Page images
PDF
EPUB

"And why not?” returned Morgan cattle, father, mother, girl, and every imperturbably. “Loveliness will be bally thing there. That would teach served. Better a hardened sinner like her brother what's war and what's myself should look flat than the young picnic." and tender Hutchings of the Gosling The doctor ignored that problem in Greens."

ethics. He stuck pertinaciously to the At this allusion to the private shade line he seemed to be developing. “And of khaki he affected, Hutchings seized those koppies where the brother has a beaker and looked threatening. The his range-they begin a mile or two be. doctor intervened. “Then the girl lives yond the house, don't they?" at that farm on the Schoonfontein “They do,” spoke Hutchings, as agRoad, I suppose. About three miles grievedly as if the koppies were part out, isn't it?"

of Morgan's cussedness. “Yes," answered Hutchings. “It's “And you say,” continued the doctor, the first you come to; the only one in still imperturbably, looking across at that direction, in fact. Rich old beg. Morgan—"you say that there's one part gar, her father. Fine big stone house, of the way that the gun telescope can't and lots of trees about-you know the look into. How far is that from the sort of place."

house?” The doctor nodded and pulled his "Short of half a mile,” answered moustache thoughtfully. “He's one of Morgan offhand. those who gave up their arms under "Sluit in it, you said?" returned the Lord Roberts's proclamation about a doctor. “Comes down out of those year ago, isn't he?"

koppies behind, doesn't it?" "He is,” spoke Hutchings, disgust. “Yes," returned Morgan, as though edly. The memory of the inevitable the point were not new to him. result of that proclamation inspired “So, if there's any Boer there who most officers with disgust.

fancies the girl himself?" put in the "And he's never taken up arms again doctor with a significant pause. since, because he's too rich; he has too Morgan knocked the ashes from his much to lose, living under the eye of a pipe with the air of one who knows. garrison as he is?” pursued the doctor “Doctor, you're entirely on the wrong evenly.

leg there. She's not the sort to be "That's just it,” assented Hutchings. satisfied with any bally Boer. She's Morgan was merely leaning back, one of these girls of the Boer equivafinishing his smoke, and beaming rag- lent to the F.F.V.'s in America. Here gingly upon his comrade.

their paters have plenty of money and "But his son; her brother-well, send them down to the Cape for a we'll put it that he's not at home, ex- swell education-dashed good schools cept occasionally at midnight perhaps, they must be, too. Then they come for half an hour or so, and then with home again to the veldt, and there's half-a-dozen Kaffirs on the look-out?" no correspondingly educated young The doctor's air was very casual still man to match them, so they've got to as he talked.

look round for an Englishman-and "Exactly!" replied Hutchings. “But they always do it.” any column that goes out that way al. “Well,” returned the doctor agreeaways hears from the young beggar bly. “We'll suppose the girls do look and the gang he's got in the koppies for an Englishman. Are we to suppose beyond there. We ought to burn the also that these young Boers, who farm and sweep off all there is-horses, haven't been sent down to the Cape for an education, are any more effusively smiled the doctor easily. "Suppose fond of the English for that?”

you're so much the right man that you "Those Johnnies!" returned Morgan forget and make the mistake that betin amused contempt. "Doctor, those ter men than we have made before beggars don't count.”

to-day. Suppose you do-what will al"All right then. It's your own show," ways haunt you afterwards ?" finished the doctor with his slowest The smile had continued in the docsmile. “But, if you'll call at my tent tor's face as he looked the other quizas you go, my sergeant will give you zically in the eye. They were close a first-aid dressing.”

friends, with that closeness which “If you'd said he'd pour me a comes in war-time. And the smile had beaker of 'boy' out of those medical sharpened in Morgan's face as he recomforts of yours, I'd have said turned the look. Yet he had paused “Thanks, doctor,'” retorted Morgan, a full breath before answering. “Oh, rising to his feet with a lazy shrug she's not that sort of a girl at all,” of his whole figure.

he had said. And in this manner Morgan took "Neither is any other girl that sorthorse and gun and went to look for if the man is not,” the doctor returned. game.

“One's never afraid of the girl; it's the The veldt that seemed to sweep away man one's afraid of. But, by-by; good So flat from the foot of the koppie luck; I suppose your mother will be dominating the town was really undu. satisfied so long as the girl's not that lating; long slow folds sheeted with sort of girl. One daughter-in-law will grass. Morgan gave no thought to the be as good as another, eh, thinks safety of such a ride. The big gun she?" behind had such long range, and the "I'm hanged if she does," Morgan had Boers had left the place quiet for such returned frankly, almost laughing as a length of time, that the thought of he thought of his mother's certain and that danger did not enter his mind, in vigorous horror at the bare notion of spite of the doctor's warning on the a Boer daughter-in-law. So he had point. But another warning of the doc- ridden away. tor's, a parting warning, did enter his But it had not come to anything like mind and keep place there.

