and I think you should n’t
go back on it now. The least you can do is stand by your beliefs.  You
won’t find yourself alone.  I had a letter from some one this morning
who would back you up to the last drop of his blood, I ’m sure."

"Who ’s that?"

"I don’t know," she answered.  "It ’s my first anonymous letter.
Somebody has heard about me and therefore writes.  He thinks just as you
do.  Would you like to see it?"

She handed him the bold, crowded scrawl and sat back while he leaned on
the rail to read it.

At the second sentence in the letter he looked up sharply and restrained
an ejaculation.  She was not looking at him, but a tinge of pink had
risen in her quiet face.

It was an anonymous letter of the most villainous kind.  Something like
horror possessed him as he realized that her grave eyes had perused its
gleeful and elaborate offense.  The abominable thing was a vileness
fished from the pit of a serious and blackguard mind. It had the
baseness of ordure, and a sort of frivolity that transcended commonplace

"I say," he cried, before the end of the ingenious thing was reached.
"You have n’t read this through?"

"Not quite," she answered.

"I—I should think not."

With quick nervous jerks of his fingers which betrayed the hot anger he
felt, he tore the letter into strips and the strips again into smaller
fragments, and strewed them forth upon the stiff dead shrubs below.

"It’s getting about, you see," said Margaret, with a sigh.  "I suppose,
before I manage to get away, I shall be accustomed to things of that

"But this is awful," cried Ford.  "I can’t bear this.  You, of all
people, to have to go through all that this means and threatens—it ’s
awful.  Miss Harding, let me apologize, let me grovel, let me do
anything that ’ll give you the feeling that I ’m with you in this.  You
can’t face it alone—you simply can’t. I’m sorry enough to—to kick
myself.  Can’t you let me stand in with you?"

He stopped helplessly before Margaret’s languid calm.  She was not in
the least stirred by his appeal. She lay back in her chair listlessly,
and only withdrew her eyes from the veld to look at him as he ceased to

"Oh, it doesn’t matter," she said indifferently. "It’s a silly business.
Don’t worry about it, please."

"But—" began Ford, and stopped.  "You mean—you won’t have me with you,
anyhow?" he asked. "What you thought I thought, upstairs—you can’t
forget that?  Is that it?"

She smiled slowly, and he stared at her in dismay. Nothing could have
expressed so clearly as that faint smile her immunity from the passion
that stirred in him.

"Perhaps it ’s that," she answered, always in the same indifferent, low
voice.  "I ’m not thinking more about it than I can help."

"I didn’t think any harm of you," Ford protested earnestly, leaning
forward from his perch on the rail and striving to compel her to look at
him.  "We ’ve been good friends, and you might have trusted me not to
think evil of you.  I simply didn’t understand—nothing else.  You can’t
seriously be offended because you imagined that I was thinking certain
thoughts.  It isn’t fair."

"I ’m not offended," she answered.

"Hurt, then," he substituted.  "Anything you please."

He stepped down from his seat and walked a few paces away, with his
hands deeply sunk in his pockets, and then walked back again.

"I say," he said abruptly; "it ’s a question of what I think of you, it
seems.  Let me tell you what I do think."

Margaret turned her face towards him.  He was frowning heavily, with an
appearance of injury and annoyance.  He spoke in curt jets.

"It ’s only since I ’ve known you that I ’ve really worried over being a
lunger," he said.  "The Army—I could stand that.  But seeing you and
talking to you, and knowing I ’d no right to say a word—no right to try
and lead things that way, even, for your sake as much as mine—it ’s been
hard.  Because—this is what I do think—it ’s seemed to me that you were
worth more than everything else.  I ’d have given the world to tell you
so, and ask you—well, you know what I mean."

Margaret was not so steeped in sorrows but she could mark this evasion
of a plain statement with amusement.

Ford, staring at her intently, clicked with impatience.

"Well, then," he said in the tone of one who is goaded to extreme
lengths; "well then, Miss—er—Margaret—" he paused, seemingly struck by a
pleasant flavor in the name as he spoke it—"Margaret," he repeated, less
urgently; "I ’m hanged if I know how to say it, but—I love you."

There was an appreciable interval while they remained gazing at each
other, he breathless and discomposed, she grave and unresponding.

"Do you?" she said at last.  "But—"

"I do," he urged.  "On my soul, I do.  Margaret, it ’s true.  I ’ve
been—loving—you for a long time. I thought perhaps you might care a
little, too, sometimes, and I ’d have told you if it was n’t for this
chest of mine.  That ’s what I meant when you said you were going away
and I asked you to stay.  I thought you understood then."

"I did understand," she replied, and sat thoughtful.

She wondered vaguely at the apathy that mastered her and would not
suffer her to feel even a thrill. Some virtue had departed out of her
and drawn with it the whole liveliness of her mind and spirit, so that
what remained was mere deadness.  She knew, in some subconscious and
uninspiring manner, that Ford was what he had always been, with passion
added to him; he was waiting in a tension of suspense for her to answer,
with his thin face eager and glowing.  It should have moved her with
compassion and liking for the stubborn, faithful, upright soul she knew
him to be.  But the letter, the confident approaches of the Punchinello
policeman, and even Mrs. Jakes’ ill-restrained joy in bidding her leave
the place, had been so many blows upon her function of susceptibility.
The accumulation of them had a little stunned her, and she was not yet

Ford saw her lips hesitate before she spoke, and his heart beat more

She looked up at him uncertainly and made a movement with her shoulders
like a shrug.

"Oh, I can’t," she said suddenly.  "No, I can’t. It ’s no use; you must
leave me alone, please."

His look of sheer amazement, of pain and bewilderment, returned to her
later.  It was as though he had been struck in the face by some one he
counted on as a friend.  He stood for an instant rooted.

"Sorry," he said, then.  "I might have seen I was worrying you.  Sorry."

His retreating feet sounded softly on the flags of the stoep, and she
sank back in her chair, wondering wearily at the event and its
inconsequent conclusion, with her eyes resting on the wide invitation of
the veld.

"Am I going to be ill?" was the thought that came to her relief.  "Am I
going to be ill?  I ’m not really like this."

The ordeal of lunch had to be faced; she could not eat, but still less
could she face the prospect of Mrs. Jakes with a tray.  Afterwards,
there was the dreary labor of writing letters to go before her to
England and make ready the way for her return.  There would have to be
explanations of some kind, and it was a sure thing that her explanations
would fail to satisfy a number of people who would consider themselves
entitled to comment on her movements.  There would have to be some
mystery about it, at the best. For the present, she could not screw
herself up to the task of composing euphemisms.  "Expect me home by the
boat after next.  I will tell you why when I see you"; that had to
suffice for the legal uncle, his lawful wife, the philosophic aunt and
all the rest.

Then came tea and afterwards dinner; the day dragged like a sick snake.
Dr. Jakes made mournful eyes at her and talked feverishly to cover his
nervousness and compunction, and now and again he looked down the table
at his wife and Mr. Samson with furtive malevolence.  Afterwards, in the
drawing-room, Mrs. Jakes, having made an inspection of the doctor,
played the intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana" five times, and Ford
and Samson spent the evening over a chessboard.  Margaret, on the couch,
found herself coming to the surface of the present again and again from
depths of heavy and turgid thought, to find the intermezzo still limping
along and Mr. Samson still apostrophizing his men in an undertone ("Take
his bally bishop, old girl; help yourself.  No, come back—he ’ll have
you with that knight").  It was interminable, a pocket eternity.

Then the view of the stairs sloping up to the dimness above and the cool
air of the hall upon her neck and face, and the sourness of Mrs. Jakes
trying to give her "good night" the intonation of an insult—these
intruded abruptly upon her straying faculties, and she came a little
dazed into the light of the candles in her own room, where her eyes fell
first on the breadth of Fat Mary’s back, as that handmaid stood at the
window with the blind in her hand and peered forth into the dark.  As
she turned, Margaret gained an impression that the stout woman’s
interest in something below was interrupted by her entrance.

Fat Mary had been another of Margaret’s disappointments since the
exposure.  The Kafir woman’s manner to her had undergone a notable
change.  There was no longer the touch of reverence and gentleness with
which she had tended Margaret at first, which had made endearing all her
huge incompetence and playfulness.  There had succeeded to it a manner
of familiarity which manifested itself chiefly in the roughness of her
handling.  Margaret was being called upon to pay the penalty which the
African native exacts from the European who encroaches upon the
aloofness of the colored peoples.

Fat Mary grinned as Margaret came through the door.

"Mo’ stink," she observed, cheerfully, and pointed to the

Margaret’s eyes followed the big black finger to where a bunch of aloe
plumes lay between the candles on the white cloth, brilliantly red.  The
sight of them startled the girl sharply.  She went across and raised

"Where did they come from?" she asked quickly.

"That Kafir," grinned Fat Mary.  "Missis’s Kafir, he bring ’im."

"What did he say?  Did he give any message?"

"No," replied Fat Mary.  "Jus’ stink-flowers, an’ give me Scotchman."

"Scotchman" is Kafir slang for a florin; it has for an origin a myth
reflecting on the probity of a great race.  But Margaret did not
inquire; she was pondering a possible significance in this gift of
bitter blooms.

Fat Mary eyed her acutely while she stood in thought.

"He say don’t tell nobody," she remarked casually. "I say no fear—me!  I
don’t tell.  Missis like that Kafir plenty?"

"Mary," said Margaret.  "You can go now.  I shan’t want you."

"All a-right," replied Fat Mary willingly, and took herself off
forthwith.  She had her own uses for a present of spare time at this

Margaret put the red flowers down as the door closed behind Fat Mary,
and set herself before the mirror.  There was still that haze between
her thoughts and the realities about her, a drifting cloudiness that
sometimes obscured them all together, and sometimes broke and let
matters appear.

