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A Simpleton by Charles Reade

Part 6 out of 9

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Only for a moment at a time could his eyeballs, straining with
agony, catch this will-o'-the-wisp, the boat's light. It groped
the sea up and down, but came no near.

When what seemed days of agony had passed, suddenly a rocket rose
in the horizon--so it seemed to him.

The lost man gave a shriek of joy; so prone are we to interpret
things hopefully.

Misery! The next time he saw that little light, that solitary
spark of hope, it was not quite so near as before. A mortal
sickness fell on his heart. The ship had recalled the boats by
rocket.

He shrieked, he cried, he screamed, he raved. "Oh, Rosa! Rosa! for
her sake, men, men, do not leave me. I am here! here!"

In vain. The miserable man saw the boat's little light retire,
recede, and melt into the ship's larger light, and that light
glided away.

Then, a cold, deadly stupor fell on him. Then, death's icy claw
seized his heart, and seemed to run from it to every part of him.
He was a dead man. Only a question of time. Nothing to gain by
floating.

But the despairing mind could not quit the world in peace, and even
here in the cold, cruel sea, the quivering body clung to this
fragment of life, and winced at death's touch, though more
merciful.

He despised this weakness; he raged at it; he could not overcome
it.

Unable to live or to die, condemned to float slowly, hour by hour,
down into death's jaws.

To a long, death-like stupor succeeded frenzy. Fury seized this
great and long-suffering mind. It rose against the cruelty and
injustice of his fate. He cursed the world, whose stupidity had
driven him to sea, he cursed remorseless nature; and at last he
railed on the God who made him, and made the cruel water, that was
waiting for his body. "God's justice! God's mercy! God's power!
they are all lies," he shouted, "dreams, chimeras, like Him the
all-powerful and good, men babble of by the fire. If there was a
God more powerful than the sea, and only half as good as men are,
he would pity my poor Rosa and me, and send a hurricane to drive
those caitiffs back to the wretch they have abandoned. Nature
alone is mighty. Oh, if I could have her on my side, and only God
against me! But she is as deaf to prayer as He is: as mechanical
and remorseless. I am a bubble melting into the sea. Soul I have
none; my body will soon be nothing, nothing. So ends an honest,
loving life. I always tried to love my fellow-creatures. Curse
them! curse them! Curse the earth! Curse the sea! Curse all
nature: there is no other God for me to curse."

The moon came out.

He raised his head and staring eyeballs, and cursed her.

The wind began to whistle, and flung spray in his face.

He raised his fallen head and staring eyeballs, and cursed the
wind.

While he was thus raving, he became sensible of a black object to
windward.

It looked like a rail, and a man leaning on it.

He stared, he cleared the wet hair from his eyes, and stared again.

The thing, being larger than himself and partly out of water, was
drifting to leeward faster than himself.

He stared and trembled, and at last it came nearly abreast, black,
black.

He gave a loud cry, and tried to swim towards it; but encumbered
with his life-buoy, he made little progress. The thing drifted
abreast of him, but ten yards distant.

As they each rose high upon the waves, he saw it plainly.

It was the very raft that had been the innocent cause of his sad
fate.

He shouted with hope, he swam, he struggled; he got near it, but
not to it; it drifted past, and he lost his chance of intercepting
it. He struggled after it. The life-buoy would not let him catch
it.

Then he gave a cry of agony, rage, despair, and flung off the life-
buoy, and risked all on this one chance.

He gains a little on the raft.

He loses.

He gains: he cries, "Rosa! Rosa!" and struggles with all his soul,
as well as his body: he gains.

But when almost within reach, a wave half drowns him, and he loses.

He cries, "Rosa! Rosa!" and swims high and strong. "Rosa! Rosa!
Rosa!"

He is near it. He cries, "Rosa! Rosa!" and with all the energy of
love and life flings himself almost out of the water, and catches
hold of the nearest thing on the raft.

It was the dead man's leg.

It seemed as if it would come away in his grasp. He dared not try
to pull himself up by that. But he held on by it, panting,
exhausting, faint.

This faintness terrified him. "Oh," thought he, "if I faint now,
all is over."

Holding by that terrible and strange support, he made a grasp, and
caught hold of the woodwork at the bottom of the rail. He tried to
draw himself up. Impossible.

He was no better off than with his life-buoy.

But in situations so dreadful, men think fast; he worked gradually
round the bottom of the raft by his hands, till he got to leeward,
still holding on. There he found a solid block of wood at the edge
of the raft. He prised himself carefully up; the raft in that part
then sank a little: he got his knee upon the timber of the raft,
and with a wild cry seized the nearest upright, and threw both arms
round it and clung tight. Then first he found breath to speak.
"THANK GOD!" he cried, kneeling on the timber, and grasping the
upright post--"OH, THANK GOD! THANK GOD!"

CHAPTER XVI.

"Thank God!" why, according to his theory, it should have been
"Thank Nature." But I observe that, in such cases, even
philosophers are ungrateful to the mistress they worship.

Our philosopher not only thanked God, but being on his knees,
prayed forgiveness for his late ravings, prayed hard, with one arm
curled round the upright, lest the sea, which ever and anon rushed
over the bottom of the raft, should swallow him up in a moment.

Then he rose carefully, and wedged himself into the corner of the
raft opposite to that other figure, ominous relic of the wild
voyage the new-comer had entered upon; he put both arms over the
rail, and stood erect.

The moon was now up; but so was the breeze: fleecy clouds flew with
vast rapidity across her bright face, and it was by fitful though
vivid glances Staines examined the raft and his companion.

The raft was large, and well made of timbers tied and nailed
together, and a strong rail ran round it resting on several
uprights. There were also some blocks of a very light wood screwed
to the horizontal timbers, and these made it float high.

But what arrested and fascinated the man's gaze was his dead
companion, sole survivor, doubtless, of a horrible voyage, since
the raft was not made for one, nor by one.

It was a skeleton, or nearly, whose clothes the seabirds had torn,
and pecked every limb in all the fleshy parts; the rest of the body
had dried to dark leather on the bones. The head was little more
than an eyeless skull; but in the fitful moonlight, those huge
hollow caverns seemed gigantic lamp-like eyes, and glared at him
fiendishly, appallingly.

He sickened at the sight. He tried not to look at it; but it would
be looked at, and threaten him in the moonlight, with great lack-
lustre eyes.

The wind whistled, and lashed his face with spray torn off the big
waves, and the water was nearly up to his knees, and the raft
tossed so wildly, it was all he could do to hold on in his corner:
in which struggle, still those monstrous lack-lustre eyes, like
lamps of death, glared at him in the moon; all else was dark,
except the fiery crests of the black mountain-billows, tumbling and
raging all around.

What a night!

But, before morning, the breeze sank, the moon set, and a sombre
quiet succeeded, with only that grim figure in outline dimly
visible. Owing to the motion still retained by the waves, it
seemed to nod and rear, and be ever preparing to rush upon him.

The sun rose glorious, on a lovely scene; the sky was a very mosaic
of colors sweet and vivid, and the tranquil, rippling sea, peach-
colored to the horizon, with lines of diamonds where the myriad
ripples broke into smiles.

Staines was asleep, exhausted. Soon the light awoke him, and he
looked up. What an incongruous picture met his eye: that heaven of
color all above and around, and right before him, like a devil
stuck in mid-heaven, that grinning corpse, whose fate foreshadowed
his own.

But daylight is a great strengthener of the nerves; the figure no
longer appalled him--a man who had long learned to look with
Science's calm eye upon the dead. When the sea became like glass,
and from peach-color deepened to rose, he walked along the raft,
and inspected the dead man. He found it was a man of color, but
not a black. The body was not kept in its place, as he had
supposed, merely by being jammed into the angle caused by the rail;
it was also lashed to the corner upright by a long, stout belt.
Staines concluded this had kept the body there, and its companions
had been swept away.

This was not lost on him: he removed the belt for his own use: he
then found it was not only a belt, but a receptacle; it was nearly
full of small, hard substances that felt like stones.

When he had taken it off the body, he felt a compunction. "Ought
he to rob the dead, and expose it to be swept into the sea at the
first wave, like a dead dog?"

He was about to replace the belt, when a middle course occurred to
him. He was a man who always carried certain useful little things
about him, viz., needles, thread, scissors, and string. He took a
piece of string, and easily secured this poor light skeleton to the
raft. The belt he strapped to the rail, and kept for his own need.

And now hunger gnawed him. No food was near. There was nothing
but the lovely sea and sky, mosaic with color, and that grim,
ominous skeleton.

Hunger comes and goes many times before it becomes insupportable.
All that day and night, and the next day, he suffered its pangs;
and then it became torture, but the thirst maddening.

Towards night fell a gentle rain. He spread a handkerchief and
caught it. He sucked the handkerchief.

This revived him, and even allayed in some degree the pangs of
hunger.

Next day was cloudless. A hot sun glared on his unprotected head,
and battered down his enfeebled frame.

He resisted as well as he could. He often dipped his head, and as
often the persistent sun, with cruel glare, made it smoke again.

Next day the same: but the strength to meet it was waning. He lay
down and thought of Rosa, and wept bitterly. He took the dead
man's belt, and lashed himself to the upright. That act, and his
tears for his beloved, were almost his last acts of perfect reason:
for next day came the delusions and the dreams that succeed when
hunger ceases to torture, and the vital powers begin to ebb. He
lay and saw pleasant meadows with meandering streams, and clusters
of rich fruit that courted the hand and melted in the mouth.

Ever and anon they vanished, and he saw grim death looking down on
him with those big cavernous eyes.

By and by, whether his body's eye saw the grim skeleton, or his
mind's eye the juicy fruits, green meadows, and pearly brooks, all
was shadowy.

