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HOME > Classical Novels > A Traitor in London > CHAPTER XX. ON THE TRACK.
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CHAPTER XX. ON THE TRACK.
Brenda Burton was a singularly obstinate young woman. Once she had decided upon a scheme she never rested until she had carried it through. And being thus minded toward the affairs of everyday life, how much more obstinate was she likely to be touching a matter concerning the safety of her husband. Leaving Mr. Scarse to make his arrangements--and he had much to do--she herself ascertained full particulars as to the route, and the cost of the journey.

"We can make for the Canary Islands to-morrow," she told her father. "There is a Castle liner leaving in the afternoon. There we can pick up the German boat, Kaiser Fritz, which goes on to Delagoa Bay."

"Can\'t we go straight to the Cape in an English boat and get a steamer there to the bay?"

"Oh, yes, but the other way will be quicker, I think. The day after we arrive at the Canaries we can pick up the German boat, and we sha\'n\'t have to transship at the Cape. I don\'t think we can do better."

"Well, as you please," said he. "I should like to go in the Kaiser Fritz myself; it would afford me an excellent opportunity for learning the true opinions of the Germans about this--to my thinking--most unjust war."

Brenda shrugged her shoulders. "I dare say they will be disagreeable," she said. "They are so jealous of us, and if our country went to the wall--which she never will do," interpolated she, patriotically--"Germany would be in a very bad position. She would not be the overwhelming power she hopes to be with France and Russia at her heels. But don\'t let us talk politics. All I want is to make use of their boat to reach Delagoa Bay. Give me a check, father, and I will take the passages. To-morrow you must be ready to get as far as Southampton."

So, like the quick-witted woman she was, she attended to all the business, and her father found, to his astonishment, that he had nothing to do but step on board the liner. Lady Jenny Malet came to see them off. She could do nothing against Van Zwieten at present; but there was no knowing what he might do at any moment, and they must be prepared to checkmate him. So she gave Mrs. Burton a registered address, in case she might have to communicate with her, and did her best to cheer her.

"I feel sure you will find him all right, dear," she said, as she kissed the girl. "He is not the man to be shot by a scoundrel like Van Zwieten. And you can coax Kruger into doing what you want. You are pretty enough to do what you like with him."

Brenda smiled faintly--the first smile for many day\'s. "I don\'t think that will have much influence with a man like Kruger," she said.

"Nonsense, my dear. He is a man, and men are always susceptible. I\'m sure you have had enough experience of that," sighed Lady Jenny. "All your troubles have arisen out of that horrid Van Zwieten being in love with you."

Brenda was not much comforted by this view of the situation. She hoped rather to move Mr. Kruger by an appeal to his religious convictions, though these were of the stern cast of the Old Testament. However, it was in a very hopeful frame of mind that she went on board the liner, and she cabled to Wilfred at Spearman\'s Camp telling him that she was coming out. In the hope of making things as safe as possible for her husband, she cabled also to Van Zwieten. Surely, when he received that, he would do nothing at all events, until he had seen and come to terms with her. What those terms would be she could not guess. But she imagined they would include a suggestion that she should obtain a divorce from Harold. He was, as she well knew, quite as obstinate as his respected President--and with none of his morality or his religion. In fact, Brenda was going to Pretoria without any sort of definite idea save one--that somehow or other she would save her husband from this man. That was her sole object, and achieve it she would by hook or by crook; and she had every confidence in her own capacity to outwit the Dutchman, wily as he was. And the days of calm and peace on board the boat afforded her ample time for conjecture and reflection. She had grown now to hate this man with a hatred that would only be appeased by his destruction.

They made a quick run to the islands, and the sea air did her the world of good. There were many passengers on board; but to no one of them did she in any way confide. Sad at heart, she kept very much to herself, and either read or indulged in her own thoughts. Her father was, socially speaking, anything but popular among his fellow-passengers. Air his Little England opinions he would, with the result that the majority of the passengers, having relatives at the front, gave him a wide berth. He made not a single convert; and all those whom he tried to argue round to his own way of thinking were glad enough when he got off at Madeira.