She noted in the mirror the strange, familiar specter of her own face,
and saw that the hectic was strong and high on either cheek.  Then the
aloe plumes plucked at her thoughts, and the haze closed about her
again, leaving her blind in a deep and aimless preoccupation in which
her thoughts were no more than a pulse, repeating itself to no end.
Ford’s declaration and his manner of making it; the Punchinello
countenance of the trooper, bestially insinuating; Mrs. Jakes eating
soup at Mr. Samson;—these came and went in the dreadful arena of her
mind and made a changing spectacle that baffled the march of the

She did not know how long she had been sitting when a rattle at the
window surprised her into looking up.  She stared absently at the blind
till it came again.  It had the sound of some one throwing earth from
below.  She rose and went across and looked out.

It had not touched her nerves at all; it was not the kind of thing which
could frighten her.  The window was raised at the bottom and she kneeled
on the floor and put her head, cloudily haloed with her loose hair, out
to the star-tempered dark.

A whisper from below, where the whisperer stood invisible in the shadow
at the foot of the wall, hailed her at once.

"Miss Harding," it said.  "Miss Harding.  I ’m here, directly below

She could see nothing.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"Hush."  She had spoken in her ordinary tones. "Not so loud.  It ’s

"Who is it?" she asked again, subduing her voice.

"Why—Kamis, of course."  The answer came in a tone of surprise.  "You
expected me, did n’t you? Your light was burning."

"Expected you?  No," said Margaret "I didn’t expect you; you ought n’t
to have come."

"But—" the voice was protesting; "my message. It was on the paper around
the aloe plumes.  I particularly told the fat Kafir woman to give you
that, and she promised.  If your light was burning, I ’d throw something
up at your window, and if not, I ’d go away.  That was it."

The night breeze came in at the tail of his words with a dry rustling of
the dead vines.

"There was no paper," said Margaret.

The Kafir below uttered an angry exclamation which she did not catch.

"If only you don’t mind," he said, then.  "I got Paul’s message from you
and I had to try and see you."

"Yes," said Margaret.  She could not see him at all; under the lee of
the house the night was black, though at a hundred paces off she could
make out the lie of the ground in the starlight.  His whispering voice
was akin to the night.

"Then you don’t mind?" he urged.

"I don’t mind, of course," said Margaret.  "But it ’s too risky."

Further along the stoep there was a dim warmish glow through the red
curtains of the study and a leak of faint light under the closed front
door.  The house was loopholed for unfriendly eyes and ears.  There was
no security under that masked battery for their privacy.  At any moment
Mrs. Jakes might prick up her ears and stand intent and triumphant to
hear their strained whispers in cautious interchange.  Margaret shrank
from the thought of it.

"I only want a word," answered Kamis from the darkness.  "I may not see
you again.  You won’t let me drop without a word—after everything?"

Margaret hesitated.  "Some one may pick up that paper and read your
message and watch to see what happens.  I couldn’t bear any more trouble
about it."

There was a pause.

"No," agreed Kamis, then.  "No—of course.  I didn’t think of that.  I
’ll say good-by now, then."

Margaret strained to see him, but the night hid him securely.

"Wait!" she called carefully.  "I don’t want you to go away like that;
it ’s simply that this is too risky."  She paused.  "I ’d better come
down to you," she said.

She could not tell what he answered, whether joy or demurral, for she
drew her head in at once, and then opened the door and went out to the

It was good to be doing something, and to have to do with one whose
sympathies were not strained.  She went lightly and noiselessly down the
wide stairs, and recognized again, with a smile, the secret aspect of
the hall in the dark hours.  There was a thread of light under the door
of Dr. Jakes’ study, and within that locked room the dutiful small clock
was still ticking off the moments as stolidly as though all moments were
of the same value.  The outer door was closed with a mighty lock and a
great iron key, and opened with a clang that should have brought Dr.
Jakes forth to inquire.  But he did not come, and she went unopposed out
to the stoep under the metallic rustle of its dead vines.

She was going swiftly, with her velvet-shod feet, to that distant part
of it which was under the broad light of her window, when the Kafir
appeared before her so suddenly that she almost ran into him.

"Oh."  She uttered a little cry.  "You startled me."

"I ’m sorry," he answered.

"You ought n’t to be here," Margaret said, "because it ’s dangerous.
But I am glad to see you."

"That ’s good of you," he said.  "I got Paul’s message.  I had to come.
I had to see you once more, and besides, he said you were—in trouble.
About me?"

"Oh, yes," said Margaret.  "No end of trouble, all about you.  An
anonymous letter, notice to quit, pity and smiles, two suitors, one with
intentions which were strictly dishonorable, and so on.  And the simple
truth is, I don’t care a bit."

"Oh, Lord!" said the Kafir.

They were standing close to the wall, immersed in its shadow and
sheltered from the wind that sighed above them and beside them and made
the vines vocal. Neither could see the other save as a shadowy presence.

"I don’t care," said Margaret, "and I refuse to bother about it.  I ’ve
got to go, of course, and I don’t like the feeling of being kicked out.
That rankles a little bit, when I relax the strain of being superior and
amused at their littleness.  But as for the rest, I don’t care."

"It’s my fault," said the Kafir quietly.  "It’s all my fault.  I knew
all the time what the end of it would be; and I let it come.  There ’s
something mean in a nigger, Miss Harding.  I knew it was there well
enough, and now it shows."

"Don’t," said Margaret.

There fell a pause between them, and she could hear his breathing.  She
remembered the expression on Ford’s face when he had questioned her as
to whether she did not experience a repulsion at a Kafir’s proximity to
her, and tried now to find any such aversion in herself.  They stood in
an intimate nearness, so that she could not have moved from her place
without touching him; but there was none.  Whoever had it for a pedestal
of well and truly laid local virtues, she had it not.

"This is good-by, of course," said the Kafir, in his pleasant low tones.
"I ’ll never see you again, but I ’ll never forget how good and
beautiful you were to me.  I must n’t keep you out here, or there are a
hundred things I want to say to you; but that ’s the chief thing.  I ’ll
never forgive myself for what has happened, but I ’ll never forget."

"There ’s nothing you need blame yourself for," said Margaret eagerly.
"It ’s been worth while.  It has, really.  You ’re somebody and you ’re
doing something great and real, while the people in here are just shams,
like me.  Oh," she cried softly; "if only there was something for me to

"For you," repeated the Kafir.  "You must be—what you are; not spoil it
by doing things."

"No," said Margaret.  "No.  That ’s just chivalry and nonsense.  I want
something to do, something real. I want something that _costs_—I don’t
care what.  Even this silly trouble I ’m in now is better than being a
smiling goddess.  I want—I want—"

Her mind moved stiffly and she could not seize the word she needed.

"It would be wasting you," Kamis was saying.  "It would be throwing you

"I want to suffer," she said suddenly.  "Yes—that ’s what I want.  You
suffer—don’t you?  That woman in Capetown will have to suffer; everybody
who really does things suffers for it; and I want to."

"Do you?" said Kamis, with a touch of awkwardness. "But—what woman in
Capetown do you mean?"

"Oh, you must have heard," said Margaret impatiently. "She married a
Kafir; it ’s been in the papers."

"Yes," he said, "I remember now."

"I told them all, in here, a long time ago, that in some city of the
future there would be a monument to her, with the inscription: ’She felt
the future in her bones.’  But while she lives they ’ll make her suffer;
they ’ll never forgive her.  I wish I could have met her before I go."

There was a brief pause.  "Why?" asked Kamis then, in a low voice.

"Why?  Because she ’d understand, of course.  I ’d like to talk to her
and tell her about you.  Don’t you see?"  Margaret laughed a little.  "I
could tell her about it as though it were all quite natural and
ordinary, and she ’d understand."

She heard the Kafir move but he did not reply at once.

"Perhaps she would," he said.  "However, you ’re not going to meet her,
so it does n’t matter."

"But," said Margaret, puzzled at the lack of responsiveness in his tone
and words, "don’t you think she was splendid?  She must have known the
price she would have to pay; but it didn’t frighten her.  Don’t you
think it was fine?"

"Well," Kamis answered guardedly; "I suppose she knew what she was

"Then," persisted Margaret, "you don’t think it was fine?"

She found his manner of speaking of the subject curiously reminiscent of

Kamis uttered an embarrassed laugh.  "Well," he said, "I ’m afraid I ’m
not very sympathetic.  I suppose I ’ve lived too long among white
people; my proper instincts have been perverted.  But the fact is, I
think that woman was—wrong."

"Oh," said Margaret.  "Why?"

"There isn’t any why," he answered.  "It ’s a matter of feeling, you
know; not of reason.  Really, it amounts to—it ’s absurd, of course, but
it ’s practically negrophobia.  You can’t bring a black man up as a
white man and then expect him to be entirely free from white prejudices.
Can you?"

"But—" Margaret spoke in some bewilderment. "What’s the use of being
black," she demanded, "if you ’ve got all the snobbishness of the white?
That ’s the way Mr. Ford spoke about it.  He said he could feel all that
was fine in it, but he wouldn’t speak to such a woman.  I thought that
was cruel."

"Oh, I don’t know," said Kamis.

"Another time," said Margaret deliberately, "he asked me whether it
didn’t make my flesh creep to touch your hand."

"He thought it ought to?"

"Yes.  But it doesn’t," said Margaret.  "How does your negrophobia face
that fact?  Doesn’t it condemn me to the same shame as the woman in
Capetown?  Or does it make exceptions in the case of a particular

"I said I did n’t reason about it," replied Kamis. "I told you what I
felt.  You asked me and I told you."

"I wish you hadn’t," said Margaret.  "I thought that you at any rate—"

She broke off at a quick movement he made.  A sudden sense came to her
that they two were no longer alone, and, with a stiffening of alarm, she
turned abruptly to see what had disturbed him.  Even as she turned, she
lifted her hand to her bosom with a premonition of imminent disaster.

At the head of the steps that led down to the garden, and in the dim
light of the half-open front door, a figure had appeared.  It came
deliberately towards them, with one hand lifted holding something.

