their number—the poor young fellow who had met his fate with the patrol under Shelton, and had been buried near where he fell—a few had received wounds, none of these being, however, of a very serious nature. But they had left their mark upon the enemy, and were returning, withal, in possession of a large number of the latter’s cattle. Yet they had a grievance, or fancied they had.They had not nearly enough fighting. The combined plan of the campaign had not been carried out according to their liking. The enemy had been suffered to escape just at the very moment when it was within their power to inflict upon him a decisive and crushing blow. There had been too much of the old womanly element among those intrusted with the conduct of affairs. In a word, the whole business had been bungled. And in this thoroughly characteristic and British growl none joined more heartily than Tom Carhayes.There was one, however, who in no wise joined in it at all, and that one was Eustace Milne. He had had enough of campaigning to last him for the present, and for every reason mightily welcomed the news that they were ordered home. Of late an intense longing had corrie upon him to return, but now that that ardently desired consummation had been attained he realised that it was dashed with the sickening and desolating consciousness of hopes shattered. The campaign, so far as he was concerned, had been barren of result.But for him—but for his intervention—Tom Carhayes would have been a dead man, and Eanswyth would be free. The Kafir could not have missed at that distance. But for his interference the bullet of the savage would have sped true, and happiness for him—for her—would have become the blissful, golden, reality of a lifetime. Even now he would be hurrying back to claim her—that is, allowing for a reasonable period exacted by decorum. But no, the cup was shattered in his grasp, and his own was the hand that had shattered it. “A man who interferes in what doesn’t concern him deserves all he gets,” was the grimly disgusted reflection which lashed his mind again and again.Why had he intervened to save his cousin’s life? When Fortune was playing directly into his hands he, yielding to an idiotic scruple, had
hunting dog, the last of his breed—who can outrun every other hunting dog in the land, even as the wind outstrippeth the crawling ox-wagon, and you have shed my blood, the blood of a chief. You had better first have cut off your right hand, for it is better to lose a hand than one’s mind. This is my ‘word,’ Umlilwane—bear it in memory, for you have struck a chief—a man of the House of Gcaléka.”(Umlilwane: “Little Fire”—Kafirs are fond of bestowing nicknames. This one referred to its bearer’s habitually short temper.)“Damn the House of Gcaléka, anyway,” said Carhayes, with a sneer as the savage, having vented his denunciation, stalked scowlingly away with his compatriots. “Look here, isidenge,” (fool), he continued. “This is my word. Keep clear of me, for the next time you fall foul of me I’ll shoot you dead. And now, Eustace,” turning to his companion, “we had better load up this buck-meat and carry it home. What on earth is the good of my trying to preserve the game, with a whole location of these black scum not ten miles from my door?” he went on, as he placed the carcase of the unfortunate steinbok on the crupper of his horse.“No good. No good, whatever, as I am always telling you,” rejoined the other decisively, “Kafir locations and game can’t exist side by side. Doesn’t it ever strike you, Tom, that this game-preserving mania is costing you—costing us, excessively dear.”“Hang it. I suppose it is,” growled Carhayes. “I’ll clear out, trek to some other part of the country where a fellow isn’t overrun by a lot of worthless, lazy, red Kafirs. I wish to Heaven they’d only start this precious war. I’d take it out of some of their hides. Have some better sport than buck-hunting then, eh?”“Perhaps. But there may be no war after all. Meanwhile you have won the enmity of every Kafir in Nteya’s and Ncanduku’s locations. I wouldn’t give ten pounds for our two hundred pound pair of breeding ostriches, if it meant leaving them here three days from now, that’s all.”“Oh, shut up croaking, Eustace,” snarled Carhayes, “And by the way, who the deuce is this sweep Hlangani, and what is he doing on this sideof the river anyway?”