So, in a placid calm, beneath a blue sky, the raft drifted dead,
with its dead freight, upon the glassy purple, and he drifted, too,
towards the world unknown.

There came across the waters to that dismal raft a thing none too
common, by sea or land--a good man.

He was tall, stalwart, bronzed, and had hair like snow, before his
time, for he had known trouble. He commanded a merchant steamer,
bound for Calcutta, on the old route.

The man at the mast-head descried a floating wreck, and hailed the
deck accordingly. The captain altered his course without one
moment's hesitation, and brought up alongside, lowered a boat, and
brought the dead, and the breathing man, on board.

A young middy lifted Staines in his arms from the wreck to the
boat; he whose person I described in chapter one weighed now no
more than that.

Men are not always rougher than women. Their strength and nerve
enable them now and then to be gentler than buttery-fingered
angels, who drop frail things through sensitive agitation, and
break them. These rough men saw Staines was hovering between life
and death, and they handled him like a thing the ebbing life might
be shaken out of in a moment. It was pretty to see how gingerly
the sailors carried the sinking man up the ladder, and one fetched
swabs, and the others laid him down softly on them at their
captain's feet.

"Well done, men," said he. "Poor fellow! Pray Heaven, we may not
have come too late. Now stand aloof a bit. Send the surgeon aft."

The surgeon came, and looked, and felt the heart. He shook his
head, and called for brandy. He had Staines's head raised, and got
half a spoonful of diluted brandy down his throat. But there was
an ominous gurgling.

After several such attempts at intervals, he said plainly the man's
life could not be saved by ordinary means.

"Then try extraordinary," said the captain. "My orders are that he
is to be saved. There is life in him. You have only got to keep
it there. He MUST be saved; he SHALL be saved."

"I should like to try Dr. Staines's remedy," said the surgeon.

"Try it, then what is it?"

"A bath of beef-tea. Dr. Staines says he applied it to a starved
child--in the Lancet."

"Take a hundred-weight of beef, and boil it in the coppers."

Thus encouraged, the surgeon went to the cook, and very soon beef
was steaming on a scale and at a rate unparalleled.

Meantime, Captain Dodd had the patient taken to his own cabin, and
he and his servant administered weak brandy and water with great
caution and skill.

There was no perceptible result. But at all events there was life
and vital instinct left, or he could not have swallowed.

Thus they hovered about him for some hours, and then the bath was
ready.

The captain took charge of the patient's clothes: the surgeon and a
sailor bathed him in lukewarm beef-tea, and then covered him very
warm with blankets next the skin. Guess how near a thing it seemed
to them, when I tell you they dared not rub him.

Just before sunset his pulse became perceptible. The surgeon
administered half a spoonful of egg-flip. The patient swallowed
it.

By and by he sighed.

"He must not be left, day or night," said the captain. "I don't
know who or what he is, but he is a man; and I could not bear him
to die now."

That night Captain Dodd overhauled the patient's clothes, and
looked for marks on his linen. There were none.

"Poor devil " said Captain Dodd. "He is a bachelor."

Captain Dodd found his pocket-book, with bank-notes, two hundred
pounds. He took the numbers, made a memorandum of them, and locked
the notes up.

He lighted his lamp, examined the belt, unripped it, and poured out
the contents on his table.

They were dazzling. A great many large pieces of amethyst, and
some of white topaz and rock crystal; a large number of smaller
stones, carbuncles, chrysolites, and not a few emeralds. Dodd
looked at them with pleasure, sparkling in the lamplight.

"What a lot!" said he. "I wonder what they are worth!" He sent
for the first mate, who, he knew, did a little private business in
precious stones. "Masterton," said he, "oblige me by counting
these stones with me, and valuing them."

Mr. Masterton stared, and his mouth watered. However, he named the
various stones and valued them. He said there was one stone, a
large emerald, without a flaw, that was worth a heavy sum by
itself; and the pearls, very fine: and looking at the great number,
they must be worth a thousand pounds.

Captain Dodd then entered the whole business carefully in the
ship's log: the living man he described thus: "About five feet six
in height, and about fifty years of age." Then he described the
notes and the stones very exactly, and made Masterton, the valuer,
sign the log.

Staines took a good deal of egg-flip that night, and next day ate
solid food; but they questioned him in vain; his reason was
entirely in abeyance: he had become an eater, and nothing else.
Whenever they gave him food, he showed a sort of fawning animal
gratitude. Other sentiment he had none, nor did words enter his
mind any more than a bird's. And since it is not pleasant to dwell
on the wreck of a fine understanding, I will only say that they
landed him at Cape Town, out of bodily danger, but weak, and his
mind, to all appearance, a hopeless blank.

They buried the skeleton,--read the service of the English Church
over a Malabar heathen.

Dodd took Staines to the hospital, and left twenty pounds with the
governor of it to cure him. But he deposited Staines's money and
jewels with a friendly banker, and begged that the principal
cashier might see the man, and be able to recognize him, should he
apply for his own.

The cashier came and examined him, and also the ruby ring on his
finger--a parting gift from Rosa--and remarked this was a new way
of doing business.

"Why, it is the only one, sir," said Dodd. "How can we give you
his signature? He is not in his right mind."

"Nor never will be."

"Don't say that, sir. Let us hope for the best, poor fellow."

Having made these provisions, the worthy captain weighed anchor,
with a warm heart and a good conscience. Yet the image of the man
he had saved pursued him, and he resolved to look after him next
time he should coal at Cape Town, homeward bound.

Staines recovered his strength in about two months; but his mind
returned in fragments, and very slowly. For a long, long time he
remembered nothing that had preceded his great calamity. His mind
started afresh, aided only by certain fixed habits; for instance,
he could read and write: but, strange as it may appear, he had no
idea who he was; and when his memory cleared a little on that head,
he thought his surname was Christie, but he was not sure.

Nevertheless, the presiding physician discovered in him a certain
progress of intelligence, which gave him great hopes. In the fifth
month, having shown a marked interest in the other sick patients,
coupled with a disposition to be careful and attentive, they made
him a nurse, or rather a sub-nurse under the special orders of a
responsible nurse. I really believe it was done at first to avoid
the alternative of sending him adrift, or transferring him to the
insane ward of the hospital. In this congenial pursuit he showed
such watchfulness and skill, that by and by they found they had got
a treasure. Two months after that he began to talk about medicine,
and astonished them still more. He became the puzzle of the
establishment. The doctor and surgeon would converse with him, and
try and lead him to his past life; but when it came to that, he
used to put his hands to his head with a face of great distress,
and it was clear some impassable barrier lay between his growing
intelligence and the past events of his life. Indeed, on one
occasion, he said to his kind friend the doctor, "The past!--a
black wall! a black wall!"

Ten months after his admission he was promoted to be an attendant,
with a salary.

He put by every shilling of it; for he said, "A voice from the dark
past tells me money is everything in this world."

A discussion was held by the authorities as to whether he should be
informed he had money and jewels at the bank or not.

Upon the whole, it was thought advisable to postpone this
information, lest he should throw it away; but they told him he had
been picked up at sea, and both money and jewels found on him; they
were in safe hands, only the person was away for the time. Still,
he was not to look upon himself as either friendless or moneyless.

At this communication he showed an almost childish delight, that
confirmed the doctor in his opinion he was acting prudently, and
for the real benefit of an amiable and afflicted person, not yet to
be trusted with money and jewels.

CHAPTER XVII.

In his quality of attendant on the sick, Staines sometimes
conducted a weak but convalescent patient into the open air; and he
was always pleased to do this, for the air of the Cape carries
health and vigor on its wings. He had seen its fine recreative
properties, and he divined, somehow, that the minds of
convalescents ought to be amused, and so he often begged the doctor
to let him take a convalescent abroad. Sooner than not, he would
draw the patient several miles in a Bath chair. He rather liked
this; for he was a Hercules, and had no egotism or false pride
where the sick were concerned.

Now, these open-air walks exerted a beneficial influence on his own
darkened mind. It is one thing to struggle from idea to idea; it
is another when material objects mingle with the retrospect; they
seem to supply stepping-stones in the gradual resuscitation of
memory and reason.

The ships going out of port were such a steppingstone to him, and a
vague consciousness came back to him of having been in a ship.

Unfortunately, along with this reminiscence came a desire to go in
one again; and this sowed discontent in his mind, and the more that
mind enlarged, the more he began to dislike the hospital and its
confinement. The feeling grew, and bade fair to disqualify him for
his humble office. The authorities could not fail to hear of this,
and they had a little discussion about parting with him; but they
hesitated to turn him adrift, and they still doubted the propriety
of trusting him with money and jewels.

While matters were in this state a remarkable event occurred. He
drew a sick patient down to the quay one morning, and watched the
business of the port with the keenest interest. A ship at anchor
was unloading, and a great heavy boat was sticking to her side like
a black leech. Presently this boat came away, and moved sluggishly
towards the shore, rather by help of the tide than of the two men
who went through the form of propelling her with two monstrous
sweeps, while a third steered her. She contained English goods:
agricultural implements, some cases, four horses, and a buxom young
woman with a thorough English face. The woman seemed a little
excited, and as she neared the landing-place, she called out in
jocund tones to a young man on the shore, "It is all right, Dick;
they are beauties," and she patted the beasts as people do who are
fond of them.

She stepped lightly ashore, and then came the slower work of
landing her imports. She bustled about, like a hen over her brood,
and wasn't always talking, but put in her word every now and then,
never crossly, and always to the point.

Staines listened to her, and examined her with a sort of puzzled
look; but she took no notice of him; her whole soul was in the
cattle.

They got the things on board well enough; but the horses were
frightened at the gangway, and jibbed. Then a man was for driving
them, and poked one of them in the quarter; he snorted and reared
directly.