"Hands up, you boy!" it said.  "Up, now, or I ’ll—"

By the door, the face was visible, the unhappy, greedy, Punchinello
features that Margaret knew as those of the policeman.  Its hard eyes
rested on the pair of them over the raised revolver that threatened the

The driving mists returned to beat her back from the spectacle; she was
helpless and weak.  Warmth filled her throat, chokingly; an acrid taste
was in her mouth. She took two groping steps forward and fell on the
flags at the policeman’s feet and lay there.

From a window over their heads, there came the gurgle of Fat Mary’s rich

                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

It was the scream of Mrs. Jakes that woke Ford, when, hearing
unaccountable noises and attributing them to the doctor, she went to the
hall and was startled to see in the doorway the figure of the Kafir,
with his hands raised strangely over his head, as though he were
suspended by the wrists from the arch, and behind him the shadowy
policeman, with his revolver protruded forward into the light.  She
caught at her heart and screamed.

Ford found himself awake, leaning up on one elbow, with the echo of her
scream yet in his ears, and listening intently.  He could not be certain
what he had heard, for now the house was still again; and it might have
been some mere incident of Jakes’ transit from the study to his bed,
into which it was better not to inquire.  But some quality in the cry
had conveyed to him, in the instant of his waking, an impression of
sudden terror which he could not dismiss, and he continued to listen,
frowning into the dark.

His room was over the stoep, but at some distance from the front door,
and for a while he heard nothing. Then, as his ears became attuned to
the night’s acoustics, he was aware that somewhere there were voices,
the blurred and indistinguishable murmur of people talking.  They were
hardly audible at all; not a word transpired; he knew scarcely more than
that the stillness of the night was infringed.  His curiosity quickened,
and to feed it there sounded the step of a booted foot that fell with a
metallic clink, the unmistakable ring of a spur.  Ford sat upright.

A couple of moments later, some one spoke distinctly.

"Keep those hands up," Ford heard, in a quick nasal tone; "or I ’ll blow
your head off."

Ford thrust the bedclothes from his knees and got out of bed.  He lifted
the lower edge of the blind and leaned forth from the open window.
Below him the stone stoep ran to right and left like a gray path, and a
little way along it the light in the hall, issuing from the open door,
cut across it and showed the head of the wide steps.  Beyond the light,
a group of dark figures were engaged with something.  As he looked, the
group began to move, and he saw that Mrs. Jakes came to the side of the
door and stood back to give passage to four shuffling Kafirs bearing the
stretcher which was part of the house’s equipment.  There was somebody
on the stretcher, as might have been seen from the laborious gait of the
bearers, but the thing had a hood that withheld the face of the occupant
as they passed in, with Mrs. Jakes at their heels.

Two other figures brought up the rear and likewise entered at the
doorway and passed from sight. The first, as he became visible in the
gloom beyond the light, was dimly grotesque; he seemed too tall and not
humanly proportioned, a deformed and willowy giant. Once he was opposite
the door, his height explained itself; he was walking with both arms
extended to their full length above his head and his face bowed between
them.  Possibly because the attitude strained him, he went with a gait
as marked as his posture, a measured and ceremonial step as though he
were walking a slow minuet.  The light met him as he turned in the
doorway and Ford, staring in bewilderment, had a momentary impression
that the face between the raised arms was black.  He disappeared, with
the last of the figures close behind him, and concerning this one there
was no doubt whatever.  It revealed itself as a trooper of the Mounted
Police, belted and spurred, his "smasher" hat tilted forward over his
brows, and a revolver held ready in his hand, covering the back of the
man who walked before him.

"Here," ejaculated Ford, gazing at the empty stoep where the shadow-show
had been, with an accent of dismay in his thoughts.  The affair of
Margaret and the Kafir leaped to his mind; all that had occurred below
might be a new and poignant development in that bitter comedy, and but
for a chance he might have missed it all.

He was quick to make a light and find his dressing-gown and a pair of
slippers, and he was knotting the cord of the former as he passed out to
the long corridor and went swiftly to the head of the stairs, where the
lamp that should light Dr. Jakes to his bed was yet burning patiently.

The stretcher was already coming up the staircase and he paused and
stood aside to make room for it. The four Kafirs were bringing it up
head first, treading carefully and breathing harshly after the manner of
the Kafir when he is conscious of eyes upon him. Behind them followed
Mrs. Jakes, shepherding them up with hushing noises.  A gray blanket
covered the form in the stretcher with limp folds.

The Kafirs saw Ford first and acknowledged his presence with
simultaneous grins.  Then Mrs. Jakes saw him and made a noise like a
startled moan, staring up with vexed, round eyes.

"Oh, Mr. Ford," she exclaimed faintly.  "Please go back to bed.  It
’s—it ’s three o’clock in the morning."

Beyond and below her was the hall, in which the lamp had now been turned
up.  Ford looked past her impassively, and took in the two men who
waited there, the Kafir, with his raised arms—trembling now with the
fatigue of keeping them up—and the saturnine policeman with his
revolver.  The stretcher had come abreast of him and he bent to look
under the hood.  The bearers halted complaisantly that he might see,
shifting their grips on the poles and smiling uneasily.

Margaret’s face had the quietude of heavy lids closed upon the eyes and
features composed in unconsciousness. But the mouth was bloody, and
there were stains of much blood, bright and dreadful, on the white linen
at her throat.  For all that Ford knew what it betokened, the sight gave
him a shock; it looked like murder. They had broken her hair from its
bonds in lifting her and placing her in the stretcher and now her head
was pillowed on it and its disorder made her stranger.

Mrs. Jakes was babbling nervously at him.

"Mr. Ford, you really must n’t.  I wish you ’d go back to bed.  I ’ll
tell you about it in the morning, if you ’ll go now."

Ford motioned to the Kafirs to go on.

"Where’s the doctor?" he demanded curtly.

"Oh," said Mrs. Jakes, "I ’ll see to all that.  Mr. Ford, it ’s _all
right_.  You ’re keeping me from putting her to bed by standing talking
like this.  Don’t you believe me when I say it ’s all right?  Why are
you looking at me like that?"

"Is he in the study?" asked Ford.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Jakes.  "But _I ’ll_ tell him, Mr. Ford.
I—I—promise I will, if only you ’ll go back to bed now.  I will really."

Ford glanced along the corridor where the Kafirs had halted again,
awaiting instructions from Mrs. Jakes. There was a picture on the wall,
entitled "Innocence"—early Victorian infant and kitten—and they were
staring at it in reverent interest.

"Better see to Miss Harding," he said, and passed her and went down to
the hall.  She turned to see what he was going to do, in an agony of
alertness to preserve the decency of the locked study door.  But he went
across to speak to the policeman, and she hurried after the Kafirs, to
get the girl in bed and free herself to deal with the demand for the
presence of the doctor.

The Kafir stood with his back to the wall, near the big front door,
closer to which was the trooper, always with the revolver in his hand
and a manner of watching eagerly for an occasion to use it.  Ford went
to them, knitting his brows at the spectacle.  The prisoner saw him as a
slim young man of a not unusual type in a dressing-gown, with short
tumbled hair; the policeman, with a more specialized experience, took in
the quality of his manner with a rapid glance and stiffened to
uprightness.  He knew the directness and aloofness that go to the making
of that ripe fruit of our civilization, an officer of the army.

"Have n’t you searched him for weapons?" demanded Ford.

"No," said the policeman, and added "sir," as an afterthought.

Ford stepped over to the Kafir and passed his hands down his sides and
across his breast, feeling for any concealed dangers about his person.

"Nothing," he said.  "You can handcuff him if you want to, but there ’s
no need to keep him with his hands up.  It’s torture—you hear?"

"Yes, sir," responded the policeman again.  "Put them down," he bade his

Kamis, with a sigh, lowered his hands, wincing at the stiffness of his
cramped arms.

"Thank you," he said to Ford, in a low voice.  "I ’ve had them up—it
must be half an hour."

"Well, you ’re all right now," responded Ford, with a nod.

He tried the study door but it was locked and there was no response to
his knocks and his rattling of the handle.

"Jakes," he called, several times.  "I say, you ’re wanted.  Jakes,
d’you hear me?"

Kamis and the trooper watched him in silence, the latter with his bold,
unhappy features set into something like a sneer.  They saw him test the
strength of the lock with a knee; it gave no sign of weakness and he
stood considering on the mat.  An idea came to him and he went briskly,
with his long stride, to the front door.

"I say," called the Kafir as he went by.

Ford paused.  "Well?"

"In case you can’t rouse him," said the Kafir, "you might like to know
that I am a doctor—M.B., London."

"Are you?" said Ford thoughtfully.  "You’re Kamis, are n’t you?"

"Yes," answered the Kafir.

"I ’ll let you know if there ’s anything you can do,", said Ford.

The contrast between the Kafir’s pleasant, English voice and his negro
face was strange to him also.  But stranger yet, he could not in the
presence of the contemptuous policeman speak the thing that was in his
mind and tell the Kafir that he was to blame for the whole business.
The voice, the address, the manner of the man were those of his own
class; it would have been like quarreling before servants.

"Thank you," said the Kafir, as Ford went out to the stoep.

The sill of the study window was only three feet above the ground, a
square of dull light filtering through curtains that let nothing be seen
from without of the interior of the room.  Ford wasted no more time in
knocking and calling; he drew off a slipper and using it as a hammer,
smashed the glass of the window close to the catch.  Half the pane went
crashing at the first blow, and the window was open.  He threw a leg
over the sill and was in the room.

A bracket lamp was burning on the wall and shooting up a steady spire of
smoke to the ceiling, where a thick black patch had assembled and was
shedding flakes of smut on all below it.  The slovenliness of the
smoking lamp was suddenly an offense to him, and before he even looked
round he went across and turned the flame lower.  It seemed a thing to
do before setting about the saving of Margaret’s life.

