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A Simpleton by Charles Reade

Part 7 out of 9

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Dick Dale looked at his sister. She said, "We had rather lend them
you to go home with, sir, if you must leave us; but, dear heart, I
was half in hopes--Dick and I were talking it over only yesterday--
that you would go partners like with us; ever since you saved the
dam."

"I have too little to offer for that, Mrs. Falcon; and, besides, I
am driven into a corner. I must make money quickly, or not at all:
the diamonds are only three hundred miles off: for heaven's sake,
let me try my luck."

They tried to dissuade him, and told him not one in fifty did any
good at it.

"Ay, but I shall," said he. "Great bad luck is followed by great
good luck, and I feel my turn is come. Not that I rely on luck.
An accident directed my attention to the diamond a few years ago,
and I read a number of prime works upon the subject that told me of
things not known to the miners. It is clear, from the Cape
journals, that they are looking for diamonds in the river only.
Now, I am sure that is a mistake. Diamonds, like gold, have their
matrix, and it is comparatively few gems that get washed into the
river. I am confident that I shall find the volcanic matrix, and
perhaps make my fortune in a week or two."

When the dialogue took this turn, Reginald Falcon's cheek began to
flush, and his eyes to glitter.

Christopher continued: "You who have befriended me so will not turn
back, I am sure, when I have such a chance before me; and as for
the small sum of money I shall require, I will repay you some day,
even if"--

"La, sir, don't talk so. If you put it that way, why, the best
horse we have, and fifty pounds in good English gold, they are at
your service to-morrow."

"And pick and spade to boot," said Dick, "and a double rifle, for
there are lions, and Lord knows what, between this and the Vaal
river."

"God bless you both!" said Christopher. "I will start to-morrow."

"And I'll go with you," said Reginald Falcon.

CHAPTER XX.

"Heaven forbid!" said Phoebe. "No, my dear, no more diamonds for
us. We never had but one, and it brought us trouble."

"Nonsense, Phoebe," replied Falcon; "it was not the diamond's
fault. You know I have often wanted to go there, but you objected.
You said you were afraid some evil would befall me. But now
Solomon himself is going to the mines, let us have no more of that
nonsense. We will take our rifles and our pistols."

"There--there--rifles and pistols," cried Phoebe; "that shows."

"And we will be there in a week; stay a month, and home with our
pockets full of diamonds."

"And find me dead of a broken heart."

"Broken fiddlestick! We have been parted longer than that, and yet
here we are all right."

"Ay, but the pitcher that goes too often to the well gets broke at
last. No, Reginald, now I have tasted three years' happiness and
peace of mind, I cannot go through what I used in England. Oh,
doctor! have you the heart to part man and wife, that have never
been a day from each other all these years?"

"Mrs. Falcon, I would not do it for all the diamonds in Brazil.
No, Mr. Falcon, I need hardly say how charmed I should be to have
your company: but that is a pleasure I shall certainly deny myself,
after what your good wife has said. I owe her too much to cause
her a single pang."

"Doctor," said the charming Reginald, "you are a gentleman and side
with the lady. Quite right. It adds to my esteem, if possible.
Make your mind easy; I will go alone. I am not a farmer. I am
dead sick of this monotonous life; and, since I am compelled to
speak my mind, a little ashamed, as a gentleman, of living on my
wife and her brother, and doing nothing for myself. So I shall go
to the Vaal river, and see a little life; here there's nothing but
vegetation--and not much of that. Not a word more, Phoebe, if you
please. I am a good, easy, affectionate husband, but I am a man,
and not a child to be tied to a woman's apron-strings, however much
I may love and respect her."

Dick put in his word: "Since you are so independent, you can WALK
to the Vaal river. I can't spare a couple of horses."

This hit the sybarite hard, and he cast a bitter glance of hatred
at his brother-in-law, and fell into a moody silence.

But when he got Phoebe to himself, he descanted on her selfishness,
Dick's rudeness, and his own wounded dignity, till he made her
quite anxious he should have his own way. She came to Staines,
with red eyes, and said, "Tell me, doctor, will there be any women
up there--to take care of you?"

"Not a petticoat in the place, I believe. It is a very rough life;
and how Falcon could think of leaving you and sweet little Tommy,
and this life of health, and peace, and comfort--"

"Yet YOU do leave us, sir."

"I am the most unfortunate man upon the earth; Falcon is one of the
happiest. Would I leave wife and child to go there? Ah me! I am
dead to those I love. This is my one chance of seeing my darling
again for many a long year perhaps. Oh, I must not speak of HER--
it unmans me. My good, kind friend, I'll tell you what to do.
When we are all at supper, let a horse be saddled and left in the
yard for me. I'll bid you all good-night, and I'll put fifty miles
between us before morning. Even then HE need not be told I am
gone; he will not follow me."

"You are very good, sir," said Phoebe; "but no. Too much has been
said. I can't have him humbled by my brother, nor any one. He
says I am selfish. Perhaps I am; though I never was called so. I
can't bear he should think me selfish. He WILL go, and so let us
have no ill blood about it. Since he is to go, of course I'd much
liever he should go with you than by himself. You are sure there
are no women up there--to take care of--you--both? You must be
purse-bearer, sir, and look to every penny. He is too generous
when he has got money to spend."

In short, Reginald had played so upon her heart, that she now urged
the joint expedition, only she asked a delay of a day or two to
equip them, and steel herself to the separation.

Staines did not share those vague fears that overpowered the wife,
whose bitter experiences were unknown to him; but he felt
uncomfortable at her condition--for now she was often in tears--and
he said all he could to comfort her; and he also advised her how to
profit by these terrible diamonds, in her way. He pointed out to
her that her farm lay right in the road to the diamonds, yet the
traffic all shunned her, passing twenty miles to the westward.
Said he, "You should profit by all your resources. You have wood,
a great rarity in Africa; order a portable forge; run up a building
where miners can sleep, another where they can feed; the grain you
have so wisely refused to sell, grind it into flour."

"Dear heart! why, there's neither wind nor water to turn a mill."

"But there are oxen. I'll show you how to make an ox-mill. Send
your Cape cart into Cape Town for iron lathes, for coffee and tea,
and groceries by the hundredweight. The moment you are ready--for
success depends on the order in which we act--then prepare great
boards, and plant them twenty miles south. Write or paint on them,
very large, 'The nearest way to the Diamond Mines, through Dale's
Kloof, where is excellent accommodation for man and beast. Tea,
coffee, home-made bread, fresh butter, etc., etc.' Do this, and
you will soon leave off decrying diamonds. This is the sure way to
coin them. I myself take the doubtful way; but I can't help it. I
am a dead man, and swift good fortune will give me life. You can
afford to go the slower road and the surer."

Then he drew her a model of an ox-mill, and of a miner's dormitory,
the partitions six feet six apart, so that these very partitions
formed the bedstead, the bed-sacking being hooked to the uprights.
He drew his model for twenty bedrooms.

The portable forge and the ox-mill pleased Dick Dale most, but the
partitioned bedsteads charmed Phoebe. She said," Oh, doctor, how
can one man's head hold so many things? If there's a man on earth
I can trust my husband with, 'tis you. But if things go cross up
there, promise me you will come back at once and cast in your lot
with us. We have got money and stock, and you have got headpiece;
we might do very well together. Indeed, indeed we might. Promise
me. Oh, do, please, promise me!"

"I promise you."

And on this understanding, Staines and Falcon were equipped with
rifles, pickaxe, shovels, waterproofs, and full saddle-bags, and
started, with many shakings of the hand, and many tears from
Phoebe, for the diamond washings.

CHAPTER XXI.

Phoebe's tears at parting made Staines feel uncomfortable, and he
said so.

"Pooh, pooh!" said Falcon, "crying for nothing does a woman good."

Christopher stared at him.

Falcon's spirits rose as they proceeded. He was like a boy let
loose from school. His fluency and charm of manner served,
however, to cheer a singularly dreary journey.

The travellers soon entered on a vast and forbidding region, that
wearied the eye; at their feet a dull, rusty carpet of dried grass
and wild camomile, with pale-red sand peeping through the burnt and
scanty herbage. On the low mounds, that looked like heaps of
sifted ashes, struggled now and then into sickliness a ragged,
twisted shrub. There were flowers too, but so sparse, that they
sparkled vainly in the colorless waste, which stretched to the
horizon. The farmhouses were twenty miles apart, and nine out of
ten of them were new ones built by the Boers since they degenerated
into white savages: mere huts, with domed kitchens behind them. In
the dwelling-house the whole family pigged together, with raw flesh
drying on the rafters, stinking skins in a corner, parasitical
vermin of all sorts blackening the floor, and particularly a small,
biting, and odoriferous tortoise, compared with which the insect a
London washerwoman brings into your house in her basket, is a
stroke with a feather--and all this without the excuse of penury;
for many of these were shepherd kings, sheared four thousand
fleeces a year, and owned a hundred horses and horned cattle.

These Boers are compelled, by unwritten law, to receive travellers
and water their cattle; but our travellers, after one or two
experiences, ceased to trouble them; for, added to the dirt, the
men were sullen, the women moody, silent, brainless; the whole
reception churlish. Staines detected in them an uneasy
consciousness that they had descended, in more ways than one, from
a civilized race; and the superior bearing of a European seemed to
remind them what they had been, and might have been, and were not;
so, after an attempt or two, our adventurers avoided the Boers, and
tried the Kafirs. They found the savages socially superior, though
their moral character does not rank high.

The Kafir cabins they entered were caves, lighted only by the door,
but deliciously cool, and quite clean; the floors of puddled clay
or ants' nests, and very clean. On entering these cool retreats,
the flies that had tormented them shirked the cool grot, and buzzed
off to the nearest farm to batten on congenial foulness. On the
fat, round, glossy babies, not a speck of dirt, whereas the little
Boers were cakes thereof. The Kafir would meet them at the door,
his clean black face all smiles and welcome. The women and grown
girls would fling a spotless handkerchief over their shoulders in a
moment, and display their snowy teeth, in unaffected joy at sight
of an Englishman.