"Man alive!" cried the young woman, "that is not the way. They are
docile enough, but frightened. Encourage 'em, and let 'em look at
it. Give 'em time. More haste less speed, with timorous cattle."

"That is a very pleasant voice," said poor Staines, rather more
dictatorially than became the present state of his intellect. He
added softly, "a true woman's voice;" then gloomily, "a voice of
the past--the dark, dark past."

At this speech intruding itself upon the short sentences of
business, there was a roar of laughter, and Phoebe Falcon turned
sharply round to look at the speaker. She stared at him; she cried
"Oh!" and clasped her hands, and colored all over. "Why, sure,"
said she, "I can't be mistook. Those eyes--'tis you, doctor, isn't
it?"

"Doctor?" said Staines, with a puzzled look. "Yes; I think they
called me doctor once. I'm an attendant in the hospital now."

"Dick!" cried Phoebe, in no little agitation. "Come here this
minute."

"What, afore I get the horses ashore?"

"Ay, before you do another thing, or say another word. Come here,
now." So he came, and she told him to take a good look at the man.
"Now," said she, "who is that?"

"Blest if I know," said he.

"What, not know the man who saved your own life! Oh, Dick, what
are your eyes worth?"

This discourse brought the few persons within hearing into one band
of excited starers.

Dick took a good look, and said, "I'm blest if I don't, though; it
is the doctor that cut my throat."

This strange statement drew forth quite a shout of ejaculations.

"Oh, better breathe through a slit than not at all," said Dick.
"Saved my life with that cut, he did, didn't he, Pheeb?"

"That he did, Dick. Dear heart, I hardly know whether I am in my
senses or not, seeing him a-looking so blank. You try him."

Dick came forward. "Sure you remember me, sir. Dick Dale. You
cut my throat, and saved my life."

"Cut your throat! why, that would kill you."

"Not the way you done it. Well, sir, you ain't the man you was,
that is clear; but you was a good friend to me, and there's my
hand."

"Thank you, Dick," said Staines, and took his hand. "I don't
remember YOU. Perhaps you are one of the past. The past is dead
wall to me--a dark dead wall," and he put his hands to his head
with a look of distress.

Everybody there now suspected the truth, and some pointed
mysteriously to their own heads.

Phoebe whispered an inquiry to the sick person.

He said a little pettishly, "All I know is, he is the kindest
attendant in the ward, and very attentive."

"Oh, then, he is in the public hospital."

"Of course he is."

The invalid, with the selfishness of his class, then begged Staines
to take him out of all this bustle down to the beach. Staines
complied at once, with the utmost meekness, and said, "Good-by, old
friends; forgive me for not remembering you. It is my great
affliction that the past is gone from me--gone, gone." And he went
sadly away, drawing his sick charge like a patient mule.

Phoebe Falcon looked after him, and began to cry.

"Nay, nay, Phoebe," said Dick; "don't ye take on about it."

"I wonder at you," sobbed Phoebe. "Good people, I'm fonder of my
brother than he is of himself, it seems; for I can't take it so
easy. Well, the world is full of trouble. Let us do what we are
here for. But I shall pray for the poor soul every night, that his
mind may be given back to him."

So then she bustled, and gave herself to getting the cattle on
shore, and the things put on board her wagon.

But when this was done, she said to her brother, "Dick, I did not
think anything on earth could take my heart off the cattle and the
things we have got from home; but I can't leave this without going
to the hospital about our poor dear doctor: and it is late for
making a start, any way--and you mustn't forget the newspapers for
Reginald--he is so fond of them--and you must contrive to have one
sent out regular after this, and I'll go to the hospital."

She went, and saw the head doctor, and told him he had got an
attendant there she had known in England in a very different
condition, and she had come to see if there was anything she could
do for him--for she felt very grateful to him, and grieved to see
him so.

The doctor was pleased and surprised, and put several questions.

Then she gave him a clear statement of what he had done for Dick in
England.

"Well," said the doctor, "I believe it is the same man; for, now
you tell me this--yes, one of the nurses told me he knew more about
medicine than she did. His name, if you please."

"His name, sir?"

"Yes, his name. Of course you know his name. Is it Christie?"

"Doctor," said Phoebe, blushing, "I don't know what you will think
of me, but I don't know his name. Laws forgive me, I never had the
sense to ask it."

A shade of suspicion crossed the doctor's face.

Phoebe saw it, and colored to the temples. "Oh, sir," she cried
piteously, "don't go for to think I have told you a lie! why should
I? and indeed I am not of that sort, nor Dick neither. Sir, I'll
bring him to you, and he will say the same. Well, we were all in
terror and confusion, and I met him accidentally in the street. He
was only a customer till then, and paid ready money, so that is how
I never knew his name, but if I hadn't been the greatest fool in
England, I should have asked his wife."

"What! he has a wife?"

"Ay, sir, the loveliest lady you ever clapped eyes on, and he is
almost as handsome; has eyes in his head like jewels; 'twas by them
I knew him on the quay, and I think he knew my voice again, said as
good as he had heard it in past times."

"Did he? Then we have got him," cried the doctor energetically.

"La, Sir."

"Yes; if he knows your voice, you will be able in time to lead his
memory back; at least, I think so. Do you live in Cape Town?"

"Dear heart, no. I live at my own farm, a hundred and eighty miles
from this."

"What a pity!"

"Why, sir?"

"Well--hum!"

"Oh, if you think I could do the poor doctor good by having him
with me, you have only to say the word, and out he goes with Dick
and me to-morrow morning. We should have started for home to-
night, but for this."

"Are you in earnest, madam?" said the doctor, opening his eyes.
"Would you really encumber yourself with a person whose reason is
in suspense, and may never return?"

"But that is not his fault, sir. Why, if a dog had saved my
brother's life, I'd take it home, and keep it all its days; and
this is a man, and a worthy man. Oh, sir, when I saw him brought
down so, and his beautiful eyes clouded like, my very bosom yearned
over the poor soul; a kind act done in dear old England, who can
see the man in trouble here, and not repay it--ay, if it cost one's
blood. But indeed he is strong and healthy, and hands are always
scarce our way, and the odds are he will earn his meat one way or
t'other; and if he doesn't, why, all the better for me; I shall
have the pleasure of serving him for nought that once served me for
neither money nor reward."

"You are a good woman," said the doctor warmly.

"There's better, and there's worse," said Phoebe quietly, and even
a little coldly.

"More of the latter," said the doctor dryly. "Well, Mrs.--?"

"Falcon, sir."

"We shall hand him over to your care: but first--just for form--if
you are a married woman, we should like to see Dick here: he is
your husband, I presume."

Ploebe laughed merrily. "Dick is my brother; and he can't be
spared to come here. Dick! he'd say black was white if I told him
to."

"Then let us see your husband about it--just for form."

"My husband is at the farm. I could not venture so far away, and
not leave him in charge." If she had said, "I will not bring him
into temptation," that would have been nearer the truth. "Let that
fly stick on the wall, sir. What I do, my husband will approve."

"I see how it is. You rule the roost."

Phoebe did not reply point-blank to that; she merely said, "All my
chickens are happy, great and small," and an expression of lofty,
womanly, innocent pride illuminated her face and made it superb for
a moment.

In short, it was settled that Staines should accompany her next
morning to Dale's Kloof Farm, if he chose. On inquiry, it appeared
that he had just returned to the hospital with his patient. He was
sent for, and Phoebe asked him sweetly if he would go with her to
her house, one hundred and eighty miles away, and she would be kind
to him.

"On the water?"

"Nay, by land; but 'tis a fine country, and you will see beautiful
deer and things running across the plains, and"--

"Shall I find the past again, the past again?"

"Ay, poor soul, that we shall, God willing. You and I, we will
hunt it together."

He looked at her, and gave her his hand. "I will go with you.
Your face belongs to the past, so does your voice."

He then inquired, rather abruptly, had she any children. She
smiled.

"Ay, that I have, the loveliest little boy you ever saw. When you
are as you used to be, you will be his doctor, won't you?"

"Yes, I will nurse him, and you will help me find the past."

Phoebe then begged Staines to be ready to start at six in the
morning. She and Dick would take him up on their way.

While she was talking to him the doctor slipped out, and to tell
the truth he went to consult with another authority, whether he
should take this opportunity of telling Staines that he had money
and jewels at the bank: he himself was half inclined to do so; but
the other, who had not seen Phoebe's face, advised him to do
nothing of the kind. "They are always short of money, these
colonial farmers," said he; "she would get every shilling out of
him."

"Most would; but this is such an honest face."

"Well, but she is a mother, you say."

"Yes."

"Well, what mother could be just to a lunatic, with her own sweet
angel babes to provide for?"

"That is true," said Dr. ----. "Maternal love is apt to modify the
conscience."

"What I would do,--I would take her address, and make her promise
to write if he gets well, and if he does get well then write to
HIM, and tell him all about it."

Dr. ---- acted on this shrewd advice, and ordered a bundle to be
made up for the traveller out of the hospital stores: it contained
a nice light summer suit and two changes of linen.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Next morning, Staines and Dick Dale walked through the streets of
Cape Town side by side. Dick felt the uneasiness of a sane man,
not familiar with the mentally afflicted, who suddenly finds
himself alone with one. Insanity turns men oftenest into sheep and
hares; but it does now and then make them wolves and tigers; and
that has saddled the insane in general with a character for
ferocity. Young Dale, then, cast many a suspicious glance at his
comrade, as he took him along. These glances were reassuring:
Christopher's face had no longer the mobility, the expressive
changes, that mark the superior mind; his countenance was
monotonous: but the one expression was engaging; there was a sweet,
patient, lamb-like look: the glorious eye a little troubled and
perplexed, but wonderfully mild. Dick Dale looked and looked, and
his uneasiness vanished. And the more he looked, the more did a
certain wonder creep over him, and make him scarce believe the
thing he knew; viz., that a learned doctor had saved him from the
jaws of death by rare knowledge, sagacity, courage, and skill
combined: and that mighty man of wisdom was brought down to this
lamb, and would go north, south, east, or west, with sweet and
perfect submission, even as he, Dick Dale, should appoint. With
these reflections honest Dick felt his eyes get a little misty,
and, to use those words of Scripture, which nothing can surpass or
equal, his bowels yearned over the man.