daughters-in-law yet. It was only that The doctor had come out to run an this thing was as pleasant to the one eye, an Irishman's eye, over the horse as the other in this dreary monotony of that Morgan was to ride. Hutchings the war, thought he as he rode. He was not there, the groom was gone, and quite failed to grasp-as so many of Morgan in the saddle had waited a us failed-that this which was monotmoment for the doctor's opinion of the ony to him was a slow-drawn horror horse. An appreciative nod was all of tragedy to the girl; a long, long, horthe doctor had to give to the horse. ror of agony; as it must have been to His words were back on the other sub- every one of burgher blood; this crawlject still. "About this girl with the ing extinction of their national freegray eyes," he had begun, with that dom. With such a tragedy-how casual way of his own—"suppose you many of us have ever paused to realize make a mistake?”

its true awfulness ?-wearing out the "Oh, but I'm making no mistake," deeps of her heart every waking hour, Morgan had returned contentedly. "I this which was so pleasant a pastime know when I'm the right man.”

to him, because it relieved a mere "That is just the thing I'm meaning," monotony, might well be proportion.

ately sweeter to her as a relief to what had that gentle, half wondering, sweet was so much a real heartbreak. gravity which is vanishing before the

So Morgan kept his way, conning march of progress and intellect in more only his own side of the question, refined countries. Her hair, apart from guessing no profounder depths for her. the wealth of it, the common dower His smile was the smile of a man quite of her class, was only a dark brown, certain of the girl he was going to see, unless she happened to come into the Yet it was not wholly complacent. He light. Then, indeed, it shone with was no more of a bounder than his sudden threads and wefts of gold that neighbor, and as little a saint. He was gave its piled-up clouds a quick glory just the ordinary average man riding which infallibly caught the eye of any to meet a very nice girl. Only-he was man beholding it. And the soft gray of the conquering race, she of the eyes; those eyes that had named her? conquered. It was in that one circum- Well, they are not quite absent in our stance lay all the particular possibilities own land; those eyes which seem so of the case. But he never thought of true and tender wherever we find it that way. He was going to visit the them. girl with the soft gray eyes, and it was Although the Dowager Mrs. Morgan, nobody's business but hers and his, so to speak, might well demand of her thought he to himself as he passed the son that he should point out any particsluit and topped the last rise that ular justification for the possible enorbrought him within close range of the mity of bringing a Boer girl into the house he was heading for.

family, Morgan Pater, if he existed, The house was a well-masoned might have just looked at the girl's burgher farmhouse of the best class face and decided that Morgan Seand how good a class that is!-flanked cundus was in luck-he would never by well-tree'd orchard and garden, by need inquire into the preliminary proshade and shelter trees of gum and cedure of the Divorce Court. wattle, and by well-fenced "lands” Morgan took coffee courteously, as complete. Very fair do such farm- a visitor should. It was the mother steads show, set in the wide sweep of who called for it and the Kaffir girl veldt and koppie; poignantly desolate who brought it. But it was the girl did they show when war had blasted with the gray eyes who softly looked them with fire and axe. At that mo- the question of whether it was quite to ment, this one, in its untouched aspect, his taste, and it was to her he looked showed the fairer to Morgan because his answer that it was all right. It of his errand.

ought to have been: it was out of his Yet the girl with the gray eyes-when own mess stores. he had been invited to dismount and But presently it was the mother who enter by the father-seemed in no was looking at the girl, and then the way exceptional for beauty as she girl was looking at him, with an eye stepped from a side room into the dim that invited him to step outside with fore-chamber, or main room, to greet her, to the stoep or verandah which him, even as her mother greeted him. runs in front of all decent burgher She had that suggestion of strong houses. And the whole proceeding was comeliness of limb and body which is so new that Morgan rose with a little common in the upper-class burgher feeling of wonder. families. She had the good bust Outside, however, the girl did not which the teapot and feeding-bottle halt on the verandah, but led the way promise to eliminate elsewhere. She on down the steps to the shade of the nearest of the tall blue-gum trees that know what I've always said to that. ranked right and left before the house. And if I did stop away now you know Halting there she faced him, or, rather, what you'd think of me." His tone her eyes rose no higher than the level was very earnest; his eye waiting to of his breast, as she began, with gen. catch hers. tle abruptness, "My mother wants me H er lips stiffened and then opened to tell you that you must not come any again. "I should be glad if you did," more."

returned she, and her mouth set stiffer "Oh!" spoke Morgan instantly, his still, her arms straight down by her quick astonishment edged with more sides. than a little resentment and blunt re. He could see all that this was costing fusal. “And what is that for? I'm her. He could read all the quivering all right, am I not?"