“He’s a Gcaléka, as he said, and a petty chief under Kreli; and the Gaikas on this side are sure to take up his quarrel. I know them.”“H’m. It strikes me you know these black scoundrels rather well, Eustace. What a queer chap you are. Now, I wonder what on earth has made you take such an interest in them of late.”“So do I. I suppose, though, I find them interesting, especially since I have learned to talk with them pretty easily. And they are interesting. On the whole, I like them.”Carhayes made no reply, unless an inarticulate growl could be construed as such, and the two men rode on in silence. They were distant cousins, these two, and as regarded their farming operations, partners. Yet never were two men more utterly dissimilar. Carhayes, the older by a matter of ten years, was just on the wrong side of forty—but his powerfully built frame was as tough and vigorous as in the most energetic days of his youth. He was rather a good looking man, but the firm set of his lips beneath the thick, fair beard, and a certain shortness of the neck, set forth his choleric disposition at first glance. The other was slightly the taller of the two, and while lacking the broad, massive proportions of his cousin, was straight, and well set up. But Eustace Milne’s face would have puzzled the keenest character reader. It was a blank. Not that there was aught of stupidity or woodenness stamped thereon. On the contrary, there were moments when it would light up with a rare attractiveness, but its normal expression was of that impassibility which you may see upon the countenance of a priest or a lawyer of intellect and wide experience, whose vocation involves an intimate and profoundly varied acquaintance with human nature in all its chequered lights and shades; rarely, however, upon that of one so young.From the high ridge on which the two men were riding, the eye could wander at will over the rolling, grassy plains and mimosa-dotted dales of Kaffraria. The pure azure of the heavens was unflecked by a single cloud. The light, balmy air of this early spring day was as invigorating as wine. Far away to the southeast the sweep of undulating grass land
melted into an indistinct blue haze—the Indian Ocean—while in the opposite direction the panorama was barred by the hump-like Kabousie Heights, their green slopes alternating with lines of dark forest in a straggling labyrinth of intersecting kloofs. Far away over the golden, sunlit plains, the white walls of a farmhouse or two were discernible, and here and there, rising in a line upon the still atmosphere, a column of grey smoke marked the locality of many a distant kraal lying along the spurs of the hills. So still, so transparent, indeed, was the air that even the voices of their savage inhabitants and the low of cattle floated faintly across the wide and intervening space. Beneath—against the opposite ridge, about half a mile distant, the red ochre on their clothing and persons showing in vivid and pleasing contrast against the green of the hillside, moved ten or a dozen Kafirs—men, women, and children. They stepped out in line at a brisk, elastic pace, and the lazy hum of their conversation drifted to the ears of the two white men so plainly that they could almost catch its burden.To the younger of these two men the splendid vastness of this magnificent panorama, framing the picturesque figures of its barbarous inhabitants, made up a scene of which he never wearied, for though at present a Kaffrarian stock farmer, he had the mind of a thinker, a philosopher, and a poet. To the elder, however, there was nothing noteworthy or attractive about it. We fear he regarded the beautiful rolling plains as so much better or worse veldt for purposes of stock-feeding, and was apt to resent the continued and unbroken blue of the glorious vault above as likely to lead to an inconvenient scarcity of rain, if not to a positive drought. As for the dozen Kafirs in the foreground, so far from discerning anything poetical or picturesque about them, he looked upon them as just that number of black scoundrels making their way to the nearest canteen to get drunk on the proceeds of the barter of skins flayed from stolen sheep—his own sheep among those of others.As if to emphasise this last idea, cresting the ridge at that moment, they came in sight of a large, straggling flock. Straggling indeed! In twos and threes, in clumps of a dozen, and in clumps of fifty, the animals, though numbering but eleven hundred, were spread over nearly two miles of veldt. It was the flock in charge of the defaulting andcontumacious Goníwe, who, however, having caught a glimpse of the approach of his two masters, might be descried hurriedly collecting his scattered charges. Carhayes ground his teeth.