Part 5 out of 6
figure cross the yard. Gregory walked to the pigsty first, and
contemplated the pigs for a few seconds; then turned round, and stood
looking fixedly at the wall of the fuel-house as though he thought it
wanted repairing; then he started off suddenly with the evident intention
of going to the ostrich-camps; then paused, hesitated, and finally walked
off in the direction of the kopje.
Then Em went back to the corner and folded more sacks.
On the other side of the kopje Gregory caught sight of a white tail waving
among the stones, and a succession of short, frantic barks told where Doss
was engaged in howling imploringly to a lizard who had crept between two
stones, and who had not the slightest intention of re-sunning himself at
that particular moment.
The dog's mistress sat higher up, under the shelving rock, her face bent
over a volume of plays upon her knee. As Gregory mounted the stones she
started violently and looked up; then resumed her book.
"I hope I am not troubling you," said Gregory as he reached her side. "If
I am I will go away. I just--"
"No; you may stay."
"I fear I startled you."
"Yes; your step was firmer than it generally is. I thought it was that of
some one else."
"Who could it be but me?" asked Gregory, seating himself on a stone at her
"Do you suppose you are the only man who would find anything to attract him
to this kopje?"
"Oh, no," said Gregory.
He was not going to argue that point with her, nor any other; but no old
Boer was likely to take the trouble of climbing the kopje, and who else was
She continued the study of her book.
"Miss Lyndall," he said at last, "I don't know why it is you never talk to
"We had a long conversation yesterday," she said without looking up.
"Yes; but you ask me questions about sheep and oxen. I don't call that
talking. You used to talk to Waldo, now," he said, in an aggrieved tone of
voice. "I've heard you when I came in, and then you've just left off. You
treated me like that from the first day; and you couldn't tell from just
looking at me that I couldn't talk about the things you like. I'm sure I
know as much about such things as Waldo does," said Gregory, in exceeding
bitterness of spirit.
"I do not know which things you refer to. If you will enlighten me I am
quite prepared to speak of them," she said, reading as she spoke.
"Oh, you never used to ask Waldo like that," said Gregory, in a more sorely
aggrieved tone than ever. "You used just to begin."
"Well, let me see," she said, closing her book and folding her hands on it.
"There at the foot of the kopje goes a Kaffer; he has nothing on but a
blanket; he is a splendid fellow--six feet high, with a magnificent pair of
legs. In his leather bag he is going to fetch his rations, and I suppose
to kick his wife with his beautiful legs when he gets home. He has a right
to; he bought her for two oxen. There is a lean dog going after him, to
whom I suppose he never gives more than a bone from which he has sucked the
marrow; but his dog loves him, as his wife does. There is something of the
master about him in spite of his blackness and wool. See how he brandishes
his stick and holds up his head!"
"Oh, but aren't you making fun?" said Gregory, looking doubtfully from her
to the Kaffer herd, who rounded the kopje.
"No; I am very serious. He is the most interesting and intelligent thing I
can see just now, except, perhaps, Doss. He is profoundly suggestive.
Will his race melt away in the heat of a collision with a higher? Are the
men of the future to see his bones only in museums--a vestige of one link
that spanned between the dog and the white man? He wakes thoughts that run
far out into the future and back into the past."
Gregory was not quite sure how to take these remarks. Being about a
Kaffer, they appeared to be of the nature of a joke; but, being seriously
spoken, they appeared earnest; so he half laughed and half not, to be on
the safe side.
"I've often thought so myself. It's funny we should both think the same; I
knew we should if once we talked. But there are other things--love, now,"
he added. "I wonder if we would think alike about that. I wrote an essay
on love once; the master said it was the best I ever wrote, and I can
remember the first sentence still--'Love is something that you feel in your
"That was a trenchant remark. Can't you remember any more?"
"No," said Gregory, regretfully; "I've forgotten the rest. But tell me
what do you think about love?"
A look, half of abstraction, half amusement, played on her lips.
"I don't know much about love," she said, "and I do not like to talk of
things I do not understand; but I have heard two opinions. Some say the
devil carried the seed from hell and planted it on the earth to plague men
and make them sin; and some say, that when all the plants in the garden of
Eden were pulled up by the roots, one bush that the angels planted was left
growing, and it spread its seed over the whole earth, and its name is love.
I do not know which is right--perhaps both. There are different species
that go under the same name. There is a love that begins in the head, and
goes down to the heart, and grows slowly; but it lasts till death, and asks
less than it gives. There is another love, that blots out wisdom, that is
sweet with the sweetness of life and bitter with the bitterness of death,
lasting for an hour; but it is worth having lived a whole life for that
hour. I cannot tell, perhaps the old monks were right when they tried to
root love out; perhaps the poets are right when they try to water it. It
is a blood-red flower, with the colour of sin; but there is always the
scent of a god about it."
Gregory would have made a remark; but she said, without noticing:
"There are as many kinds of loves as there are flowers; everlastings that
never wither; speedwells that wait for the wind to fan them out of life;
blood-red mountain-lilies that pour their voluptuous sweetness out for one
day, and lie in the dust at night. There is no flower has the charm of
all--the speedwell's purity, the everlasting's strength, the mountain-
lily's warmth; but who knows whether there is no love that holds all--
friendship, passion, worship?
"Such a love," she said, in her sweetest voice, "will fall on the surface
of strong, cold, selfish life as the sunlight falls on a torpid winter
world; there, where the trees are bare, and the ground frozen, till it
rings to the step like iron, and the water is solid, and the air is sharp
as a two-edged knife that cuts the unwary.
"But when its sun shines on it, through its whole dead crust a throbbing
yearning wakes: the trees feel him, and every knot and bud swell, aching
to open to him. The brown seeds, who have slept deep under the ground,
feel him, and he gives them strength, till they break through the frozen
earth, and lift two tiny, trembling green hands in love to him. And he
touches the water, till down to its depths it feels him and melts, and it
flows, and the things, strange sweet things that were locked up in it, it
sings as it runs, for love of him. Each plant tries to bear at least one
fragrant little flower for him; and the world that was dead lives, and the
heart that was dead and self-centred throbs, with an upward, outward
yearning, and it has become that which it seemed impossible ever to become.
There, does that satisfy you?" she asked, looking down at Gregory. "Is
that how you like me to talk?"
"Oh, yes," said Gregory, "that is what I have already thought. We have the
same thoughts about everything. How strange!"
"Very," said Lyndall, working with her little toe at a stone in the ground
Gregory felt he must sustain the conversation. The only thing he could
think of was to recite a piece of poetry. He knew he had learnt many about
love; but the only thing that would come into his mind now was the "Battle
of Hohenlinden," and "Not a drum was heard," neither of which seemed to
bear directly on the subject on hand.
But unexpected relief came to him from Doss, who, too deeply lost in
contemplation of his crevice, was surprised by the sudden descent of the
stone Lyndall's foot had loosened, which, rolling against his little front
paw, carried away a piece of white-skin. Doss stood on three legs, holding
up the paw with an expression of extreme self-commiseration; he then
proceeded to hop slowly upward in search of sympathy.
"You have hurt that dog," said Gregory.
"Have I?" she replied indifferently, and re-opened the book, as though to
resume her study of the play.
"He's a nasty, snappish little cur!" said Gregory, calculating from her
manner that the remark would be endorsed. "He snapped at my horse's tail
yesterday, and nearly made it throw me. I wonder his master didn't take
him, instead of leaving him here to be a nuisance to all of us!"
Lyndall seemed absorbed in her play; but he ventured another remark.
"Do you think now, Miss Lyndall, that he'll ever have anything in the
world--that German. I mean--money enough to support a wife on, and all
that sort of thing? I don't. He's what I call soft."
She was spreading her skirt out softly with her left hand for the dog to
lie down on it.
"I think I should be rather astonished if he ever became a respectable
member of society," she said. I don't expect to see him the possessor of
bank-shares, the chairman of a divisional council, and the father of a
large family; wearing a black hat, and going to church twice on a Sunday.
He would rather astonish me if he came to such an end."
"Yes; I don't expect anything of him either," said Gregory, zealously.
"Well, I don't know," said Lyndall; "there are some small things I rather
look to him for. If he were to invent wings, or carve a statue that one
might look at for half an hour without wanting to look at something else, I
should not be surprised. He may do some little thing of that kind perhaps,
when he has done fermenting and the sediment has all gone to the bottom."
Gregory felt that what she said was not wholly intended as blame.
"Well, I don't know," he said sulkily; "to me he looks like a fool. To
walk about always in that dead-and-alive sort of way, muttering to himself
like an old Kaffer witchdoctor! He works hard enough, but it's always as
though he didn't know what he was doing. You don't know how he looks to a
person who sees him for the first time."
Lyndall was softly touching the little sore foot as she read, and Doss, to
show he liked it, licked her hand.
"But, Miss Lyndall," persisted Gregory, "what do you really think of him?"
"I think," said Lyndall, "that he is like a thorn-tree, which grows up very
quietly, without any one's caring for it, and one day suddenly breaks out
into yellow blossoms."
"And what do you think I am like?" asked Gregory, hopefully.
Lyndall looked up from her book.
"Like a little tin duck floating on a dish of water, that comes after a
piece of bread stuck on a needle, and the more the needle pricks it the
more it comes on."
"Oh, you are making fun of me now, you really are!" said Gregory feeling
wretched. "You are making fun, aren't you, now?"
"Partly. It is always diverting to make comparisons."
"Yes; but you don't compare me to anything nice, and you do other people.
What is Em like, now?"
"The accompaniment of a song. She fills up the gaps in other people's
lives, and is always number two; but I think she is like many
accompaniments--a great deal better than the song she is to accompany."
"She is not half so good as you are!" said Gregory, with a burst of
"She is so much better than I, that her little finger has more goodness in
it than my whole body. I hope you may not live to find out the truth of
"You are like an angel," he said, the blood rushing to his head and face.
"Yes, probably; angels are of many orders."
"You are the one being that I love!" said Gregory quivering. "I thought I
loved before, but I know now! Do not be angry with me. I know you could
never like me; but, if I might but always be near you to serve you, I would
be utterly, utterly happy. I would ask nothing in return! If you could
only take everything I have and use it; I want nothing but to be of use to
She looked at him for a few moments.
