The Story of an African Farm
Olive Schreiner (Ralph Iron)
Part 4 out of 6
held it fast in his hand.
"Oh, Em, I love you better than all the world besides! Tell me, do you
love me a little?"
"Yes, I do," said Em, hesitating, and trying softly to free her hand.
"Better than everything; better than all the world, darling?" he asked,
bending down so low that the yellow hair was blown into his eyes.
"I don't know," said Em, gravely. "I do love you very much; but I love my
cousin who is at school, and Waldo, very much. You see I have known them
"Oh, Em, do not talk to me so coldly!" Gregory cried, seizing the little
arm that rested on the gate, and pressing it till she was half afraid. The
herdsman had moved away to the other end of the kraal now, and the cows,
busy with their calves, took no notice of the little human farce. "Em, if
you talk so to me I will go mad! You must love me, love me better than
all! You must give yourself to me. I have loved you since that first
moment when I saw you walking by the stone wall with the jug in your hands.
You were made for me, created for me! I will love you till I die! Oh, Em,
do not be so cold, so cruel to me!"
He held her arm so tightly that her fingers relaxed their hold, and the
cloak fluttered down on to the ground, and the wind played more roughly
than ever with the little yellow head.
"I do love you very much," she said; "but I do not know if I want to marry
you. I love you better than Waldo, but I can't tell if I love you better
than Lyndall. If you would let me wait for a week I think perhaps I could
Gregory picked up the cloak and wrapped it round her.
"If you could but love me as I love you," he said; "but no woman can love
as a man can. I will wait till Saturday. I will not once come near you
till then. Good-bye! Oh, Em," he said, turning again, and twining his arm
about her, and kissing her surprised little mouth, "if you are not my wife
I cannot live. I have never loved another woman, and I never shall!--
"You make me afraid," said Em. "Come, let us go, and I will fill your
"I want no milk. Good-bye! You will not see me again till Saturday."
Late that night, when every one else had gone to bed, the yellow-haired
little woman stood alone in the kitchen. She had come to fill the kettle
for the next morning's coffee, and now stood before the fire. The warm
reflection lit the grave old-womanish little face, that was so unusually
thoughtful this evening.
"Better than all the world; better than everything; he loves me better than
everything!" She said the words aloud, as if they were more easy to
believe if she spoke them so. She had given out so much love in her little
life, and had got none of it back with interest. Now one said, "I love you
better than all the world." One loved her better than she loved him. How
suddenly rich she was. She kept clasping and unclasping her hands. So a
beggar feels who falls asleep on the pavement wet and hungry, and who wakes
in a palace-hall with servants and lights, and a feast before him. Of
course the beggar's is only a dream, and he wakes from it; and this was
Gregory had said to her, "I will love you as long as I live." She said the
words over and over to herself like a song.
"I will send for him tomorrow, and I will tell him how I love him back,"
But Em needed not to send for him. Gregory discovered on reaching home
that Jemima's letter was still in his pocket. And, therefore, much as he
disliked the appearance of vacillation and weakness, he was obliged to be
at the farmhouse before sunrise to post it.
"If I see her," Gregory said, "I shall only bow to her. She shall see that
I am a man, one who keeps his word."
As to Jemima's letter, he had turned down one corner of the page, and then
turned it back, leaving a deep crease. That would show that he was neither
accepted nor rejected, but that matters were in an intermediate condition.
It was a more poetical way then putting it in plain words.
Gregory was barely in time with his letter, for Waldo was starting when he
reached the homestead, and Em was on the doorstep to see him off. When he
had given the letter, and Waldo had gone, Gregory bowed stiffly and
prepared to remount his own pony, but somewhat slowly. It was still early;
none of the servants were about. Em came up close to him and put her
little hand softly on his arm as he stood by his horse.
"I do love you best of all," she said. She was not frightened now, however
much he kissed her. "I wish I was beautiful and nice," she added, looking
up into his eyes as he held her against his breast.
"My darling, to me you are more beautiful than all the women in the world;
dearer to me than everything it holds. If you were in hell I would go
after you to find you there! If you were dead, though my body moved, my
soul would be under the ground with you. All life as I pass with you in my
arms will be perfect to me. It will pass, pass like a ray of sunshine."
Em thought how beautiful and grand his face was as she looked up into it.
She raised her hand gently and put it on his forehead.
"You are so silent, so cold, my Em," he cried. "Have you nothing to say to
A little shade of wonder filled her eyes.
"I will do everything you tell me," she said.
"What else could she say? Her idea of love was only service.
"Then, my own precious one, promise never to kiss that fellow again. I
cannot bear that you should love any one but me. You must not! I will not
have it! If every relation I had in the world were to die tomorrow, I
would be quite happy if I still only had you! My darling, my love, why are
you so cold? Promise me not to love him any more. If you asked me to do
anything for you, I would do it, though it cost my life."
Em put her hand very gravely round his neck.
"I will never kiss him," she said, "and I will try not to love any one
else. But I do not know if I will be able."
"Oh, my darling, I think of you all night, all day. I think of nothing
else, love, nothing else," he said, folding his arms about her.
Em was a little conscience stricken; even that morning she had found time
to remember that in six months her cousin would come back from school, and
she had thought to remind Waldo of the lozenges for his cough, even when
she saw Gregory coming.
"I do not know how it is," she said humbly, nestling to him, "but I cannot
love you so much as you love me. Perhaps it is because I am only a woman;
but I do love you as much as I can."
Now the Kaffer maids were coming from the huts. He kissed her again, eyes
and mouth and hands, and left her.
Tant Sannie was well satisfied when told of the betrothment. She herself
contemplated marriage within the year with one or other of her numerous
vrijers, and she suggested that the weddings might take place together.
Em set to work busily to prepare her own household linen and wedding
garments. Gregory was with her daily, almost hourly, and the six months
which elapsed before Lyndall's return passed, as he felicitously phrased
it, "like a summer night, when you are dreaming of some one you love."
Late one evening, Gregory sat by his little love, turning the handle of her
machine as she drew her work through it, and they talked of the changes
they would make when the Boer-woman was gone, and the farm belonged to them
alone. There should be a new room here, and a kraal there. So they
chatted on. Suddenly Gregory dropped the handle, and impressed a fervent
kiss on the fat hand that guided the linen.
"You are so beautiful, Em," said the lover. "It comes over me in a flood
suddenly how I love you."
"Tant Sannie says when I am her age no one will look at me; and it is true.
My hands are as short and broad as a duck's foot, and my forehead is so
low, and I haven't any nose. I can't be pretty."
She laughed softly. It was so nice to think he should be so blind.
"When my cousin comes tomorrow you will see a beautiful woman, Gregory,"
she added presently. "She is like a little queen: her shoulders are so
upright, and her head looks as though it ought to have a little crown upon
it. You must come to see her tomorrow as soon as she comes. I am sure you
will love her."
"Of course I shall come to see her, since she is your cousin; but do you
think I could ever think any woman as lovely as I think you?"
He fixed his seething eyes upon her.
"You could not help seeing that she is prettier," said Em, slipping her
right hand into his; "but you will never be able to like any one so much as
you like me."
Afterward, when she wished her lover good night, she stood upon the
doorstep to call a greeting after him; and she waited, as she always did,
till the brown pony's hoofs became inaudible behind the kopje.
Then she passed through the room where Tant Sannie lay snoring, and through
the little room that was all draped in white, waiting for her cousin's
return, on to her own room.
She went to the chest of drawers to put away the work she had finished, and
sat down on the floor before the lowest drawer. In it were the things she
was preparing for her marriage. Piles of white linen, and some aprons and
quilts; and in a little box in the corner a spray of orange-blossom which
she had bought from a smouse. There, too, was a ring Gregory had given
her, and a veil his sister had sent, and there was a little roll of fine
embroidered work which Trana had given her. It was too fine and good even
for Gregory's wife--just right for something very small and soft. She
would keep it. And she touched it gently with her forefinger, smiling; and
then she blushed and hid it far behind the other things. She knew so well
all that was in that drawer, and yet she turned them all over as though she
saw them for the first time, packed them all out, and packed them all in,
without one fold or crumple; and then sat down and looked at them.
Tomorrow evening when Lyndall came she would bring her here, and show it
her all. Lyndall would so like to see it--the little wreath, and the ring,
and the white veil! It would be so nice! Then Em fell to seeing pictures.
Lyndall should live with them till she herself got married some day.
Every day when Gregory came home, tired from his work, he would look about
and say, "Where is my wife? Has no one seen my wife? Wife, some coffee!"
and she would give him some.
Em's little face grew very grave at last, and she knelt up and extended her
hands over the drawer of linen.
"Oh, God!" she said, "I am so glad! I do not know what I have done that I
should be so glad. Thank you!"
Chapter 2.IV. Lyndall.
She was more like a princess, yes, far more like a princess, than the lady
who still hung on the wall in Tant Sannie's bedroom. So Em thought. She
leaned back in the little armchair; she wore a grey dressing-gown, and her
long hair was combed out and hung to the ground. Em, sitting before her,
looked up with mingled respect and admiration.
Lyndall was tired after her long journey, and had come to her room early.
Her eyes ran over the familiar objects. Strange to go away for four years,
and come back, and find that the candle standing on the dressing-table
still cast the shadow of an old crone's head in the corner beyond the
clothes-horse. Strange that even a shadow should last longer than a man!
She looked about among the old familiar objects; all was there, but the old
self was gone.
"What are you noticing?" asked Em.
"Nothing and everything. I thought the windows were higher. If I were
you, when I get this place I should raise the walls. There is not room to
breathe here. One suffocates."
"Gregory is going to make many alterations," said Em; and drawing nearer to
the grey dressing-gown respectfully. "Do you like him, Lyndall? Is he not
"He must have been a fine baby," said Lyndall, looking at the white dimity
curtain that hung above the window.
Em was puzzled.
"There are some men," said Lyndall, "whom you never can believe were babies
at all; and others you never see without thinking how very nice they must
have looked when they wore socks and pink sashes."
Em remained silent; then she said with a little dignity, "When you know him
you will love him as I do. When I compare other people with him, they seem
so weak and little. Our hearts are so cold, our loves are mixed up with so
many other things. But he--no one is worthy of his love. I am not. It is
so great and pure."
