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HOME > Classical Novels > A Traitor in London > CHAPTER XXI. IN SOUTH AFRICA.
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CHAPTER XXI. IN SOUTH AFRICA.
It was indeed Harold--thinner, perhaps, than when he had left England, but bronzed and hardened, and fit in every way for the arduous work of the campaign. Brenda clung to him as though she would never let him go. She looked upon him as one who had been snatched from the jaws of death; and assuredly he would have found a grave in Pretoria had he been left to the tender mercies of Van Zwieten. He, on his side, was delighted and moved beyond words at her tenderness, and at her pluck in undertaking a toilsome and dangerous journey to be near him. It was some time before husband and wife recovered themselves sufficiently to exchange confidences. Brenda cried in spite of her brave spirit, for the joy of this unexpected meeting had shaken her nerves. When she had regained her composure, and was able to speak, it was to congratulate her husband on his escape from Pretoria, and from the dangerous custody of Van Zwieten. He laughed outright.

"That is just where you make the mistake, my love!" he said. "I never was in or near Pretoria, and I have seen nothing of Van Zwieten since I left England. What on earth makes you think so?"

She sat down and looked at him in astonishment. "I don\'t understand you," she said. "You were reported missing. I went to the War Office myself and made certain that the report was correct."

"That is true enough. I was out on patrol duty with a small force while the General was trying to force the passage of the Tugela. A party of Boers took us by surprise and captured us; but after a week in their custody I was lucky enough to escape. I\'ll tell you all about it later. What I want to know now is how you come to be out in these parts."

"Don\'t you know? Van Zwieten wrote to me saying that you were at Pretoria and under his charge, and that he would have you shot if I did not come out to see him. Father and I set off at once, and we were on our way to Pretoria to see the President and implore him to save you from that man."

"Brenda, are you sure of what you are saying? It is all new to me."

"Here is his letter. I always carry it with me. I was going to show it to Kruger when I saw him."

Harold took the letter, which his wife produced from her pocketbook, and read it with a frown. "Well, he is a scoundrel!" he remarked as he gave it back to her. "Of course, it is a trap, and a very clever one. I suppose he heard that I was missing, through the Boer spies, and he turned the information to his own advantage. Don\'t you see, Brenda, he wanted you to come out to the Transvaal so that you might be in his power."

"The beast!" cried she, crimson at having been so tricked. "I assure you, Harold, I believed the letter was written in all good faith. The War Office said you were missing, and I thought you would be transferred with the other prisoners to Pretoria. That Van Zwieten should be there, and that you should be in his power, did not surprise me in the least. I never dreamed for a moment that it was a trick. Oh, how lucky it was that you were able to stop me! How did you know I was on board the Kaiser Fritz?"

"Easily enough. You cabled to Wilfred telling him so. He was at Spearman\'s Camp at the time, and so was I. When he showed it to me I could not understand at first how it was that you were going to Pretoria; but it struck me that, as I was reported missing, you might think that I had been transferred to the Transvaal capital. I made up my mind that I would stop you at Cape Town. My first idea was to wire to meet you there; but the General wanted some one to send down to Durban about some business, and I contrived to have myself selected for the task. There I heard that the Kaiser Fritz was suspected of having contraband on board, and that she would be stopped by the Juno. I knew the captain, and I told him all about you and your journey out here. He was good enough to have me on board; and so it all came about. Oh, my dear wife!" he cried, clasping her in his arms, "how thankful I am that you are safe. If I had heard that you were at Pretoria, and in the power of that villain, it would have driven me silly."

"He is a bitter enemy," she said. "I should have killed him if he had done you any harm."

"I was never in any danger of my life, dearest--at least, not from him."

"No; I see it now." She paused, and then went on. "After all, I can find it in my heart to forgive him, even for this trick, since it has brought me to you. I won\'t go home again until you do."

"But, my darling, I must go to the front. I leave Durban to-morrow. You can\'t come with me."

"Yes, I can--and I will," she insisted. "Oh, I know what you would say, that it is not a woman\'s place; but it is a woman\'s place, and her duty, to nurse the wounded, and that is what I shall do. I know a good deal about nursing, and I\'m sure the doctors will let me help; they can\'t refuse."

"But think of the terrible hardships!"

"It is far more hardship for me to have to sit at home when you are in danger. At least, I shall be near you; and perhaps, if Van Zwieten does any more of his plotting, I may be able to frustrate him. It is no use your looking at me like that, Harold; I won\'t leave you again. You are all I have in the world. If you were to die I should die also."

"There is your father."

"Yes, father is very dear to me, now that we understand one another, but he is not you. Oh, my love, my love, don\'t send me away again! It will break my heart to leave you!" She paused, then added, defiantly, "I won\'t go, there!"

He laughed, and he tried to persuade her to stay at Durban or Pietermaritzburg, where she would be in comfort and safety; but he might have saved his breath. To the front she would go, and nothing would move her. In the end--as might have been expected--she got her own way, and her husband promised that she should go with him up the Tugela, if he could procure passports for her and her father. He admired her spirit more than a little, and he was only too glad to have her with him; but it was against his better judgment that he consented. However, there was this to be said--she would be in no greater danger from the intrigues of Van Zwieten at the front than she would be at Durban. After all, it might be as well, with such an enemy, that she should be beside her husband.

"Then that\'s all right," she said, taking this hardly-earned consent quite as a matter of course. "And now tell me how you managed to escape from the Boers?"

"Well, it came about in this way. As you may guess, when we found ourselves surrounded we made a hard fight for it. We killed a few of the enemy. A boy of seventeen rushed at me; he fired, but missed, and I had him at my mercy. I raised my revolver, but I could not bring myself to shoot so young a lad. When he was about to fire again--for I was turning away--I managed to knock him down. Then we were overpowered and had to lay down our arms. The lad I had spared proved to be the son of the Boer leader, a fine old fellow called Piet Bok. He was so pleased with me that he offered to let me go free; but I could not leave my men. Then, when we were about to be sent on to Pretoria, he renewed his offer. I had by this time been separated from my men, so I accepted. He had kept me all the time under his own charge, and had treated me very well. So one night he led me out of their camp, gave me a horse and gun, and sent me on my way."

"God bless him!" cried Brenda, fervently.

"I was in the Tugela district," he continued, "somewhere in the neighborhood of a place called Spion Kop, which has been very strongly fortified by the Boers. The country was swarming with the enemy, and it was difficult enough to find my way back to camp; then my map--thanks to our Intelligence Department--was all wrong. By day I hid in gullies and behind kopjes, and kept my eyes open. I managed to fetch the river, but I could not get over at first. Then one night I determined to make the best of a bad job, so I made my horse swim for it. The current was strong, and it was pretty hard work to keep on at all; but at last I was forced to let go, and I was swept by the current on to the further side. I kept myself hidden all through that day, and got on when night came. I reached our camp about dawn, and was very nearly shot by a sentry. However, I made myself known, and got in safely. I was dead beat too."

"My poor Harold, how you have suffered!"

"Nonsense. Don\'t make a fuss over a little thing like that. You must be a true soldier\'s wife and laugh at these things. But now that I have told you everything, and we have settled what is to be done, I must see your father."

They found Mr. Scarse on deck with the captain. He received Harold with unaffected pleasure.

"I am thankful to see you alive," he said. "The captain has been telling me all about your miraculous escape."

"I am glad to be able to strike another blow fo............
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