"How do you know," she said slowly, "that you could not do something to
serve me? You could serve me by giving me your name."
He started, and turned his burning face to her.
"You are very cruel; you are ridiculing me," he said.
"No, I am not, Gregory. What I am saying is plain, matter-of-fact
business. If you are willing to give me your name within three weeks'
time, I am willing to marry you, if not, well. I want nothing more than
your name. That is a clear proposal, is it not?"
He looked up. Was it contempt, loathing, pity, that moved in the eyes
above! He could not tell; but he stooped over the little foot and kissed
"Do you really mean it?" he whispered.
"Yes. You wish to serve me, and to have nothing in return!--you shall have
what you wish." She held out her fingers for Doss to lick. "Do you see
this dog? He licks my hand because I love him; and I allow him to. Where
I do not love I do not allow it. I believe you love me; I too could love
so, that to lie under the foot of the thing I loved would be more heaven
than to lie in the breast of another. Come! let us go. Carry the dog,"
she added; "he will not bite you if I put him in your arms. So--do not let
his foot hang down."
They descended the kopje. At the bottom, he whispered:
"Would you not take my arm? the path is very rough."
She rested her fingers lightly on it.
"I may yet change my mind about marrying you before the time comes. It is
very likely. Mark you!" she said, turning round on him; "I remember your
words: You will give everything, and expect nothing. The knowledge that
you are serving me is to be your reward; and you will have that. You will
serve me, and greatly. The reasons I have for marrying you I need not
inform you of now; you will probably discover some of them before long."
"I only want to be of some use to you," he said.
It seemed to Gregory that there were pulses in the soles of his feet, and
the ground shimmered as on a summer's day. They walked round the foot of
the kopje and past the Kaffer huts. An old Kaffer maid knelt at the door
of one grinding mealies. That she should see him walking so made his heart
beat so fast, that the hand on his arm felt its pulsation. It seemed that
she must envy him.
Just then Em looked out again at the back window and saw them coming. She
cried bitterly all the while she sorted the skins.
But that night when Lyndall had blown her candle out, and half turned round
to sleep, the door of Em's bedroom opened.
"I want to say good night to you, Lyndall," she said, coming to the bedside
and kneeling down.
"I thought you were asleep," Lyndall replied.
"Yes, I have been asleep; but I had such a vivid dream," she said, holding
the other's hands, "and that woke me. I never had so vivid a dream before.
"It seemed I was a little girl again, and I came somewhere into a large
room. On a bed in the corner there was something lying dressed in white,
and its little eyes were shut, and its little face was like wax. I thought
it was a doll, and I ran forward to take it; but some one held up her
finger and said: 'Hush! it is a little dead baby.' And I said: 'Oh, I
must go and call Lyndall, that she may look at it also.'
"And they put their faces close down to my ear and whispered: 'It is
"And I said: 'She cannot be grown up yet; she is only a little girl!
Where is she?' And I went to look for you, but I could not find you.
"And when I came to some people who were dressed in black, I asked them
where you were, and they looked down at their black clothes, and shook
their heads, and said nothing; and I could not find you anywhere. And then
"Lyndall," she said, putting her face down upon the hands she held, "it
made me think about that time when we were little girls and used to play
together, when I loved you better than anything else in the world. It
isn't any one's fault that they love you; they can't help it. And it isn't
your fault; you don't make them love you. I know it."
"Thank you, dear," Lyndall said. "It is nice to be loved, but it would be
better to be good."
Then they wished good night, and Em went back to her room. Long after
Lyndall lay in the dark thinking, thinking, thinking; and as she turned
round wearily to sleep she muttered:
"There are some wiser in their sleeping than in their waking."
Chapter 2.IX. Lyndall's Stranger.
A fire is burning in the unused hearth of the cabin. The fuel blazes up,
and lights the black rafters, and warms the faded red lions on the quilt,
and fills the little room with a glow of warmth and light made brighter by
contrast, for outside the night is chill and misty.
Before the open fireplace sits a stranger, his tall, slight figure reposing
in the broken armchair, his keen blue eyes studying the fire from beneath
delicately pencilled, drooping eyelids. One white hand plays thoughtfully
with a heavy flaxen moustache; yet, once he starts, and for an instant the
languid lids raise themselves; there is a keen, intent look upon the face
as he listens for something. Then he leans back in his chair, fills his
glass from the silver flask in his bag, and resumes his old posture.
Presently the door opens noiselessly. It is Lyndall, followed by Doss.
Quietly as she enters, he hears her, and turns.
"I thought you were not coming."
"I waited till all had gone to bed. I could not come before."
She removed the shawl that enveloped her, and the stranger rose to offer
her his chair; but she took her seat on a low pile of sacks before the
"I hardly see why I should be outlawed after this fashion," he said,
reseating himself and drawing his chair a little nearer to her; "these are
hardly the quarters one expects to find after travelling a hundred miles in
answer to an invitation."
"I said, 'Come if you wish.'"
"And I did wish. You give me a cold reception."
"I could not take you to the house. Questions would be asked which I could
not answer without prevarication."
"Your conscience is growing to have a certain virgin tenderness," he said,
in a low, melodious voice.
"I have no conscience. I spoke one deliberate lie this evening. I said
the man who had come looked rough, we had best not have him in the house;
therefore I brought him here. It was a deliberate lie, and I hate lies. I
tell them if I must, but they hurt me."
"Well, you do not tell lies to yourself, at all events. You are candid, so
She interrupted him.
"You got my short letter?"
"Yes; that is why I come. You sent a very foolish reply; you must take it
back. Who is this fellow you talk of marrying?"
"A young farmer."
"Yes; he has gone to town to get things for our wedding."
"What kind of a fellow is he?"
"And you would rather marry him than me?"
"Yes; because you are not one."
"That is a novel reason for refusing to marry a man," he said, leaning his
elbow on the table and watching her keenly.
"It is a wise one," she said shortly. "If I marry him I shall shake him
off my hand when it suits me. If I remained with him for twelve months he
would never have dared to kiss my hand. As far as I wish he should come,
he comes, and no further. Would you ask me what you might and what you
might not do?"
Her companion raised the moustache with a caressing movement from his lip
and smiled. It was not a question that stood in need of any answer.
"Why do you wish to enter on this semblance of marriage?"
"Because there is only one point on which I have a conscience. I have told
"Then why not marry me?"
"Because if once you have me you would hold me fast. I shall never be free
again." She drew a long, low breath.
"What have you done with the ring I gave you?" he said.
"Sometimes I wear it; then I take it off and wish to throw it into the
fire; the next day I put it on again, and sometimes I kiss it."
"So you do love me a little?"
"If you were not something more to me than any other man in the world, do
you think--" She paused. "I love you when I see you; but when you are
away from me I hate you."
"Then I fear I must be singularly invisible at the present moment," he
said. Possibly if you were to look less fixedly into the fire you might
He moved his chair slightly, so as to come between her and the firelight.
She raised her eyes to his face.
"If you do love me," he asked her, "why will you not marry me?"
"Because, if I had been married to you for a year I should have come to my
senses and seen that your hands and your voice are like the hands and the
voice of any other man. I cannot quite see that now. But it is all
madness. You call into activity one part of my nature; there is a higher
part that you know nothing of, that you never touch. If I married you,
afterward it would arise and assert itself, and I should hate you always,
as I do now sometimes."
"I like you when you grow metaphysical and analytical," he said, leaning
his face upon his hand. "Go a little further in your analysis; say, 'I
love you with the right ventricle of my heart, but not the left, and with
the left auricle of my heart, but not the right; and, this being the case,
my affection for you is not of a duly elevated, intellectual and spiritual
nature.' I like you when you get philosophical."
She looked quietly at him; he was trying to turn her own weapons against
"You are acting foolishly, Lyndall," he said, suddenly changing his manner,
and speaking earnestly, "most foolishly. You are acting like a little
child; I am surprised at you. It is all very well to have ideals and
theories; but you know as well as any one can that they must not be carried
into the practical world. I love you. I do not pretend that it is in any
high, superhuman sense; I do not say that I should like you as well if you
were ugly and deformed, or that I should continue to prize you whatever
your treatment of me might be, or to love you though you were a spirit
without any body at all. That is sentimentality for beardless boys. Every
one not a mere child (and you are not a child, except in years) knows what
love between a man and a woman means. I love you with that love. I should
not have believed it possible that I could have brought myself twice to ask
of any woman to be my wife, more especially one without wealth, without
position, and who--"
"Yes--go on. Do not grow sorry for me. Say what you were going to--'who
has put herself into my power, and who has lost the right of meeting me on
equal terms.' Say what you think. At least we two may speak the truth to
Then she added after a pause:
"I believe you do love me, as much as you possibly could love anything; and
I believe that when you ask me to marry you you are performing the most
generous act you ever have performed in the course of your life, or ever
will; but, at the same time, if I had required your generosity, it would
not have been shown me. If, when I got your letter a month ago, hinting at
your willingness to marry me, I had at once written, imploring you to come,
you would have read the letter. 'Poor little devil!' you would have said,
and tore it up. The next week you would have sailed for Europe, and have
sent me a check for a hundred and fifty pounds (which I would have thrown
in the fire), and I would have heard no more of you."
The stranger smiled.
"But because I declined your proposal, and wrote that in three weeks I
should be married to another, then what you call love woke up. Your man's
love is a child's love for butterflies. You follow till you have the
thing, and break it. If you have broken one wing, and the thing flies
still, then you love it more than ever, and follow till you break both;
then you are satisfied when it lies still on the ground."
"You are profoundly wise in the ways of the world; you have seen far into
life," he said.
He might as well have sneered at the firelight.
"I have seen enough to tell me that you love me because you cannot bear to
be resisted, and want to master me. You liked me at first because I
treated you and all men with indifference. You resolved to have me because
I seemed unattainable. This is all your love means."
He felt a strong inclination to stoop down and kiss the little lips that
defied him; but he restrained himself. He said, quietly: "And you loved
"Because you are strong. You are the first man I ever was afraid of.
And"--a dreamy look came into her face--"because I like to experience, I
like to try. You don't understand that."
"Well, since you will not marry me, may I inquire what your intentions are,
the plan you wrote of. You asked me to come and hear it, and I have come."
