What's Bred In the Bone
Part 5 out of 6
There is nothing, to say the truth, the South African native dreads
so much as being "eaten up," as he calls it, by those aggressive
English. King Khatsua knew his one chance in life consisted in
keeping the diggers firmly out of his dominions; and he was prepared
to deny the very existence of diamonds throughout the whole of
Barolong land, until the English, by sheer force, should come in
flocks and unearth them.
In obedience to his chief's command, therefore, the naked henchman
still held out his hand menacingly.
"Dis land King Khatsua's," he repeated once more, in an angry
voice. "All diamonds found on it belong to King Khatsua. Just you
hand dat over. No steal; no tief-ee."
The instincts of the land-owning class were too strong in Granville
Kelmscott not to make him admit at once to himself the justice of
this claim. The owner of the soil had a right to the diamonds. He
handed over the stone with a pang of regret. The savage grinned to
himself, and scanned it attentively. Then extending his spear, as
one might do to a cow or a sheep, he drove Granville before him.
"You come along a' me," he said shortly, in a most determined voice.
"You come along a' me. King Khatsua's orders."
Granville went before him without one word of remonstrance, much
wondering what was likely to happen next, till he found himself
suddenly driven into that noisome hut, where he was forced to enter
ignominiously on all fours, like an eight months' old baby.
By the light of the fire that burned dimly in the midst of his
captor's house he could see, as his eyes grew gradually accustomed
to the murky gloom, a strange and savage scene, such as he had never
before in his life dreamt of. In the pit of the hut some embers
glowed feebly, from whose midst a fleecy object was sputtering and
hissing. A second glance assured him that the savoury morsel was
the head of an antelope in process of roasting. Two greasy black
women, naked to the waist, were superintending this primitive
cookery; all round, a group of unclad little imps, as black as their
mothers, lounged idly about, with their eyes firmly fixed on the
chance of dinner. As Granville entered, the husband and father,
poking in his head, shouted a few words after him. Another native
outside kept watch and ward with a spear at the door meanwhile, to
prevent his escape against King Khatsua's orders.
For two long hours the Englishman waited there, fretting and fuming,
in that stifling atmosphere. Meanwhile, the antelope's head was
fully cooked, and the women and children falling on it like wild
beasts, tore off the scorched fleece and snatched the charred flesh
from the bones with their fingers greedily. It was a hideous sight;
it sickened him to see it.
By--and--by Granville heard a loud voice outside. He listened
in surprise. It sounded as though Barolong had another prisoner.
There was a pause and a scuffle. Then, all of a sudden, somebody
else came bundling unceremoniously through the hole that served for
a door, in the same undignified fashion as he himself had done.
Granville's eyes, now accustomed to the gloom, recognised the
stranger at once with a thrill of astonishment. He could hardly
trust his senses at the sight. It was--no, it couldn't be--yes, it
Guy Waring, sure enough; as before, they were companions. The
Kelmscott character had worked itself out exactly alike in each
of them. They had come independently by the self-same road to the
rumoured diamond fields of the Barolong country.
It was some minutes, however, before Guy, for his part, recognised
his fellow-prisoner in the dark and gloomy hut. Then each stared
at the other in mute surprise. They found no words to speak their
mutual astonishment. This was more wonderful, to be sure, than even
either of their former encounters.
For another long hour the two unfriendly English-men huddled away
from one another in opposite corners of that native hut, without
speaking a word of any sort in their present straits. At the end
of that time, a voice spoke at the door some guttural sentences
in the Barolong language. The natives inside responded alike in
their own savage clicks. Next the voice spoke in English; it was
Granville's captor, he now knew well.
"White men, you come out; King Khatsua himself, him go to 'peak to
They crawled out, one at a time, in sorry guise, through the narrow
hole. It was a pitiful exhibition. Were it not for the danger and
uncertainty of the event, they could almost themselves have fairly
laughed at it. King Khatsua stood before them, a tall, full-blooded
black, in European costume, with a round felt hat and a crimson tie,
surrounded by his naked wives and attendants. In his outstretched
hand he held before their faces two incriminating diamonds. He spoke
to them with much dignity at considerable length in the Barolong
tongue, to a running accompaniment of laudatory exclamations--"Oh,
my King! Oh, wise words!"--from the mouths of his courtiers. Neither
Granville nor Guy understood, of course, a single syllable of the
stately address; but that didn't in the least disturb the composure
of the dusky monarch. He went right through to the end with his
solemn warning, scolding them both roundly, as they guessed, in his
native tongue, like a master reproving a pair of naughty schoolboys.
As he finished, their captor stood forth with great importance
to act as interpreter. He had been to the Kimberly diamond mines
himself as a labourer, and was therefore accounted by his own people
a perfect model of English scholarship.
"King Khatsua say this," he observed curtly. "You very bad men;
you come to Barolong land. King Khatsua say, Barolong land for
Barolong. No allow white man dig here for diamonds. If white man
come, him eat up Barolong. Keep white man out; keep land for King
"Does King Khatsua want us to leave his country, then?" Granville
Kelmscott asked, with a distinct tremor in his voice, for the great
chief and his followers looked decidedly hostile.
The interpreter threw back his head and laughed a loud long laugh.
"King Khatsua not a fool!" he answered at last, after a rhetorical
pause. "King Khatsua no want to give up his land to white man.
If you two white man go back to Kimberley, you tell plenty other
people, 'Diamonds in Barolong land.' You say, 'Come along o' me
to Barolong land with gun; we show you where to dig 'um!' No, no,
King Khatsua not a fool. King Khatsua say this. You two white man
no go back to Kimberley. You spies. You stop here plenty time along
o' King Khatsua. Never go back, till King Khatsua give leave. So
no let any other white man come along into Barolong land."
Granville looked at Guy, and Guy looked at Granville. In this
last extremity, before those domineering blacks, they almost forgot
everything, save that they were both English. What were they to do
now? The situation was becoming truly terrible.
The interpreter went on once more, however, with genuine savage
enjoyment of the consternation he was causing them.
"King Khatsua say this," he continued, in a very amused tone. "You
stop here plenty days, very good, in Barolong land. King Khatsua
give you hut; King Khatsua give you claim; Barolong man bring spear
and guard you. No do you any harm for fear of Governor. Governor keep
plenty guns in Cape Town. You two white man live in hut together,
dig diamonds together; get plenty pebbles. Keep one diamond you
find for yourself; give one diamond after that to King Khatsua.
Barolong man bring you plenty food, plenty drink, but no let you
go back. You try to go, then Barolong man spear you."
The playful dig with which the savage thrust forward his assegai
at that final remark showed Granville Kelmscott in a moment this
was no idle threat. It was clear for the present they must accept
the inevitable. They must remain in Barolong land; and he must
share hut and work with that doubly hateful creature--the man who
had deprived him of his patrimony at Tilgate, and whom he firmly
believed to be the murderer of Montague Nevitt. This was what
had come then of his journey to Africa! Truly, adversity makes us
acquainted with strange bedfellows!
Eighteen months passed away in England, and nothing more was heard
of the two fugitives to Africa. Lady Emily's cup was very full
indeed. On the self-same day she learned of her husband's death
and her son's mysterious and unaccountable disappearance. From that
moment forth, he was to her as if dead. After Granville left, no
letter or news of him, direct or indirect, ever reached Tilgate.
It was all most inexplicable. He had disappeared into space, and
no man knew of him.
Cyril, too, had now almost given up hoping for news of Guy. Slowly
the conviction forced itself deeper and still deeper upon his mind,
in spite of Elma, that Guy was really Montague Nevitt's murderer.
Else how account for Guy's sudden disappearance, and for the fact
that he never even wrote home his whereabouts? Nay, Guy's letter
itself left no doubt upon his mind. Cyril went through life now
oppressed continually with the terrible burden of being a murderer's
And indeed everybody else--except Elma Clifford--implicitly shared
that opinion with him. Cyril was sure the unknown benefactor shared
it too, for Guy's six thousand pounds were never paid in to his
credit--as indeed how could they, since Colonel Kelmscott, who
had promised to pay them, died before receiving the balance of the
purchase money for the Dowlands estate? Cyril slank through the
world, then, weighed down by his shame, for Guy and he were each
other's doubles, and he always had a deep underlying conviction
that, as Guy was in any particular, so also in the very fibre of
his nature he himself was.
Everybody else, except Elma Clifford; but in spite of all, Elma still
held out firm, in her intuitive way, in favour of Guy's innocence.
She knew it, she said; and there the matter dropped. And she knew
quite equally, in her own firm mind, that Gilbert Gildersleeve was
the real murderer.
Gilbert Gildersleeve, meanwhile, had gone up a step or two higher
in the social scale. He had been promoted to the bench on the
first vacancy, as all the world had long expected; but, strange
to say, he took it far more modestly than all the world had ever
anticipated. Indeed, before he was made a judge, everybody said
he'd be intolerable in the ermine. He was blustering and bullying
enough, in all conscience, as a mere Queen's Counsel; but when he
came to preside in a court of his own, his insolence would surpass
even the wonted insolence of our autocratic British justices. In
this, however, everybody was mistaken.
A curious change had of late come over Gilbert Gildersleeve. The
big, bullying lawyer was growing nervous and diffident, where of
old he had been coarse and self-assertive and blustering. He was
beginning at times almost to doubt his own absolute omniscience and
absolute wisdom. He was prepared half to admit that under certain
circumstances a prisoner might possibly be in the right, and that
all crimes alike did not necessarily deserve the hardest sentence
the law of the land allowed him to allot them. Habitual criminals
even began, after a while, to express a fervent hope, as assizes
approached, they might be tried by old Gildersleeve: "Gilly," they
said, "gave a cove a chance": he wasn't "one of these 'ere reg'lar
'anging judges, like Sir 'Enery Atkins."
During those eighteen months, too, Cyril tried, as far as he
could, from a stern sense of duty, to see as little as possible of
Elma Clifford. He loved Elma still--that goes without saying--more
devotedly than ever; and Elma's profound belief that Cyril's
brother couldn't possibly have committed so grave a crime touched
his heart to the core by its womanly confidence. There's nothing
a man likes so much as being trusted. But he had declared in the
first flush of his horror and despair that he would never again
ask Elma to marry him till the cloud that hung over Guy's character
had been lifted and dissipated; and now that, month after month, no
news came from Guy and all hope seemed to fade, lie felt it would
be wrong of him even to see her or speak with her.