The room was oppressively hot with a sickening closeness in its
atmosphere and a war of smells pervading it.  The desk had whisky
bottles, several of them, all partly filled, standing about its surface,
with a water jug, a syphon and some glasses.  Papers and a book or two
had their place there also, and liquor had been spilt on them and a
tumbler was standing on the yellow cover of a copy of "Mr. Barnes of New
York."  A collar and a tie lay on the floor in the middle of the room
and near them was a glass which had fallen and escaped breakage.  Dr.
Jakes was in the padded patient’s chair; it had its back to the window,
and at first Ford had imagined with surprise that the room was empty.
He looked round wonderingly, till his eyes lighted on the top of the
doctor’s blond, childish head, showing round the chair.

Dr. Jakes had an attitude of extreme relaxation.  He had slipped forward
on the smooth leather seat till his head lay on one of the arms and his
face was upturned to the smirched ceiling.  His feet were drawn in and
his knees protruded; his hands hung emptily beside him. The soot of the
lamp had snowed on him copiously, dotting his face with black spots till
he seemed to have broken out in some monstrous plague-rash.  His lips
were parted under his fair mustache, and the eyes were closed tight as
if in determination not to see the ruin and dishonor of his life.  He
offered the spectacle of a man securely entrenched against all possible
duties and needs, safe through the night against any attack on his peace
and repose.

"Jakes," cried Ford urgently, in his ear, and shook him as vigorously as
he could.  "Jakes, you hog.  Wake up, will you."

The doctor’s head waggled loosely to the shaking and settled again to
its former place.  It was infuriating to see it rock like that, as
though there were nothing stiffer than wool in the neck, and yet
preserve its deep tranquillity.  Ford looked down and swore.  There was
no help here.

He unlocked the door and threw it open.  In the hall the Kafir and the
policeman were as he had left them.

"Come in here," he ordered briefly.

The Kafir came, with the trooper and the revolver close at his back.
The latter’s eye made notes of the room, the glasses, the doctor, all
the consistent details; and he smiled.

"You ’re a doctor," said Ford to the Kafir.  "Can you do anything with

"This" was Dr. Jakes.  Kamis made an inspection of him and lifted one of
the tight eyelids.

"I can make him conscious," he answered, "and sober in a desperate sort
of fashion.  But he won’t be fit for anything.  You mustn’t trust him."

"Will he be able to doctor Miss Harding?" demanded Ford.

"No," answered Kamis emphatically.  "He won’t."

"Then," said Ford, "what the deuce are we to do?"

The Kafir was still giving attention to Dr. Jakes, and was unbuttoning
the neck of his shirt.  He looked up.

"If you would let me see her," he suggested, "I ’ve no doubt I could do
what is necessary for her."

Ford ran his fingers through his short stiff hair in perplexity.

"I don’t see what else there is to do," he said, frowning.

The trooper had not yet spoken since he had entered the room.  He and
his revolver had had no share in events.  He had been a part of the
background, like the bottles and the soot, forgotten and discounted.
Not even his prisoner, whose life hung on the pressure of his
trigger-finger, had spent a glance on him.  But at Ford’s reply to the
suggestion of the Kafir he restored himself to a central place in the

"There will be none of that," he remarked in his drawling nasal voice.

Both turned towards him, the Kafir to meet the pistol-barrel pointing at
his chest.  The trooper’s mouth was twisted to a smile, and his
Punchinello face was mocking and servile at once.

"None of what?" demanded Ford.

"None of your taking this nigger into women’s bedrooms.  He ’s my

"I ’ll take all responsibility," said Ford impatiently.

The trooper’s smile was open now.  He had Ford summed up for such
another as Margaret, a person who held lax views in regard to Kafirs and
white women. Such a person was not to be feared in South Africa.

"No," he said.  "Can’t allow that.  It isn’t done. This nigger ’ll stay
with me."

"Look here," said Ford angrily.  "I tell you—"

"You look here," retorted the other.  "Look at this, will you?"  He
balanced the big revolver in his fist. "That Kafir tries to get up those
stairs, and I ’ll drill a hole in him you could put your fist in.

He nodded at Ford with a sort of geniality more inflexibly hostile than
any scowls.

Ford would have answered forcibly enough, but from the doorway came a
wail, and he looked up to see Mrs. Jakes standing there, with a hand on
each doorpost and her small face, which he knew as the shopwindow of the
less endearing virtues, convulsed with a passion of alarm and horror.
At her cry, they all started round towards her, with the single
exception of Dr. Jakes, who lay in his chair with his face in that
direction already, and was not stirred at all by her appearance on the
scene that had created itself around him.

"O-o-oh," she cried.  "Eustace—after all I ’ve done; after all these
years.  Why didn’t you lock the door, Eustace?  And what will become of
us now?  O-oh, Mr. Ford, I begged you to go to bed.  And the Kafir to
see it, and all.  The disgrace—o-o-h."

The tears ran openly down her face; they made her seem suddenly younger
and more human than Ford had known her to be.

"Oh, come in, Mrs. Jakes," he begged.  "Come in; it ’s—it ’s all right."

"All right," repeated Mrs. Jakes.  "But—everybody will know, soon, and
how can I hold up my head?  I ’ve been so careful; I ’ve watched all the
time—and I ’ve prayed—"

She bowed her face and wept aloud, with horrible sobs.

Ford was at the end of his wits.  While he pitied Mrs. Jakes, Margaret
might be dying in her room, under the bland and interested eyes of Fat
Mary.  He turned swiftly to the Kafir.

"Could you prescribe if I told you what she looked like?" he asked, in a
half-whisper.  "Could you do anything in that way?"

"Perhaps."  The Kafir was quick to understand. Even in the urgency of
the time, Ford was thankful that he had to deal with a man who
understood readily and replied at once, a man like himself.

"Let me pass, Mrs. Jakes," he said, and made for the stairs.

As soon as he had gone, the trooper advanced to the desk and laid hands
on a bottle and a glass.  He mixed himself a satisfactory tumbler and
turned to Mrs. Jakes.

"The ladies, God bless ’em," he said piously, and drank.

Kamis, looking on mutely, saw the little woman blink at her tears and
try to smile.

"Don’t mention it," she murmured.

She came into the room and examined Dr. Jakes, bending over him to scan
his tranquil countenance. There was nothing in her aspect of wrath or
rancor; she was still submissive to the fate that stood at the levers of
her being and switched her arbitrarily from respectability to ruin.  She
seemed merely to make sure of features in his condition which she
recognized without disgust or shame.

"Would you please just help me?" she asked, looking up at the policeman,
very politely, with her hands on the doctor’s shoulders.

"Charmed," declared the policeman, with an equal courtesy, and aided her
to raise the drunken and unconscious man to a more seemly position in
his chair.  It was seemlier because his head hung forward, and he looked
more as if he were dead and less as if he were drunk.

"Thank you," she said, when it was done.  "It is—it is quite a fine
night, is it not?  The stars are beautiful.  There is whisky on the
desk—very good whisky, I believe.  Won’t you help yourself?"

"You ’re very good," said the trooper, cordially, and helped himself.

Ford came shortly.  He ignored Mrs. Jakes and the trooper entirely and
spoke to the Kafir only.  His manner made a privacy from which the
others were excluded.

"I say," he said, with a manner of trouble.  "She ’s still in a faint.
Very white, not breathing much, and rather cold.  She looks bad."

The Kafir nodded.  "You could n’t take her temperature, of course," he
said.  "There hadn’t been any fresh hemorrhage?"

"No," replied Ford.  "I asked Fat Mary.  She was there, and she said
there ’d been no blood.  I say—is it very dangerous?"

He was a layman; flesh and blood—blood particularly—were beyond his
science and within the reach only of his pity and his fear.  He had
stood by Margaret’s bed and looked down on her; he had bent his ear to
her lips to make sure that she breathed and that her white immobility
was not death.  His hand had felt her forehead and been chilled by the
cold of it; and he had tried inexpertly to find her pulse and failed.
Fat Mary, holding a candle, had illuminated his researches, grinning the
while, and had answered his questions humorously, till she realized that
she was in some danger of being assaulted; and then she had lied.

He made his appeal to the Kafir as to a man of his own kind.

"I ’m afraid it ’s not much use," he said—"what I can tell you, I mean.
But do you think there ’s much danger?"

Kamis shook his head.  "There should n’t be," he answered.  "I wish I
could see her.  Cold, was she?  Yes; temperature subnormal.  I could
cup,—but you could n’t.  Do you think you could make a hypodermic
injection, if I showed you how?"

"I could do any blessed thing," declared Ford, fervently.

"Digitalin and adrenalin," mused Kamis.  "He won’t have those, though.
Do you know if he ’s got any ergotin?"

"He has," replied Ford.  "He shoved some into me. Mrs. Jakes—ergotin?
where is it?"

Mrs. Jakes was leaning on the back of the chair which contained the
doctor.  She had recovered from the emotion which had convulsed and
unbalanced her at the discovery of the study’s open door.  She looked up
now languidly, in imitation of Margaret’s manner when she was not
pleased with matters.

"Really, you must ask the doctor," she said.  "I couldn’t think
of—ah—disposing of such things."

Kamis had not waited to hear her out.  Already he was overhauling the
drawers of the desk for the syringe. Ford aided him.

"Is this it?" he asked, at the second drawer he opened.

"Thank God," ejaculated Kamis.  He could not help sending a glance of
triumph at Mrs. Jakes.

"Now attend to me," he said to Ford.  "First I ’ll show you how to
inject it.  Give me your arm; can you stand a prick?"

"Go ahead," said Ford; "slowly, so that I can watch."

"Take a pinch of skin like this," directed the Kafir, closing his
forefinger and thumb on a piece of Ford’s forearm.  "See?  Then, with
the syringe in your hand, like this, push the needle in—like this. See?"

"I see."

"Well, now do it to me.  Here ’s the place."

The arm he bared was black brown, full and muscular.  Ford took the
syringe and pinched the smooth warm skin.