As for Christopher, he looked straight forward, and said not a word
till they cleared the town; but when he saw the vast flowery vale,
and the far-off violet hills, like Scotland glorified, he turned to
Dick with an ineffable expression of sweetness and good fellowship,
and said, "Oh, beautiful! We'll hunt the past together."

"We--will--SO," said Dick, with a sturdy and indeed almost a stern
resolution.

Now, this he said, not that he cared for the past, nor intended to
waste the present by going upon its predecessor's trail; but he had
come to a resolution--full three minutes ago--to humor his
companion to the top of his bent, and say "Yes" with hypocritical
vigor to everything not directly and immediately destructive to him
and his.

The next moment they turned a corner and came upon the rest of
their party, hitherto hidden by the apricot hedge and a turning in
the road. A blue-black Kafir, with two yellow Hottentot drivers,
man and boy, was harnessing, in the most primitive mode, four
horses on to the six oxen attached to the wagon; and the horses
were flattening their ears, and otherwise resenting the
incongruity. Meantime a fourth figure, a colossal young Kafir
woman, looked on superior with folded arms, like a sable Juno
looking down with that absolute composure upon the struggles of man
and other animals, which Lucretius and his master Epicurus assigned
to the Divine nature. Without jesting, the grandeur, majesty, and
repose of this figure were unsurpassable in nature, and such as
have vanished from sculpture two thousand years and more.

Dick Dale joined the group immediately, and soon arranged the
matter. Meantime, Phoebe descended from the wagon, and welcomed
Christopher very kindly, and asked him if he would like to sit
beside her, or to walk.

He glanced into the wagon; it was covered and curtained, and dark
as a cupboard. "I think," said he, timidly, "I shall see more of
the past out here."

"So you will, poor soul," said Phoebe kindly, "and better for your
health: but you must not go far from the wagon, for I'm a fidget;
and I have got the care of you now, you know, for want of a better.
Come, Ucatella; you must ride with me, and help me sort the things;
they are all higgledy-piggledy." So those two got into the wagon
through the back curtains. Then the Kafir driver flourished his
kambok, or long whip, in the air, and made it crack like a pistol,
and the horses reared, and the oxen started and slowly bored in
between them, for they whinnied, and kicked, and spread out like a
fan all over the road; but a flick or two from the terrible kambok
soon sent them bleeding and trembling and rubbing shoulders, and
the oxen, mildly but persistently goring their recalcitrating
haunches, the intelligent animals went ahead, and revenged
themselves by breaking the harness. But that goes for little in
Cape travel.

The body of the wagon was long and low and very stout. The tilt
strong and tight-made. The roof inside, and most of the sides,
lined with green baize. Curtains of the same to the little window
and the back. There was a sort of hold literally built full of
purchases; a small fireproof safe; huge blocks of salt; saws, axes,
pickaxes, adzes, flails, tools innumerable, bales of wool and linen
stuff, hams, and two hundred empty sacks strewn over all. In large
pigeon-holes fixed to the sides were light goods, groceries,
collars, glaring cotton handkerchiefs for Phoebe's aboriginal
domestics, since not every year did she go to Cape Town, a twenty
days' journey by wagon: things dangled from the very roof; but no
hard goods there, if you please, to batter one's head in a spill.
Outside were latticed grooves with tent, tent-poles, and rifles.
Great pieces of cork, and bags of hay and corn, hung dangling from
mighty hooks--the latter to feed the cattle, should they be
compelled to camp out on some sterile spot on the Veldt, and
methinks to act as buffers, should the whole concern roll down a
nullah or little precipice, no very uncommon incident in the
blessed region they must pass to reach Dale's Kloof.

Harness mended; fresh start. The Hottentots and Kafir vociferated
and yelled, and made the unearthly row of a dozen wild beasts
wrangling: the horses drew the bullocks, they the wagon; it crawled
and creaked, and its appendages wobbled finely.

Slowly they creaked and wobbled past apricot hedges and detached
houses and huts, and got into an open country without a tree, but
here and there a stunted camel-thorn. The soil was arid, and grew
little food for man or beast; yet, by a singular freak of nature,
it put forth abundantly things that here at home we find it harder
to raise than homely grass and oats; the ground was thickly clad
with flowers of delightful hues; pyramids of snow or rose-color
bordered the track; yellow and crimson stars bejewelled the ground,
and a thousand bulbous plants burst into all imaginable colors, and
spread a rainbow carpet to the foot of the violet hills; and all
this glowed, and gleamed, and glittered in a sun shining with
incredible brightness and purity of light, but, somehow, without
giving a headache or making the air sultry.

Christopher fell to gathering flowers, and interrogating the past
by means of them; for he had studied botany: the past gave him back
some pitiably vague ideas. He sighed. "Never mind," said he to
Dick, and tapped his forehead: "it is here: it is only locked up."

"All right," said Dick; "nothing is lost when you know where 'tis."

"This is a beautiful country," suggested Christopher. "It is all
flowers. It is like the garden of--the garden of--locked up."

"It is de--light--ful," replied the self-compelled optimist
sturdily. But here nature gave way; he was obliged to relieve his
agricultural bile by getting into the cart and complaining to his
sister. "'Twill take us all our time to cure him. He have been
bepraising this here soil, which it is only fit to clean the
women's kettles. 'Twouldn't feed three larks to an acre, I know;
no, NOR HALF SO MANY."

"Poor soul! mayhap the flowers have took his eye. Sit here a bit,
Dick. I want to talk to you about a many things."

While these two were conversing, Ucatella, who was very fond of
Phoebe, but abhorred wagons, stepped out and stalked by the side,
like an ostrich, a camelopard, or a Taglioni; nor did the effort
with which she subdued her stride to the pace of the procession
appear: it was the poetry of walking. Christopher admired it a
moment; but the noble expanse tempted him, and he strode forth like
a giant, his lungs inflating in the glorious air, and soon left the
wagon far behind.

The consequence was that when they came to a halt, and Dick and
Phoebe got out to release and water the cattle, there was
Christopher's figure retiring into space.

"Hanc rem aegre tulit Phoebe," as my old friend Livy would say.
"Oh dear! oh dear! if he strays so far from us, he will be eaten up
at nightfall by jackals, or lions, or something. One of you must
go after him."

"Me go, missy," said Ucatella zealously, pleased with an excuse for
stretching her magnificent limbs.

"Ay, but mayhap he will not come back with YOU: will he, Dick?"

"That he will, like a lamb." Dick wanted to look after the cattle.

"Yuke, my girl," said Phoebe, "listen. He has been a good friend
of ours in trouble; and now he is not quite right HERE. So be very
kind to him, but be sure and bring him back, or keep him till we
come."

"Me bring him back alive, certain sure," said Ucatella, smiling
from ear to ear. She started with a sudden glide, like a boat
taking the water, and appeared almost to saunter away, so easy was
the motion; but when you looked at the ground she was covering, the
stride, or glide, or whatever it was, was amazing.

"She seem'd in walking to devour the way."

Christopher walked fast, but nothing like this; and as he stopped
at times to botanize and gaze at the violet hills, and interrogate
the past, she came up with him about five miles from the halting-
place.

She laid her hand quietly on his shoulder, and said, with a broad
genial smile, and a musical chuckle, "Ucatella come for you. Missy
want to speak you."

"Oh! very well;" and he turned back with her, directly; but she
took him by the hand to make sure; and they marched back peaceably,
in silence, and hand in hand. But he looked and looked at her, and
at last he stopped dead short, and said, a little arrogantly,
"Come, I know YOU. YOU are not locked up;" and he inspected her
point-blank. She stood like an antique statue, and faced the
examination. "You are 'the noble savage,'" said he, having
concluded his inspection.

"Nay," said she. "I be the housemaid."

"The housemaid?"

"Iss, the housemaid, Ucatella. So come on." And she drew him
along, sore perplexed.

They met the cavalcade a mile from the halting-place, and Phoebe
apologized a little to Christopher. "I hope you'll excuse me,
sir," said she, "but I am just for all the world like a hen with
her chickens; if but one strays, I'm all in a flutter till I get
him back."

"Madam," said Christopher, "I am very unhappy at the way things are
locked up. Please tell me truly, is this 'the housemaid,' or 'the
noble savage'?"

"Well, she is both, if you go to that, and the best creature ever
breathed."

"Then she IS 'the noble savage'?"

"Ay, so they call her, because she is black."

"Then, thank Heaven," said Christopher, "the past is not all locked
up."

That afternoon they stopped at an inn. But Dick slept in the cart.
At three in the morning they took the road again, and creaked along
supernaturally loud under a purple firmament studded with huge
stars, all bright as moons, that lit the way quite clear, and
showed black things innumerable flitting to and fro; these made
Phoebe shudder, but were no doubt harmless; still Dick carried his
double rifle, and a revolver in his belt.

They made a fine march in the cool, until some slight mists
gathered, and then they halted and breakfasted near a silvery
kloof, and watered the cattle. While thus employed, suddenly a
golden tinge seemed to fall like a lash on the vapors of night;
they scudded away directly, as jackals before the lion; the stars
paled, and with one incredible bound, the mighty sun leaped into
the horizon, and rose into the sky. In a moment all the lesser
lamps of heaven were out, though late so glorious, and there was
nothing but one vast vaulted turquoise, and a great flaming topaz
mounting with eternal ardor to its centre.