of her heart at having herself to cut "You know that-perfectly," an. him out of it. Yet he held his own swered she softly; "but the burghers way. have begun to talk about it. They say "Oh, then," returned he, in a high, things to my brother and my cousins quick voice. "If I stay away you'll be that-that are very hard for them to glad. That will make you happy, will deny, or to listen to. And-you will do it?" He was forcing her to a conme the one favor in the world by not fession, now while he had her on the coming again."

rack. Most of us are pltiless to have “You mean your brother and cousins our victories acknowledged. have been here saying that they won't She knew all that was in the speech; have you talking to a khaki," returned all that it was so cruelly intended to Morgan, but not at all in the superior do. Yet, with that utter nobleness of manner. "I know that your father and a true woman in love, she did not hesimother didn't object before."

tate in giving him that answer which "They have talked it over," replied he would not plead for, but would tear she steadily, as one having something out savagely. "Yes," said she steadily, to say which must be said, all argu- “Yes, I should be happy-for you ment ignored. “It is they who asked would be safe"; and just once she lifted me to tell you not to come.”

her eyes and looked him into the life "And you; what do you say?" de- of his own; one flash, full as a summanded he, with a touch of quick mer midnight's lightning; all unmasterfulness.

ashamed love, laying her heart at his "I told you from the first not to feet in this last interview for him to come,” answered she, very quietly, as tread on if he would-showing him all, one who had thought all this out be- everything, in that glance before her forehand. She was still not looking flickering eyes fell again. him in the face. He had noticed all The glance lifted the heart out of his along from the first that she was not breast, swept it beyond all his grasp looking him in the eyes with the for a breath. A ringing note that he grave, open softness of other visits. could not control came into his voice And her mouth seemed under restraint, as he answered, exultingly, “And what too. Her lips moved stiffly when she if I refuse to stay away?" spoke, neither were they at rest when she did not lift her eyes to him she was listening for his answers. again. If anything she dropped them

“I know," spoke he, grave with the lower. But she moved the least shade flood of thoughts his noting of her in the world nearer and spoke, clearly, face let loose in his brain. “But you in spite of the little tremor that ran in ber voice, “But you will. I know victory that he was half way to his that. When you come to think it over horse, to obey and be gone, before a you will think of me-and you will stay second thought struck him. He turned away.”

back with the same quick stride. “Will I? By God! will I?" His “Give me a flower: give me a rose; blood was singing in his head, and the give me something of yourself to take words spoke themselves in spite of away, something to stay away with him. “I shall think of you: I shall me, as a token.” He could no longer do that indeed. And then how"- he command: he pleaded vehemently. checked and filled his lungs with a But as he looked he caught the utter bursting breath to restrain himself, but lack of color in her face, with the it was no use: it was too late; he had desperate struggle of lids and lips to gone too far; out it would come, and control themselves. And at the realout it came, with a headlong gladness ization of that he paused. “Liefste"that seemed the soul of himself rush- the word came out solemnly-a Taal ing out to her, leaving him, ignoring word he had picked up in camp in fun. him. “And how if I think of you and It means “Beloved," and its fullest then cannot, cannotcannot stay meaning was in his tone as he uttered away?” And with the words as he it. Word and tone were all her heart spoke them he took the full stride could have dreamed on. nearer and stood over her, for he was It was the last straw. The tears bethe six-foot and she a handbreadth gan to force a way out under the longshorter.

lashed lids. Her shaking fingers basA little shiver of sheer happiness tily loosed the rose from her breast and ran through her. Her eyelashes closed gave it to him, even while her feet had tightly again and again. Yet brave; begun their flight from the spot. But brave and true yet; she lifted her face as she gained the door she turned, and looked up at him again. "But,” pausing for an instant with a little gesspoke she, her voice husky from a ture that tried to tell him all that a heart too full—"but then you will re- man can know in the manliest moment member that if you were killed”-he of his life. felt her shrink-"it would be by my T hen she was gone, and he took horse own brother. Your blood would be"- for camp again. she paused long; she could not say the The doctor was alone in the mess but rest of that, She began again. “And when Morgan entered it. He was, then, indeed, you will stay away." moreover, smoking, and not looking at

His breath came with a catch of all at Morgan. But the latter spoke. quick amaze. That point was utterly "Doctor,” said he, in a good, full voice, new to him, “Gad! I had never "you needn't worry any more about the thought of that,” said he, all aback. girl with the soft gray eyes. I'll make

"You see, it is their honor that is at no mistake there." stake; so my brother and my cousins “Quite so," returned the doctor, not think,” said she, so gently that his quite so casually as he spoke at times. heart heard rather than his ears. "I saw her once-when I brought in

"Yes, yes," answered he, humbled to that scout who'd been wounded. Have the heart of his victory by the glory a drink of your own whisky. Scoff will of her woman's sacrifice; overwhelmed be up in a minute." by the austere truth of the part she Hutchings made no jokes about the had chosen. "Yes. I will."

game which had not made its appear. So complete and sudden was her ance that meal, neither did he allude

« PreviousContinue »