"In with it," urged the Kafir.  "Don’t be afraid, man.  Now press the
plunger down with your forefinger. See?  Go on, can’t you?  You mustn’t
mess the business upstairs.  Do it again."

"That ’s enough," said Ford.

Drops of blood issued from the puncture as he withdrew the needle, and
he shivered involuntarily.  It had been horrible to press the point home
into that smooth and rounded arm; his own had not bled.

"Mind now," warned the Kafir.  "You must run it well in.  And now about
the drug."

He was minute in his instructions and careful to avoid technical phrases
and terms of art.  He took the syringe and cleaned and charged and gave
it to Ford.

"Don’t funk it," was his final injunction.  "This is nothing.  There may
be worse for you to do yet."

"I won’t funk it," promised Ford.  "But—" he appealed to the Kafir with
a shrug of deprecation—"but isn’t it a crazy business?"

It was like a swiftly-changing dream to him.  The hot and dirty room,
with the Kafir busy and thoughtful, the malevolent trooper and his
revolver, the sprawl of the doctor and his slumberous calm and Mrs.
Jakes groping through the minutes for a cue to salvation, were
unconvincing even when his eyes dwelt on them.  They had not the savor
of reality.  Six paces away was the hall, severe and grand, with its
open door making it a neighbor of the darkness and the stars.  Then came
the vacant stairs and the long lifeless corridors running between the
closed doors of rooms, and the light leaking out from under the door of
Margaret’s chamber. Through such a variety one moves in dreams, where
things have lost or changed their values and nothing is solid or
immediate, and death is not troublous nor life significant.

Fat Mary was resting in Margaret’s armchair when he pushed open the door
and came in, carrying the syringe carefully with its point in the air.
She rose hastily, fearful of a rebuke.

"Miss Harding wake up yet?" Ford asked her.

"No.  Missis sleep all-a-time," replied Fat Mary. "She plenty quiet,
all-’e-same dead."

"Shut up," ordered Ford, in a harsh whisper. "You’re a fool."

Fat Mary sniffed in cautious defiance and muttered in Kafir.  Since her
duties had lain about Margaret’s person, she had become unused to being
called a fool. She pouted unpleasantly and stood watching unhelpfully as
Ford went to the bedside.

The blood had been washed away and there was nothing now to suggest
violence or brutality.  The girl lay on her back in the utter vacancy of
unconsciousness; the face had been wiped clean of all expression and
left blank and void.  Mrs. Jakes had known enough to remove the pillows,
which were in the chair Fat Mary had selected for her ease, and the head
lay back on the level sheet with the brown hair tumbled to each side of
it. Ford, looking down on her, was startled by a likeness to a recumbent
stone figure he had seen in some church, with the marble drapery falling
to either side of it as now the bedclothes fell over Margaret Harding.
It needed only the crossed arms and the kneeling angel to complete the
resemblance.  The idea was hateful to him, and he made haste to get to
the work he had to do in order to break away from it.

The sleeve of the nightgown had soft lace at the wrist and a band of
lace inserted higher up; softness and delicacy surrounded her and made
his task the harder.  The forearm, when he had stripped the sleeve back,
was cool and silk-smooth to his touch, slender and shining.  His fingers
almost circled its girth; it was strangely feminine and disturbing.  A
blue vein was distinct in the curve of the elbow, and others branched at
the wrist where his finger could find no pulse.

Fat Mary forgot her indignation in her curiosity, and came tiptoeing
across the floor, holding a candle to light him, and stood at his
shoulder to watch.  Her big ridiculous face was gleeful as he took up
the syringe; she knew a joke when she saw one.

Ford pinched the white skin with thumb and forefinger as he had been
bidden and touched it with the point of the needle.  The point slipped
and was reluctant to enter; he had to take hold firmly and thrust it,
like a man sewing leather.  The girl’s hand twitched slightly and fell
open again and was passive.  He felt sickish and feeble and had to knit
himself to run the needle in deep and depress the plunger that deposited
the drug in the arm.  Over his shoulder Fat Mary watched avidly and

He drew the sleeve down again and laid the arm back in its place.  He
passed a hand absently over his forehead and found it damp with strange
sweat, and he was conscious of being weary in every limb as though he
had concluded some extreme physical effort.  He looked carefully at the
unconscious girl, seeking for signs and indices which he should report
to Kamis.  The likeness of the marble figure did not recur to him; his
thoughts were laborious and slow.

He woke Mr. Samson on his way downstairs, invading his room without
knocking and shaking him by the shoulder.  Mr. Samson snorted and thrust
up a bewildered face to the light of the candle.  His white mustache,
which in the daytime cocked debonair points to port and starboard, hung
down about his mouth and made him commonplace.

"What the devil ’s up?" he gasped, staring wildly. "Oh, it ’s you,

"Get up," said Ford.  "There ’s the deuce to pay. That Kafir ’s
arrested—Kamis, you know; Miss Harding ’s had a bad hemorrhage and Jakes
is dead drunk. I want you to go to Du Preez’s and send a messenger for
another doctor.  Hurry, will you?"

"My sainted aunt," exclaimed Mr. Samson, in amazement.  "You don’t say.
I ’ll be with you in a jiffy, Ford.  Don’t you wait."

He threw a leg over the edge of the bed, revealing pyjamas strikingly
striped, and Ford left him to improvise a toilet unwatched.

The trooper was talking to Mrs. Jakes in the study when Ford returned
there.  He had relieved himself of his hat, and his big head, on which
the hair was scant, was naked to the lamp.  He had found himself a chair
at the back of the desk, and reclined in it spaciously, with his
half-empty tumbler at his elbow. The Kafir still stood where Ford had
left him, his eyes roving gravely over the room and its contents.  The
trooper looked up as Ford came in, lifting his saturnine and aggressive
features with a smile.  He had drunk several glasses in a quick
succession and was already thawed and voluble.

"Well," he said loudly.  "How’s interestin’ patient?  ’S well ’s can be
expected—what?  Didn’t express wish to thank med’cal adviser in person,
I s’pose?"

Ford bent a hard look on him.

"I ’ll attend to you in good time," he said, with meaning.  "For the
present you can shut up."

He turned at once to the Kafir and began to tell him what he had seen
and done, while the other steered him with brief questions.  The trooper
gazed at them with a fixed eye.

"Shup," he said, to Mrs. Jakes.  "Says I can shup—for the present.
Supposin’ I don’t shup, though."

He drank, with a manner of confirming by that action a portentous
resolution, and sat for some minutes grave and meditative, with his
bitter, thin mouth sucked in.  He never laid down the big revolver which
he held.  Its short, businesslike barrel rested on the blue cloth of his
knee, and the blued metal reflected the light dully from its surfaces.

"Is it dangerous?" Ford was asking.  "From what I can tell you, do you
think there ’s any real danger? She looks—she looks deadly."

"Yes, she would," replied the Kafir thoughtfully. "I think I ’ve got an
idea how things stand.  As long as that unconsciousness lasts, there ’ll
be no more hemorrhage, and there ’s the ergotin too.  If there ’s
nothing else, I don’t see that it should be serious—more serious, that
is, than hemorrhages always are."

"You really think so?" asked Ford.  "I wish you could see her for
yourself, and make certain.  Perhaps presently that swine with the
revolver will be drunk enough to go to sleep or something, and we might
manage it."

The Kafir shook his head.

"If it were necessary, the revolver wouldn’t stop me," he said.  "But as
it is—"


"Oh, do you think it would make things better for Miss Harding if you
took me into her bedroom?  You see what has happened already, because
she has spoken to me from time to time.  How would this sound, when it
was dished up for circulation in the dorps?"

Ford frowned unhappily.  He did not want to meet the mournful eyes in
the black face.

"You think," he began hesitatingly—"you think it—er—it wouldn’t do?"

"You were here when the other story came out," retorted Kamis.  "Can you
remember what you thought then?"

"Oh, I was a fool of course," said Ford; "but, confound it, I did n’t
think any harm."

"Didn’t you?  But what did everybody think? Isn’t it true that as a
result of all that was said and thought Miss Harding has to risk her
life by returning to England?"

"No, it wouldn’t do, I suppose," said Ford.  "Between us we ’ve made it
a pretty tough business for her.  We ’re brutes."

The thick negro lips parted in a smile that was not humorous.

"At a little distance," said Kamis, "say, from the other side of the
color line, you certainly make a poor appearance."

Mr. Samson made his entry with an air of coming to set things right or
know the reason.

"Well, I ’ll be hanged," he exclaimed in the doorway, making a sharp
inspection of the scene.

He had got together quite a plausible equivalent for his daily
personality, and had not omitted to make his mustache recognizable with
pomade.  A Newmarket coat concealed most of his deficiencies; his
monocle made the rest of them insignificant.

Mrs. Jakes sighed and fidgeted.

"Oh, Mr. Samson," she said.  "What can I say to you?"

"Say ’good-morning,’" suggested Mr. Samson, with his eye on Jakes.
"Better send for the ’boys’ to carry him up to bed, to begin with—what?
Well, Ford, here I am, ready and waiting.  This the fellow, eh?"

His arrogant gaze rested on the Kafir intolerantly.

"This is Kamis," said Ford.  "Dr. Kamis, of London, by the way.  He is
treating Miss Harding at present."

"Eh?"  Mr. Samson turned on him abruptly. "You ’ve taken him up there,
to her room?"

"No," said Ford.  "Not yet."

"See you don’t, then," said Mr. Samson strongly. "What you thinkin’
about, Ford?  And look here, what ’s your name!"—to the Kafir.  "You
speak English, don’t you?  Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelin’s, you
know, but you ’ve got to understand quite plainly—"

Kamis interrupted him suavely.

"You need n’t trouble," he said.  "I quite agree with you.  I was just
telling Mr. Ford the same thing."

"Were you, by Jove," snorted Mr. Samson, entirely unappeased.  "Pity you
didn’t come to the same conclusion a month ago.  You may be a doctor and
all that; I ’ve no means of disprovin’ what you say; but in so far as
you compromised little Miss Harding, you ’re a black cad.  Just think
that over, will you? Now, Ford, what d’you want me to do?"