This did not escape Christopher. "What is this?" said he. "No
twilight. The tropics!" He managed to dig that word out of the
past in a moment.

At ten o'clock the sun was so hot that they halted, and let the
oxen loose till sun-down. Then they began to climb the mountains.

The way was steep and rugged; indeed, so rough in places, that the
cattle had to jump over the holes, and as the wagon could not jump
so cleverly, it jolted appallingly, and many a scream issued forth.

Near the summit, when the poor beasts were dead beat, they got into
clouds and storms, and the wind rushed howling at them through the
narrow pass with such fury it flattened the horses' ears, and bade
fair to sweep the whole cavalcade to the plains below.

Christopher and Dick walked close behind, under the lee of the
wagon. Christopher said in Dick's ear, "D'ye hear that? Time to
reef topsails, captain."

"It is time to do SOMETHING," said Dick. He took advantage of a
jutting rock, drew the wagon half behind it and across the road,
propped the wheels with stones, and they all huddled to leeward,
man and beast indiscriminately.

"Ah!" said Christopher, approvingly; "we are lying to: a very--
proper--course."

They huddled and shivered three hours, and then the sun leaped into
the sky, and lo! a transformation scene. The cold clouds were
first rosy fleeces, then golden ones, then gold-dust, then gone;
the rain was big diamonds, then crystal sparks, then gone; the
rocks and the bushes sparkled with gem-like drops, and shone and
smiled.

The shivering party bustled, and toasted the potent luminary in hot
coffee; for Phoebe's wagon had a stove and chimney; and then they
yoked their miscellaneous cattle again, and breasted the hill.
With many a jump, and bump, and jolt, and scream from inside, they
reached the summit, and looked down on a vast slope, flowering but
arid, a region of gaudy sterility.

The descent was more tremendous than the ascent, and Phoebe got
out, and told Christopher she would liever cross the ocean twice
than this dreadful mountain once.

The Hottentot with the reins was now bent like a bow all the time,
keeping the cattle from flowing diverse over precipices, and the
Kafir with his kambok was here, and there, and everywhere, his whip
flicking like a lancet, and cracking like a horse-pistol, and the
pair vied like Apollo and Pan, not which could sing sweetest, but
swear loudest. Having the lofty hill for some hours between them
and the sun, they bumped, and jolted, and stuck in mud-holes, and
flogged and swore the cattle out of them again, till at last they
got to the bottom, where ran a turbid kloof or stream. It was
fordable, but the recent rains had licked away the slope; so the
existing bank was two feet above the stream. Little recked the
demon drivers or the parched cattle; in they plunged promiscuously,
with a flop like thunder, followed by an awful splashing. The
wagon stuck fast in the mud, the horses tied themselves in a knot,
and rolled about in the stream, and the oxen drank imperturbably.

"Oh, the salt! the salt!" screamed Phoebe, and the rocks re-echoed
her lamentations.

The wagon was inextricable, the cattle done up, the savages lazy,
so they stayed for several hours. Christopher botanized, but not
alone. Phoebe drew Ucatella apart, and explained to her that when
a man is a little wrong in the head, it makes a child of him: "So,"
said she, "you must think he is your child, and never let him out
of your sight."

"All right," said the sable Juno, who spoke English ridiculously
well, and rapped out idioms; especially "Come on," and "All right."

About dusk, what the drivers had foreseen, though they had not the
sense to explain it, took place; the kloof dwindled to a mere
gutter, and the wagon stuck high and dry. Phoebe waved her
handkerchief to Ucatella. Ucatella, who had dogged Christopher
about four hours without a word, now took his hand, and said, "My
child, missy wants us; come on;" and so led him unresistingly.

The drivers, flogging like devils, cursing like troopers, and
yelling like hyenas gone mad, tried to get the wagon off; but it
was fast as a rock. Then Dick and the Hottentot put their
shoulders to one wheel, and tried to prise it up, while the Kafir
ENCOURAGED the cattle with his thong. Observing this, Christopher
went in, with his sable custodian at his heels, and heaved at the
other embedded wheel. The wagon was lifted directly, so that the
cattle tugged it out, and they got clear. On examination, the salt
had just escaped.

Says Ucatella to Phoebe, a little ostentatiously, "My child is
strong and useful; make little missy a good slave."

"A slave! Heaven forbid!" said Phoebe. "He'll be a father to us
all, once he gets his head back; and I do think it is coming--but
very slow."

The next three days offered the ordinary incidents of African
travel, but nothing that operated much on Christopher's mind, which
is the true point of this narrative; and as there are many
admirable books of African travel, it is the more proper I should
confine myself to what may be called the relevant incidents of the
journey.

On the sixth day from Cape Town, they came up with a large wagon
stuck in a mud-hole. There was quite a party of Boers, Hottentots,
Kafirs, round it, armed with whips, shamboks, and oaths, lashing
and cursing without intermission, or any good effect; and there
were the wretched beasts straining in vain at their choking yokes,
moaning with anguish, trembling with terror, their poor mild eyes
dilated with agony and fear, and often, when the blows of the cruel
shamboks cut open their bleeding flesh, they bellowed to Heaven
their miserable and vain protest against this devil's work.

Then the past opened its stores, and lent Christopher a word.

"BARBARIANS!" he roared, and seized a gigantic Kafir by the throat,
just as his shambok descended for the hundredth time. There was a
mighty struggle, as of two Titans; dust flew round the combatants
in a cloud; a whirling of big bodies, and down they both went with
an awful thud, the Saxon uppermost, by Nature's law.

The Kafir's companions, amazed at first, began to roll their eyes
and draw a knife or two; but Dick ran forward, and said, "Don't
hurt him: he is wrong HERE."

This representation pacified them more readily than one might have
expected. Dick added hastily, "We'll get you out of the hole OUR
way, and cry quits."

The proposal was favorably received, and the next minute
Christopher and Ucatella at one wheel, and Dick and the Hottentot
at the other, with no other help than two pointed iron bars bought
for their shepherds, had effected what sixteen oxen could not. To
do this Dick Dale had bared his arm to the shoulder; it was a
stalwart limb, like his sister's, and he now held it out all
swollen and corded, and slapped it with his other hand. "Look'ee
here, you chaps," said he: "the worst use a man can put that there
to is to go cutting out a poor beast's heart for not doing more
than he can. You are good fellows, you Kafirs; but I think you
have sworn never to put your shoulder to a wheel. But, bless your
poor silly hearts, a little strength put on at the right place is
better than a deal at the wrong."

"You hear that, you Kafir chaps?" inquired Ucatella, a little
arrogantly--for a Kafir.

The Kafirs, who had stood quite silent to imbibe these remarks,
bowed their heads with all the dignity and politeness of Roman
senators, Spanish grandees, etc.; and one of the party replied
gravely, "The words of the white man are always wise."

"And his arm blanked* strong," said Christopher's late opponent,
from whose mind, however, all resentment had vanished.

* I take this very useful expression from a delightful volume by
Mr. Boyle.

Thus spake the Kafirs; yet to this day never hath a man of all
their tribe put his shoulder to a wheel, so strong is custom in
South Africa; probably in all Africa; since I remember St. Augustin
found it stronger than he liked, at Carthage.

Ucatella went to Phoebe, and said, "Missy, my child is good and
brave."

"Bother you and your child!" said poor Phoebe. "To think of his
flying at a giant like that, and you letting of him. I'm all of a
tremble from head to foot:" and Phoebe relieved herself with a cry.

"Oh, missy!" said Ucatella.

"There, never mind me. Do go and look after your child, and keep
him out of more mischief. I wish we were safe at Dale's Kloof, I
do."

Ucatella complied, and went botanizing with Dr. Staines; but that
gentleman, in the course of his scientific researches into camomile
flowers and blasted heath, which were all that lovely region
afforded, suddenly succumbed and stretched out his limbs, and said,
sleepily, "Good-night--U--cat--" and was off into the land of Nod.

The wagon, which, by the way, had passed the larger but slower
vehicle, found him fast asleep, and Ucatella standing by him as
ordered, motionless and grand.

"Oh, dear! what now?" said Phoebe: but being a sensible woman,
though in the hen and chickens line, she said, "'Tis the fighting
and the excitement. 'Twill do him more good than harm, I think:"
and she had him bestowed in the wagon, and never disturbed him
night nor day. He slept thirty-six hours at a stretch; and when he
awoke, she noticed a slight change in his eye. He looked at her
with an interest he had not shown before, and said, "Madam, I know
you."

"Thank God for that," said Phoebe.

"You kept a little shop, in the other world."

Phoebe opened her eyes with some little alarm.

"You understand--the world that is locked up--for the present."

"Well, sir, so I did; and sold you milk and butter. Don't you
mind?"

"No--the milk and butter--they are locked up."

The country became wilder, the signs of life miserably sparse;
about every twenty miles the farmhouse or hut of a degenerate Boer,
whose children and slaves pigged together, and all ran jostling,
and the mistress screamed in her shrill Dutch, and the Hottentots
all chirped together, and confusion reigned for want of method:
often they went miles, and saw nothing but a hut or two, with a
nude Hottentot eating flesh, burnt a little, but not cooked, at the
door; and the kloofs became deeper and more turbid, and Phoebe was
in an agony about her salt, and Christopher advised her to break it
in big lumps, and hang it all about the wagon in sacks; and she
did, and Ucatella said profoundly, "My child is wise;" and they
began to draw near home, and Phoebe to fidget; and she said to
Christopher, "Oh, dear! I hope they are all alive and well: once
you leave home, you don't know what may have happened by then you
come back. One comfort, I've got Sophy: she is very dependable,
and no beauty, thank my stars."