At one of these huts, one evening, they met with something St. Paul
ranks above cleanliness even, viz., Christianity. A neighboring
lion had just eaten a Hottentot faute de mieux; and these good
Kafirs wanted the Europeans not to go on at night and be eaten for
dessert. But they could not speak a word of English, and
pantomimic expression exists in theory alone. In vain the women
held our travellers by the coat-tails, and pointed to a distant
wood. In vain Kafir pere went on all-fours and growled sore. But
at last a savage youth ran to the kitchen--for they never cook in
the house--and came back with a brand, and sketched, on the wall of
the hut, a lion with a mane down to the ground, and a saucer eye,
not loving. The creature's paw rested on a hat and coat and
another fragment or two of a European. The rest was fore-
shortened, or else eaten.

The picture completed, the females looked, approved, and raised a
dismal howl.

"A lion on the road," said Christopher gravely.

Then the undaunted Falcon seized the charcoal, and drew an
Englishman in a theatrical attitude, left foot well forward, firing
a gun, and a lion rolling head over heels like a buck rabbit, and
blood squirting out of a hole in his perforated carcass.

The savages saw, and exulted. They were so off their guard as to
confound representation with fact; they danced round the white
warrior, and launched him to victory.

"Aha!" said Falcon, "I took the shine out of their lion, didn't I?"

"You did: and once there was a sculptor who showed a lion his
marble group, a man trampling a lion, extracting his tongue, and so
on; but report says it DID NOT CONVINCE THE LION."

"Why, no; a lion is not an ass. But, for your comfort, there ARE
no lions in this part of the world. They are myths. There were
lions in Africa. But now they are all at the Zoo. And I wish I
was there too."

"In what character--of a discontented animal--with every blessing?
They would not take you in; too common in England. Hallo! this is
something new. What lots of bushes! We should not have much
chance with a lion here."

"There ARE no lions: it is not the Zoo," said Falcon; but he
spurred on faster.

The country, however, did not change its feature; bushes and little
acacias prevailed, and presently dark forms began to glide across
at intervals.

The travellers held their breath, and pushed on; but at last their
horses flagged; so they thought it best to stop and light a fire
and stand upon their guard.

They did so, and Falcon sat with his rifle cocked, while Staines
boiled coffee, and they drank it, and after two hours' halt, pushed
on; and at last the bushes got more scattered, and they were on the
dreary plain again. Falcon drew the rein, with a sigh of relief,
and they walked their horses side by side.

"Well, what has become of the lions?" said Falcon jauntily. He
turned in his saddle, and saw a large animal stealing behind them
with its belly to the very earth, and eyes hot coals; he uttered an
eldrich screech, fired both barrels, with no more aim than a baby,
and spurred away, yelling like a demon. The animal fled another
way, in equal trepidation at those tongues of flame and loud
reports, and Christopher's horse reared and plunged, and deposited
him promptly on the sward; but he held the bridle, mounted again,
and rode after his companion. A stern chase is a long chase; and
for that or some other reason he could never catch him again till
sunrise. Being caught, he ignored the lioness, with cool hauteur:
he said he had ridden on to find comfortable quarters: and craved
thanks.

This was literally the only incident worth recording that the
companions met with in three hundred miles.

On the sixth day out, towards afternoon, they found by inquiring
they were near the diamond washings, and the short route was
pointed out by an exceptionally civil Boer.

But Christopher's eye had lighted upon a sort of chain of knolls,
or little round hills, devoid of vegetation, and he told Falcon he
would like to inspect these, before going farther.

"Oh," said the Boer, "they are not on my farm, thank goodness! they
are on my cousin Bulteel's;" and he pointed to a large white house
about four miles distant, and quite off the road. Nevertheless,
Staines insisted on going to it. But first they made up to one of
these knolls, and examined it; it was about thirty feet high, and
not a vestige of herbage on it; the surface was composed of sand
and of lumps of gray limestone very hard, diversified with lots of
quartz, mica, and other old formations.

Staines got to the top of it with some difficulty, and examined the
surface all over. He came down again, and said, "All these little
hills mark hot volcanic action--why, they are like boiling earth-
bubbles--which is the very thing, under certain conditions, to turn
carbonate of lime into diamonds. Now here is plenty of limestone
unnaturally hard; and being in a diamond country, I can fancy no
place more likely to be the matrix than these earth-bubbles. Let
us tether the horses, and use our shovels."

They did so; and found one or two common crystals, and some jasper,
and a piece of chalcedony all in little bubbles, but no diamond.
Falcon said it was wasting time.

Just then the proprietor, a gigantic, pasty colonist, came up, with
his pipe, and stood calmly looking on. Staines came down, and made
a sort of apology. Bulteel smiled quietly, and asked what harm
they could do him, raking that rubbish. "Rake it all avay, mine
vriends," said he: "ve shall thank you moch."

He then invited them languidly to his house. They went with him,
and as he volunteered no more remarks, they questioned him, and
learned his father had been a Hollander, and so had his vrow's.
This accounted for the size and comparative cleanliness of his
place. It was stuccoed with the lime of the country outside, and
was four times as large as the miserable farmhouses of the
degenerate Boers. For all this, the street door opened on the
principal room, and that room was kitchen and parlor, only very
large and wholesome. "But, Lord," as poor dear Pepys used to blurt
out--"to see how some folk understand cleanliness!" The floor was
made of powdered ants' nests, and smeared with fresh cow-dung every
day. Yet these people were the cleanest Boers in the colony.

The vrow met them, with a snow-white collar and cuffs of Hamburgh
linen, and the brats had pasty faces round as pumpkins, but shone
with soap. The vrow was also pasty-faced, but gentle, and welcomed
them with a smile, languid, but unequivocal.

The Hottentots took their horses, as a matter of course. Their
guns were put in a corner. A clean cloth was spread, and they saw
they were to sup and sleep there, though the words of invitation
were never spoken.

At supper, sun-dried flesh, cabbage, and a savory dish the
travellers returned to with gusto. Staines asked what it was: the
vrow told him--locusts. They had stripped her garden, and filled
her very rooms, and fallen in heaps under her walls; so she had
pressed them, by the million, into cakes, had salted them lightly,
and stored them, and they were excellent, baked.

After supper, the accomplished Reginald, observing a wire guitar,
tuned it with some difficulty, and so twanged it, and sang ditties
to it, that the flabby giant's pasty face wore a look of dreamy
content over his everlasting pipe; and in the morning, after a
silent breakfast, he said, "Mine vriends, stay here a year or two,
and rake in mine rubbish. Ven you are tired, here are springbok
and antelopes, and you can shoot mit your rifles, and ve vil cook
them, and you shall zing us zongs of Vaderland."

They thanked him heartily, and said they would stay a few days, at
all events.

The placid Boer went a-farming; and the pair shouldered their pick
and shovel, and worked on their heap all day, and found a number of
pretty stones, but no diamond.

"Come," said Falcon, "we must go to the river;" and Staines
acquiesced. "I bow to experience," said he.

At the threshold they found two of the little Bulteels, playing
with pieces of quartz, crystal, etc., on the door-stone. One of
these stones caught Staines's eye directly. It sparkled in a
different way from the others: he examined it: it was the size of a
white haricot bean, and one side of it polished by friction. He
looked at it, and looked, and saw that it refracted the light. He
felt convinced it was a diamond.

"Give the boy a penny for it," said the ingenious Falcon, on
receiving the information.

"Oh!" said Staines. "Take advantage of a child?"

He borrowed it of the boy, and laid it on the table, after supper.
"Sir," said he, "this is what we were raking in your kopjes for,
and could not find it. It belongs to little Hans. Will you sell
it us? We are not experts, but we think it may be a diamond. We
will risk ten pounds on it."

"Ten pounds!" said the farmer. "Nay, we rob not travellers, mine
vriend."

"But if it is a diamond, it is worth a hundred. See how it gains
fire in the dusk."

In short, they forced the ten pounds on him, and next day went to
work on another kopje.

But the simple farmer's conscience smote him. It was a slack time;
so he sent four Hotteatots, with shovels, to help these friendly
maniacs. These worked away gayly, and the white men set up a
sorting table, and sorted the stuff, and hammered the nodules, and
at last found a little stone as big as a pea that refracted the
light. Staines showed this to the Hottentots, and their quick eyes
discovered two more that day, only smaller.

Next day, nothing but a splinter or two.

Then Staines determined to dig deeper, contrary to the general
impression. He gave his reason: "Diamonds don't fall from the sky.
They work up from the ground; and clearly the heat must be greater
farther down."

Acting on this, they tried the next strata, but found it entirely
barren. After that, however, they came to a fresh layer of
carbonate, and here, Falcon hammering a large lump of conglomerate,
out leaped, all of a sudden, a diamond big as a nut, that ran along
the earth, gleaming like a star. It had polished angles and
natural facets, and even a novice, with an eye in his head, could
see it was a diamond of the purest water. Staines and Falcon
shouted with delight, and made the blacks a present on the spot.

They showed the prize, at night, and begged the farmer to take to
digging. There was ten times more money beneath his soil than on
it.

Not he. He was a farmer: did not believe in diamonds. Two days
afterwards, another great find. Seven small diamonds.

Next day, a stone as large as a cob-nut, and with strange and
beautiful streaks. They carried it home to dinner, and set it on
the table, and told the family it was worth a thousand pounds.
Bulteel scarcely looked at it; but the vrow trembled and all the
young folk glowered at it.

In the middle of dinner, it exploded like a cracker, and went
literally into diamond-dust.

"Dere goes von tousand pounds," said Bulteel, without moving a
muscle.

Falcon swore. But Staines showed fortitude. "It was laminated,"
said he, "and exposure to the air was fatal."