There was power of a sort in Mr. Samson, the power of unalterable
conviction and complete sincerity.  In his Newmarket coat and checked
cloth cap he thrust himself with fluency into the scene and made himself
its master.  He gave an impression of din, of shouting and tumult; he
made himself into a clamorous crowd. Mrs. Jakes trembled under his
glance and the trooper blinked servilely.  Ford, concerned chiefly to
have a messenger despatched without delay, bowed to the storm and gave
him his instructions without protest.

"Mind, now," stipulated Mr. Samson, ere he departed on his errand; "no
takin’ the nigger upstairs, Ford.  There ’s a decency in these affairs."

The trooper nodded solemnly to the departing flap of the Newmarket
tails, making their exit with a Newmarket _aplomb_.

"Noble ol’ buck," he observed, approvingly.  "Goo’ style.  Gift o’ the
gab.  Here ’s luck to him."

He gulped noisily in his glass, spilling the liquor on his tunic as he

"Knows nigger when he sees ’im," he said.  "Frien’ o’ yours?"

"Mr. Samson," replied Mrs. Jakes seriously, "is a very old friend."

"Goblessim," said the trooper.  "Less ’ave anurr."

Kamis and Ford regarded one another as Mr. Samson left them and both
were a little embarrassed. Plain speaking is always a brutality, since
it sets every man on his defense.

"I ’m sorry there was a fuss," said Ford uncomfortably.  "Old Samson ’s
such a beggar to make rows."

"He was right," said Kamis; "perfectly right. Only—I didn’t need to be
told.  I ’ve been cursing myself ever since I heard that the thing had
come out.  It ’s my fault altogether—and I knew it long before the row
happened, and I let it go on."

Ford nodded with his eyes on the ground.

"You could hardly—order her off," he said.

"That wasn’t it," answered Kamis.  "Man, I was as lonely as a man on a
raft, and I jumped at the chance of her company now and again.  I
sacrificed her, I tell you.  Don’t try to make excuses for me. I won’t
have them.  Go up and see how she is.  What are we talking here for?"

"God knows," said Ford drearily.  "What else ’is there to do?  We ’ve
both wronged her, haven’t we?"

There was no change in Margaret; she was as he had left her, pallid and
motionless, a temptation to death.

Fat Mary was asleep in the armchair, gross and disgustful, and he woke
her with the heel of his slipper on her big splay foot.  She squeaked
and came to life angrily and reported no movement from Margaret.  He had
an impulse to hit her, she was so obviously prepared to say anything he
seemed to require and she was so little like a woman.  It was impossible
in reason and sentiment to connect her with the still, fragile form on
the bed, and he had to exercise an actual and conscious restraint to
refrain from an openhanded smack on her bulging and fatuous countenance.
He could only call her wounding names, and he did so.  She drooped her
lower lip at him piteously and again he yearned to punch her.

There was no change to report to Kamis, who nodded at his account and
spoke a perfunctory, "All right. Thanks."  The trooper sat in a daze,
scowling at his boots; Mrs. Jakes was lost in thought; the doctor had
not moved.  Ford fidgeted to and fro between the desk and the door for a
while and finally went out to the stoep and walked to and fro along its
length, trying to realize and to feel what was happening.

He knew that he was not appreciating the matter as a whole.  He was like
a man dully afflicted, to whom momentary details are present and
apparent, while the sum of his trouble is uncomprehended.  He could
dislike the apprehensive and timidly presumptuous face of the trooper,
pity Mrs. Jakes, distaste Mr. Samson’s forceful loudness, smell the
foulness of the study and wonder at the Kafir; but the looming essential
fact that Margaret lay in a swoon on her bed, lacking the aid due to her
and in danger of death in a dozen forms—that had been vague and diffused
in his understanding.  He had not known it passionately, poignantly, in
its full dreadfulness.

He told himself the facts carefully, going over them with a patient
emphasis to point them at himself.

"Margaret may die; it ’s very likely she will, with only a fool like me
to see how she looks.  I never called her Margaret till to-day—but it ’s
yesterday now.  And here ’s this damned story about her, which every one
knows wrongly and adds lies to when he tells it.  It would look queer on
the stage—Kamis doctoring her like this.  But the point is—she may die."

The sky was full of stars, white and soft and misty, like tearful eyes,
and the Southern Cross, in which he had never been able to detect
anything like a cross, rode high.  He could not hold his thoughts from
wandering to it and the absurdity of calling a mere blotch like that a
cross.  Heaps of other stars that did make crosses—neat and obvious
ones.  The sky was full of crosses, for that matter.  Astronomers were
asses, all of them.  But the point was, Margaret might die.

"That you, Ford?"

Mr. Samson was coming up the steps and with him were Christian du Preez
and his wife.

"These good people are anxious to help," explained Mr. Samson.  "Very
good of ’em—what?  And young Paul ’s gone off on a little stallion to
send Dr. Van Coller.  Turned out at the word like a fire engine and was
off like winkin’.  Never saw anything smarter. If the doctor ’s half as
smart he ’ll be here in four hours."

"That’s good," said Ford.

"And Mrs. du Preez ’ll stay with Miss Harding an’ do what she can," said
Mr. Samson.

"I ’ll do any blessed thing," declared Mrs. du Preez with energy.

Mr. Samson stood aside to let his companions enter the house before him.
He whispered with buoyant force to Ford.

"A chaperon to the rescue," he said.  "We ’ve got a chaperon, and the
rest follows.  You see if it don’t."

There was a brief interview between Mrs. du Preez and the Kafir under
the eyes of the tall Boer. Mr. Samson had already informed them of the
situation in the study, and they were not taken by surprise, and the
Kafir fell in adroitly with the tone they took. Ford thought that Mrs.
du Preez displayed a curious timidity before the negro, a conspicuous
improvement on her usual perky cocksureness.

"Just let me know if there is any change," Kamis said to her.  "That is
all.  If she recovers consciousness, for instance, come to me at once."

"I will," answered Mrs. du Preez, with subdued fervor.

There seemed nothing left for Ford to do.  Mrs. du Preez departed to her
watch, and it was at least satisfactory to know that Fat Mary would now
have to deal with one who would beat her on the first occasion without
compunction.  Mr. Samson and the Boer departed to the drawing-room in
search of a breathable air, and after an awkward while Ford followed
them thither.

"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Samson, as he appeared. "Here you are.  You ’d
better try and snooze, Ford. Been up all night, haven’t you?"

"Pretty nearly," admitted Ford.  "I couldn’t sleep, though."

"You try," recommended Mr. Samson urgently. "Lie down on the couch and
have a shot.  You ’re done up; you ’re not yourself.  What d’ you think,
Du Preez?  He was nearly takin’ that nigger up to Miss Harding’s room.
What d’ you think of that, eh?"

He was sitting on the music stool, an urbane and adequate presence.

The Boer shook his head.  "That would be bad," he said seriously.  "He
is a good nigger—_ya_!  But better she should die."

Ford laughed wearily as he sat down.  "That was his idea," he said.

He leaned back to listen to their talk.  Sleep, he felt, was far from
him.  Margaret might die—that had to be kept in mind.  He heard them
discuss the Kafir stupidly, ridiculously.  It was pothouse talk, the
chatter of companionable fools, frothing round and round their topic.
Their minds were rigid like a pair of stiffened corpses set facing one
another; they never reached an imaginative hand towards the wonder and
pity of the matter.  And Margaret—the beautiful name that it
was—Margaret might die.

Half an hour later, Mr. Samson slewed his monocle towards him.

"Sleepin’ after all," he remarked.  "Poor devil—no vitality.  Not like
you an’ me, Du Preez—what?"

Ford knew he had slept when the Boer woke him in the broad daylight.

"The doctor is here," said Christian.  "He says it is all right.  He
says—she has been done right with. She will not die."

"Thank God," said Ford.

Mr. Samson was in the room.  The daylight showed the incompleteness of
his toilet; he was a mere imitation of his true self.  His triumphant
smile failed to redeem him.  The bald truth was—he was not dressed.

"Everything ’s as right as rain," he declared, wagging his tousled white
head.  "Sit where you are, my boy; there ’s nothing for you to do.  Dr.
Van Coller had an infernal thing he calls a motor-bicycle, and it
brought him the twenty-two miles in fifty minutes.  Makes a noise like a
traction engine and stinks like the dickens.  Got an engine of sorts,
you know, and goes like anything.  But the point is, Miss Harding ’s
going on like a house on fire.  Your nigger-man and you did just the
right thing, it appears."

"Where is he?" asked Ford.

"The nigger-man?"

Mr. Samson and the Boer exchanged glances.

"Look here," said Mr. Samson; "Du Preez and I had an understanding about
it, but don’t let it go any further.  You see, after all that has
happened, we could n’t let the chap go to gaol.  No sense in that. So
the bobby being as drunk as David’s sow, I had a word with him.  I told
him I didn’t retract anything, but we were all open to make mistakes,
and—to cut it short—he ’d better get away while he had the chance."

"Yes," said Ford.  "Did he?"

"He didn’t want to at first," replied Mr. Samson. "His idea was that he
had to clear himself of the charge on which he was arrested.  Sedition,
you know. All rot, of course, but that was his idea.  So I promised to
write to old Bill Winter—feller that owes me money—he ’s governor of the
Cape, or something, and put it to him straight."

"He will write to him and say it is lies," said the Boer.  "He knows

"Know him," cried Mr. Samson.  "Never paid me a bet he lost, confound
him.  Regular old welcher, Bill is.  Van Coller chipped in too—treated
him like an equal.  And in the end he went.  Van Coller says he ’d like
to have had his medical education.  I say, what ’s that?"

A sudden noise had interrupted him, a sharp report from somewhere within
the house.  The Boer nodded slowly, and made for the door.

"That policeman has shot somebody," he said.