"I said, 'Come if you wish.' If you agree to it, well; if not, I marry on
She was still looking beyond him at the fire.
"I cannot marry you," she said slowly, "because I cannot be tied; but if
you wish, you may take me away with you, and take care of me; then when we
do not love any more we can say good-bye. I will not go down country," she
added; "I will not go to Europe. You must take me to the Transvaal. That
is out of the world. People we meet there we need not see again in our
"Oh, my darling," he said, bending tenderly, and holding his hand out to
her, "why will you not give yourself entirely to me? One day you will
desert me and go to another."
She shook her head without looking at him.
"No, life is too long. But I will go with you."
"Tomorrow. I have told them that before daylight I go to the next farm. I
will write from the town and tell them the facts. I do not want them to
trouble me; I want to shake myself free of these old surroundings; I want
them to lose sight of me. You can understand that is necessary for me."
He seemed lost in consideration; then he said:
"It is better to have you on those conditions than not at all. If you will
have it, let it be so."
He sat looking at her. On her face was the weary look that rested there so
often now when she sat alone. Two months had not passed since they parted;
but the time had set its mark on her. He looked at her carefully, from the
brown, smooth head to the little crossed feet on the floor. A worn look
had grown over the little face, and it made its charm for him stronger.
For pain and time, which trace deep lines and write a story on a human
face, have a strangely different effect on one face and another. The face
that is only fair, even very fair, they mar and flaw; but to the face whose
beauty is the harmony between that which speaks from within and the form
through which it speaks, power is added by all that causes the outer man to
bear more deeply the impress of the inner. The pretty woman fades with the
roses on her cheeks, and the girlhood that lasts an hour; the beautiful
woman finds her fullness of bloom only when a past has written itself on
her, and her power is then most irresistible when it seems going.
From under their half-closed lids the keen eyes looked down at her. Her
shoulders were bent; for a moment the little figure had forgotten its
queenly bearing, and drooped wearily; the wide, dark eyes watched the fire
It certainly was not in her power to resist him, nor any strength in her
that made his own at that moment grow soft as he looked at her.
He touched one little hand that rested on her knee.
"Poor little thing!" he said; "you are only a child."
She did not draw her hand away from his, and looked up at him.
"You are very tired?"
She looked into his eyes as a little child might whom a long day's play had
He lifted her gently up, and sat her on his knee.
"Poor little thing!" he said.
She turned her face to his shoulder, and buried it against his neck; he
wound his strong arm about her, and held her close to him. When she had
sat for a long while, he drew with his hand the face down, and held it
against his arm. He kissed it, and then put it back in its old resting-
"Don't you want to talk to me?"
"Have you forgotten the night in the avenue?"
He could feel that she shook her head.
"Do you want to be quiet now?"
They sat quite still, excepting that only sometimes he raised her fingers
softly to his mouth.
Doss, who had been asleep in the corner, waking suddenly, planted himself
before them, his wiry legs moving nervously, his yellow eyes filled with
anxiety. He was not at all sure that she was not being retained in her
present position against her will, and was not a little relieved when she
sat up and held out her hand for the shawl.
"I must go," she said.
The stranger wrapped the shawl very carefully about her.
"Keep it close around your face, Lyndall; it is very damp outside. Shall I
walk with you to the house?"
"No. Lie down and rest; I will come and wake you at three o'clock."
She lifted her face that he might kiss it, and, when he had kissed it once,
she still held it that he might kiss it again. Then he let her out. He
had seated himself at the fireplace, when she reopened the door.
"Have you forgotten anything?"
She gave one long, lingering look at the old room. When she was gone, and
the door shut, the stranger filled his glass, and sat at the table sipping
The night outside was misty and damp; the faint moonlight, trying to force
its way through the thick air, made darkly visible the outlines of the
buildings. The stones and walls were moist, and now and then a drop,
slowly collecting, fell from the eaves to the ground. Doss, not liking the
change from the cabin's warmth, ran quickly to the kitchen doorstep; but
his mistress walked slowly past him, and took her way up the winding
footpath that ran beside the stone wall of the camps. When she came to the
end of the last camp, she threaded her way among the stones and bushes till
she reached the German's grave. Why she had come there she hardly knew;
she stood looking down. Suddenly she bent and put one hand on the face of
a wet stone.
"I shall never come to you again," she said.
Then she knelt on the ground, and leaned her face upon the stones.
"Dear old man, good old man, I am so tired!" she said (for we will come to
the dead to tell secrets we would never have told to the living). I am so
tired. There is light, there is warmth," she wailed; "why am I alone, so
hard, so cold? I am so weary of myself! It is eating my soul to its core-
-self, self, self! I cannot bear this life! I cannot breathe, I cannot
live! Will nothing free me from myself?" She pressed her cheek against
the wooden post. "I want to love! I want something great and pure to lift
me to itself! Dear old man, I cannot bear it any more! I am so cold, so
hard, so hard; will no one help me?"
The water gathered slowly on her shawl, and fell on to the wet stones; but
she lay there crying bitterly. For so the living soul will cry to the
dead, and the creature to its God; and of all this crying there comes
nothing. The lifting up of the hands brings no salvation; redemption is
from within, and neither from God nor man; it is wrought out by the soul
itself, with suffering and through time.
Doss, on the kitchen doorstep, shivered, and wondered where his mistress
stayed so long; and once, sitting sadly there in the damp, he had dropped
asleep, and dreamed that old Otto gave him a piece of bread, and patted him
on the head, and when he woke his teeth chattered, and he moved to another
stone to see if it was drier. At last he heard his mistress' step, and
they went into the house together. She lit a candle, and walked to the
Boer-woman's bedroom. On a nail under the lady in pink hung the key of the
wardrobe. She took it down and opened the great press. From a little
drawer she took fifty pounds (all she had in the world), relocked the door,
and turned to hang up the key. The marks of tears were still on her face,
but she smiled. Then she paused, hesitated.
"Fifty pounds for a lover! A noble reward!" she said, and opened the
wardrobe and returned the notes to the drawer, where Em might find them.
Once in her own room, she arranged the few articles she intended to take
tomorrow, burnt her old letters, and then went back to the front room to
look at the time. There were two hours yet before she must call him. She
sat down at the dressing-table to wait, and leaned her elbows on it, and
buried her face in her hands. The glass reflected the little brown head
with its even parting, and the tiny hands on which it rested. "One day I
will love something utterly, and then I will be better," she said once.
Presently she looked up. The large, dark eyes from the glass looked back
at her. She looked deep into them.
"We are all alone, you and I," she whispered; "no one helps us, no one
understands us; but we will help ourselves." The eyes looked back at her.
There was a world of assurance in their still depths. So they had looked
at her ever since she could remember, when it was but a small child's face
above a blue pinafore. "We shall never be quite alone, you and I," she
said; "we shall always be together, as we were when we were little."
The beautiful eyes looked into the depths of her soul.
"We are not afraid; we will help ourselves!" she said. She stretched out
her hand and pressed it over them on the glass. "Dear eyes! we will never
be quite alone till they part us--till then!"
Chapter 2.X. Gregory Rose Has An Idea.
Gregory Rose was in the loft putting it neat. Outside the rain poured; a
six months' drought had broken, and the thirsty plain was drenched with
water. What it could not swallow ran off in mad rivulets to the great
sloot, that now foamed like an angry river across the flat. Even the
little furrow between the farmhouse and the kraals was now a stream, knee-
deep, which almost bore away the Kaffer women who crossed it. It had
rained for twenty-four hours, and still the rain poured on. The fowls had
collected--a melancholy crowd--in and about the wagon-house, and the
solitary gander, who alone had survived the six months' want of water,
walked hither and thither, printing his webbed footmarks on the mud, to
have them washed out the next instant by the pelting rain, which at eleven
o'clock still beat on the walls and roofs with unabated ardour.
Gregory, as he worked in the loft, took no notice of it beyond stuffing a
sack into the broken pane to keep it out; and, in spite of the pelt and
patter, Em's clear voice might be heard through the open trap-door from the
dining room, where she sat at work, singing the "Blue Water:"
"And take me away,
And take me away,
And take me away,
To the Blue Water"--
that quaint, childish song of the people, that has a world of sweetness,
and sad, vague yearning when sung over and over dreamily by a woman's voice
as she sits alone at her work.
But Gregory heard neither that nor yet the loud laughter of the Kaffer
maids, that every now and again broke through from the kitchen, where they
joked and worked. Of late Gregory had grown strangely impervious to the
sounds and sights about him. His lease had run out, but Em had said, "Do
not renew it; I need one to help me; just stay on." And, she had added,
"You must not remain in your own little house; live with me; you can look
after my ostriches better so."
And Gregory did not thank her. What difference did it make to him, paying
rent or not, living there or not; it was all one. But yet he came. Em
wished that he would still sometimes talk of the strength of the master-
right of man; but Gregory was as one smitten on the cheek-bone.
She might do what she pleased, he would find no fault, had no word to say.
He had forgotten that it is man's right to rule. On that rainy morning he
had lighted his pipe at the kitchen fire, and when breakfast was over stood
in the front door watching the water rush down the road till the pipe died
out in his mouth. Em saw she must do something for him, and found him a
large calico duster. He had sometimes talked of putting the loft neat, and
today she could find nothing else for him to do. So she had the ladder put
to the trap-door that he need not go out in the wet, and Gregory with the
broom and duster mounted to the loft. Once at work he worked hard. He
dusted down the very rafters, and cleaned the broken candle-moulds and bent
forks that had stuck in the thatch for twenty years. He placed the black
bottles neatly in rows on an old box in the corner, and piled the skins on
one another, and sorted the rubbish in all the boxes; and at eleven o'clock
his work was almost done. He seated himself on the packing-case which had
once held Waldo's books, and proceeded to examine the contents of another
which he had not yet looked at. It was carelessly nailed down. He
loosened one plank, and began to lift out various articles of female
attire--old-fashioned caps, aprons, dresses with long pointed bodies such
as he remembered to have seen his mother wear when he was a little child.
