Part 2 out of 5
they do sentry and stables and things. This is an afternoon off for
them. We really must talk accordingly."
"What are you and Captain Frazer talking about?"
"Cricket and seven-year locusts."
Ethel held out her empty cup.
"Very well. Then Mr. Weldon and I will discuss mosquitoes and seven-
day Baptists. No sugar, please, and I'd like another of those snappy
"Does that mean a Mauser?" Weldon asked, as he brought back her cup.
"No. I mean biscuits, not cats. But you sinned then. However, my
cousin has her eye upon us, so we must be distinctly frivolous. Is
there any especially peaceful subject you would like to discuss?"
"Yes. Please explain your name."
She looked up at him with sudden literalness.
"It is for my grandmother. For four hundred years there has been an
Ethel Dent in every generation."
"I meant the other."
"Oh, Cooee?" She laughed. "It dates from our first coming out here,
when we were children. My old Kaffir nurse--I was only five, that
first trip--used to call me so, and every one took it up. We went
back to England, after a few weeks, and the name was dropped; but my
uncle stayed out here, and he and my cousin always kept the old
Weldon stirred his tea thoughtfully.
"I rather like it, do you know?" he said.
"Surely, you don't think it fits me?"
His eyes moved from her shining hair to the hem of her elaborate
white gown. Then he smiled and shook his head.
"Not to-day, perhaps. But the Miss Dent of the Dunottar Castle--"
She interrupted him a little abruptly.
"Does that mean I am two-sided?"
"No; only complex."
She smiled in gracious response.
"You did that very well, Mr. Weldon," she said, with a slight accent
of superiority which galled him. Then, before he could reply, she
changed the subject, speaking with a lowered voice. "And what of the
It suited his mood not to understand her.
"In what way?"
"Every way. What do you think of him?"
Then she drew back, abashed by the fervor of the answer, as he said
"That the Creator made him, and then broke the pattern."
The little pause which followed caught the alert attention of the
hostess, and convinced her that it was time to shift the groups to
another combination. A swift gesture summoned Weldon to the table,
while Frazer dropped into his vacant chair. Ethel met the Captain
with only a half-concealed eagerness. This was not the first time
that a consciously trivial word of hers had been crushed out of life
by Weldon's serious dignity. She was never quite able to understand
his mood upon such occasions. The man was no prig. At times, he was
as merry as a boy. At other times, he showed an inflexible
seriousness which left her with the vague feeling of being somehow
or other in the wrong. The result was a mood of pique, rather than
of antagonism. Up to that time, Ethel Dent had known only unreserved
approval. Weldon's occasional gravity, to her mind, suggested
certain reservations. By way of overcoming these reservations, she
focussed her whole attention upon Captain Leo Frazer. Across the
table, Weldon, in the intervals of his talk with his hostess, could
hear the low murmur of their absorbed conversation.
It had been at Ethel's suggestion that the tea-table had been set,
that hot afternoon, under the trees in the heart of the garden. Just
at the crossing of two broad walks, a vine-roofed kiosk gave shelter
from the late sunshine, while its bamboo screens were half raised to
show the long perspective of garden walk and distant lawn. Save for
the orange grove at the left and the ash-colored leaves of the
silver wattle above them, Weldon could almost have fancied himself
in England. The lawn with its conventional tennis court was
essentially English; English, too, the tray with its fixtures.
There, however, the resemblance stopped. The ebony handmaiden who
brought out the tray was never found in private life outside the
limits of South Africa. When she sought foreign countries, it was
merely as a denizen of a midway plaisance.
"Yes, and their names are their most distinctive feature," Alice
assented to Weldon's comment.
"More than their mouths?" he asked, with a flippant recollection
of Kruger Roberts engrossed in his jam tin.
"At least as much so," she responded, laughing. "You notice that I
called our maid Syb. She told me, when she came, that her old master
named her Sybarite. I understood it, the next day, when I found her
snoring on the drawing-room sofa."
During the time of her answer, Weldon took his opportunity to look
steadily at his young hostess. Up to the moment of the shifting of
the groups, he had been too fully absorbed in the pleasure of once
more meeting Ethel to pay much heed to any one else. Now he turned
his gray eyes upon Alice Mellen, partly from real interest in her
personality; partly to counterbalance the rapt attention which Ethel
was bestowing upon the Captain. She had been the selfsame Ethel, a
bundle of contradictions that attracted him at one moment and
antagonized him at the next. He liked her absolutely; his very
liking for her increased the sense of antagonism when, for the
instant, she departed from his ideals of what she ought to be. And
yet, Weldon was candid enough to admit to himself that she departed
from them, rather than fell below them. Often as she had antagonized
him, she had never really disappointed him.
As for Alice Mellen, he confessed himself surprised. Gathering
together all that Ethel had ever told him of her cousin, of her
living her entire life out there in the southern end of South
Africa, of her desire to be a nurse, he had pieced together an
effigy of the combined traits of a Hottentot and a vivandiere. This
girl answered to neither description. Her clothes and her manners
and her accent all had come, albeit with slow indirectness, from
London. Not only would she and her gowns pass muster in a crowd; but
furthermore she would end by being the focal point of a good share
of that crowd. Nevertheless, Weldon found it impossible to discover
her most distinctive point. Even while he sought it, he wondered to
himself whether this might not be another cousin of whom he had
never heard. The women doctors and nurses at home wore stout shoes
and had pockets let in at the seams of their frocks, useful,
doubtless, but with an unlovely tendency to yawn and show their
contents. This girl was a mere fluff of pale yellow organdie which
brought out the purplish lights in her ink-black hair.
"Did you have the heart to disturb her?" he asked, reverting to the
subject of Syb's nap.
"I was forced to. She was on all the cushions, and I needed one for
myself. She took it in good part, though. She told me she had been
disturbed, the night before, by the snoring of the parrot, two rooms
away. As a result, she left me feeling that the apology really ought
to come from me."
"Is that the way of the race?" Weldon queried, as he set down his
empty cup. "If so, you make me tremble."
"Because, without in the least intending it, I have accumulated a
She looked up suddenly.
"How do you mean?"
"I don't know how. It apparently did itself. It was the day before
we went out to be fired at, and he said his name was Kruger Roberts,
and I fed him some empty jam tins."
"A huge black boy with bristly hair?" she interpolated.
"Yes, and a mouth so large that one wonders how his face can hold it
She sat up alertly, resting her folded arms on the edge of the
"This becomes interesting. Kruger Roberts is Syb's avowed and lawful
"Mine also, as it appears. As I say, I fed him jam tins. There were
four of them, and they were very jammy. Then we became interested in
the Boers, and I forgot Kruger Roberts. When I came back, yesterday
morning, dead tired and my horse all in a mess, I found Kruger
Roberts calmly sitting on my extra blankets, cleaning my shoes with
Paddy's best dishcloth. Paddy was in a wild state of mutiny, and
told me that that chattering baboon had vowed he was Trooper
Weldon's boy. Since then, I have tried in vain to dislodge him; but
it is no use. The Nig is like a piece of satin, and it is all I can
do to keep my compressed-paper buttons from winking defiance at the
Boers on the northern edge of Sahara."
Alice Mellen laughed with the air of one who understood the
"You builded better than you knew, Mr. Weldon, and your jam tins
will be no house of cards. The Kaffirs are an unaccountable race of
beings, lazy and good-natured. Once let them love or hate, though,
and all their strength goes into the working out of the feeling.
Kruger Roberts obviously has a sweet tooth; the day may come when
your enemies may find it changed to a poisoned fang. Do you want the
advice of one who knows the country?"
"I do," he assented heartily.
"Then keep your Kruger Roberts," she said decisively.
"But what shall I do with him?"
"Let him do for you."
"As a valet? I've never been used to such luxury," he protested,
She shook her head.
"Not only valet. He will be groom, cook, guide, interpreter and,
whether you wish it or not, your chum. Moreover, he will do it all
with the face of a clown and the manner of a tricksy monkey. As a
panacea for the blues, you will find him invaluable."
There was a little pause. Then she added, with a complete change of
tone, "My cousin has spoken of you so often, Mr. Weldon."
"And of you," he returned.
The directness of her answer pleased him.
"Then we ought to start as friends, and not waste time over mere
"I thought there were no acquaintances out here," he answered
lightly. "In camp, our first question is: Friend, or foe?"
"In the towns, we have every grade between. Often the same person
slides through all the grades in a single day. But you haven't
His eyes met her eyes frankly.
"About the friendship? I thought that wasn't necessary."
"Customary, however," she suggested, with a smile.
"But, as I say, there are no customs here," he retorted. "At least,
I should have said so, this morning. Now I am not so sure." Then he
laughed. "I've bungled that horribly, Miss Mellen. What I meant was
that you have given me a very good time, this afternoon."