"You need not make yourself unhappy on that point--your poor return for his
love, my dear," said Lyndall. "A man's love is a fire of olive-wood. It
leaps higher every moment; it roars, it blazes, it shoots out red flames;
it threatens to wrap you round and devour you--you who stand by like an
icicle in the glow of its fierce warmth. You are self-reproached at your
own chilliness and want of reciprocity. The next day, when you go to warm
your hands a little, you find a few ashes! 'Tis a long love and cool
against a short love and hot; men, at all events, have nothing to complain
"You speak so because you do not know men," said Em, instantly assuming the
dignity of superior knowledge so universally affected by affianced and
married women in discussing man's nature with their uncontracted sisters.
"You will know them too some day, and then you will think differently,"
said Em, with the condescending magnanimity which superior knowledge can
always afford to show to ignorance.
Lyndall's little lip quivered in a manner indicative of intense amusement.
She twirled a massive ring upon her forefinger--a ring more suitable for
the hand of a man, and noticeable in design--a diamond cross let into gold,
with the initials "R.R." below it.
"Ah, Lyndall," Em cried, "perhaps you are engaged yourself--that is why you
smile. Yes; I am sure you are. Look at this ring!"
Lyndall drew the hand quickly from her.
"I am not in so great a hurry to put my neck beneath any man's foot; and I
do not so greatly admire the crying of babies," she said, as she closed her
eyes half wearily and leaned back in the chair. "There are other women
glad of such work."
Em felt rebuked and ashamed. How could she take Lyndall and show her the
white linen and the wreath, and the embroidery? She was quiet for a little
while, and then began to talk about Trana and the old farm-servants, till
she saw her companion was weary; then she rose and left her for the night.
But after Em was gone Lyndall sat on, watching the old crone's face in the
corner, and with a weary look, as though the whole world's weight rested on
these frail young shoulders.
The next morning, Waldo, starting off before breakfast with a bag of
mealies slung over his shoulder to feed the ostriches, heard a light step
"Wait for me; I am coming with you," said Lyndall, adding as she came up to
him, "if I had not gone to look for you yesterday you would not have come
to greet me till now. Do you not like me any longer, Waldo?"
"Yes--but--you are changed."
It was the old clumsy, hesitating mode of speech.
"You like the pinafores better?" she said quickly. She wore a dress of a
simple cotton fabric, but very fashionably made, and on her head was a
broad white hat. To Waldo she seemed superbly attired. She saw it. "My
dress has changed a little," she said, "and I also; but not to you. Hang
the bag over your other shoulder, that I may see your face. You say so
little that if one does not look at you you are an uncomprehended cipher.
Waldo changed the bag, and they walked on side by side. "You have
improved," she said. "Do you know that I have sometimes wished to see you
while I was away; not often, but still sometimes."
They were at the gate of the first camp now. Waldo threw over a bag of
mealies, and they walked on over the dewy ground.
"Have you learnt much?" he asked her simply, remembering how she had once
said, "When I come back again I shall know everything that a human being
"Are you thinking of my old boast? Yes; I have learnt something, though
hardly what I expected, and not quite so much. In the first place, I have
learnt that one of my ancestors must have been a very great fool; for they
say nothing comes out in a man but one of his forefathers possessed it
before him. In the second place, I have discovered that of all cursed
places under the sun, where the hungriest soul can hardly pick up a few
grains of knowledge, a girls' boarding-school is the worst. They are
called finishing schools, and the name tells accurately what they are.
They finish everything but imbecility and weakness, and that they
cultivate. They are nicely adapted machines for experimenting on the
question, 'Into how little space a human soul can be crushed?' I have seen
some souls so compressed that they would have fitted into a small thimble,
and found room to move there--wide room. A woman who has been for many
years in one of those places carries the mark of the beast on her till she
dies, though she may expand a little afterward, when she breathes in the
"Were you miserable?" he asked, looking at her with quick anxiety.
"I?--no. I am never miserable and never happy. I wish I were. But I
should have run away from the place on the fourth day, and hired myself to
the first Boer-woman whose farm I came to, to make fire under her soap-pot,
if I had to live as the rest of the drove did. Can you form an idea,
Waldo, of what it must be to be shut up with cackling old women, who are
without knowledge of life, without love of the beautiful, without strength,
to have your soul cultured by them? It is suffocation only to breathe the
air they breathe; but I made them give me room. I told them I should
leave, and they knew I came there on my own account; so they gave me a
bedroom without the companionship of one of those things that were having
their brains slowly diluted and squeezed out of them. I did not learn
music, because I had no talent; and when the drove made cushions, and
hideous flowers that the roses laugh at, and a footstool in six weeks that
a machine would have made better in five minutes, I went to my room. With
the money saved from such work I bought books and newspapers, and at night
I sat up. I read, and epitomized what I read; and I found time to write
some plays, and find out how hard it is to make your thoughts look anything
but imbecile fools when you paint them with ink and paper. In the holidays
I learnt a great deal more. I made acquaintances, saw a few places and
many people, and some different ways of living, which is more than any
books can show one. On the whole, I am not dissatisfied with my four
years. I have not learnt what I expected; but I have learnt something
else. What have you been doing?"
"That is not possible. I shall find out by and by."
They still stepped on side by side over the dewy bushes. Then suddenly she
turned on him.
"Don't you wish you were a woman, Waldo?"
"No," he answered readily.
"I thought not. Even you are too worldly-wise for that. I never met a man
who did. This is a pretty ring," she said, holding out her little hand,
that the morning sun might make the diamonds sparkle. "Worth fifty pounds
at least. I will give it to the first man who tells me he would like to be
a woman. There might be one on Robbin Island (lunatics at the Cape are
sent to Robbin Island) who would win it perhaps, but I doubt it even there.
It is delightful to be a woman; but every man thanks the Lord devoutly that
he isn't one."
She drew her hat to one side to keep the sun out of her eyes as she walked.
Waldo looked at her so intently that he stumbled over the bushes. Yes,
this was his little Lyndall who had worn the check pinafores; he saw it
now, and he walked closer beside her. They reached the next camp.
"Let us wait at this camp and watch the birds," she said, as an ostrich hen
came bounding toward them with velvety wings outstretched, while far away
over the bushes the head of the cock was visible as he sat brooding on the
Lyndall folded her arms on the gate bar, and Waldo threw his empty bag on
the wall and leaned beside her.
"I like these birds," she said; "they share each other's work, and are
companions. Do you take an interest in the position of women, Waldo?"
"I thought not. No one does, unless they are in need of a subject upon
which to show their wit. And as for you, from of old you can see nothing
that is not separated from you by a few millions of miles, and strewed over
with mystery. If women were the inhabitants of Jupiter, of whom you had
happened to hear something, you would pore over us and our condition night
and day; but because we are before your eyes you never look at us. You
care nothing that this is ragged and ugly," she said, putting her little
finger on his sleeve; "but you strive mightily to make an imaginary leaf on
an old stick beautiful. I'm sorry you don't care for the position of
women; I should have liked us to be friends; and it is the only thing about
which I think much or feel much--if, indeed, I have any feeling about
anything," she added, flippantly, readjusting her dainty little arms.
"When I was a baby, I fancy my parents left me out in the frost one night,
and I got nipped internally--it feels so!"
"I have only a few old thoughts," he said, "and I think them over and over
again; always beginning where I left off. I never get any further. I am
weary of them."
"Like an old hen that sits on its eggs month after month and they never
come out?" she said quickly. "I am so pressed in upon by new things that,
lest they should trip one another up, I have to keep forcing them back. My
head swings sometimes. But this one thought stands, never goes--if I might
but be one of these born in the future; then, perhaps, to be born a woman
will not be to be born branded."
Waldo looked at her. It was hard to say whether she were in earnest or
"I know it is foolish. Wisdom never kicks at the iron walls it can't bring
down," she said. "But we are cursed. Waldo, born cursed from the time our
mothers bring us into the world till the shrouds are put on us. Do not
look at me as though I were talking nonsense. Everything has two sides--
the outside that is ridiculous, and the inside that is solemn."
"I am not laughing," said the boy, sedately enough; "but what curses you?"
He thought she would not reply to him, she waited so long.
"It is not what is done to us, but what is made of us," she said at last,
"that wrongs us. No man can be really injured but by what modifies
himself. We all enter the world little plastic beings, with so much
natural force, perhaps, but for the rest--blank; and the world tells us
what we are to be, and shapes us by the ends it sets before us. To you it
says--"Work;" and to us it says--"Seem!" To you it says--As you
approximate to man's highest ideal of God, as your arm is strong and your
knowledge great, and the power to labour is with you, so you shall gain all
that human heart desires. To us it says--Strength shall not help you, nor
knowledge, nor labour. You shall gain what men gain, but by other means.
And so the world makes men and women.
"Look at this little chin of mine, Waldo, with the dimple in it. It is but
a small part of my person; but though I had a knowledge of all things under
the sun, and the wisdom to use it, and the deep loving heart of an angel,
it would not stead me through life like this little chin. I can win money
with it, I can win love; I can win power with it, I can win fame. What
would knowledge help me? The less a woman has in her head the lighter she
is for climbing. I once heard an old man say, that he never saw intellect
help a woman so much as a pretty ankle; and it was the truth. They begin
to shape us to our cursed end," she said, with her lips drawn in to look as
though they smiled, "when we are tiny things in shoes and socks. We sit
with our little feet drawn up under us in the window, and look out at the
boys in their happy play. We want to go. Then a loving hand is laid on
us: 'Little one, you cannot go,' they say, 'your little face will burn,
and your nice white dress be spoiled.' We feel it must be for our good, it
is so lovingly said: but we cannot understand; and we kneel still with one
little cheek wistfully pressed against the pane. Afterwards we go and
thread blue beads, and make a string for our neck; and we go and stand
before the glass. We see the complexion we were not to spoil, and the
white frock, and we look into our own great eyes. Then the curse begins to
act on us. It finishes its work when we are grown women, who no more look
out wistfully at a more healthy life; we are contented. We fit our sphere
as a Chinese woman's foot fits her shoe, exactly, as though God had made
both--and yet he knows nothing of either. In some of us the shaping of our
end has been quite completed. The parts we are not to use have been quite
atrophied, and have even dropped off; but in others, and we are not less to
be pitied, they have been weakened and left. We wear the bandages, but our
limbs have not grown to them; we know that we are compressed, and chafe
"But what does it help? A little bitterness, a little longing when we are
young, a little futile searching for work, a little passionate striving for
room for the exercise of our powers,--and then we go with the drove. A
woman must march with her regiment. In the end she must be trodden down or
go with it; and if she is wise she goes.
