H. Rider Haggard
Part 6 out of 6
that the worst of the attack fell. Indeed, from those wagons hardly
I had told them all the story, to which they listened in dead silence.
Only when it was finished the Heer Meyer, whose natural gloom had been
deepened by all these events, said:
"Allemachte! but you have luck, Allan, to be left when everyone else is
taken. Now, did I not know you so well, like Hernan Pereira I should
think that you and that devil Dingaan had winked at each other."
The Vrouw Prinsloo turned on him furiously.
"How dare you say such words, Carl Meyer?" she exclaimed. "Must Allan
always be insulted just because he is English, which he cannot help?
For my part, I think that if anyone winked at Dingaan it was the
stinkcat Pereira. Otherwise why did he come away before the killing and
bring that madman, Henri Marais, with him?"
"I don't know, I am sure, aunt," said Meyer humbly, for like everyone
else he was afraid of the Vrouw Prinsloo.
"Then why can't you hold your tongue instead of saying silly things
which must give pain?" asked the vrouw. "No, don't answer, for you will
only make matters worse; but take the rest of that meat to the poor
Hottentot, Hans"--I should explain that we had been supping--"who,
although he has eaten enough to burst any white stomach, I dare say can
manage another pound or two."
Meyer obeyed meekly, and the others melted away also as they were wont
to do when the vrouw showed signs of war, so that she and we two were
"Now," said the vrouw, "everyone is tired, and I say that it is time to
go to rest. Good night, nephew Allan and niece Marie," and she waddled
away leaving us together.
"Husband," said Marie presently, "will you come and see the home that I
made ready for you before I thought that you were dead? It is a poor
place, but I pray God that we may be happy there," and she took me by
the hand and kissed me once and twice and thrice.
About noon on the following day, when my wife and I were laughing and
arguing over some little domestic detail of our meagre establishment--so
soon are great griefs forgotten in an overwhelming joy, of a sudden I
saw her face change, and asked what was the matter.
"Hist!" she said, "I hear horses," and she pointed in a certain
I looked, and there, round the corner of the hill, came a body of Boers
with their after-riders, thirty-two or three of them in all, of whom
twenty were white men.
"See," said Marie, "my father is among them, and my cousin Hernan rides
at his side."
It was true. There was Henri Marais, and just behind him, talking into
his ear, rode Hernan Pereira. I remember that the two of them reminded
me of a tale I had read about a man who was cursed with an evil genius
that drew him to some dreadful doom in spite of the promptings of his
better nature. The thin, worn, wild-eyed Marais, and the rich-faced,
carnal Pereira whispering slyly into his ear; they were exact types of
that man in the story and his evil genius who dragged him down to hell.
Prompted by some impulse, I threw my arms round Marie and embraced her,
"At least we have been very happy for a while."
"What do you mean, Allan?" she asked doubtfully.
"Only that I think our good hours are done with for the present."
"Perhaps," she answered slowly; "but at least they have been very good
hours, and if I should die to-day I am glad to have lived to win them."
Then the cavalcade of Boers came up.
Hernan Pereira, his senses sharpened perhaps by the instincts of hate
and jealousy, was the first to recognise me.
"Why, Mynheer Allan Quatermain," he said, "how is it that you are here?
How is it that you still live? Commandant," he added, turning to a
dark, sad-faced man of about sixty whom at that time I did not know,
"here is a strange thing. This Heer Quatermain, an Englishman, was with
the Governor Retief at the town of the Zulu king, as the Heer Henri
Marais can testify. Now, as we know for sure Pieter Retief and all his
people are dead, murdered by Dingaan, how then does it happen that this
man has escaped?"
"Why do you put riddles to me, Mynheer Pereira?" asked the dark Boer.
"Doubtless the Englishman will explain."
"Certainly I will, mynheer," I said. "Is it your pleasure that I should
The commandant hesitated. Then, having called Henri Marais apart and
talked to him for a little while, he replied:
"No, not now, I think; the matter is too serious. After we have eaten
we will listen to your story, Mynheer Quatermain, and meanwhile I
command you not to leave this place."
"Do you mean that I am a prisoner, commandant?" I asked.
"If you put it so--yes, Mynheer Quatermain--a prisoner who has to
explain how some sixty of our brothers, who were your companions, came
to be butchered like beasts in Zululand, while you escaped. Now, no
more words; by and by doubtless there will be plenty of them. Here you,
Carolus and Johannes, keep watch upon this Englishman, of whom I hear
strange stories, with your guns loaded, please, and when we send to you,
lead him before us."
"As usual, your cousin Hernan brings evil gifts," I said to Marie
bitterly. "Well, let us also eat our dinner, which perhaps the Heeren
Carolus and Johannes will do us the honour to share--bringing their
loaded guns with them."
Carolus and Johannes accepted the invitation, and from them we heard
much news, all of it terrible enough to learn, especially the details of
the massacre in that district, which, because of this fearful event is
now and always will be known as Weenen, or The Place of Weeping.
Suffice it to say that they were quite enough to take away all our
appetite, although Carolus and Johannes, who by this time had recovered
somewhat from the shock of that night of blood and terror, ate in a
fashion which might have filled Hans himself with envy.
Shortly after we had finished our meal, Hans, who, by the way, seemed to
have quite recovered from his fatigues, came to remove the dishes. He
informed us that all the Boers were having a great "talk," and that they
were about to send for me. Sure enough, a few minutes later two armed
men arrived and ordered me to follow them. I turned to say some words
of farewell to Marie, but she said:
"I go where you do, husband," and, as no objection was made by the
guard, she came.
About two hundred yards away, sitting under the shade of one of the
wagons, we found the Boers. Six of them were seated in a semicircle
upon stools or whatever they could find, the black-browed commandant
being in the centre and having in front of him a rough table on which
were writing materials.