"Prove it by coming again," she advised him.
"If I may. I don't wish to wear out my welcome; but one hasn't so
many friends in South Africa."
"What about Kruger Roberts?" she reminded him.
"That gives me two."
"And Captain Frazer?"
Weldon's eyes lighted.
"Some day, perhaps. I would be willing to wait for that."
Gravely her glance roved from the alert young Canadian at her side
to the older, more steadfast face across the table. Then she shook
"You will not have to wait long, Mr. Weldon?" she said quietly.
"Captain Frazer spoke of you, a week ago. I have known him for
months; I know what, with him, stands for enthusiasm."
"I wish you might be a true prophet. I would honor you, even here in
your own garden. For the sake of Captain Frazer's regard, I would
give up most things," he replied, too low to be overheard by the
couple who were now chaffing each other above their cooling cups.
Later on, he wondered a little how far the apparent inconsequence of
her next question was the result of chance.
"What about Cooee?" she asked, in a voice as low as his own had
He hesitated. Then he looked up at her steadily.
"Miss Mellen, I am sure I don't know," he answered gravely.
"Beastly shame that the Boers hadn't buried themselves instead of
the guns!" Carew remarked, as he wrestled with a tough thong of
bully beef which yielded to his jaws much as an India-rubber eraser
might have done.
Without making any pretence of extracting nutriment from his own
ration, Weldon converted it into a missile and hurled it straight at
"There's this difference," he returned pithily; "a gun is a good
enough fellow to deserve Christian burial. Carew, do you ever yearn
for the fleshpots?"
Without bringing his jaws to a halt, Carew shook his head.
"Do you?" he asked, after a prolonged interval.
"Yes, if they could be brought here; not otherwise. I like the game;
but I also like a little more oats mixed with my fodder. How long is
it since we had a square meal?"
"How long since we halted in that pineapple grove, coming up from
Durban?" Carew retorted. "That made up for a good deal. You have no
cause to rebel, though. Between Paddy and Kruger Bobs, you stand in
for all the tidbits that are going."
With a mock sigh, Weldon pointed backward over his shoulder.
"But unfortunately Kruger Bobs and The Nig are left behind in the
shadow of Naauwpoort's dreary heights. By the way, Carew, does it
ever strike you that these Boers make a lot more fuss over their
spelling than they do over their pronunciation? At home, we'd get as
good results out of dozens less letters."
"They make as good use of their extra letters as they do of their
extra bullets," Carew returned tranquilly. "They've been sniping,
all the morning long, and they have only hit a man and a quarter
"Which was the quarter?"
Turning, Carew displayed a jagged hole in his left sleeve. Weldon
"Can't you keep out of range, you old target? If there's a bullet
coming your way, it's bound to graze you."
"This is only the fourth. Only one of those really meant business.
Oh, hang it! There they go again!" he burst out, as a distant line
of rocks crackled explosively and, a moment later, a random bullet
opened up the side of his shoe.
With the swift change of occupation to which the past four months
had accustomed them, they were soon in the saddle and galloping off
across the rolling veldt. Before them, a pair of guns were pounding
away at the rocky line and its flanking bushes, and beyond, over the
crest of the next ridge, scores of thick-set, burly figures were
racing in search of shelter, with a fragment of the Scottish Horse
in hot pursuit.
Neck and neck in the vanguard raced Weldon and Carew, with Captain
Frazer's huge khaki-colored horse hard on their heels. To Weldon,
the next hour was one of fierce excitement and pleasure. The shriek
of the shells, long since left behind, the flying figures before
them, the rise and fall of his own gray little broncho as she
stretched herself to measure the interminable veldt, the khaki-
colored desert, dotted with huge black rocks and shimmering with the
heat waves which rose above it towards the midday sun: his pulses
tingled and his head throbbed with the glorious rush of it all.
And then the slouching figures were met by other slouching figures,
and reluctantly Weldon drew in his horse, as the halt was ordered.
Only madness would prolong the chase against such heavy odds. Mere
sanity demanded that the troopers should delay until the column came
up. The action must wait, while the heliograph flashed its call for
help. Weldon grumbled low into Carew's ear, as the minutes dragged
themselves along, broken only by indeterminate volleys.
"I have exactly five rounds left," he said at length. "I believe in
obedience, Carew; but, when I get this used up, by jingo, I'll pitch
into those fellows on my own account."
"Keep cool," Carew advised him temperately. "You always were a
thriftless fellow; you must have been wasting your fire. Oh, I say,
what's the row in the rear?"
"The column, most likely. It's time, too. Those fellows would be on
us in a minute. Ah ha!" And Weldon drew a quick breath of
admiration, as the guns came up at the gallop under the watchful eye
of the Imperial Yeomanry.
Once in position on a rise to the left, quickly the guns unlimbered
and opened fire, while the sergeants gathered around the boxes of
spare cartridges on the ground beside the panting ammunition horse.
Then at last came the order for the advance, the order so eagerly
awaited by Weldon, maddened by his long exposure to the bullets of
his unseen foe. In extended order, the squadrons galloped forward
until their goal was a scant five hundred yards away, when of a
sudden a murderous fire broke out from the rocks in front of them,
emptying many a saddle and dropping many a horse. Under such
conditions, safety lay only in an unswerving charge.
Close on their leaders' heels, the troopers spurred forward and,
revolver in right hand, rifle in left, they charged over the
remaining bit of ground and into the midst of the Boer position.
Briton and Boer met, face to face. Revolvers cracked; Boers dropped.
Mausers crashed; Britons fell. And then, through and over, the
British charge had passed.
Even then Weldon found no place for pause. From behind the Boer
position, a band of their reinforcements came galloping down upon
him. Caught between the two lines, the squadrons wheeled about, fell
again upon the broken enemy, dashed through them and, amid the
leaden hail, retired upon their own guns. And now once more the
gunners could reopen fire, and the shells dropped thick and fast.
The moment for a general advance had come. In open order, a thousand
men dashed forward and reached the ridge, only to see the retiring
foe galloping away in all directions across the open veldt. A halt
was ordered, to rest the winded mounts. Pickets were thrown out on
front and flank, while the British awaited their approaching convoy.
That night, the column rested upon the veldt at Vlaakfontein.
After the rush of the day, its hope and its succeeding
disappointment, Weldon was long in falling asleep. Carew was out on
picket; Captain Frazer, coat off and sleeves rolled to his
shoulders, was busy among the wounded, and Weldon had cared to make
few other close friends in the squadron. Around him, he could hear
the murmurs of other sleepless ones; but he lay silent, his arms
under his head, his face turned upward to the shining perspective of
the stars. In similar perspective there ranged them-selves before
his mind the events of the past twelve weeks.
Already the month at Piquetberg Road seemed a chapter out of another
volume. It had culminated in that languid afternoon spent around the
tea-table under the wattle tree in the garden, culminated there and
also ended there. With the unexpectedness that marks all things in a
time of war, the next noon found him steaming across the Cape Flats,
with Maitland in sight. Two days later, they were loaded on an empty
hospital ship returning to Durban. Piquetberg Road was child's play
now, for the front was almost in sight. The voyage had been beastly;
but after it had come the real beginning of things. Natal, in those
days of late February, had seemed deserving of its name, a true
Garden of Africa. The crossing was now a memory of heavy grades, of
verdant country, of ripened fruits. There had been the week's delay
at Pietermaritzburg where they had tasted a bit of civilization in
the intervals of completing their outfits; there had been the brief
stop at Ladysmith, already recovered from her hardships of the year
before, then the crossing the border into the Transvaal where the
verdure slowly vanished to give place to the dreary wastes of red-
brown veldt. At Johannesburg, he had manufactured an excuse for a
long letter to Ethel who--
"Show a leg there!"
The sergeant's voice at his ear called him back to the realities of
life. He sat up as alertly as if he had slept upon eider-down.
By eight o'clock, Weldon was out on the veldt, two miles from camp.
Before him, a force of Yeomanry was guarding the two guns; around
him, a detail from his own squadron protected the flank on the
right. And, still farther to the right, a cloud of yellowish smoke
rose skyward across the yellower sunshine. Then, of a sudden, out
from the heart of the wall of smoke came a muffled thud and roar,
confused at first, growing strident and more detached until,
sweeping from the haze of smoke, five score Boer horsemen rode in a
bolt-like rush, fierce and uncheckable. Without swerving to right or
left, they charged straight towards the Yeomanry drawn up beside the
guns, drove them back and shot down the gunners almost to a man. An
instant later, the guns were whirled about and trained upon their
From over his breakfast, that morning, the General raised his head
to listen to the booming of the fifteen-pounders. No need to tell
him that heavy fighting had begun. His experienced ear had taught
him that magazine firing meant business. His hand went in search of
"General, the enemy have captured the guns. The Major asks for
assistance to retake them."