“I’ll rip his black hide off him. I’ll teach him to let the sheep go to the devil while he hunts our bucks.” And gripping his reins he drove his spurs into his horse’s flanks, with fell intent toward the offending Kafir.“Wait—wait!” urged the more prudent Eustace. “For Heaven’s sake, don’t give yourself away again. If you must lick the boy, wait until you get him—and the sheep—safe home this evening. If you give him beans now, its more than likely he’ll leave the whole flock in the veldt and won’t come back at all—not forgetting, of course, to drive off a dozen or two to Nteya’s location.”There was reason in this, and Carhayes acquiesced with a snarl. To collect the scattered sheep was to the two mounted men a labour of no great difficulty or time, and with a stern injunction to Goníwe not to be found playing the fool a second time, the pair turned their horses’ heads and rode homeward.Chapter Three.Eanswyth.Anta’s Kloof—such was the name of Tom Carhayes’ farm—was situated on the very edge of the Gaika location. This was unfortunate, because its owner got on but poorly with his barbarous neighbours. They, for their part, bore him no good will either.The homestead comprised a comfortable stone dwelling in one story. A high stoep and veranda ran round three sides of it, commanding a wide and lovely view of rolling plains and mimosa sprinkled kloofs, for the house was built on rising ground. Behind, as a background, a few miles distant, rose the green spurs of the Kabousie Heights. A gradual ascent of a few hundred feet above the house afforded a splendid view of the rugged and table-topped Kei Hills. And beyond these, on the right, theplains of Gcalékaland, with the blue smoke rising from many a clustering kraal. Yet soft and peaceful as was the landscape, there was little of peace just then in the mind of its inhabitants, white or brown, for the savages were believed to be in active preparation for war, for a concerted and murderous outbreak on a large scale, involving a repetition of the massacres of isolated and unprepared settlers such as characterised similar risings on former occasions; the last, then, happily, a quarter of a century ago.Nearer, nearer to his western bed, dipped the sinking sun, throwing out long slanting darts of golden rays ere bringing to a close, in a flood of effulgent glory, the sweet African spring day. They fell on the placid surface of the dam, lying below in the kloof, causing it to shine like a sea of quicksilver. They brought out the vivid green of the willows, whose feathery boughs drooped upon the cool water. They blended with the soft, restful cooing of ring doves, swaying upon many a mimosa spray, or winging their way swiftly from the mealie lands to their evening roost and they seemed to impart a blithe gladsomeness to the mellow shout of the hoopoe, echoing from the cool shade of yonder rugged and bush-clad kloof.Round the house a dozen or so tiny ostrich chicks were picking at the ground, or disputing the possession of some unexpected dainty with a tribe of long-legged fowls. Quaint enough they looked, these little, fluffy balls, with their bright eyes, and tawny, spotted necks; frail enough, too, and apt to come off badly at the spur or beak of any truculent rooster who should resent their share of the plunder aforesaid. Nominally they are under the care of a small Kafir boy, but the little black rascal—his master being absent and his mistress soft hearted—prefers the congenial associations of yonder group of beehive huts away there behind the sheep kraals, and the fun of building miniature kraals with mud and three or four boon companions, so the ostrich chicks are left to herd themselves. But the volleying boom of their male parent, down there in the great enclosure, rolls out loudly enough on the evening air, and the huge bird may be described in all the glory of his jet and snowy plumage, with inflated throat, rearing himself to his full height, rolling his fiery eye in search of an adversary.