"I see in your great eyes what you are thinking," she said, glancing at
him; "I always know what the person I am talking to is thinking of. How is
this woman who makes such a fuss worse off than I? I will show you by a
very little example. We stand here at this gate this morning, both poor,
both young, both friendless; there is not much to choose between us. Let
us turn away just as we are, to make our way in life. This evening you
will come to a farmer's house. The farmer, albeit you come alone on foot,
will give you a pipe of tobacco and a cup of coffee and a bed. If he has
no dam to build and no child to teach, tomorrow you can go on your way,
with a friendly greeting of the hand. I, if I come to the same place
tonight, will have strange questions asked me, strange glances cast on me.
The Boer-wife will shake her head and give me food to eat with the Kaffers,
and a right to sleep with the dogs. That would be the first step in our
progress--a very little one, but every step to the end would repeat it. We
were equals once when we lay new-born babes on our nurses' knees. We will
be equals again when they tie up our jaws for the last sleep!"
Waldo looked in wonder at the little quivering face; it was a glimpse into
a world of passion and feeling wholly new to him.
"Mark you," she said, "we have always this advantage over you--we can at
any time step into ease and competence, where you must labour patiently for
it. A little weeping, a little wheedling, a little self-degradation, a
little careful use of our advantages, and then some man will say: "Come,
be my wife!" With good looks and youth marriage is easy to attain. There
are men enough; but a woman who has sold herself, even for a ring and a new
name, need hold her skirt aside for no creature in the street. They both
earn their bread in one way. Marriage for love is the beautifulest
external symbol of the union of souls; marriage without it is the
uncleanliest traffic that defiles the world." She ran her little finger
savagely along the topmost bar, shaking off the dozen little dewdrops that
still hung there. "And they tell us we have men's chivalrous attention!"
she cried. "When we ask to be doctors, lawyers, law-makers, anything but
ill-paid drudges, they say--No; but you have men's chivalrous attention;
now think of that and be satisfied! What would you do without it?"
The bitter little silvery laugh, so seldom heard, rang out across the
bushes. She bit her little teeth together.
"I was coming up in Cobb & Co.'s the other day. At a little wayside hotel
we had to change the large coach for a small one. We were ten passengers,
eight men and two women. As I sat in the house the gentlemen came and
whispered to me, 'There is not room for all in the new coach, take your
seat quickly.' We hurried out, and they gave me the best seat, and covered
me with rugs, because it was drizzling. Then the last passenger came
running up to the coach--an old woman with a wonderful bonnet, and a black
shawl pinned with a yellow pin.
"'There is no room,' they said; 'you must wait till next week's coach takes
you up;' but she climbed on to the step, and held on at the window with
"'My son-in-law is ill, and I must go and see him,' she said.
"'My good woman,' said one, 'I am really exceedingly sorry that your son-
in-law is ill; but there is absolutely no room for you here.'
"'You had better get down,' said another, 'or the wheel will catch you.'
"I got up to give her my place.
"'Oh, no, no!' they cried, 'we will not allow that.'
"'I will rather kneel,' said one, and he crouched down at my feet; so the
woman came in.
"There were nine of us in that coach, and only one showed chivalrous
attention--and that was a woman to a woman.
"I shall be old and ugly, too, one day, and I shall look for men's
chivalrous help, but I shall not find it.
"The bees are very attentive to the flowers till their honey is done, and
then they fly over them. I don't know if the flowers feel grateful to the
bees; they are great fools if they do."
"But some women," said Waldo, speaking as though the words forced
themselves from him at that moment, "some women have power."
She lifted her beautiful eyes to his face.
"Power! Did you ever hear of men being asked whether other souls should
have power or not? It is born in them. You may dam up the fountain of
water, and make it a stagnant marsh, or you may let it run free and do its
work; but you cannot say whether it shall be there; it is there. And it
will act, if not openly for good, then covertly for evil; but it will act.
If Goethe had been stolen away a child, and reared in a robber horde in the
depths of a German forest, do you think the world would have had "Faust"
and "Iphegenie?" But he would have been Goethe still--stronger, wiser than
his fellows. At night, round their watch-fire, he would have chanted wild
songs of rapine and murder, till the dark faces about him were moved and
trembled. His songs would have echoed on from father to son, and nerved
the heart and arm--for evil. Do you think if Napoleon had been born a
woman that he would have been contented to give small tea-parties and talk
small scandal? He would have risen; but the world would not have heard of
him as it hears of him now--a man great and kingly with all his sins; he
would have left one of those names that stain the leaf of every history--
the names of women, who, having power, but being denied the right to
exercise it openly, rule in the dark, covertly, and by stealth, through the
men whose passions they feed on and by whom they climb.
"Power!" she said, suddenly, smiting her little hand upon the rail. "Yes,
we have power; and since we are not to expend it in tunnelling mountains,
nor healing diseases, nor making laws, nor money, nor on any extraneous
object, we expend it on you. You are our goods, our merchandise, our
material for operating on; we buy you, we sell you, we make fools of you,
we act the wily old Jew with you, we keep six of you crawling to our little
feet, and praying only for a touch of our little hand; and they say truly,
there was never an ache or pain or broken heart but a woman was at the
bottom of it. We are not to study law, nor science, nor art, so we study
you. There is never a nerve or fibre in a man's nature but we know it. We
keep six of you dancing in the palm of one little hand," she said,
balancing her outstretched arm gracefully, as though tiny beings disported
themselves in its palm. "There, we throw you away, and you sink to the
devil," she said, folding her arms composedly. "There was never a man who
said one word for woman but he said two for man, and three for the whole
She watched the bird pecking up the last yellow grains; but Waldo looked
only at her.
When she spoke again it was very measuredly.
"They bring weighty arguments against us when we ask for the perfect
freedom of women," she said; "but, when you come to the objections, they
are like pumpkin devils with candles inside, hollow, and can't bite. They
say that women do not wish for the sphere and freedom we ask for them, and
would not use it!
"If the bird does like its cage, and does like its sugar and will not leave
it, why keep the door so very carefully shut? Why not open it, only a
little? Do they know there is many a bird will not break its wings against
the bars, but would fly if the doors were open?" She knit her forehead and
leaned further over the bars.
"Then they say, 'If the women have the liberty you ask for, they will be
found in positions for which they are not fitted!' If two men climb one
ladder, did you ever see the weakest anywhere but at the foot? The surest
sign of fitness is success. The weakest never wins but where there is
handicapping. Nature, left to herself, will as beautifully apportion a
man's work to his capacities as long ages ago she graduated the colours on
the bird's breast. If we are not fit, you give us, to no purpose, the
right to labour; the work will fall out of our hands into those that are
She talked more rapidly as she went on, as one talks of that over which
they have brooded long, and which lies near their hearts.
Waldo watched her intently.
"They say women have one great and noble work left them, and they do it
ill. That is true; they do it execrably. It is the work that demands the
broadest culture, and they have not even the narrowest. The lawyer may see
no deeper than his law-books, and the chemist see no further than the
windows of his laboratory, and they may do their work well. But the woman
who does woman's work needs a many-sided, multiform culture; the heights
and depths of human life must not be beyond the reach of her vision; she
must have knowledge of men and things in many states, a wide catholicity of
sympathy, the strength that springs from knowledge, and the magnanimity
which springs from strength. We bear the world, and we make it. The souls
of little children are marvellously delicate and tender things, and keep
forever the shadow that first falls on them, and that is the mother's or at
best a woman's. There was never a great man who had not a great mother--it
is hardly an exaggeration. The first six years of our life make us; all
that is added later is veneer; and yet some say, if a woman can cook a
dinner or dress herself well she has culture enough.
"The mightiest and noblest of human work is given to us, and we do it ill.
Send a navvie to work into an artist's studio, and see what you will find
there! And yet, thank God, we have this work," she added, quickly--"it is
the one window through which we see into the great world of earnest labour.
The meanest girl who dances and dresses becomes something higher when her
children look up into her face and ask her questions. It is the only
education we have and which they cannot take from us."
She smiled slightly. "They say that we complain of woman's being compelled
to look upon marriage as a profession; but that she is free to enter upon
it or leave it, as she pleases.
"Yes--and a cat set afloat in a pond is free to sit in the tub till it dies
there, it is under no obligation to wet its feet; and a drowning man may
catch at a straw or not, just as he likes--it is a glorious liberty! Let
any man think for five minutes of what old maidenhood means to a woman--and
then let him be silent. Is it easy to bear through life a name that in
itself signifies defeat? to dwell, as nine out of ten unmarried women must,
under the finger of another woman? Is it easy to look forward to an old
age without honour, without the reward of useful labour, without love? I
wonder how many men there are who would give up everything that is dear in
life for the sake of maintaining a high ideal purity."
She laughed a little laugh that was clear without being pleasant.
"And then, when they have no other argument against us, they say, 'Go on;
but when you have made woman what you wish, and her children inherit her
culture, you will defeat yourself. Man will gradually become extinct from
excess of intellect, the passions which replenish the race will die.'
Fools!" she said, curling her pretty lip. "A Hottentot sits at the
roadside and feeds on a rotten bone he has found there, and takes out his
bottle of Cape-smoke and swills at it, and grunts with satisfaction; and
the cultured child of the nineteenth century sits in his armchair, and sips
choice wines with the lip of a connoisseur, and tastes delicate dishes with
a delicate palate, and with a satisfaction of which the Hottentot knows
nothing. Heavy jaw and sloping forehead--all have gone with increasing
intellect; but the animal appetites are there still--refined,
discriminative, but immeasurably intensified. Fools! Before men forgave
or worshipped, while they were weak on their hind legs, did they not eat
and drink, and fight for wives? When all the latter additions to humanity
have vanished, will not the foundation on which they are built remain?"