To the left of these six were the Prinsloos and Meyers, being those folk
whom I had rescued from Delagoa, and to the right the other Boers who
had ridden into the camp that morning. I saw at a glance that a
court-martial had been arranged and that the six elders were the judges,
the commandant being the president of the court.
I do not give their names purposely, since I have no wish that the
actual perpetrators of the terrible blunder that I am about to describe
should be known to posterity. After all, they acted honestly according
to their lights, and were but tools in the hand of that villain Hernan
"Allan Quatermain," said the commandant, "you are brought here to be
tried by a court-martial duly constituted according to the law published
in the camps of the emigrant Boers. Do you acknowledge that law?"
"I know that there is such a law, commandant," I answered, "but I do not
acknowledge the authority of your court-martial to try a man who is no
Boer, but a subject of the Queen of Great Britain."
"We have considered that point, Allan Quatermain," said the commandant,
"and we disallow it. You will remember that in the camp at Bushman's
River, before you rode with the late Pieter Retief to the chief
Sikonyela, when you were given command of the Zulus who went with him,
you took an oath to interpret truly and to be faithful in all things to
the General Retief, to his companions and to his cause. That oath we
hold gives this court jurisdiction over you."
"I deny your jurisdiction," I answered, "although it is true that I took
an oath to interpret faithfully, and I request that a note of my denial
may be made in writing."
"It shall be done," said the commandant, and laboriously he made the
note on the paper before him.
When he had finished he looked up and said: "The charge against you,
Allan Quatermain, is that, being one of the commission who recently
visited the Zulu king Dingaan, under command of the late Governor and
General Pieter Retief, you did falsely and wickedly urge the said
Dingaan to murder the said Pieter Retief and his companions, and
especially Henri Marais, your father-in-law, and Hernando Pereira, his
nephew, with both of whom you had a quarrel. Further, that afterwards
you brought about the said murder, having first arranged with the king
of the Zulus that you should be removed to a place of safety while it
was done. Do you plead Guilty or Not guilty?"
Now when I heard this false and abominable charge my rage and
indignation caused me to laugh aloud.
"Are you mad, commandant," I exclaimed, "that you should say such
things? On what evidence is this wicked lie advanced against me?"
"No, Allan Quatermain, I am not mad," he replied, "although it is true
that through your evil doings I, who have lost my wife and three
children by the Zulu spears, have suffered enough to make me mad. As
for the evidence against you, you shall hear it. But first I will write
down that you plead Not guilty."
He did so, then said:
"If you will acknowledge certain things it will save us all much time,
of which at present we have little to spare. Those things are that
knowing what was going to happen to the commission, you tried to avoid
accompanying it. Is that true?"
"No," I answered. "I knew nothing of what was going to happen to the
commission, though I feared something, having but just saved my friends
there"--and I pointed to the Prinsloos--"from death at the hands of
Dingaan. I did not wish to accompany it for another reason: that I had
been married on the day of its starting to Marie Marais. Still, I went
after all because the General Retief, who was my friend, asked me to
come, to interpret for him."
Now some of the Boers present said:
"That is true. We remember."
But the commandant continued, taking no heed of my answer or these
"Do you acknowledge that you were on bad terms with Henri Marais and
with Hernan Pereira?"
"Yes," I answered; "because Henri Marais did all in his power to prevent
my marriage with his daughter Marie, behaving very ill to me who had
saved his life and that of his people who remained to him up by Delagoa,
and afterwards at Umgungundhlovu. Because, too, Hernan Pereira strove
to rob me of Marie, who loved me. Moreover, although I had saved him
when he lay sick to death, he afterwards tried to murder me by shooting
me down in a lonely place. Here is the mark of it," and I touched the
little scar upon the side of my forehead.
"That is true; he did so, the stinkcat," shouted the Vrouw Prinsloo, and
was ordered to be silent.
"Do you acknowledge," went on the commandant, "that you sent to warn
your wife and those with her to depart from the camp on the Bushman's
River, because it was going to be attacked, charging them to keep the
matter secret, and that afterwards both you and your Hottentot servant
alone returned safely from Zululand, where all those who went with you
"I acknowledge," I answered, "that I wrote to tell my wife to come to
this place where I had been building houses, as you see, and to bring
with her any of our companions who cared to trek here, or, failing that,
to go alone. This I did because Dingaan had told me, whether in jest or
in earnest I did not know, that he had given orders that my said wife
should be kidnapped, as he desired to make her one of his women, having
thought her beautiful when he saw her. Also what I did was done with
the knowledge and by the wish of the late Governor Retief, as can be
shown by his writing on my letter. I acknowledge also that I escaped
when all my brothers were killed, as did the Hottentot Hans, and if you
wish to know I will tell you how we escaped and why."
The commandant made a further note, then he said:
"Let the witness Hernan Pereira be called and sworn."
This was done and he was ordered to tell his tale.
As may be imagined, it was a long tale, and one that had evidently been
prepared with great care. I will only set down its blackest falsehoods.
He assured the court that he had no enmity against me and had never
attempted to kill me or do me any harm, although it was true that his
heart felt sore because, against her father's will, I had stolen away
the affection of his betrothed, who was now my wife. He said that he
had stopped in Zululand because he knew that I should marry her as soon
as she came of age, and it was too great pain for him to see this done.
He said that while he was there, before the arrival of the commission,
Dingaan and some of his captains had told him that I had again and again
urged him, Dingaan, to kill the Boers because they were traitors to the
sovereign of England, but that he, Dingaan, had refused to do so. He
said that when Retief came up with the commission he tried to warn him
against me, but that Retief would not listen, being infatuated with me
as many others were, and he looked towards the Prinsloos.