On that question however, Elma herself had a voice as well. Man
proposes; woman decides. And though Elma for her part had quite
equally made up her mind never to marry Cyril, with that nameless
terror of expected madness hanging ever over her head, she felt,
on the other hand, her very loyalty to Cyril and to Cyril's brother
imperatively demanded that she should still see him often, and
display marked friendship towards him as openly as possible. She
wanted the world to see plainly for itself that so far as this
matter of Guy's reputation was concerned, if Cyril, for his part,
wanted to marry her, she, on her side, would be quite ready to
So she insisted on meeting him whenever she could, and on writing
to him openly from time to time very affectionate notes--those
familiar notes we all know so well and prize so dearly--full of
hopeless love and unabated confidence. Yes, good Mr. Stockbroker
who do me the honour to read my simple tale, smile cynically if you
will! You pretend to care nothing for these little sentimentalities;
but you know very well in your own heart, you've a bundle of them
at home, very brown and yellow, locked up in your escritoire; and
you'd let New Zealand Fours sink to the bottom of the Indian Ocean,
and Egyptian Unified go down to zero, before ever you'd part with
a single faded page of them.
What can a man do, then, even under such painful circumstances,
when a girl whom he loves with all his heart lets him clearly see
she loves him in return quite as truly? Cyril would have been more
than human if he hadn't answered those notes in an equally ardent
and equally desponding strain. The burden of both their tales was
always this--even if YOU would, _I_ couldn't, because I love you
too much to impose my own disgrace upon you.
But what Elma's mysterious trouble could be, Cyril was still unable
even to hazard a guess. He only knew she had some reason of her
own which seemed to her a sufficient bar to matrimony, and made
her firmly determine never, in any case, to marry any one.
About twelve months after Guy's sudden disappearance, however, a
new element entered into Elma's life. At first sight, it seemed
to have but little to do with the secret of her soul. It was merely
that the new purchaser of the Dowlands estate had built herself a
pretty little Queen Anne house on the ground, and come to live in
Nevertheless, from the very first day they met, Elma took most
kindly to this new Miss Ewes, the strange and eccentric musical
composer. The mistress of Dowlands was a distant cousin of
Mrs. Clifford's own; so the family naturally had to call upon her
at once; and Elma somehow seemed always to get on from the outset
in a remarkable way with her mother's relations. At first, to be
sure, Elma could see Mrs. Clifford was rather afraid to leave her
alone with the odd new-comer, whose habits and manners were as
curious and weird as the sudden twists and turns of her own wayward
music. But, after a time, a change came over Mrs. Clifford in this
respect; and instead of trying to keep Elma and Miss Ewes apart,
it was evident to Elma--who never missed any of the small by-play
of life--that her mother rather desired to throw them closely
together. Thus it came to pass that one morning, about a month
after Miss Ewes's arrival in her new home, Elma had run in with a
message from her mother, and found the distinguished composer, as
was often the case at that time of day, sitting dreamily at her
piano, trying over on the gamut strange, fanciful chords of her
own peculiar witch-like character. The music waxed and waned in a
"That's beautiful," Elma cried enthusiastically, as the composer
looked up at her with an inquiring glance. "I never heard anything
in my life before that went so straight through one, with its
penetrating melody. Such a lovely gliding sound, you know! So soft
and serpentine!" And even as she said it, a deep flush rose red in
the centre of her cheek. She was sorry for the words before they
were out of her mouth. They recalled all at once, in some mysterious
way, that horrid, persistent nightmare of the hateful snake-dance.
In a second, Miss Ewes caught the bright gleam in her eye, and
the deep flush on her cheek that so hastily followed it. A meaning
smile came over the elder woman's face all at once, not unpleasantly.
She was a handsome woman for her age, but very dark and gipsy-like,
after the fashion of the Eweses, with keen Italian eyes and a large
smooth expanse of powerful forehead. Lightly she ran her hand over
the keys with a masterly touch, and fixed her glance as she did so
on Elma. There was a moment's pause. Miss Ewes eyed her closely.
She was playing a tune that seemed oddly familiar to Elma's brain
somehow--to her brain, not to her ears, for Elma felt certain,
even while she recognised it most, she had never before heard it.
It was a tune that waxed and waned and curled up and down sinuously,
and twisted in and out and--ah yes, now she knew it--raised its
sleek head, and darted out its forked tongue, and vibrated with
swift tremors, and tightened and slackened, and coiled resistlessly
at last in great folds all around her. Elma listened, with eager
eyes half starting from her head, with clenched nails dug deep
into the tremulous palms, as her heart throbbed fast and her nerves
quivered fiercely. Oh, it was wrong of Miss Ewes to tempt her like
this! It was wrong, so wrong of her! For Elma knew what it was at
once--the song she had heard running vaguely through her head the
night of the dance--the night she fell in love with Cyril Waring.
With a throbbing heart, Elma sat down on the sofa, and tried with
all her might and main not to listen, She clasped her hands still
tighter. She refused to be wrought up. She wouldn't give way to it.
If she had followed her own impulse, to be sure, she would have
risen on the spot and danced that mad dance once more with all the
wild abandonment of an almeh or a Zingari. But she resisted with
all her might. And she resisted successfully.
Miss Ewes, never faltering, kept her keen eye fixed hard on her
with a searching glance, as she ran over the keys in ever fresh
Faster, wilder, and stranger the music rose; but Elma sat still,
her breast heaving hard, and her breath panting, yet otherwise as
still and motionless as a statue. She knew Miss Ewes could tell
exactly how she felt. She knew she was trying her; she knew she
was tempting her to get up and dance; and yet, she was not one
bit afraid of this strange weird woman, as she'd been afraid that
sad morning at home of her own mother.
The composer went on fiercely for some minutes more, leaning close
over the keyboard, and throwing her very soul, as Elma could plainly
see, into the tips of her fingers. Then, suddenly she rose, and
came over, well pleased, to the sofa where Elma sat. With a motherly
gesture, she took Elma's hand; she smoothed her dark hair; she bent
down with a tender look, in those strange grey eyes, and printed
a kiss unexpectedly on the poor girl's forehead.
"Elma," she said, leaning over her, "do you know what that was?
That was the Naga Snake Dance. It gave you an almost irresistible
longing to rise, and hold the snake in your own hands, and coil
his great folds around you. I could see how you felt. But you were
strong enough to resist. That was very well done. You resisted
even the force of my music, didn't you?"
Elma, trembling all over, but bursting with joy that she could speak
of it at last without restraint to somebody, answered, in a very
low and tremulous voice, "Yes, Miss Ewes, I resisted it."
Miss Ewes leant back in her place, and gazed at her long, with a
very affectionate and motherly air. "Then I'm sure I don't know,"
she said at last, breaking out in a voice full of confidence, "why
on earth you shouldn't marry this young man you're in love with!"
Elma's heart beat still harder and higher than ever.
"What young man?" she murmured low--just to test the enchantress.
And Miss Ewes made answer, without one moment's hesitation, "Why,
of course, Cyril Waring!"
For a minute or two then, there was a dead silence. After that,
Miss Ewes looked up and spoke again. "Have you felt it often?"
she asked, without one word of explanation.
"Twice before," Elma answered, not pretending to misunderstand.
"Once I gave way. That was the very first time, you see, and I
didn't know yet exactly what it meant. The second time I knew, and
then I resisted it."
Somehow, before Miss Ewes, she hardly ever felt shy. She was so
conscious Miss Ewes knew all about it without her telling her.
The elder woman looked at her with unfeigned admiration.
"That was brave of you," she said quietly. "I couldn't have done
it myself! I should have HAD to give way to it. Then in YOU it's
dying out. That's as clear as daylight. It won't go any farther. I
knew it wouldn't, of course, when I saw you resisted even the Naga
dance. And for you, that's excellent.... For myself I encourage it.
It's that that makes my music what it is. It's that that inspires
me. _I_ composed that Naga dance I just played over to you, Elma.
But not all out of my own head. I couldn't have invented it.
It comes down in our blood, my dear, to you and me alike. We both
inherit it from a common ancestress."
"Tell me all about it," Elma cried, nestling close to her new friend
with a wild burst of relief. "I don't know why, but I'm not at all
ashamed of it all before you, Miss Ewes--at least, not in the way
I am before mother."
"You needn't be ashamed of it," Miss Ewes answered kindly. "You've
nothing to be ashamed of. It'll never trouble YOU in your life
again. It always dies out at last; they say in the sixth or seventh
generation, and when it's dying out, it goes as it went with you,
on the night you first fell in love with Cyril. If, after that,
you resist, it never comes back again. Year after year, the impulse
grows feebler and feebler. And if you can withstand the Naga dance,
you can withstand anything. Come here and take my hand, dear. I'll
tell you all about it."
Late at night Elma sat, tearful but happy, in her own room at home,
writing a few short lines to Cyril Waring. This was all she said--
"There's no reason on my side now, dearest Cyril. It's all a
mistake. I'll marry you whenever and wherever you will. There need
be no reason on your side either. I love you, and can trust you.
When Cyril Waring received that note next morning he kissed it
reverently, and put it away in his desk among a bundle of others.
But he said to himself sternly in his own soul for all that,
"Never, while Guy still rests under that cloud! And how it's ever
to be lifted from him is to me inconceivable."
A STROKE FOR FREEDOM.
In Africa, meanwhile, during those eighteen months, King Khatsua
had kept his royal word. He had held his two European prisoners
under close watch and ward in the Koranna hut he had assigned them
for their residence.
Like most other negro princes, indeed, Khatsua was a shrewd man of
business in his own way; and while he meant to prevent the English
strangers from escaping seaward with news of the new El Dorado
they had discovered in Barolong land, he hadn't the least idea of
turning away on that account the incidental advantages to be gained
for himself by permitting them to hunt freely in his dominions for
diamonds. So long as they acquiesced in the rough-and-ready royalty
of 50 per cent, he had proposed to them when he first decided to
detain them in his own territory--one stone for the king, and one
for the explorers--they were free to pursue their quest after gems
to their hearts' content in the valleys of Barolong land. And as the
two Englishmen, for their part, had nothing else to do in Africa,
and as they still went on hoping against hope for some chance of
escape or rescue, they dug for diamonds with a will, and secured
a number of first-class stones that would have made their fortunes
indeed--if only they could have got them to the sea or to England.
Of course they lived perforce in the Koranna hut assigned them by
the king, in pretty much the same way as the Korannas themselves
did. King Khatsua's men supplied them abundantly with grain,
and fruits, and game; and even at times procured them ready-made
clothes, by exchange with Kimberley. In other respects, they were
not ill-treated; they were merely detained "during his majesty's
pleasure." But as his majesty had no intention of killing the goose
that laid the golden eggs, or of letting them go, if he could
help it, to spread the news of their find among their greedy
fellow-countrymen, it seemed to them both as if they might go on
being detained like this in Barolong land for an indefinite period.