He shook them out carefully to see there were no moths, and then sat down
to fold them up again one by one. They had belonged to Em's mother, and
the box, as packed at her death, had stood untouched and forgotten these
long years. She must have been a tall woman, that mother of Em's, for when
he stood up to shake out a dress the neck was on a level with his, and the
skirt touched the ground. Gregory laid a nightcap out on his knee, and
began rolling up the strings; but presently his fingers moved slower and
slower, then his chin rested on his breast, and finally the imploring blue
eyes were fixed on the frill abstractedly. When Em's voice called to him
from the foot of the ladder he started, and threw the nightcap behind him.
She was only come to tell him that his cup of soup was ready; and, when he
could hear that she was gone, he picked up the nightcap again, and a great
brown sun-kapje--just such a kapje and such a dress as one of those he
remembered to have seen a sister of mercy wear. Gregory's mind was very
full of thought. He took down a fragment of an old looking-glass from
behind a beam, and put the kapje on. His beard looked somewhat grotesque
under it; he put up his hand to hide it--that was better. The blue eyes
looked out with the mild gentleness that became eyes looking out from under
a kapje. Next he took the brown dress, and, looking round furtively,
slipped it over his head. He had just got his arms in the sleeves, and was
trying to hook up the back, when an increase in the patter of the rain at
the window made him drag it off hastily. When he perceived there was no
one coming he tumbled the things back into the box, and, covering it
carefully, went down the ladder.
Em was still at her work, trying to adjust a new needle in the machine.
Gregory drank his soup, and then sat before her, an awful and mysterious
look in his eyes.
"I am going to town tomorrow," he said.
"I'm almost afraid you won't be able to go," said Em, who was intent on her
needle; "I don't think it is going to leave off today."
"I am going," said Gregory.
Em looked up.
"But the sloots are as full as rivers; you cannot go. We can wait for the
post," she said.
"I am not going for the post," said Gregory, impressively.
Em looked for explanation; none came.
"When will you be back?"
"I am not coming back."
"Are you going to your friends?"
Gregory waited, then caught her by the wrist.
"Look here, Em," he said between his teeth, "I can't stand it any more. I
am going to her."
Since that day, when he had come home and found Lyndall gone, he had never
talked of her; but Em knew who it was who needed to be spoken of by no
She said, when he had released her hand:
"But you do not know where she is?"
"Yes, I do. She was in Bloemfontein when I heard last. I will go there,
and I will find out where she went then, and then, and then! I will have
Em turned the wheel quickly, and the ill-adjusted needle sprung into twenty
"Gregory," she said, "she does not want us; she told us so clearly in the
letter she wrote." A flush rose on her face as she spoke. "It will only
be pain to you, Gregory: Will she like to have you near her?"
There was an answer he might have made, but it was his secret, and he did
not choose to share it. He said only:
"I am going."
"Will you be gone long, Gregory?"
"I do not know; perhaps I shall never come back. Do what you please with
my things. I cannot stay here!"
He rose from his seat.
"People say, forget, forget!" he cried, pacing the room. They are mad!
they are fools! Do they say so to men who are dying of thirst--forget,
forget? Why is it only to us they say so! It is a lie to say that time
makes it easy; it is afterward, afterward that it eats in at your heart!
"All these months," he cried bitterly, "I have lived here quietly, day
after day, as if I cared for what I ate, and what I drank, and what I did!
I care for nothing! I cannot bear it! I will not! Forget! forget!"
ejaculated Gregory. "You can forget all the world, but you cannot forget
yourself. When one thing is more to you than yourself, how are you to
"I read," he said--"yes; and then I come to a word she used, and it is all
back with me again! I go to count my sheep, and I see her face before me,
and I stand and let the sheep run by. I look at you, and in your smile, a
something at the corner of your lips, I see her. How can I forget her
when, whenever I turn, she is there, and not there? I cannot, I will not,
live where I do not see her.
"I know what you think," he said, turning upon her. "You think I am mad;
you think I am going to see whether she will not like me! I am not so
foolish. I should have known at first she never could suffer me. Who am
I, what am I, that she should look at me? It was right that she left me;
right that she should not look at me. If any one says it is not, it is a
lie! I am not going to speak to her," he added--"only to see her; only to
stand sometimes in a place where she has stood before."
Chapter 2.XI. An Unfinished Letter.
Gregory Rose had been gone seven months. Em sat alone on a white sheepskin
before the fire.
The August night-wind, weird and shrill, howled round the chimneys and
through the crannies, and in walls and doors, and uttered a long low cry as
it forced its way among the clefts of the stones on the kopje. It was a
wild night. The prickly-pear tree, stiff and upright as it held its arms,
felt the wind's might, and knocked its flat leaves heavily together, till
great branches broke off. The Kaffers, as they slept in their straw huts,
whispered one to another that before morning there would not be an armful
of thatch left on the roofs; and the beams of the wagon-house creaked and
groaned as if it were heavy work to resist the importunity of the wind.
Em had not gone to bed. Who could sleep on a night like this? So in the
dining room she had lighted a fire, and sat on the ground before it,
turning the roaster-cakes that lay on the coals to bake. It would save
work in the morning; and she blew out the light because the wind through
the window-chinks made it flicker and run; and she sat singing to herself
as she watched the cakes. They lay at one end of the wide hearth on a bed
of coals, and at the other end a fire burnt up steadily, casting its amber
glow over Em's light hair and black dress, with the ruffle of crepe about
the neck, and over the white curls of the sheepskin on which she sat.
Louder and more fiercely yet howled the storm; but Em sang on, and heard
nothing but the words of her song, and heard them only faintly, as
something restful. It was an old, childish song she had often heard her
mother sing long ago:
Where the reeds dance by the river,
Where the willow's song is said,
On the face of the morning water,
Is reflected a white flower's head.
She folded her hands and sang the next verse dreamily:
Where the reeds shake by the river,
Where the moonlight's sheen is shed,
On the face of the sleeping water,
Two leaves of a white flower float dead.
Dead, Dead, Dead!
She echoed the refrain softly till it died away, and then repeated it. It
was as if, unknown to herself, it harmonized with the pictures and thoughts
that sat with her there alone in the firelight. She turned the cakes over,
while the wind hurled down a row of bricks from the gable, and made the
Presently she paused and listened; there was a sound as of something
knocking at the back-doorway. But the wind had raised its level higher,
and she went on with her work. At last the sound was repeated. Then she
rose, lit the candle and the fire, and went to see. Only to satisfy
herself, she said, that nothing could be out on such a night.
She opened the door a little way, and held the light behind her to defend
it from the wind. The figure of a tall man stood there, and before she
could speak he had pushed his way in, and was forcing the door to close
"Waldo!" she cried in astonishment.
He had been gone more than a year and a half.
"You did not expect to see me," he answered, as he turned toward her; "I
should have slept in the outhouse, and not troubled you tonight; but
through the shutter I saw glimmerings of a light."
"Come in to the fire," she said; "it is a terrific night for any creature
to be out. Shall we not go and fetch your things in first?" she added.
"I have nothing but this," he said, motioning to the little bundle in his
He sat down on the bench before the fire.
"The cakes are almost ready," she said; "I will get you something to eat.
Where have you been wandering all this while?"
"Up and down, up and down," he answered wearily; "and now the whim has
seized me to come back here. Em," he said, putting his hand on her arm as
she passed him, "have you heard from Lyndall lately?"
"Yes," said Em, turning quickly from him.
"Where is she? I had one letter from her, but that is almost a year ago
now--just when she left. Where is she?"
"In the Transvaal. I will go and get you some supper; we can talk
"Can you give me her exact address? I want to write to her."
But Em had gone into the next room.
When food was on the table she knelt down before the fire, turning the
cakes, babbling restlessly, eagerly, now of this, now of that. She was
glad to see him--Tant Sannie was coming soon to show her her new baby--he
must stay on the farm now, and help her. And Waldo himself was well
content to eat his meal in silence, asking no more questions.
"Gregory is coming back next week," she said; "he will have been gone just
a hundred and three days tomorrow. I had a letter from him yesterday."
"Where has he been?"
But his companion stooped to lift a cake from the fire.
"How the wind blows! One can hardly hear one's own voice," she said.
"Take this warm cake; no one's cakes are like mine. Why, you have eaten
"I am a little weary," he said; "the wind was mad tonight."
He folded his arms, and rested his head against the fireplace, whilst she
removed the dishes from the table. On the mantelpiece stood an inkpot and
some sheets of paper. Presently he took them down and turned up the corner
of the tablecloth.
"I will write a few lines," he said; "till you are ready to sit down and
Em, as she shook out the tablecloth, watched him bending intently over his
paper. He had changed much. His face had grown thinner; his cheeks were
almost hollow, though they were covered by a dark growth of beard.
She sat down on the skin beside him, and felt the little bundle on the
bench; it was painfully small and soft. Perhaps it held a shirt and a
book, but nothing more. The old black hat had a piece of unhemmed muslin
twisted round it, and on his elbow was a large patch so fixed on with
yellow thread that her heart ached. Only his hair was not changed, and
hung in silky beautiful waves almost to his shoulders.
Tomorrow she would take the ragged edge off his collar, and put a new band
round his hat. She did not interrupt him, but she wondered how it was that
he sat to write so intently after his long weary walk. He was not tired
now; his pen hurried quickly and restlessly over the paper, and his eye was
bright. Presently Em raised her hand to her breast, where lay the letter
yesterday had brought her. Soon she had forgotten him, as entirely as he
had forgotten her; each was in his own world with his own. He was writing
to Lyndall. He would tell her all he had seen, all he had done, though it
were nothing worth relating. He seemed to have come back to her, and to be
talking to her now he sat there in the old house.
"--and then I got to the next town, and my horse was tired, so I could go
no further, and looked for work. A shopkeeper agreed to hire me as
salesman. He made me sign a promise to remain six months, and he gave me a
little empty room at the back of the store to sleep in. I had still three
pounds of my own, and when you just come from the country three pounds
seems a great deal.
"When I had been in the shop three days I wanted to go away again. A clerk
in a shop has the lowest work to do of all the people. It is much better
to break stones; you have the blue sky above you, and only the stones to
bend to. I asked my master to let me go, and I offered to give him my two
pounds, and the bag of mealies I had bought with the other pound; but he
"I found out afterward he was only giving me half as much as he gave to the
others--that was why. I had fear when I looked at the other clerks that I
would at last become like them. All day they were bowing and smirking to
the women who came in; smiling, when all they wanted was to get their money
from them. They used to run and fetch the dresses and ribbons to show
them, and they seemed to me like worms with oil on. There was one
respectable thing in that store--it was the Kaffer storeman. His work was
to load and unload, and he never needed to smile except when he liked, and
he never told lies.