Then came the worst of all. He said that while he was engaged in
mending some guns for Dingaan in one of his private huts, he overheard a
conversation between myself and Dingaan which took place outside the
hut, I, of course, not knowing that he was within. The substance of
this conversation was that I again urged Dingaan to kill the Boers and
afterwards to send an impi to massacre their wives and families. Only I
asked him to give me time to get away a girl whom I had married from
among them, and with her a few of my own friends whom I wished should be
spared, as I intended to become a kind of chief over them, and if he
would grant it me, to hold all the land of Natal under his rule and the
protection of the English. To these proposals Dingaan answered that
"they seemed wise and good, and that he would think them over very
Pereira said further that coming out of the hut after Dingaan had gone
away he reproached me bitterly for my wickedness, and announced that he
would warn the Boers, which he did subsequently by word of mouth and in
writing. That thereon I caused him to be detained by the Zulus while I
went to Retief and told him some false story about him, Pereira, which
caused Retief to drive him out of his camp and give orders that none of
the Boers should so much as speak to him. That then he did the only
thing he could. Going to his uncle, Henri Marais, he told him, not all
the truth, but that he had learnt for certain that his daughter Marie
was in dreadful danger of her life because of some intended attack of
the Zulus, and that all the Boers among whom she dwelt were also in
danger of their lives.
Therefore he suggested to Henri Marais that as the General Retief was
besotted and would not listen to his story, the best thing they could do
was to ride away and warn the Boers. This then they did secretly,
without the knowledge of Retief, but being delayed upon their journey by
one accident and another, which he set out in detail, they only reached
the Bushman's River too late, after the massacre had taken place.
Subsequently, as the commandant knew, hearing a rumour that Marie Marais
and other Boers had trekked to this place before the slaughter, they
came here and learned that they had done so upon a warning sent to them
by Allan Quatermain, whereon they returned and communicated the news to
the surviving Boers at Bushman's River.
That was all he had to say.
Then, as I reserved my cross-examination until I heard all the evidence
against me, Henri Marais was sworn and corroborated his nephew's
testimony on many points as to my relations to his daughter, his
objection to my marriage to her because I was an Englishman whom he
disliked and mistrusted, and so forth. He added further that it was
true Pereira had told him he had sure information that Marie and the
Boers were in danger from an attack upon them which had been arranged
between Allan Quatermain and Dingaan; that he also had written to Retief
and tried to speak to him but was refused a hearing. Thereon he had
ridden away from Umgungundhlovu to try to save his daughter and warn the
Boers. That was all he had to say.
As there were no further witnesses for the prosecution I cross-examined
these two at full length, but absolutely without results, since every
vital question that I asked was met with a direct negative.
Then I called my witnesses, Marie, whose evidence they refused to hear
on the ground that she was my wife and prejudiced, the Vrouw Prinsloo
and her family, and the Meyers. One and all told a true story of my
relations with Hernan Pereira, Henri Marais, and Dingaan, so far as they
After this, as the commandant declined to take the evidence of Hans
because he was a Hottentot and my servant, I addressed the court,
relating exactly what had taken place between me and Dingaan, and how I
and Hans came to escape on our second visit to his kraal. I pointed out
also that unhappily for myself I could not prove my words, since Dingaan
was not available as a witness, and all the others were dead. Further,
I produced my letter to Marie, which was endorsed by Retief, and the
letter to Retief signed by Marais and Pereira which remained in my
By the time that I had finished my speech the sun was setting and
everyone was tired out. I was ordered to withdraw under guard, while
the court consulted, which it did for a long while. Then I was called
forward again and the commandant said:
"Allan Quatermain, after prayer to God we have considered this case to
the best of our judgment and ability. On the one hand we note that you
are an Englishman, a member of a race which hates and has always
oppressed our people, and that it was to your interest to get rid of two
of them with whom you had quarrelled. The evidence of Henri Marais and
Hernan Pereira, which we cannot disbelieve, shows that you were wicked
enough, either in order to do this, or because of your malice against
the Boer people, to plot their destruction with a savage. The result is
that some seven hundred men, women, and children have lost their lives
in a very cruel manner, whereas you, your servant, your wife and your
friends have alone escaped unharmed. For such a crime as this a hundred
deaths could not pay; indeed, God alone can give to it its just
punishment, and to Him it is our duty to send you to be judged. We
condemn you to be shot as a traitor and a murderer, and may He have
mercy on your soul."
At these dreadful words Marie fell to the ground fainting and a pause
ensued while she was carried off to the Prinsloos' house, whither the
vrouw followed to attend her. Then the commandant went on:
"Still, although we have thus passed judgment on you; because you are an
Englishman against whom it might be said that we had prejudices, and
because you have had no opportunity of preparing a defence, and no
witnesses to the facts, since all those whom you say you could have
called are dead, we think it right that this unanimous sentence of ours
should be confirmed by a general court of the emigrant Boers. Therefore
to-morrow morning you will be taken with us to the Bushman's River camp,
where the case will be settled, and, if necessary, execution done in
accordance with the verdict of the generals and veld-cornets of that
camp. Meanwhile you will be kept in custody in your own house. Now
have you anything to say against this sentence?"
"Yes, this," I answered, "that although you do not know it, it is an
unjust sentence, built up on the lies of one who has always been my
enemy, and of a man whose brain is rotten. I never betrayed the Boers.
If anyone betrayed them it was Hernan Pereira himself, who, as I proved
to the General Retief, had been praying Dingaan to kill me, and whom
Retief threatened to put upon his trial for this very crime, for which
reason and no other Pereira fled from the kraal, taking his tool Henri
Marais with him. You have asked God to judge me. Well, I ask God to
judge him and Henri Marais also, and I know He will in one way or
another. As for me, I am ready to die, as I have been for months while
serving the cause of you Boers. Shoot me now if you will, and make an
end. But I tell you that if I escape your hands I will not suffer this
treatment to go unpunished. I will lay my case before the rulers of my
people, and if necessary before my Queen, yes, if I have to travel to
London to do it, and you Boers shall learn that you cannot condemn an
innocent Englishman upon false testimony and not pay the price. I tell
you that price shall be great if I live, and if I die it shall be
Now these words, very foolish words, I admit, which being young and
inexperienced I spoke in my British pride, I could see made a great
impression upon my judges. They believed, to be fair to them, that they
had passed a just sentence. Blinded by prejudice and falsehood, and
maddened by the dreadful losses their people had suffered during the
past few days at the hands of a devilish savage, they believed that I
was the instigator of those losses, one who ought to die. Indeed, all,
or nearly all the Boers were persuaded that Dingaan was urged to this
massacre by the counsels of Englishmen. The mere fact of my own and my
servant's miraculous escape, when all my companions had perished, proved
my guilt to them without the evidence of Pereira, which, being no
lawyers, they thought sufficient to justify their verdict.
