What's Bred In the Bone
Eighteen months passed away in England, and nothing more was heard
of the two fugitives to Africa. Lady Emily's cup was very full
indeed. On the self-same day she learned of her husband's death
and her son's mysterious and unaccountable disappearance. From that
moment forth, he was to her as if dead. After Granville left, no
letter or news of him, direct or indirect, ever reached Tilgate.
It was all most inexplicable. He had disappeared into space, and
no man knew of him.
Cyril, too, had now almost given up hoping for news of Guy. Slowly
the conviction forced itself deeper and still deeper upon his mind,
in spite of Elma, that Guy was really Montague Nevitt's murderer.
Else how account for Guy's sudden disappearance, and for the fact
that he never even wrote home his whereabouts? Nay, Guy's letter
itself left no doubt upon his mind. Cyril went through life now
oppressed continually with the terrible burden of being a murderer's
And indeed everybody else--except Elma Clifford--implicitly shared
that opinion with him. Cyril was sure the unknown benefactor shared
it too, for Guy's six thousand pounds were never paid in to his
credit--as indeed how could they, since Colonel Kelmscott, who
had promised to pay them, died before receiving the balance of the
purchase money for the Dowlands estate? Cyril slank through the
world, then, weighed down by his shame, for Guy and he were each
other's doubles, and he always had a deep underlying conviction
that, as Guy was in any particular, so also in the very fibre of
his nature he himself was.
Everybody else, except Elma Clifford; but in spite of all, Elma still
held out firm, in her intuitive way, in favour of Guy's innocence.
She knew it, she said; and there the matter dropped. And she knew
quite equally, in her own firm mind, that Gilbert Gildersleeve was
the real murderer.
Gilbert Gildersleeve, meanwhile, had gone up a step or two higher
in the social scale. He had been promoted to the bench on the
first vacancy, as all the world had long expected; but, strange
to say, he took it far more modestly than all the world had ever
anticipated. Indeed, before he was made a judge, everybody said
he'd be intolerable in the ermine. He was blustering and bullying
enough, in all conscience, as a mere Queen's Counsel; but when he
came to preside in a court of his own, his insolence would surpass
even the wonted insolence of our autocratic British justices. In
this, however, everybody was mistaken.
A curious change had of late come over Gilbert Gildersleeve. The
big, bullying lawyer was growing nervous and diffident, where of
old he had been coarse and self-assertive and blustering. He was
beginning at times almost to doubt his own absolute omniscience and
absolute wisdom. He was prepared half to admit that under certain
circumstances a prisoner might possibly be in the right, and that
all crimes alike did not necessarily deserve the hardest sentence
the law of the land allowed him to allot them. Habitual criminals
even began, after a while, to express a fervent hope, as assizes
approached, they might be tried by old Gildersleeve: "Gilly," they
said, "gave a cove a chance": he wasn't "one of these 'ere reg'lar
'anging judges, like Sir 'Enery Atkins."
During those eighteen months, too, Cyril tried, as far as he
could, from a stern sense of duty, to see as little as possible of
Elma Clifford. He loved Elma still--that goes without saying--more
devotedly than ever; and Elma's profound belief that Cyril's
brother couldn't possibly have committed so grave a crime touched
his heart to the core by its womanly confidence. There's nothing
a man likes so much as being trusted. But he had declared in the
first flush of his horror and despair that he would never again
ask Elma to marry him till the cloud that hung over Guy's character
had been lifted and dissipated; and now that, month after month, no
news came from Guy and all hope seemed to fade, lie felt it would
be wrong of him even to see her or speak with her.
On that question however, Elma herself had a voice as well. Man
proposes; woman decides. And though Elma for her part had quite
equally made up her mind never to marry Cyril, with that nameless
terror of expected madness hanging ever over her head, she felt,
on the other hand, her very loyalty to Cyril and to Cyril's brother
imperatively demanded that she should still see him often, and
display marked friendship towards him as openly as possible. She
wanted the world to see plainly for itself that so far as this
matter of Guy's reputation was concerned, if Cyril, for his part,
wanted to marry her, she, on her side, would be quite ready to
So she insisted on meeting him whenever she could, and on writing
to him openly from time to time very affectionate notes--those
familiar notes we all know so well and prize so dearly--full of
hopeless love and unabated confidence. Yes, good Mr. Stockbroker
who do me the honour to read my simple tale, smile cynically if you
will! You pretend to care nothing for these little sentimentalities;
but you know very well in your own heart, you've a bundle of them
at home, very brown and yellow, locked up in your escritoire; and
you'd let New Zealand Fours sink to the bottom of the Indian Ocean,
and Egyptian Unified go down to zero, before ever you'd part with
a single faded page of them.