"The other clerks gave me the name of Old Salvation; but there was one
person I liked very much. He was clerk in another store. He often went
past the door. He seemed to me not like others--his face was bright and
fresh like a little child's. When he came to the shop I felt I liked him.
One day I saw a book in his pocket, and that made me feel near him. I
asked him if he was fond of reading, and he said, yes, when there was
nothing else to do. The next day he came to me, and asked me if I did not
feel lonely; he never saw me going out with the other fellows; he would
come and see me that evening, he said.
"I was glad, and bought some meat and flour, because the grey mare and I
always ate mealies; it is the cheapest thing; when you boil it hard you
can't eat much of it. I made some cakes, and I folded my great coat on the
box to make it softer for him; and at last he came.
"'You've got a rummy place here,' he said.
"You see there was nothing in it but packing-cases for furniture, and it
was rather empty. While I was putting the food on the box he looked at my
books; he read their names out aloud. 'Elementary Physiology,' 'First
"'Golly!' he said; 'I've got a lot of dry stuff like that at home I got for
Sunday-school prizes; but I only keep them to light my pipe with now; they
come in handy for that.' Then he asked me if I had ever read a book called
the 'Black-eyed Creole.' 'That is the style for me,' he said; 'there where
the fellow takes the nigger-girl by the arm, and the other fellow cuts it
off! That's what I like.'
"But what he said after that I don't remember, only it made me feel as if I
were having a bad dream, and I wanted to be far away.
"When he had finished eating he did not stay long; he had to go and see
some girls home from a prayer-meeting; and he asked how it was he never saw
me walking out with any on Sunday afternoons. He said he had lots of
sweethearts, and he was going to see one the next Wednesday on a farm, and
he asked me to lend my mare. I told him she was very old. But he said it
didn't matter; he would come the next day to fetch her.
"After he was gone my little room got back to its old look. I loved it so;
I was so glad to get into it at night, and it seemed to be reproaching me
for bringing him there. The next day he took the grey mare. On Thursday
he did not bring her back, and on Friday I found the saddle and bridle
standing at my door.
"In the afternoon he looked into the shop, and called out: 'Hope you got
your saddle, Farber? Your bag-of-bones kicked out six miles from here.
I'll send you a couple of shillings tomorrow, though the old hide wasn't
worth it. Good morning.'
"But I sprung over the counter, and got him by his throat. My father was
so gentle with her; he never would ride her up hill, and now this fellow
had murdered her! I asked him where he had killed her, and I shook him
till he slipped out of my hand. He stood in the door grinning.
"'It didn't take much to kill that bag-of-bones, whose master sleeps in a
packing-case, and waits till his company's finished to eat on the plate.
Shouldn't wonder if you fed her on sugar-bags,' he said; 'and if you think
I've jumped her, you'd better go and look yourself. You'll find her along
the road by the aasvogels that are eating her.'
"I caught him by his collar, and I lifted him from the ground, and I threw
him out into the street, half-way across it. I heard the bookkeeper say to
the clerk that there was always the devil in those mum fellows; but they
never called me Salvation after that.
"I am writing to you of very small things, but there is nothing else to
tell; it has been all small and you will like it. Whenever anything has
happened I have always thought I would tell it to you. The back thought in
my mind is always you. After that only one old man came to visit me. I
had seen him in the streets often; he always wore very dirty black clothes,
and a hat with crepe round it, and he had one eye, so I noticed him. One
day he came to my room with a subscription-list for a minister's salary.
When I said I had nothing to give he looked at me with his one eye.
"'Young man,' he said, 'how is it I never see you in the house of the
Lord?' I thought he was trying to do good, so I felt sorry for him, and I
told him I never went to chapel. 'Young man,' he said, 'it grieves me to
hear such godless words from the lips of one so young--so far gone in the
paths of destruction. Young man, if you forget God, God will forget you.
There is a seat on the right-hand side as you go at the bottom door that
you may get. If you are given over to the enjoyment and frivolities of
this world, what will become of your never dying soul?'
"He would not go till I gave him half a crown for the minister's salary.
Afterward I heard he was the man who collected the pew rents and got a
percentage. I didn't get to know any one else.
"When my time in that shop was done I hired myself to drive one of a
"That first morning, when I sat in the front and called to my oxen, and saw
nothing about me but the hills, with the blue coming down to them, and the
karoo bushes, I was drunk; I laughed; my heart was beating till it hurt me.
I shut my eyes tight, that when I opened them I might see there were no
shelves about me. There must be a beauty in buying and selling, if there
is beauty in everything: but it is very ugly to me. My life as transport-
rider would have been the best life in the world if I had had only one
wagon to drive. My master told me he would drive one, I the other, and he
would hire another person to drive the third. But the first day I drove
two to help him, and after that he let me drive all three. Whenever we
came to an hotel he stopped behind to get a drink, and when he rode up to
the wagons he could never stand; the Hottentot and I used to lift him up.
We always travelled all night, and used to outspan for five or six hours in
the heat of the day to rest. I planned that I would lie under a wagon and
read for an hour or two every day before I went to sleep, and I did for the
first two or three; but after that I only wanted to sleep, like the rest,
and I packed my books away.
"When you have three wagons to look after all night, you are sometimes so
tired you can hardly stand. At first when I walked along driving my wagons
in the night it was glorious; the stars had never looked so beautiful to
me; and on the dark nights when we rode through the bush there were will-
o'-the-wisps dancing on each side of the road. I found out that even the
damp and dark are beautiful. But I soon changed, and saw nothing but the
road and my oxen. I only wished for a smooth piece of road, so that I
might sit at the front and doze. At the places where we outspanned there
were sometimes rare plants and flowers, the festoons hanging from the bush-
trees, and nuts and insects, such as we never see here; but after a little
while I never looked at them--I was too tired.
"I ate as much as I could, and then lay down on my face under the wagon
till the boy came to wake me to inspan, and then we drove on again all
night; so it went, so it went. I think sometimes when I walked by my oxen
I called to them in my sleep, for I know I thought of nothing; I was like
an animal. My body was strong and well to work, but my brain was dead. If
you have not felt it, Lyndall, you cannot understand it. You may work, and
work, and work, till you are only a body, not a soul. Now, when I see one
of those evil-looking men that come from Europe--navvies, with the beast-
like, sunken face, different from any Kaffer's--I know what brought that
look into their eyes; and if I have only one inch of tobacco I give them
half. It is work, grinding, mechanical work, that they or their ancestors
have done, that has made them into beasts. You may work a man's body so
that his soul dies. Work is good. I have worked at the old farm from the
sun's rising till its setting, but I have had time to think, and time to
feel. You may work a man so that all but the animal in him is gone; and
that grows stronger with physical labour.
"You may work a man till he is a devil. I know it, because I have felt it.
You will never understand the change that came over me. No one but I will
ever know how great it was. But I was never miserable; when I could keep
my oxen from sticking fast, and when I could find a place to lie down in, I
had all I wanted. After I had driven eight months a rainy season came.
For eighteen hours out of the twenty-four we worked in the wet. The mud
went up to the axles sometimes, and we had to dig the wheels out, and we
never went far in a day. My master swore at me more than ever, but when he
had done he always offered me his brandy-flask. When I first came he had
offered it me, and I had always refused; but now I drank as my oxen did
when I gave them water--without thinking. At last I bought brandy for
myself whenever we passed an hotel.
"One Sunday we outspanned on the banks of a swollen river to wait for its
going down. It was drizzling still, so I lay under the wagon on the mud.
There was no dry place anywhere; and all the dung was wet, so there was no
fire to cook food. My little flask was filled with brandy, and I drank
some and went to sleep. When I woke it was drizzling still, so I drank
some more. I was stiff and cold; and my master, who lay by me, offered me
his flask, because mine was empty. I drank some, and then I thought I
would go and see if the river was going down. I remember that I walked to
the road, and it seemed to be going away from me. When I woke up I was
lying by a little bush on the bank of the river. It was afternoon; all the
clouds had gone, and the sky was deep blue. The Bushman boy was grilling
ribs at the fire. He looked at me and grinned from ear to ear. 'Master
was a little nice,' he said, 'and lay down in the road. Something might
ride over master, so I carried him there.' He grinned at me again. It was
as though he said, 'You and I are comrades. I have lain in a road, too. I
know all about it.'
"When I turned my head from him I saw the earth, so pure after the rain, so
green, so fresh, so blue; and I was a drunken carrier, whom his leader had
picked up in the mud, and laid at the roadside to sleep out his drink. I
remember my old life, and I remember you. I saw how, one day, you would
read in the papers: 'A German carrier, named Waldo Farber, was killed
through falling from his wagon, being instantly crushed under the wheel.
Deceased was supposed to have been drunk at the time of the accident.'
There are those notices in the paper every month. I sat up, and I took the
brandy-flask out of my pocket, and I flung it as far as I could into the
dark water. The Hottentot boy ran down to see if he could catch it; it had
sunk to the bottom. I never drank again. But, Lyndall, sin looks much
more terrible to those who look at it than to those who do it. A convict,
or a man who drinks, seems something so far off and horrible when we see
him; but to himself he seems quite near to us, and like us. We wonder what
kind of a creature he is; but he is just we, ourselves. We are only the
wood, the knife that carves on us is the circumstance.
"I do not know why I kept on working so hard for that master. I think it
was as the oxen come every day and stand by the yokes; they do not know
why. Perhaps I would have been with him still; but one day we started with
loads for the Diamond Fields. The oxen were very thin now, and they had
been standing about in the yoke all day without food, while the wagons were
being loaded. Not far from the town was a hill. When we came to the foot
the first wagon stuck fast. I tried for a little while to urge the oxen,
but I soon saw the one span could never pull it up. I went to the other
wagon to loosen that span to join them on in front, but the transport-
rider, who was lying at the back of the wagon, jumped out.
"'They shall bring it up the hill; and if half of them die for it they
shall do it alone,' he said.