Dr. Jakes waked to the morning light with a taste in his mouth which was
none the more agreeable for being familiar.  He opened his hot eyes to
the strange disarray of his study, the open door and the somnolent form
of the policeman, and sat up with a jerk, almost sober.  He stared
around him uncomprehending. The lamp burned yet, and the room was
stiflingly hot; the curtains had not been put back and the air was heavy
and foul.  He got shakily to his feet and went towards the hall.  His
wife, with coffee cups on a tray, was coming down the stairs.  She saw
him and put the tray down on the table against the wall and went to him.

"Well, Eustace?" she said tonelessly.  "What is it now?"

He cleared his burning throat.  "Who opened the door?" he asked

She shook her head.  "I don’t know," she answered. "It does n’t
matter—we ’re ruined at last. It ’s come, Eustace."

He made strange grimaces in an endeavor to clear his mind and grasp what
she was saying.  She watched him unmoved, and went on to tell him, in
short bald sentences of the night’s events.

"Dr. Van Coller will be down presently," she concluded.  "He ’ll want to
see you, but you can lock your door if you like.  He ’s seen me

He had her meaning at last.  He blinked at her owlishly, incapable of
expressing the half-thoughts that dodged in his drugged brain.

"Poor old Hester," he said, at last, and turned heavily back to his

Mrs. Jakes smiled in pity and despair, and took up her tray again.  She
thought she knew better than he how poor she was.

He slammed the door behind him, but he did not trouble to lock it.
Something he had seen when he opened his eyes stuck in his mind, and he
went staggeringly round the untidy desk, with its bottles and papers, to
where the policeman sprawled in a chair with his Punchinello chin on his
breast.  His loose hands retained yet the big revolver.

"He ’ll come to it too," was Dr. Jakes’ thought as he looked down on
him.  He drew the weapon with precaution from the man’s hand.

He stood an instant in thought, looking at its neat complication of
mechanism and then raised it slowly till the small round of the muzzle
returned his look. His face clenched in desperate resolution.  But he
did not pull the trigger.  At the critical moment, his eye caught the
lamp, burning brazenly on the wall.  He went over and turned it out.

"Now," he said, and raised the revolver again.

                             *CHAPTER XIX*

Upon that surprising morning when Mr. Samson, taking his early
constitutional, was a witness to the cloud that rode across the sun and
presently let go its burden of wet to fall upon the startled earth in
slashing, roaring sheets of rain, there stood luggage in the hall,
strapped, locked, and ready for transport.

"Gad!" said Mr. Samson, breathless in the front door and backing from
the splashes of wet that leaped on the railing of the stoep and drove
inwards. "They ’ll have a wet ride."

He flicked at spots of water on the glossy surface of his gray coat and
watched the rain drive across and hide the Karoo like a steel-hued fog.
The noise of it, after months of sun and stillness, was distracting; it
threshed vehemently with uproar and power, in the extravagant fashion of
those latitudes.  It was the signal that the weather had broken,
justifying at length Mrs. Jakes’ conversational gambit.

She came from the breakfast-room while he watched, with the wind from
the open door romping in her thin skirts, and stood beside him to look
out.  They exchanged good mornings.

"Is n’t it wet?" said Mrs. Jakes resourcefully. "But I dare say it ’s
good for the country."

"Rather," agreed Mr. Samson.  "It ’ll be all green before you know it.
But damp for the travelers—what?"

"They will have the hood on the cart," replied Mrs. Jakes.

She was not noticeably changed since the doctor’s death, three weeks
before.  Her clothes had always been black, so that she was exempt from
the gruesome demands of custom to advertise her loss in her garments.
The long habit of shielding Jakes from open shame had become a part of
her; so that instead of abandoning her lost position, she was already in
the way of canonizing him.  She made reverential references to his
professional skill, to his goodness, his learning, his sacrifices to
duty.  She looked people steadily and defiantly in the eyes as she said
so, and had her own way with them.  The foundations were laid of a
tradition which presented poor Jakes in a form he would never have
recognized.  He was in his place behind the barbed wire out on the veld,
sharing the bed of little Eustace, heedless that there was building for
him a mausoleum of good report and loyal praise.

"Hate to see luggage in a house," remarked Mr. Samson, as they passed
the pile in the hall on their way to the breakfast-room.  "Nothing
upsets a house like luggage.  Looks so bally unsettled, don’t you know."

"Things _are_ a little unsettled," agreed Mrs. Jakes civilly.  "What
with the rain and everything, it doesn’t seem like the same place, does

She gave a tone of mild complaint to her voice, exactly as though a
disturbance in the order of her life were a thing to be avoided.  It
would not have been consistent with the figure of the late Jakes, as she
was sedulous to present it, if she had admitted that the house and its
routine, its purpose, its atmosphere, its memories, the stones in its
walls and the tiles on its roof, were the objects of her living hate.
She was already in negotiations for the sale of it and what she called
"the connection," and had called Mr. Samson and Ford into consultation
over correspondence with a doctor at Port Elizabeth, who wrote with a
typewriter and was inquisitive about balance-sheets. Throughout the
consequent discussions she maintained an air of gentle and patient
regret, an attitude of resigned sentiment, the exact manner of a lady in
a story who sells the home of her ancestors to a company promoter.  Even
her anxiety to sell Ford and Mr. Samson along with the house did not
cause her to deflect for an instant from the course of speech and action
she had selected.  There were yet Penfolds in Putney and Clapham
Junction, and when the sale was completed she would see them again and
rejoin their congenial circle; but her joy at the prospect was private,
her final and transcendent secret.

Nothing is more natural to man than to pose; by a posture, he can
correct the crookedness of his nature and be for himself, and sometimes
for others too, the thing he would be.  It is the instinct towards
protective coloring showing itself through broadcloth and bombazine.

Mr. Samson accepted his coffee and let his monocle fall into it, a sign
that he was discomposed to an unusual degree.  He sat wiping it and

"Did I tell you," he said suddenly, "that—er—that Kafir ’s going to look
in just before they start?"

Mrs. Jakes looked up sharply.

"You mean—that Kamis?" she demanded.  "He ’s coming _here_?"

"Ye-es," said Mr. Samson.  "Just for a minute or two.  Er—Ford knows
about it."

"To see Miss Harding, I suppose?" inquired Mrs. Jakes, with a sniff.

"Yes," replied Mr. Samson again.  "It isn’t my idea of things, but then,
things have turned out so dashed queer, don’t you know.  He wrote to ask
if he might say good-by; very civil, reasonable kind of letter; Ford
brought it to me an’ asked my opinion. Couldn’t overlook the fact that
he had a hand in saving her life, you know.  So on my advice, Ford wrote
to the feller saying that if he ’d understand there was going to be no
private interview, or anything of that kind, he could turn up at ten
o’clock an’ take his chance."

"But," said Mrs. Jakes hopefully, "supposing the police—

"Bless you, that ’s all right," Mr. Samson assured her.  "The police
don’t want to see him again.  Seems that old Bill Winter—you know I
wrote to him?—seems that old Bill went to work like the dashed old
beaver he is, and had Van Zyl’s head on a charger for his breakfast.
The Kafir-man ’s got a job of some sort, doctorin’ niggers somewhere.
The police never mention him any more."

"Well," said Mrs. Jakes, "I can’t prevent you, of course, from bringing
Kafirs here, Mr. Samson, but I ’ve got my feelings.  When I think of
poor Eustace, and that Kafir thrusting himself in—well, there!"

Mr. Samson drank deep of his coffee, trying vaguely to suggest in his
manner of drinking profound sympathy with Mrs. Jakes and respect for
what she sometimes called the departed.  Also, the cup hid her from him.

It was strange how the presence of Margaret’s luggage in the hall
pervaded the house with a sense of impermanence and suspense.  It gave
even to the breakfast the flavor of the mouthful one snatches while
turning over the baffling pages of the timetable. Ford, when he came in,
was brusk and irresponsive, though he was not going anywhere, and
Margaret’s breakfast went upstairs on a tray.  Kafir servants were
giggling and whispering up and down stairs and were obviously interested
in the leather trunks.  A house with packed luggage in it has no
character of a dwelling; it is only a stopping-place, a minister to
transitory needs.  As well have a coffin in the place as luggage ready
for removal; between them, they comprise all that is removable in human

"Well," said Mr. Samson to Ford, attempting conversation; "we ’re goin’
to have the place to ourselves again.  Eh?"

"You seem pleased," replied Ford unamiably.

"I ’m bearin’ up," said Mr. Samson.  "You seem grieved, though."

"That," said Ford, with venom, "is because I ’m being bored."

"The deuce you are."  Mr. Samson was annoyed. "I don’t want to talk to
you, you know.  Sulk all you want to; doesn’t affect me.  But if you
could substitute a winnin’ smile for the look you ’re wearin’ at
present, it would be more appetizin’."

"Er—the rain seems to be drawing-off, I think," remarked Mrs. Jakes,
energetically.  "It might be quite fine by-and-by.  What do you think,
Mr. Samson?"

Mr. Samson, ever obedient to her prompting, made an inspection of the
prospect through the window.  But his sense of injury was strong.

"There are things much more depressing than rain," he said, rancorously,
and occupied himself pointedly with his food.

Ford made his apology as soon as they were free from Mrs. Jakes.  She
had much to do in the unseen organization of the departure, and
apologized for leaving them to themselves.  It was another adjunct of
the luggage; not within the memory of man had inmates of the Sanatorium
sat at table without Mrs. Jakes.

"Sorry," said Ford then, in a matter-of-fact way.

"Are you?" said Mr. Samson grudgingly.  "All right."

And that closed the incident.

Soon after breakfast, when the stoep was still uninhabitable and the
drawing-room unthinkable and the hall uncongenial, Margaret came
downstairs, unfamiliar in clothes which the Sanatorium had not seen
before.  Mrs. Jakes made mental notes of them, gazing with narrow eyes
and lips moving in a soundless inventory.  She came down smiling but

"I didn’t know it could rain," was her greeting. "Did you see the
beginning of it?  It was wonderful—like an eruption."