The General lowered his glasses. Covered with dust, and breathless,
Weldon was before him.
"Mount every available man, and gallop to the scene of action!"
Orderlies carried the command to the different regiments. Before the
mounted men could start, the infantry were half-way to the guns. But
already shells were falling into the camp, telling every man that
the guns were in the hands of the Boers.
In the forefront of the remainder of his squadron, Weldon found
himself borne onward in the rush, straight from the camp to the
right flank of the guns. The broncho's swinging trot had long since
changed to a gallop, and her eyes were flashing with the wicked
light of her old, unbroken days, as she went tearing across the sun-
baked veldt, up and down over the rises and through the rare bits of
thicket at a pace which Weldon would have been powerless to check.
He had no mind to check it. The crisp air, full of ozone and warmed
by the sun, set his cheeks to tingling with its impact. A true
rider, he let his mood follow the temper of his horse and, like a
pair of wild things, they went bolting away far towards the head of
And always the firing of the guns grew nearer and faster and more
He took no note of passing moments, none of the miles he had ridden
during the past days. These counted for naught, while, with
photographic distinctness, the picture before him fixed itself
sharply in his mind: the dust-colored troops on the dusty veldt, the
brown-painted guns, the distant line of the enemy's fire and, far to
the eastward, the wall of smoke which was fast sweeping towards them
from the acres of burning veldt.
"Captain Frazer, the General orders you to take up your position in
the kraal on the extreme right, and to hold it at any cost."
From his place at the Captain's side, Weldon glanced at the orderly,
then, turning, looked across the veldt to the four gray walls
surrounding the clump of trees a mile away. His hand tightened on
the curb, and he straightened in the saddle, as the Captain led the
way into the purgatory beyond, an orderly purgatory, but crossed
with leaden lines of shot and shell.
At such moments, the brain ceases to act coherently. When Weldon
came to himself, he was kneeling behind the old gray wall, revolver
in hand, firing full in the faces of the Boer horsemen, scarce
fifteen feet away. Carew, his right foot dangling, had been hustled
to the rear of the kraal where the gray broncho and her mates were
in comparative shelter.
He looked up in a half-dazed fashion. The wall of smoke was already
shutting down about the retreating Boers. Beside him stood the
Captain, his yellow hair clinging to his dripping face, his blue
eyes, under their fringe of black lashes, glittering like polished
gems. Coated as he was with dust and sweat, his clothing torn and
spotted with the fray, he looked ten times more the gallant
gentleman, even, than when he had met Weldon in the heart-shaped
bit of lawn encircled by the Dents' driveway. Now he held out his
"Splendidly done, old man! One doesn't forget such things."
Captain Frazer had scarcely finished speaking, when the voice of the
General sounded in their ears.
"A plucky attack and a plucky defeat, Captain Frazer. Kemp is a man
worth fighting. You are not wounded?"
"Thanks to Trooper Weldon," the Captain told him, with a smile.
The General's keen glance included them both.
"Good! And now can you spare me a trusty man? One who can ride? I
must have some despatches at Krugersdorp before midnight. I should
like some one from your squadron."
The eyes of Captain Frazer and Weldon met. Again the General's keen
glance was on them both; then it concentrated itself upon the
"I am ready," he answered to its unspoken question.
"You are sure you are fit? It is forty miles, and the rain will be
on us inside of an hour."
"It makes no difference."
As he spoke, Weldon felt himself surveyed from hat to shoelace.
"Very well. Get yourself fed, and come to my tent in an hour. It
will be better to wait until dusk before starting, for these hills
are infested with Boers. Do you know the country?"
"Partly. I can learn the rest."
"You need a remount."
Weldon stroked the little gray broncho.
"If I had my own horse. Otherwise, I prefer this. I can trust her,
even if she is tired."
Again the glance swept him over, beginning at the boyish face,
resolute and eager beneath its streaks of red-brown dust. Then, as
Weldon saluted, the General turned and rode away, with the Captain
at his side.
"You've the making of a man there, Captain Frazer," was his sole
Weldon, meanwhile, was allowing the little gray broncho to pick her
own dainty way out of the shambles about her feet. Then, once free
from the litter of men and horses, he turned her head to the spot
where, he had been told, his squadron were gathering together their
diminished forces. As he rode slowly onward, he was surprised to see
how low the sun had dropped. The fighting must have lasted longer
than he had thought. It had been hot and heavy; but at least he had
not funked it. For so much he could be thankful. In so far as he
could recall any of his emotions as he had dashed into range of the
pitiless firing, they had been summed up in a dull rage against the
enemy, mingled with a vague hope that no harm should come to the
plucky little mount. Just one instant's pause he could remember.
That was when he had put forth all his strength to check her pace
until he could readjust a strap that was plainly galling her. And
afterwards? Not even the thoroughbred Nig could have played her part
in the fight with more steady gallantry. Stooping, he eased the bit
and patted the firm gray neck where the mane swept upward for its
He straightened in his saddle.
"Kruger Bobs! By all special providences, where did you come from?"
"Naauwpoort. Kruger Bobs come bring Nig to Boss."
"Kruger Bobs, you're a genius."
Kruger Bobs vanished behind his smile.
"Ya, Boss," he replied then. "Boss all right?"
"Yes, all right."
"Dutchmans no killed Boss?"
Doubtfully Kruger Bobs shook his sable bristles. He had heard the
firing, such firing as he had never dreamed of until then, and it
seemed to him impossible that any man could come unscathed out of
the heart of it. Of Weldon's being in the very heart of it, no doubt
had once stained the loyal whiteness of his soul. To assure himself
of Weldon's safety, he ambled around the gray broncho in a clumsy
circle. The gray broncho showed her appreciation of the attention by
nipping viciously at the flank of his horse. By Weldon's left side,
Kruger Bobs halted and pointed an accusing forefinger at his knee.
"Dutchmans hurt Boss," he said anxiously.
"Dere." In spite of his effort for sternness, the voice of Kruger
Bobs quavered with anxiety.
Bending over, Weldon glanced down at the dark red stain on the coil
of khaki serge. Then, all at once, he remembered the sudden stinging
of his leg, just before he had started the gray broncho on her last
mad rush across the lead-swept plain. In the excitement that
followed, the matter had entirely passed out of his mind. Even now
that his attention was called to it, he was conscious of no physical
"Kruger Bobs go for doctor?" the boy was urging.
Weldon laughed reassuringly.
"It's nothing, Kruger Bobs. I've no time to fool with doctors now."
"What Boss do?"
"Feed Piggie, eat something, look up Mr. Carew and then get to the
General's tent, inside an hour."
"What for de big boss soldier?"
"He wants me."
"Ya?" Kruger Bobs demanded uneasily.
"To ride a despatch."
"Despatch!" Kruger Bobs exploded in hot wrath. "Kruger Bobs go
despatch; Boss go bed." "Can't do it, Kruger Bobs. This is war, and
I've given my word to the General. It was an order, and I had to do
it." Backing his horse off for a step or two, Kruger Bobs sat
looking at his master and shaking his head mournfully. Then he
straightened in the saddle.
"Boss go; Kruger Bobs go, too," he said, with steady decision.
Less than an hour later, outside the General's tent Kruger Bobs sat
astride The Nig, with the rein of the gray broncho in his hand. The
clouds, since noon banked low in the eastern horizon, had swept up
across the sky, and already the rain was pattering drearily over the
hunched-up shoulders of Kruger Bobs. Inside the tent, the colloquy
was brief. Twice Weldon repeated over the substance of his
despatches and his instructions regarding their destination. The
despatches were slipped between the layers of his shoe-sole, the cut
stitches were replaced, and Weldon rose to his feet.
"My nigger has come from Naauwpoort, bringing me a fresh mount," he
said then. "May I take him with me?"
"What is he?"
"Can you trust him?"
Weldon's eyes met the eyes of the General steadily. "As I would
trust myself," he answered.
Five minutes later, Weldon passed out of the tent door. At his
quarters, he dismounted and went in search of a blanket. Muffled in
the thick folds, the horses' feet would make no sound on the hard-
baked earth. Kruger Bobs, meanwhile, went out to reconnoitre in
order to discover a possible gap in the line of Boer pickets.
The pickets once passed, Weldon mounted once more and, with Kruger
Bobs following close behind, rode carefully away into the inky,
drizzling night. For the first hour, he rode steadily and with
comparative comfort. The excitement of the battle was still in his
blood, its noises ringing in his head, its sights dancing like will-
o'-the-wisps before his eyes. Later, the inevitable reaction would
follow, and the inevitable weariness. Now, refreshed by their
supper, both he and the broncho had come to their second wind, and
they faced the storm pluckily and with unbowed heads. Beside him,
The Nig, fresh and fit as a horse could be, galloped onward steadily
under the weight of Kruger Bobs. It had been at Weldon's own command
that Kruger Bobs had abandoned his raw-boned steed and placed
himself astride the sacred body of the thoroughbred Nig. On such a
night and after such a battle, a horse abandoned was a horse forever
lost. Neither The Nig nor Piggie could be left to any chance
ownership, but neither could Piggie, fresh from a two-day fight, be
left to the mercies of an inexperienced rider. Three inches shorter
than his master, Kruger Bobs weighed fifty pounds the more, and he
rode with the resilient lightness of a feather bed.