"He was not drunk, but in bad temper, for he had been drunk the night
before. He swore at me, and told me to take the whip and help him. We
tried for a little time, then I told him it was no use, they could never do
it. He swore louder and called to the leaders to come on with their whips,
and together they lashed. There was one ox, a black ox, so thin that the
ridge of his backbone almost cut through his flesh.
"'It is you, devil, is it, that will not pull?' the transport-rider said.
'I will show you something.' He looked like a devil.
"He told the boys to leave off flogging, and he held the ox by the horn,
and took up a round stone and knocked its nose with it till the blood came.
When he had done they called to the oxen and took up their whips again, and
the oxen strained with their backs bent, but the wagon did not move an
"'So you won't, won't you?' he said. I'll help you.'
"He took out his clasp-knife, and ran it into the leg of the trembling ox
three times, up to the hilt. Then he put the knife in his pocket, and they
took their whips. The oxen's flanks quivered, and they foamed at the
mouth. Straining, they moved the wagon a few feet forward, then stood with
bent backs to keep it from sliding back. From the black ox's nostrils foam
and blood were streaming on to the ground. It turned its head in its
anguish and looked at me with its great starting eyes. It was praying for
help in its agony and weakness, and they took their whips again. The
creature bellowed aloud. If there is a God, it was calling to its Maker
for help. Then a stream of clear blood burst from both nostrils; it fell
on to the ground, and the wagon slipped back. The man walked up to it.
"'You are going to lie down, devil, are you? We'll see you don't take it
"The thing was just dying. He opened his clasp-knife and stooped down over
it. I do not know what I did then. But afterward I know I had him on the
stones, and I was kneeling on him. The boys dragged me off. I wish they
had not. I left him standing in the sand in the road, shaking himself, and
I walked back to the town. I took nothing from that accursed wagon, so I
had only two shillings. But it did not matter. The next day I got work at
a wholesale store. My work was to pack and unpack goods, and to carry
boxes, and I had to work from six in the morning to six in the evening; so
I had plenty of time.
"I hired a little room, and subscribed to a library, so I had everything I
needed; and in the week of Christmas holidays I went to see the sea. I
walked all night, Lyndall, to escape the heat, and a little after sunrise I
got to the top of a high hill. Before me was a long, low, blue, monotonous
mountain. I walked looking at it, but I was thinking of the sea I wanted
to see. At last I wondered what that curious blue thing might be; then it
struck me it was the sea! I would have turned back again, only I was too
tired. I wonder if all the things we long to see--the churches, the
pictures, the men in Europe--will disappoint us so! You see I had dreamed
of it so long. When I was a little boy, minding sheep behind the kopje, I
used to see the waves stretching out as far as the eye could reach in the
sunlight. My sea! Is the idea always more beautiful than the real?
"I got to the beach that afternoon, and I saw the water run up and down on
the sand, and I saw the white foam breakers; they were pretty, but I
thought I would go back the next day. It was not my sea.
"But I began to like it when I sat by it that night in the moonlight; and
the next day I liked it better; and before I left I loved it. It was not
like the sky and stars, that talk of what has no beginning and no end; but
it is so human. Of all the things I have ever seen, only the sea is like a
human being; the sky is not, nor the earth. But the sea is always moving,
always something deep in itself is stirring it. It never rests. It is
always wanting, wanting, wanting. It hurries on; and then it creeps back
slowly without having reached, moaning. It is always asking a question,
and it never gets the answer. I can hear it in the day and in the night;
the white foam breakers are saying that which I think. I walk alone with
them when there is no one to see me, and I sing with them. I lie down on
the sand and watch them with my eyes half shut. The sky is better, but it
is so high above our heads. I love the sea. Sometimes we must look down
too. After five days I went back to Grahamstown.
"I had glorious books, and in the night I could sit in my little room and
read them; but I was lonely. Books are not the same things when you are
living among people. I cannot tell why, but they are dead. On the farm
they would have been living beings to me; but here, where there were so
many people about me, I wanted some one to belong to me. I was lonely. I
wanted something that was flesh and blood. Once on this farm there came a
stranger; I did not ask his name, but he sat among the karoo and talked
with me. Now, wherever I have travelled I have looked for him--in hotels,
in streets, in passenger wagons as they rushed in, through the open windows
of houses I have looked for him, but I have not found him--never heard a
voice like his. One day I went to the Botanic Gardens. It was a half-
holiday, and the band was to play. I stood in the long raised avenue and
looked down. There were many flowers, and ladies and children were walking
about beautifully dressed. At last the music began. I had not heard such
"At first it was slow and even, like the everyday life, when we walk
through it without thought or feeling; then it grew faster, then it paused,
hesitated, then it was quite still for an instant, and then it burst out.
Lyndall, they made heaven right when they made it all music. It takes you
up and carries you away, away, till you have the things you longed for, you
are up close to them. You have got out into a large, free, open place. I
could not see anything while it was playing; I stood with my head against
my tree; but, when it was done, I saw that there were ladies sitting close
to me on a wooden bench, and the stranger who had talked to me that day in
the karoo was sitting between them. The ladies were very pretty, and their
dresses beautiful. I do not think they had been listening to the music,
for they were talking and laughing very softly. I heard all they said, and
could even smell the rose on the breast of one. I was afraid he would see
me; so I went to the other side of the tree, and soon they got up and began
to pace up and down in the avenue.
"All the time the music played they chatted, and he carried on his arm the
scarf of the prettiest lady. I did not hear the music; I tried to catch
the sound of his voice each time he went by. When I was listening to the
music I did not know I was badly dressed; now I felt so ashamed of myself.
I never knew before what a low, horrible thing I was, dressed in tancord.
That day on the farm, when we sat on the ground under the thorn-trees, I
thought he quite belonged to me; now, I saw he was not mine. But he was
still as beautiful. His brown eyes are more beautiful than any one's eyes,
"At last they turned to go, and I walked after them. When they got out of
the gate he helped the ladies into a phaeton, and stood for a moment with
his foot on the step talking to them. He had a little cane in his hand,
and an Italian greyhound ran after him. Just when they drove away one of
the ladies dropped her whip.
"'Pick it up, fellow,' she said; and when I brought it her she threw
sixpence on the ground. I might have gone back to the garden then; but I
did not want music; I wanted clothes, and to be fashionable and fine. I
felt that my hands were coarse, and that I was vulgar. I never tried to
see him again.
"I stayed in my situation four months after that, but I was not happy. I
had no rest. The people about me pressed on me, and made me dissatisfied.
I could not forget them. Even when I did not see them they pressed on me,
and made me miserable. I did not love books; I wanted people. When I
walked home under the shady trees in the street I could not be happy, for
when I passed the houses I heard music, and saw faces between the curtains.
I did not want any of them, but I wanted some one for mine, for me. I
could not help it. I wanted a finer life.
"Only one day something made me happy. A nurse came to the store with a
little girl belonging to one of our clerks. While the maid went into the
office to give a message to its father, the little child stood looking at
me. Presently she came close to me and peeped up into my face.
"'Nice curls, pretty curls,' she said; 'I like curls.'
"She felt my hair all over, with her little hands. When I put out my arm
she let me take her and sit her on my knee. She kissed me with her soft
mouth. We were happy till the nurse-girl came and shook her, and asked her
if she was not ashamed to sit on the knee of that strange man. But I do
not think my little one minded. She laughed at me as she went out.
"If the world was all children I could like it; but men and women draw me
so strangely, and then press me away, till I am in agony. I was not meant
to live among people. Perhaps some day, when I am grown older, I will be
able to go and live among them and look at them as I look at the rocks, and
bushes, without letting them disturb me, and take myself from me; but not
now. So I grew miserable; a kind of fever seemed to eat me; I could not
rest, or read, or think; so I came back here. I knew you were not here but
it seemed as though I should be nearer you; and it is you I want--you that
the other people suggest to me, but cannot give."
He had filled all the sheets he had taken, and now lifted down the last
from the mantelpiece. Em had dropped asleep, and lay slumbering peacefully
on the skin before the fire. Out of doors the storm still raged; but in a
fitful manner, as though growing half weary of itself. He bent over his
paper again, with eager flushed cheek, and wrote on.
"It has been a delightful journey, this journey home. I have walked on
foot. The evening before last, when it was just sunset, I was a little
footsore and thirsty, and went out of the road to look for water. I went
down into a deep little kloof. Some trees ran along the bottom, and I
thought I should find water there. The sun had quite set when I got to the
bottom of it. It was very still--not a leaf was stirring anywhere. In the
bed of the mountain torrent I thought I might find water. I came to the
bank, and leaped down into the dry bed. The floor on which I stood was of
fine white sand, and the banks rose on every side like the walls of a room.
"Above there was a precipice of rocks, and a tiny stream of water oozed
from them and fell slowly on to the flat stone below. Each drop you could
hear fall like a little silver bell. There was one among the trees on the
bank that stood cut out against the white sky. All the other trees were
silent; but this one shook and trembled against the sky. Everything else
was still; but those leaves were quivering, quivering. I stood on the
sand; I could not go away. When it was quite dark, and the stars had come,
I crept out. Does it seem strange to you that it should have made me so
happy? It is because I cannot tell you how near I felt to things that we
cannot see but we always feel. Tonight has been a wild, stormy night. I
have been walking across the plain for hours in the dark. I have liked the
wind, because I have seemed forcing my way through to you. I knew you were
not here, but I would hear of you. When I used to sit on the transport
wagon half-sleeping, I used to start awake because your hands were on me.
In my lodgings, many nights I have blown the light out, and sat in the
dark, that I might see your face start out more distinctly. Sometimes it
was the little girl's face who used to come to me behind the kopje when I
minded sheep, and sit by me in her blue pinafore; sometimes it was older.
I love both. I am very helpless; I shall never do anything; but you will
work, and I will take your work for mine. Sometimes such a sudden gladness
seizes me when I remember that somewhere in the world you are living and
working. You are my very own; nothing else is my own so. When I have
finished I am going to look at your room door--"
He wrote; and the wind, which had spent its fury, moaned round and round
the house, most like a tired child weary with crying.
Em woke up, and sat before the fire, rubbing her eyes, and listening, as it
sobbed about the gables, and wandered away over the long stone walls.