That night, the last they had to travel, was cloudy, for a wonder,
and they groped with lanterns.

Ucatella and her child brought up the rear. Presently there was a
light pattering behind them. The swift-eared Ucatella clutched
Christopher's arm, and turning round, pointed back, with eyeballs
white and rolling. There were full a dozen animals following them,
whose bodies seemed colorless as shadows, but their eyes little
balls of flaming lime-light.

"GUN!" said Christie, and gave the Kafir's arm a pinch. She flew
to the caravan; he walked backwards, facing the foe. The wagon was
halted, and Dick ran back with two loaded rifles. In his haste he
gave one to Christopher, and repented at leisure; but Christopher
took it, and handled it like an experienced person, and said, with
delight, "VOLUNTEER." But with this the cautious animals had
vanished like bubbles. But Dick told Christopher they would be
sure to come back; he ordered Ucatella into the wagon, and told her
to warn Phoebe not to be frightened if guns should be fired. This
soothing message brought Phoebe's white face out between the
curtains, and she implored them to get into the wagon, and not
tempt Providence.

"Not till I have got thee a kaross of jackal's fur."

"I'll never wear it!" said Phoebe violently, to divert him from his
purpose.

"Time will show," said Dick dryly. "These varmint are on and off
like shadows, and as cunning as Old Nick. We two will walk on
quite unconcerned like, and as soon as ever the varmint are at our
heels you give us the office; and we'll pepper their fur--won't we,
doctor?"

"We--will--pepper--their fur," said Christopher, repeating what to
him was a lesson in the ancient and venerable English tongue.

So they walked on expectant; and by and by the four-footed shadows
with large lime-light eyes came stealing on; and Phoebe shrieked,
and they vanished before the men could draw a bead on them.

"Thou's no use at this work, Pheeb," said Dick. "Shut thy eyes,
and let us have Yuke."

"Iss, master: here I be."

"You can bleat like a lamb; for I've heard ye."

"Iss, master. I bleats beautiful;" and she showed snowy teeth from
ear to ear.

"Well, then, when the varmint are at our heels, draw in thy woolly
head, and bleat like a young lamb. They won't turn from that, I
know, the vagabonds."

Matters being thus prepared, they sauntered on; but the jackals
were very wary. They came like shadows, so departed--a great many
times: but at last being re-enforced, they lessened the distance,
and got so close, that Ucatella withdrew her head, and bleated
faintly inside the wagon. The men turned, levelling their rifles,
and found the troop within twenty yards of them. They wheeled
directly: but the four barrels poured their flame, four loud
reports startled the night, and one jackal lay dead as a stone,
another limped behind the flying crowd, and one lay kicking. He
was soon despatched, and both carcasses flung over the patient
oxen; and good-by jackals for the rest of that journey.

Ucatella, with all a Kafir's love of fire-arms, clapped her hands
with delight. "My child shoots loud and strong," said she.

"Ay, ay," replied Phoebe; "they are all alike; wherever there's
men, look for quarrelling and firing off. We had only to sit quiet
in the wagon."

"Ay." said Dick, "the cattle especially--for it is them the varmint
were after--and let 'em eat my Hottentots."

At this picture of the cattle inside the wagon, and the jackals
supping on cold Hottentot alongside, Phoebe, who had no more humor
than a cat, but a heart of gold, shut up, and turned red with
confusion at her false estimate of the recent transaction in fur.

When the sun rose they found themselves in a tract somewhat less
arid and inhuman; and, at last, at the rise of a gentle slope, they
saw, half a mile before them, a large farmhouse partly clad with
creepers, and a little plot of turf, the fruit of eternal watering;
item, a flower-bed; item, snow-white palings; item, an air of
cleanliness and neatness scarcely known to those dirty descendants
of clean ancestors, the Boers. At some distance a very large dam
glittered in the sun, and a troop of snow-white sheep were watering
at it.

"ENGLAND!" cried Christopher.

"Ay, sir," said Phoebe; "as nigh as man can make it." But soon she
began to fret: "Oh, dear! where are they all? If it was me, I'd be
at the door looking out. Ah, there goes Yuke to rouse them up."

"Come, Pheeb, don't you fidget," said Dick kindly. "Why, the lazy
lot are scarce out of their beds by this time."

"More shame for 'em. If they were away from me, and coming home, I
should be at the door day AND night, I know. Ah!"

She uttered a scream of delight, for just then, out came Ucatella,
with little Tommy on her shoulder, and danced along to meet her.
As she came close, she raised the chubby child high in the air, and
he crowed; and then she lowered him to his mother, who rushed at
him, seized, and devoured him with a hundred inarticulate cries of
joy and love unspeakable.

"NATURE!" said Christopher dogmatically, recognizing an old
acquaintance, and booking it as one more conquest gained over the
past. But there was too much excitement over the cherub to attend
to him. So he watched the woman gravely, and began to moralize
with all his might. "This," said he, "is what we used to call
maternal love; and all animals had it, and that is why the noble
savage went for him. It was very good of you, Miss Savage," said
the poor soul sententiously.

"Good of her!" cried Phoebe. "She is all goodness. Savage, find
me a Dutchwoman like her! I'll give her a good cuddle for it;" and
she took the Kafir round the neck, and gave her a hearty kiss, and
made the little boy kiss her too.

At this moment out came a collie dog, hunting Ucatella by scent
alone, which process landed him headlong in the group; he gave loud
barks of recognition, fawned on Phoebe and Dick, smelt poor
Christopher, gave a growl of suspicion, and lurked about squinting,
dissatisfied, and lowering his tail.

"Thou art wrong, lad, for once," said Dick; "for he's an old
friend, and a good one."

"After the dog, perhaps some Christian will come to welcome us,"
said poor Phoebe.

Obedient to the wish, out walked Sophy, the English nurse, a
scraggy woman, with a very cocked nose and thin, pinched lips, and
an air of respectability and pertness mingled. She dropped a short
courtesy, shot the glance of a basilisk at Ucatella, and said
stiffly, "You are welcome home, ma'am." Then she took the little
boy as one having authority. Not that Phoebe would have
surrendered him; but just then Mr. Falcon strolled out, with a
cigar in his mouth, and Phoebe, with her heart in HER mouth, flew
to meet him. There was a rapturous conjugal embrace, followed by
mutual inquiries; and the wagon drew up at the door. Then, for the
first time, Falcon observed Staines, saw at once he was a
gentleman, and touched his hat to him, to which Christopher
responded in kind, and remembered he had done so in the locked-up
past.

Phoebe instantly drew her husband apart by the sleeve. "Who do you
think that is? You'll never guess. 'Tis the great doctor that
saved Dick's life in England with cutting of his throat. But, oh,
my dear, he is not the man he was. He is afflicted. Out of his
mind partly. Well, we must cure him, and square the account for
Dick. I'm a proud woman at finding him, and bringing him here to
make him all right again, I can tell you. Oh, I am happy, I am
happy. Little did I think to be so happy as I am. And, my dear, I
have brought you a whole sackful of newspapers, old and new."

"That is a good girl. But tell me a little more about him. What
is his name?"

"Christie."

"Dr. Christie?"

"No doubt. He wasn't an apothecary, or a chemist, you may be sure,
but a high doctor, and the cleverest ever was or ever will be: and
isn't it sad, love, to see him brought down so? My heart yearns
for the poor man: and then his wife--the sweetest, loveliest
creature you ever--oh!" Phoebe stopped very short, for she
remembered something all of a sudden; nor did she ever again give
Falcon a chance of knowing that the woman, whose presence had so
disturbed him, was this very Dr. Christie's wife. "Curious!"
thought she to herself, "the world to be so large, and yet so
small:" then aloud, "They are unpacking the wagon; come, dear. I
don't think I have forgotten anything of yours. There's cigars,
and tobacco, and powder, and shot, and bullets, and everything to
make you comfortable, as my duty 'tis; and--oh, but I'm a happy
woman."

Hottentots, big and little, clustered about the wagon. Treasure
after treasure was delivered with cries of delight; the dogs found
out it was a joyful time, and barked about the wheeled treasury;
and the place did not quiet down till sunset.

A plain but tidy little room was given to Christopher, and he slept
there like a top. Next morning his nurse called him up to help her
water the grass. She led the way with a tub on her head and two
buckets in it. She took him to the dam; when she got there she
took out the buckets, left one on the bank, and gave the other to
Christie. She then went down the steps till the water was up to
her neck, and bade Christie fill the tub. He poured eight
bucketsful in. Then she came slowly out, straight as an arrow,
balancing this tub full on her head. Then she held out her hands
for the two buckets. Christie filled them, wondering, and gave
them to her. She took them like toy buckets, and glided slowly
home with this enormous weight, and never spilled a drop. Indeed,
the walk was more smooth and noble than ever, if possible.

When she reached the house, she hailed a Hottentot, and it cost the
man and Christopher a great effort of strength to lower her tub
between them.

"What a vertebral column you must have!" said Christopher.

"You must not speak bad words, my child," said she. "Now, you
water the grass and the flowers." She gave him a watering-pot, and
watched him maternally; but did not put a hand to it. She
evidently considered this part of the business as child's play, and
not a fit exercise of her powers.

It was only by drowning that little oasis twice a day that the
grass was kept green and the flowers alive.

She found him other jobs in course of the day, and indeed he was
always helping somebody or other, and became quite ruddy, bronzed,
and plump of cheek, and wore a strange look of happiness, except at
times when he got apart, and tried to recall the distant past.
Then he would knit his brow, and looked perplexed and sad.