Owing to the invaluable assistance of the Hottentots, they had in
less than a month collected four large stones of pure water, and a
wineglassful of small stones, when, one fine day, going to work
calmly after breakfast, they found some tents pitched, and at least
a score of dirty diggers, bearded like the pard, at work on the
ground. Staines sent Falcon back to tell Bulteel, and suggest that
he should at once order them off, or, better still, make terms with
them. The phlegmatic Boer did neither.

In twenty-four hours it was too late. The place was rushed. In
other words, diggers swarmed to the spot, with no idea of law but
digger's law.

A thousand tents rose like mushrooms; and poor Bulteel stood
smoking, and staring amazed, at his own door, and saw a veritable
procession of wagons, Cape carts, and powdered travellers file past
him to take possession of his hillocks. Him, the proprietor, they
simply ignored; they had a committee who were to deal with all
obstructions, landlords and tenants included. They themselves
measured out Bulteel's farm into thirty-foot claims, and went to
work with shovel and pick. They held Staines's claim sacred--that
was diggers' law; but they confined it strictly to thirty feet
square.

Had the friends resisted, their brains would have been knocked out.
However, they gained this, that dealers poured in, and the market
not being yet glutted, the price was good. Staines sold a few of
the small stones for two hundred pounds. He showed one of the
larger stones. The dealer's eye glittered, but he offered only
three hundred pounds, and this was so wide of the ascending scale,
on which a stone of that importance is priced, that Staines
reserved it for sale at Cape Town.

Nevertheless, he afterwards doubted whether he had not better have
taken it; for the multitude of diggers turned out such a prodigious
number of diamonds at Bulteel's pan, that a sort of panic fell on
the market.

These dry diggings were a revelation to the world. Men began to
think the diamond perhaps was a commoner stone than any one had
dreamed it to be.

As to the discovery of stones, Staines and Falcon lost nothing by
being confined to a thirty-foot claim. Compelled to dig deeper,
they got into a rich strata, where they found garnets by the pint,
and some small diamonds, and at last, one lucky day, their largest
diamond. It weighed thirty-seven carats, and was a rich yellow.
Now, when a diamond is clouded or off color, it is terribly
depreciated; but a diamond with a positive color is called a fancy
stone, and ranks with the purest stones.

"I wish I had this in Cape Town," said Staines.

"Why, I'll take it to Cape Town, if you like," said the changeable
Falcon.

"You will?" said Christopher, surprised.

"Why not? I'm not much of a digger. I can serve our interest
better by selling. I could get a thousand pounds for this at Cape
Town."

"We will talk of that quietly," said Christopher.

Now, the fact is, Falcon, as a digger, was not worth a pin. He
could not sort. His eyes would not bear the blinding glare of a
tropical sun upon lime and dazzling bits of mica, quartz, crystal,
white topaz, etc., in the midst of which the true glint of the
royal stone had to be caught in a moment. He could not sort, and
he had not the heart to dig. The only way to make him earn his
half was to turn him into the travelling and selling partner.

Christopher was too generous to tell him this; but he acted on it,
and said he thought his was an excellent proposal; indeed, he had
better take all the diamonds they had got to Dale's Kloof first,
and show them to his wife, for her consolation: "And perhaps," said
he, "in a matter of this importance, she will go to Cape Town with
you, and try the market there."

"All right," said Falcon.

He sat and brooded over the matter a long time, and said, "Why make
two bites of a cherry? They will only give us half the value at
Cape Town; why not go by the steamer to England, before the London
market is glutted, and all the world finds out that diamonds are as
common as dirt?"

"Go to England! What! without your wife? I'll never be a party to
that. Me part man and wife! If you knew my own story"--

"Why, who wants you?" said Reginald. "You don't understand.
Phoebe is dying to visit England again; but she has got no excuse.
If you like to give her one, she will be much obliged to you, I can
tell you."

"Oh, that is a very different matter. If Mrs. Falcon can leave her
farm--"

"Oh, that brute of a brother of hers is a very honest fellow, for
that matter. She can trust the farm to him. Besides, it is only a
month's voyage by the mail steamer."

This suggestion of Falcon's set Christopher's heart bounding, and
his eyes glistening. But he restrained himself, and said, "This
takes me by surprise; let me smoke a pipe over it."

He not only did that, but he lay awake all night.

The fact is that for some time past, Christopher had felt sharp
twinges of conscience, and deep misgivings as to the course he had
pursued in leaving his wife a single day in the dark. Complete
convalescence had cleared his moral sentiments, and perhaps, after
all, the discovery of the diamonds had co-operated; since now the
insurance money was no longer necessary to keep his wife from
starving.

"Ah!" said he; "faith is a great quality; and how I have lacked
it!"

To do him justice, he knew his wife's excitable nature, and was not
without fears of some disaster, should the news be communicated to
her unskilfully.

But this proposal of Falcon's made the way clearer. Mrs. Falcon,
though not a lady, had all a lady's delicacy, and all a woman's
tact and tenderness. He knew no one in the world more fit to be
trusted with the delicate task of breaking to his Rosa that the
grave, for once, was baffled, and her husband lived. He now became
quite anxious for Falcon's departure, and ardently hoped that
worthy had not deceived himself as to Mrs. Falcon's desire to visit
England.

In short, it was settled that Falcon should start for Dale's Kloof,
taking with him the diamonds, believed to be worth altogether three
thousand pounds at Cape Town, and nearly as much again in England,
and a long letter to Mrs. Falcon, in which Staines revealed his
true story, told her where to find his wife, or hear of her, viz.,
at Kent Villa, Gravesend, and sketched an outline of instructions
as to the way, and cunning degrees, by which the joyful news should
be broken to her. With this he sent a long letter to be given to
Rosa herself, but not till she should know all: and in this letter
he enclosed the ruby ring she had given him. That ring had never
left his finger, by sea or land, in sickness or health.

The letter to Rosa was sealed. The two letters made quite a
packet; for, in the letter to his beloved Rosa, he told her
everything that had befallen him. It was a romance, and a picture
of love; a letter to lift a loving woman to heaven, and almost
reconcile her to all her bereaved heart had suffered.

This letter, written with many tears from the heart that had so
suffered, and was now softened by good fortune and bounding with
joy, Staines entrusted to Falcon, together with the other diamonds,
and with many warm shakings of the hand, started him on his way.

"But mind, Falcon," said Christopher, "I shall expect an answer
from Mrs. Falcon in twenty days at farthest. I do not feel so sure
as you do that she wants to go to England; and, if not, I must
write to Uncle Philip. Give me your solemn promise, old fellow, an
answer in twenty days--if you have to send a Kafir on horseback."

"I give you my honor," said Falcon superbly.

"Send it to me at Bulteel's Farm."

"All right. 'Dr. Christie, Bulteel's Farm.'"

"Well--no. Why should I conceal my real name any longer from such
friends as you and your wife? Christie is short for Christopher--
that IS my Christian name; but my surname is Staines. Write to
'Dr. Staines.'"

"Dr. Staines!"

"Yes. Did you ever hear of me?"

Falcon wore a strange look. "I almost think I have. Down at
Gravesend, or somewhere."

"That is curious. Yes, I married my Rosa there; poor thing! God
bless her; God comfort her. She thinks me dead."

His voice trembled, he grasped Falcon's cold hand till the latter
winced again, and so they parted, and Falcon rode off muttering,
"Dr. Staines! so then YOU are Dr. Staines."

CHAPTER XXII.

Rosa Staines had youth on her side, and it is an old saying that
youth will not be denied. Youth struggled with death for her, and
won the battle.

But she came out of that terrible fight weak as a child. The sweet
pale face, the widow's cap, the suit of deep black--it was long ere
these came down from the sickroom. And when they did, oh, the dead
blank! The weary, listless life! The days spent in sighs, and
tears, and desolation. Solitude! solitude! Her husband was gone,
and a strange woman played the mother to her child before her eyes.

Uncle Philip was devotedly kind to her, and so was her father; but
they could do nothing for her.

Months rolled on, and skinned the wound over. Months could not
heal. Her boy became dearer and dearer, and it was from him came
the first real drops of comfort, however feeble.

She used to read her lost one's diary every day, and worship, in
deep sorrow, the mind she had scarcely respected until it was too
late. She searched in his diary to find his will, and often she
mourned that he had written on it so few things she could obey.
Her desire to obey the dead, whom, living, she had often disobeyed,
was really simple and touching. She would mourn to her father that
there were so few commands to her in his diary. "But," said she,
"memory brings me back his will in many things, and to obey is now
the only sad comfort I have."

It was in this spirit she now forced herself to keep accounts. No
fear of her wearing stays now; no powder; no trimmings; no waste.

After the usual delay, her father told her she should instruct a
solicitor to apply to the insurance company for the six thousand
pounds. She refused with a burst of agony. "The price of his
life," she screamed. "Never! I'd live on bread and water sooner
than touch that vile money."

Her father remonstrated gently. But she was immovable. "No. It
would be like consenting to his death."

Then Uncle Philip was sent for.

He set her child on her knee; and gave her a pen. "Come," said he,
sternly, "be a woman, and do your duty to little Christie."

She kissed the boy, cried, and did her duty meekly. But when the
money was brought her, she flew to Uncle Philip, and said, "There!
there!" and threw it all before him, and cried as if her heart
would break. He waited patiently, and asked her what he was to do
with all that: invest it?

"Yes, yes; for my little Christie."

"And pay you the interest quarterly."

"Oh, no, no. Dribble us out a little as we want it. That is the
way to be truly kind to a simpleton. I hate that word."

"And suppose I run off with it? Such confiding geese as you
corrupt a man."

"I shall never corrupt you. Crusty people are the soul of honor."

"Crusty people!" cried Philip, affecting amazement. "What are
they?"