"How quiet it has grown now," she said, and sighed herself, partly from
weariness and partly from sympathy with the tired wind. He did not answer
her; he was lost in his letter.
She rose slowly after a time, and rested her hand on his shoulder.
"You have many letters to write," she said.
"No," he answered; "it is only one to Lyndall."
She turned away, and stood long before the fire looking into it. If you
have a deadly fruit to give, it will not grow sweeter by keeping.
"Waldo, dear," she said, putting her hand on his, "leave off writing."
He threw back the dark hair from his forehead and looked at her.
"It is no use writing any more," she said.
"Why not?" he asked.
She put her hand over the papers he had written.
"Waldo," she said, "Lyndall is dead."
Chapter 2.XII. Gregory's Womanhood.
Slowly over the flat came a cart. On the back seat sat Gregory, his arms
folded, his hat drawn over his eyes. A Kaffer boy sat on the front seat
driving, and at his feet sat Doss, who, now and again, lifted his nose and
eyes above the level of the splashboard, to look at the surrounding
country; and then, with an exceedingly knowing wink of his left eye, turned
to his companions, thereby intimating that he clearly perceived his
whereabouts. No one noticed the cart coming. Waldo, who was at work at
his carpenter's table in the wagon-house, saw nothing, till chancing to
look down he perceived Doss standing before him, the legs trembling, the
little nose wrinkled, and a series of short suffocating barks giving
utterance to his joy at reunion.
Em, whose eyes had ached with looking out across the plain, was now at work
in a back room, and knew nothing till, looking up, she saw Gregory, with
his straw hat and blue eyes, standing in the doorway. He greeted her
quietly, hung his hat up in its old place behind the door, and for any
change in his manner or appearance he might have been gone only the day
before to fetch letters from the town. Only his beard was gone, and his
face was grown thinner. He took off his leather gaiters, said the
afternoon was hot and the roads dusty, and asked for some tea. They talked
of wool, and the cattle, and the sheep, and Em gave him the pile of letters
that had come for him during the months of absence, but of the thing that
lay at their hearts neither said anything. Then he went out to look at the
kraals, and at supper Em gave him hot cakes and coffee. They talked about
the servants, and then ate their meal in quiet. She asked no questions.
When it was ended Gregory went into the front room, and lay in the dark on
"Do you not want a light?" Em asked, venturing to look in.
"No," he answered; then presently called to her, "Come and sit here; I want
to talk to you."
She came and sat on a footstool near him.
"Do you wish to hear anything?" he asked.
"Yes, if it does not hurt you."
"What difference does it make to me?" he said. "If I talk or am silent, is
there any change?"
Yet he lay quiet for a long time. The light through the open door showed
him to her, where he lay, with his arm thrown across his eyes. At last he
spoke. Perhaps it was a relief to him to speak.
To Bloemfontein in the Free State, to which through an agent he had traced
them, Gregory had gone. At the hotel where Lyndall and her stranger had
stayed he put up; he was shown the very room in which they had slept. The
coloured boy who had driven them to the next town told him in which house
they had boarded, and Gregory went on. In that town he found they had left
the cart, and bought a spider and four greys, and Gregory's heart rejoiced.
Now indeed it would be easy to trace their course. And he turned his steps
At the farmhouses where he stopped the ooms and tantes remembered clearly
the spider with its four grey horses. At one place the Boer-wife told how
the tall, blue-eyed Englishman had bought milk, and asked the way to the
next farm. At the next farm the Englishman had bought a bunch of flowers,
and given half a crown for them to the little girl. It was quite true; the
Boer-mother made her get it out of the box and show it. At the next place
they had slept. Here they told him that the great bulldog, who hated all
strangers, had walked in in the evening and laid its head in the lady's
lap. So at every place he heard something, and traced them step by step.
At one desolate farm the Boer had a good deal to tell. The lady had said
she liked a wagon that stood before the door. Without asking the price the
Englishman had offered a hundred and fifty pounds for the old thing, and
bought oxen worth ten pounds for sixteen. The Dutchman chuckled, for he
had the Salt-riem's money in the box under his bed. Gregory laughed too,
in silence; he could not lose sight of them now, so slowly they would have
to move with that cumbrous ox-wagon. Yet, when that evening came, and he
reached a little wayside inn, no one could tell him anything of the
The master, a surly creature, half stupid with Boer-brandy, sat on the
bench before the door smoking. Gregory sat beside him, questioning, but he
smoked on. He remembered nothing of such strangers. How should he know
who had been there months and months before? He smoked on. Gregory, very
weary, tried to wake his memory, said that the lady he was seeking for was
very beautiful, had a little mouth, and tiny, very tiny, feet. The man
only smoked on as sullenly as at first. What were little, very little,
mouths and feet to him. But his daughter leaned out in the window above.
She was dirty and lazy, and liked to loll there when travellers came, to
hear the men talk, but she had a soft heart. Presently a hand came out of
the window, and a pair of velvet slippers touched his shoulder, tiny
slippers with black flowers. He pulled them out of her hand. Only one
woman's feet had worn them, he knew that.
"Left here last summer by a lady," said the girl; "might be the one you are
looking for. Never saw any feet so small."
Gregory rose and questioned her.
They might have come in a wagon and spider, she could not tell. But the
gentleman was very handsome, tall, lovely figure, blue eyes, wore gloves
always when he went out. An English officer, perhaps; no Africander,
Gregory stopped her.
The lady? Well, she was pretty, rather, the girl said; very cold, dull
air, silent. They stayed for, it might be, five days; slept in the wing
over against the stoep; quarrelled sometimes, she thought--the lady. She
had seen everything when she went in to wait. One day the gentleman
touched her hair; she drew back from him as though his fingers poisoned
her. Went to the other end of the room if he came to sit near her. Walked
out alone. Cold wife for such a handsome husband, the girl thought; she
evidently pitied him, he was such a beautiful man. They went away early
one morning, how, or in which way, the girl could not tell.
Gregory inquired of the servants, but nothing more was to be learnt; so the
next morning he saddled his horse and went on. At the farms he came to the
good old ooms and tantes asked him to have coffee, and the little shoeless
children peeped out at the stranger from behind ovens and gables; but no
one had seen what he asked for. This way and that he rode to pick up the
thread he had dropped, but the spider and the wagon, the little lady and
the handsome gentleman, no one had seen. In the towns he fared yet worse.
Once indeed hope came to him. On the stoep of an hotel at which he stayed
the night in a certain little village, there walked a gentleman, grave and
kindly-looking. It was not hard to open conversation with him about the
weather, and then--Had he ever seen such and such people, a gentleman and a
lady, a spider and wagon, arrive at that place? The kindly gentleman shook
his head. What was the lady like, he inquired.
Gregory painted. Hair like silken floss, small mouth, underlip very full
and pink, upper lip pink but very thin and curled; there were four white
spots on the nail of her right hand forefinger, and her eyebrows were very
"Yes; and a rose-bud tinge in the cheeks; hands like lilies, and perfectly
"That is she! that is she!" cried Gregory.
Who else could it be? He asked where she had gone to. The gentleman most
thoughtfully stroked his beard.
He would try to remember. Were not her ears--. Here such a violent fit of
coughing seized him that he ran away into the house. An ill-fed clerk and
a dirty barman standing in the doorway laughed aloud. Gregory wondered if
they could be laughing at the gentleman's cough, and then he heard some one
laughing in the room into which the gentleman had gone. He must follow him
and try to learn more; but he soon found that there was nothing more to be
learnt there. Poor Gregory!
Backward and forward, backward and forward, from the dirty little hotel
where he had dropped the thread, to this farm and to that, rode Gregory,
till his heart was sick and tired. That from that spot the wagon might
have gone its own way and the spider another was an idea that did not occur
to him. At last he saw it was no use lingering in that neighbourhood, and
One day coming to a little town, his horses knocked up, and he resolved to
rest them there. The little hotel of the town was a bright and sunny
place, like the jovial face of the clean little woman who kept it, and who
trotted about talking always--talking to the customers in the taproom, and
to the maids in the kitchen, and to the passers-by when she could hail them
from the windows; talking, as good-natured women with large mouths and
small noses always do, in season and out.
There was a little front parlour in the hotel, kept for strangers who
wanted to be alone. Gregory sat there to eat his breakfast, and the
landlady dusted the room and talked of the great finds at the Diamond
Fields, and the badness of maid-servants, and the shameful conduct of the
Dutch parson in that town to the English inhabitants. Gregory ate his
breakfast and listened to nothing. He had asked his one question, and had
had his answer; now she might talk on.
Presently a door in the corner opened and a woman came out--a Mozambiquer,
with a red handkerchief twisted round her head. She carried in her hand a
tray, with a slice of toast crumbled fine, and a half-filled cup of coffee,
and an egg broken open, but not eaten. Her ebony face grinned complacently
as she shut the door softly and said, "Good morning."
The landlady began to talk to her.
"You are not going to leave her really, Ayah, are you?" she said. "The
maids say so; but I'm sure you wouldn't do such a thing."
The Mozambiquer grinned.
"Husband says I must go home."
"But she hasn't got any one else, and won't have any one else. Come, now,"
said the landlady, "I've no time to be sitting always in a sickroom, not if
I was paid anything for it."
The Mozambiquer only showed her white teeth good-naturedly for answer, and
went out, and the landlady followed her.
Gregory, glad to be alone, watched the sunshine as it came over the
fuchsias in the window, and ran up and down on the panelled door in the
corner. The Mozambiquer had closed it loosely behind her, and presently
something touched it inside. It moved a little, then it was still, then
moved again; then through the gap a small nose appeared, and a yellow ear
overlapping one eye; then the whole head obtruded, placed itself critically
on one side, wrinkled its nose disapprovingly at Gregory, and withdrew.
Through the half-open door came a faint scent of vinegar, and the room was
dark and still.
Presently the landlady came back.
"Left the door open," she said, bustling to shut it; "but a darky will be a
darky, and never carries a head on its shoulders like other folks. Not
ill, I hope sir?" she said, looking at Gregory when she had shut the
"No," said Gregory, "no."
The landlady began putting the things together.
"Who," asked Gregory, "is in that room?"