Still, things went indifferently with them. As they lived and worked
together in their native hut by Khatsua's village, a change began
slowly but irresistibly to come over Granville Kelmscott's feelings
towards his unacknowledged half-brother. At first, it was with the
deepest sense of distaste and loathing that the dispossessed heir
found himself compelled to associate with Guy Waring in such close
companionship. But, bit by bit, as they two saw more and more of
one another, this feeling of distaste began to wear off piecemeal.
Granville Kelmscott was more than half ashamed to admit it even
to himself, but in process of time he really almost caught himself
beginning to like--well, to like the man he believed to be a
murderer. It was shocking and horrible, no doubt; but what else
was he to do? Guy formed now his only European society. By the
side of those savage Barolongs, whose chief thought nothing of
perpetrating the most nameless horrors before their very eyes, for
the gratification of mere freaks of passion or jealousy, a European
murderer of the gentlemanly class seemed almost by comparison a mild
and gentle personage. Granville hardly liked to allow it in his own
mind, but it was nevertheless the case; he was getting positively
fond of this man, Guy Waring.
Besides, blood is generally thicker than water. Living in such
close daily communion with Guy, and talking with him unrestrainedly
at last upon all possible points--save that one unapproachable
one, which both seemed to instinctively avoid alluding to in any
way--Granville began to feel that, murderer or no murderer, Guy
was in all essentials very near indeed to him. Nay, more, he found
himself at times actually arguing the point with his own conscience
that, after all, Guy was a very good sort of fellow; and if ever he
had murdered Montague Nevitt at all--which looked very probable--he
must have murdered him under considerably extenuating circumstances.
There was only one thing about Guy that Granville didn't like when
he got to know him. This homicidal half-brother of his was gentle
as a woman; tender, kindhearted, truthful, affectionate; a gentleman
to the core, and a jolly good fellow into the bargain; but--there's
always a but--he was a terrible money-grubber! Even there in the
lost heart of Africa, at such a distance from home, with so little
chance of ever making any use of his hoarded wealth, the fellow
used to hunt up those wretched small stones, and wear them night
and day in a belt round his waist, as if he really loved them for
their own mere sakes--dirty high-priced little baubles! Granville,
for his part, couldn't bear to see such ingrained love of pelf. It
was miserable; it was mercenary.
To be sure, he himself hunted diamonds every day of his life, just
as hard as Guy did; there was nothing else to do in this detestable
place, and a man MUST find something to turn his idle hands to.
Also he carried them, like Guy, bound up in a girdle round his own
waist; it was a pity they should be lost, if ever he should chance
to get away safe in the end to England. But then, don't you see,
the cases were so different. Guy hoarded up his diamonds for mere
wretched gain; whereas Granville valued his (he said to himself
often) not for the mere worth in money of those shimmering little
trinkets, but for his mother's sake, and Gwendoline's, and the
credit of the family. He wanted Lady Emily to see her son filling
the place in the world she had always looked forward with hope to
his filling; and, by Heaven's help, he thought, he could still fill
it. He couldn't marry Gwendoline on a beggar's pittance; and, by
Heaven's help, he hoped still to be able to marry her.
Guy, on the other hand, found himself almost equally surprised
in turn at the rapid way he grew really to be fond of Granville
Kelmscott. Though Kelmscott knew, as he thought, the terrible secret
of his half-unconscious crime--for he could feel now how completely
he had acted under Montague Nevitt's compelling influence--Guy
was aware before long of such a profound and deep-seated sympathy
existing between them, that he became exceedingly attached in time
to his friendly fellow-prisoner. In spite of the one barrier they
could never break down, he spoke freely by degrees to Granville of
everything else in his whole life; and Granville in return spoke to
him just as freely. A good fellow, Granville, when you got to know
him. There was only a single trait in his character Guy couldn't
endure; and that was his ingrained love of money-grubbing. For the
way the man pounced down upon those dirty little stones, when he
saw them in the mud, and hoarded them up in his belt, and seemed
prepared to defend them with his very life-blood, Guy couldn't
conceal from himself-the fact that he fairly despised him. Such
vulgar, common-place, unredeemed love of pelf! Such mere bourgeois
avarice! Of what use could those wretched pebbles be to him here
in the dusty plains of far inland Africa?
Guy himself kept close count of his finds, to be sure; but then,
the cases, don't you see, were so different! HE wanted his diamonds
to discharge the great debt of his life to Cyril, and to appear an
honest man, rehabilitated once more, before the brother he had so
deeply wronged and humiliated. Whereas Granville Kelmscott, a rich
man's son, and the heir to a great estate beyond the dreams of
avarice--that HE should have come risking his life in these savage
wilds for mere increase of superfluous wealth, why, it was simply
So eighteen months wore away, in mutual friendship, tempered to a
certain degree by mutual contempt, and little chance of escape came
to the captives in Barolong land.
At last, as the second winter came round once more, for two or
three weeks the Englishmen in their huts began to perceive that
much bustle and confusion was going on all around in King Khatsua's
dominions. Preparations for a war on a considerable scale were
clearly taking place. Men mustered daily on the dusty plain with
firearms and assegais. Much pombè was drunk; many palavers took
place; a constant drumming of gongs and tom-toms disturbed their ears
by day and by night. The Englishmen concluded some big marauding
expedition was in contemplation. And they were quite right.
King Khatsua was about to concentrate his forces for an attack on
a neighbouring black monarch, as powerful and perhaps as cruel as
himself, Montisive of the Bush Veldt.
Slowly the preparations went on all around. Then the great day came
at last, and King Khatsua set forth on his mighty campaign, to the
sound of big drums and the blare of native trumpets.
When the warriors had marched out of the villages on their way
northward to the war, Guy saw the two prisoners' chance of escape
had arrived in earnest. They were guarded as usual, of course;
but not so strictly as before; and during the night, in particular,
Guy noticed with pleasure, little watch was now kept upon them. The
savage, indeed, can't hold two ideas in his head at once. If he's
making war on his neighbour on one side, he has no room left to
think of guarding his prisoners on the other.
"To-night," Guy said, one evening, as they sat together in their
hut, over their native supper of mealie cakes and springbok venison,
"we must make a bold stroke. We must creep out of the kraal as
well as we can, and go for the sea westward, through Namaqua land
to Angra Pequena."
"Westward?" Granville answered, very dubiously. "But why westward,
Waring? Surely our shortest way to the coast is down to Kimberley
and so on to the Cape. It'll take us weeks and weeks to reach the
sea, won't it, by way of Namaqua land?"
"No matter for that," Guy replied, with confidence. He knew the map
pretty well, and had thought it all over. "As soon as the Barolong
miss us in the morning, they'll naturally think we've gone south,
as you say, towards our own people. So they'll pursue us in that
direction and try to take us; and if they were to catch us after
we'd once run away, you may be sure they'd kill us as soon as look
at us. But it would never occur to them, don't you see, we were
going away west. They won't follow us that way. So west we'll go,
and strike out for the sea, as I say, at Angra Pequena."
They sat up through the night discussing plans low to themselves
in the dark, till nearly two in the morning. Then, when all was
silent around, and the Barolong slept, they stole quietly out, and
began their long march across the country to westward. Each man
had his diamonds tied tightly round his waist, and his revolver
at his belt. They were prepared to face every unknown danger.
Crawling past the native huts with very cautious steps, they
made for the open, and emerged from the village on to the heights
that bounded the valley of the Lugura. They had proceeded in this
direction for more than an hour, walking as hard as their legs would
carry them, when the sound of a man running fast, but barefoot,
fell on their ears from behind in a regular pit-a-pat. Guy looked
back in dismay, and saw a naked Barolong just silhouetted against
the pale sky on the top of a long low ridge they had lately crossed
over. At the very same instant Granville raised his revolver and
pointed it at the man, who evidently had not yet perceived them.
With a sudden gesture of horror, Guy knocked down his hand and
prevented his taking aim.
"Don't shoot," he cried, in a voice of surprised dismay and
disapproval. "We mustn't take his life. How do we know he's an
enemy at all? He mayn't be pursuing us."
"Best shoot on spec, anyway," Granville answered, somewhat
discomposed. "All's fair in war. The fellow's after us no doubt.
And, at any rate, if he sees us he may go and report our whereabouts
to the village."
"What? shoot an unarmed man who shows no signs of hostility! Why,
it would be sheer murder," Guy cried, with some horror. "We mustn't
make our retreat on THOSE principles, Kelmscott; it'd be quite
indefensible. I decline to fire except when we're attacked. I
won't be any party, myself, to needless bloodshed."
Granville Kclmscott gazed at him, there in the grey dawn, in
unspeakable surprise. Not shoot at a negro! In such straits, too,
as theirs! And this rebuke had come to him--from the mouth of the
Turn it over as he might, Granville couldn't understand it.
The Barolong ran along on the crest of the ridge, still at the top
of his speed, without seeming to notice them in the gloom of the
valley. Presently, he disappeared over the edge to southward. Guy
was right, after all. He wasn't in pursuit of them. More likely
he was only a runaway slave, taking advantage, like themselves, of
King Khatsua's absence.
PERILS BY THE WAY.
Three weeks later, two torn and tattered, half-starved Europeans
sat under a burning South African sun by the dry bed of a shrunken
summer torrent. It was in the depths of Namaqua land, among the
stony Karoo; and the fugitives were straggling, helplessly and
hopelessly, seaward, thirsty and weary, through a half-hostile
country, making their marches as best they could at dead of night
and resting by day where the natives would permit them.
Their commissariat had indeed been a lean and hungry one. Though
they carried many thousand pounds' worth of diamonds about their
persons, they had nothing negotiable with which to buy food or
shelter from the uncivilized Namaquas. Ivory, cloth, and beads were
the currency of the country. No native thereabouts would look for
a moment at their little round nobs of water-worn pebbles. The fame
of the diamond fields hadn't penetrated as yet so far west in the
land as to have reached to the huts of the savage Namaquas.
And now their staying power was almost worn out Granville Kelmscott
lay down on the sandy soil with a wild gesture of despair. All
around were bare rocks and the dry sweltering veldts, covered only
with round stones and red sand and low bushy vegetation.
"Waring," he said feebly, in a very faint voice, "I wish you'd
leave me and go on by yourself. I'm no good any more. I'm only a
drag upon you. This fever's too bad for me to stand much longer.
I can never pull through to the coast alive. I've no energy left,
were it even to try. I'd like to lie down here and die where I sit.
Do go and leave me."
"Never!" Guy answered resolutely. "I'll never desert you, Kelmscott,
while I've a drop of blood left. If I carry you on my back to the
coast, I'll get you there at last, or else we'll both die on the
Granville held his friend's hand in his own fevered fingers as he
might have held a woman's.
"Oh, Waring," he cried once more, in a voice half choked with profound
emotion, "I don't know how to thank you enough for all you've done
for me. You've behaved to me like a brother--like a brother indeed.