Weldon's hour of rest had been divided in strict ratio between
himself, his friend and his horse. For fully half that period, he
and Kruger Bobs had rubbed the sturdy gray legs and anointed the
scratched neck with supplies taken from the portable veterinary
hospital always to be found in the recesses of the Kaffirs scanty
garments. Then, snatching a hasty meal, with the last of it still in
his hands, Weldon strode away to look for Carew. He found him,
bandaged but jovial, a shattered bone in his foot and his pipe in
his shut teeth. Fortunately the pain bore no relation to the
seriousness of the case, and Weldon left him to his pipe, cheered by
the doctor's assurance that two or three weeks would bring him back
into fighting trim. Carew's own disrespectful comments on the
injured foot were still in his ears, as he entered the tent of the
By degrees, the night grew dark and darker. Riding eastward with
their backs to the southerly storm, nevertheless now and again the
wind swirled about fiercely, to send the lashing rain against their
faces. Under their feet, the dusty veldt turned to mire, from mire
to a pasty glue, and from glue to the consistency of cream. Bottom
there was none; the bottomlessness of it only became more apparent
when one or other of the horses stumbled into the hole of an ant-
bear. Twice the gray broncho was on her knees; once The Nig came
down so sharply that Kruger Bobs rolled forward out of his saddle,
to land on his back, nose to nose with his astonished mount. Worst
of all, the fever of the fight was dying out from Weldon's veins.
His pulses were slowing down, and the ceaseless jar of the gray
broncho's gallop waked his wounded leg to a pain which fast became
Kruger Bobs edged closer to his side.
"Boss sick?" he asked.
"Not altogether content, Kruger Bobs."
"Leg?" the boy questioned anxiously.
"Yes; that--and some other things."
"Me help Boss?"
"No, thank you. I'd better let the mess alone."
"Boss ride Nig?" Kruger Bobs suggested, in the hushed tone in which
all their talk had been carried on.
"It is better not to change."
The silence broadened, broken only by the splashing of eight hoofs
in the ever-deepening mire, and by the sighing squeak of wet strap
rubbing on wet strap. Then Kruger Bobs spoke again.
"Paddy send," he said, as he poked a soft parcel into Weldon's
dangling hand. "He say 'Give it to little Canuck.'"
Weldon felt and tasted his way into the parcel. It was large, and
filled with savory bits which Paddy must have gleaned here and there
from the general mess, robbing freely from many a greater man, all
for the sake of the "little Canuck."
It was no time for the discipline which bids a servant eat of the
crumbs from his master's table. For the hour, Kruger Bobs and he
were friends, bound upon one and the same errand. With impartial
hand, Weldon tore the paper across and divided its contents. He only
regretted that convention had forbidden him the trick of smacking
his lips in sign of relish. It would have been good to have the
ability of Kruger Bobs to give audible token of his appreciation of
Somewhat refreshed, he straightened in his saddle.
"Now be careful, Kruger Bobs. There are Boers in these hills," he
warned his companion; "and it would never do for us to be sniped."
Kruger Bobs came close to his side.
"Dutchmans kill Kruger Bobs, no matter; kill Boss, no take despatch.
Boss say to Kruger Bobs where de despatch. Kruger Bobs take him to
Krugersdorp, if Boss die."
And Weldon shivered a little, as the silence dropped again.
The ridges were steeper now, and came in more swift succession, as
the horsemen plodded wearily along the southern slope of the Rand.
Piggie was breathing heavily; and Weldon, clinging to his saddle
with the purely mechanical grip of the exhausted rider, halted again
and again to rest the plucky little animal whose best was always his
for the asking. Of his own condition he took no heed. It was all in
the game. He would play the game out as long as he could; but his
last move should be, as his first had been, strictly according to
rule. Meanwhile, for two facts he was at a loss to account. Dawning
was still hours distant. Nevertheless, the darkness before him was
blotted and blurred with alternating waves of blue and gray. The
veldt was empty; yet, above the roar of the rain around him, an odd
purring sound was in his ears. Then everything lost itself in his
determination not to allow the saddle to slip from between his tired
He roused himself at the challenging voice of a picket.
"Despatches for General Kekewich," he answered, in a voice which
seemed to his own ears to have come from miles away.
"Advance and give the countersign."
Irritably he gathered himself together.
"I can't, I tell you. I don't know your blasted countersign. I've
despatches from Dixon to General Kekewich. Take me to him at once."
The colloquy lasted for moments, in a drawn battle of determination.
Its stimulus had waked Weldon from his lethargy; it had also waked
again that fierce and throbbing pain below his knee. He left the
sentry in no doubt, either of the truth of his statement, or of his
mood. Then, with Kruger Bobs at his side, he plodded forward towards
the lights of the town, while he braced himself for a final effort.
Fifteen minutes later, he reached the second line of pickets. The
gray broncho's head drooped pitifully, as Weldon sat waiting for the
inevitable challenge. It came at last; and Weldon's answering voice
was slow with a weakness which was not all feigned.
"Despatches from Dixon's column. Take me to the Commandant, please."
He was dimly aware of a hand on his bridle, dimly conscious that
Piggie was being led forward for a seemingly endless distance. As
they halted in front of a gray stone building, Weldon dimly heard
the tingling of many bells within, then the hurried opening of a
window, and a voice demanding the cause of the disturbance below. He
felt himself going fast; but, gripping his will with all his might,
he pulled himself together long enough to answer,--
"Despatches for General Kekewich between the soles of my left boot."
Then he pitched forward on his broncho's neck.
"Twelve inches make one foot, six feet make one man, sixty men make
one troop, four troops make one squadron," the monotonous voice ran
on. Then it came to an unexpected finale. "And three squadrons make
the Boer army run."
The man in the next bed giggled. His wound was in his shoulder, and
it had left his sense of humor unimpaired. As a rule, the fighting
records of the wounded never came inside that long, bed-bordered
room; but there were few within it now who were ignorant of the
plucky ride made by the lean, boyish-looking Canadian trooper. A
part of the story had come by way of the doctor in charge of the
ambulance train which had brought him from Krugersdorp to
Johannesburg, a part of it had come from the trooper's own lips, and
that was the most tragic part of it all.
Below, in the courtyard of the hospital, Kruger Bobs squatted on his
heels in the sun and waited. Now and then, he vanished to look after
the creature comforts of The Nig and the little gray broncho; now
and then he shuffled forward to demand news from some passer-by
whose sleeve was banded with the Red-Cross badge. Then he shuffled
back to his former post and sat himself down on his heels once more.
Kruger Bobs possessed the racial traits which make it an easy matter
to sit and wait for news. He was also an optimist. Nevertheless, his
face now was overcast and rarely did it vanish behind the spreading
limits of his smile.
For four days, Weldon lay prostrate and babbled of all things, past,
present and to come. Three names dotted his babblings. One was that
of his mother, one of his captain, and the third that of Ethel Dent.
With all three of them, he appeared to be upon the best of terms.
Finally, on the fifth day, he suddenly waked to the fact that a
woman was bending above him, to wipe his face with a damp sponge.
He was too weak to rise. Nevertheless, he straightened himself into
a rigid line, and addressed her with dignity.
"I beg your pardon. Please don't wash my face for me," he said, in
She smiled down at him, with the air of a mother smiling at a
fretful child. The smile irritated him.
"Doesn't it refresh you?" she asked quietly.
"No," he answered, with flat, ungracious, mendacity.
"I am sorry. You have been sleeping heavily, and--"
He felt his mind slipping out of his own grasp, and he strove to
hold it in his keeping.
"No matter now," he interrupted hastily. "Please get me--"
She waited in silence. Then she asked encouragingly,--
"What shall I get you?"
The mind was almost gone; but still he held fast to the edge of it,
as he murmured,--
"Some bully beef."
The nurse turned away. Her lips were smiling; but her eyes clouded,
as the babbling began once more.
Twenty-four hours later, she was greeted by a white-faced, clear-
"Good-morning, nurse," he said coolly. "You see I am better."
"Much better, Mr. Weldon," she assented cordially. He looked
puzzled. "I thought we fellows in hospital had no names, nothing but
numbers," he answered.
"It depends. When one meets an old friend, the number isn't quite
the right name for him."
Turning slightly, he stared up at her with the impassive curiosity
of a man just coming back from The Unknown. Then he shook his head.