She was silent then for a while, and said somewhat dreamily, more as though
speaking to herself than to him,
"They ask, What will you gain, even if man does not become extinct?--you
will have brought justice and equality on to the earth, and sent love from
it. When men and women are equals they will love no more. Your highly-
cultured women will not be lovable, will not love.
"Do they see nothing, understand nothing? It is Tant Sannie who buries
husbands one after another, and folds her hands resignedly,--'The Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord,'--
and she looks for another. It is the hard-headed, deep thinker who, when
the wife who has thought and worked with him goes, can find no rest, and
lingers near her till he finds sleep beside her.
"A great soul draws and is drawn with a more fierce intensity than any
small one. By every inch we grow in intellectual height our love strikes
down its roots deeper, and spreads out its arms wider. It is for love's
sake yet more than for any other that we look for that new time."
She had leaned her head against the stones, and watched with her sad, soft
eyes the retreating bird. "Then when that time comes," she said lowly,
"when love is no more bought or sold, when it is not a means of making
bread, when each woman's life is filled with earnest, independent labour,
then love will come to her, a strange, sudden sweetness breaking in upon
her earnest work; not sought for, but found. Then, but not now--"
Waldo waited for her to finish the sentence, but she seemed to have
"Lyndall," he said, putting his hand upon her--she started--"if you think
that that new time will be so great, so good, you who speak so easily--"
She interrupted him.
"Speak! speak!" she said, "the difficulty is not to speak; the difficulty
is to keep silence."
"But why do you not try to bring that time?" he said with pitiful
simplicity. "When you speak I believe all you say; other people would
listen to you also."
"I am not so sure of that," she said with a smile.
Then over the small face came the weary look it had worn last night as it
watched the shadow in the corner, Ah, so weary!
"I, Waldo, I?" she said. "I will do nothing good for myself, nothing for
the world, till some one wakes me. I am asleep, swathed, shut up in self;
till I have been delivered I will deliver no one."
He looked at her wondering, but she was not looking at him.
"To see the good and the beautiful," she said, "and to have no strength to
live it, is only to be Moses on the mountain of Nebo, with the land at your
feet and no power to enter. It would be better not to see it. Come," she
said, looking up into his face, and seeing its uncomprehending expression,
"let us go, it is getting late. Doss is anxious for his breakfast also,"
she added, wheeling round and calling to the dog, who was endeavouring to
unearth a mole, an occupation to which he had been zealously addicted from
the third month, but in which he had never on any single occasion proved
Waldo shouldered his bag, and Lyndall walked on before in silence, with the
dog close to her side. Perhaps she thought of the narrowness of the limits
within which a human soul may speak and be understood by its nearest of
mental kin, of how soon it reaches that solitary land of the individual
experience, in which no fellow footfall is ever heard. Whatever her
thoughts may have been, she was soon interrupted. Waldo came close to her,
and standing still, produced with awkwardness from his breast-pocket a
small carved box.
"I made it for you," he said, holding it out.
"I like it," she said, examining it carefully.
The workmanship was better than that of the grave-post. The flowers that
covered it were delicate, and here and there small conical protuberances
were let in among them. She turned it round critically. Waldo bent over
"There is one strange thing about it," he said earnestly, putting a finger
on one little pyramid. "I made it without these, and I felt something was
wrong; I tried many changes, and at last I let these in, and then it was
right. But why was it? They are not beautiful in themselves."
"They relieve the monotony of the smooth leaves, I suppose."
He shook his head as over a weighty matter.
"The sky is monotonous," he said, "when it is blue, and yet it is
beautiful. I have thought of that often; but it is not monotony, and it is
not variety makes beauty. What is it? The sky, and your face, and this
box--the same thing is in them all, only more in the sky and in your face.
But what is it?"
"So you are at your old work still. Why, why, why? What is the reason?
It is enough for me," she said, "if I find out what is beautiful and what
is ugly, what is real and what is not. Why it is there, and over the final
cause of things in general, I don't trouble myself; there must be one, but
what is it to me? If I howl to all eternity I shall never get hold of it;
and if I did I might be no better off. But you Germans are born with an
aptitude for borrowing; you can't help yourselves. You must sniff after
reasons, just as that dog must after a mole. He knows perfectly well he
will never catch it, but he's under the imperative necessity of digging for
"But he might find it."
"Might!--but he never has and never will. Life is too short to run after
mights; we must have certainties."
She tucked the box under her arm and was about to walk on, when Gregory
Rose, with shining spurs, an ostrich feather in his hat, and a silver-
headed whip, careered past. He bowed gallantly as he went by. They waited
till the dust of the horse's hoofs had laid itself.
"There," said Lyndall, "goes a true woman--one born for the sphere that
some women have to fill without being born for it. How happy he would be
sewing frills into his little girl's frocks, and how pretty he would look
sitting in a parlour, with a rough man making love to him! Don't you think
"I shall not stay here when he is master," Waldo answered, not able to
connect any kind of beauty with Gregory Rose.
"I should imagine not. The rule of a woman is tyranny; but the rule of a
man-woman grinds fine. Where are you going?"
"What to do?"
"You will be disappointed."
"And were you?"
"Yes; and you will be more so. I want things that men and the world give,
you do not. If you have a few yards of earth to stand on, and a bit of
blue over you, and something that you cannot see to dream about, you have
all that you need, all that you know how to use. But I like to see real
men. Let them be as disagreeable as they please, they are more interesting
to me than flowers, or trees, or stars, or any other thing under the sun.
Sometimes," she added, walking on, and shaking the dust daintily from her
skirts, "when I am not too busy trying to find a new way of doing my hair
that will show my little neck to better advantage, or over other work of
that kind, sometimes it amuses me intensely to trace out the resemblance
between one man and another: to see how Tant Sannie and I, you and
Bonaparte, St. Simon on his pillow, and the emperor dining off larks'
tongues, are one and the same compound, merely mixed in different
"What is microscopic in one is largely developed in another; what is a
rudimentary in one man is an active organ in another; but all things are in
all men, and one soul is the model of all. We shall find nothing new in
human nature after we have once carefully dissected and analyzed the one
being we ever shall truly know--ourself. The Kaffer girl threw some coffee
on my arm in bed this morning; I felt displeased, but said nothing. Tant
Sannie would have thrown the saucer at her and sworn for an hour; but the
feeling would be the same irritated displeasure. If a huge animated
stomach like Bonaparte were put under a glass by a skilful mental
microscopist, even he would be found to have an embryonic doubling
somewhere indicative of a heart, and rudimentary buddings that might have
become conscience and sincerity. Let me take your arm Waldo.
"How full you are of mealie dust. No, never mind. It will brush off. And
sometimes what is more amusing still than tracing the likeness between man
and man, is to trace the analogy there always is between the progress and
development of one individual and of a whole nation; or, again, between a
single nation and the entire human race. It is pleasant when it dawns on
you that the one is just the other written out in large letters; and very
odd to find all the little follies and virtues, and developments and
retrogressions, written out in the big world's book that you find in your
little internal self. It is the most amusing thing I know of; but of
course, being a woman, I have not often time for such amusements.
Professional duties always first, you know. It takes a great deal of time
and thought always to look perfectly exquisite, even for a pretty woman.
Is the old buggy still in existence, Waldo?"
"Yes, but the harness is broken."
"Well, I wish you would mend it. You must teach me to drive. I must learn
something while I am here. I got the Hottentot girl to show me how to make
sarsarties this morning; and Tant Sannie is going to teach me to make
kapjes. I will come and sit with you this afternoon while you mend the
"No, don't thank me; I come for my own pleasure. I never find any one I
can talk to. Women bore me, and men, I talk so to--'Going to the ball this
evening? Nice little dog that of yours. Pretty little ears. So fond of
pointer pups!' And they think me fascinating, charming! Men are like the
earth, and we are the moon; we turn always one side to them, and they think
there is no other, because they don't see it--but there is."
They had reached the house now.
"Tell me when you set to work," she said, and walked toward the door.
Waldo stood to look after her, and Doss stood at his side, a look of
painful uncertainty depicted on his small countenance, and one little foot
poised in the air. Should he stay with his master or go? He looked at the
figure with the wide straw hat moving toward the house, and he looked up at
his master; then he put down the little paw and went. Waldo watched them
both in at the door and then walked away alone. He was satisfied that at
least his dog was with her.
Chapter 2.V. Tant Sannie Holds An Upsitting, and Gregory Writes A Letter.
It was just after sunset, and Lyndall had not yet returned from her first
driving-lesson, when the lean coloured woman standing at the corner of the
house to enjoy the evening breeze, saw coming along the road a strange
horseman. Very narrowly she surveyed him, as slowly he approached. He was
attired in the deepest mourning, the black crepe round his tall hat totally
concealing the black felt, and nothing but a dazzling shirt-front relieving
the funereal tone of his attire. He rode much forward in his saddle, with
his chin resting on the uppermost of his shirt-studs, and there was an air
of meek subjection to the will of Heaven, and to what might be in store for
him, that bespoke itself even in the way in which he gently urged his
steed. He was evidently in no hurry to reach his destination, for the
nearer he approached to it the slacker did his bridle hang. The coloured
woman having duly inspected him, dashed into the dwelling.
"Here is another one!" she cried--"a widower; I see it by his hat."
"Good Lord!" said Tant Sannie; "it's the seventh I've had this month; but
the men know where sheep and good looks and money in the bank are to be
found," she added, winking knowingly. "How does he look?"
"Nineteen, weak eyes, white hair, little round nose," said the maid.
"Then it's he! then it's he!" said Tant Sannie triumphantly; "little Piet
Vander Walt, whose wife died last month--two farms, twelve thousand sheep.
I've not seen him, but my sister-in-law told me about him, and I dreamed
about him last night."
Here Piet's black hat appeared in the doorway, and the Boer-woman drew
herself up in dignified silence, extended the tips of her fingers, and
motioned solemnly to a chair. The young man seated himself, sticking his
feet as far under it as they would go, and said mildly:
"I am Little Piet Vander Walt, and my father is Big Piet Vander Walt."
Tant Sannie said solemnly: "Yes."
"Aunt," said the young man, starting up spasmodically; "can I off-saddle?"
He seized his hat, and disappeared with a rush through the door.
