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HOME > Classical Novels > A Traitor in London > CHAPTER XXVII. NEMESIS.
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CHAPTER XXVII. NEMESIS.
Having no ambition toward enacting the r?le of heroine of an Adelphi melodrama, Brenda was beginning to weary of this game of hide-and-seek. However, she was safe for the time being, as even the redoubtable Van Zwieten could hardly be expected to take her from the midst of the British army. Harold reported the mishap which had led to the loss of his men, and afterward rejoined his company. He wished his wife to go back to Spearman\'s Camp; but she begged so hard to remain that at last he consented. Permission was obtained from the authorities, and Brenda betook herself to her old task of nursing the wounded. She related to her friend the doctor as much of her adventures as she could without trenching too closely on her private affairs; and great surprise was expressed at her perils and her lucky escape. But to Wilfred, who came to see her and his brother as soon as he heard of their rescue, she related everything in detail.

"By Jove! what a scoundrel that fellow is!" said that young man. "I wonder when he intends to leave you alone."

"Never, I fear," replied Brenda. "Unless he is killed I shall never be safe from him."

"I\'ll shoot him myself if I get a chance. He is a danger to society--it must be some one\'s business to put him out of the way. You have had a bad time, Brenda; but I don\'t think you need fear the man any more."

"What makes you say that?"

"I have an idea that he has come to the end of his tether."

"So have I," she said. "And I told him so. But, Wilfred, tell me about my father?"

"He has gone back to Durban, as you know, to see the authorities about your disappearance. He thinks you have been taken prisoner by the Boers, and that you are at Pretoria by now. He is going to try and get you exchanged."

"There is no need for that, thank God!" said Brenda, cheerfully. "I must let him know at once."

"That will be difficult unless you send a message from Ladysmith."

"When do you think we shall be there?"

"If the luck holds good, in a couple of days. We have taken most of the Boer positions; now Warren intends to try for Spion Kop to-night. If he captures it, we shall hold the key to the Boer position."

"Ah, you see Wilfred, your forebodings are all wrong."

"We are yet in the wood, not out of it," replied he, significantly. "However, I will give Buller and Warren all praise. They have done well. All the same, I still condemn this plan of campaign. Only a miracle can render it successful."

"Well, we shall see what happens when Spion Kop is taken. Do try and look on the bright side of things, Wilfred."

But the young man departed, still shaking his head. There was no doubt that he was very depressing company. His face wore a look of settled gloom most painful to behold; and he was always prognosticating calamity in the face of the most promising operations. At the same time he invariably refrained from pessimism in his letters to his newspaper, which were usually cheerful and full of devoted praise of the behavior of both troops and officers.

It was anxious work waiting in the hospital while Harold was in the field. But Brenda had not much time for thought. She was nursing the wounded with all her heart and soul, and was an angel of light amongst the weary, wounded soldiers. The doctor called her his right hand, as well he might. She deprived herself of rest and food to be by her patients. Only when compelled to, did she lie down; and then it was in her clothes, ready to be up and doing at the call of duty. Her best qualities came out in this most arduous work.

The grand attack on Spion Kop was to be made at night, in order to effect a surprise. All day long the operations went on in the field. Toward sunset Harold\'s company had to dislodge a number of Boers who had entrenched themselves on the slope of the mountain. The position was taken and the enemy fell back; but not without considerable loss of life on both sides. Amongst the wounded was Harold, who was shot through the lung. It was dark when the news was brought into the camp, and the ambulance bearers started under a rising moon for this miniature battlefield.

Quite unaware of her husband\'s mishap, Brenda was busy attending a dying man. But he was beyond her aid, and died within a very short time of his being brought in. She was closing his eyes with a sigh at the horrors of war when one of the doctors told her that she was wanted. With a presentiment of bad news she went out and found Wilfred waiting to speak to her. He was greatly agitated and took her hand as if to give her courage.

"Brenda, I have bad news for you!"

"It is Harold!" she cried, pale to the lips.

"Yes, it is Harold. I have only just heard."

"He is dead?"

"No. I hope not--I don\'t know but he fell while leading the attack on one of the small kopjes. They are just going out to bring in the wounded. I thought----"

"Yes, I\'ll come," said Brenda, anticipating his speech. "Is it far?"

"No, not very. Make haste. God grant we may find him alive!"

She needed no second bidding, but hastily gathered together some medical comforts, wrapped herself in a cloak and came out. In silence they walked toward the fatal spot which had been pointed out to Wilfred by a private who had seen Harold fall. She did not weep. Her emotion was too deep for tears. The moment which she had been dreading all these months had arrived--unexpectedly, as all such moments do. Now she felt that the actual event was not so terrible as the expectation had been. There was a chance that he might be alive. He was wiry, healthy, clean-blooded and clean living, and the Mauser bullets, as Brenda had seen, inflicted a clean wound. Full of silent prayer she walked on. Had she heard of this in England she would have been distracted; but somehow, since she was on the spot and would soon be with him, it did not seem quite so terrible. At all events he had fallen in the forefront of battle, doing his work, and not by the treachery of Van Zwieten. If he died he could not die more gloriously. There was comfort in that thought.

"I saw Van Zwieten to-day," said Wilfred, suddenly.

"You did? Where? When?" asked Brenda, wondering if after all the scoundrel could have had anything to do with this mishap to her husband.

"On the lower slopes. I was looking through my field-glass and saw him quite plainly riding about on a big black horse. I recognized him by his long golden beard. I am certain it was he; that was why I wanted you to come with me to see after Harold."

"I don\'t understand----"

"Because as Van Zwieten is about the place he is bound to hear that Harold has been shot. He has spies everywhere; and from one of our prisoners I heard that he had described Harold\'s appearance to several Boer sharp-shooters, that the poor chap might be picked off."

"Do you know the prisoner\'s name?"

"Yes; and he\'s a fine old fellow who did good service to you--Piet Bok!"

"Then he was not killed at the time we escaped?"

"No, only touched on the right arm. He was taken prisoner this morning. I would have come and told you, but I couldn\'t get away. I saw him by chance, and he recognized me from my resemblance to Harold. I told him he was wrong and then he informed me of Van Zwieten\'s new villainy. By this time the man who picked off Harold has, no doubt, told Van Zwieten, and has received his reward. And that scoundrel will probably come down to see if the news is true."

"What?" shrieked Brenda. "Oh, don\'t, Wilfred! If he finds Harold still alive he will kill him."

"That\'s what I thought; and that\'s why I got you to come with me. I feel certain that the brute will be there."

She uttered a cry of mingled terror and pain. "Oh, Wilfred, do not let us lose a moment. Harold, my darling!" She began to run.

"Come, Brenda, keep as quiet as you can. You\'ll need all your strength!"

A glorious moon filled the world with its pale radiance. The shadows of the mountains and kopjes were black as Indian ink in the white light. Here and there were points of fire, and in the distance a glimpse of the white tents of the camp. To the right rose the great mass of Spion Kop, with its flat table top dark and menacing. But a few hours and there would be a deadly struggle on that pinnacle. Already the generals were maturin............
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