And now the flaming rays of the sinking sun have given place to a softer, mellower light, and the red afterglow is merging into the pearly grey of evening. The hillside is streaked with the dappled hides of cattle coming up the kloof, and many a responsive low greets the clamourous voices of the calves, shut up in the calf hoek, hungry and expectant. Then upon the ridge comes a white, moving mass of fleecy backs. It streams down the slope, raising a cloud of dust—guided, kept together, by an occasional kerrie deftly thrown to the right or left—and soon arrives at its nightly fold. But the herd is nonplussed, for there is no Baas there to count in. He pauses a moment, looks around, then drives the sheep into the kraal, and having secured the gate, throws his red kaross around him and stalks away to the huts.Eanswyth Carhayes stood on the stoep, looking out for the return of her husband and cousin. She was very tall for a woman, her erect carriage causing her to appear even taller. And she was very beautiful. The face, with its straight, thoroughbred features, was one of those which, at first sight, conveyed an impression of more than ordinary attractiveness, and this impression further acquaintance never failed to develop into a realisation of its rare loveliness. Yet by no means a mere animal or flower-like beauty. There was character in the strongly marked, arching brows, and in the serene, straight glance of the large, grey eyes. Further, there was indication that their owner would not be lacking in tact or fixity of purpose; two qualities usually found hand in hand. Her hair, though dark, was many shades removed from black, and of it she possessed a more than bountiful supply.She came of a good old Colonial family, but had been educated in England. Well educated, too; thanks to which salutary storing of a mind eagerly open to culture, many an otherwise dull and unoccupied hour of her four years of married life—frequently left, as she was, alone for a whole day at a time—was turned to brightness. Alone? Yes, for she was childless.When she had married bluff, hot-tempered Tom Carhayes, who was nearly fifteen years her senior, and had gone to live on a Kaffrarian stock farm, her acquaintance unanimously declared she had “thrown herselfaway.” But whether this was so or not, certain it is that Eanswyth herself evinced no sort of indication to that effect, and indeed more than one of the aforesaid acquaintance eventually came to envy her calm, cheerful contentment. To the expression of which sentiment she would reply with a quiet smile that she supposed she was cut out for a “blue-stocking,” and that the restful seclusion, not to say monotony, of her life, afforded her ample time for indulging her studious tastes.After three years her husband’s cousin had come to live with them. Eustace Milne, who was possessed of moderate means, had devoted the few years subsequent on leaving college to “seeing the world,” and it must be owned he had managed to see a good deal of it in the time. But tiring eventually of the process, he had made overtures to his cousin to enter into partnership with the latter in his stock-farming operations. Carhayes, who at that time had been somewhat unlucky, having been hard hit by a couple of very bad seasons, and thinking moreover that the presence in the house of his cousin, whom he knew and rather liked, would make life a little more cheerful for Eanswyth, agreed, and forthwith Eustace had sailed for the Cape. He had put a fair amount of capital into the concern and more than a fair amount of energy, and at this time the operations of the two men were flourishing exceedingly.We fear that—human nature being the same all the world over, even in that sparsely inhabited locality—there were not wanting some—not many it is true, but still some—who saw in the above arrangement something to wag a scandalous tongue over. Carhayes was a prosaic and rather crusty personage, many years older than his wife. Eustace Milne was just the reverse of this, being imaginative, cultured, even tempered, and, when he chose, of very attractive manner; moreover, he was but three or four years her senior. Possibly the rumour evolved itself from the disappointment of its originators, as well as from the insatiable and universal love of scandal-mongering inherent in human nature, for Eustace Milne was eminently an eligible parti, and during nearly a year’s residence at Anta’s Kloof had shown no disposition to throw the handkerchief at any of the surrounding fair. But to Carhayes, whom thanks to his known proclivity towards punching heads this rumour never reached, no such nice idea occurred, for with all his faults or failings there
