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orated. "I look on you as the Syndicate. Syndicates stay at home and encourage the prospector, and of course you'll get the lion's share-Syndicates always do."
"But I thought they stood in halves with the prospector -sometimes," she laughed, preserving the simile.
"Yes, sometimes, when they are honest. I'm going to let you stand in halves-at any rate, you shall have the chance -when I come back."
The femininely womanly as serted itself.
"When you come back you will look at the thing differently—especially if it has turned out well."
"So you are like Wilmot: you think I would turn on a friend." He spoke bitterly.
"I don't understand you. How can you turn on me? I only mean that when you come back, if successful, you will have no need to trouble about me; you will be going away from the land-at least, that is what I understood from your talk the other day."
"I didn't mean it that way. Look here, Clarie, I'm not good at arguing with women; I get mixed and foolish. What I mean about that halving business-but it's no good talking of halving till you've got something to halve. Wait till I come back, will you?" She laughed.
"What else can I do? You don't suppose I can wander about like you? I shall never leave the farm."
"That's what I wanted to talk about; but it will keep,
eh? Good-bye, and don't let the old woman worry you."
They shook hands quietly. The rest of the family, who had been bidding a demonstrative farewell to Wilmot, closed in too thickly for the continuance of confidential relations between Clarie and Hartley, and the shaking of twenty hands had to be got through.
The trek which the two adventurers had now begun was, apart from the risk entailed by its illicit nature, more than ordinarily hazardous. It in
volved a slow and circuitous journey of about two hundred miles-probably more, if need of extra caution took them off the direct route; all of it, after the first fifty miles, through a region nearly as virgin and difficult of access as it was in the days of the Voortrekkers, -for although the map showed that every yard was marked as occupied, the farms were mostly such in name only. Much of the country they would have to pass through was known as low veld and bush veld, and was occupied only in the winter by high-veld Boers, who brought their cattle here to escape the rigours of the southerly latitudes. Very few had houses, the entire family living in the waggon, or, at best, in a few tents or grass huts erected by their Kafir servants. The few dorps that lay on the line of march Hartley purposed avoiding as much as possible, relying upon the isolated Kafir trading-stores, kept by enterprising Europeans, mostly Russian Jews, for the replenishing of his commissariat.
There were good reasons why he did not wish to encounter Boer officials, never so alert and officious as during the six months that followed the Jameson Raid. The sleepiest field-cornet awoke to something approaching alacrity and activity at the sound of the voice of a travelling Englishman. Every saddle-bag was suspected of containing belated despatches from Rhodesia, and a loaded waggon afforded scope for a search that would have shamed the most energetic Customs officer by its thoroughA strange Rooinek passing through a remote district had become a thing of terror, and more than suspicion; and even the guarantee of good faith provided by the presence of an oprecht Burgher like Johannes Smeer was hardly a set-off against the preponderating weight of two Rooineks.
As to the fearsome cargo Hartley had little apprehension, unless investigations were conducted with saws and axes. In outward appearance the headgear and the long steel drill were all they were supposed to be, and only an engineer or mining-man would notice that the specific gravity of the pine-wood timbers was rather above the average. And heavy, indeed, the load was. The gun itself was of small account, embedded in a block of timber that occupied little space; but the cartridges were a serious matter. They alone weighed close on three tons without their wooden casings; and as the maximum load for a waggon and sixteen oxen, even
on good roads, was two and a half tons, the question of safe transport threatened to become a serious one in view of the poorness of the oxen and the age of the waggon, which, as Johannes said, had been long enough on the road to know its own way over most of South Africa. The roads over which it would be dragged for two hundred miles differed only from the mountain and veld they traversed by being not absolutely impassable, and for the greater part of the way it would need an expert to define them.
Hartley's heart failed him, and visions of a premature breakdown appalled, when towards sunset of the first day he espied the waggon outspanned by the side of a good road. According to arrangements, it should have been at least a day's trek farther on. Smeer was fast asleep in the tilt at the back of the waggon when they rode up. Hartley angrily demanded to know the reason for this snail's pace. The old man quietly explained that he had dreamt the night before that the Rooineks had deserted him, and he had resolved to wait until their presence belied the vision.
The trip was a thing of joy to Wilmot, new to the charm and novelty of waggon-travel, which few Englishmen fail to appreciate until custom and necessity have robbed it of its fascinations. He found a thrilling, boyish delight in every phase of the day's duties,riding or walking by the side of the waggon for miles, taking
in new life with the magnificent along the
Golosh, the christianised Kafir, was of the party, and his répertoire of gruesome stories of dire conflicts between man and beast was extensive. For a native whose best years had been spent on a mission - station in one of the most civilised parts of Cape Colony, he had a surprising acquaintance with the life of the wilds, and many an explorer would have given much to have seen half the fearsome creatures which, in defiance of the laws of geographical distribution, had obliged Golosh with sight of their manners and
Day after day the waggon grated or rumbled slowly on over undulating veld, up or
VOL. CLXXVIII-NO. MLXXVII.
sides of stony sides kopjes or mountain - ranges, across rivers whose shallowness was compensated for by perpendicular banks, up which the waggon had to be hauled and pushed by man and beast with an expenditure of effort that approached cruelty. For miles the route would be through a bit of country so delightfully level that motion became a pleasure, the wheels sliding over the smooth long grass with no impediment save an occasional ant-hill or grasscovered boulder. Then a long outspan would be the necessary preface to a stormy passage over rocks and gullies, along the sides of hills at an angle that seemed to defy the laws of gravity, and which nothing but a goat or a South African waggon could attempt. Often a long and timber - shivering pull, that left the oxen exhausted to wince when the cruel thirty-foot lash cut their flanks, would be terminated abruptly by a donga,-a yawning gash in the earth that extended a mile or more to right and left. Sometimes there was no alternative but a return over the track passed with so much pain and effort, or a flank movement along the edge of the donga-dangerous and exhausting.