She bit her lip and colored a little; but answered adroitly, "They
are people that pretend not to have good hearts, but have the best
in the world; far better ones than your smooth ones: that's crusty
people."

"Very well," said Philip; "and I'll tell you what simpletons are.
They are little transparent-looking creatures that look shallow,
but are as deep as Old Nick, and make you love them in spite of
your judgment. They are the most artful of their sex; for they
always achieve its great object, to be loved--the very thing that
clever women sometimes fail in."

"Well, and if we are not to be loved, why live at all--such useless
things as I am?" said Rosa simply.

So Philip took charge of her money, and agreed to help her save
money for her little Christopher. Poverty should never destroy
him, as it had his father.

As months rolled on, she crept out into public a little; but always
on foot, and a very little way from home.

Youth and sober life gradually restored her strength, but not her
color, nor her buoyancy.

Yet she was perhaps more beautiful than ever; for a holy sorrow
chastened and sublimed her features: it was now a sweet, angelic,
pensive beauty, that interested every feeling person at a glance.

She would visit no one; but a twelvemonth after her bereavement,
she received a few chosen visitors.

One day a young gentleman called, and sent up his card, "Lord
Tadcaster," with a note from Lady Cicely Treherne, full of kindly
feeling. Uncle Philip had reconciled her to Lady Cicely; but they
had never met.

Mrs. Staines was much agitated at the very name of Lord Tadcaster;
but she would not have missed seeing him for the world.

She received him with her beautiful eyes wide open, to drink in
every lineament of one who had seen the last of her Christopher.

Tadcaster was wonderfully improved: he had grown six inches out at
sea, and though still short, was not diminutive; he was a small
Apollo, a model of symmetry, and had an engaging, girlish beauty,
redeemed from downright effeminacy by a golden mustache like silk,
and a tanned cheek that became him wonderfully.

He seemed dazzled at first by Mrs. Staines, but murmured that Lady
Cicely had told him to come, or he would not have ventured.

"Who can be so welcome to me as you?" said she, and the tears came
thick in her eyes directly.

Soon, he hardly knew how, he found himself talking of Staines, and
telling her what a favorite he was, and all the clever things he
had done.

The tears streamed down her cheeks, but she begged him to go on
telling her, and omit nothing.

He complied heartily, and was even so moved by the telling of his
friend's virtues, and her tears and sobs, that he mingled his tears
with hers. She rewarded him by giving him her hand as she turned
away her tearful face to indulge the fresh burst of grief his
sympathy evoked.

When he was leaving, she said, in her simple way, "Bless you"--
"Come again," she said: "you have done a poor widow good."

Lord Tadcaster was so interested and charmed, he would gladly have
come back next day to see her; but he restrained that extravagance,
and waited a week.

Then he visited her again. He had observed the villa was not rich
in flowers, and he took her down a magnificent bouquet, cut from
his father's hot-houses. At sight of him, or at sight of it, or
both, the color rose for once in her pale cheek, and her pensive
face wore a sweet expression of satisfaction. She took his
flowers, and thanked him for them, and for coming to see her.

Soon they got on the only topic she cared for, and, in the course
of this second conversation, he took her into his confidence, and
told her he owed everything to Dr. Staines. "I was on the wrong
road altogether, and he put me right. To tell you the truth, I
used to disobey him now and then, while he was alive, and I was
always the worse for it; now he is gone, I never disobey him. I
have written down a lot of wise, kind things he said to me, and I
never go against any one of them. I call it my book of oracles.
Dear me, I might have brought it with me."

"Oh, yes! why didn't you?" rather reproachfully.

"I will bring it next time."

"Pray do."

Then she looked at him with her lovely swimming eyes, and said
tenderly, "And so here is another that disobeyed him living, but
obeys him dead. What will you think when I tell you that I, his
wife, who now worship him when it is too late, often thwarted and
vexed him when he was alive?"

"No, no. He told me you were an angel, and I believe it."

"An angel! a good-for-nothing, foolish woman, who sees everything
too late."

"Nobody else should say so before me," said the little gentleman
grandly. "I shall take HIS word before yours on this one subject.
If ever there was an angel, you are one; and oh, what would I give
if I could but say or do anything in the world to comfort you!"

"You can do nothing for ME, dear, but come and see me often, and
talk to me as you do--on the one sad theme my broken heart has room
for."

This invitation delighted Lord Tadcaster, and the sweet word
"dear," from her lovely lips, entered his heart, and ran through
all his veins like some rapturous but dangerous elixir. He did not
say to himself, "She is a widow with a child, feels old with grief,
and looks on me as a boy who has been kind to her." Such prudence
and wariness were hardly to be expected from his age. He had
admired her at first sight, very nearly loved her at their first
interview, and now this sweet word opened a heavenly vista. The
generous heart that beat in his small frame burned to console her
with a life-long devotion and all the sweet offices of love.

He ordered his yacht to Gravesend--for he had become a sailor--and
then he called on Mrs. Staines, and told her, with a sort of
sheepish cunning, that now, as his yacht HAPPENED to be at
Gravesend, he could come and see her very often. He watched her
timidly, to see how she would take that proposition.

She said, with the utmost simplicity, "I'm very glad of it."

Then he produced his oracles; and she devoured them. Such precepts
to Tadcaster as she could apply to her own case she instantly noted
in her memory, and they became her law from that moment.

Then, in her simplicity, she said, "And I will show you some
things, in his own handwriting, that may be good for you; but I
can't show you the whole book: some of it is sacred from every eye
but his wife's. His wife's? Ah me! his widow's."

Then she pointed out passages in the diary that she thought might
be for his good; and he nestled to her side, and followed her white
finger with loving eyes, and was in an elysium--which she would
certainly have put a stop to at that time, had she divined it. But
all wisdom does not come at once to an unguarded woman. Rosa
Staines was wiser about her husband than she had been, but she had
plenty to learn.

Lord Tadcaster anchored off Gravesend, and visited Mrs. Staines
nearly every day. She received him with a pleasure that was not at
all lively, but quite undisguised. He could not doubt his welcome;
for once, when he came, she said to the servant, "Not at home," a
plain proof she did not wish his visit to be cut short by any one
else.

And so these visits and devoted attentions of every kind went on
unobserved by Lord Tadcaster's friends, because Rosa would never go
out, even with him; but at last Mr. Lusignan saw plainly how this
would end, unless he interfered.

Well, he did not interfere; on the contrary, he was careful to
avoid putting his daughter on her guard: he said to himself, "Lord
Tadcaster does her good. I'm afraid she would not marry him, if he
was to ask her now; but in time she might. She likes him a great
deal better than any one else."

As for Philip, he was abroad for his own health, somewhat impaired
by his long and faithful attendance on Rosa.

So now Lord Tadcaster was in constant attendance on Rosa. She was
languid, but gentle and kind; and, as mourners, like invalids, are
apt to be egotistical, she saw nothing but that he was a comfort to
her in her affliction.

While matters were so, the Earl of Miltshire, who had long been
sinking, died, and Tadcaster succeeded to his honors and estates.

Rosa heard of it, and, thinking it was a great bereavement, wrote
him one of those exquisite letters of condolence a lady alone can
write. He took it to Lady Cicely, and showed it her. She highly
approved it.

He said, "The only thing--it makes me ashamed, I do not feel my
poor father's death more; but you know it has been so long
expected." Then he was silent a long time; and then he asked her
if such a woman as that would not make him happy, if he could win
her.

It was on her ladyship's tongue to say, "She did not make her first
happy;" but she forbore, and said coldly, that was maw than she
could say.

Tadcaster seemed disappointed by that, and by and by Cicely took
herself to task. She asked herself what were Tadcaster's chances
in the lottery of wives. The heavy army of scheming mothers, and
the light cavalry of artful daughters, rose before her cousinly and
disinterested eyes, and she asked herself what chance poor little
Tadcaster would have of catching a true love, with a hundred female
artists manoeuvring, wheeling, ambuscading, and charging upon his
wealth and titles. She returned to the subject of her own accord,
and told him she saw but one objection to such a match: the lady
had a son by a man of rare merit and misfortune. Could he, at his
age, undertake to be a father to that son? "Othahwise," said Lady
Cicely, "mark my words, you will quall over that poor child; and
you will have two to quall with, because I shall be on her side."

Tadcaster declared to her that child should be quite the opposite
of a bone of contention. "I have thought of that," said he, "and I
mean to be so kind to that boy, I shall MAKE her love me for that."

On these terms Lady Cicely gave her consent.

Then he asked her should he write, or ask her in person.

Lady Cicely reflected. "If you write, I think she will say no."

"But if I go?"

"Then, it will depend on how you do it. Rosa Staines is a true
mourner. Whatever you may think, I don't believe the idea of a
second union has ever entered her head. But then she is very
unselfish: and she likes you better than any one else, I dare say.
I don't think your title or your money will weigh with her now.
But, if you show her your happiness depends on it, she may,
perhaps, cwy and sob at the very idea of it, and then, after all,
say, 'Well, why not--if I can make the poor soul happy?'"

So, on this advice, Tadcaster went down to Gravesend, and Lady
Cicely felt a certain self-satisfaction; for, her well-meant
interference having lost Rosa one husband, she was pleased to think
she had done something to give her another.

Lord Tadcaster came to Rosa Staines; he found her seated with her
head upon her white hand, thinking sadly of the past.

At sight of him in deep mourning, she started, and said, "Oh!"

Then she said tenderly, "We are of one color now," and gave him her
hand.

He sat down beside her, not knowing how to begin.

"I am not Tadcaster now. I am Earl of Miltshire."

"Ah, yes; I forgot," said she indifferently.

"This is my first visit to any one in that character."

"Thank you."

"It is an awfully important visit to me. I could not feel myself
independent, and able to secure your comfort and little Christie's,
without coming to the lady, the only lady I ever saw, that--oh,
Mrs. Staines--Rosa--who could see you, as I have done--mingle his
tears with yours, as I have done, and not love you, and long to
offer you his love?"