was nothing mean or crooked-minded about the man, and as for Eanswyth herself, we should have been uncommonly sorry to have stood in the shoes of the individual who should undertake to enlighten her of the same, by word or hint.As she stood there watching for the return of those who came not, Eanswyth began to feel vaguely uneasy, and there was a shade of anxiety in the large grey eyes, which were bent upon the surrounding veldt with a now growing intensity. The return of the flock, combined with the absence of its master to count in, was not a reassuring circumstance. She felt inclined to send for the herd and question him, but after all it was of no use being silly about it. She noted further the non-appearance of the other flock. This, in conjunction with the prolonged absence of her husband and cousin, made her fear that something had gone very wrong indeed.Nor was her uneasiness altogether devoid of justification. We have said that Tom Carhayes was not on the best of terms with his barbarous neighbours. We have shown moreover that his choleric disposition was eminently calculated to keep him in chronic hot water. Such was indeed the case. Hardly a week passed that he did not come into collision with them, more or less violently, generally on the vexed question of trespass, and crossing his farm accompanied by their dogs. More than one of these dogs had been shot by him on such occasions, and when we say that a Kafir loves his dog a trifle more dearly than his children, it follows that the hatred which they cherished towards this imperious and high-handed settler will hardly bear exaggeration. But Carhayes was a powerful man and utterly fearless, and although these qualities had so far availed to save his life, the savages were merely biding their time. Meanwhile they solaced themselves with secret acts of revenge. A thoroughbred horse would be found dead in the stable, a valuable cow would be stabbed to death in the open veldt, or a fine, full-grown ostrich would be discovered with a shattered leg and all its wing-feathers plucked, sure sign, the latter, that the damage was due to no accident. These acts of retaliation had generally followed within a few days of one of the broils above alluded to, but so far from intimidating Carhayes, their only effect was to enrage him the more. He vowed fearful and summary
vengeance against the perpetrators, should he ever succeed in detecting them. He even went boldly to the principal Gaika chiefs and laid claim to compensation. But those magnates were the last men in the world to side with, or to help him. Some were excessively civil, others indifferent, but all disclaimed any responsibility in the matter.Bearing these facts in mind there was, we repeat, every excuse for Eanswyth’s anxiety. But suddenly a sigh of relief escaped her. The tramp of hoofs reaching her ears caused her to turn, and there, approaching the house from a wholly unexpected direction, came the two familiar mounted figures.Chapter Four.“Love Settling Unawares.”“Well, old girl, and how have you been getting through the day,” was Carhayes’ unceremonious greeting as he slid from his horse. Eustace turned away his head, and the faintest shadow of contempt flitted across his impassive countenance. Had this glorious creature stood in the same relationship towards himself he could no more have dreamed of addressing her as “old girl” than he could have of carving his name across the front of the silver altar which is exhibited once a year in the “Battistero” at Florence.“Pretty well, Tom,” she answered smilingly. “And you? I hope you haven’t been getting into any more mischief. Has he, Eustace.”“Well, I have, then,” rejoined Carhayes, grimly, for Eustace pretended not to hear. “What you’d call mischief, I suppose. Now what d’you think? I caught that schelm Goníwe having a buck-hunt—a buck-hunt, by Jove! right under my very nose; he and three other niggers. They’d got two dogs, good dogs too, and I couldn’t help admiring the way the schepsels put them on by relays, nor yet the fine shot they made at the buck with a kerrie. Well, I rode up and told them to clear out of the light because I intended to shoot their dogs. Would you believe it? they didn’t budge. Actually squared up to me.”For, that night, long after the bugle calls from the Police camps and the carolling of jolly souls wending somewhat unsteadily homeward from the convivial bar, had sunk into silence, Mrs Hoste made unto her lord and master a strange remark.“What a pity Eanswyth didn’t marry her husband’s cousin instead of her husband.”“Great Scott! What the very deuce do you mean?”“Well, I mean it is a pity. Look how well they seem to suit each other. Look at them here to-day. Anyone, any stranger coming in hap-hazard, would at once have jumped to the conclusion that they belonged to each other. And it’s a pity they don’t. Tom Carhayes isn’t at all the man for that dear Eanswyth. I should be uncommonly sorry to be his wife myself, I know that much.”