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HOME > Classical Novels > A Traitor in London > CHAPTER XI. A STARTLING DISCOVERY.
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CHAPTER XI. A STARTLING DISCOVERY.
In her anxiety to solve the mystery which surrounded this man, so like her father, Brenda would, but for the publicity of the position, have rushed forward and questioned him. Moreover, he began at once to speak loudly in abuse of the Government and in defence of the Boer Republic.

"It is the capitalists who want this war," he cried excitedly; "Rhodes and Beit and all that gang of scoundrels. Chamberlain is merely playing into their hands. Their villainous scheme is to take the gold mines from these unoffending people, and they are prepared to massacre them in their greed for gold. Kruger is----"

"Shut your mouth!" shouted a big, scowling man, thrusting himself forward. "We\'ll make you if you don\'t."

"I\'m not afraid--I\'m ready to stand by the truth," screeched the man with the crape scarf. "I mourn for England--the victim of a corrupt set of time-serving scoundrels. I wear black for her. Woe to her, I say, and her greed for gold--woe to her vile Government----"

With a fierce growl the mob flung forward. Brenda cried out. It was as though her father himself were being attacked. With a bound she placed herself before the old man.

"Leave him! Don\'t touch him!" she cried. "He\'s mad!"

"I\'m not mad," cried the man. "I protest against tyranny and the cursed greed that would destroy a nation. You crouch at the feet of those who will drain your blood--cowardly hounds all of you!"

"\'Ere! Let me get at \'im. Stand away, laidy!"

"No, no, he is old and weak. Oh, Mr. van Zwieten, save him."

Seeing an opportunity of posing as a hero at a small cost, the Dutchman placed the old man behind him, and stood between him and the mob which was closing in. "Leave him to me--I\'ll see to him!"

"He\'s a furriner!" yelped a small man. "Hit his head!"

"I\'m a naturalized Englishman," shouted Van Zwieten, "but I won\'t let you touch this man!"

"Woe--woe to the wicked Government who are about to dye their garments in the blood of a just people!" shrieked the old man, waving his arms wildly.

Then Wilfred took hold of him and hurried him away. "Hold your tongue," he said roughly. "You\'ll get into trouble."

"I will seal my protest with my blood!"

"Stand back!" shouted Van Zwieten, opposing those who would have followed. "Hi, constable!"

"Why, it\'s Van the cricketer," cried the big man, joyfully. "He\'s all right, boys. Seen \'im carry \'is bat out many a time, I \'ave."

"Hooray for Van!" roared the fickle crowd, and as half-a-dozen policemen were pushing their way toward the centre of disturbance, it veered round to cheering Van Zwieten.

"Spy! Spy! He\'s a spy!" shouted a voice that sounded to Brenda uncommonly like Wilfred\'s.

The crowd growled again, and darted forward. But the police were now pushing right and left. Van Zwieten, who had changed color at the cry, stepped back and was swallowed up by the concourse of people. Wilfred had let the old man go, and the zealot was again raging, waving his crape scarf like a banner.

Brenda, terrified at finding herself alone in the midst of the mob, kept close to the big Dutchman.

Suddenly Wilfred, appearing, as it were, from nowhere, caught her arm.

"Come away! come away! There may be trouble," he cried, drawing her aside on to the steps by St. Martin\'s Church. Afar off she could see Van Zwieten leading the old man down a side street, and the little band of constables fighting with the mob, who were now inclined to resent any interference. Brenda was in despair.

"I want to ask that old man who he is," she cried. But Wilfred held her back in spite of her efforts to follow the Dutchman.

"Brenda! don\'t be foolish. It\'s dangerous. The people are getting their blood up."

"But that old man killed Mr. Malet. I will know who he is."

"Van Zwieten will find out."

"I dare say," said Brenda, tartly. "But he won\'t tell you or me."

"It\'s too late now to think of that. Come up here, and let us get a hansom. If you got into trouble, Brenda, Harold would never forgive me!"

And Brenda knew that this was so, and she guessed too that Wilfred was chafing under his responsibility for her safety. She therefore stepped into a hansom with him. When they were rattling along Piccadilly she asked him if it was he who had called out that Van Zwieten was a spy.

"Yes, it was I," admitted Wilfred, in a fiery tone. "And I should have liked to see the crowd go for the big brute."

"I don\'t like Van Zwieten myself, as you know," Brenda said; "all the same, Wilfred, it is only fair to say he behaved very well over that old man."

"He knew there was no danger, that the police were about. He wanted to show up as a hero in your eyes, Brenda. For my part, I wish he had been lynched for a spy. I hate the man."

"People don\'t lynch now in England, Wilfred."

"They would have done it to-day on small encouragement. It was lucky for Van Zwieten that he is a popular cricketer, and that they recognized him as such. Otherwise he would not have got off so easily. But I\'ll catch him yet!"

"How you do hate him, Wilfred!"

"Hate him! Of course I do. Here he is accepting the hospitality of England, and spying out all our weak points to use them against us should there be a war. I suspected him long ago from some words he let fall, and I have kept a watch on him ever since. He has haunted Woolwich, Portsmouth and Erith, and has made friends with privates and officers alike, and he has half a hundred creatures at his beck and call, who are poking and prying about. I dare say out at Pretoria they know more about England and her resources than those here whose duty and business it is. They will await the right moment, then they\'ll strike; and unless I\'m much mistaken they\'ll strike pretty hard."

"But we are not unprepared, Wilfred."

The young man shook his head gloomily. "I myself have talked with many of our officers," he said, "and we are not so well armed as we should be. Since the Crimea, we have had no big war; and the number of easy victories we have had have made us over-confident. Of the valor of Englishmen I have no fear. They can fight as their fathers fought with true bulldog courage. But nowadays science as well as grit is needed for victory, and our War Office is so sleepy and tied up with red tape that it doesn\'t keep our armaments up to the mark as it should do. The Boers are armed with the Mauser rifle. Our troops--but there is no need to talk technically to you, Brenda. I can only say that if we have a war, it won\'t be the military promenade to Pretoria that many people expect it to be."

"But the Transvaal is quite a small state, Wilfred."

"I know. Still it is more than probable that the Orange Free State will join them. Also all over Cape Colony and Natal there are hordes of disloyal Dutch ready to rise at the first chance. Besides, Leyds is stirring up the Continent against us, and here Van Zwieten is gathering information and sending it in cypher to Pretoria. Oh, there\'s trouble ahead, Brenda. The Uitlander business is only a pretext for war. If we don\'t proclaim war, Kruger and Steyn will."

"Let them. We will crush them and punish them."
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