What can a man do, then, even under such painful circumstances,
when a girl whom he loves with all his heart lets him clearly see
she loves him in return quite as truly? Cyril would have been more
than human if he hadn't answered those notes in an equally ardent
and equally desponding strain. The burden of both their tales was
always this--even if YOU would, _I_ couldn't, because I love you
too much to impose my own disgrace upon you.
But what Elma's mysterious trouble could be, Cyril was still unable
even to hazard a guess. He only knew she had some reason of her
own which seemed to her a sufficient bar to matrimony, and made
her firmly determine never, in any case, to marry any one.
About twelve months after Guy's sudden disappearance, however, a
new element entered into Elma's life. At first sight, it seemed
to have but little to do with the secret of her soul. It was merely
that the new purchaser of the Dowlands estate had built herself a
pretty little Queen Anne house on the ground, and come to live in
Nevertheless, from the very first day they met, Elma took most
kindly to this new Miss Ewes, the strange and eccentric musical
composer. The mistress of Dowlands was a distant cousin of
Mrs. Clifford's own; so the family naturally had to call upon her
at once; and Elma somehow seemed always to get on from the outset
in a remarkable way with her mother's relations. At first, to be
sure, Elma could see Mrs. Clifford was rather afraid to leave her
alone with the odd new-comer, whose habits and manners were as
curious and weird as the sudden twists and turns of her own wayward
music. But, after a time, a change came over Mrs. Clifford in this
respect; and instead of trying to keep Elma and Miss Ewes apart,
it was evident to Elma--who never missed any of the small by-play
of life--that her mother rather desired to throw them closely
together. Thus it came to pass that one morning, about a month
after Miss Ewes's arrival in her new home, Elma had run in with a
message from her mother, and found the distinguished composer, as
was often the case at that time of day, sitting dreamily at her
piano, trying over on the gamut strange, fanciful chords of her
own peculiar witch-like character. The music waxed and waned in a
"That's beautiful," Elma cried enthusiastically, as the composer
looked up at her with an inquiring glance. "I never heard anything
in my life before that went so straight through one, with its
penetrating melody. Such a lovely gliding sound, you know! So soft
and serpentine!" And even as she said it, a deep flush rose red in
the centre of her cheek. She was sorry for the words before they
were out of her mouth. They recalled all at once, in some mysterious
way, that horrid, persistent nightmare of the hateful snake-dance.
In a second, Miss Ewes caught the bright gleam in her eye, and
the deep flush on her cheek that so hastily followed it. A meaning
smile came over the elder woman's face all at once, not unpleasantly.
She was a handsome woman for her age, but very dark and gipsy-like,
after the fashion of the Eweses, with keen Italian eyes and a large
smooth expanse of powerful forehead. Lightly she ran her hand over
the keys with a masterly touch, and fixed her glance as she did so
on Elma. There was a moment's pause. Miss Ewes eyed her closely.
She was playing a tune that seemed oddly familiar to Elma's brain
somehow--to her brain, not to her ears, for Elma felt certain,
even while she recognised it most, she had never before heard it.
It was a tune that waxed and waned and curled up and down sinuously,
and twisted in and out and--ah yes, now she knew it--raised its
sleek head, and darted out its forked tongue, and vibrated with
swift tremors, and tightened and slackened, and coiled resistlessly
at last in great folds all around her. Elma listened, with eager
eyes half starting from her head, with clenched nails dug deep
into the tremulous palms, as her heart throbbed fast and her nerves
quivered fiercely. Oh, it was wrong of Miss Ewes to tempt her like
this! It was wrong, so wrong of her! For Elma knew what it was at
once--the song she had heard running vaguely through her head the
night of the dance--the night she fell in love with Cyril Waring.
With a throbbing heart, Elma sat down on the sofa, and tried with
all her might and main not to listen, She clasped her hands still
tighter. She refused to be wrought up. She wouldn't give way to it.
If she had followed her own impulse, to be sure, she would have
risen on the spot and danced that mad dance once more with all the
wild abandonment of an almeh or a Zingari. But she resisted with
all her might. And she resisted successfully.