“I daresay you would. But Providence has been much kinder to you in that line than you deserve. But oh, good Heavens, Ada, do be mighty careful what you say. If you had propounded that idea of yours to anyone else, for instance, there’s no knowing what amount of mischief it might open up.”“So? All right. There’s no fear of my being such a fool. If you’ve preached enough—have you? Well, go to sleep.”Chapter Fifteen.“But I am thy Love.”Three days later Carhayes arrived. He was in high spirits. The remainder of his stock was under way, and, in charge of Eustace, was trekking steadily down to his other farm in the Colony, which was sufficiently remote from the seat of hostilities to ensure its safety. He had ridden with them a day and a half to help start the trek, and had then returned with all haste to enrol himself in the Kaffrarian Rangers—a mounted corps, raised among the stock-farmers of the district, of whom it
consisted almost entirely.“Wish I was you, Tom,” Hoste had said ruefully. “Wouldn’t I just like to be going bang off to the front to have a slap at old Kreli instead of humbugging around here looking after stock. This laager business is all fustian. I believe the things would be just as safe on the farm.”“Well, shunt them back there and come along,” was Carhayes’ reply.“We are not all so fortunate as you, Mr Carhayes,” retorted Mrs Hoste with a trifle of asperity, for this advice was to her by no means palatable. “What would you have done yourself, I should like to know, but for that accommodating cousin, who has taken all the trouble off your hands and left you free to go and get shot if you like?”“Oh, Eustace? Yes, he’s a useful chap,” said Carhayes complacently, beginning to cram his pipe. “What do you think the beggar has gone and done? Why, he has inspanned four or five boys from Nteya’s location to help him with the trek! The very fellows we are trekking away from, by Jove! And they will help him, too. An extraordinary fellow, Eustace—I never saw such a chap for managing Kafirs. He can make ’em do anything.”“Well, its a good thing he can. But doesn’t he want to go and see some of the fun himself?”“Not he. Or, if he does, he can leave Bentley in charge and come back as soon as he has put things straight. Bentley’s my man down there. I let him live at Swaanepoel’s Hoek and run a little stock of his own on consideration of keeping the place in order and looking after it generally. He’ll be glad enough to look after our stock now for a consideration—if Eustace gets sick of it and really does elect to come and have a shot at his ‘blanket friends’—Ho-ho!”The Kaffrarian Rangers were, as we have said, a corps raised in the district. The farmers composing it mounted and equipped themselves, and elected their own leaders. There was little discipline, in the military sense of the word, but the men knew each other and had thoroughconfidence in their leaders. They understood the natives, and were as much at home on the veldt or in the bush as the Kafirs themselves. They affected no uniforms, but all were clad in a serviceable attire which should not be too conspicuous in cover—an important consideration— and all were well equipped in the way of arms and other necessaries. They asked for no pay—only stipulating that they should be entitled to keep whatever stock they might succeed in capturing from the enemy— which in many cases would be merely retaking their own. The Government, now as anxious as it had been sceptical and indifferent a month previously, gladly accepted the services of so useful a corps. The latter numbered between sixty and seventy men.This, then, was the corps to which Carhayes had attached himself, and among the ranks of which, after two or three days of enforced delay while waiting for orders—and after a characteristically off-hand farewell to the Hostes and his wife—he proceeded to take his place.They were to march at sundown and camp for the night at the Kei Drift. All Komgha—and its wife—turned out to witness their departure. Farmers and storekeepers, transport-riders and Mounted Police, craftsmen and natives of every shade and colour, lined the roadway in serried ranks. There was a band, too, blowing off “God Save the Queen,” with all the power of its leathern lungs. Cheer after cheer went up as the men rode by, in double file, looking exceedingly workman-like with their well filled cartridge belts and their guns and revolvers. Hearty good-byes and a little parting chaff from friends and intimates were shouted after them through the deafening cheers and the brazen strains of the band, and, their numbers augmented by a contingent of mounted friends, who were to ride a part of the way with them, “just to see them squarely off,” the extremely neat and serviceable corps moved away into a cloud of dust.There was another side to all this enthusiasm, however. A good many feminine handkerchiefs waved farewell to that martial band. A good many feminine handkerchiefs were, pressed openly or furtively to tearful eyes. For of those threescore and odd men going forth that evening in all the pride of their strength and martial ardour, it would be strange, indeed, if some, at any rate, were not destined to leave their bones in a far-away