Glad to have a little innocent piece of gossip to relate, and some one
willing to hear it, the landlady made the most of a little story as she
cleared the table. Six months before a lady had come alone to the hotel in
a wagon, with only a coloured leader and driver. Eight days after a little
baby had been born.
If Gregory stood up and looked out at the window he would see a bluegum-
tree in the graveyard; close by it was a little grave. The baby was buried
there. A tiny thing--only lived two hours, and the mother herself almost
went with it. After a while she was better; but one day she got up out of
bed, dressed herself without saying a word to any one, and went out. It
was a drizzly day; a little time after some one saw her sitting on the wet
ground under the bluegum-tree, with the rain dripping from her hat and
shawl. They went to fetch her, but she would not come until she chose.
When she did, she had gone to bed and had not risen again from it; never
would, the doctor said.
She was very patient, poor thing. When you went in to ask her how she was
she said always "Better," or "Nearly well!" and lay still in the darkened
room, and never troubled any one. The Mozambiquer took care of her, and
she would not allow any one else to touch her; would not so much as allow
any one else to see her foot uncovered. She was strange in many ways, but
she paid well, poor thing; and now the Mozambiquer was going, and she would
have to take up with some one else.
The landlady prattled on pleasantly, and now carried away the tray with the
breakfast things. When she was gone Gregory leaned his head on his hands,
but he did not think long.
Before dinner he had ridden out of the town to where on a rise a number of
transport-wagons were outspanned. The Dutchman driver of one wondered at
the stranger's eagerness to free himself of his horses. Stolen perhaps;
but it was worth his while to buy them at so low a price. So the horses
changed masters, and Gregory walked off with his saddlebags slung across
his arm. Once out of sight of the wagons he struck out of the road and
walked across the veld, the dry, flowering grasses waving everywhere about
him; half-way across the plain he came to a deep gully which the rain
torrents had washed out, but which was now dry. Gregory sprung down into
its red bed. It was a safe place, and quiet. When he had looked about him
he sat down under the shade of an overhanging bank and fanned himself with
his hat, for the afternoon was hot, and he had walked fast. At his feet
the dusty ants ran about, and the high red bank before him was covered by a
network of roots and fibres washed bare by the rains. Above his head rose
the clear blue African sky; at his side were the saddlebags full of women's
clothing. Gregory looked up half plaintively into the blue sky.
"Am I, am I Gregory Nazianzen Rose?" he said.
It was also strange, he sitting there in that sloot in that up-country
plain!--strange as the fantastic, changing shapes in a summer cloud. At
last, tired out, he fell asleep, with his head against the bank. When he
woke the shadow had stretched across the sloot, and the sun was on the edge
of the plain. Now he must be up and doing. He drew from his breast pocket
a little sixpenny looking-glass, and hung it on one of the roots that stuck
out from the bank. Then he dressed himself in one of the old-fashioned
gowns and a great pinked-out collar. Then he took out a razor. Tuft by
tuft the soft brown beard fell down into the sand, and the little ants took
it to line their nests with. Then the glass showed a face surrounded by a
frilled cap, white as a woman's, with a little mouth, a very short upper
lip, and a receding chin.
Presently a rather tall woman's figure was making its way across the veld.
As it passed a hollowed-out antheap it knelt down, and stuffed in the
saddlebags with the man's clothing, closing up the anthill with bits of
ground to look as natural as possible. Like a sinner hiding his deed of
sin, the hider started once and looked round, but yet there was no one near
save a meerkat, who had lifted herself out of her hole and sat on her hind
legs watching. He did not like that even she should see, and when he rose
she dived away into her hole. Then he walked on leisurely, that the dusk
might have reached the village streets before he walked there. The first
house was the smith's, and before the open door two idle urchins lolled.
As he hurried up the street in the gathering gloom he heard them laugh long
and loudly behind him. He glanced round fearingly, and would almost have
fled, but that the strange skirts clung about his legs. And after all it
was only a spark that had alighted on the head of one, and not the strange
figure they laughed at.
The door of the hotel stood wide open, and the light fell out into the
street. He knocked, and the landlady came. She peered out to look for the
cart that had brought the traveller; but Gregory's heart was brave now he
was so near the quiet room. He told her he had come with the transport
wagons that stood outside the town.
He had walked in, and wanted lodgings for the night.
It was a deliberate lie, glibly told; he would have told fifty, though the
recording angel had stood in the next room with his pen dipped in the ink.
What was it to him? He remembered that she lay there saying always: "I am
The landlady put his supper in the little parlour where he had sat in the
morning. When it was on the table she sat down in the rocking-chair, as
her fashion was to knit and talk, that she might gather news for her
customers in the taproom. In the white face under the queer, deep-fringed
cap she saw nothing of the morning's traveller. The newcomer was
communicative. She was a nurse by profession, she said; had come to the
Transvaal, hearing that good nurses were needed there. She had not yet
found work. The landlady did not perhaps know whether there would be any
for her in that town?
The landlady put down her knitting and smote her fat hands together.
If it wasn't the very finger of God's providence, as though you saw it
hanging out of the sky, she said. Here was a lady ill and needing a new
nurse that very day, and not able to get one to her mind, and now--well, if
it wasn't enough to convert all the Atheists and Freethinkers in the
Transvaal, she didn't know!
Then the landlady proceeded to detail facts.
"I'm sure you will suit her," she added; "you're just the kind. She has
heaps of money to pay you with; has everything that money can buy. And I
got a letter with a check in it for fifty pounds the other day from some
one, who says I'm to spend it for her, and not to let her know. She is
asleep now, but I'll take you in to look at her."
The landlady opened the door of the next room, and Gregory followed her. A
table stood near the bed, and a lamp burning low stood on it; the bed was a
great four-poster with white curtains, and the quilt was of rich crimson
satin. But Gregory stood just inside the door with his head bent low, and
saw no further.
"Come nearer! I'll turn the lamp up a bit, that you can have a look at
her. A pretty thing, isn't it?" said the landlady.
Near the foot of the bed was a dent in the crimson quilt, and out of it
Doss' small head and bright eyes looked knowingly.
Then Gregory looked up at what lay on the cushion. A little white, white
face, transparent as an angel's with a cloth bound round the forehead, and
with soft hair tossed about on the pillow.
"We had to cut it off," said the woman, touching it with her forefinger.
"Soft as silk, like a wax doll's."
But Gregory's heart was bleeding.
"Never get up again, the doctor says," said the landlady.
Gregory uttered one word. In an instant the beautiful eyes opened widely,
looked round the room and into the dark corners.
"Who is here? Whom did I hear speak?"
Gregory had sunk back behind the curtain; the landlady drew it aside, and
pulled him forward.
"Only this lady, ma'am--a nurse by profession. She is willing to stay and
take care of you, if you can come to terms with her."
Lyndall raised herself on her elbow, and cast one keen scrutinizing glance
"Have I never seen you before?" she asked.
She fell back wearily.
"Perhaps you would like to arrange the terms between yourselves," said the
landlady. "Here is a chair. I will be back presently."
Gregory sat down, with bent head and quick breath. She did not speak, and
lay with half-closed eyes, seeming to have forgotten him.
"Will you turn the lamp down a little?" she said at last; "I cannot bear
Then his heart grew braver in the shadow, and he spoke. Nursing was to
him, he said, his chosen life's work. He wanted no money if-- She stopped
"I take no service for which I do not pay," she said. "What I gave to my
last nurse I will give to you; if you do not like it you may go."
And Gregory muttered humbly, he would take it.
Afterward she tried to turn herself. He lifted her! Ah! a shrunken little
body, he could feel its weakness as he touched it. His hands were to him
glorified for what they had done.
"Thank you! that is so nice. Other people hurt me when they touch me," she
said. "Thank you!" Then after a little while she repeated humbly, "Thank
you; they hurt me so."
Gregory sat down trembling. His little ewe-lamb, could they hurt her?
The doctor said of Gregory four days after, "She is the most experienced
nurse I ever came in contact with."
Gregory, standing in the passage, heard it and laughed in his heart. What
need had he of experience? Experience teaches us in a millennium what
passion teaches us in an hour. A Kaffer studies all his life the
discerning of distant sounds; but he will never hear my step, when my love
hears it, coming to her window in the dark over the short grass.
At first Gregory's heart was sore when day by day the body grew lighter,
and the mouth he fed took less; but afterward he grew accustomed to it, and
was happy. For passion has one cry, one only--"Oh, to touch thee,
In that quiet room Lyndall lay on the bed with the dog at her feet, and
Gregory sat in his dark corner watching.
She seldom slept, and through those long, long days she would lie watching
the round streak of sunlight that came through the knot in the shutter, or
the massive lion's paw on which the wardrobe rested. What thoughts were in
those eyes? Gregory wondered; he dared not ask.
Sometimes Doss where he lay on her feet would dream that they two were in
the cart, tearing over the veld, with the black horses snorting, and the
wind in their faces; and he would start up in his sleep and bark aloud.
Then awaking, he would lick his mistress' hand almost remorsefully, and
slink quietly down into his place.
Gregory thought she had no pain, she never groaned; only sometimes, when
the light was near her, he thought he could see contractions about her lips
He slept on the sofa outside her door.
One night he thought he heard a sound, and, opening it softly, he looked
in. She was crying out aloud, as if she and her pain were alone in the
world. The light fell on the red quilt, and the little hands that were
clasped over the head. The wide-open eyes were looking up, and the heavy
drops fell slowly from them.
"I cannot bear any more, not any more," she said in a deep voice. "Oh,
God, God! have I not borne in silence? Have I not endured these long, long
months? But now, now, oh, God, I cannot!"
Gregory knelt in the doorway listening.
"I do not ask for wisdom, not human love, not work, not knowledge, not for
all things I have longed for," she cried; "only a little freedom from pain!
Only one little hour without pain! Then I will suffer again."
She sat up, and bit the little hand Gregory loved.
He crept away to the front door, and stood looking out at the quiet
starlight. When he came back she was lying in her usual posture, the quiet
eyes looking at the lion's claw. He came close to the bed.
"You have much pain tonight?" he asked her.
"No, not much."
"Can I do anything for you?"
She still drew her lips together, and motioned with her fingers toward the
dog who lay sleeping at her feet. Gregory lifted him and laid him at her