It makes me ashamed to think, when I see how unselfish, and good,
and kind you've been--ashamed to think I once distrusted you.
You've been an angel to me all through. Without you, I don't know
how I could ever have lived on through this journey at all. And
I can't bear to feel now I may spoil your retreat--can't bear to
know I'm a drag and burden to you."
"My dear fellow," Guy said, holding the thin and fevered hand very
tenderly in his, "don't talk to me like that. I feel to you every
bit as you feel to me in this matter. I was afraid of you at first,
because I knew you misunderstood me. But the more I've seen of you,
the better we've each of us learned to sympathize with the other.
We've long been friends. I love you now, as you say, like a brother."
Granville hesitated for a moment. Should he out with it or not? Then
at last the whole long-suppressed truth came out with a burst. He
seized his companion's two hands at once in a convulsive grasp.
"That's not surprising either," he said, "after all--for Guy, do
you know, we ARE really brothers!"
Guy gazed at him in astonishment. For a moment he thought his
friend's reason was giving way. Then slowly and gradually he took
it all in.
"ARE really brothers!" he repeated, in a dazed sort of way. "Do
you mean it, Kelmscott? Then my father and Cyril's--"
"Was mine too, Waring. Yes; I couldn't bear to die without telling
you that. And I tell it now to you. You two are the heirs of
the Tilgate estates. And the unknown person who paid six thousand
pounds to Cyril, just before you left England, was your father and
mine--Colonel Henry Kelmscott."
Guy bent over him for a few seconds in speechless surprise. Words
failed him at first. "How do you know all this, Kelmscott?" he said
at last faintly.
Granville told him in as few words as possible--for indeed he was
desperately weak and ill--by what accident he had discovered his
father's secret. But he told him only what he knew himself. For, of
course, he was ignorant as yet of the Colonel's seizure and sudden
death on the very day after they had sailed from England.
Guy listened to it all in profound silence. It was a strange,
and for him a momentous tale. Then he said at last, as Granville
finished, "And you never told me this all these long months,
"I always meant to tell you, Guy," his half-brother answered, in
a sudden fit of penitence. "I always meant in the end you and your
brother Cyril should come into your own at Tilgate as you ought.
I was only waiting--"
"Till you'd realized enough to make good some part of your personal
loss," Guy suggested, not unkindly.
"Oh no," Granville answered, flushing up at the suggestion. "I
wasn't waiting for that. Don't think me so mercenary. I was waiting
for YOU, in your turn to extend to ME your own personal confidence.
You know, Guy," he went on, dropping into a still more hushed
and solemn undertone, "I saw an evening paper the night we left
"Oh, I know, I know," Guy cried, interrupting him, with a very
pale face. "Don't speak to me of that. I can't bear to think of
it. Kelmscott, I was mad when I did that deed. I wasn't myself. I
acted under somebody else's compulsion and influence. The man had
a sort of hypnotic power over my will, I believe. I couldn't help
doing whatever he ordered me. It was he who suggested it. It was
he that did it. And it's he who was really and truly guilty."
"And who was that man?" Granville Kelmscott asked with some little
"There's no reason I shouldn't tell you," Guy answered, "now we've
once broken the ice; and I'm glad in my heart, I must say, that
we've broken it. For a year and a half, day and night, that barrier
has been raised between us always, and I've longed to get rid of
it. But I was afraid to speak of it to you, and you to me! Well,
the man, if you must know, was Montague Nevitt!"
Granville Kelmscott looked up at him in credulous surprise. But he
was too ill and weak to ask the meaning of this riddle. Montague
Nevitt! What on earth could Waring mean by that? How on earth could
Montague Nevitt have influenced and directed him in assaulting and
murdering Montague Nevitt?
For a long time there was silence. Each brother was thinking his
own thoughts to himself about this double disclosure. At last,
Granville lifted his head and spoke again.
"And you'll go home to England now," he said, "under an assumed
name, I suppose; and arrange with your brother Cyril for him to
claim the Kelmscott estates, and allow you something out of them
in retirement somewhere."
"Oh no," Guy answered manfully. "I'm going home to England now, if
I go at all, under my own proper name that I've always borne, to
repay Cyril in full every penny I owe him, to make what reparation
I can for the wrong I've done, and to give myself up to the police
Granville gazed at him, more surprised and more admiring than ever.
"You're a brave man, Waring," he said slowly. "I don't understand
it at all. But I know you're right. And I almost believe you. I
almost believe it was not your fault. I should like to get through
to England after all, if it was only to see you safe out of your
Guy looked at him fixedly.
"My dear fellow," he said, in a compassionate tone, "you mustn't
talk any more. You've talked a great deal too much already. I see
a hut, I fancy, over yonder, beside that dark patch of brush. Now,
you must do exactly as I bid you. Don't struggle or kick. Lie as
still as you can. I'll carry you there on my back, and then we'll
see if we can get you anyhow a drop of pure water."
That was almost the last thing Granville Kelmscott knew. Some
strange shadowy dreams, to be sure, disturbed the lethargy into which
he fell soon after; but they were intermittent and indefinite. He
was vaguely aware of being lifted with gentle care into somebody's
arms, and of the somebody staggering along with him, not without
considerable difficulty, over the rough stony ground of that South
African plateau. He remembered also, as in a trance, some sound of
angry voices--a loud expostulation--a hasty palaver--a long slow
pause--a gradual sense of reconciliation and friendliness--during
all which, as far as he could recover the circumstances afterwards,
he must have been extended on the earth, with his back propped
against a great ledge of jutting rock, and his head hanging listless
on his sinking breast. Thenceforward all was blank, or just dimly
perceived at long intervals between delirium and unconsciousness.
He was ill for many days, where or how he knew not.
In some half dreamy way, he was aware too, now and again, of strange
voices by his side, strange faces tending him. But they were black
faces, all, and the voices spoke in deep guttural tones, unlike
even the clicks and harsh Bantu jerks with which he had grown
so familiar in eighteen months among the Barolong. This that he
heard now, or seemed to hear in his delirium, like distant sounds
of water, was a wholly different and very much harsher tongue--the
tongue of the Namaquas, in fact, though Granville was far too ill
and too drowsy just then to think of reasoning about it or classifying
it in any way. All he knew for the moment was that sometimes, when
he turned round feebly on his bed of straw, and asked for drink
or help in a faltering voice, no white man appeared to answer
his summons. Black, faces all--black, black, and unfamiliar. Very
intermittently he was conscious of a faint sense of loneliness. He
knew not why. But he thought he could guess. Guy Waring had deserted
At last, one morning, after more days had passed than Granville
could possibly count, all of a sudden, in a wild whirl, he came
to himself again at once, with that instant revulsion of complete
awakening which often occurs at the end of long fits of delirium
in malarious fever. A light burst in upon him with a flash. In
a moment, his brain seemed to clear all at once, and everything
to grow plain as day before him. He raised himself on one wasted
elbow and gazed around him with profound awe. He saw it all now;
he remembered everything, everything.
He was alone, among savages in the far heart of Africa.
He lay on his back, on a heap of fresh straw, in a close and filthy
mud-built hut. Under his aching neck a wooden pillow or prop of
native make supported his head. Two women and a man bent over him
and smiled. Their faces, though black, were far from unkindly.
They were pleased to see him stare about with such meaning in his
eyes. They were friendly, no doubt. They seemed really to take an
interest in their patient's recovery.
But where was Guy Waring? Dead? Dead? Or run away? Had his
half-brother, in this utmost need, then, so basely deserted him?
For some minutes, Granville gazed around him, half dazed, and in
a turmoil of surprise, yet with a vivid passion of acute inquiry.
Now he was once well awake, he must know all immediately. But
how? Who to ask? This was terrible, terrible. He had no means of
intercommunication with the people in the hut. He knew none of their
language, nor they of his. He was utterly alone, among unmitigated
Meanwhile, the man and the women talked loud among themselves in
their own harsh speech, evidently well pleased and satisfied at
their guest's improvement. With a violent effort, Granville began to
communicate with them in the language of signs which every savage
knows as he knows his native tongue, and in which the two Englishmen
had already made some progress during their stay in Barolong land.
Pointing first to himself, with one hand on his breast, he held
up two fingers before the observant Namaqua, to indicate that at
first there had been a couple of them on the road, both white men.
The latter point he still further elaborated by showing the white
skin on his own bare wrist, and once more holding up the two fingers
demonstratively. The Namaqua nodded. He had seized the point well.
He held up two fingers in return himself; then looked at his own
black wrist and shook his head in dissent--they were not black men;
after which he touched Granville's fair forearm with his hand; yes,
yes, just so; he took it in; two white men.
What had become of the other one? Granville asked in the same fashion,
by looking around him on all sides in dumb show, inquiringly. One
finger only was held up now, pointing about the hut; one hand was
laid upon his own breast to show that a single white man alone
remained. He glanced about him uneasily. What had happened to his
The Namaqua pointed with his finger to the door of the hut, as much
as to say the other man was gone. He seized every sign at once
with true savage quickness.
Then Granville tried once more. Was his companion dead? Had he been
killed in a fight? Was that the reason of his absence? He lunged
forward with his hand holding an imaginary assegai. He pressed on
upon the foe; he drove it through a body. Then he fell, as if dead,
on the floor, with a groan and a shriek. After which, picking
himself up as well as he was able, and crawling back to his straw,
he proceeded in mute pantomime to bury himself decently.
The Namaqua shook his head again with a laugh of dissent. Oh no;
not like that. It had happened quite otherwise. The missing white
man was well and vigorous, a slap on his own chest sufficiently
indicated that news. He placed his two first fingers in the ground,
astride like legs, and made them walk along fast, one in front
of the other. The white man had gone away. He had gone on foot.
Granville nodded acquiescence. The savage took water in a calabash
and laid it on the floor. Then he walked once more with his fingers,
as if on a long and weary march, to the water's brink. Granville
nodded comprehension again. He understood the signs. The white man
had gone away, alone, on foot--and seaward.
At that instant, with a sudden cry of terror, the invalid's hands
went down to his waist, where he wore the girdle that contained
those precious diamonds--the diamonds that were to be the ransom
of some fraction of Tilgate. An awful sense of desertion broke over
him all at once. He called aloud in his horror. It was too much to
believe. The girdle was gone, and the diamonds with it!
Hypocrite! Hypocrite! Thief! Murderer! Robber! He had trusted that
vile creature, that plausible wretch, in spite of all the horrible
charges he knew against him. And THIS was the sequel of their talk
that day! THIS was how Guy Waring had requited his confidence.
He had stolen the fruits of eighteen months' labour.