They were getting quite used to him, and he to them, when one day
he did not come in to dinner. Phoebe sent out for him; but they
could not find him.

The sun set. Phoebe became greatly alarmed, and even Dick was
anxious.

They all turned out, with guns and dogs, and hunted for him beneath
the stars.

Just before daybreak Dick Dale saw a fire sparkle by the side of a
distant thicket. He went to it, and there was Ucatella seated,
calm and grand as antique statue, and Christopher lying by her
side, with a shawl thrown over him. As Dale came hurriedly up, she
put her finger to her lips, and said, "My child sleeps. Do not
wake him. When he sleeps, he hunts the past, as Collie hunts the
springbok."

"Here's a go," said Dick. Then, hearing a chuckle, he looked up,
and was aware of a comical appendage to the scene. There hung,
head downwards, from a branch, a Kafir boy, who was, in fact, the
brother of the stately Ucatella, only went further into antiquity
for his models of deportment; for, as she imitated the antique
marbles, he reproduced the habits of that epoch when man roosted,
and was arboreal. Wheel somersaults, and, above all, swinging head
downwards from a branch, were the sweeteners of his existence.

"Oh! YOU are there, are you?" said Dick.

"Iss," said Ucatella. "Tim good boy. Tim found my child."

"Well," said Dick, "he has chosen a nice place. This is the clump
the last lion came out of, at least they say so. For my part, I
never saw an African lion; Falcon says they've all took ship, and
gone to England. However, I shall stay here with my rifle till
daybreak. 'Tis tempting Providence to lie down on the skirt of a
wood for Lord knows what to jump out on ye unawares."

Tim was sent home for Hottentots, and Christopher was carried home,
still sleeping, and laid on his own bed.

He slept twenty-four hours more, and, when he was fairly awake, a
sort of mist seemed to clear away in places, and he remembered
things at random. He remembered being at sea on the raft with the
dead body; that picture was quite vivid to him. He remembered,
too, being in the hospital, and meeting Phoebe, and every
succeeding incident; but as respected the more distant past, he
could not recall it by any effort of his will. His mind could only
go into that remoter past by material stepping-stones; and what
stepping-stones he had about him here led him back to general
knowledge, but not to his private history.

In this condition he puzzled them all strangely at the farm; his
mind was alternately so clear and so obscure. He would chat with
Phoebe, and sometimes give her a good practical hint; but the next
moment, helpless for want of memory, that great faculty without
which judgment cannot act, having no material.

After some days of this, he had another great sleep. It brought
him back the distant past in chapters. His wedding-day. His
wife's face and dress upon that day. His parting with her: his
whole voyage out: but, strange to say, it swept away one-half of
that which he had recovered at his last sleep, and he no longer
remembered clearly how he came to be at Dale's Kloof.

Thus his mind might be compared to one climbing a slippery place,
who gains a foot or two, then slips back; but on the whole gains
more than he loses.

He took a great liking to Falcon. That gentleman had the art of
pleasing, and the tact never to offend.

Falcon affected to treat the poor soul's want of memory as a common
infirmity; pretended he was himself very often troubled in the same
way, and advised him to read the newspapers. "My good wife," said
he, "has brought me a whole file of the Cape Gazette. I'd read
them if I was you. The deuce is in it, if you don't rake up
something or other."

Christopher thanked him warmly for this: he got the papers to his
own little room, and had always one or two in his pocket for
reading. At first he found a good many hard words that puzzled
him; and he borrowed a pencil of Phoebe, and noted them down.
Strange to say, the words that puzzled him were always common
words, that his unaccountable memory had forgotten: a hard word, he
was sure to remember that.

One day he had to ask Falcon the meaning of "spendthrift." Falcon
told him briefly. He could have illustrated the word by a striking
example; but he did not. He added, in his polite way, "No fellow
can understand all the words in a newspaper. Now, here's a word in
mine--'Anemometer;' who the deuce can understand such a word?"

"Oh, THAT is a common word enough," said poor Christopher. "It
means a machine for measuring the force of the wind."

"Oh, indeed," said Falcon; but did not believe a word of it.

One sultry day Christopher had a violent headache, and complained
to Ucatella. She told Phoebe, and they bound his brows with a wet
handkerchief, and advised him to keep in-doors. He sat down in the
coolest part of the house, and held his head with his hands, for it
seemed as if it would explode into two great fragments.

All in a moment the sky was overcast with angry clouds, whirling
this way and that. Huge drops of hail pattered down, and the next
minute came a tremendous flash of lightning, accompanied, rather
than followed, by a crash of thunder close over their heads.

This was the opening. Down came a deluge out of clouds that looked
mountains of pitch, and made the day night but for the fast and
furious strokes of lightning that fired the air. The scream of
wind and awful peals of thunder completed the horrors of the scene.

In the midst of this, by what agency I know no more than science or
a sheep does, something went off inside Christopher's head, like a
pistol-shot. He gave a sort of scream, and dashed out into the
weather.

Phoebe heard his scream and his flying footstep, and uttered an
ejaculation of fear. The whole household was alarmed, and, under
other circumstances, would have followed him; but you could not see
ten yards.

A chill sense of impending misfortune settled on the house. Phoebe
threw her apron over her head, and rocked in her chair.

Dick himself looked very grave.

Ucatella would have tried to follow him; but Dick forbade her.
"'Tis no use," said he. "When it clears, we that be men will go
for him."

"Pray Heaven you may find him alive!"

"I don't think but what we shall. There's nowhere he can fall down
to hurt himself, nor yet drown himself, but our dam; and he has not
gone that way. But"--

"But what?"

"If we do find him, we must take him back to Cape Town, before he
does himself, or some one, a mischief. Why, Phoebe, don't you see
the man has gone raving mad?"

CHAPTER XIX.

The electrified man rushed out into the storm, but he scarcely felt
it in his body; the effect on his mind overpowered hail-stones.
The lightning seemed to light up the past; the mighty explosions of
thunder seemed cannon strokes knocking down a wall, and letting in
his whole life.

Six hours the storm raged, and, before it ended, he had recovered
nearly his whole past, except his voyage with Captain Dodd--that,
indeed, he never recovered--and the things that happened to him in
the hospital before he met Phoebe Falcon and her brother: and as
soon as he had recovered his lost memory, his body began to shiver
at the hail and rain. He tried to find his way home, but missed
it; not so much, however, but that he recovered it as soon as it
began to clear, and just as they were coming out to look for him,
he appeared before them, dripping, shivering, very pale and worn,
with the handkerchief still about his head.

At sight of him, Dick slipped back to his sister, and said, rather
roughly, "There now, you may leave off crying: he is come home; and
to-morrow I take him to Cape Town."

Christopher crept in, a dismal, sinister figure.

"Oh, sir," said Phoebe, "was this a day for a Christian to be out
in? How could you go and frighten us so?"

"Forgive me, madam," said Christopher humbly; "I was not myself."

"The best thing you can do now is to go to bed, and let us send you
up something warm."

"You are very good," said Christopher, and retired with the air of
one too full of great amazing thoughts to gossip.

He slept thirty hours at a stretch, and then, awaking in the dead
of night, he saw the past even more clear and vivid; he lighted his
candle and began to grope in the Cape Gazette. As to dates, he now
remembered when he had sailed from England, and also from Madeira.
Following up this clew, he found in the Gazette a notice that H. M.
ship Amphitrite had been spoken off the Cape, and had reported the
melancholy loss of a promising physician and man of science, Dr.
Staines.

The account said every exertion had been made to save him, but in
vain.

Staines ground his teeth with rage at this. "Every exertion! the
false-hearted curs. They left me to drown, without one manly
effort to save me. Curse them, and curse all the world."

Pursuing his researches rapidly, he found a much longer account of
a raft picked up by Captain Dodd, with a white man on it and a dead
body, the white man having on him a considerable sum in money and
jewels.

Then a new anxiety chilled him. There was not a word to identify
him with Dr. Staines. The idea had never occurred to the editor of
the Cape Gazette. Still less would it occur to any one in England.
At this moment his wife must be mourning for him. "Poor--poor
Rosa!"

But perhaps the fatal news might not have reached her.

That hope was dashed away as soon as found. Why, these were all
OLD NEWSPAPERS. That gentlemanly man who had lent them to him had
said so.

Old! yet they completed the year 1867.

He now tore through them for the dates alone, and soon found they
went to 1868. Yet they were old papers. He had sailed in May,
1867.

"My God!" he cried, in agony, "I HAVE LOST A YEAR."

This thought crushed him. By and by he began to carry this awful
idea into details. "My Rosa has worn mourning for me, and put it
off again. I am dead to her, and to all the world."

He wept long and bitterly.

Those tears cleared his brain still more. For all that, he was not
yet himself; at least, I doubt it; his insanity, driven from the
intellect, fastened one lingering claw into his moral nature, and
hung on by it. His soul filled with bitterness and a desire to be
revenged on mankind for their injustice, and this thought possessed
him more than reason.

He joined the family at breakfast; and never a word all the time.
But when he got up to go, he said, in a strange, dogged way, as if
it went against the grain, "God bless the house that succors the
afflicted." Then he went out to brood alone.

"Dick," said Phoebe, "there's a change. I'll never part with him:
and look, there's Collie following him, that never could abide
him."

"Part with him?" said Reginald. "Of course not. He is a
gentleman, and they are not so common in Africa."

Dick, who hated Falcon, ignored this speech entirely, and said,
"Well, Pheeb, you and Collie are wiser than I am. Take your own
way, and don't blame me if anything happens."

Soon Christopher paid the penalty of returning reason. He suffered
all the poignant agony a great heart can endure.