"I saw it," said Mr. Samson.  "I got wet in it. It ’ll be cool for your
drive to the station, even if it ’s a bit damp."

"There ’s still half an hour to wait before the cart comes," said
Margaret.  "Where does one sit when it ’s raining?"

"One doesn’t," said Mr. Samson.  "One stands about in draughts and one
frets, one does."

"Come into the drawing-room," said Ford briefly.

Margaret looked at him with a smile for his seriousness and his manner
of one who desires to get to business, but she yielded, and Mr. Samson
ambled in their wake, never doubting that he was of their company. Ford,
holding the door open for Margaret, surprised him with a forbidding

"We don’t want _you_," he whispered fiercely, and shut the affronted and
uncomprehending old gentleman out.

The drawing-room was forlorn and very shabby in the cold light of the
rainy day and the tattoo of the rain-splashes on its window.  Margaret
went to the hearth where Dr. Jakes had been wont to expiate his crimes,
and leaned her arm on the mantel, looking about the apartment.

"It ’s queer," she said; "I shall miss this."

"Margaret," said Ford.

She turned to him, still smiling.  She answered nothing, but waited for
him to continue.

"I wanted to tell you something," he went on steadily.  "You know I love
you, don’t you?"

"Yes," she answered slowly.  "You—you said so."

"I said it because I do," he said.  "Well, Dr. Van Coller was here
yesterday, and when he had done with you, I had a word with him.  I
wanted to know if I could go Home too; so he came up to my room and made
an examination of me, a careful one."

Margaret had ceased to smile.  "Yes," she said. "Tell me: what did he

"He said No," replied Ford.  "I mustn’t leave here.  He was very clear
about it.  I ’ve got to stay."

The emphasis with which he spoke was merely to make her understand; he
invited no pity for himself and felt none.  He was merely giving

"But," said Margaret,—"never?  It isn’t as bad as _that_, is it?"

"He couldn’t tell.  He isn’t really a lung man, you know.  But it
doesn’t make any real difference, now you ’re going.  Two years or ten
years or forever—you ’ll be away among other people and I ’ll be here
and the gap between us will be wider every day. We ’ve been friends and
I had hopes—nothing cures a chap of hoping, not even his lungs; but now
I ’ve got to cure myself of it, because it’s no use.  I would n’t have
told you, Margaret—"

"Yes, you would," interrupted Margaret.  "You wouldn’t have let me go
away without knowing, since you—you love me."

"That’s it, exactly."  He nodded; he had been making a point and she had
seen it.  "I felt you were entitled to know, but I can’t say why.  You
understand, though, don’t you?"

"Yes," she said.  "I understand."

"I knew you would," he answered.  "And you won’t think I ’m whining.  I
’m not.  I ’m so thankful that we ’ve been together and understood each
other and that I love you that I don’t reckon myself a loser in the end.
It ’s all been pure gain to me. As long as I live I shall be better off
for it; I shall live on it always and never let any of it go.  If I
never see you again, I shall still be to the good.  But perhaps I shall.
God knows."

"Oh, you will," cried Margaret.  "You ’re sure to."

He smiled suddenly.  "That’s what I tell myself. If I get all right, it
’ll be the easiest thing in the world. I ’ll come and call on you,
wherever you happen to be, and send in my card.  And if I ’m not going
to get well, I shall have to know it sooner or later, and then, if you
’d let me, I ’d come just the same.

"I shouldn’t expect anything," he added quickly. "Not a single thing.
Don’t be afraid of that.  Just send in my card, as I said, and see you
again and talk to you, and call you Margaret.  I would n’t cadge; you
could trust me not to do that, at least."

"You must get well and then come," said the girl softly.  "And if you
call me Margaret, I will call you—"

She stopped.  "I never heard your Christian name," she said.

"Just John," he answered, smiling.  "John—not Jack or anything.  I will
come, you can be sure. Either free or a ticket-of-leave, I ’ll come.
And now, say good-by.  I mustn’t keep you any longer; I ’ve hurt old
Samson’s feelings as it is.  Good-by, Margaret. You ’ll get well in
Switzerland, but you won’t forget the Karoo, will you?  Good-by."

"I won’t forget anything," said Margaret, with eyes that were bright and
tender.  "Good-by.  When your card comes in, I shall be ever so glad.

There was a fidgety interval before the big cart drove up to the house,
its wheels rending through the gritty mud and its horses steaming as
though they had been boiled.  Mr. Samson employed each interlude in the
talk to glare at Ford in lofty offense; he seemed only to be waiting
till this dull business of departure was concluded to call him to
account.  Mrs. du Preez, who had come across in the cart to bid Margaret
farewell, was welcome as a diversion.

"Well, where ’s the lucky one?" she cried.  "Ah, Miss Harding, can’t you
smell London from here?  If you could bottle that smell, with a drop o’
fog, a drop o’ dried fish and a drop o’ Underground Railway to bring out
the flavor, you ’d make a fortune, sellin’ it to us poor Afrikanders.
But you ’ll be sniffin’ it from the cask in three weeks from now.  Lord,
I wish it was me."

"You ought to make a trip," suggested Margaret.

"Christian don’t think so," declared Mrs. du Preez, with her shrill
laugh.  "He knows I ’d stick where I touched like a fly in a jam-pot,
and he ’d have to come and pull me out of it himself."

She took an occasion to drop a private whisper into Margaret’s ear.

"Kamis is outside, waitin’ to see you go.  He ’s talkin’ to Paul."

The farewells accomplished themselves.  That of Mrs. Jakes would have
been particularly effective but for the destructive intrusion of Mrs. du

"Er—a pleasant voyage, Miss Harding," she said, in a thin voice.  "I may
be in London soon myself—at Putney.  But I suppose we ’re hardly likely
to meet before you go abroad again."

"I wonder," said Margaret peaceably.

It was then that Mrs. du Preez struck in.

"Putney," she said, in a loud and callous voice, in itself sufficient to
scrape Mrs. Jakes raw.  "South the water, eh?  But you can easy run up
to London from there if Miss Harding sends for you, can’t you?"

Kamis came eagerly to the foot of the steps as Margaret came down, and
Mr. Samson, with a loud cough, posted himself at the head of them to

"I am glad you came," said Margaret.  "I didn’t want to go away without
seeing you."

He glanced up at Mr. Samson and the others, a conscientious audience
ranged above him, deputies of the Colonial Mrs. Grundy, and smiled

"Oh, I had to come," he said.  "I had to bid you good-by."

There was no change in his appearance since she had seen him last.  His
tweed clothes were worn and shabby as ever, and still strange in
connection with his negro face.

"And I wanted to thank you for what you did for me that night," said
Margaret earnestly.  "It was a horrible thing, wasn’t it?  But I hear—I
have heard that it has come all right."

Mr. Samson coughed again.  Mrs. Jakes, with an elbow in each hand,
coughed also.

"All right for me, certainly," the Kafir answered. "They have given me
something to do.  There ’s an epidemic of smallpox among the natives in
the Transkei, and I ’m to go there at once.  It couldn’t be better for
me.  But you.  How about you?"

The Kafir boys who were carrying out the trunks and stacking them under
Paul’s directions in the cart were eyeing them curiously, and the
audience above never wavered in its solemn watch.  It was ridiculous and

"Oh, I shall do very well," said Margaret, striving to be impervious to
the influence of those serious eyes. "You have my address, have n’t you?
You must write me how you get on."

"If you like," he agreed.

"You must," she said.  "I shall be keen to hear.  I believed in you when
nobody else did, except Paul."

A frightful cough from above did not silence her. She answered it with a
shrug.  She meant to say all she had to say, though the ground were
covered with eaves-droppers.

"I shan’t forget our talks," she went on; "under the dam, with Paul’s
models.  You ’ll get on now; you ’ll do all you wanted to do; but I was
in at the beginning, wasn’t I?"

"You were, indeed," he answered; "at the darkest part of it, the best
thing that ever happened to me. And now you ’ve got to go.  I ’m keeping
you too long."

Mr. Samson coughed again as they shook hands and came down the steps to
assist Margaret into the cart.

"Remember," said the girl; "you must write.  And I shall always be glad
and proud I knew you. Good-by and good luck."

"Good-by," said the Kafir.  "I ’ll write.  The best of luck."

Paul put his rug over her knees and reached for his whip.  The tall
horses leaned and started, and the stoep and its occupants, and the
Kafir and Mr. Samson, slid back.  A thin chorus of "good-bys" rose, and
Margaret leaned out to wave her hand.  A watery sun shone on them feebly
between clouds and they looked like the culminating scene in some
lugubrious drama.

When next she looked back, she saw the house against the gray sky,
solitary and little, with all the Karoo for its background.  It looked
unsubstantial and vague, as though a mirage were left over from the
months of sun, to be the abode of troubles and perplexities that would
soon be dim and remote also.  Paul pulled his horses to a standstill
that she might see better; but even at that moment fresh rain drummed on
the hood of the cart and came threshing about them, blotting the house
from view.

"That ’s the last of it, Paul," said Margaret.  "No more looking back

Paul smiled slowly and presently found words.

"When we come to the station," he said, "I will find a Kafir to hold the
horses and I will take you to the train.  But I will not say much

"Why not?" inquired Margaret.

"Because soon I am coming to London too," he answered happily, "and I
will see you there."

Mr. Samson and Ford were the last to reënter the house.  The Kafir had
gone off unnoticed, saying nothing; and Mrs. Jakes could not escape the
conversational attentions of Mrs. du Preez and was suffering in the
drawing-room.  The two men stayed to watch the cart till the rain swept
in and hid it.  Then Mr. Samson resumed his threatful glare at Ford.

"Look here," he said formidably.  "What d’you mean by your dashed cheek?

"Sorry," said Ford calmly.

Mr. Samson snorted.  "_Are_ you?" he said.  "Well—all right!"

                                THE END

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+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.