"I told you so! I knew it!" said Tant Sannie. "The dear Lord doesn't send
dreams for nothing. Didn't I tell you this morning that I dreamed of a
great beast like a sheep, with red eyes, and I killed it? Wasn't the white
wool his hair, and the red eyes his weak eyes, and my killing him meant
marriage? Get supper ready quickly; the sheep's inside and roaster-cakes.
We shall sit up tonight."
To young Piet Vander Walt that supper was a period of intense torture.
There was something overawing in that assembly of English people, with
their incomprehensible speech; and moreover, it was his first courtship;
his first wife had courted him, and ten months of severe domestic rule had
not raised his spirit nor courage. He ate little, and when he raised a
morsel to his lips glanced guiltily round to see if he were not observed.
He had put three rings on his little finger, with the intention of sticking
it out stiffly when he raised a coffee-cup; now the little finger was
curled miserably among its fellows. It was small relief when the meal was
over, and Tant Sannie and he repaired to the front room. Once seated
there, he set his knees close together, stood his black hat upon them, and
wretchedly turned the brim up and down. But supper had cheered Tant
Sannie, who found it impossible longer to maintain that decorous silence,
and whose heart yearned over the youth.
"I was related to your aunt Selena who died," said Tant Sannie. "My
mother's stepbrother's child was married to her father's brother's
"Yes, aunt," said the young man, "I know we were related."
"It was her cousin," said Tant Sannie, now fairly on the flow, "who had the
cancer cut out of her breast by the other doctor, who was not the right
doctor they sent for, but who did it quite as well."
"Yes, aunt," said the young man.
"I've heard about it often," said Tant Sannie. "And he was the son of the
old doctor that they say died on Christmas-day, but I don't know if that's
true. People do tell such awful lies. Why should he die on Christmas-day
more than any other day?"
"Yes, aunt, why?" said the young man meekly.
"Did you ever have the toothache?" asked Tant Sannie.
"Well, they say that doctor--not the son of the old doctor that died on
Christmas-day, the other that didn't come when he was sent for--he gave
such good stuff for the toothache that if you opened the bottle in the room
where any one was bad they got better directly. You could see it was good
stuff," said Tant Sannie; "it tasted horrid. That was a real doctor! He
used to give a bottle so high," said the Boer-woman, raising her hand a
foot from the table, "you could drink at it for a month and it wouldn't get
done, and the same medicine was good for all sorts of sicknesses--croup,
measles, jaundice, dropsy. Now you have to buy a new kind for each
sickness. The doctors aren't so good as they used to be."
"No, aunt," said the young man, who was trying to gain courage to stick out
his legs and clink his spurs together. He did so at last.
Tant Sannie had noticed the spurs before; but she thought it showed a nice
manly spirit, and her heart warmed yet more to the youth.
"Did you ever have convulsions when you were a baby?" asked Tant Sannie.
"Yes," said the young man.
"Strange," said Tant Sannie; "I had convulsions too. Wonderful that we
should be so much alike!"
"Aunt," said the young man explosively, "can we sit up tonight?"
Tant Sannie hung her head and half closed her eyes; but finding that her
little wiles were thrown away, the young man staring fixedly at his hat,
she simpered, "Yes," and went away to fetch candles.
In the dining room Em worked at her machine, and Gregory sat close beside
her, his great blue eyes turned to the window where Lyndall leaned out
talking to Waldo.
Tant Sannie took two candles out of the cupboard and held them up
triumphantly, winking all round the room.
"He's asked for them," she said.
"Does he want them for his horse's rubbed back?" asked Gregory, new to up-
"No," said Tant Sannie, indignantly; "we're going to sit up!" and she
walked off in triumph with the candles.
Nevertheless, when all the rest of the house had retired, when the long
candle was lighted, when the coffee-kettle was filled, when she sat in the
elbow-chair, with her lover on a chair close beside her, and when the vigil
of the night was fairly begun, she began to find it wearisome. The young
man looked chilly, and said nothing.
"Won't you put your feet on my stove?" said Tant Sannie.
"No thank you, aunt," said the young man, and both lapsed into silence.
At last Tant Sannie, afraid of going to sleep, tapped a strong cup of
coffee for herself and handed another to her lover. This visibly revived
"How long were you married, cousin?"
"Ten months, aunt."
"How old was your baby?"
"Three days when it died."
"It's very hard when we must give our husbands and wives to the Lord," said
"Very," said the young man; "but it's the Lord's will."
"Yes," said Tant Sannie, and sighed.
"She was such a good wife, aunt: I've known her break a churn-stick over a
maid's head for only letting dust come on a milk cloth."
Tant Sannie felt a twinge of jealousy. She had never broken a churn-stick
on a maid's head.
"I hope your wife made a good end," she said.
"Oh, beautiful, aunt: she said up a psalm and two hymns and a half before
"Did she leave any messages?" asked Tant Sannie.
"No," said the young man; "but the night before she died I was lying at the
foot of her bed; I felt her foot kick me.
"'Piet,' she said.
"'Annie, my heart,' said I.
"'My little baby that died yesterday has been here, and it stood over the
wagon-box,' she said.
"'What did it say?' I asked.
"'It said that if I died you must marry a fat woman.'
"'I will,' I said, and I went to sleep again. Presently she woke me.
"'The little baby has been here again, and it says you must marry a woman
over thirty, and who's had two husbands.'
"I didn't go to sleep after that for a long time, aunt; but when I did she
"'The baby has been here again,' she said, 'and it says you mustn't marry a
woman with a mole.' I told her I wouldn't; and the next day she died."
"That was a vision from the Redeemer," said Tant Sannie.
The young man nodded his head mournfully. He thought of a younger sister
of his wife's who was not fat, and who had a mole, and of whom his wife had
always been jealous, and he wished the little baby had liked better staying
in heaven than coming and standing over the wagon-chest.
"I suppose that's why you came to me," said Tant Sannie.
"Yes, aunt. And pa said I ought to get married before shearing-time. It
is bad if there's no one to see after things then; and the maids waste such
a lot of fat."
"When do you want to get married?"
"Next month, aunt," said the young man in a tone of hopeless resignation.
"May I kiss you, aunt?"
"Fie! fie!" said Tant Sannie, and then gave him a resounding kiss. Come,
draw your chair a little closer," she said, and their elbows now touching,
they sat on through the night.
The next morning at dawn, as Em passed through Tant Sannie's bedroom, she
found the Boer-woman pulling off her boots preparatory to climbing into
"Where is Piet Vander Walt?"
"Just gone," said Tant Sannie; "and I am going to marry him this day four
weeks. I am dead sleepy," she added; "the stupid thing doesn't know how to
talk love-talk at all," and she climbed into the four-poster, clothes and
all, and drew the quilt up to her chin.
On the day preceding Tant Sannie's wedding, Gregory Rose sat in the blazing
sun on the stone wall behind his daub-and-wattle house. It was warm, but
he was intently watching a small buggy that was being recklessly driven
over the bushes in the direction of the farmhouse. Gregory never stirred
till it had vanished; then, finding the stones hot, he slipped down and
walked into the house. He kicked the little pail that lay in the doorway,
and sent it into one corner; that did him good. Then he sat down on the
box, and began cutting letters out of a piece of newspaper. Finding that
the snippings littered the floor, he picked them up and began scribbling on
his blotting-paper. He tried the effect of different initials before the
name Rose: G. Rose, E. Rose, L. Rose, Rose, L.L., L.L. Rose. When he had
covered the sheet, he looked at it discontentedly a little while, then
suddenly began to write a letter:
"It is a long while since I last wrote to you, but I have had no time.
This is the first morning I have been at home since I don't know when. Em
always expects me to go down to the farmhouse in the morning; but I didn't
feel as though I could stand the ride today.
"I have much news for you.
"Tant Sannie, Em's Boer stepmother, is to be married tomorrow. She is gone
to town today, and the wedding feast is to be at her brother's farm. Em
and I are going to ride over on horseback, but her cousin is going to ride
in the buggy with that German. I don't think I've written to you since she
came back from school. I don't think you would like her at all, Jemima;
there's something so proud about her. She thinks just because she's
handsome there's nobody good enough to talk to her, and just as if there
had nobody else but her been to boarding-school before.
"They are going to have a grand affair tomorrow; all the Boers about are
coming, and they are going to dance all night; but I don't think I shall
dance at all; for, as Em's cousin says, these Boer dances are low things.
I am sure I only danced at the last to please Em. I don't know why she is
fond of dancing. Em talked of our being married on the same day as Tant
Sannie; but I said it would be nicer for her if she waited till the
shearing was over, and I took her down to see you. I suppose she will have
to live with us (Em's cousin, I mean), as she has not anything in the world
but a poor fifty pounds. I don't like her at all, Jemima, and I don't
think you would. She's got such queer ways; she's always driving about in
a gig with that low German; and I don't think it's at all the thing for a
woman to be going about with a man she's not engaged to. Do you? If it
was me now, of course, who am a kind of connection, it would be different.
The way she treats me, considering that I am so soon to be her cousin, is
not at all nice. I took down my album the other day with your likenesses
in it, and I told her she could look at it, and put it down close to her;
but she just said, Thank you, and never even touched it, as much as to say-
-What are your relations to me?
"She gets the wildest horses in that buggy, and a horrid snappish little
cur belonging to the German sitting in front, and then she drives out
alone. I don't think it's at all proper for a woman to drive out alone; I
wouldn't allow it if she was my sister. The other morning, I don't know
how it happened, I was going in the way from which she was coming, and that
little beast--they call him Doss--began to bark when he saw me--he always
does, the little wretch--and the horses began to spring, and kicked the
splashboard all to pieces. It was a sight to see Jemima! She has got the
littlest hands I ever saw--I could hold them both in one of mine, and not
know that I'd got anything except that they were so soft; but she held
those horses in as though they were made of iron. When I wanted to help
her she said, 'No thank you: I can manage them myself. I've got a pair of
bits that would break their jaws if I used them well,' and she laughed and
drove away. It's so unwomanly.