So this was his reward for his great act of self-denial in leaving
his beloved wife. He had lost his patient; he had lost the income
from that patient; his wife was worse off than before, and had
doubtless suffered the anguish of a loving heart bereaved. His
mind, which now seemed more vigorous than ever, after its long
rest, placed her before his very eyes, pale, and worn with grief,
in her widow's cap.

At the picture, he cried like the rain. He could give her joy, by
writing; but he could not prevent her from suffering a whole year
of misery.

Turning this over in connection with their poverty, his evil genius
whispered, "By this time she has received the six thousand pounds
for your death. SHE would never think of that; but her father has:
and there is her comfort assured, in spite of the caitiffs who left
her husband to drown like a dog.

"I know my Rosa," he thought. "She has swooned--ah, my poor
darling--she has raved--she has wept," he wept himself at the
thought--"she has mourned every indiscreet act, as if it was a
crime. But she HAS done all this. Her good and loving but shallow
nature is now at rest from the agonies of bereavement, and nought
remains but sad and tender regrets. She can better endure that
than poverty: cursed poverty, which has brought her and me to this,
and is the only real evil in the world, but bodily pain."

Then came a struggle, that lasted a whole week, and knitted his
brows, and took the color from his cheek; but it ended in the
triumph of love and hate, over conscience and common sense. His
Rosa should not be poor; and he would cheat some of those
contemptible creatures called men, who had done him nothing but
injustice, and at last had sacrificed his life like a rat's.

When the struggle was over, and the fatal resolution taken, then he
became calmer, less solitary, and more sociable.

Phoebe, who was secretly watching him with a woman's eye, observed
this change in him, and, with benevolent intentions, invited him
one day to ride round the farm with her. He consented readily.
She showed him the fields devoted to maize and wheat, and then the
sheepfolds. Tim's sheep were apparently deserted; but he was
discovered swinging head downwards from the branch of a camel-
thorn, and seeing him, it did strike one that if he had had a tail
he would have been swinging by that. Phoebe called to him: he
never answered, but set off running to her, and landed himself
under her nose in a wheel somersault.

"I hope you are watching them, Tim," said his mistress.

"Iss, missy, always washing 'em."

"Why, there's one straying towards the wood now."

"He not go far," said Tim coolly. The young monkey stole off a
little way, then fell flat, and uttered the cry of a jackal, with
startling precision. Back went the sheep to his comrades post
haste, and Tim effected a somersault and a chuckle.

"You are a clever boy," said Phoebe. "So that is how you manage
them."

"Dat one way, missy," said Tim, not caring to reveal all his
resources at once.

Then Phoebe rode on, and showed Christopher the ostrich pan. It
was a large basin, a form the soil often takes in these parts; and
in it strutted several full-grown ostriches and their young, bred
on the premises. There was a little dam of water, and plenty of
food about. They were herded by a Kafir infant of about six,
black, glossy, fat, and clean, being in the water six times a day.

Sometimes one of the older birds would show an inclination to stray
out of the pan. Then the infant rolled after her, and tapped her
ankles with a wand. She instantly came back, but without any loss
of dignity, for she strutted with her nose in the air, affecting
completely to ignore the inferior little animal, that was
nevertheless controlling her movements. "There's a farce," said
Phoebe. "But you would not believe the money they cost me, nor the
money they bring me in. Grain will not sell here for a quarter its
value: and we can't afford to send it to Cape Town, twenty days and
back; but finery, that sells everywhere. I gather sixty pounds the
year off those poor fowls' backs--clear profit."

She showed him the granary, and told him there wasn't such another
in Africa. This farm had belonged to one of the old Dutch
settlers, and that breed had been going down this many a year.
"You see, sir, Dick and I being English, and not downright in want
of money, we can't bring ourselves to sell grain to the middlemen
for nothing, so we store it, hoping for better times, that maybe
will never come. Now I'll show you how the dam is made."

They inspected the dam all round. "This is our best friend of
all," said she. "Without this the sun would turn us all to
tinder,--crops, flowers, beasts, and folk."

"Oh, indeed," said Staines. "Then it is a pity you have not built
it more scientifically. I must have a look at this."

"Ay do, sir, and advise us if you see anything wrong. But hark! it
is milking time. Come and see that." So she led the way to some
sheds, and there they found several cows being milked, each by a
little calf and a little Hottentot at the same time, and both
fighting and jostling each other for the udder. Now and then a
young cow, unused to incongruous twins, would kick impatiently at
both animals and scatter them.

"That is their way," said Phoebe: "they have got it into their
silly Hottentot heads as kye won't yield their milk if the calf is
taken away; and it is no use arguing with 'em; they will have their
own way; but they are very trusty and honest, poor things. We soon
found that out. When we came here first it was in a hired wagon,
and Hottentot drivers: so when we came to settle I made ready for a
bit of a wrangle. But my maid Sophy, that is nurse now, and a
great despiser of heathens, she says, 'Don't you trouble; them
nasty ignorant blacks never charges more than their due.' 'I
forgive 'em,' says I; 'I wish all white folk was as nice.'
However, I did give them a trifle over, for luck: and then they got
together and chattered something near the door, hand in hand. 'La,
Sophy,' says I, 'what is up now?' Says she, 'They are blessing of
us. Things is come to a pretty pass, for ignorant Muslinmen
heathen to be blessing Christian folk.' 'Well,' says I, 'it won't
hurt us any.' 'I don't know,' says she. 'I don't want the devil
prayed over me.' So she cocked that long nose of hers and followed
it in a doors."

By this time they were near the house, and Phoebe was obliged to
come to her postscript, for the sake of which, believe me, she had
uttered every syllable of this varied chat. "Well, sir," said she,
affecting to proceed without any considerable change of topic, "and
how do you find yourself? Have you discovered the past?"

"I have, madam. I remember every leading incident of my life."

"And has it made you happier?" said Phoebe softly.

"No," said Christopher gravely. "Memory has brought me misery."

"I feared as much; for you have lost your fine color, and your eyes
are hollow, and lines on your poor brow that were not there before.
Are you not sorry you have discovered the past?"

"No, Mrs. Falcon. Give me the sovereign gift of reason, with all
the torture it can inflict. I thank God for returning memory, even
with the misery it brings."

Phoebe was silent a long time: then she said in a low, gentle
voice, and with the indirectness of a truly feminine nature, "I
have plenty of writing-paper in the house; and the post goes south
to-morrow, such as 'tis."

Christopher struggled with his misery, and trembled.

He was silent a long time. Then he said, "No. It is her interest
that I should be dead."

"Well, but, sir--take a thought."

"Not a word more, I implore you. I am the most miserable man that
ever breathed." As he spoke, two bitter tears forced their way.

Phoebe cast a look of pity on him, and said no more; but she shook
her head. Her plain common sense revolted.

However, it did not follow he would be in the same mind next week:
so she was in excellent spirits at her protege's recovery, and very
proud of her cure, and celebrated the event with a roaring supper,
including an English ham, and a bottle of port wine; and, ten to
one, that was English too.

Dick Dale looked a little incredulous, but he did not spare the ham
any the more for that.

After supper, in a pause of conversation, Staines turned to Dick,
and said, rather abruptly, "Suppose that dam of yours were to burst
and empty its contents, would it not be a great misfortune to you?"

"Misfortune, sir! Don't talk of it. Why, it would ruin us, beast
and body."

"Well, it will burst, if it is not looked to."

"Dale's Kloof dam burst! the biggest and strongest for a hundred
miles round."

"You deceive yourself. It is not scientifically built, to begin,
and there is a cause at work that will infallibly burst it, if not
looked to in time."

"And what is that, sir?"

"The dam is full of crabs."

"So 'tis; but what of them?"

"I detected two of them that had perforated the dyke from the wet
side to the dry, and water was trickling through the channel they
had made. Now, for me to catch two that had come right through,
there must be a great many at work honeycombing your dyke; those
channels, once made, will be enlarged by the permeating water, and
a mere cupful of water forced into a dyke by the great pressure of
a heavy column has an expansive power quite out of proportion to
the quantity forced in. Colossal dykes have been burst in this way
with disastrous effects. Indeed, it is only a question of time,
and I would not guarantee your dyke twelve hours. It is full, too,
with the heavy rains."

"Here's a go!" said Dick, turning pale. "Well, if it is to burst,
it must."

"Why so? You can make it safe in a few hours. You have got a
clumsy contrivance for letting off the excess of water: let us go
and relieve the dam at once of two feet of water. That will make
it safe for a day or two, and to-morrow we will puddle it afresh,
and demolish those busy excavators."

He spoke with such authority and earnestness, that they all got up
from table; a horn was blown that soon brought the Hottentots, and
they all proceeded to the dam. With infinite difficulty they
opened the waste sluice, lowered the water two feet, and so
drenched the arid soil that in forty-eight hours flowers unknown
sprang up.

Next morning, under the doctor's orders, all the black men and boys
were diving with lumps of stiff clay and puddling the endangered
wall with a thick wall of it. This took all the people the whole
day.

Next day the clay wall was carried two feet higher, and then the
doctor made them work on the other side and buttress the dyke with
supports so enormous as seemed extravagant to Dick and Phoebe; but,
after all, it was as well to be on the safe side, they thought: and
soon they were sure of it, for the whole work was hardly finished
when the news came in that the dyke of a neighboring Boer, ten
miles off, had exploded like a cannon, and emptied itself in five
minutes, drowning the farm-yard and floating the furniture, but
leaving them all to perish of drought; and indeed the Boer's cart
came every day, with empty barrels, for some time, to beg water of
the Dales. Ucatella pondered all this, and said her doctor child
was wise.

This brief excitement over, Staines went back to his own gloomy
thoughts, and they scarcely saw him, except at supper-time.

One evening he surprised them all by asking if they would add to
all their kindness by lending him a horse, and a spade, and a few
pounds to go to the diamond fields.

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