"Love! to me, a broken-hearted woman, with nothing to live for but
his memory and his child."

She looked at him with a sort of scared amazement.

"His child shall be mine. His memory is almost as dear to me as to
you."

"Nonsense, child, nonsense!" said she, almost sternly.

"Was he not my best friend? Should I have the health I enjoy, or
even be alive, but for him? Oh, Mrs. Staines--Rosa, you will not
live all your life unmarried; and who will love you as I do? You
are my first and only love. My happiness depends on you."

"Your happiness depend on me! Heaven forbid--a woman of my age,
that feels so old, old, old."

"You are not old; you are young, and sad, and beautiful, and my
happiness depends on you." She began to tremble a little. Then he
kneeled at her knees, and implored her, and his hot tears fell upon
the hand she put out to stop him, while she turned her head away,
and the tears began to run.

Oh! never can the cold dissecting pen tell what rushes over the
heart that has loved and lost, when another true love first kneels
and implores for love, or pity, or anything the bereaved can give.

CHAPTER XXIII.

When Falcon went, luck seemed to desert their claim: day after day
went by without a find; and the discoveries on every side made this
the more mortifying.

By this time the diggers at Bulteel's pan were as miscellaneous as
the audience at Drury Lane Theatre, only mixed more closely; the
gallery folk and the stalls worked cheek by jowl. Here a gentleman
with an affected lisp, and close by an honest fellow, who could not
deliver a sentence without an oath, or some still more horrible
expletive that meant nothing at all in reality, but served to make
respectable flesh creep: interspersed with these, Hottentots,
Kafirs, and wild blue blacks gayly clad in an ostrich feather, a
scarlet ribbon, and a Tower musket sold them by some good Christian
for a modern rifle.

On one side of Staines were two swells, who lay on their backs and
talked opera half the day, but seldom condescended to work without
finding a diamond of some sort.

After a week's deplorable luck, his Kafir boy struck work on
account of a sore in his leg; the sore was due to a very common
cause, the burning sand had got into a scratch, and festered.
Staines, out of humanity, examined the sore; and proceeding to
clean it, before bandaging, out popped a diamond worth forty
pounds, even in the depreciated market. Staines quietly pocketed
it, and bandaged the leg. This made him suspect his blacks had
been cheating him on a large scale, and he borrowed Hans Bulteel to
watch them, giving him a third, with which Master Hans was mightily
pleased. But they could only find small diamonds, and by this time
prodigious slices of luck were reported on every side. Kafirs and
Boers that would not dig, but traversed large tracts of ground when
the sun was shining, stumbled over diamonds. One Boer pointed to a
wagon and eight oxen, and said that one lucky glance on the sand
had given him that lot: but day after day Staines returned home,
covered with dust, and almost blinded, yet with little or nothing
to show for it.

One evening, complaining of his change of luck, Bulteel quietly
proposed to him migration. "I am going," said he resignedly: "and
you can come with me."

"You leave your farm, sir? Why, they pay you ten shillings a
claim, and that must make a large return; the pan is fifteen
acres."

"Yes, mine vriend," said the poor Hollander, "they pay; but deir
money it cost too dear. Vere is mine peace? Dis farm is six
tousand acres. If de cursed diamonds was farther off, den it vas
vell. But dey are too near. Once I could smoke in peace, and
zleep. Now diamonds is come, and zleep and peace is fled. Dere is
four tousand tents, and to each tent a dawg; dat dawg bark at four
tousand other dawgs all night, and dey bark at him and at each
oder. Den de masters of de dawgs dey get angry, and fire four
tousand pistole at de four tousand dawgs, and make my bed shake wid
the trembling of mine vrow. My vamily is with diamonds infected.
Dey vill not vork. Dey takes long valks, and always looks on de
ground. Mine childre shall be hump-backed, round-shouldered,
looking down for diamonds. Dey shall forget Gott. He is on high:
dere eyes are always on de earth. De diggers found a diamond in
mine plaster of mine wall of mine house. Dat plaster vas
limestone; it come from dose kopjes de good Gott made in His anger
against man for his vickedness. I zay so. Dey not believe me.
Dey tink dem abominable stones grow in mine house, and break out in
mine plaster like de measle: dey vaunt to dig in mine wall, in mine
garden, in mine floor. One day dey shall dig in mine body. I vill
go. Better I love peace dan money. Here is English company make
me offer for mine varm. Dey forgive de diamonds."

"You have not accepted it?" cried Staines in alarm.

"No, but I vill. I have said I shall tink of it. Dat is my vay.
So I say yah."

"An English company? They will cheat you without mercy. No, they
shall not, though, for I will have a hand in the bargain."

He set to work directly, added up the value of the claims, at ten
shillings per month, and amazed the poor Hollander by his statement
of the value of those fifteen acres, capitalized.

And to close this part of the subject, the obnoxious diamonds
obtained him three times as much as his father had given for the
whole six thousand acres.

The company got a great bargain, but Bulteel received what for him
was a large capital, and settling far to the south, this lineal
descendant of le philosophe sans savoir carried his godliness, his
cleanliness, and his love of peace, out of the turmoil, and was
happier than ever, since now he could compare his placid existence
with one year of noise and clamor.

But long before this, events more pertinent to my story had
occurred.

One day, a Hottentot came into Bulteel's farm and went out among
the diggers, till be found Staines. The Hottentot was one employed
at Dale's Kloof, and knew him. He brought Staines a letter.

Staines opened the letter, and another letter fell out; it was
directed to "Reginald Falcon, Esq."

"Why," thought Staines, "what a time this letter must have been on
the road! So much for private messengers."

The letter ran thus:--

DEAR SIR,--This leaves us all well at Dale's Kloof, as I hope it
shall find you and my dear husband at the diggings. Sir, I am
happy to say I have good news for you. When you got well by God's
mercy, I wrote to the doctor at the hospital and told him so. I
wrote unbeknown to you, because I had promised him. Well, sir, he
has written back to say you have two hundred pounds in money, and a
great many valuable things, such as gold and jewels. They are all
at the old bank in Cape Town, and the cashier has seen you, and
will deliver them on demand. So that is the first of my good news,
because it is good news to you. But, dear sir, I think you will be
pleased to hear that Dick and I are thriving wonderfully, thanks to
your good advice. The wooden house it is built, and a great oven.
But, sir, the traffic came almost before we were ready, and the
miners that call here, coming and going, every day, you would not
believe, likewise wagons and carts. It is all bustle, morn till
night, and dear Reginald will never be dull here now; I hope you
will be so kind as tell him so, for I do long to see you both home
again.

Sir, we are making our fortunes. The grain we could not sell at a
fair price, we sell as bread, and higher than in England ever so
much. Tea and coffee the same; and the poor things praise us, too,
for being so moderate. So, sir, Dick bids me say that we owe this
to you, and if so be you are minded to share, why nothing would
please us better. Head-piece is always worth money in these parts;
and if it hurts your pride to be our partner without money, why you
can throw in what you have at the Cape, though we don't ask that.
And, besides, we are offered diamonds a bargain every day, but are
afraid to deal, for want of experience; but if you were in it with
us, you must know them well by this time, and we might turn many a
good pound that way. Dear sir, I hope you will not be offended,
but I think this is the only way we have, Dick and I, to show our
respect and good-will.

Dear sir, digging is hard work, and not fit for you and Reginald,
that are gentlemen, amongst a lot of rough fellows, that their talk
makes my hair stand on end, though I dare say they mean no harm.

Your bedroom is always ready, sir. I never will let it to any of
them, hoping now to see you every day. You that know everything,
can guess how I long to see you both home. My very good fortune
seems not to taste like good fortune, without those I love and
esteem to share it. I shall count how many days this letter will
take to reach you, and then I shall pray for your safety harder
than ever, till the blessed hour comes when I see my husband, and
my good friend, never to part again, I hope, in this world.

I am sir, your dutiful servant and friend,

PHOEBE DALE.

P.S. There is regular travelling to and from Cape Town, and a post
now to Pniel, but I thought it surest to send by one that knows
you.

Staines read this letter with great satisfaction. He remembered
his two hundred pounds, but his gold and jewels puzzled him. Still
it was good news, and pleased him not a little. Phoebe's good
fortune gratified him too, and her offer of a partnership,
especially in the purchase of diamonds from returning diggers. He
saw a large fortune to be made; and wearied and disgusted with
recent ill-luck, blear-eyed and almost blinded with sorting in the
blazing sun, he resolved to go at once to Dale's Kloof. Should
Mrs. Falcon be gone to England with the diamonds, he would stay
there, and Rosa should come out to him, or he would go and fetch
her.

He went home, and washed himself, and told Bulteel he had had good
news, and should leave the diggings at once. He gave him up the
claim, and told him to sell it by auction. It was worth two
hundred pounds still. The good people sympathized with him, and he
started within an hour. He left his pickaxe and shovel, and took
only his double rifle, an admirable one, some ammunition, including
conical bullets and projectile shells given him by Falcon, a bag
full of carbuncles and garnets he had collected for Ucatella, a few
small diamonds, and one hundred pounds,--all that remained to him,
since he had been paying wages and other things for months, and had
given Falcon twenty for his journey.

He rode away and soon put twenty miles between him and the
diggings.

He came to a little store that bought diamonds and sold groceries
and tobacco. He haltered his horse to a hook, and went in. He
offered a small diamond for sale. The master was out, and the
assistant said there was a glut of these small stones, he did not
care to give money for it.

"Well, give me three dozen cigars."

While they were chaffering, in walked a Hottentot, and said, "Will
you buy this?" and laid a clear, glittering stone on the counter,
as large as a walnut.

"Yes," said the young man. "How much?"

"Two hundred pounds."

"Two hundred pounds! Let us look at it;" he examined it, and said
he thought it was a diamond, but these large stones were so
deceitful, he dared not give two hundred pounds. "Come again in an
hour," said he, "then the master will be in."