"I am afraid--" he began slowly.
With a quick gesture, she took off her crisp white cap, uncovering a
heavy pile of ink-black hair. "There!" she said, with a smile. "Does
that make me look more natural, Mr. Weldon? I am Alice Mellen, Cooee
Instantly he put out his hand, sunburned still, but curiously thin.
The smile on his lips was the boyish, frank smile which Alice had
seen and liked, that afternoon in the garden at home.
"What good angel brings you here?" he asked eagerly.
"No angel; merely the lady who rules over the household of Mars. I
am glad to find you again, even if the Johannesburg hospital isn't a
good place for a man. But you mustn't talk now. Later, we can make
up for lost time."
Impetuously his fingers shut on a fold of her apron. Then his native
instincts and his years of training asserted themselves, and he let
go once more. Nevertheless, his eyes were appealing.
"But I must," she answered, her hands busy with her cap.
Her tone showed that, like himself, she too had learned the meaning
of an order. He yielded to its quiet firmness.
"If you must. But, before you go, tell me this: have I been off my
She nodded in assent.
"Sorry," he said briefly. "Please answer me honestly. Have I mumbled
things and made a blasted fool of myself?"
It was still two days before he was allowed to talk to his own
satisfaction. Then, one afternoon in her rest hour, Alice Mellen let
him have his way and, seated by his cot, she answered tersely to a
raking fire of terse questions.
"How long have I been here?"
"Just a week."
"How did I get here?"
"Hospital train from Krugersdorp."
"You had a touch of fever. We could treat you better here." Her
replies were man-like in their brevity.
"Fever? I thought it was a Mauser bullet."
"It was. Your leg was not so bad; but the long ride and the exposure
to the storm--"
He interrupted her.
"What do you know about my ride?" he asked.
Her answer showed that the woman was not lost in the nurse.
"Everybody knows of your ride. Even in these days of plucky deeds,
we are proud of you."
He shook his head, though the color came into his cheeks, brown
beneath their pallor.
"It was nothing. I did my duty."
"So Kruger Bobs has informed us."
"Kruger Bobs? Is he here?"
This time, she laughed outright.
"I should say he was. For a week, he has been sitting exactly in the
path of the doctors, waiting for news. Twice he has been ordered
off; but he merely hitches over to the other end of the steps and
refuses to budge farther. We discovered him, the first night you
were here, by having the bead surgeon fall headlong over him, as he
went down the steps. Kruger Bobs doesn't show up well, on a dark
Weldon clasped his hands at the back of his head.
"If I thought you were using American slang, Miss Mellen, I should
contradict you," he answered, with a touch of his old humor. "I can
remember at least one dark night when Kruger Bobs made an excellent
"We have bad a few Americans here before, Mr. Weldon. I think I
"How long have you been here?" he asked, after a pause.
"And you like it?"
"Why else should I be here?"
"From a sense of duty."
"Is that what brought you out?"
"No. My coming was inevitable. It seemed a part of me that I
"But you wished to come?" she queried.
"Of course. But that was only a Dart of it. I have wished to do
things before, and have done them. This was quite different. It all
seemed a part of Fate, and I walked through it, like a puppet with
somebody else's hand pulling the strings." He paused and shook his
head. "It is no use. I can't make you understand it. I acted freely
and did just what I chose; but yet, all the time, I felt as if it
had all been arranged for me, whole generations ago."
Thoughtfully she bent forward, straightened the coverings above his
wounded leg; then sat up again. Then she shook her head a little
"No," she said. "I am afraid I don't understand. Perhaps it is
because I am selfish; but I usually feel as if I made my plans,
regardless of Fate."
"What about our meeting here?" he asked quizzically.
She answered in the same tone.
"Wait until we see what comes out of it. Fate, if one believes in
such a thing, only works in an endless chain."
"And the broken links?"
"According to your notion, there should be none," she retorted.
"Fate ought to be a better workman than that."
"Than spoiling her work as she goes along. If there's any chain at
all, it should be endless and durable. But a man with a Mauser hole
in his leg and a fever in his head has no business to be talking of
Fate. Let's talk about Ethel, instead."
He settled himself back comfortably.
"Perhaps it amounts to the same thing, in the long run."
"Perhaps. I don't see how, though. Anyway, Ethel wouldn't be pleased
with the notion. She is absolutely independent, and generally
arranges things according to her own sweet will."
"Where is she now?"
"In Cape Town," Alice answered, quite unaware of her own lack of
"Gloriously. In fact, as far as I can learn, Cooee always is well.
Just now she is having a wonderfully gay time. Since Lord Roberts
went back to England, Cape Town has been full of people, resting
there before sailing for home."
"Haven't they earned the right?" she questioned, in swift challenge
to the quiet scorn in his tone.
"Even if the battles are over, the fighting isn't," he answered
tersely. "The glory doesn't lie entirely in the pulverizing the Boer
army; there's a little left for the men who are sweeping up the
Her trained eye saw the rising color in his face. Swiftly she
changed the subject.
"Glory for all, enough and to spare," she replied. "But, as I say,
Cape Town is crowded with officers, lying up for repairs, and Ethel
is queen bee among them. It's not only for herself; it is what you
would call Fate. She happens to be the only girl of her set who is
just out from London; she had met a good many of them there, and now
she is holding a veritable salon. She even has one sacred teacup,
set up on a high shelf ever since the day that Baden-Powell used
"Miss Dent is a hero-worshipper," he commented.
"So are we all, in certain directions. Moreover, most women like
their heroes to have a little personality. One can't make one's
admiration stick to a blank wall of impersonal perfection."
Weldon's mind moved swiftly backwards to two blue, black-fringed
eyes glowing out from a dust-streaked face.
"No," he assented; "but neither can one ever really be chums with
his hero. Or, even if he can, he doesn't care to try the
Alice glanced at her watch, rose, then lingered.
"I am not so sure of that," she replied thoughtfully. "I want the
pedestal of my hero to be a low one; and Cooee declares that she
wishes no pedestal at all. If her hero is worthy of the name, he
must bear inspection even from above. The worst flaw of all might
lurk in the very crown of his head."
Half an hour later, she came back again.
"Mr. Weldon, do you feel strong enough to see Kruger Bobs for
exactly five minutes?" she asked.
The gray eyes lighted.
"For ten times five," he answered eagerly.
Kruger Bobs shuffled in upon the heels of an orderly. Under his
bristly hair, his face was a study of mingled emotions which
culminated in his mouth. A grin of pure happiness had drawn up the
upper lip; at sight of his prostrate master, the lower one was
rolling outward in a sudden wave of pure pity. Beside the cot, he
halted and stood looking down at Weldon with eyes which, for the
moment, transformed his lazy, jolly, simian face into a species of
nobility. Lying back on his pillow, Weldon waited for him to speak,
waited with an odd, restless beating of the heart for which he was
wholly at a loss to account.
The pause between them lengthened. At last Kruger Bobs drew his
mangy brown felt hat across his eyes.
"I's here, Boss," he said simply.
However, it was enough.
The next morning found Weldon sitting up. A clean-cut hole through
the flesh of a man who has lived a clean-cut life is swift in
healing. Now that his fever had left him, his superb vitality was
asserting itself once more, and he rallied quickly. Meanwhile, it
was good to be able to sit up and eat his breakfast like a civilized
being. Weldon had all the detestation of the average healthy being
for invalid ways. Moreover, he longed to be up and doing. With his
growing strength, the orderly, noiseless routine of the hospital
came upon his nerves. One of the nurses always walked on the points
of her toes; and he was conscious of a wild longing to throw a
pillow at her, as she went diddling to and fro past him, a dozen
times a day. The doctor, a man of iron nerve and velvet hand, was a
daily delight to him. And there was always Alice, frank, friendly
and altogether enjoyable. During the past three days, their liking
had grown apace. Absolutely feminine, yet with the healthy
impersonality of a growing boy, Alice Mellen was a born comrade, and
Weldon enjoyed her just as, in her place, he would have enjoyed
She came down the ward, that morning, and paused beside his chair.
"You look like your old self at last," she said, as she held out her
hand in congratulation.
"I might echo your words," he answered, while he looked up into her
eyes, shining with merriment and with something that yet seemed to
him closely akin to annoyance. "Granted the apron, you might be
pouring tea at home."
"Not tea; but malted milk, in these latter days," she said,
laughing. "But I am about to retire from your case. May I introduce
your new nurse, Mr. Weldon?"
His reluctant assent was changed to eager greeting. Light, swift
steps came down the room; a tall figure stopped at his side in the
full glare of a sunshiny window which all at once seemed focussing
its light upon waving strands and heaped-up coils of vivid yellow
"Cooee!" Then, too late, he bethought himself of his manners and
tried to bite the word off short.