"Tell father my hire of the ground will not be out for six months, and
before that Em and I will be married. My pair of birds is breeding now,
but I haven't been down to see them for three days. I don't seem to care
about anything any more. I don't know what it is; I'm not well. If I go
into town on Saturday I will let the doctor examine me; but perhaps she'll
go in herself. It's a very strange thing, Jemima, but she never will send
her letters to post by me. If I ask her she has none, and the very next
day she goes in and posts them herself. You mustn't say anything about it,
Jemima, but twice I've brought her letters from the post in a gentleman's
hand, and I'm sure they were both from the same person, because I noticed
every little mark, even the dotting of the i's.
"Of course it's nothing to me; but for Em's sake I can't help feeling an
interest in her, however much I may dislike her myself; and I hope she's up
to nothing. I pity the man who marries her; I wouldn't be him for
anything. If I had a wife with pride I'd make her give it up, sharp. I
don't believe in a man who can't make a woman obey him. Now Em--I'm very
fond of her, as you know--but if I tell her to put on a certain dress, that
dress she puts on; and if I tell her to sit on a certain seat, on that seat
she sits; and if I tell her not to speak to a certain individual, she does
not speak to them. If a man lets a woman do what he doesn't like he's a
"Give my love to mother and the children. The veld here is looking pretty
good, and the sheep are better since we washed them. Tell father the dip
he recommended is very good.
"Em sends her love to you. She is making me some woollen shirts; but they
don't fit me so nicely as those mother made me.
"Write soon to
"Your loving brother, Gregory.
"P.S.--She drove past just now; I was sitting on the kraal wall right
before her eyes, and she never even bowed. G.N.R."
Chapter 2.VI. A Boer-wedding.
"I didn't know before you were so fond of riding hard," said Gregory to his
They were cantering slowly on the road to Oom Muller's on the morning of
"Do you call this riding hard?" asked Em in some astonishment.
"Of course I do! It's enough to break the horses' necks, and knock one up
for the whole day besides," he added testily; then twisted his head to look
at the buggy that came on behind. "I thought Waldo was such a mad driver;
they are taking it easily enough today," said Gregory. "One would think
the black stallions were lame."
"I suppose they want to keep out of our dust," said Em. "See, they stand
still as soon as we do."
Perceiving this to be the case, Gregory rode on.
"It's all that horse of yours: she kicks up such a confounded dust, I
can't stand it myself," he said.
Meanwhile the cart came on slowly enough.
"Take the reins," said Lyndall, and "and make them walk. I want to rest
and watch their hoofs today--not to be exhilarated; I am so tired."
She leaned back in her corner, and Waldo drove on slowly in the grey dawn
light along the level road. They passed the very milk-bush behind which so
many years before the old German had found the Kaffer woman. But their
thoughts were not with him that morning: they were the thoughts of the
young, that run out to meet the future, and labour in the present. At last
he touched her arm.
"What is it?"
"I feared you had gone to sleep and might be jolted out," he said; "you sat
"No; do not talk to me; I am not asleep;" but after a time she said
suddenly: "It must be a terrible thing to bring a human being into the
Waldo looked round; she sat drawn into the corner, her blue cloud wound
tightly about her, and she still watched the horses' feet. Having no
comment to offer on her somewhat unexpected remark, he merely touched up
"I have no conscience, none," she added; "but I would not like to bring a
soul into this world. When it sinned and when it suffered something like a
dead hand would fall on me--'You did it, you, for your own pleasure you
created this thing! See your work!' If it lived to be eighty it would
always hang like a millstone round my neck, have the right to demand good
from me, and curse me for its sorrow. A parent is only like to God--if his
work turns out bad, so much the worse for him; he dare not wash his hands
of it. Time and years can never bring the day when you can say to your
child: 'Soul, what have I to do with you?'"
Waldo said dreamingly:
"It is a marvellous thing that one soul should have power to cause
She heard the words as she heard the beating of the horses' hoofs; her
thoughts ran on in their own line.
"They say, 'God sends the little babies.' Of all the dastardly revolting
lies men tell to suit themselves, I hate that most. I suppose my father
said so when he knew he was dying of consumption, and my mother when she
knew she had nothing to support me on, and they created me to feed like a
dog from stranger hands. Men do not say God sends the books, or the
newspaper articles, or the machines they make; and then sigh, and shrug
their shoulders and say they can't help it. Why do they say so about other
things? Liars! 'God sends the little babies!'" She struck her foot
fretfully against the splashboard. "The small children say so earnestly.
They touch the little stranger reverently who has just come from God's far
country, and they peep about the room to see if not one white feather has
dropped from the wing of the angel that brought him. On their lips the
phrase means much; on all others it is a deliberate lie. Noticeable, too,"
she said, dropping in an instant from the passionate into a low, mocking
tone, "when people are married, though they should have sixty children,
they throw the whole onus on God. When they are not, we hear nothing about
God's having sent them. When there has been no legal contract between the
parents, who sends the little children then? The devil perhaps!" She
laughed her little silvery, mocking laugh. "Odd that some men should come
from hell and some from heaven, and yet all look so much alike when they
Waldo wondered at her. He had not the key to her thoughts, and did not see
the string on which they were strung. She drew her cloud tighter about
"It must be very nice to believe in the devil," she said; "I wish I did.
If it would be of any use I would pray three hours night and morning on my
bare knees, 'God, let me believe in Satan.' He is so useful to those
people who do. They may be as selfish and as sensual as they please, and,
between God's will and the devil's action, always have some one to throw
their sin on. But we, wretched unbelievers, we bear our own burdens: we
must say, 'I myself did it, I. Not God, not Satan; I myself!' That is the
sting that strikes deep. Waldo," she said gently, with a sudden and
complete change of manner, "I like you so much, I love you." She rested
her cheek softly against his shoulder. "When I am with you I never know
that I am a woman and you are a man; I only know that we are both things
that think. Other men when I am with them, whether I love them or not,
they are mere bodies to me; but you are a spirit; I like you. Look," she
said quickly, sinking back into her corner, "what a pretty pinkness there
is on all the hilltops! The sun will rise in a moment."
Waldo lifted his eyes to look round over the circle of golden hills; and
the horses, as the first sunbeams touched them, shook their heads and
champed their bright bits, till the brass settings in their harness
It was eight o'clock when they neared the farmhouse: a red-brick building,
with kraals to the right and a small orchard to the left. Already there
were signs of unusual life and bustle: one cart, a wagon, and a couple of
saddles against the wall betokened the arrival of a few early guests, whose
numbers would soon be largely increased. To a Dutch country wedding guests
start up in numbers astonishing to one who has merely ridden through the
plains of sparsely-inhabited karoo.
As the morning advances, riders on many shades of steeds appear from all
directions, and add their saddles to the long rows against the walls, shake
hands, drink coffee, and stand about outside in groups to watch the
arriving carts and ox-wagons, as they are unburdened of their heavy freight
of massive Tantes and comely daughters, followed by swarms of children of
all sizes, dressed in all manner of print and moleskin, who are taken care
of by Hottentot, Kaffer, and half-caste nurses, whose many-shaded
complexions, ranging from light yellow up to ebony black, add variety to
the animated scene.
Everywhere is excitement and bustle, which gradually increases as the time
for the return of the wedding-party approaches. Preparations for the feast
are actively advancing in the kitchen; coffee is liberally handed round,
and amid a profound sensation, and the firing of guns, the horse-wagon
draws up, and the wedding-party alight. Bride and bridegroom, with their
attendants, march solemnly to the marriage-chamber, where bed and box are
decked out in white, with ends of ribbon and artificial flowers, and where
on a row of chairs the party solemnly seat themselves. After a time
bridesmaid and best man rise, and conduct in with ceremony each individual
guest, to wish success and to kiss bride and bridegroom.
Then the feast is set on the table, and it is almost sunset before the
dishes are cleared away, and the pleasure of the day begins. Everything is
removed from the great front room, and the mud floor, well rubbed with
bullock's blood, glistens like polished mahogany. The female portion of
the assembly flock into the side-rooms to attire themselves for the
evening; and re-issue clad in white muslin, and gay with bright ribbons and
brass jewelry. The dancing begins as the first tallow candles are stuck up
about the walls, the music coming from a couple of fiddlers in a corner of
the room. Bride and bridegroom open the ball, and the floor is soon
covered with whirling couples, and every one's spirits rise. The bridal
pair mingle freely in the throng, and here and there a musical man sings
vigorously as he drags his partner through the Blue Water or John Speriwig;
boys shout and applaud, and the enjoyment and confusion are intense, till
eleven o'clock comes. By this time the children who swarm in the side-
rooms are not to be kept quiet longer, even by hunches of bread and cake;
there is a general howl and wail, that rises yet higher than the scraping
of fiddles, and mothers rush from their partners to knock small heads
together, and cuff little nursemaids, and force the wailers down into
unoccupied corners of beds, under tables and behind boxes. In half an hour
every variety of childish snore is heard on all sides, and it has become
perilous to raise or set down a foot in any of the side-rooms lest a small
head or hand should be crushed.
Now too the busy feet have broken the solid coating of the floor, and a
cloud of fine dust arises, that makes a yellow halo round the candles, and
sets asthmatic people coughing, and grows denser, till to recognise any one
on the opposite side of the room becomes impossible, and a partner's face
is seen through a yellow mist.
At twelve o'clock the bride is led to the marriage-chamber and undressed;
the lights are blown out, and the bridegroom is brought to the door by the
best man, who gives him the key; then the door is shut and locked, and the
revels rise higher than ever. There is no thought of sleep till morning,
and no unoccupied spot where sleep may be found.
It was at this stage of the proceedings on the night of Tant Sannie's
wedding that Lyndall sat near the doorway in one of the side-rooms, to
watch the dancers as they appeared and disappeared in the yellow cloud of
dust. Gregory sat moodily in a corner of the large dancing-room. His
little betrothed touched his arm.
"I wish you would go and ask Lyndall to dance with you," she said; "she
must be so tired; she has sat still the whole evening."
"I have asked her three times," replied her lover shortly. "I'm not going
to be her dog, and creep to her feet, just to give her the pleasure of
kicking me--not for you, Em, nor for anybody else."
"Oh, I didn't know you had asked her, Greg," said his little betrothed,
humbly; and she went away to pour out coffee.
Nevertheless, some time after Gregory found he had shifted so far round the
room as to be close to the door where Lyndall sat. After standing for some
time he inquired whether he might not bring her a cup of coffee.