"No," said the Hottentot quietly, and walked out.

Staines, who had been literally perspiring at the sight of this
stone, mounted his horse and followed the man. When he came up to
him, he asked leave to examine the gem. The Hottentot quietly
assented.

Staines looked at it all over. It had a rough side and a polished
side, and the latter was of amazing softness and lustre. It made
him tremble. He said, "Look here, I have only one hundred pounds
in my pocket."

The Hottentot shook his head.

"But if you will go back with me to Bulteel's farm, I'll borrow the
other hundred."

The Hottentot declined, and told him he could get four hundred
pounds for it by going back to Pniel. "But," said he, "my face is
turned so; and when Squat turn his face so, he going home. Not can
bear go the other way then," and he held out his hand for the
diamond.

Staines gave it him, and was in despair at seeing such a prize so
near, yet leaving him.

He made one more effort. "Well, but," said he, "how far are you
going this way?"

"Ten days."

"Why, so am I. Come with me to Dale's Kloof, and I will give the
other hundred. See, I am in earnest, for here is one hundred, at
all events."

Staines made this proposal, trembling with excitement. To his
surprise and joy, the Hottentot assented, though with an air of
indifference; and on these terms they became fellow-travellers, and
Staines gave him a cigar. They went on side by side, and halted
for the night forty miles from Bulteel's farm.

They slept in a Boer's out-house, and the vrow was civil, and lent
Staines a jackal's skin. In the morning he bought it for a
diamond, a carbuncle, and a score of garnets; for a horrible
thought had occurred to him, if they stopped at any place where
miners were, somebody might buy the great diamond over his head.
This fear, and others, grew on him, and with all his philosophy he
went on thorns, and was the slave of the diamond.

He resolved to keep his Hottentot all to himself if possible. He
shot a springbok that crossed the road, and they roasted a portion
of the animal, and the Hottentot carried some on with him.

Seeing he admired the rifle, Staines offered it him for the odd
hundred pounds; but though Squat's eye glittered a moment, he
declined.

Finding that they met too many diggers and carts, Staines asked his
Hottentot was there no nearer way to reach that star, pointing to
one he knew was just over Dale's Kloof.

Oh, yes, he knew a nearer way, where there were trees, and shade,
and grass, and many beasts to shoot.

"Let us take that way," said Staines.

The Hottentot, ductile as wax, except about the price of the
diamond, assented calmly; and next day they diverged, and got into
forest scenery, and their eyes were soothed with green glades here
and there, wherever the clumps of trees sheltered the grass from
the panting sun. Animals abounded, and were tame. Staines, an
excellent marksman, shot the Hottentot his supper without any
trouble.

Sleeping in the wood, with not a creature near but Squat, a sombre
thought struck Staines. Suppose this Hottentot should assassinate
him for his money, who would ever know? The thought was horrible,
and he awoke with a start ten times that night. The Hottentot
slept like a stone, and never feared for his own life and precious
booty. Staines was compelled to own to himself he had less faith
in human goodness than the savage had. He said to himself, "He is
my superior. He is the master of this dreadful diamond, and I am
its slave."

Next day they went on till noon, and then they halted at a really
delightful spot; a silver kloof ran along a bottom, and there was a
little clump of three acacia-trees that lowered their long tresses,
pining for the stream, and sometimes getting a cool grateful kiss
from it when the water was high.

They halted the horse, bathed in the stream, and lay luxurious
under the acacias. All was delicious languor and enjoyment of
life.

The Hottentot made a fire, and burnt the remains of a little sort
of kangaroo Staines had shot him the evening before; but it did not
suffice his maw, and looking about him, he saw three elands
leisurely feeding about three hundred yards off. They were
cropping the rich herbage close to the shelter of a wood.

The Hottentot suggested that this was an excellent opportunity. He
would borrow Staines's rifle, steal into the wood, crawl on his
belly close up to them, and send a bullet through one.

Staines did not relish the proposal. He had seen the savage's eye
repeatedly gloat on the rifle, and was not without hopes he might
even yet relent, and give the great diamond for the hundred pounds
and this rifle; and he was so demoralized by the diamond, and
filled with suspicion, that he feared the savage, if he once had
the rifle in his possession, might levant, and be seen no more, in
which case he, Staines, still the slave of the diamond, might hang
himself on the nearest tree, and so secure his Rosa the insurance
money, at all events. In short, he had really diamond on the
brain.

He hem'd and haw'd a little at Squat's proposal, and then got out
of it by saying, "That is not necessary. I can shoot it from
here."

"It is too far," objected Blacky.

"Too far! This is an Enfield rifle. I could kill the poor beast
at three times that distance."

Blacky was amazed. "An Enfield rifle," said he, in the soft
musical murmur of his tribe, which is the one charm of the poor
Hottentot; "and shoot three times SO far."

"Yes," said Christopher. Then, seeing his companion's hesitation,
he conceived a hope. "If I kill that eland from here, will you
give me the diamond for my horse and the wonderful rifle?--no
Hottentot has such a rifle."

Squat became cold directly. "The price of the diamond is two
hundred pounds."

Staines groaned with disappointment, and thought to himself with
rage, "Anybody but me would club the rifle, give the obstinate
black brute a stunner, and take the diamond--God forgive me!"

Says the Hottentot cunningly, "I can't think so far as white man.
Let me see the eland dead, and then I shall know how far the rifle
shoot."

"Very well," said Staines. But he felt sure the savage only wanted
his meal, and would never part with the diamond, except for the odd
money.

However, he loaded his left barrel with one of the explosive
projectiles Falcon had given him; it was a little fulminating shell
with a steel point. It was with this barrel he had shot the murcat
overnight, and he had found he shot better with this barrel than
the other. He loaded his left barrel then, saw the powder well up,
capped it and cut away a strip of the acacia with his knife to see
clear, and lying down in volunteer fashion, elbow on ground, drew
his bead steadily on an eland who presented him her broadside, her
back being turned to the wood. The sun shone on her soft coat, and
never was a fairer mark, the sportsman's deadly eye being in the
cool shade, the animal in the sun.

He aimed long and steadily. But just as he was about to pull the
trigger, Mind interposed, and he lowered the deadly weapon. "Poor
creature!" he said, "I am going to take her life--for what? for a
single meal. She is as big as a pony; and I am to lay her carcass
on the plain, that we may eat two pounds of it. This is how the
weasel kills the rabbit; sucks an ounce of blood for his food, and
wastes the rest. So the demoralized sheep-dog tears out the poor
creature's kidneys, and wastes the rest. Man, armed by science
with such powers of slaying, should be less egotistical than
weasels and perverted sheep-dogs. I will not kill her. I will not
lay that beautiful body of hers low, and glaze those tender, loving
eyes that never gleamed with hate or rage at man, and fix those
innocent jaws that never bit the life out of anything, not even of
the grass she feeds on, and does it more good than harm. Feed on,
poor innocent. And you be blanked; you and your diamond, that I
begin to wish I had never seen; for it would corrupt an angel."

Squat understood one word in ten, but he managed to reply. "This
is nonsense-talk," said he, gravely. "The life is no bigger in
that than in the murcat you shot last shoot."

"No more it is," said Staines. "I am a fool. It is come to this,
then; Kafirs teach us theology, and Hottentots morality. I bow to
my intellectual superior. I'll shoot the eland." He raised his
rifle again.

"No, no, no, no, no, no," murmured the Hottentot, in a sweet voice
scarcely audible, yet so keen in its entreaty, that Staines turned
hastily round to look at him. His face was ashy, his teeth
chattering, his limbs shaking. Before Staines could ask him what
was the matter, he pointed through an aperture of the acacias into
the wood hard by the elands. Staines looked, and saw what seemed
to him like a very long dog, or some such animal, crawling from
tree to tree. He did not at all share the terror of his companion,
nor understand it. But a terrible explanation followed. This
creature, having got to the skirt of the wood, expanded, by some
strange magic, to an incredible size, and sprang into the open,
with a growl, a mighty lion; he seemed to ricochet from the ground,
so immense was his second bound, that carried him to the eland, and
he struck her one blow on the head with his terrible paw, and
felled her as if with a thunderbolt: down went her body, with all
the legs doubled, and her poor head turned over, and the nose
kissed the ground. The lion stood motionless. Presently the
eland, who was not dead, but stunned, began to recover and struggle
feebly up. Then the lion sprang on her with a roar, and rolled her
over, and with two tremendous bites and a shake, tore her entrails
out and laid her dying. He sat composedly down, and contemplated
her last convulsions, without touching her again.

At this roar, though not loud, the horse, though he had never heard
or seen a lion, trembled, and pulled at his halter.

Blacky crept into the water; and Staines was struck with such an
awe as he had never felt. Nevertheless, the king of beasts being
at a distance, and occupied, and Staines a brave man, and out of
sight, he kept his ground and watched, and by those means saw a
sight never to be forgotten. The lion rose up, and stood in the
sun incredibly beautiful as well as terrible. He was not the mangy
hue of the caged lion, but a skin tawny, golden, glossy as a race-
horse, and of exquisite tint that shone like pure gold in the sun;
his eye a lustrous jewel of richest hue, and his mane sublime. He
looked towards the wood, and uttered a full roar. This was so
tremendous that the horse shook all over as if in an ague, and
began to lather. Staines recoiled, and his flesh crept, and the
Hottentot went under water, and did not emerge for ever so long.

After a pause, the lion roared again, and all the beasts and birds
of prey seemed to know the meaning of that terrible roar. Till
then the place had been a solitude, but now it began to fill in the
strangest way, as if the lord of the forest could call all his
subjects together with a trumpet roar: first came two lion cubs, to
whom, in fact, the roar had been addressed. The lion rubbed
himself several times against the eland, but did not eat a morsel,
and the cubs went in and feasted on the prey. The lion politely
and paternally drew back, and watched the young people enjoying
themselves.