Linking her arm in that of her cousin, the girl stood looking down
at him with merry, mocking blue eyes.
"Invalids are supposed to have privileges denied to well men," she
answered demurely. "It might perhaps be Cooee here, to-day; but it
will have to be Miss Dent, to-morrow, when you are back in the field
again. After all, it is hardly worth while to make the change,
Upon one side, at least, the meeting between the two cousins on the
previous night had been wholly unexpected.
Late that afternoon, an ambulance train had come in, loaded with men
from the over-crowded field hospital at Krugersdorp, and for hours
Alice had been in ceaseless attendance upon the surgeon in charge.
Little by little, the girl had found her nerves steadying down to
the task in hand; nevertheless, the past ten weeks, in return for
the increase of her poise, had taken something from her vitality.
Quickness of eye, firmness of hand, evenness of temper: all these
may be gifts of the gods. Their use is a purely human function, and
proportionately exhausting. The girl's one salvation lay in the fact
that her quick sympathy with her patients was for the most part
impersonal. Up to this time, Weldon had been her only patient whom
she had known outside the routine duties of her hospital life. In a
sense, it had been a relief to meet some one whom she knew to be of
her own world; in a sense, the case had worn upon her acutely. She
could watch with a greater degree of stolidity the sufferings of
Among her new charges, that day, only one had made any distinct
impression upon her overworked brain. That was a jovial young
fellow, handsome as Phoebus Apollo, in spite of a slashing scar
across one cheek. He had answered to her questions regarding his
wounded foot with an accent so like that of Weldon that
involuntarily she lingered beside him to add a word of cheery
consolation. His was her final case, that night. As she wearily
turned towards her own room, she made no effort to analyze her
She found Ethel, still in her hat and jacket, sitting on the edge of
her own narrow cot.
"Yes, dear." The girl's tone was nonchalant, even while the telltale
color came into her cheeks.
"What are you doing here?"
"Visiting you, of course."
"Visiting me! But, Cooee, I really don't know where I can put you."
With perfect composure, Ethel passed her hand over the surface of
"Oh, I think this nutmeg-grater will carry two. Still, Alice, I must
say that your hospitality isn't exactly exuberant."
Alice dropped into a chair and wearily pushed her hair still farther
back from her forehead.
"Aren't you glad to see me?" Ethel demanded.
"Certainly. You are always a dear; but--I wish I had known you were
Ethel raised her brows, and a slight edge came into her voice.
"If you don't want me, Alice, I can go home in the morning."
Dimly aware that her cousin was fencing with an invisible adversary,
nevertheless Alice Mellen was too tired, that night, to range
herself upon the side of that adversary. As far as she was
concerned, Ethel had dropped upon her like a bolt from the blue. She
was too busy, too absorbed in her patients to give more than a
passing thought to even her most intimate cousin. And besides,
Weldon--She pulled herself together sharply.
"Of course I want you, Cooee dear. It is only a bit sudden, and I am
trying to think what to do with you."
Now and then Ethel turned wayward. This was one of the times.
"If you didn't know what to do with me, Alice, then why did you ask
me to come?"
"But I didn't," Alice responded, too astonished to modify her denial
into a polite form of fibbing.
Ethers tone was gently superior.
"Oh, yes; you did."
"When you were leaving home. You said then that I must be sure to
come up to spend a week with you, early in the winter." Then her
accent changed. "You poor tired child!" she said, as she rose and
crossed to her cousin's side. "This work is too hard for you; you
look as if you had been fighting the Boers themselves, instead of
merely enteric and bullet holes. I think it is just as well that I
am here to look out for you, for a few days."
Alice lifted her hand to the hand that lay against her cheek.
"I am glad to see you, Cooee dear. I am only so surprised that it
makes me slow to tell you so. If you can sleep here, to-night, I can
find a better place for you in the morning."
"This will do," Ethel answered, while she slowly drew the pins from
her hat. "It is neat, even if it isn't spacious. Really, Alice, I
should have let you know; but it was only just as I was starting
that I found I could come at all. Father is at home, and mother is
unusually well, and I thought I would best make the most of the
Crossing the room to the table, she stood with her back to her
cousin, while she smoothed the feathers in her hat. Then, without
turning, she asked abruptly,--
"How is Mr. Weldon?"
"Out of all danger?"
"Yes. Not that he has been in much danger, anyway."
"Oh, I thought--"
Then silence fell.
Alice, meanwhile, was busy with a swift calculation. Five days, in
these troubled times, for a letter to go from Johannesburg to Cape
Town; five days since Ethel could have left Cape Town. And her one
letter to Ethel since Weldon's arrival had been posted just three
"How did you know Mr. Weldon was here?" she asked sharply.
Ethel's back was still turned towards her. Nevertheless, she could
see the scarlet tide mounting to the ears and to the roots of the
vivid gold hair.
"Why, your letter, Alice," Ethel answered composedly.
Alice's laugh was sharp and edged with malice.
"Yes, dear. My letter, telling you of his being here, will be
delivered at your house to-morrow morning."
"Oh, then I must have mixed things up," Ethel replied, as she turned
to face her cousin. "Probably Captain Frazer told me."
"Yes, he came down to Cape Town, just before I left there. I
remember now, he was the one who told me. He was near Mr. Weldon at
Vlaakfontein; he knew all about his awful ride into Krugersdorp, and
I believe he did say be was to be brought here."
For a moment more, the two pairs of eyes, the blue and the black,
met in steady warfare, neither one yielding in the least, neither
one quite aware how much she was betraying to the other.
"Well, what of it?" Ethel demanded tempestuously then.
"Nothing, only--are you sure you were wise to come?"
The blue eyes blazed.
"And what do you mean by that, Alice? You asked me to visit you
here, to see your work among your patients. I have come. If I came
at all, it had to be now. I can't always leave home for a week at a
time. And I can't help it, can I, if Mr. Weldon happens to be one of
"No; you can't," Alice admitted slowly. "It only remains to be seen
whether you would care to help it, if you could."
Again Ethel crossed the room. This time, she dropped down at her
"Don't let us argue about it and get cross at each other, dear. If I
have made a mistake in coming now, I am sorry. But I am here. Let me
stay a few days; I may be able to help you a little. Anyway, I
promise not to be a trouble to you. It is so long since I have seen
you, Alice. And--" Again the silence dropped.
Alice roused herself from the reverie which was creeping over her.
She was glad to see Ethel, unfeignedly glad. The bright, animated
presence of her cousin, during the next few days, could not fail to
be a tonic. And, as Ethel had said, she herself had been the one to
suggest the first idea of the winter visit. Chance and Captain
Frazer had decreed that it should take place now, when Alice's hands
were immoderately full of work. But then, so much the better. Ethel
could make herself invaluable among the convalescents. She herself
had not put on her Red-Cross badge for the sake of taking her rest
hour at the bedside of Trooper Harvard Weldon.
Half undressed, Ethel paused, hair brush in hand. "You can't imagine
how tired I am, Alice. It is a terrible journey up here nowadays. I
was in terror of a train-wreck at any moment," she said drowsily.
"Don't let me sleep too long in the morning, because," she pulled
open her eyes long enough to dart a mocking glance over her shoulder
at her cousin; "because you know, right after breakfast, you are
going to let me begin to help you take care of some of your people."
From behind her own sheltering veil of ink-black hair, Alice
"Cooee, you are a dear; but you're rather a trial," she said slowly.
"However, now that you are here, I think I shall ask the P. M. O. to
set you to work to watch over the needs of Mr. Weldon. He won't be
here much longer; but, while he stays, I shall consider him your
patient." Then, brushing aside the veil, she bent forward and
touched her lips to her cousin's cheek.
"Might I ask what brought you up here, Miss Dent?" Weldon asked, the
Beside him sat Ethel, her hands demurely clasped in the lap of her
broad white apron.
"My cousin's invitation," she replied.
"Then Miss Mellen knew you were coming?"
"Yes. She asked me to come, early in the winter."
"Strange she said nothing about it! We were talking about you, only
"She didn't know, even then, that I was so imminent," Ethel
answered. "I took her quite by surprise, at the last."
"A surprise all around, then," he said, with a boyish laugh. "I was
astonished to find Miss Mellen here, and you must have been equally
astonished to find me. If only Captain Frazer would appear, our old
quartette would be complete."
"I am afraid we must get on without him," she said lightly.
"Unfortunately, yes. I wonder where he is."
"In Cape Town," she replied unexpectedly.
"Really? What is he doing there?"
"Don't expect me to tell. It has something to do with a staff; but
whether he carries it, or becudgels recruits with it, I have no idea
"He hasn't left the Scottish Horse?"
"In fact; but not in name. Your regiment is still in the Transvaal;
but he keeps a sort of vicarious connection with it. Please don't
expect me to grasp military details, Mr. Weldon. I merely repeat the
facts, parrot fashion; you must interpret them to suit yourself."