Still, they had an uneasy suspicion that this evidence was not
conclusive, and might indeed be rejected in toto by a more competent
court upon various grounds. Also they knew themselves to be rebels who
had no legal right to form a court, and feared the power of the long arm
of England, from which for a little while they had escaped. If I were
allowed to tell my tale to the Parliament in London, what might not
happen to them, they wondered--to them who had ventured to pass sentence
of death upon a subject of the Queen of Great Britain? Might not this
turn the scale against them? Might not Britain arise in wrath and crush
them, these men who dared to invoke her forms of law in order to kill
her citizen? Those, as I learned afterwards, were the thoughts that
passed through their minds.
Also another thought passed through their minds--that if the sentence
were executed at once, a dead man cannot appeal, and that here I had no
friends to take up my cause and avenge me. But of all this they said
nothing. Only at a sign I was marched away to my little house and
imprisoned under guard.
Now I propose to tell the rest of the history of these tragic events as
they happened, although some of them did not come to my knowledge till
the morrow or afterwards, for I think this will be the more simple and
the easier plan.
THE INNOCENT BLOOD
After I had been taken away it seems that the court summoned Hernan
Pereira and Henri Marais to accompany them to a lonely spot at a
distance, where they thought that their deliberations would not be
overheard. In this, however, they were mistaken, having forgotten the
fox-like cunning of the Hottentot, Hans. Hans had heard me sentenced,
and probably enough feared that he who also had committed the crime of
escaping from Dingaan, might be called on to share that sentence. Also
he wished to know the secret counsel of these Boers, whose language, of
course, he understood as well as he did his own.
So making a circuit up the hillside, he crept towards them on his belly
as a snake creeps, wriggling in and out between the tufts of last year's
dead grass, which grew here in plenty, without so much as moving their
tops. At length he lay still in the centre of a bush that grew behind a
stone not five paces from where they were talking, whence he listened
intently to every word that passed their lips.
This was the substance of their talk; that for the reasons I have
already mentioned it would be best that I should die at once. Sentence,
said the commandant, had been passed, and could not be rescinded, since
even if it were, their offence would remain as heavy in the eyes of the
English authorities. But if they took me to their main camp to be
re-tried by their great council, possibly that sentence might be
rescinded and they be left individually and collectively to atone for
what they had done. Also they knew that I was very clever and might
escape in some other way to bring the English, or possibly the Zulus,
upon them, since they felt convinced that Dingaan and I were working
together for their destruction, and that while I had breath in my body I
should never cease my efforts to be avenged.
When it was found that they were all of one mind in this matter, the
question arose: What should be done? Somebody suggested that I should
be shot at once, but the commandant pointed out that such a deed, worked
at night, would look like murder, especially as it violated the terms of
Then another suggestion was made: that I should be brought out of my
house just before the dawn on pretence that it was time to ride; that
then I should be given the opportunity of escape and instantly shot
down. Or it might be pretended that I had tried to escape, with a like
result. Who, they urged, was to know in that half-light whether I had
or had not actually attempted to run for my life, or to threaten their
lives, circumstances under which the law said it was justifiable to
shoot a prisoner already formally condemned to death?
To this black counsel they all agreed, being so terribly afraid of a
poor English lad whose existence, although most of them did not know
this, was to be taken from him upon false evidence. But then arose
another question: By whose hand should the thing be done? Not one of
them, it would seem, was anxious to fulfil this bloody office; indeed,
they one and all refused to do so. A proposal was put forward that some
of their native servants should be forced to serve as executioners; but
when this had been vetoed by the general sense of the court, their
counsels came to a deadlock.
Then, after a whispered conference, the commandant spoke some dreadful
"Hernando Pereira and Henri Marais," he said, "it is on your evidence
that this young man has been condemned. We believe that evidence, but
if by one jot or one tittle it is false, then not justice, but a foul
murder will have been committed and his innocent blood will be upon your
heads for ever. Hernando Pereira and Henri Marais, the court appoints
you to be the guards who will bring the prisoner out of his house
to-morrow morning just when the sky begins to lighten. It is from _you_
that he will try to escape, and _you_ will prevent his escape by his
death. Then you must join us where we shall be waiting for you and
report the execution."
When Henri Marais heard this he exclaimed:
"I swear by God that I cannot do it. Is it right or natural that a man
should be forced to kill his own son-in-law?"
"You could bear evidence against your own son-in-law, Henri Marais,"
answered the stern-faced commandant. "Why then cannot you kill with
your rifle one whom you have already helped to kill with your tongue?"
"I will not, I cannot!" said Marais, tearing at his beard. But the
commandant only answered coldly:
"You have the orders of the court, and if you choose to disobey them we
shall begin to believe that you have sworn falsely. Then you and your
nephew will also appear before the great council when the Englishman is
tried again. Still, it matters nothing to us whether you or Hernando
Pereira shall fire the shot. See you to it, as the Jews said to Judas
who had betrayed the innocent Lord."
Then he paused and went on, addressing Pereira:
"Do you also refuse, Hernando Pereira? Remember before you answer that
if you do refuse we shall draw our own conclusions. Remember, too, that
the evidence which you have given, showing that this wicked Englishman
plotted and caused the deaths of our brothers and of our wives and
children, which we believe to be true evidence, shall be weighed and
investigated word by word before the great council."