Meantime approached, on tiptoe, jackals and hyenas, but dared not
come too near. Slate-colored vultures settled at a little
distance, but not a soul dared interfere with the cubs; they saw
the lion was acting sentinel, and they knew better than come near.

After a time, papa feared for the digestion of those brats, or else
his own mouth watered; for he came up, knocked them head over heels
with his velvet paw, and they took the gentle hint, and ran into
the wood double quick.

Then the lion began tearing away at the eland, and bolting huge
morsels greedily. This made the rabble's mouth water. The hyenas,
and jackals, and vultures formed a circle ludicrous to behold, and
that circle kept narrowing as the lion tore away at his prey. They
increased in number, and at last hunger overcame prudence; the rear
rank shoved on the front, as amongst men, and a general attack
seemed imminent.

Then the lion looked up at these invaders, uttered a reproachful
growl, and went at them, patting them right and left, and knocking
them over. He never touched a vulture, nor indeed did he kill an
animal. He was a lion, and only killed to eat; yet he soon cleared
the place, because he knocked over a few hyenas and jackals, and
the rest, being active, tumbled over the vultures before they could
spread their heavy wings. After this warning, they made a
respectful circle again, through which, in due course, the gorged
lion stalked into the wood.

A savage's sentiments change quickly, and the Hottentot, fearing
little from a full lion, was now giggling at Staines's side.
Staines asked him which he thought was the lord of all creatures, a
man or a lion.

"A lion," said Blacky, amazed at such a shallow question.

Staines now got up, and proposed to continue their journey. But
Blacky was for waiting till the lion was gone to sleep after his
meal.

While they discussed the question, the lion burst out of the wood
within hearing of their voices, as his pricked-up ears showed, and
made straight for them at a distance of scarcely thirty yards.

Now, the chances are, the lion knew nothing about them, and only
came to drink at the kloof, after his meal, and perhaps lie under
the acacias: but who can think calmly, when his first lion bursts
out on him a few paces off? Staines shouldered his rifle, took a
hasty, flurried aim, and sent a bullet at him.

If he had missed him, perhaps the report might have turned the
lion; but he wounded him, and not mortally. Instantly the enraged
beast uttered a terrific roar, and came at him with his mane
distended with rage, his eyes glaring, his mouth open, and his
whole body dilated with fury.

At that terrible moment, Staines recovered his wits enough to see
that what little chance he had was to fire into the destroyer, not
at him. He kneeled, and levelled at the centre of the lion's
chest, and not till he was within five yards did he fire. Through
the smoke he saw the lion in the air above him, and rolled
shrieking into the stream and crawled like a worm under the bank,
by one motion, and there lay trembling. A few seconds of sick
stupor passed: all was silent. Had the lion lost him? Was it
possible he might yet escape?

All was silent.

He listened, in agony, for the sniffing of the lion, puzzling him
out by scent.

No: all was silent.

Staines looked round, and saw a woolly head, and two saucer eyes
and open nostrils close by him. It was the Hottentot, more dead
than alive.

Staines whispered him, "I think he is gone."

The Hottentot whispered, "Gone a little way to watch. He is wise
as well as strong." With this he disappeared beneath the water.

Still no sound but the screaming of the vultures, and snarling of
the hyenas and jackals over the eland.

"Take a look," said Staines.

"Yes," said Squat; "but not to-day. Wait here a day or two. Den
he forget and forgive."

Now Staines, having seen the lion lie down and watch the dying
eland, was a great deal impressed by this; and as he had now good
hopes of saving his life, he would not throw away a chance. He
kept his head just above water, and never moved.

In this freezing situation they remained.

Presently there was a rustling that made both crouch.

It was followed by a croaking noise.

Christopher made himself small.

The Hottentot, on the contrary, raised his head, and ventured a
little way into the stream.

By these means he saw it was something very foul, but not terrible.
It was a large vulture that had settled on the very top of the
nearest acacia.

At this the Hottentot got bolder still, and to the great surprise
of Staines began to crawl cautiously into some rushes, and through
them up the bank.

The next moment he burst into a mixture of yelling and chirping and
singing, and other sounds so manifestly jubilant, that the vulture
flapped heavily away, and Staines emerged in turn, but very
cautiously.

Could he believe his eyes? There lay the lion, dead as a stone, on
his back, with his four legs in the air, like wooden legs, they
were so very dead: and the valiant Squat, dancing about him, and on
him, and over him.

Staines, unable to change his sentiments so quickly, eyed even the
dead body of the royal beast with awe and wonder. What! had he
already laid that terrible monarch low, and with a tube made in a
London shop by men who never saw a lion spring, nor heard his awful
roar shake the air? He stood with his heart still beating, and
said not a word. The shallow Hottentot whipped out a large knife,
and began to skin the king of beasts. Staines wondered he could so
profane that masterpiece of nature. He felt more inclined to thank
God for so great a preservation, and then pass reverently on, and
leave the dead king undesecrated.

He was roused from his solemn thoughts by the reflection that there
might be a lioness about, since there were cubs: he took a piece of
paper, emptied his remaining powder into it, and proceeded to dry
it in the sun. This was soon done, and then he loaded both
barrels.

By this time the adroit Hottentot had flayed the carcass
sufficiently to reveal the mortal injury. The projectile had
entered the chest, and slanting upwards, had burst among the
vitals, reducing them to a gory pulp. The lion must have died in
the air, when he bounded on receiving the fatal shot.

The Hottentot uttered a cry of admiration. "Not the lion king of
all, nor even the white man," he said; "but Enfeel rifle!"

Staines's eyes glittered. "You shall have it, and the horse, for
your diamond," said he eagerly.

The black seemed a little shaken; but did not reply. He got out of
it by going on with his lion; and Staines eyed him, and was
bitterly disappointed at not getting the diamond even on these
terms. He began to feel he should never get it: they were near the
high-road; he could not keep the Hottentot to himself much longer.
He felt sick at heart. He had wild and wicked thoughts; half hoped
the lioness would come and kill the Hottentot, and liberate the
jewel that possessed his soul.

At last the skin was off, and the Hottentot said, "Me take this to
my kraal, and dey all say, 'Squat a great shooter; kill um lion.'"

Then Staines saw another chance for him, and summoned all his
address for a last effort. "No, Squat," said he, "that skin
belongs to me. I shot the lion, with the only rifle that can kill
a lion like a cat. Yet you would not give me a diamond--a paltry
stone for it. No, Squat, if you were to go into your village with
that lion's skin, why the old men would bend their heads to you,
and say, 'Great is Squat! He killed the lion, and wears his skin.'
The young women would all fight which should be the wife of Squat.
Squat would be king of the village."

Squat's eyes began to roll.

"And shall I give the skin, and the glory that is my due, to an
ill-natured fellow, who refuses me his paltry diamond for a good
horse--look at him--and for the rifle that kills lions like
rabbits--behold it; and a hundred pounds in good gold and Dutch
notes--see; and for the lion's skin, and glory, and honor, and a
rich wife, and to be king of Africa? Never!"

The Hottentot's hands and toes began to work convulsively. "Good
master, Squat ask pardon. Squat was blind. Squat will give the
diamond, the great diamond of Africa, for the lion's skin, and the
king rifle, and the little horse, and the gold, and Dutch notes
every one of them. Dat make just two hundred pounds."

"More like four hundred," cried Staines very loud. "And how do I
know it is a diamond? These large stones are the most deceitful.
Show it me, this instant," said he imperiously.

"Iss, master," said the crushed Hottentot, with the voice of a
mouse, and put the stone into his hand with a child-like faith that
almost melted Staines; but he saw he must be firm. "Where did you
find it?" he bawled.

"Master," said poor Squat, in deprecating tones, "my little master
at the farm wanted plaster. He send to Bulteel's pan; dere was
large lumps. Squat say to miners, 'May we take de large lumps?
Dey say, 'Yes; take de cursed lumps we no can break.' We took de
cursed lumps. We ride 'em in de cart to farm twenty milses. I
beat 'em with my hammer. Dey is very hard. More dey break my
heart dan I break their cursed heads. One day I use strong words,
like white man, and I hit one large lump too hard; he break, and
out come de white clear stone. Iss, him diamond. Long time we
know him in our kraal, because he hard. Long time before ever
white man know him, tousand years ago, we find him, and he make us
lilly hole in big stone for make wheat dust. Him a diamond, blank
my eyes!"

This was intended as a solemn form of asseveration adapted to the
white man's habits.

Yes, reader, he told the truth; and strange to say, the miners knew
the largest stones were in these great lumps of carbonate, but then
the lumps were so cruelly hard, they lost all patience with them,
and so, finding it was no use to break some of them, and not all,
they rejected them all, with curses; and thus this great stone was
carted away as rubbish from the mine, and found, like a toad in a
hole, by Squat.

"Well," said Christopher, "after all, you are an honest fellow, and
I think I will buy it; but first you must show me out of this wood;
I am not going to be eaten alive in it for want of the king of
rifles."

Squat assented eagerly, and they started at once. They passed the
skeleton of the eland; its very bones were polished, and its head
carried into the wood; and looking back they saw vultures busy on
the lion. They soon cleared the wood.

Squat handed Staines the diamond--when it touched his hand, as his
own, a bolt of ice seemed to run down his back, and hot water to
follow it--and the money, horse, rifle, and skin were made over to
Squat.

"Shake hands over it, Squat," said Staines; "you are hard, but you
are honest."

"Iss, master, I a good much hard and honest," said Squat.

"Good-by, old fellow."

"Good-by, master."

And Squat strutted away, with the halter in his hand, horse
following him, rifle under his arm, and the lion's skin over his
shoulders, and the tail trailing, a figure sublime in his own eyes,
ridiculous in creation's. So vanity triumphed, even in the wilds
of Africa.