Granville turned to the Namaqua, wild with his terrible loss, and
pointed angrily to his loins, where the diamonds were not. The
savage nodded; looked wise and shook his head; pretended to gird
himself round the waist with a cloth; then went over to Granville,
who lay still in the straw, undid an imaginary belt, with deliberate
care, tied it round his own body above the other one, with every
appearance of prudence and forethought, counted the small stones
in it one by one, in his hand, to the exact number, with grotesque
fidelity, and finally set his fingers to walk a second time at a
rapid pace, in the direction of the calabash which represented the
Granville fell back on his wooden pillow with a horrible groan of
awakened distrust. The man had gone off, that was clear, and had
stolen his diamonds That is what comes of intrusting your life and
property to a discovered murderer. How could he ever have been such
a fool? He would never forgive himself.
The desertion itself was bad enough in all conscience; but it was
as nothing at all in Granville's mind to the wickedness of the
He might have known it, of course. How that fellow toiled and moiled
and gloated over his wretched diamonds! How little he seemed to
think of the stain of blood on his hands, and how much of the mere
chance of making filthy lucre! Pah! Pah! it was pitiable. The man's
whole mind was distorted by a hideous fungoid growth--the love of
gain, which is the root of all evil. For a few miserable stones,
he would plunder his own brother, lying helpless and ill in that
African hut, and make off with the booty himself, saving his own
If it hadn't been for the unrequited kindness of these mere savage
Namaquas, Granville cried to himself in his bitterness, he might
have died of want in the open desert. And now he would go down to
the coast, after all, a ruined man, penniless and friendless. It
was a hard thought indeed for a Kelmscott to think he should have
been abandoned and robbed by his own half-brother, and should owe
his life now to a heathen African. The tender mercies of a naked
barbarian in a mud-built hut were better than the false friendship
of his father's son, the true heir of Tilgate.
It was miserable! pitiable! The shock of that discovery threw
Granville back once more into a profound fever. For several hours
he relapsed into delirium. And the worst of it was, the negroes
wouldn't let him die quietly in his own plain way. In the midst of
it all, he was dimly aware of a dose thrust down his throat. It
was the Namaqua administering him a pill--some nauseous native
decoction, no doubt--which tasted as if it were made of stiff white
For a day or two more, Granville remained seriously ill in the
dirty hut. At the end of that time, weak and wasted as he was, he
insisted upon getting up and setting out alone on his long march
It was a wild resolve. He was utterly unfit for it. The hospitable
Namaqua, whose wives had nursed him well through that almost hopeless
illness, did his best to persuade the rash Englishman from so mad
a course, by gestures and entreaties, in his own mute language.
But Granville was obstinate. He would NOT sit down quietly and
be robbed like this of the fruit of his labours. He would not be
despoiled. He would not be trampled upon. He would make for the
coast, if he staggered in like a skeleton, and would confront the
robber with his own vile crime, be it at Angra Pequena, or Cape
Town, or London, or Tilgate.
In short, he would do much as Guy himself had done when he discovered
Montague Nevitt's theft of the six thousand. He would follow the
villain till he ran him to earth, and would tax him at last to
his face with the open proofs of his consummate treachery. What's
bred in the bone will out in the blood. The Kelmscott strain worked
alike its own way in each of them.
The Namaqua, to be sure, tried in vain to explain to Granville by
elaborate signs that the other white man had given orders to the
contrary. The other white man had strictly enjoined upon him not to
let the invalid escape from his hut on any pretext whatever. The
other white man had promised him a reward, a very large reward--money,
guns, ammunition--if he kept him safely and didn't allow him to
escape. Granville Kelmscott smiled to himself a bitter, cynical,
smile. Poor confiding savage! He didn't know Guy as well as he,
his brother, did.
And yet, in the midst of it all, in spite of the revulsion, Granville
was conscious now and then of some little ingratitude somewhere to
his half-brother's memory. After all, Guy had shown him time and
again no small kindness. Some excuse should be made for a man who
saves his own life first in very dire extremities. But none, no,
none for one who has the incredible and inhuman meanness to rob his
own brother of his hard-earned gams, in a strange wild land, when
he thinks him dying.
For it was the robbery, not the desertion, Granville could never
forgive. The man who was capable of doing that basest of acts was
capable also of murder or any crime in the decalogue.
So the fevered white man rose at last one morning on his shrunken
limbs, and staggered, as best he might, from his protector's hut
in a wild impulse of resolution, on his mad journey seaward. When
the Namaqua saw nothing on earth would induce him to remain, he
shouldered his arms and went out beside him, fully equipped for
fight with matchlock and assegai. Not that the savage made any
undue pretence to a purely personal devotion to the belated white
man. On the contrary, he signified to Granville with many ingenious
signs that he was afraid of losing the great reward he had been
promised, if once he let the invalid get out of his sight unattended.
Granville smiled once more that bitter smile of new-born cynicism.
Well, let the fellow follow him if he liked! He would reward
him himself if ever they reached the coast in safety. And in any
case, it was better to go attended by a native. An interpreter who
can communicate in their own tongue with the people through whose
territory you are going to pass is always, useful in a savage
How Granville got over that terrible journey seaward he could never
tell. He crawled on and on, supported by the faithful Namaqua with
unfailing good-humour, over that endless veldt, for three long days
of wretched footsore marching. And for three long nights he slept,
or lay awake, under the clear desert stars, on the open ground of
barren Namaqua land. It was a terrible time. Worn and weary with
the fever, Granville was wholly unfit for any kind of travelling.
Nothing but the iron constitution of the Kelmscotts could ever
have stood so severe an ordeal. But the son of six generations of
soldiers, who had commanded in the fever-stricken flats of Walcheren,
or followed Wellesley through the jungles of tropical India, or
forced their way with Napier into the depths of Abyssinia, was not
to be daunted even by the nameless horrors of that South African
desert. Granville still endured, for three days and nights, and
was ready to march, or crawl on, once more, upon the fourth morning.
Here, however, his Namaqua, guide, with every appearance of terror,
made strong warnings of danger. The country beyond, he signified
by strange gestures, lay in the hands of a hostile tribe, hereditarily
at war with his fellow-clansmen. He didn't even know whether the
other white man, with the diamonds round his waist, had got safely
through, or whether the hostile tribe beyond the frontier had
assegaied him and "eaten him up," as the picturesque native phrase
goes. It was difficult enough for even a strong warrior to force
his way through that district with a good company of followers;
impossible for a single weak invalid like Granville, attended only
by one poor, ill-armed Namaqua.
So the savage seemed to say in his ingenious pantomime. If they
went on, they'd be killed and eaten up resistlessly. If they stopped
they might pull through. They must wait and camp there. For what
they were to wait, Granville hadn't the faintest conception. But
the Namaqua insisted upon it, and Granville was helpless as a child
in his hands. The man was alarmed, apparently, for his promised
reward. If Granville insisted, he showed in very frank dumb show,
why--a thrust with the assegai explained the rest most persuasively.
Granville still had his revolver, to be sure, and a few rounds
of ball cartridge. But he was too weak to show fight; the savage
They were seated on a stony ridge or sharp hog's back, overlooking
the valley of a dry summer stream. The watershed on which they sat
separated, with its chine of rugged rocks, the territory of the
two rival tribes. But the Namaqua was evidently very little afraid
that the enemy might transgress the boundaries of his fellow-tribesmen.
He dared not himself go beyond the jagged crest of the ridge; but
he seemed to think it pretty certain the people of the other tribe
wouldn't, for their part, in turn come across to molest him. He sat
down there doggedly, as if expecting something or other to turn up
in the course of time; and more than once he made signs to Granville
which the Englishman interpreted to mean that after so many days
and nights from some previous event unspecified, somebody would
arrive on the track from the coast at the point of junction between
the hostile races.
Granville was gazing at the Namaqua in the vain attempt to interpret
these signs more fully to himself, when, all of a sudden, an
unexpected noise in the valley below attracted his attention. He
pricked up his ears, Impossible! Incredible! It couldn't be--yes,
it was--the sharp hiss of firearms!
At the very same moment the Namaqua leapt to his feet in sudden
alarm, and, shading his eyes with his dusky hand, gazed intently
in front of him. For a minute or so he stood still, with brows knit
and neck craning. Then he called out something in an excited tone
two or three times over in his own tongue to Granville. The Englishman
stared in the same direction, but could make out nothing definite
just at first, in the full glare of the sunlight. But the Namaqua,
with a cry of joy, held up his two fingers as before, to symbolize
the two white men, and pointed with one of them to his guest, while
with the other he indicated some object in the valley, nodding
many times over. Granville seized his meaning at once. Could it be
true, what he said in this strange mute language? Could relief be
at hand? Could the firing beneath show that Guy was returning?
As he looked and strained his eyes, peering down upon the red plain,
under the shadow of his open palm, the objects by the water-course
grew gradually clearer. Granville could make out now that a party
of natives, armed with spears and matchlocks, was attacking some
little encampment on the bank of the dry torrent. The small force
in the encampment was returning the fire with great vigour and
spirit, though apparently over-powered by the superior numbers of
their swarming assailants. Even as Granville looked, their case grew
more desperate. A whole horde of black men seemed to be making an
onset on some small white object, most jealously guarded, round
which the defenders of the camp rallied with infinite energy. At the
head of the little band of strangers, a European in a pith helmet
was directing the fire, and fighting hard himself for the precious
white object. The rest were blacks, he thought, in half-civilized
costume. Granville's heart gave a bound as the leader sprang forth
upon one approaching savage. His action, as he leapt, stamped the
man at once. There was Kelmscott in the leap. Granville knew in a
second it was indeed Guy Waring.
The Namaqua recognised him too, and pointed enthusiastically
forward. Granville saw what he meant. To the front! To the front!
If there was fighting to be done, let them help their friends. Let
them go forward and claim the great reward offered.
Next moment, with a painful thrill of shame and remorse,
the Englishman saw what was the nature of the object they were so
jealously guarding. His heart stood still within him. It was a sort
of sedan chair, or invalid litter, borne on poles by four native
porters. Talk about coals of fire! Granville Kelmscott hardly knew
how to forgive himself for his unworthy distrust. Then Guy must
have reached the coast in safety, after leaving him in charge of
the Namaqua and fighting his way through, and now he was on his
way back to the interior again, with a sufficient escort and a
palanquin to fetch him.
Even as he looked, the assailants closed in more fiercely than
ever on the faltering little band. One of them thrust out with an
assegai at Guy. In an agony of horror, Granville cried aloud where
he stood. Surely, surely, they must be crushed to earth. No arms of
precision could ever avail them against such a swarm of assailants,
poured forth over their camp as if from some human ant-hill.
"Let us run!" the sick man cried to the Namaqua, pointing to the
fight below; and the Namaqua, comprehending the gesture, if not the
words, set forward to run with him down the slope into the valley.