"To give evidence is one thing, and to shoot the traitor and murderer
another," said Pereira. Then he added with an oath, or so vowed Hans:
"Yet why should I, who know all this villain's guilt, refuse to carry
out the sentence of the law on him? Have no fear, commandant, the
accursed Allan Quatermain shall not succeed in his attempt to escape
to-morrow before the dawn."
"So be it," said the commandant. "Now, do all you who have heard those
words take note of them."
Then Hans, seeing that the council was about to break up, and fearing
lest he should be caught and killed, slipped away by the same road that
he had come. His thought was to warn me, but this he could not do
because of the guards. So he went to the Prinsloos, and finding the
vrouw alone with Marie, who had recovered her mind, told them everything
that he had heard.
As he said, Marie knelt down and prayed, or thought for a long while,
then rose and spoke.
"Tante," she said to the vrouw, "one thing is clear, that Allan will be
murdered at the dawn; now if he is hidden away he may escape."
"But where and how can we hide him," asked the vrouw, "seeing that the
place is guarded?"
"Tante," said Marie again, "at the back of your house is an old cattle
kraal made by Kaffirs, and in that cattle kraal, as I have seen, there
are mealie-pits where those Kaffirs stored their grain. Now I suggest
that we should put my husband into one of those mealie-pits and cover it
over. There the Boers might not find him, however close they searched."
"That is a good idea," said the vrouw; "but how in the name of God are
we to get Allan out of a guarded house into a mealie-pit?"
"Tante, I have a right to go to my husband's house, and there I will go.
Afterwards, too, I shall have the right to leave his house before he is
taken away. Well, he might leave it in my place, _as me_, and you and
Hans might help him. Then in the morning the Boers would come to search
the house and find no one except me."
"That is all very pretty," answered the vrouw; "but do you think, my
niece, that those accursed vultures will go away until they have picked
Allan's bones? Not they, for too much hangs on it. They will know that
he cannot be far off, and slink about the place until they have found
him in his mealie-hole or until he comes out. It is blood they are
after, thanks to your cousin Hernan, the liar, and blood they will have
for their own safety's sake. Never will they go away from here until
they see Allan lying dead upon the ground."
Now, according to Hans, Marie thought again very deeply. Then she
"There is a great risk, tante; but we must take it. Send your husband
to chat with those guards, and give him a bottle of spirits. I will
talk with Hans here and see what can be arranged."
So Marie went aside with Hans, as he told me afterwards, and asked him
if he knew of any medicine that made people sleep for a long while
without waking. He answered, Yes; all the coloured people had plenty of
such medicine. Without doubt he could get some from the Kaffirs who
dwelt upon the place, or if not he could dig the roots of a plant that
he had seen growing near by which would serve the purpose. So she sent
him to procure this stuff. Afterwards she spoke to the Vrouw Prinsloo,
"My plan is that Allan should escape from our house disguised as myself.
But as I know well that he will not run away while he has his senses,
seeing that to do so in his mind would be to confess his guilt, I
propose to take his senses from him by means of a drugged drink. Then I
propose that you and Hans should carry him into the shadow of this
house, and when no one is looking, to the old grain-pit that lies but a
few yards away, covering the mouth of it with dead grass. There he will
remain till the Boers grow tired of searching for him and ride away. Or
if it should chance that they find him, he will be no worse off than he
"A good plan enough, Marie, though not one that Allan would have
anything to do with if he kept his wits," answered the vrouw, "seeing
that he was always a man for facing things out, although so young in
years. Still, we will try to save him in spite of himself from the
claws of that stinkcat Pereira, whom may God curse, and his tool, your
father. As you say, at the worst no harm will be done even if they find
him, as probably they will, seeing that they will not leave this place
Such then was the trick which Marie arranged with the Vrouw Prinsloo.
Or rather, I should say, seemed to arrange, since she told her nothing
of her real mind, she who knew that the vrouw was right and that for
their own sakes, as well as because they believed it to be justice, the
Boers would never leave that place until they saw blood running on the
This, oh! this was Marie's true and dreadful plan--_to give her life for
mine!_ She was sure that once he had slain his victim, Hernan Pereira
would not stop to make examination of the corpse. He would ride away,
hounded by his guilty conscience, and meanwhile I could escape.
She never thought the thing out in all its details, she who was maddened
with terror and had no time. She only felt her way from step to step,
dimly seeing my deliverance at the end of the journey. Marie told the
Vrouw Prinsloo nothing, except that she proposed to drug me if I would
not go undrugged. Then the vrouw must hide me as best she could, in the
grain-pit or elsewhere, or, if I had my senses about me, let me hide
myself. Afterwards she, Marie, would face the Boers and tell them to
find me if they wanted me.
The vrouw answered that she had now thought of a better plan. It was
that she should arrange with her husband and son and the Meyers, all of
whom loved me, that they should rescue me, or if need be, kill or
disable Pereira before he could shoot me.
Marie replied that this was good if it could be done, and the vrouw went
out to find her husband and the other men. Presently, however, she
returned with a long face, saying that the commandant had them all under
guard. It seemed that it had occurred to him, or more probably to
Pereira, that the Prinsloos and the Meyers, who looked on me as a
brother, might attempt some rescue, or make themselves formidable in
other ways. Therefore, as a matter of precaution, they had been put
under arrest and their arms taken from them as mine had been. What the
commandant said, however, was that he took these somewhat high-handed
measures in order to be sure that they, the Prinsloos and the Meyers,
should be ready on the following morning to ride with him and the
prisoner to the main camp, where the great council might wish to
One concession, however, the vrouw had won from the commandant, who,
knowing what was about to happen to me, had not, I suppose, the heart to
refuse. It was that my wife and she might visit me and give me food on
the stipulation that they both left the house where I was confined by
ten o'clock that night.