He laughed again. Already, in that one morning, he appeared to have
taken a long stride towards the regaining of his old self.
"You are a perfect gazette, Miss Dent, the first bit of news that
has crept inside this place. Where did you get all your
"From Captain Frazer." Her rising color belied her unconcerned tone.
"You have seen him, then?"
"Yes. He is usually very good about calling, whenever he comes to
"And is he well?"
"Absolutely. Also quite enthusiastic over his troopers and the work
they did at Vlaakfontein."
"Not very many; but several were wounded. Worst of all, one or two
of the wounded ones were shot by the Boers. Mr. Carew told me that
he left a dozen of your men in the hospital at Krugersdorp."
"Carew? Have you seen him, too, Miss Dent?"
"Didn't you know he was here?"
He stared at her in blank amazement.
"Here in Johannesburg?"
"Here in this hospital."
"In what shape?"
"Hilarious in his mind, and with a foot that is coming out right in
course of time. Didn't Alice tell you?"
"Strange. She took me to see him, this morning, on my way here,
because he was such a promising patient. She was quite surprised to
find we were old acquaintances."
"Oh," Weldon said slowly. "I begin to see. Miss Mellen had never met
Carew, so she had no idea we were friends. What a curious snarl it
"The hand of Fate is in it," Ethel assented idly.
"Do you believe in Fate, too?"
"Surely. Why not?"
"Nothing, only your cousin said you didn't."
The girl frowned.
"Alice doesn't know all my mental processes," she said a little
"She didn't pretend to. We were speaking of Fate, yesterday, of the
way certain events in one's life seem absolutely inevitable; at
least, I was. Then the conversation worked around to you, and Miss
Mellen suggested that you usually rose superior to Fate," Weldon
explained at some length.
Once again, Ethel felt the note of finality in his tone. For an
instant, she shut her lips. Then she reverted to the main question.
"How do you mean inevitable?"
"As if you chose your path, and then found that, for always, it had
been the only thing for you to do. That's not so clear, I know; but
I can't put it much better."
"For instance, my coming out here when I did. I was interested in
the war; but there was no real question of my coming, until the
month I sailed. Then, all of a sudden, I seemed to know why it was
that I had spent my life on horseback. They told me in England that
the real war was over. When I landed at Cape Town, I found out that
the one thing needed was a man who could ride, and shoot straight.
From the day I sailed from home, until now, I have been like an
actor walking through a part that some one else has written for him.
I have chosen nothing; it all has been inevitable."
She rose to her feet, and stood leaning on the back of her chair.
"In that case, Mr. Weldon, you must include our meeting in your
scheme of things," she said, with a smile.
His answering smile met her smile with perfect frankness.
"I sometimes wonder if that wasn't the most inevitable part of it
The red-brown veldt stretched away to the sky-line, sixty miles
distant. Level as it looked, it was nevertheless a succession of
softly rolling ridges dotted with clumps of dried sagebrush and
spotted here and there with heaps of black volcanic rocks. Far to
the northward, a thin line of poplars and willows marked the bed of
a river. Beyond that, again, the air was thick with smoke from acres
of burning veldt. The days were full of dust, and the nights were
full of frost; it was the month of June, and winter was upon the
The camp was taking a well-earned rest. For days, the men had swept
over the veldt, following hard on the trail of a Boer general who
only made himself visible now and then by a spatter of bullets, when
his convoy train was delayed at a difficult ford. It had been a week
of playing pussin-the-corner over a charred and dusty land, where
the only roads were trails trodden out to powder by the hoofs of
those that had gone before. Both men and mounts were wellnigh
exhausted, and the officers had decreed a halt.
The strain had been intense. Now, with the relaxing of it, its
memory vanished, and the halt swiftly took upon itself the
appearance of a school holiday. Laughing and chaffing each other,
groups of men loitered here and lounged there, smoking, writing
letters, and taking stout, unlovely stitches in their time-worn
khaki clothing. At one side of the camp was the tent of the mess
sergeant, equipped like a portable species of corner grocery. Near
by, Paddy apparently was in his element, presiding over his camp-
kitchen, a vast bonfire encircled with a dozen iron pots. At the
farther edge of the camp Weldon was umpiring a game of football
between his own squadron and a company of the Derbys. Owing to the
athletic zeal of the hour, it was big-side, and Weldon was too busy
in keeping his eye upon so many players to pay much attention to his
In all truth, however, he was lonely. The week since he had rejoined
his squadron had dragged perceptibly. Captain Frazer was in Cape
Town; Carew was still in hospital at Johannesburg where, under the
eyes of Alice Mellen and her cousin, he was fast resuming his old
finical habits. Dingy and veldt-stained though he might be, Carew at
heart would always remain the exquisite. However, exquisite that he
was bound to be, he was even more the soldier, and his gay eyes had
clouded, as he had wrung Weldon's hand in parting.
"Lucky dog!" he said enviously. "I am off duty for two weeks more,
and you are going back to the thick of things. One must take it as
it comes; but I say, old man, don't forget me when the bullets begin
to pelt at you again."
And Weldon had been better than his promise. He had thought of
Carew, day and night, for the entire week, thought of him and missed
him acutely. Carew was an ideal comrade in that he never, under any
circumstances, took himself in earnest.
A leg which will carry a man on horseback is by no means fit for
football. Weldon, finished player that he was, found it tame work to
umpire a team whose sole idea of tactics was to get there in any way
that offered itself. Half an hour sufficed; then, appointing an
understudy, he walked away in search of Paddy. From the midst of a
torrent of instructions to his quartette of black subordinates,
Paddy's voice sang out a cheery greeting.
"Come along, little feller! Come and get something to eat. It's
hungry you ought to be, the day, after the way you've been walking
all over the country on horseback and an empty stomach. Try this, as
a sample of your dinner, and sit down by the edge of the fire,
whilst, and tell me how it tastes."
The iron spoon scraped lustily over the iron dixey. Then Weldon
returned them both with a low bow.
"Like yourself, Paddy, short and sweet."
Paddy brandished the spoon, weapon-wise.
"Short is it, you little Canuck! So is a pepperpot short; but it
holds a hell of a flavor. Leave Paddy a gun in his hand, and his
short legs will keep up with your long ones, when it's the firing
line that's before him."
"The old sing-song, Paddy. Give us something new."
"So will I, when I get my wishing. Till then, you'll hear it over
and over again. A man of my temper, little one, will never rest
content at a firing line that's all surrounded about with ten-quart
pots of boiling beef."
"Why don't you resign, then?"
"Resigned! How can I be resigned? I'm a chunk of dynamite in a suet-
pot, hard to manage and ready to go off at any time that something
strikes me. Meantime, I am like what they say is dirt: matter out of
"Then why don't you get out?" Weldon queried.
"I am out of place now, I'm telling you," Paddy returned, as he
pensively rested his cheek upon the bowl of the spoon in his hand.
"Yes; but why not refuse to stay here as cook?"
Sorrowfully Paddy shook his head, spoon and all.
"That's what I did do, little one."
"And what happened?"
"This." The spoon came into evidence once more. "They blarneyed me
up and they blarneyed me down, and they said nobody could cook like
Paddy. Anybody could shoot a baker's dozen of Boers; but only one
man in the camp could fill up the boys to give them a fit and level
stomach for the battle. And here I am, and here I'm like to be, till
the new moon in the heavens turns to a curly strip of bully beef. If
I'd known the Captain was about to escape to Cape Town, it's Paddy
that would have escaped with him, hanging on to the tail of his
coat. Saint Patrick's vipers! What's that?"
A hum, a spat, and a little spurt of red dust rolled lazily upward.
Then another hum followed. There was a scurry of men, a squeak of
leather, the light clashing of rifles snatched from the stack; and
the troops were off.
Beside them, the nearer hills rose in brick-red patches against the
sky. Farther away, the brick color changed to gray and, still
beyond, to misty purple. Before them rolled the open, khaki-colored
veldt dotted in one direction by a ragged spot of black that flowed
over the crest of each ridge and vanished from sight for a moment
before rising from the hollow to flow over the crest of the ridge
beyond. And towards the ragged spot of black there rushed onward, at
an ever-lessening distance, the khaki-colored streak of the foremost
rank of C Squadron, led for the moment by a little gray broncho
whose hoofs touched the ground only to spurn it backwards.
The chase was long and hot; but the end was in sight. Directly
across the path of the quarry stretched a low line of willows
showing the course of the stream beneath, and, a few hundred feet
this side of the willows, scattered clumps of green marked as many
scattered dwellings. By the largest clump, the quarry halted and
turned to bay, and the pursuers, unable to check their speed, rode
down upon it and crashed through its ranks, regardless of the
pitiless. fire, then, sweeping around on the arc of a mammoth
circle, took up their position in the shelter of a walled kraal,
only a few hundred yards away. Then for a moment they halted, face
to face and in absolute silence.