She declined; but still he stood on (why should he not stand there as well
as anywhere else?), and then he stepped into the bedroom.
"May I not bring you a stove, Miss Lyndall, to put your feet on?"
He sought for one, and put it under her feet.
"There is a draught from that broken window: shall I stuff something in
"No, we want air."
Gregory looked round, but nothing else suggesting itself, he sat down on a
box on the opposite side of the door. Lyndall sat before him, her chin
resting in her hand; her eyes, steel-grey by day, but black by night,
looked through the doorway into the next room. After a time he thought she
had entirely forgotten his proximity, and he dared to inspect the little
hands and neck as he never dared when he was in momentary dread of the eyes
being turned upon him.
She was dressed in black, which seemed to take her yet further from the
white-clad, gewgawed women about her; and the little hands were white, and
the diamond ring glittered. Where had she got that ring? He bent forward
a little and tried to decipher the letters, but the candle-light was too
faint. When he looked up her eyes were fixed on him. She was looking at
him--not, Gregory felt, as she had ever looked at him before; not as though
he were a stump or a stone that chance had thrown in her way. Tonight,
whether it were critically, or kindly, or unkindly, he could not tell, but
she looked at him, at the man, Gregory Rose, with attention. A vague
elation filled him. He clinched his fist tight to think of some good idea
he might express to her; but of all those profound things he had pictured
himself as saying to her, when he sat alone in the daub-and-wattle house,
not one came. He said, at last:
"These Boer dances are very low things;" and then, as soon as it had gone
from him, he thought it was not a clever remark, and wished it back.
Before Lyndall replied Em looked in at the door.
"Oh, come," she said; "they are going to have the cushion-dance. I do not
want to kiss any of these fellows. Take me quickly."
She slipped her hand into Gregory's arm.
"It is so dusty, Em; do you care to dance any more?" he asked, without
"Oh, I do not mind the dust, and the dancing rests me."
But he did not move.
"I feel tired; I do not think I shall dance again," he said.
Em withdrew her hand, and a young farmer came to the door and bore her off.
"I have often imagined," remarked Gregory--but Lyndall had risen.
"I am tired," she said. "I wonder where Waldo is; he must take me home.
These people will not leave off till morning, I suppose; it is three
She made her way past the fiddlers, and a bench full of tired dancers, and
passed out at the front door. On the stoep a group of men and boys were
smoking, peeping in at the windows, and cracking coarse jokes. Waldo was
certainly not among them, and she made her way to the carts and wagons
drawn up at some distance from the homestead.
"Waldo," she said, peering into a large cart, "is that you? I am so dazed
with the tallow candles, I see nothing."
He had made himself a place between the two seats. She climbed up and sat
on the sloping floor in front.
"I thought I should find you here," she said, drawing her skirt up about
her shoulders. "You must take me home presently, but not now."
She leaned her head on the seat near to his, and they listened in silence
to the fitful twanging of the fiddles as the night-wind bore it from the
farmhouse, and to the ceaseless thud of the dancers, and the peals of gross
laughter. She stretched out her little hand to feel for his.
"It is so nice to lie here and hear that noise," she said. "I like to feel
that strange life beating up against me. I like to realise forms of life
utterly unlike mine." She drew a long breath. "When my own life feels
small, and I am oppressed with it, I like to crush together, and see it in
a picture, in an instant, a multitude of disconnected unlike phases of
human life--a mediaeval monk with his string of beads pacing the quiet
orchard, and looking up from the grass at his feet to the heavy fruit-
trees; little Malay boys playing naked on a shining sea-beach; a Hindoo
philosopher alone under his banyan tree, thinking, thinking, thinking, so
that in the thought of God he may lose himself; a troop of Bacchanalians
dressed in white, with crowns of vine-leaves, dancing along the Roman
streets; a martyr on the night of his death looking through the narrow
window to the sky, and feeling that already he has the wings that shall
bear him up" (she moved her hand dreamily over her face); "an epicurean
discoursing at a Roman bath to a knot of his disciples on the nature of
happiness; a Kaffer witchdoctor seeking for herbs by moonlight, while from
the huts on the hillside come the sound of dogs barking, and the voices of
women and children; a mother giving bread-and-milk to her children in
little wooden basins and singing the evening song. I like to see it all; I
feel it run through me--that life belongs to me; it makes my little life
larger, it breaks down the narrow walls that shut me in."
She sighed, and drew a long breath.
"Have you made any plans?" she asked him presently.
"Yes," he said, the words coming in jets, with pauses between; "I will take
the grey mare--I will travel first--I will see the world--then I will find
"I do not know."
She made a little impatient movement.
"That is no plan; travel--see the world--find work! If you go into the
world aimless, without a definite object, dreaming--dreaming, you will be
definitely defeated, bamboozled, knocked this way and that. In the end you
will stand with your beautiful life all spent, and nothing to show. They
talk of genius--it is nothing but this, that a man knows what he can do
best, and does it, and nothing else. Waldo," she said, knitting her little
fingers closer among his, "I wish I could help you; I wish I could make you
see that you must decide what you will be and do. It does not matter what
you choose--be a farmer, businessman, artist, what you will--but know your
aim, and live for that one thing. We have only one life. The secret of
success is concentration; wherever there has been a great life, or a great
work, that has gone before. Taste everything a little, look at everything
a little; but live for one thing. Anything is possible to a man who knows
his end and moves straight for it, and for it alone. I will show you what
I mean," she said, concisely; "words are gas till you condense them into
"Suppose a woman, young, friendless as I am, the weakest thing on God's
earth. But she must make her way through life. What she would be she
cannot be because she is a woman; so she looks carefully at herself and the
world about her, to see where her path must be made.
"There is no one to help her; she must help herself. She looks. These
things she has--a sweet voice, rich in subtile intonations; a fair, very
fair face, with a power of concentrating in itself, and giving expression
to, feelings that otherwise must have been dissipated in words; a rare
power of entering into other lives unlike her own, and intuitively reading
them aright. These qualities she has. How shall she use them? A poet, a
writer, needs only the mental; what use has he for a beautiful body that
registers clearly mental emotions? And the painter wants an eye for form
and colour, and the musician an ear for time and tune, and the mere drudge
has no need for mental gifts.
"But there is one art in which all she has would be used, for which they
are all necessary--the delicate expressive body, the rich voice, the power
of mental transposition. The actor, who absorbs and then reflects from
himself other human lives, needs them all, but needs not much more. This
is her end; but how to reach it? Before her are endless difficulties:
seas must be crossed, poverty must be endured, loneliness, want. She must
be content to wait long before she can even get her feet upon the path. If
she has made blunders in the past, if she has weighted herself with a
burden which she must bear to the end, she must but bear the burden
bravely, and labour on. There is no use in wailing and repentance here:
the next world is the place for that; this life is too short. By our
errors we see deeper into life. They help us." She waited for a while.
"If she does all this--if she waits patiently, if she is never cast down,
never despairs, never forgets her end, moves straight toward it, bending
men and things most unlikely to her purpose--she must succeed at last. Men
and things are plastic; they part to the right and left when one comes
among them moving in a straight line to one end. I know it by my own
little experience," she said. "Long years ago I resolved to be sent to
school. It seemed a thing utterly out of my power; but I waited, I
watched, I collected clothes, I wrote, took my place at the school; when
all was ready I bore with my full force on the Boer-woman, and she sent me
at last. It was a small thing; but life is made up of small things, as a
body is built up of cells. What has been done in small things can be done
in large. Shall be," she said softly.
Waldo listened. To him the words were no confession, no glimpse into the
strong, proud, restless heart of the woman. They were general words with a
general application. He looked up into the sparkling sky with dull eyes.
"Yes," he said; "but when we lie and think, and think, we see that there is
nothing worth doing. The universe is so large, and man is so small--"
She shook her head quickly.
"But we must not think so far; it is madness, it is a disease. We know
that no man's work is great, and stands forever. Moses is dead, and the
prophets and the books that our grandmothers fed on the mould is eating.
Your poet and painter and actor,--before the shouts that applaud them have
died their names grow strange, they are milestones that the world has
passed. Men have set their mark on mankind forever, as they thought; but
time has washed it out as it has washed out mountains and continents." She
raised herself on her elbow. "And what if we could help mankind, and leave
the traces of our work upon it to the end? Mankind is only an ephemeral
blossom on the tree of time; there were others before it opened; there will
be others after it has fallen. Where was man in the time of the
dicynodont, and when hoary monsters wallowed in the mud? Will he be found
in the aeons that are to come? We are sparks, we are shadows, we are
pollen, which the next wind will carry away. We are dying already; it is
all a dream.
"I know that thought. When the fever of living is on us, when the desire
to become, to know, to do, is driving us mad, we can use it as an anodyne,
to still the fever and cool our beating pulses. But it is a poison, not a
food. If we live on it it will turn our blood to ice; we might as well be
dead. We must not, Waldo; I want your life to be beautiful, to end in
something. You are nobler and stronger than I," she said; "and as much
better as one of God's great angels is better than a sinning man. Your
life must go for something."
"Yes, we will work," he said.
She moved closer to him and lay still, his black curls touching her smooth
Doss, who had lain at his master's side, climbed over the bench, and curled
himself up in her lap. She drew her skirt up over him, and the three sat
motionless for a long time.
"Waldo," she said, suddenly, "they are laughing at us."
"Who?" he asked, starting up.
"They--the stars!" she said, softly. "Do you not see? There is a little
white, mocking finger pointing down at us from each one of them! We are
talking of tomorrow and tomorrow, and our hearts are so strong; we are not
thinking of something that can touch us softly in the dark and make us
still forever. They are laughing at us Waldo."
Both sat looking upward.
"Do you ever pray?" he asked her in a low voice.
"I never do; but I might when I look up there. I will tell you," he added,
in a still lower voice, "where I could pray. If there were a wall of rock
on the edge of a world, and one rock stretched out far, far into space, and
I stood alone upon it, alone, with stars above me, and stars below me,--I
would not say anything; but the feeling would be prayer."
There was an end to their conversation after that, and Doss fell asleep on
her knee. At last the night-wind grew very chilly.
