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dured the storm gallantly, to swim desperately. His head
while with whip and rein and voice she pushed the team on towards the place of turning.
"The rushing of the water filled their ears, and before them, between the high banks of the Vaal, they saw only a world of of brown water, streaked with with white froth, hurling down upon them. It rose above the foot-board and swilled to the level of the seat. The horses, with heads lifted high, were often, for an anxious moment or two, free of the shifting bottom and swimming. A tree, blundering downstream, struck the near wheel, and they were nearly capsized, the water rushing in over their knees. As they tilted Andreas gave a cry, and shifted in his place. Anna called to her horses and knit her brows.
"At last it was time to humour them around, and this, as I need not tell you, is the risky business in crossing a flooded
drift. With somewhat of a draw on the near rein, Anna checked the team, and then, prodding with her whip, headed the horses over and started them. They floundered and splashed, and Andreas half rose from his seat, with lips clenched on a cry. The traces tightened under the water, a horse stumbled and vanished for a moment, and, as the cart tilted sickeningly, the man, ashen-faced and strung, leaped from it and was whirled away.
"The water took him under, drew him gasping over the bottom, and spat him up again
was down-stream, and, as there was a sharp bend half a mile below, he had no extraordinary difficulty in bringing his carcass to shore. He lay for a minute among the bushes, and then ran back to see what had become of the cart, the horses, and his wife. He found them ashore, safe and waiting for him, and Anna wringing the wet from her hair as she stood beside the horses' heads.
"You are not hurt?' she asked, before he could speak. Her face was grave flushed, her voice very quiet and orderly.
"No,' he said.
"Ah!' she said, and climbed again into the cart, and made room for him in the place of the driver.
"That was how he discovered himself to his wife. In that one event of their weddingday he revealed to Anna what was a secret from all the world
perhaps even from himself. He was a coward, the thing Anna had never known yet of any man never thought enough upon to learn how little it may really matter or how greatly it may ruin a character. When her brothers, having drunk too much at a waapenschauw, wished to make a quarrel quickly, they called their man a coward. But for her it had been like saying he was a devil-a futile thing that was only offensive by reason of its intention. And now she was married to a coward, and must learn the ways of it.
They spoke no more of the
matter. Anna shrank from a reference to it. She could not find a word to fit the subject that did not seem an attack on the man with whom she must spend her life. They settled down to their business of liv. ing together very quietly, and I think the commandant's daughter did no braver thing than when she recognised the void in her husband, and then, holding it loathsome and unforgivable, passed it over and put it from her mind out of mere loyalty to him.
"The years went past at their usual pace, and there occurred nothing to earmark any hour and make it memorable, till the Kafirs across the Tiger River rose. I do not remember what men said the rising was about. Probably their chief was wearied with peace and drunkenness and wanted change; but anyhow the commando that was called out to go and shoot the tribe into order included Andreas, the respected burgher and famous shot. The field - cornet rode round and left the summons at his house, and he read it to Anna.
"Now I shall get some real shooting,' he said, with bright eyes.
"She looked at him carefully, and noted that he lifted down his rifle with the gaiety of a boy who goes hunting. It brought a warmth to her heart that she dared not trust.
"It is a pity you should go before the calves are weaned,' she said.
""Pooh! You can them,' he answered.
"But you could so easily buy a substitute. It would even be cheaper to send a substitute,' she urged half-heartedly.
"You see she had no faith at all in his courage. The years she had lived with him had brought forth nothing to undo the impression he had left in her mind when he sprang from the cart and abandoned her in the middle of the Vaal River, and this emergency had awakened all her old fear lest he should be proclaimed coward before the men of his world.
"I dare say it would be cheaper and better in every way,' he answered with some irritation. 'But for all that I am going. This is a war, the first I have known, and I am not going to miss the chance. So you had better get my gear ready!'
"With that he commenced to tear up rags and to oil and clean his rifle.
"She bade him adieu next day and saw him canter off with some doubt. He had shown no hesitation at all in this matter. From the time of the coming of the summons he had been all eagerness and interest. It might have led another to think she had been wrong, that the man who feared water feared nothing else; but Anna knew well, from a hundred small signs, that her husband had no stability of valour in him, that he was and would remain-a coward.
"Next day the fighting had commenced, and Anna, working to serenely about her house, soon had news of it. There was a
promise of interest in this little war from the start. The commando, under Commandant Jan Wepener, had made quick move and thrust forward to the crown of the little hills that overlook the Tiger River and the flat land beyond it, which was the home of the tribe. Here they made their laager, and it was plain that the fighting would consist either of descents by the Burghers on the kraals, or of attacks by the Kafirs upon the hills. Either way, there must be some close meetings and hardy hewing, a true and searching test for good men. The young Burgher that told her of it, sitting upon his horse at the door as though he were too hurried and too warlike to dismount and enter, rejoiced noisily at the prospect of coming to grips.