Even after her mad race, the little gray broncho was breathing
deeply and easily; but Weldon could feel his own breath come short.
Banged in open order before him were a full half-hundred of the
enemy, bearded, black-coated, bandoliered, grim and stolid and ripe
of years. Beside him were the new captain of the troop and seven
men. They were and alert; but there were only nine of them in all.
And the rest of the troop, it seemed to him, were half the veldt-
length away. Vaguely he wondered whether their distant khaki coats
would look as purple as did the distant khaki-colored hills. Then,
quite inconsequently, as he raised his rifle, he noticed that one of
the Boers had a button hanging loosely on its threads from the front
of his coat. He was rather surprised, the next instant, to see the
Boer pitch forward headlong in the dust. It was some time afterward
that he thought to connect the falling with the crack of his own
Piggie bounded sidewise, as the mount of the trooper next Weldon
dropped and lay whimpering like a hurt child. Then she steadied to
the touch of Weldon's hand upon her neck. It was not the first time
he had guided her, unscathed, through a leaden shower. She would
trust him yet once again. As he raised his rifle, her wiry legs were
as steady as four iron rods. He saw another Boer fall and yet
another and a third; but one khaki-colored figure lay stiffly beside
him, and another was dragging itself away to a corner of the kraal,
to give greater space to its unwounded comrades. And still the
bullets whizzed about them, thick and ever thicker.
Piggie shied again. This time a bullet had grazed her neck, and the
sight of the narrow sear filled Weldon's mind with a dull,
unreasoning rage. Brutal to aim at the plucky mounts who bore their
riders so gallantly into the flight where all defensive power was
denied themselves! He paused long enough to pat the firm gray neck,
to feel the answering pressure against his hand. Then he raised his
rifle again and took careful aim, as he breathed a wordless prayer
that chance might guide his bullet into the man who had scarred his
faithful friend. Another Boer dropped; Weldon hoped it was by his
own bullet. Then both he and the gray broncho pricked up their ears
as, close on their flank, they heard the beating of galloping hoofs.
In the shock of the scrimmage that followed, there was scant time to
take thought of friend or of foe. On the heels of his new captain
as, of old, he had been on the heels of Captain Frazer, Weldon and
the gray broncho were in the thick of the fight. Then, as the Boers
sullenly fell backwards, Weldon became aware of a familiar voice in
"Whisht, little feller! It's Paddy," the voice said in a spooky
undertone, as its owner ranged up alongside the gray broncho.
"Paddy!" Weldon stared at him in unfeigned astonishment. "What in
the name of heaven are you doing here, man?"
With perfect composure Paddy squared himself in the saddle.
"Little Canuck dear, as I told you before, heaven is a state of
eternal peace, and therefore an undesirable abode in these hot
times. I prefer a whiff of brimstone, myself; and, by the powers,
I've been getting, it." As he spoke, he took off his hat and showed
a neat trio of holes in the left brim.
"But how did you come here, Paddy?" Weldon asked again.
"Took your advice to heart, my jewel, kicked over my pan of fat and
jumped into the fire. Which, being put into straight English, I
swiped a horse and rode off with the rest of the boys on the tail of
the serpent." Weldon gasped, as he realized the enormity of the
crime. Then he laughed. In his haste to gain possession of a mount,
Paddy had taken no thought for his armament. His sole weapon was the
huge iron spoon, still grasped in his left hand.
"Whose horse did you take, Paddy?"
"I d'know. I never looked to see. I popped my toe into the stirrup
and came away, hot-foot; but," Paddy paused for a deliberate wink;
"as I was leaving camp, I thought I heard the voice of that pigeon-
toed little cockney Parrott, him that used to stub his toes on the
wall at Piquetberg Road, acalling out that some one had mislaid his
horse and he couldn't find it. I was sorry; but I was in a divil of
a haste and couldn't stop to condole with him then."
"But, Paddy, they'll run you out of camp for this," Weldon
Paddy's shoulder mounted towards his left ear. "I'm thinking I have
run myself out, and that's just what I was meaning to do. I've been
a captain with four lieutenants under me. Any one of them can sling
the pepper and the salt, and they're welcome; but not one has the
fighting blood in his veins as I have. Let them mind their kettles
and leave me to mind the enemy."
"And if they won't let you go back?"
"Then I'll ship myself straight down to Cape Town, and take service
with Captain Frazer. He can fight with the best of them, and he
knows I'm a man. It's riding at his heels I'll be, henceforth and
Turning, Weldon looked long into the jovial Irish face, and at the
hunchy figure that joggled to and fro in the saddle, with no heed to
the rhythm of his horse's pace.
"Who taught you to ride, Paddy?" he asked at length.
For an instant, a lump in Paddy's left cheek betrayed the
whereabouts of his tongue. Then quietly he made answer, "Sure,
little feller, it must have been the grace of Saint Patrick. Nobody
else has ever took a hand in the training of me. But I'll back him
against all the riding masters in London and Aldershot."
And the result showed that Paddy's confidence was not misplaced.
By midwinter, the war had become a series of guerrilla raids, of
sweeping drives and of occasional skirmishes. The epoch of the
infantry had passed, and it was the day of the mounted man. The
home-going of the great Field Marshal, six months before, had been
followed by the return to England of transports loaded with foot
soldiers. The hour, the country and the enemy all demanded the man
on the horse. With Lord Kitchener in the field and the colonies
aiding the mother country, the outcome was only a matter of time;
but few could as yet say when the fulness of that time should be at
"But it leaves me a good deal puzzled in my mind," Weldon said
"How do you mean?" Ethel Dent threw the question at him a little
"About going home."
"Surely, you aren't going now?"
He winced at the accent.
"I am not sure. I volunteered for six months. My time is up; I paid
my official visit to the Citadel yesterday."
"Are you needed at home?"
"No. At least, not in any real sense."
"But you are needed here."
"There are enough without me, and the need will not last long."
"Don't be too sure. On the Dunottar Castle, there were plenty of
people who laughed at you men for coming out to volunteer, after the
war was over. You have proved that they laughed at nothing. Prove it
Rising, he walked the length of the room and stood looking out from
the long front window. The bamboo screens and the willow chairs were
gone from their veranda corner; the flower-boxes were empty now, and
Table Bay gleamed coldly back at him in the late afternoon sun of
midwinter. Then he turned around to face the girl, seated where her
golden hair seemed to him to catch and hold all the light centering
about the gay little tea-table.
"Don't," he said with some impatience. "Your arguments all echo my
own wish. I am pulled in two ways at once. At home, the mother is
growing restless. Since Vlaakfontein, she has lost her nerve, and
her heart is set on my meeting her in London in October."
Deliberately Ethel made a neat triangle out of three unused spoons.
"Well?" she said, without looking up.
"Piggie and I have had a smell of powder," he answered briefly. "We
"Well?" she said again.
"The question is, are we likely to get it."
"Not in England; not even in Cape Town," she answered, smiling at
the spoons before her.
"Wherever the Boers are thickest."
"Yes; but, after all, you are talking platitudes, Miss Dent," he
said, with recurring impatience.
This time, she lifted her dark blue eyes to his face and allowed
them to rest there for a full minute.
"But you forbade me to argue," she said demurely.
He dropped down into a chair and faced her resolutely.
"Now look here, Miss Dent, I can't talk shop in tea-table English.
In fact, shop has no place at a tea-table, anyway. Still, you were
the one to start it. Let's have it out. I don't want to funk, at
this late day. If there is any fighting to be done, I want a hand in
it. I went into a game of a certain length; I hope I played up, and
stuck to the professional rules. That game is played out. I am not
Trooper Weldon of the Scottish Horse. I am plain Harvard Weldon
again and, to be quite frank, I don't like the change from khaki to
tweed. But about going in for another game: it all depends on what
the game will be. If it plays itself out, well and good; if it just
dribbles on and on, without accomplishing anything, even an end,
then I can see no use in going in for it. Fighting is one thing;
having a picnic all over the face of South Africa is quite another
matter. And, for the life of me, I can't see which is bound to
There was a minor cadence to the final phrase. Then he fell silent,
and sat staring at the rug, while Ethel, leaning back in her chair,
studied him at her ease. All in all, she was pleased with the result
of her study. Always frank and likable, Weldon had developed
wonderfully during those past months of hard work and slender
comfort. Underneath his sunburn, his face had taken on new lines of
resolution. His eyes were as clear as ever; but their boyishness was
all in the past. It was a man who had come striding into the room,
that afternoon, and paused beside her tea-table. And Ethel, looking
up, had greeted him as she might have greeted Baden-Powell in his
To a great extent, Cape Town was resuming at least a semblance of
its oldtime social life. Heroes were more plentiful than is