So it came to this, that if anything was to be done, these two women and
a Hottentot must do it, since they could hope for no help in their
plans. Here I should add that the vrouw told Marie in Hans's presence
that she had thought of attacking the commandant as to this matter of my
proposed shooting by Pereira. On reflection, however, she refrained for
two reasons, first because she feared lest she might only make matters
worse and rob me of my sole helpers, and secondly for fear lest she
should bring about the death of Hans, to whom the story would certainly
As he was the solitary witness to the plot, it seemed to her that he
would scarcely be allowed to escape to repeat it far and wide.
Especially was this so, as the unexplained death of a Hottentot,
suspected of treachery like his master, was not a matter that would have
been thought worth notice in those rough and bloody times. She may have
been right, or she may have been wrong, but in weighing her decision it
must always be borne in mind that she was, and until the end remained,
in utter ignorance of Marie's heroic design to go to her death in place
So the two women and the Hottentot proceeded to mature the plans which I
have outlined. One other alternative, however, Hans did suggest. It
was that they should try to drug the guards with some of the medicated
drink that was meant for me, and that then Marie, I and he should slip
away and get down to the river, there to hide in the weeds. Thence,
perhaps, we might escape to Port Natal where lived Englishmen who would
Of course this idea was hopeless from the first. The moonlight was
almost as bright as day, and the veld quite open for a long way round,
so that we should certainly have been seen and re-captured, which of
course would have meant instant death. Further, as it happened, the
guards had been warned against touching liquor of any sort since it was
thought probable that an attempt would be made to intoxicate them.
Still the women determined to try this scheme if they could find a
chance. At least it was a second string to their bow.
Meanwhile they made their preparations. Hans went away for a little and
returned with a supply of his sleep-producing drug, though whether he
got this from the Kaffirs or gathered it himself, I do not remember, if
I ever heard. At any rate it was boiled up in the water with which they
made the coffee that I was to drink, though not in that which Marie
proposed to drink with me, the strong taste and black hue of the coffee
effectually hiding any flavour or colour that there might be in the
herb. Also the vrouw cooked some food which she gave to Hans to carry.
First, however, he went to investigate the old mealie-pit which was
within a few paces of the back door of the Prinsloos' house. He
reported that it would do well to hide a man in, especially as tall
grass and bushes grew about its mouth.
Then the three of them started, and arriving at the door of my house,
which was about a hundred yards away, were of course challenged by the
"Heeren," said Marie, "the commandant has given us leave to bring food
to my husband, whom you guard within. Pray do not prevent us from
"No," answered one of them gently enough, for he was touched with pity
at her plight. "We have our orders to admit you, the Vrouw Prinsloo and
the native servant, though why three of you should be needed to carry
food to one man, I don't know. I should have thought that at such a
time he would have preferred to be alone with his wife."
"The Vrouw Prinsloo wishes to ask my husband certain questions about his
property here and what is to be done while he and her men are away at
the main camp for the second trial, as I, whose heart is full of sorrow,
have no head for such things. Also the Hottentot must have orders as to
where he is to get a horse to ride with him, so pray let us pass,
"Very good; it is no affair of ours, Vrouw Quatermain-- Stay, I suppose
that you have no arms under that long cloak of yours."
"Search me, if you will, mynheer," she answered, opening the cloak,
whereon, after a quick glance, he nodded and bade them enter, saying:
"Mind, you are to come out by ten o'clock. You must not pass the night
in that house, or we shall have the little Englishman oversleeping
himself in the morning."
Then they entered and found me seated at a table preparing notes for my
defence and setting down the heads of the facts of my relations with
Pereira, Dingaan, and the late Commandant Retief.
Here I may state that my condition at the time was not one of fear, but
rather of burning indignation. Indeed, I had not the slightest doubt
but that when my case was re-tried before the great council, I should be
able to establish my complete innocence of the abominable charges that
had been brought against me. Therefore it came about that when Marie
suggested that I should try to escape, I begged her almost roughly not
to mention such a thing again.
"Run away!" I said. "Why, that would be to confess myself guilty, for
only the guilty run away. What I want is to have all this business
thrashed out and that devil Pereira exposed."
"But, Allan," said Marie, "how if you should never live to have it
thrashed out? How if you should be shot first?" Then she rose, and
having looked to see that the shutter-board was fast in the little
window-place and the curtain that she had made of sacking drawn over it,
returned and whispered: "Hans here has heard a horrible tale, Allan.
Tell it to the baas, Hans."
So while Vrouw Prinsloo, in order to deceive any prying eyes if such by
chance could see us, busied herself with lighting a fire on the hearth
in the second room on which to warm the food, Hans told his story much
as it has already been set out.
I listened to it with growing incredulity. The thing seemed to me
impossible. Either Hans was deceived or lying, the latter probably, for
well I knew the Hottentot powers of imagination. Or perhaps he was
drunk; indeed, he smelt of liquor, of which I was aware be could carry a
great quantity without outward signs of intoxication.
"I cannot believe it," I said when he had finished. "Even if Pereira is
such a fiend, as is possible, would Henri Marais, your father--who, at
any rate, has always been a good and God-fearing man--consent to work
such a crime upon his daughter's husband, though he does dislike him?"
"My father is not what he was, Allan," said Marie. "Sometimes I think
that his brain has gone."
"He did not speak like a man whose brain has gone this afternoon," I
replied. "But let us suppose that this tale is true, what is it that
you wish me to do?"
"Allan, I wish you to dress up in my clothes and get away to a
hiding-place which Hans and the vrouw know, leaving me here instead of
"Why, Marie?" I said. "Then you might get yourself shot in my place,
always supposing that they mean to shoot me. Also I should certainly be
caught and killed, as they would have a right to kill me for trying to
escape in disguise. That is a mad plan, and I have a better. Vrouw
Prinsloo, go straight to the commandant ad tell him all this story.