"Anna puckered her brows. 'It is not the way to fight,' she said doubtfully. A bush and a rifle and a range of six hundred yards is what beat the Basutos.'
last rode away, galloping uselessly to seem what he wished to be-a wild person of sudden habits-she sat on the stoep for a while and thought deeply. Then she sighed, as though pondering brought her no decision, and went once more about her work, always with an eye cocked to the window to watch for any rider coming back from the laager with news of affairs.
"But there was a shyness on both sides for a week. The Kafirs had not yet ripened their minds to an attack on the hills, nor had the Burghers quite sloughed their custom of orderliness and respect for human life. There was a little shooting, mostly at the landscape, by those whose triggerfingers itched; but at last a man coming back with a hole in his shoulder to be doctored and admired halted at the door and told of a fight.
"He sat in a long chair and told about the pain in his shoulder, and opened his shirt to show the wound. Anna leaned against the doorpost and heard him. Outside his brown pony was rattling the rings of the bit and switching at flies, and she perceived the faint smell of its sweat-stained saddlery and the horse-odour she knew so well. Before her, the tall grimy man, with bandages looped about him, his pleasant face a little yellow from the loss of blood, babbled boastfully. It was a scene she was familiar with, for of old on the Free State border the Burghers and the Basutos were
for ever jostling one another, and I told you her father was a commandant ! "But tell me about the battle,' she urged.
'Allemachtag!' exclaimed the wounded man. 'But that was a fight! It was night, you know, about an hour after the dying of the moon, and there was a spit of rain and some little wind. The commandant was very wakeful, I can tell you, and he had us all out from under the waggons, though it was very cold, and sent us out to the ridge above the drift. And there we lay in the long grass among the bushes on our rifles, while the field-cornet crawled to and fro behind us on his belly and cursed those who were talking. I didn't talk-I know too much about war. But your man did. I heard him, and the field-cornet swore at him in a whisper.' "What was he saying?' Anna asked quickly.
that he might not see what spoke in her eyes.
"Yes. Well, I was just getting nicely to sleep, when somebody down on my left began firing. Then I saw,
down the hill, the flashes of guns, and soon I could hear great lumps of pot-leg screaming through the air. They are firing a lot of pot-leg, those Kafirs. I fired at a flash that came out pretty regularly, and by-and-by it ceased to flash. Then, as I rose on my knees, a great knob of pot-leg hit me in the shoulder, and I cried out and fell down. Your husband came to me and helped me to go back to the rocks, and soon after all the shooting stopped. The Burghers found three dead Kafirs in the morning, so we won.'
"Yes, wasn't I? And so was your husband, I believe,' said the wounded man. 'I couldn't see him, but I've no doubt he was. They'll try to rush the drift again to-night.'
"What makes you think so?' Anna demanded, starting.
"Oh, they've been gathering for some days,' answered the other. 'It's what they are trying to do. You see there are no farms to plunder on the other side of the river, so they must cross.'
"I see,' said Anna slowly.
"When he was ready, she helped the wounded man again to his saddle, and saw him away, then turned, with the light of a swift resolution in her eyes, to the task of getting
ready to go to Andreas. The matism, that would make river and the hills were but her coming seemly, and with a short six hours from her the little revolver in in her farm, and on a horse she pocket knocking against her could have ridden it in less. knee at every step, she faced But it was no wish of hers the dark and empty veld, to bring any slur upon her and began the ascent of the husband, so she prepared to hill alone. She was come to go to him in a cart, taking be a spur to her husband. shirts and shoes and tobacco, This she knew clearly enough, like a dutiful wife visiting yet as she went along, with her husband on commando. the thin wind of the night And for a purpose she took on her forehead, she wasted no trouble to name to her- no thoughts, but bent herself, she put in her pocket self to the business of finding a little pug-nosed revolver the laager and coming to which Andreas had once Andreas. About her were bought, played with for a the sombre hills, that are, in while, and then forgotten. fact, mere bushy kopjes, but in the darkness, and to one alone, portentous and devious mountains. Veld-bred as she was, the business of pathfinding was with her an instinct, like that of throwing up your hand to guard your eyes when sparks spout from the fire. Yet in an hour she lost herself utterly.
"A Kafir came with her, to see to the horses and so on, for she was to travel in no other manner than that in which Burghers' wives travel every day; but once clear of the farm she took the reins and the whip to herself, and drove swiftly, pushing the team anxiously along the way. So well did she guide her path, that by evening they were slipping down the road towards the drift of the Tiger River, and when the light of day began to be mottled with night, they had crossed the drift and were passing up the right bank. When at length the darkness came, they were at the foot of the hills which the commando held.
"She strove here and there, practising all the tricks of the hunter to avoid moving in a circle, and so on. She wrenched her skirts through bushes that seemed to have hands. She plunged over stones that were noisy and ragged underfoot; she stumbled in ant-bear holes and bruised herself on anthills. And after a long time she sat down and listenedlistened patiently for the alarm of firing to beckon a course to her. And there she waited, her basket on her knee, her arms folded across it, for all the world like a quiet woman in church, with no tremors, but