Old Smeer, Boer-like, had at first insisted that he knew the road, having heard it described by farmers who had made the pilgrimage to the low veld, and on the whole his memory of their instructions served him well. well. But the rains of a wet summer had obliterated most
of the landmarks, and as few Boers had yet trekked in this direction, there came a time when Smeer had to confess that he had lost his bearings, and advised a halt of a day while he rode ahead to spy out the lay of the land. He returned next day with satisfaction writ large on his otherwise inexpressive face, and announced a heroic resolve. He had discovered the track, but to reach it one of two things had to be done either they must retrace their weary way some twenty miles, or the waggon must be tied up and lowered from the edge of the high plateau where they had halted into the valley below.
When the plan was explained to Wilmot he stood aghast. The side of the hill it was proposed to launch the waggon down sloped at an angle varying between thirty-five and fortyfive degrees. It was largely covered with grass, but the many gullies, projecting ridges, and huge boulders seemed to offer insuperable obstacles. To an Englishman the proposal appeared madness; but the craft of a Boer transport rider is a thing of marvel, that may only be witnessed and described by those whose probity and character stand assured. Johannes Smeer had ridden transport in the days when Kimberley was young, and the rates stood at thirty shillings the hundredweight, and were not too high. This same old waggon had bumped up the Gibraltar, from which the Devil's Kantoor looks down on Barberton, and Smeer had steered it across the Drak
ensberg through a pass that the stoutest Voortrekker deemed impregnable. To him the lowering of a waggon five hundred feet down a slope, which he described as smooth as the roof of a house, was child's play.
Wilmot watched with fascinated interest the process of making the wheels immovable with strips of raw-hide called reims, the veld-man's rope,twine, and wire combined; helped to remove some of the smaller articles that could not be thoroughly secured; and with beating heart saw the oxen taken out and the heavy waggon directed sideways over the cliff. It ran for twenty yards with its own momentum, then brought up in a hollow. All hands ran to the rescue, laid a course diagonally down the side, and another space was cleared. The next lap was finished on the top of a boulder, and much labour and ingenuity were needed to bring the waggon into position for the next run; but half an hour's work did it, and then began a series of slides, some smooth and gentle, others a succession of shocks, bumps, and threats of capsize. Again and again Wilmot saw the unwieldy mass dashing on to destruction on a boulder; but a skilful deflection of the pole or disselboom, that stood out like a bowsprit or outrigger, had the effect of a touch on the tiller of a sailing boat, and steered the craft into smooth water. Within an hour the waggon was awaiting the arrival of the oxen, which had been taken down by a track
that required as careful negotiation as that of the waggon.
The climbing of difficult hills was a sight Wilmot could not endure, because of the suffering inflicted upon the patient, meek-eyed oxen. Frequently a couple of hours would be expended in getting the waggon up a hundred yards of steep incline by a process of zigzagging that would have been easy but for the process of turning the sixty yards of oxen on the trek chain: more than half the load had to be removed before the ascent could be attempted, and laboriously dragged up piece by piece. But the new track discovered by Smeer got gradually better, and the time- and temper-exhausting mountaineering became less frequent.
Occasionally Wilmot and Hartley rode off the track a few miles to put up a buck or bustard and guinea fowl, that relieved the monotony of the eternal tinned meats. But Hartley was not in favour of these excursions: he was fearful of encountering some wandering party of Boers, whose suspicions might be excited and cause delay, while they communicated with the district field-cornet. Hartley had thoughtfully provided himself with a prospector's licence in proper form; but it was more than probable that the fieldcornet would not be able to read it, and would insist on his right to prevent progress until an interpreter had been found. The Johannesburg papers had lately recorded cases of travellers being detained many days
until their documents had been verified, and with all his courage Hartley feared the consequences of having his name brought prominently under the notice of Boer officialdom. It had taken too great an interest in him of late.
On the tenth day of the trek the expected happened. They came upon an elderly Boer who, with his family and cattle, was trekking to his winter farm. His waggon was outspanned a few miles to the right, on the road that Hartley would have been travelling, but that it led through a dorp he was anxious to avoid.
The Boer pulled up fifty yards from the party, and sat in the saddle reconnoitring. After a time he cautiously advanced, announced that he was Van Enter of the Ermelo district, and put the customary questions to the travellers. Smeer acted as spokesman.
Instead of allaying suspicion, the old man's presence had the opposite effect. Van Enter could understand a party of ignorant Rooineks travelling off the road, but it puzzled him to find such a blunder made by a Boer like Johannes Smeer, and with Afrikander directness he put his suspicion into words. With tactless bluntness Smeer confessed that the Rooinek had chosen the route, as he did not want to pass through dorps.
Hartley heard the foolish statement, and drew on his resourcefulness promptly.
"I have gone off the road to find the elandsboontje [elands