"Ah," she said, shivering, and drawing the skirt about her shoulders, "I am
cold. Span-in the horses, and call me when you are ready."
She slipped down and walked toward the house, Doss stiffly following her,
not pleased at being roused. At the door she met Gregory.
"I have been looking for you everywhere; may I not drive you home?" he
"Waldo drives me," she replied, passing on; and it appeared to Gregory that
she looked at him in the old way, without seeing him. But before she had
reached the door an idea had occurred to her, for she turned.
"If you wish to drive me you may."
Gregory went to look for Em, whom he found pouring out coffee in the back
room. He put his hand quickly on her shoulder.
"You must ride with Waldo; I am going to drive your cousin home."
"But I can't come just now, Greg; I promised Tant Annie Muller to look
after the things while she went to rest a little."
"Well, you can come presently, can't you? I didn't say you were to come
now. I'm sick of this thing," said Gregory, turning sharply on his heel.
"Why must I sit up the whole night because your stepmother chooses to get
"Oh, it's all right, Greg, I only meant--"
But he did not hear her, and a man had come up to have his cup filled.
An hour after Waldo came in to look for her, and found her still busy at
"The horses are ready," he said; "but if you would like to have one dance
more I will wait."
She shook her head wearily.
"No; I am quite ready. I want to go."
And soon they were on the sandy road the buggy had travelled an hour
before. Their horses, with heads close together, nodding sleepily as they
walked in the starlight, you might have counted the rise and fall of their
feet in the sand; and Waldo in his saddle nodded drowsily also. Only Em
was awake, and watched the starlit road with wide-open eyes. At last she
"I wonder if all people feel so old, so very old, when they get to be
"Not older than before," said Waldo sleepily, pulling at his bridle.
Presently she said again:
"I wish I could have been a little child always. You are good then. You
are never selfish; you like every one to have everything; but when you are
grown up there are some things you like to have all to yourself, you don't
like any one else to have any of them."
"Yes," said Waldo sleepily, and she did not speak again.
When they reached the farmhouse all was dark, for Lyndall had retired as
soon as they got home.
Waldo lifted Em from her saddle, and for a moment she leaned her head on
his shoulder and clung to him.
"You are very tired," he said, as he walked with her to the door; "let me
go in and light a candle for you."
"No, thank you; it is all right," she said. "Good night, Waldo, dear."
But when she went in she sat long alone in the dark.
Chapter 2.VII. Waldo Goes Out to Taste Life, and Em Stays At Home and
At nine o'clock in the evening, packing his bundles for the next morning's
start, Waldo looked up, and was surprised to see Em's yellow head peeping
in at his door. It was many a month since she had been there. She said
she had made him sandwiches for his journey, and she stayed a while to help
him put his goods into the saddlebags.
"You can leave the old things lying about," she said; "I will lock the
room, and keep it waiting for you to come back some day."
To come back some day! Would the bird ever return to its cage? But he
thanked her. When she went away he stood on the doorstep holding the
candle till she had almost reached the house. But Em was that evening in
no hurry to enter, and, instead of going in at the back door, walked with
lagging footsteps round the low brick wall that ran before the house.
Opposite the open window of the parlour she stopped. The little room, kept
carefully closed in Tant Sannie's time, was well lighted by a paraffin
lamp; books and work lay strewn about it, and it wore a bright, habitable
aspect. Beside the lamp at the table in the corner sat Lyndall, the open
letters and papers of the day's post lying scattered before her, while she
perused the columns of a newspaper. At the centre table, with his arms
folded on an open paper, which there was not light enough to read, sat
Gregory. He was looking at her. The light from the open window fell on
Em's little face under its white kapje as she looked in, but no one glanced
"Go and fetch me a glass of water!" Lyndall said, at last.
Gregory went out to find it; when he put it down at her side she merely
moved her head in recognition, and he went back to his seat and his old
occupation. Then Em moved slowly away from the window, and through it came
in spotted, hard-winged insects, to play round the lamp, till, one by one,
they stuck to its glass, and fell to the foot dead.
Ten o'clock struck. Then Lyndall rose, gathered up her papers and letters,
and wished Gregory good night. Some time after Em entered; she had been
sitting all the while on the loft ladder, and had drawn her kapje down very
much over her face.
Gregory was piecing together the bits of an envelope when she came in.
"I thought you were never coming," he said, turning round quickly, and
throwing the fragments onto the floor. "You know I have been shearing all
day, and it is ten o'clock already."
"I'm sorry. I did not think you would be going so soon," she said in a low
"I can't hear what you say. What makes you mumble so? Well, good night,
He stooped down hastily to kiss her.
"I want to talk to you, Gregory."
"Well, make haste," he said pettishly. "I'm awfully tired. I've been
sitting here all the evening. Why couldn't you come and talk before?"
"I will not keep you long," she answered very steadily now. "I think,
Gregory, it would be better if you and I were never to be married."
"Good Heaven! Em, what do you mean? I thought you were so fond of me?
You always professed to be. What on earth have you taken into your head
"I think it would be better," she said, folding her hands over each other,
very much as though she were praying.
"Better, Em! What do you mean? Even a woman can't take a freak all about
nothing! You must have some reason for it, and I'm sure I've done nothing
to offend you. I wrote only today to my sister to tell her to come up next
month to our wedding, and I've been as affectionate and happy as possible.
Come--what's the matter?"
He put his arm half round her shoulder, very loosely.
"I think it would be better," she answered, slowly.
"Oh, well," he said, drawing himself up, "if you won't enter into
explanations you won't; and I'm not the man to beg and pray--not to any
woman, and you know that! If you don't want to marry me I can't oblige you
to, of course."
She stood quite still before him.
"You women never do know your own minds for two days together; and of
course you know the state of your own feelings best; but it's very strange.
Have you really made up your mind, Em?"
"Well, I'm very sorry. I'm sure I've not been in anything to blame. A man
can't always be billing and cooing; but, as you say, if your feeling for me
has changed, it's much better you shouldn't marry me. There's nothing so
foolish as to marry some one you don't love; and I only wish for your
happiness, I'm sure. I daresay you'll find some one can make you much
happier than I could; the first person we love is seldom the right one.
You are very young; it's quite natural you should change."
She said nothing.
"Things often seem hard at the time, but Providence makes them turn out for
the best in the end," said Gregory. "You'll let me kiss you, Em, just for
old friendship's sake." He stooped down. "You must look upon me as a dear
brother, as a cousin at least; as long as I am on the farm I shall always
be glad to help you, Em."
Soon after the brown pony was cantering along the footpath to the daub-and-
wattle house, and his master as he rode whistled John Speriwig and the
Thorn Kloof Schottische.
The sun had not yet touched the outstretched arms of the prickly pear upon
the kopje, and the early cocks and hens still strutted about stiffly after
the night's roost, when Waldo stood before the wagon-house saddling the
grey mare. Every now and then he glanced up at the old familiar objects:
they had a new aspect that morning. Even the cocks, seen in the light of
parting, had a peculiar interest, and he listened with conscious attention
while one crowed clear and loud as it stood on the pigsty wall. He wished
good morning softly to the Kaffer woman who was coming up from the huts to
light the fire. He was leaving them all to that old life, and from his
height he looked down on them pityingly. So they would keep on crowing,
and coming to light fires, when for him that old colourless existence was
but a dream.
He went into the house to say good-bye to Em, and then he walked to the
door of Lyndall's room to wake her; but she was up, and standing in the
"So you are ready," she said.
Waldo looked at her with sudden heaviness; the exhilaration died out of his
heart. Her grey dressing-gown hung close about her, and below its edge the
little bare feet were resting on the threshold.
"I wonder when we shall meet again, Waldo? What you will be, and what I?"
"Will you write to me?" he asked of her.
"Yes; and if I should not, you can still remember, wherever you are, that
you are not alone."
"I have left Doss for you," he said.
"Will you not miss him?"
"No; I want you to have him. He loves you better than he loves me."
"Thank you." They stood quiet.
"Good-bye!" she said, putting her little hand in his, and he turned away;
but when he reached the door she called to him: "Come back, I want to kiss
you." She drew his face down to hers, and held it with both hands, and
kissed it on the forehead and mouth. "Good-bye, dear!"
When he looked back the little figure with its beautiful eyes was standing
in the doorway still.
Chapter 2.VIII. The Kopje.
Em, who was in the storeroom measuring the Kaffer's rations, looked up and
saw her former lover standing betwixt her and the sunshine. For some days
after that evening on which he had ridden home whistling he had shunned
her. She might wish to enter into explanations, and he, Gregory Rose, was
not the man for that kind of thing. If a woman had once thrown him
overboard she must take the consequences, and stand by them. When,
however, she showed no inclination to revert to the past, and shunned him
more than he shunned her, Gregory softened.
"You must let me call you Em still, and be like a brother to you till I
go," he said; and Em thanked him so humbly that he wished she hadn't. It
wasn't so easy after that to think himself an injured man.
On that morning he stood some time in the doorway switching his whip, and
moving rather restlessly from one leg to the other.
"I think I'll just take a walk up to the camps and see how your birds are
getting on. Now Waldo's gone you've no one to see after things. Nice
morning, isn't it?" Then he added suddenly, "I'll just go round to the
house and get a drink of water first;" and somewhat awkwardly walked off.
He might have found water in the kitchen, but he never glanced toward the
buckets. In the front room a monkey and two tumblers stood on the centre-
table; but he merely looked round, peeped into the parlour, looked round
again, and then walked out at the front door, and found himself again at
the storeroom without having satisfied his thirst. "Awfully nice morning
this," he said, trying to pose himself in a graceful and indifferent
attitude against the door. "It isn't hot and it isn't cold. It's awfully
"Yes," said Em.
"Your cousin, now," said Gregory in an aimless sort of way--"I suppose
she's shut up in her room writing letters."
"No," said Em.
"Gone for a drive, I expect? Nice morning for a drive."
"Gone to see the ostriches, I suppose?"
"No." After a little silence Em added, "I saw her go by the kraals to the
Gregory crossed and uncrossed his legs.
"Well, I think I'll just go and have a look about," he said, "and see how
things are getting on before I go to the camps. Good-bye; so long."
Em left for a while the bags she was folding and went to the window, the
same through which, years before, Bonaparte had watched the slouching
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