At about a hundred yards off from the crowd, Granville, crouched
behind a clump of thorny acacia, and, signalling to the Namaqua to
hide at the same time, drew his revolver and fired point-blank at
the hindmost natives.
The effect was electrical. In a moment the savages turned and gazed
around them astonished. One of their number was hit and wounded
in the leg. Granville had aimed so purposely, to maim and terrify
them. The natives faltered and fell back. As they did so, Granville
emerged from the shelter of the acacia bush, and fired a second
shot from another point at them. At the same instant the Namaqua
raised a loud native battle-cry, and brandished his assegai. The
effect was electrical. The hostile tribe broke up in wild panic at
once. They cried in their own tongue that the Namaquas were down
upon them, under English guidance: and, quick as lightning, they
dispersed as if by magic, to hide themselves about in the thick
Two seconds later, Guy was wringing Granville's hand in a fervour
of gratitude. Each man had saved the other's life. In the rapid
interchange of question and answer that followed, one point alone
puzzled them both for a minute or two.
"But why on earth didn't you leave a line to explain what you'd
done?" Granville cried, now thoroughly ashamed of his unbelief, "If
only I'd known, you were coming back to the village it would have
saved me so much distress, so much sleepless misery."
"Why, so I did," Guy answered, still thoroughly out of breath, and
stained with blood and powder. "I tore a leaf from my note-book and
gave it to the Namaqua, explaining to him by signs that he was to
let you have it at once, the moment you were conscious. Here, you,
sir," he went on, turning round to their faithful black ally, and
holding up the note-book before his eyes to refresh his memory,
"why didn't you give it to the gentleman as I told you?"
The Namaqua, catching hastily at the meaning from the mere tone
of the question, as well as from Guy's instinctive and graphic
imitation of the act of writing, pulled out from his waistband the
last relics of a very brown and tattered fragment of paper, on which
were still legible in pencil the half-obliterated words: "My dear
Granville,--I find there is no chance of conveying you to the coast
through the territory of the next tribe in your present condition,
The rest was torn off. Guy looked at it dubiously. But the Namaqua,
anxious to show he had followed out all instructions to the very
letter, tore off the next scrap before their eyes, rolled it up
between his palms into a nice greasy pill, and proceeded to offer
it for Granville's acceptance. The misapprehension was too absurd.
Guy went off into a hearty peal of laughter at once. The Namaqua
had taken the mysterious signs for "a very great medicine," and
had administered the magical paper accordingly, as he understood
himself to be instructed, at fixed intervals to his unfortunate
patient. That was the medicine Granville remembered having forced
down his throat at the moment when he first learned, as he thought,
his half-brother's treachery.
NEWS FROM THE CAPE.
At the Holkers' at Chetwood, one evening some days later, Cyril
Waring met Elma Clifford once more, the first time for months, and
had twenty minutes' talk in the tea-room alone with her. Contrary
to his rule, he had gone to the Holkers' party that night, for a man
can't remain a recluse all his life, no matter how hard he tries,
merely because his brother's suspected of having committed a murder.
In course of time, the attitude palls upon him. For the first year
after Guy's sudden and mysterious disappearance, indeed, Cyril
refused all invitations point-blank, except from the most intimate
friends; the shame and disgrace of that terrible episode weighed
him down so heavily that he couldn't bear to go out in the world
among unsympathetic strangers.
But the deepest sorrow wears away by degrees, and at the end of
twelve months Cyril found he could mix a little more unreservedly
at last among his fellow-men. The hang-dog air sat ill upon his
frank, free nature. This invitation to the Holkers', too, had one
special attraction: he knew it was a house where he was almost
certain of meeting Elma. And since Elma insisted now on writing
to him constantly--she was a self-willed young woman was Elma, and
would have her way--he really saw no reason on earth himself why
he shouldn't meet her. To meet is one thing, don't you know--to
marry, another. At least so fifty generations of young people have
deluded themselves under similar circumstances into believing.
Elma was in the room before him, prettier than ever, people said,
in the pale red ball-dress which exactly suited her gipsy-like
eyes and creamy complexion. As she entered she saw Sir Gilbert
Gildersleeve with his wife and Gwendoline standing in the corner
by the big piano. Gwendoline looked pale and preoccupied, as she
had always looked since Granville Kelmscott disappeared, leaving
behind him no more definite address for love-letters than simply
Africa; and Lady Gildersleeve was, as usual, quite subdued and
broken. But the judge himself, consoled by his new honours, seemed,
as time wore on, to have recovered a trifle of his old blustering
manner. A knighthood had reassured him. He was talking to Mr.
Holker in a loud voice as Elma approached him from behind.
"Yes, a very curious coincidence," he was just saying, in his noisy
fashion, with one big burly hand held demonstratively before him.
"A very curious and unexplained coincidence. They both vanished
into space about the self-same time. And nothing more has ever
since been heard of them. Quite an Arabian Nights' affair in its
way--the Enchanted Carpet sort of business, don't you know--wafted
through the air unawares, like Sinbad the Sailor, or the One-eyed
Calender, from London to Bagdad, or Timbuctoo or St. Petersburg. The
OTHER young man one understands about, of course; HE had sufficient
reasons of his own, no doubt, for leaving a country which had
grown too warm for him. But that Granville Kelmscott, a gentleman
of means, the heir to such a fine estate as Tilgate, should disappear
into infinity leaving no trace behind, like a lost comet--and at
the very moment, too, when he was just about to come into the family
property--why, I call it... I call it... I call it--"
His jaw dropped suddenly. He grew deadly pale. Words failed his
stammering tongue. Do what he would, he couldn't finish his sentence.
And yet, nothing very serious had occurred to him in any way. It
was merely that, as he uttered these words, he caught Elma Clifford's
eye, and saw lurking in it a certain gleam of deadly contempt before
which the big blustering man himself had quailed more than once
in many a Surrey drawing-room.
For Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve knew, as well as if she had told him
the truth in so many words, that Elma Clifford suspected him of
being Montague Nevitt's murderer.
Elma came forward, just to break the awkward pause, and shook hands
with the party by the piano coldly. Sir Gilbert tried to avoid
her; but, with the inherited instinct of her race, Elma cut off
his retreat. She boxed him in the corner between the piano and the
"I heard what you were saying just now, Sir Gilbert," she murmured
low, but with marked emphasis, after a few polite commonplaces of
conversation had first passed between them; "and I want to ask you
one question only about the matter. ARE you so sure as you seem
of what you said this minute? Are you so sure that Mr. Guy Waring
HAD sufficient reasons of his own for wishing to leave the country?"
Before that unflinching eye, the great lawyer trembled, as many
a witness had trembled of old under his own cross-examination. But
he tried to pass it off just at first with a little society banter.
He bowed, and smiled, and pretended to look arch--look arch, indeed,
with that ashen, white face of his!--as he answered, with forced
"My dear young lady, Mr. Guy Waring, as I understand, is Mr. Cyril
Waring's brother, and as by the law of England the king can do no
wrong, so I suppose--"
Elma cut him short in the middle of his sentence with an imperious
gesture. He had never cut short an obnoxious and intruding barrister
himself with more crushing dignity.
"Mr. Cyril Waring has nothing at all to do with the point, one way
or the other," the girl said severely. "Attend to my question.
What I ask is this: Why do you, a judge who may one day be called
upon to try the case, venture to say, on such partial evidence,
that Mr. Guy Waring had sufficient reasons of his own for leaving
Called upon to try Guy Waring's case! The judge paused abashed.
He was very much afraid of her. This girl had such a strange look
about the eyes, she made him tremble. People said the Ewes women
were the descendants of a witch. And there was something truly
witch-like in the way Elma Clifford looked straight down into his
eyes. She seemed to see into his very soul. He knew she suspected
He shuffled and temporized. "Well, everybody says so, you know," he
answered, shrugging his shoulders carelessly. "And what everybody
says MUST be true. ... Besides, if HE, didn't do it, who did, I
Elma pounced upon her opportunity with a woman's quickness. "Somebody
else who was at Mambury that day, no doubt," she replied, with a
meaning look. "It MUST have been somebody out of the few who were
That home-thrust told. The judge's colour was livid to look upon.
What could this girl mean? How on earth could she know? How had she
even found out he was at Mambury at all? A terrible doubt oppressed
his soul. Had Gwendoline confided his movements to Elma? He had
warned his daughter time and again not to mention the fact, "for
fear of misapprehension," he said, with shuffling eyes askance. It
was better nobody should know he had been anywhere near Dartmoor
on the day of the accident.
However, there was one consolation; the law! the law! She could
have no legal proof, and intuition goes for nothing in a court
of justice. All the suspicion went against Guy Waring, and Guy
Waring--well, Guy Waring had fled the kingdom in the very nick of
time, and was skulking now, Heaven alone knew where or why, in the
remotest depths of some far African diggings.
And even as he thought it, the servant opened the door, and, in
the regulation footman's voice, announced "Mr. Waring."
The judge started afresh. For one moment his senses deceived him
sadly. His mind was naturally full of Guy, just now; and as the
servant spoke, he saw a handsome young man in evening dress coming
up the long drawing-room with the very air and walk of the man
he had met that eventful afternoon at the "Duke of Devonshire"
at Plymouth. Of course, it was only Cyril; and a minute later the
judge saw his mistake, and remembered, with a bitter smile, how
conscience makes cowards of us all, as he had often remarked about
shaky witnesses in his admirable perorations. But Elma hadn't failed
to notice either the start or its reason.
"It's only Mr. Cyril," she said pointedly; "not Mr. Guy, Sir Gilbert.
The name came very pat, though. I don't wonder it startled you."
She was crimson herself. The judge moved away with a stealthy
uncomfortable air. He didn't half care for this uncanny young
woman. A girl who can read people's thoughts like that, a girl who
can play with you like a cat with a mouse, oughtn't to be allowed
at large in society. She should be shut up in a cage at home like
a dangerous animal, and prevented from spying out the inmost history
A little later, Elma had twenty minutes' talk with Cyril alone. It
was in the tea-room behind, where the light refreshments were laid
out before supper. She spoke low and seriously.
"Cyril," she said, in a tone of absolute confidence--they were
not engaged, of course, but still, it had got to plain "Cyril" and
"Elma" by this time--"I'm surer of it than ever, no matter what you
say. Guy's perfectly innocent. I know it as certainly as I know my
own name. I can't be mistaken. And the man who really did it is,
as I told you, Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve."
"My dear child," Cyril answered--you call the girl you are in love
with "my dear child," when you mean to differ from her, with an
air of masculine superiority--"how on earth can that be, when, as
I told you, I have Guy's confession in writing, under his own very
hand, that he really did it?"
"I don't care a pin for that," Elma cried, with a true woman's
contempt for anything so unimportant as mere positive evidence.