Or, if he will not listen to you, scream it out at the top of your voice
so that everyone may hear, and then come back and tell us the result.
Of one thing I am sure, that if you do this, even if there was any
thought of my being shot tomorrow morning, it will be abandoned.
You can refuse to say who told you the tale."
"Yes, please do that," muttered Hans, "else I know one who will be
"Good, I will go," said the vrouw, and she went, the guards letting her
pass after a few words which we could not hear.
Half an hour later she returned and called to us to open the door.
"Well?" I asked.
"Well," she said, "I have failed, nephew. Except those sentries outside
the door, the commandant and all the Boers have ridden off, I know not
where, taking our people with them."
"That's odd," I answered, "but I suppose they thought they had not
enough grass for their horses, or Heaven knows what they thought. Stay
now, I will do something," and, opening the door, I called to the
guards, honest fellows in their way, whom I had known in past times.
"Listen, friends," I said. "A tale has been brought to me that I am not
to be taken to the big camp to have my case inquired of by the council,
but am to be shot down in cold blood when I come out of this house
to-morrow morning. Is that true?"
"Allemachte, Englishman!" answered one of them. "Do you take us for
murderers? Our orders are to lead you to the commandant wherever he may
appoint, so have no fear that we shall shoot you like a Kaffir. Either
you or they who told you such a story are mad."
"So I thought, friends," I answered. "But where is the commandant and
where are the others? The Vrouw Prinsloo here has been to see them, and
reports that they are all gone."
"That is very likely," said the Boer. "There is a rumour that some of
your Zulu brothers have come across the Tugela again to hunt us, which,
if you want to know the truth, is why we visited this place. Well, the
commandant has taken his men for a ride to see if he can meet them by
this bright moonlight. Pity he could not take you, too, since you would
have known so well where to find them, if they are there at all. Now
please talk no more nonsense to us, which it makes us sick to hear, and
don't think that you can slip away because we are only two, for you know
our roers are loaded with slugs, and we have orders to use them."
"There," I said when I had shut the door, "now you have heard for
yourselves. As I thought, there is nothing in this fine story, so I
hope you are convinced."
Neither the vrouw nor Marie made any answer, and Hans also held his
tongue. Yet, as I remembered afterwards, I saw a strange glance pass
between the two women, who were not at all convinced, and, although I
never dreamed of such a thing, had now determined to carry out their own
desperate plan. But of this I repeat the vrouw and Hans only knew one
half; the rest was locked in Marie's loving heart.
"Perhaps you are right, Allan," said the vrouw in the tone of one who
gives way to an unreasonable child. "I hope so, and, at any rate, you
can refuse to come out of the house to-morrow morning until you are
quite sure. And now let us eat some supper, for we shall not make
matters better by going hungry. Hans, bring the food."
So we ate, or made pretence to eat, and I, being thirsty, drank two cups
of the black coffee dashed with spirit to serve as milk. After this I
grew strangely sleepy. The last thing I remember was Marie looking at
me with her beautiful eyes, that were full--ah! so full of tender love,
and kissing me again and again upon the lips.
I dreamed all sorts of dreams, rather pleasant dreams on the whole.
Then I woke up by degrees to find myself in an earthen pit shaped like a
bottle and having the remains of polished sides to it. It made me think
of Joseph who was let down by his brethren into a well in the desert.
Now, who on earth could have let me down into a well, especially as I
had no brethren? Perhaps I was not really in a well. Perhaps this was
a nightmare. Or I might be dead. I began to remember that there were
certain good reasons why I should be dead. Only, only--why should they
have buried me in woman's clothes as I seemed to wear?
And what was that noise that had wakened me?
It could not be the trump of doom, unless the trumping of doom went off
like a double-barrelled gun.
I began to try to climb out of my hole, but as it was nine feet deep and
bottle-shaped, which the light flowing in from the neck showed, I found
this impossible. Just as I was giving up the attempt, a yellow face
appeared in that neck, which looked to me like the face of Hans, and an
arm was projected downwards.
"Jump, if you are awake, baas," said a voice--surely it was the voice of
Hans--"and I will pull you out."
So I jumped, and caught the arm above the wrist. Then the owner of the
arm pulled desperately, and the end of it was that I succeeded in
gripping the edge of the bottle-like hole, and, with the help of the
arm, in dragging myself out.
"Now, baas," said Hans, for it _was_ Hans, "run, run before the Boers
"What Boers?" I asked, sleepily; "and how can I run with these things
flapping about my legs?"
Then I looked about me, and, although the dawn was only just breaking,
began to recognise my surroundings. Surely this was the Prinsloos'
house to my right, and that, faintly seen through the mist about a
hundred paces away, was Marie's and my own. There seemed to be
something going on yonder which excited my awakening curiosity. I could
see figures moving in an unusual manner, and desired to know what they
were doing. I began to walk towards them, and Hans, for his part, began
to try to drag me in an opposite direction, uttering all sorts of
gibberish as to the necessity of my running away. But I would not be
dragged; indeed, I struck at him, until at last, with an exclamation of
despair, he let go of me and vanished.
So I went on alone. I came to my house, or what I thought resembled it,
and there saw a figure lying on its face on the ground some ten or
fifteen yards to the right of the doorway, and noted abstractedly that
it was dressed in my clothes. The Vrouw Prinsloo, in her absurd night
garments, was waddling towards the figure, and a little way off stood
Hernan Pereira, apparently in the act of reloading a double-barrelled
gun. Beyond, staring at him, stood the lantern-faced Henri Marais,
pulling at his long beard with one hand and holding a rifle in the
other. Behind were two saddled horses in the charge of a raw Kaffir,
who looked on stupidly.