The Kaiser Fritz came up to time and Brenda soon found herself on the way south. She did not much fancy the foreign boat--officers, crew and passengers being all pro-Boer to a man. They were polite enough to the English lady, but they took no trouble to disguise their real opinions. The captain expressed some surprise that she should be going to Delagoa Bay, and seemed inclined to suspect some political significance in her doing so, though it was difficult to see what grounds he could have had for such an absurd idea. And Mrs. Burton did not enlighten him, but left the matter to her father. Mr. Scarse intimated that his daughter was going to Pretoria to nurse her wounded husband, an explanation which seemed to appeal to the sentimental Germans. After that they were increasingly polite to her. But she preferred her own cabin. Her father was more companionable; but even he found but scant pleasure in their outspoken opinions on the subject of England, and her inevitable downfall, as they put it. Even he, with his Little England proclivities, felt his patriotism awake in the most alarming manner at the way these foreigners jeered and scoffed. Smarting under the insults, he developed quite a Jingo feeling, much to his daughter\'s amusement; and he ended by withdrawing himself as much as possible from the society of all on board. Father and daughter were a good deal together, and both looked forward eagerly to the end of a disagreeable voyage.

One night, when they were south of the Line, they were on deck together. The heavens were bright with stars, and the great grey circle of the sea lay round them like a trackless desert. Most of those on board were down below, and the two had the deck to themselves. Brenda was disinclined for conversation. Her mind was, as usual, full of thoughts of her husband, and the only feeling she seemed cognizant of was one of joy in the thought that every day was bringing her nearer to him. Mr. Scarse broke the silence.

"Brenda," he said, "did Lady Jenny say anything about that murder?"

"Very little. She said that Van Zwieten had accused her of the crime, and that she was innocent. Of course I told her that I had never dreamed of such a thing, and never would have credited it for one moment."

"H\'m! At one time I thought myself that she might be guilty," he said. "But I know now that I was wrong. That piece of crape certainly was suspicious. But poor Scarse told me that in his struggle with Malet the scarf had been torn. I never noticed it myself when I burned it. I suppose that Malet kept it in his hand without being aware of it."

"Very likely. At all events, I am sure Lady Jenny is innocent--as innocent as my uncle. He is happy, I hope?"

"In the asylum? Yes, poor fellow, he is as happy as he can be anywhere. He has every comfort, and kind treatment. But I fear he will not live long. Van Zwieten gave him a fright by threatening to denounce him for the murder, unless he told his sad story. Some of it he did tell, but not all. I was foolish enough to relate the rest of it to Van Zwieten. But I had no alternative at the time. He was quite capable of making a scandal. Brenda, who did kill Malet? Every day the thing seems to become more obscure."

"Well, father, I can\'t help thinking it was Van Zwieten. Lady Jenny thinks so too."

"You don\'t say so? But the revolver--it was Harold\'s."

"Harold left them--that is, he left a case of two revolvers behind him, and both were in the library--in Mr. Malet\'s library on that night. Van Zwieten came to see him, and took one of them with him--at least, that is what Lady Jenny thinks."

"Brenda, that sounds improbable. Why should he kill Malet? He hardly knew him, child."

"Indeed, you are wrong there, father," she said, "he knew him only too well. Listen!" and she related the story the widow had told her concerning her husband\'s treachery toward his own country. Mr. Scarse was deeply indignant and indulged in language unusually strong for him. Little Englander though he was, and misguided on many points though he might be, he was an honest and an honorable man; and he could not understand how a man in Mr. Malet\'s position could have so deliberately played the part of traitor. When he was in possession of all the facts, he quite agreed with Brenda that Van Zwieten was the culprit.

"Then we\'ll bring him to book," he said angrily. "I will force him to confess."

"That will do no good, father. The truth cannot come to light without the............
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