"Perhaps Sir Gilbert made him do it somehow--compelled him, or
coerced him, or willed him, or something--I don't understand these
new notions--or perhaps he got him into a scrape and then hadn't
the courage or the manliness to get him out of it. But at any rate,
I can answer for one thing, I were to go to the stake for it--Sir
Gilbert Gildersleeve is the man who's really guilty."
As she spoke, a great shadow darkened the door of the room for a
moment ominously. Sir Gilbert looked in with a lady on his arm--the
inevitable dowager who refreshes herself continuously at frequent
intervals through six hours of entertainment. When he saw those
two tête-à-tête, he drew back, somewhat disconcerted.
"Don't let's go in there, Lady Knowles," he whispered to the dowager
by his side. "A pair of young people discussing their hearts. We
were once young ourselves. It's a pity to disturb them."
And he passed on across the hall towards the great refreshment-room
"Well, I don't know," Cyril said bitterly, as the judge disappeared
through the opposite door. "I wish I could agree with you. But I
can't, I can't. The burden of it's heavier than my shoulders can
bear. Guy's weak, I know, and might be led half unawares into
certain sorts of crime; yet I only knew one man ever likely to lead
him--and that was poor Nevitt himself, not Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve,
whom he hardly even knew to speak to."
As he paused and reflected, a servant with a salver came up and
looked into Cyril's face inquiringly.
"Beg your pardon, sir," he said, hesitating, "but I think you're
"That's my name," Cyril answered, with a faint blush on his cheek.
"Do you want to speak to me?"
"Yes, sir; there's half-a-crown to pay for porterage, if you please.
A telegram for you, sir."
Cyril pulled out the half-a-crown, and tore open the telegram.
Its contents were indeed enough to startle him. It was dated "Cape
Town," and was as brief as is the wont of cable messages at nine
shillings a word--
"Coming home immediately to repay everything and stand my trial.
Kelmscott accompanies me. All well.--GUY WARING."
Cyril looked at it with a gasp, and handed it on to Elma. Elma took
it in her dainty gloved fingers, and read it through with keen eyes
of absorbing interest. Cyril sighed a profound sigh. Elma glanced
back at him all triumph. "I told you so," she said, in a very jubilant
voice. "He wouldn't do that if he didn't KNOW he was innocent."
At the very same second, a blustering voice was heard above the
murmur in the hall without.
"What, half-a-crown for porterage!" it exclaimed in indignant tones.
"Why, that's a clear imposition. The people at my house ought
never to have sent it on. It's addressed to Woodlands. Unimportant,
unimportant! Here, Gwendoline, take your message--some milliner's
or dressmaker's appointment for to-morrow, I suppose. Half-a-crown
for porterage! They'd no right to bring it."
Gwendoline took the telegram with trembling hands, tore it open
all quivers, and broke into a cry of astonishment. Then she fell
all at once into her father's arms. Elma understood it all. It was
a similar message from Granville Kelmscott to tell the lady of his
heart he was coming home to marry her.
Sir Gilbert, somewhat flustered, called for water in haste, and
revived the fainting girl by bathing her temples. At last he took
up the cause of the mischief himself. As he read it his own face
turned white as death. Elma noticed that, too. And no wonder it
did--for these were the words of that unexpected message--
"Coming home to claim you by the next mail. Guy Waring accompanies
A GLEAM OF LIGHT.
Next day but one, the Companion of St. Michael and St. George came
in to Craighton with evil tidings. He had heard in the village that
Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve was ill--very seriously ill. The judge
had come home from the Holkers' the other evening much upset by
the arrival of Gwendoline's telegram.
"Though why on earth should that upset him," Mr. Clifford continued,
screwing up his small face with a very wise air, "is more than
I can conceive; for I'm sure the Gildersleeves angled hard enough
in their time to catch young Kelmscott, by hook or by crook, for
their gawky daughter; and now that young Kelmscott telegraphs over
to say he's coming home post haste to marry her, Miss Gwendoline
faints away, if you please, as she reads the news, and the judge
himself goes upstairs as soon as he gets home, and takes to his
bed incontinently. But there, the ways of the world are really
inscrutable! What reconciles me to life, every day I grow older, is
that it's so amusing--so intensely amusing! You never know what's
going to turn up next; and what you least expect is what most often
Elma, however, received his news with a very grave face.
"Is he really ill, do you think, papa?" she asked, somewhat anxiously;
"or is he only--well--only frightened?"
Mr. Clifford stared at her with a blank leathery face of self-satisfied
"Frightened!" he repeated solemnly; "Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve
frightened! And of Granville Kelmscott, too! That's true wit, Elma;
the juxtaposition of the incongruous. Why, what on earth has the
man got to be frightened of, I should like to know? ... No, no;
he's really ill; very seriously ill. Humphreys says the case is a
most peculiar one, and he's telegraphed up to town for a specialist
to come down this afternoon and consult with him."
And indeed, Sir Gilbert was really very ill. This unexpected shock
had wholly unmanned him. To say the truth, the judge had begun to
look upon Guy Waring as practically lost, and upon the matter of
Montague Nevitt's death as closed for ever. Waring, no doubt, had
gone to Africa--under a false name--and proceeded to the diamond
fields direct, where he had probably been killed in a lucky quarrel
with some brother digger, or stuck through with an assegai by some
enterprising Zulu; and nobody had even taken the trouble to mention
It's so easy for a man to get lost in the crowd in the Dark Continent!
Why, there was Granville Kelmscott, even--a young fellow of means,
and the heir of Tilgate, about whom Gwendoline was always moaning
and groaning, poor girl, and wouldn't be comforted--there was
Granville Kelmscott gone out to Africa, and, hi, presto, disappeared
into space without a vapour or a trace, like a conjurer's shilling. It
was all very queer; but, then, queer things are the way in Africa.
To be sure, Sir Gilbert had his qualms of conscience, too, over
having thus sent off Guy Waring, as he believed, to his grave in
Cape Colony. He was not at heart a bad man, though he was pushing,
and selfish, and self-seeking, and to a certain extent even--of
late--unscrupulous. He had his bad half-hours every now and again
with his own moral consciousness. But he had learnt to stifle his
doubts and to keep down his terrors. After all, he had told Guy no
more than the truth; and if Guy in his panic-terror chose to run
away and get killed in South Africa, that was no fault of HIS--he'd
only tried to warn the fellow of an impending danger. All's well
that ends well; and, to-day, Guy Waring was lost or dead, while he
himself was a judge, and a knight to boot, with all trace of his
crime destroyed for ever.
So he said to himself, rejoicing, the very day Granville Kelmscott's
telegram arrived. But now that he stood face to face again with that
pressing terror, his thoughts on the matter were very different.
Strange to say, his first idea was this: what a disgraceful shame
of that fellow Waring to come to life again thus suddenly on
purpose to annoy him! He was really angry, nay, more, indignant.
Such shuffling was inexcusable. If Waring meant to give himself
up and stand his trial like a man, why the dickens didn't he do it
immediately after the--well, the accident? What did he mean by going
off for eighteen months undiscovered, and leaving one to build up
fresh plans in life, like this--and then coming home on a sudden
just on purpose to upset them? It was simply disgraceful. Sir
Gilbert felt injured; this man Waring was wronging him. Eighteen
months before he was keenly aware that he was unjustly casting a vile
and hideous suspicion on an innocent person. But in the intervening
period his moral sense had got largely blunted. Familiarity with
the hateful plot had warped his ideas about it. Their places were
reversed. Sir Gilbert was really aggrieved now that Guy Waring should
turn up again, and should venture to vindicate his deeply-wronged
The man was as good as dead. Well, and he ought to have stopped so;
or else he ought never to have died at all. He ought to have kept
himself continually in evidence. But to go away for eighteen months,
unknown and unheard of, till one's sense of security had had time
to re-establish itself, and then to turn up again like this without
one minute's warning--oh, it was infamous, scandalous. The fellow
must be devoid of all consideration for others. Sir Gilbert wiped
his clammy brow with those ample hands. What on earth was he to do
for his wife, and for Gwendoline?
And Gwendoline was so happy, too, over Granville Kelmscott's return!
How could he endure that Granville Kelmscott's return should be
the signal for discovering her father's sin and shame to her! If
only he could have married her off before it all came out! Or if
only he could die before the man was tried!--Tried! Sir Gilbert's
eyes started from his head with horror. What was that Elma Clifford
suggested the other night? Why--if the man was arrested, he would
be arrested at Plymouth, the moment he landed, and would be tried
for murder at the Western Assizes. And it was he himself, Sir
Gilbert Gildersleeve, who was that term to take the Western Circuit.
He would be called upon to sit on the bench himself, and try Guy
Waring for the murder he had himself committed!
No wonder that thought sent him ill to bed at once. He lay and
tossed all night long in speechless agony and terror. It was an
appalling night. Next morning he was found delirious with fever.
When the news reached Elma, she saw its full and fatal significance.
Cyril had stopped on for three days at the Holkers', and he came
over in the course of the morning to take a walk across the fields
with her. Elma was profoundly excited, Cyril could hardly see why.
"This is a terrible thing," she said, "about Sir Gilbert's illness.
What I'm afraid of now is that he may die before your brother
returns. The shock must have been awful for him; mamma noticed it
every bit as much as I did; and so did Miss Ewes. They both said
at once, 'This blow will kill him!' And they both knew why, Cyril,
as well as I did. It's the Ewes' intuition. We've all of us got it,
and we all of us say, at once and unanimously--it was Sir Gilbert
"But suppose he DID die," Cyril asked, still sceptical, as he
always was when Elma got upon her instinctive consciousness; "what
difference would that make? If Guy's innocent, as I suppose in some
way he must be, from the tone of his telegram, he'll be acquitted
whether Sir Gilbert's alive or not. And if he's guilty--"
He broke off suddenly with an awful pause; the other alternative
was too terrible to contemplate.
"But he's NOT guilty," Elma answered with confidence. "I know it
more surely now than ever. And the difficulty's this. Nobody knows
the real truth, I feel certain, except Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve.
And if Sir Gilbert dies unconfessed, the truth dies with him. And
then--" She paused a moment. "I'm half afraid," she went on with a
doubtful sigh, "your brother's been too precipitate in coming home
to face it."
"But, Elma," Cyril cried, "I can't bear to say it--yet one must
face the facts--how on earth can he be innocent, when I tell you
again and again he wrote to me himself saying he really did it?"
"You never showed me that letter," Elma answered, with a faint
undercurrent of reproach in her tone.
"How could I?" Cyril replied. "Even to YOU, Elma, there are some
things a man can hardly bear to speak about."
"I have more faith than you, Cyril," Elma answered. "I've never given
up believing in Guy all the time. I believe in him still--because
I know he's your brother."