The Vrouw Prinsloo reached the body that lay upon the ground dressed in
what resembled my clothes, and bending down her stout shape with an
effort, turned it over. She glared into its face and then began to
"Come here, Henri Marais," she shrieked, "come, see what your beloved
nephew has done! You had a daughter who was all your life to you, Henri
Marais. Well, come, look at her after your beloved nephew has finished
his work with her!"
Henri Marais advanced slowly like one who does not understand. He stood
over the body on the ground, and looked down upon it through the morning
Then suddenly he went mad. His broad hat fell from his head, and his
long hair seemed to stand up. Also his beard grew big and bristled like
the feathers of a bird in frosty weather. He turned on Hernan Pereira.
"You devil!" he shouted, and his voice sounded like the roar of a wild
beast; "you devil, you have murdered my daughter! Because you could not
get Marie for yourself, you have murdered her. Well, I will pay you
Without more ado he lifted his gun and fired straight at Hernan Pereira,
who sank slowly to the ground and lay there groaning.
Just then I grew aware that horsemen were advancing upon us, a great
number of horsemen, though whence they came at that time I did not know.
One of these I recognised even in my half-drunken state, for he had
impressed himself very vividly upon my mind. He was the dark-browed
commandant who had tried and condemned me to death. He dismounted, and,
staring at the two figures that lay upon the ground, said in a loud and
"What is this? Who are these men, and why are they shot? Explain,
"Men!" wailed Henri Marais, "they are not men. One is a woman--my only
child; and the other is a devil, who, being a devil, will not die. See!
he will not die. Give me another gun that I may make him die."
The commandant looked about him wildly, and his eye fell upon the Vrouw
"What has chanced, vrouw?" he asked.
"Only this," she replied in a voice of unnatural calm. "Your murderers
whom you set on in the name of law and justice have made a mistake. You
told them to murder Allan Quatermain for reasons of your own. Well,
they have murdered his wife instead."
Now the commandant struck his hand upon his forehead and groaned, and I,
half awakened at last, ran forward, shaking my fists and gibbering.
"Who is that?" asked the commandant. "Is it a man or a woman?"
"It is a man in woman's clothing; it is Allan Quatermain," answered the
vrouw, "whom we drugged and tried to hide from your butchers."
"God above us!" exclaimed the commandant, "is this earth or hell?"
Then the wounded Pereira raised himself upon one hand.
"I am dying," he cried; "my life is bleeding away, but before I die I
must speak. All that story I told against the Englishman is false. He
never plotted with Dingaan against the Boers. It was I who plotted with
Dingaan. Although I hated him because he found me out, I did not wish
Retief and our people to be killed. But I did wish Allan Quatermain to
be killed, because he had won her whom I loved, though, as it happened,
all the others were slain, and he alone escaped. Then I came here and
learned that Marie was his wife--yes, his wife indeed--and grew mad with
hate and jealousy. So I bore false witness against him, and, you fools,
you believed me and ordered me to shoot him who is innocent before God
and man. Then things went wrong. The woman tricked me again--for the
last time. She dressed herself as the man, and in the dawnlight I was
deceived. I killed her, her whom I love alone, and now her father, who
loved her also, has killed me."
By this time I understood all, for my drugged brain had awakened at
last. I ran to the brute upon the ground; grotesque in my woman's
garments all awry, I leaped on him and stamped out the last of his life.
Then, standing over his dead body, I shook my fists and cried:
"Men, see what you have done. May God pay you back all you owe her and
They dismounted, they came round me, they protested, they even wept.
And I, I raved at them upon the one side, while the mad Henri Marais
raved upon the other; and the Vrouw Prinsloo, waving her big arms,
called down the curse of God and the blood of the innocent upon their
heads and those of their children for ever.
Then I remember no more.
When I came to myself two weeks afterwards, for I had been very ill and
in delirium, I was lying in the house of the Vrouw Prinsloo alone. The
Boers had all gone, east and west and north and south, and the dead were
long buried. They had taken Henri Marais with them, so I was told,
dragging him away in a bullock cart, to which he was tied, for he was
raving mad. Afterwards he became quieter, and, indeed, lived for years,
walking about and asking all whom he met if they could lead him to
Marie. But enough of him--poor man, poor man!
The tale which got about was that Pereira had murdered Marie out of
jealousy, and been shot by her father. But there were so many tragic
histories in those days of war and massacre that this particular one was
soon quite forgotten, especially as those concerned in it for one reason
and another did not talk overmuch of its details. Nor did I talk of it,
since no vengeance could mend my broken heart.
They brought me a letter that had been found on Marie's breast, stained
with her blood.
Here it is:
"Thrice have you saved my life, and now it is my turn to save yours, for
there is no other path. It may be that they will kill you afterwards,
but if so, I shall be glad to have died first in order that I may be
ready to greet you in the land beyond.
"I drugged you, Allan, then I cut off my hair and dressed myself in your
clothes. The Vrouw Prinsloo, Hans and I set my garments upon you. They
led you out as though you were fainting, and the guards, seeing me, whom
they thought was you, standing in the doorway, let them pass without
"What may happen I do not know, for I write this after you are gone. I
hope, however, that you will escape and lead some full and happy life,
though I fear that its best moments will always be shadowed by memories
of me. For I know you love me, Allan, and will always love me, as I
shall always love you.
"The light is burning out--like mine--so farewell, farewell, farewell!
All earthly stories come to an end at last, but at that end we shall
meet again. Till then, adieu. Would that I could have done more for
you, since to die for one who is loved with body, heart and soul is but
a little thing. Still I have been your wife, Allan, and your wife I
shall remain when the world is old. Heaven does not grow old, Allan,
and there I shall greet you.
"The light is dead, but--oh!--in my heart another light arises!
This was her letter.
I do not think there is anything more to be said.
Such is the history of my first love. Those who read it, if any ever
do, will understand why I have never spoken of her before, and do not
wish it to be known until I, too, am dead and have gone to join the
great soul of Marie Marais.
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