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HOME > Classical Novels > A Traitor in London > CHAPTER XVI. THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS.
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CHAPTER XVI. THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS.
As the full meaning of those words came upon him, Van Zwieten paled. His wicked eyes flashed fire, and he uttered an oath which, being in Dutch, was happily unintelligible to those around him. For the moment he could neither move nor speak; and seeing his momentary helplessness, Mr. Scarse, with Brenda on his arm, hurried on through the crowd.

Before the Dutchman could recover his presence of mind, there were already two or three lines of people between him and those whom he had fondly thought his victims. They had tricked him in spite of all his caution; even Scarse, whom he had been so sure of, had turned against him. But he would be revenged, and that speedily. Conjecturing that they would probably go to the railway station, Van Zwieten hurried thither. If he did not find them in the London train, then he would wait till he did. In any case he swore to get at the truth about this marriage. Their punishment should follow.

On his part, Mr. Scarse, seeing the devil which looked out of the Dutchman\'s eyes, knew that the man thus baffled was prepared to go to any lengths; and that being so, he was only too anxious to escape from so dangerous a neighborhood.

Taken up with her own sorrow, Brenda had paid no attention to the presence or foreboding glance of Van Zwieten, but submitted blindly to be guided through the crowd. All she longed for was to get to some quiet place where she could give way unrestrained to this grief that shook her whole being. And her father instinctively divined what she desired and said no word to comfort her, but hurried her on to the station, and by the judicious bestowal of half a sovereign secured a carriage to themselves. The man touched his hat, and after locking the door, walked off to see if any other person\'s sorrow would take such tangible and wholly excellent form.

There in the corner of the carriage Brenda lay back and wept for her lost husband, whom--it might be--she would never see again. But she had a great belief in dreams and in the contrariness of this particular dream and something told her he would come safe and sound out of the hurly-burly of battle. Nevertheless, life seemed very blank to her just then. She wept on unrestrained. Her father paid no attention to her. He was leaning out of the window watching for Van Zwieten. His mind travelled quite as quickly as that of the Dutchman, and he guessed that he would come on to the station on the chance of finding himself and Brenda in the London express.

The inspector came along, unlocked the door, and tried to hustle a couple of weeping women into the carriage but Mr. Scarse gave his name and whispered that he had engaged the carriage, whereupon the inspector promptly conducted the mourners to another compartment. In his hurry he did not lock the door, which, as it turned out, was unfortunate.

With great anxiety Mr. Scarse watched the minute hand of the station clock crawl round to the hour at which the train was timed to start. He turned hot and cold at the thought that Van Zwieten might come. He had a very shrewd idea of the Dutchman\'s present mood. But there was no sign of him. And the bell was ringing now for the departure of the express.

"Thank God!" cried Mr. Scarse, throwing himself back into his seat. "We have escaped that villain for the time being at any rate."

Vain congratulation! It was as if he had tempted the gods. Hardly had the train commenced to move when the door of the carriage was dashed open, and Van Zwieten hurled himself into the compartment like a charging buffalo. Brenda uttered a cry of alarm; her father swore--a thing he very seldom permitted himself to do; and the Dutchman, now quite master of his vile temper, smiled blandly and subsided into a seat. He cleared his throat to explain himself. Brenda cast on him one look of ineffable contempt, although she was far from feeling contemptuous, and did so merely out of bravado. Then she drew her veil down and glanced out of the window. If she was forced to travel with him, she was not forced to speak to him; and besides she felt quite safe having her father to protect her, and knowing how different now was his attitude toward the Dutchman. Van Zwieten smiled unpleasantly. He knew well how to rouse her out of that indifference, and he would do so when he judged the proper time had come. Meanwhile he explained himself to the enraged Scarse, whose blood was on fire at the creature\'s insolence.

"Notwithstanding the very elaborate pains at which you were to reserve this carriage, Scarse, I trust you are sufficiently hospitable not to mind my joining you," he said coolly.

"I mind very much, sir!" cried the other. "How dare you thrust your company where it is not wanted? My daughter and I can dispense with your presence."

"I dare say!" sneered the Dutchman, although he looked surprised at this unexpected resistance on the part of the hitherto meek M. P.; "but you see I have a great deal to say to you and Miss Scarse."

"Mrs. Burton, if you please," Brenda said in a cutting tone.

Van Zwieten bowed his fair head in a cruelly ironical manner. "I beg your pardon, I did not know I was a day after the fair. But it seems to me most strange that you should be married when your father promised me that I should be your husband."

"I did nothing of the sort," said Mr. Scarse, bluntly.

"I promised to consent to your marrying my daughter if she chose to have you. But as she had a very distinct preference for Captain Burton, I agreed to that. And I\'m glad of it!" he cried with energy; "at least she has married an honorable man!"

"I also am an honorable man. I have kept your secret--up to the present----"

"My secret?" cried the other, contemptuously. "Oh! tell it to whom you please."

Van Zwieten bit his lip to prevent an exhibition of the surprise he felt at this unexpected defiance. "In that case I had better begin with Miss Sca--I beg your pardon--with Mrs. Burton. She would like to know----"

"She does know," interrupted Brenda, in her clear voice. "There is nothing left for you to tell, Meinherr van Zwieten!"

"Ach! You make me out to be Dutch, then! You are wrong--I am English."

"Quite so; until it suits you to become a Boer."

"We shall see. Oh, you will not have it all your own way in this war, you English. But enough of this," he went on imperiously. "You know, then, that your father and his twin brother killed Mr. Malet?"

"I know nothing of the sort," retorted Brenda, with spirit. "You had better take the case into court and prove your assertion."

"Think of the scandal!"

"I can face all that," cried Mr. Scarse, sharply. "If you think to blackmail me, Van Zwieten, you have come to the wrong person. So far as what I told you is concerned, you are harmless; you can do nothing."

"Perhaps not. I won\'t even try. But the arrows are not all out of my quiver yet. For you, old man, I care nothing, you cross not my path, so I can spare you; but as for Brenda----"

The girl turned fearlessly upon him. "I will thank you, sir, to address me by my proper name, which is Mrs. Burton!"

Van Zwieten winced. He felt his position intensely, though he put a brave face on it. Brenda saw this, and realized the strain he was putting on himself to keep down his temper.

"Mrs. Burton! Well, let it be so for the present--until you change it for Mrs. van Zwieten."

"That will be never!"

"Oh, yes--when you are a widow."

Brenda shuddered, and fell back on her cushions; but her father leaned forward and shook his fist at the Dutchman. "I am an old man," he said hoarsely, "and you are young and strong, but if you insult my daughter I will strike you! In any case, you will leave the carriage at the next station."

"It is yet a quarter of an hour away," sneered Van Zwieten, looking at his watch, "so that will be time enough to say what I have to say. I do not think you will ask me to go when you hear all?"

"I am not afraid," said Brenda, coolly, "my father is here to protect me. And we are in England, Meinherr van Zwieten, not in your barbarous country of the Transvaal."

"Ah, you English will find it sufficiently civilized in warfare," said the man, savagely. "But I will come to the point. ............
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