There was a short pause, during which neither spoke. They walked
along together, looking at each other's faces with half downcast
eyes, but with the not unpleasant sense of mute companionship and
sympathy in a great sorrow. At last Elma spoke again.
"There was one thing in Guy's telegram," she said, "I didn't quite
understand. 'Coming home immediately to repay everything.' What
did he mean by that? What has that got to do with Mr. Nevitt's
"Oh, that was quite another matter," Cyril answered, blushing deep
with shame, for he couldn't bear to let Elma know Guy was a forger
as well as a murderer. "That was something purely personal between
us two. He--he owed me money."
Elma's keen eyes read him through at a glance.
"But he said it all in one sentence," she objected, "as if the two
went naturally together. Coming home immediately to repay everything
and stand my trial. Cyril, Cyril, you've held something back. I
believe there's some fearful mistake here somewhere."
"You think so?" Cyril answered, feeling more and more uncomfortable.
"I'm sure of it," Elma replied, with a thrill, reading his thoughts
still deeper. "Oh, Cyril"--she seized his arm with a convulsive
grip--"for Heaven's sake, go and get it; let me see that letter!"
"I have it here," Cyril answered, pulling it out with some shame
from Montague Nevitt's pocket-book, which he wouldn't destroy, and
dared not leave about for prying eyes to light upon. "I've carried
it day and night, ever since, about with me."
Elma seized it from his hands, and sat down upon a stile, and read
it through with profound attention.
At the end she handed it back and tears stood in her eyes. "Cyril,"
she said, half laughing hysterically and half crying as she spoke,
"you've been doing that poor fellow a deep injustice. Oh, don't
you see--don't you see it? That isn't the letter of a man who has
committed a murder. It's the letter of a man who has unwittingly and
unwillingly done you some personal wrong, and is eager to repair
it. My darling, my darling, you've misread it altogether. It
isn't about Montague Nevitt's death at all; it's about nothing an
earth but some private money matter. More than that, when it was
written, Guy didn't yet know Mr. Nevitt was dead. He didn't know
he was suspected. He didn't know anything. I wonder you don't see!
I wish to Heaven you'd shown me that letter months ago! Sir Gilbert
fastened suspicion on the wrong man; and this letter has made you
accept it too easily. Guy went to Africa--that's as plain as words
can put it--to make money of his own to repay what he owed you. And
it's this, the purely personal and unimportant charge, he's coming
home to give himself up upon."
A light seemed to burst on Cyril's mind as she spoke. For the very
first time, he felt a gleam of hope. Elma was right, after all,
he believed. Guy was wholly innocent of the greater crime; and his
heart-broken letter had only meant to deal with the question of
But Cyril had heard of the murder first, and had had that most in
his mind when the letter reached him; so he interpreted it at once
as referring to the capital charge, and never dreamt for a moment
of its real narrower meaning.
That evening, when the messenger came back from "kind inquiries" at
Woodlands, Elma asked, with hushed awe, how Sir Gilbert was going
"Very poorly, miss," the servant answered. "The doctor says he's
sunk dreadful low; and the butler thinks he has something on his
mind he can't get out in his wanderings. He's in a terrible bad
way. They wouldn't be astonished if he don't live to morning."
So Elma went to bed that night trembling most for the result of
Sir Gilbert's illness.
THE BOLT FALLS.
All the way home on that long journey from Cape Town, as the two
half-brothers lounged on deck together in their canvas chairs,
Granville Kelmscott was wholly at a loss to understand what seemed
to him Guy Waring's unaccountable and almost incredible levity. The
man's conduct didn't in the least resemble that of a person who is
returning to give himself up on a charge of wilful murder. On the
contrary, Guy showed no signs of remorse or mental agony in any way;
he seemed rather elated, instead, at the pleasing thought that he
was going home, with his diamonds all turned at the Cape into solid
coin, to make his peace once more with his brother Cyril.
To be sure, at times he did casually allude to some expected
unpleasantness when he arrived in England; yet he treated it,
Granville noticed, as though hanging were at worst but a temporary
inconvenience. Granville wondered whether, after all, he could
have some complete and crushing answer to that appalling charge; on
any other supposition, his spirits and his talk were really little
short of what one might expect from a madman.
And indeed, now and again, Granville did really begin to suspect
that something had gone wrong somewhere with Guy Waring's intellect.
The more he thought over it, the more likely did this seem, for
Guy talked on with the greatest composure about his plans for the
future "when this difficulty was cleared up," as though a trial
for murder were a most ordinary occurrence--an accident that might
happen to any gentleman any day. And, if so, was it possible that
Guy had gone wrong in his head BEFORE the affray with Montague
Nevitt? That seemed likely enough; for when Granville remembered
Guy's invariable gentleness and kindness to himself, his devotion
in sickness and in the trials of the desert, his obvious aversion
to do harm to any one, and, above all, his heartfelt objection
to shedding human blood, Granville was constrained to believe his
newly found half-brother, if ever he committed the murder at all,
must have committed it while in a state of unsound mind, deserving
rather of pity than of moral reprehension. He comforted himself,
indeed, with this consoling idea--he could never believe a Kelmscott
of Tilgate, when clothed and in his right mind, could be guilty
of such a detestable and motiveless crime as the wilful murder of
Strangely enough, moreover, the subject that seemed most to occupy
Guy Waring's mind, on the voyage home, was not his forthcoming trial
on a capital charge, but the future distribution of the Tilgate
property. Was he essentially a money-grubber, Granville wondered
to himself, as he had thought him at first in the diamond fields
in Barolong land? Was he incapable of thinking about anything but
filthy lucre? No; that was clearly not the true solution of the
problem, for, whenever Guy spoke to him about the subject, it was
generally to say one and the self-same thing--
"In this matter, I feel I can speak for Cyril as I speak for myself.
Neither of us would wish to deprive you now of what you've always
been brought up to consider as your own. Neither of us would wish
to dispossess Lady Emily. The most we would desire is this--to have
our position openly acknowledged and settled before the world. We
should like it to be known we were the lawful sons of a brave man
and an honest woman. And if you wish voluntarily to share with us
some part of our father's estate, we'll be willing to enter into
a reasonable arrangement by which yon yourself can retain Tilgate
Park and the mass of the property that immediately appertains to
it. I'm sure Cyril would no more wish to be grasping in this matter
than I am; and after all that you and I have gone through together,
Granville, I don't think yon need doubt the sincerity of my feelings
He spoke so sensibly, he spoke so manfully, he spoke so kindly
always, with a bright gleam in those tender eyes, that Granville
hardly knew what to make of his evident confidence. Surely a
man couldn't be mad who could speak like that; and yet, whenever
he alluded in any way to his return to England, it was always as
though he ignored the gravity and heinousness of the charge brought
against him. It was as though murder was an accident, for which one
was hardly responsible. Granville couldn't make him out at all;
the fellow was an enigma to him. There was so much that was good
in him; and yet, there must be so much that was bad as well. He was
such a delicate, considerate, self-effacing gentleman--and yet,
if one could believe what he himself more than once as good as
admitted, he was a criminal, a felon, an open murderer.
Still, even so, Granville couldn't turn his back upon the brother
who had seen him so bravely across the terrors of Namaqua land. He
thought of how he had misjudged him once before, and how much he
had repented it. Whether Guy was a murderer or not, Granville felt,
the man he had saved, at least, could never forsake him.
The night before their arrival at Plymouth, Guy was in unusually
high spirits. His mirth was contagious. Everybody on board
was delighted at the prospect of reaching land, but Guy was more
delighted and more sanguine than anybody. He was sure in his own
mind this difficulty must have blown over long before now; Cyril must
have explained; Nevitt must have confessed; everything must have
been set right, and his own good name satisfactorily rehabilitated.
For more than eighteen months he had heard nothing from England.
To-morrow he would see Cyril, and account for everything. He had
money to set all right--his hard-earned money, got at the risk
of his own life in the dreary deserts of Barolong land. All would
yet be well, and Cyril would marry, and Elma Clifford would be the
mistress of nearly half the Tilgate property.
"It was all so different, Granville," he said to his friend
confidentially, as they paced the deck after supper, cigar in
mouth, "when you first went out, and we didn't know one another.
Then, I distrusted you, and you distrusted me. We didn't understand
one another's characters. But now we can settle it all as a family
affair. Men who have camped out together under the open sky on the
African veldt, who have run the gauntlet of Korannas and Barolong
and Namaqua, who have stood by one another in sickness and in
fight, needn't be afraid of disagreeing about their money matters
in England. Cyril will meet us to-morrow and talk it all over,
and I'm not the least troubled about the result, either for you or
for him. The same blood runs in all our veins alike. Whatever you
propose, he'll be ready to agree to. He's the very best fellow
that ever lived, and when he hears what I have to say about you,
he'll welcome you as a brother, and be as fond of you as I am."
Next morning early they reached Plymouth Harbour. As they entered
the mouth of the breakwater, the tender came alongside to convey
them ashore. Guy looked over the bulwarks and saw Cyril waiting
for him. In a fervour of delight at the sight of the green fields
and the soft hills of old England--the beautiful Hoe, and the solid
stone houses, and the familiar face turned up to welcome him--Guy
waved his handkerchief round and round his head in triumph; to
which demonstration Cyril, as he fancied, responded but coldly. A
chill fell upon his heart. This was bad, but still, after all, he
could hardly expect Cyril to know intuitively under what sinister
influence he had signed that fatal cheque. And yet he was disappointed.
His heart had jumped so hard at sight of Cyril, he could hardly
believe Cyril wasn't glad to see him.
As he stepped into the tender from the gangway, just ready to rush
up and shake Cyril's hand fervently, a resolute-looking man by the
side of the steps laid a very firm grip on his shoulder with an
air of authority.
"Guy Waring?" he said interrogatively.
And Guy, turning pale, answered without flinching--
"Yes, my name's Guy Waring."
"Then you're my prisoner," the man said, in a very firm voice. "I'm
an inspector of constabulary."
"On what charge?" Guy exclaimed, half taken aback at this promptitude.
"I have a warrant against you, sir," the inspector answered, "as
you are no doubt aware, for the wilful murder of Montague Nevitt,
on the 17th of August, year before last, at Mambury, in Devonshire."
The word's fell upon Guy's ears with all the suddenness and crushing
force of an unexpected thunderbolt.
"Wilful murder," he cried, taken aback by the charge. "Wilful
murder of Montague Nevitt at Mambury! Oh no, you can't mean that!
Montague Nevitt dead! Montague Nevitt murdered! And at Mambury,
too! There MUST be some mistake somewhere."
"No, there's no mistake at all, this time," the inspector said
quietly, slipping a pair of handcuffs unobstrusively into his pocket
as he spoke. "If you come along with me without any unnecessary
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