Staines hurried forward on foot, loading his revolver as he went,
for the very vicinity of the wood alarmed him now that he had
parted with his trusty rifle.

That night he lay down on the open veldt, in his jackal's skin,
with no weapon but his revolver, and woke with a start a dozen
times. Just before daybreak he scanned the stars carefully, and
noting exactly where the sun rose, made a rough guess at his
course, and followed it till the sun was too hot; then he crept
under a ragged bush, hung up his jackal's skin, and sweated there,
parched with thirst, and gnawed with hunger. When it was cooler,
he crept on, and found water, but no food. He was in torture, and
began to be frightened, for he was in a desert. He found an
ostrich egg and ate it ravenously.

Next day, hunger took a new form, faintness. He could not walk for
it; his jackal's skin oppressed him; he lay down exhausted. A
horror seized his dejected soul. The diamond! It would be his
death. No man must so long for any earthly thing as he had for
this glittering traitor. "Oh! my good horse! my trusty rifle!" he
cried. "For what have I thrown you away? For starvation. Misers
have been found stretched over their gold; and some day my skeleton
will be found, and nothing to tell the base death I died of and
deserved; nothing but the cursed diamond. Ay, fiend, glare in my
eyes, do!" He felt delirium creeping over him; and at that a new
terror froze him. His reason, that he had lost once, was he to
lose it again? He prayed; he wept; he dozed, and forgot all. When
he woke again, a cool air was fanning his cheeks; it revived him a
little; it became almost a breeze.

And this breeze, as it happened, carried on its wings the curse of
Africa. There loomed in the north-west a cloud of singular
density, that seemed to expand in size as it drew nearer, yet to be
still more solid, and darken the air. It seemed a dust-storm.
Staines took out his handkerchief, prepared to wrap his face in it,
not to be stifled.

But soon there was a whirring and a whizzing, and hundreds of
locusts flew over his head; they were followed by thousands, the
swiftest of the mighty host. They thickened and thickened, till
the air looked solid, and even that glaring sun was blackened by
the rushing mass. Birds of all sorts whirled above, and swooped
among them. They peppered Staines all over like shot. They stuck
in his beard, and all over him; they clogged the bushes, carpeted
the ground, while the darkened air sang as with the whirl of
machinery. Every bird in the air, and beast of the field,
granivorous or carnivorous, was gorged with them; and to these
animals was added man, for Staines, being famished, and remembering
the vrow Bulteel, lighted a fire, and roasted a handful or two on a
flat stone; they were delicious. The fire once lighted, they
cooked themselves, for they kept flying into it. Three hours,
without interruption, did they darken nature, and, before the
column ceased, all the beasts of the field came after, gorging them
so recklessly, that Staines could have shot an antelope dead with
his pistol within a yard of him.

But to tell the horrible truth, the cooked locusts were so nice
that he preferred to gorge on them along with the other animals.

He roasted another lot, for future use, and marched on with a good
heart.

But now he got on some rough, scrubby ground, and damaged his
shoes, and tore his trousers.

This lasted a terrible distance; but at the end of it came the
usual arid ground; and at last he came upon the track of wheels and
hoofs. He struck it at an acute angle, and that showed him he had
made a good line. He limped along it a little way, slowly, being
footsore.

By and by, looking back, he saw a lot of rough fellows swaggering
along behind him. Then he was alarmed, terribly alarmed, for his
diamond; he tore a strip of his handkerchief, and tied the stone
cunningly under his armpit as he hobbled on.

The men came up with him.

"Hallo, mate! Come from the diggings?"

"Yes."

"What luck?"

"Very good."

"Haw! haw! What! found a fifty-carat? Show it us."

"We found five big stones, my mate and me. He is gone to Cape Town
to sell them. I had no luck when he had left me, so I have cut it;
going to turn farmer. Can you tell me how far it is to Dale's
Kloof?"

No, they could not tell him that. They swung on; and, to Staines,
their backs were a cordial, as we say in Scotland.

However, his travels were near an end. Next morning he saw Dale's
Kloof in the distance; and as soon as the heat moderated, he pushed
on, with one shoe and tattered trousers; and half an hour before
sunset he hobbled up to the place.

It was all bustle. Travellers at the door; their wagons and carts
under a long shed.

Ucatella was the first to see him coming, and came and fawned on
him with delight. Her eyes glistened, her teeth gleamed. She
patted both his cheeks, and then his shoulders, and even his knees,
and then flew in-doors crying, "My doctor child is come home!"
This amused three travellers, and brought out Dick, with a hearty
welcome.

"But Lordsake, sir, why have you come afoot; and a rough road too?
Look at your shoes. Hallo! What is come of the horse?"

"I exchanged him for a diamond."

"The deuce you did! And the rifle?"

"Exchanged that for the same diamond."

"It ought to be a big 'un."

"It is."

Dick made a wry face. "Well, sir, you know best. You are welcome,
on horse or afoot. You are just in time; Phoebe and me are just
sitting down to dinner."

He took him into a little room they had built for their own
privacy, for they liked to be quiet now and then, being country
bred; and Phoebe was putting their dinner on the table, when
Staines limped in.

She gave a joyful cry, and turned red all over. "Oh, doctor!"
Then his travel-torn appearance struck her. "But, dear heart! what
a figure! Where's Reginald? Oh, he's not far off, I know."

And she flung open the window, and almost flew through it in a
moment, to look for her husband.

"Reginald?" said Staines. Then turning to Dick Dale, "Why, he is
here--isn't he?"

"No, sir: not without he is just come with you."

"With me?--no. You know we parted at the diggings. Come, Mr.
Dale, he may not be here now; but he has been here. He must have
been here."

Phoebe, who had not lost a word, turned round, with all her high
color gone, and her cheeks getting paler and paler. "Oh, Dick!
what is this?"

"I don't understand it," said Dick. "Whatever made you think he
was here, sir?"

"Why, I tell you he left me to come here."

"Left you, sir!" faltered Phoebe. "Why, when?--where?"

"At the diggings--ever so long ago."

"Blank him! that is just like him; the uneasy fool!" roared Dick.

"No, Mr. Dale, you should not say that; he left me, with my
consent, to come to Mrs. Falcon here, and consult her about
disposing of our diamonds."

"Diamonds!--diamonds!" cried Phoebe. "Oh, they make me tremble.
How COULD you let him go alone! You didn't let HIM go on foot, I
hope?"

"Oh, no, Mrs. Falcon; he had his horse, and his rifle, and money to
spend on the road."

"How long ago did he leave you, sir?"

"I--I am sorry to say it was five weeks ago."

"Five weeks! and not come yet. Ah! the wild beasts!--the diggers!--
the murderers! He is dead!"

"God forbid!" faltered Staines; but his own blood began to run
cold.

"He is dead. He has died between this and the dreadful diamonds.
I shall never see my darling again: he is dead. He is dead."

She rushed out of the room, and out of the house, throwing her arms
above her head in despair, and uttering those words of agony again
and again in every variety of anguish.

At such horrible moments women always swoon--if we are to believe
the dramatists. I doubt if there is one grain of truth in this.
Women seldom swoon at all, unless their bodies are unhealthy, or
weakened by the reaction that follows so terrible a shock as this.
At all events, Phoebe, at first, was strong and wild as a lion, and
went to and fro outside the house, unconscious of her body's
motion, frenzied with agony, and but one word on her lips, "He is
dead!--he is dead!"

Dick followed her, crying like a child, but master of himself; he
got his people about her, and half carried her in again; then shut
the door in all their faces.

He got the poor creature to sit down, and she began to rock and
moan, with her apron over her head, and her brown hair loose about
her.

"Why should he be dead?" said Dick. "Don't give a man up like
that, Phoebe. Doctor, tell us more about it. Oh, man, how could
you let him out of your sight? You knew how fond the poor creature
was of him."

"But that was it, Mr. Dale," said Staines. "I knew his wife must
pine for him; and we had found six large diamonds, and a handful of
small ones; but the market was glutted; and to get a better price,
he wanted to go straight to Cape Town. But I said, 'No; go and
show them to your wife, and see whether she will go to Cape Town.'"

Phoebe began to listen, as was evident by her moaning more softly.

"Might he not have gone straight to Cape Town?" Staines hazarded
this timidly.

"Why should he do that, sir? Dale's Kloof is on the road."

"Only on one road. Mr. Dale, he was well armed, with rifle and
revolver; and I cautioned him not to show a diamond on the road.
Who would molest him? Diamonds don't show, like gold. Who was to
know he had three thousand pounds hidden under his armpits, and in
two barrels of his revolver?"

"Three thousand pounds!" cried Dale. "You trusted HIM with three
thousand pounds?"

"Certainly. They were worth about three thousand pounds in Cape
Town, and half as much again in"--

Phoebe started up in a moment. "Thank God!" she cried. "There's
hope for me. Oh, Dick, he is not dead: HE HAS ONLY DESERTED ME."

And with these strange and pitiable words, she fell to sobbing as
if her great heart would burst at last.

CHAPTER XXIV.

There came a reaction, and Phoebe was prostrated with grief and
alarm. Her brother never doubted now that Reginald had run to Cape
Town for a lark. But Phoebe, though she thought so too, could not
be sure; and so the double agony of bereavement and desertion
tortured her by turns, and almost together. For the first time
these many years, she was so crushed she could not go about her
business, but lay on a little sofa in her own room, and had the
blinds down, for her head ached so she could not bear the light.

She conceived a bitter resentment against Staines; and told Dick
never to let him into her sight, if he did not want to be her
death.

In vain Dick made excuses for him: she would hear none. For once
she was as unreasonable as any other living woman: she could see
nothing but that she had been happy, after years of misery, and
should be happy now if this man had never entered her house. "Ah,
Collie!" she cried, "you were wiser than I was. You as good as
told me he would make me smart for lodging and curing him. And I
was SO happy!"

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