grave—victims to the bullet and assegai of the savage.The days went by and grew into weeks, but there was no want of life and stir in the little settlement. As Carhayes had remarked grimly during his brief sojourn therein—life appeared to be made up of bugle calls and lies. Hardly a half-hour that the bugle was not sounding—either at the Police camps, or at those of the regular troops now being rapidly moved to the front, and scarcely a day went by but a corps of mounted burghers or volunteers passed through, en route for the seat of war. The store keepers and Government contractors laughed and waxed fat.All sorts of rumours were in the air, and as usual wildly contradictory. The white forces in the Transkei were in imminent peril of annihilation. The Gcaléka country had been swept clear from end to end. Kreli was sueing for peace. Kreli had declared himself strong enough to whip all the whites sent against him, and then with the help of the Gaikas and Hlambis to invade and ravage the Eastern Province of the Colony. The Gaikas were on the eve of rising, and making common cause with their Gcaléka brethren. The Gaikas had not the slightest wish for war. The Gaikas were never more insolent and threatening. The Gaikas were thoroughly cowed and lived in mortal dread of being attacked themselves. Thus Rumour many tongued.The while events had taken place at the seat of war. The Kafirs had attacked the Ibeka, a hastily fortified trading post in the Transkei, in great force, and after many hours of determined fighting had been repulsed with great loss, repulsed by a mere handful of the Mounted Police, who, with a Fingo levy, garrisoned the place. Kreli’s principal kraal on the Xora River had been carried by assault and burnt to the ground,—the Gcaléka chieftain, with his sons and councillors, narrowly escaping falling into the hands of the Colonial forces—and several other minor engagements had been fought. But the powerful Gaika and Hlambi tribes located throughout British Kaffraria, though believed to be restless and plotting, continued to “sit still,” as if watching the turn of events, and night after night upon the distant hills the signal fires of the savages gleamed beneath the midnight sky in flashing, lurid tongues, speaking their mysterious, awesome messages from the Amatola to the Bashi.Hoste—who, with other of his neighbours, was occupied with the armed tending of his stock in laager—was growing daily more restless and discontented. It was cruelly rough on him, he declared, to be pinned down like that. He wanted to go and have his share of the fun. The war might be brought to an end any day, and he would have seen nothing of it. He would try and make some satisfactory arrangement and then get away to the front at once, he vowed. In which resolution he met with but lukewarm encouragement from his wife.“You should just see the yarn that friend of Payne’s wrote him about the fight at Kreli’s kraal, Ada,” he remarked one day, having just ridden in. “He says it was the greatest sport he ever had. Eh, Payne?”That worthy, who had accompanied him, nodded oracularly—a nod which might mean anything. Taught wisdom by the possession of a partner of his own joys and sorrows, he was not going to put himself in active opposition to what he termed the Feminine Controller-General’s Department. But he and Hoste had hatched out between them a little plan which should leave them free, in a day or two, to start off in search of the death or glory coveted by their martial souls.The cottage which Hoste had taken for his family was a tiny pill-box of a place on the outer fringe of the settlement, fronting upon the veldt, which situation rendered the ladies a little nervous at night, notwithstanding an elaborate system of outposts and pickets by which the village was supposed to be protected. At such a time the presence of Eanswyth, of whom they were very fond, was a perfect godsend to Mrs Hoste and her daughters. The latter were nice, bright children of fifteen and thirteen, respectively, and there were also two boys—then away at a boarding school in Grahamstown. If Eanswyth ever had reason to complain of the dullness or loneliness of her life on the farm, here it was quite the reverse. Not only was the house so small that four persons were sufficient to crowd it, but somebody or other, situated like themselves, was always dropping in, sitting half the day chatting, or gossiping about the progress of the war and the many rumours and reports which were flying around. In fact, there was seldom a respite from the “strife of tongues,” for no sooner had one batch of visitors departed than another would arrive, always in the most informal manner. Now, of