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HOME > Classical Novels > A Traitor in London > CHAPTER XV. THE GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND HIM.
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CHAPTER XV. THE GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND HIM.
When Wilfred had taken his departure, Van Zwieten drew a breath of relief. He had only escaped a great danger by virtue of his ready resource and the excitability and hot-headed impulsiveness of his adversary.

Without doubt Wilfred\'s plan--and a harum-scarum plan it was--had been to decoy him into an ambush of police, on the pretence of selling him the so-called State papers, and when he had irretrievably betrayed himself, to have had him arrested as a spy. Thanks only to his skill in penetrating the disguise of his visitor, Van Zwieten had evaded this peril; but he had been in greater danger than even Wilfred knew.

The papers in the iron box were sufficient to prove him a spy ten times over. Had Wilfred only been astute enough to have procured a search warrant on the evidence of Mazaroff, and with the assistance of the police to have raided the premises of the so-called Mr. Jones, these papers would have been discovered, and Mr. van Zwieten\'s little games put an end to for the time being.

But Wilfred had let the golden moment go by, and the Dutchman was safe from his worst enemy--that is from the one who wished him most harm, and who knew most to his disadvantage.

There was no doubt that Wilfred was now powerless to move against him. By skillfully suggesting that Harold had committed the murder,--which was untrue--and producing the revolver inscribed with Harold\'s name, which had been found near the scene of the murder,--which was true--Van Zwieten had effectually stopped the mouth of Mr. Wilfred Burton. If that young man now denounced him to the authorities he would do so at the risk of having his brother arrested. And in the face of such evidence it might be that Harold would be found guilty. In any case he would be prevented from sailing for South Africa. But Van Zwieten, while looking after himself, had no wish that things should go thus far. He was most anxious that Captain Burton should go to the front, for if chance did not aid him, he had quite determined to have him specially shot in action.

At present things were going as he wished. Wilfred was coerced into silence, he himself was safe, and Harold was about to go to his death in Natal. There remained only Brenda to deal with, and with her Mr. van Zwieten hoped to come to an understanding very shortly now.

The rest of the night he spent in burning such papers as he did not require and in packing the remainder in the iron box. It was of no great size this box, and one man could carry it away with ease. Van Zwieten locked it, and then stowed it away on the top of the tall press, in a hollow formed by the ornamentation of the crest. Into this the precious box just fitted; and thus carelessly deposited, he took it to be far safer than any more elaborate attempt at concealment could make it. A thief would assuredly make for the safe first and foremost, so would the police, while neither would think of looking on the top of the press. Not that Van Zwieten expected either thieves or police, for that matter; but it was his habit to place the box there, and what had happened in no way caused him to depart from his usual custom.

Having thus finished his work, he went to bed and slept for a few hours. And as he closed his eyes his thoughts were altogether pleasant.

"I shall go down to Southampton to-morrow," they ran, "and see Burton off for the front. I sha\'n\'t exactly relish being witness of his very tender leave-taking with Brenda but it will be some satisfaction to know it\'s for the last time. She won\'t see him again. We\'ll be married at once and I\'ll follow close on his heels. If he only knew! If she only knew! But that is what shall be. I, Van Zwieten, have spoken. Then, once in the British camp, I can both serve these brave little Republics and make sure that Captain Harold Burton is made short work of. That will be very easily done. And then when all is over, and these British hogs are driven into the sea, I\'ll come and fetch my little wife, and there, amid the glorious expanse of the veldt, we shall live together happily ever after." A beautiful little castle of cards truly, but one which, had he only known, was destined to be very much knocked about by Fate, over which not even he, Van Zwieten, had control.

Next morning he was up betimes, and handing the key of his rooms to Mrs. Hicks with strict injunctions to admit no one, he set off for Waterloo Station. He knew that he could trust his little landlady, and he judged it wiser to do so than to lock up and take the key in his pocket, for of that even she might have been suspicious.

On his way to the terminus he again relapsed into a gentle and wholly self-congratulatory reverie; and with a religious zeal worthy of a follower of Oom Paul he fished from the deep recesses of his memory a text bearing on the destruction of the unrighteous--to wit, in this instance, Messieurs Wilfred and Harold Burton.

The ancient town of Southampton was gay with flags, crowded with people, and bubbling over with excitement and bustle. Through the streets marched the troops in khaki, with resolute faces and swinging tread, while those whose rights they were going to defend cheered them, poured blessings on them, and sought to enliven them with frequent snatches of patriotic song. Not since the days of the Crimea--a dim memory even to the older generation--had there been such excitement. And the great transport lay there--a floating barracks--ready and impatient to carry these brave fellows overseas to vindicate the name of Britain as a civilizing and protective power. Oom Paul had been given rope enough; now he was going to hang himself, or be hanged, as he assuredly deserved to be.

Maybe Van Zwieten thought otherwise. He surveyed the excited throng with his usual bland smile, and pushed his way through their midst down to the quay. Knowing, as no one else did, the true power of the Republics, he smiled grimly as he thought how soon all this joy would be turned into mourning. But what Mr. van Zwieten did not know--what he could not realize--was that the more terrible the danger threatening a Britisher the more does he set his back to the wall, and set his teeth to meet it and to conquer.

In the bright sunlight the troops embarked, speeches were made, healths were drunk, and many a hand gripped hand. On board the transport the officers were busy looking after their men and superintending the horses being taken on board. Brenda, quietly dressed, and doing her best to keep up her spirits, was leaning on the arm of her father, and longing for a few last words with Harold. But Captain Burton--a fine, soldierly figure in his khaki uniform--was on duty, and could not be spared for the moment.

Much as Mr. Scarse disliked the war and reprobated the causes which had led to it, he had come down with Brenda to see the last of Harold; but in the face of all this he could not but lament inwardly that the good offices of the peace party had not prevailed. This stir and military activity was surely out of all proportion to the business in hand--the subjugation of a mere handful of farmers! But Mr. Scarse forgot that wasps are not so easily crushed--that the larger the fist that tries to crush them the greater the chance of its being stung. While thus meditating on the iniquity of his country, he felt his daughter start, and when he looked at her he saw that she was white and trembling.

"What is it, Brenda?" he asked nervously, for he had not been the same man since his interview with the Dutchman.

"I have seen Mr. van Zwieten," she replied faintly. "He is yonder in the crowd. He smiled in that horrible way of his when he caught my eye."

"Never mind, Brenda. Van Zwieten can do no harm now; and shortly we shall be rid of him altogether. He is going out to the Cape."

"To Pretoria, you mean."

"No, I mean to the Cape," returned her father. "Rather to my surprise, I hear he has given up his appointment in the Transvaal, and has thrown in his lot with this misguided country. He goes with Lord Methuen as the correspondent of The Morning Planet--to report the massacre of his unfortunate countrymen, I suppose."

"I don\'t believe he is on our side," Brenda said vehemently. "At heart he is a t............
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