Miss Ewes, never faltering, kept her keen eye fixed hard on her
with a searching glance, as she ran over the keys in ever fresh
Faster, wilder, and stranger the music rose; but Elma sat still,
her breast heaving hard, and her breath panting, yet otherwise as
still and motionless as a statue. She knew Miss Ewes could tell
exactly how she felt. She knew she was trying her; she knew she
was tempting her to get up and dance; and yet, she was not one
bit afraid of this strange weird woman, as she'd been afraid that
sad morning at home of her own mother.
The composer went on fiercely for some minutes more, leaning close
over the keyboard, and throwing her very soul, as Elma could plainly
see, into the tips of her fingers. Then, suddenly she rose, and
came over, well pleased, to the sofa where Elma sat. With a motherly
gesture, she took Elma's hand; she smoothed her dark hair; she bent
down with a tender look, in those strange grey eyes, and printed
a kiss unexpectedly on the poor girl's forehead.
"Elma," she said, leaning over her, "do you know what that was?
That was the Naga Snake Dance. It gave you an almost irresistible
longing to rise, and hold the snake in your own hands, and coil
his great folds around you. I could see how you felt. But you were
strong enough to resist. That was very well done. You resisted
even the force of my music, didn't you?"
Elma, trembling all over, but bursting with joy that she could speak
of it at last without restraint to somebody, answered, in a very
low and tremulous voice, "Yes, Miss Ewes, I resisted it."
Miss Ewes leant back in her place, and gazed at her long, with a
very affectionate and motherly air. "Then I'm sure I don't know,"
she said at last, breaking out in a voice full of confidence, "why
on earth you shouldn't marry this young man you're in love with!"
Elma's heart beat still harder and higher than ever.
"What young man?" she murmured low--just to test the enchantress.
And Miss Ewes made answer, without one moment's hesitation, "Why,
of course, Cyril Waring!"
For a minute or two then, there was a dead silence. After that,
Miss Ewes looked up and spoke again. "Have you felt it often?"
she asked, without one word of explanation.
"Twice before," Elma answered, not pretending to misunderstand.
"Once I gave way. That was the very first time, you see, and I
didn't know yet exactly what it meant. The second time I knew, and
then I resisted it."
Somehow, before Miss Ewes, she hardly ever felt shy. She was so
conscious Miss Ewes knew all about it without her telling her.
The elder woman looked at her with unfeigned admiration.
"That was brave of you," she said quietly. "I couldn't have done
it myself! I should have HAD to give way to it. Then in YOU it's
dying out. That's as clear as daylight. It won't go any farther. I
knew it wouldn't, of course, when I saw you resisted even the Naga
dance. And for you, that's excellent.... For myself I encourage it.
It's that that makes my music what it is. It's that that inspires
me. _I_ composed that Naga dance I just played over to you, Elma.
But not all out of my own head. I couldn't have invented it.
It comes down in our blood, my dear, to you and me alike. We both
inherit it from a common ancestress."
"Tell me all about it," Elma cried, nestling close to her new friend
with a wild burst of relief. "I don't know why, but I'm not at all
ashamed of it all before you, Miss Ewes--at least, not in the way
I am before mother."
"You needn't be ashamed of it," Miss Ewes answered kindly. "You've
nothing to be ashamed of. It'll never trouble YOU in your life
again. It always dies out at last; they say in the sixth or seventh
generation, and when it's dying out, it goes as it went with you,
on the night you first fell in love with Cyril. If, after that,
you resist, it never comes back again. Year after year, the impulse
grows feebler and feebler. And if you can withstand the Naga dance,
you can withstand anything. Come here and take my hand, dear. I'll
tell you all about it."
Late at night Elma sat, tearful but happy, in her own room at home,
writing a few short lines to Cyril Waring. This was all she said--
"There's no reason on my side now, dearest Cyril. It's all a
mistake. I'll marry you whenever and wherever you will. There need
be no reason on your side either. I love you, and can trust you.
When Cyril Waring received that note next morning he kissed it
reverently, and put it away in his desk among a bundle of others.
But he said to himself sternly in his own soul for all that,
"Never, while Guy still rests under that cloud! And how it's ever
to be lifted from him is to me inconceivable."
A STROKE FOR FREEDOM.
In Africa, meanwhile, during those eighteen months, King Khatsua
had kept his royal word. He had held his two European prisoners
under close watch and ward in the Koranna hut he had assigned them
for their residence.
Like most other negro princes, indeed, Khatsua was a shrewd man of
business in his own way; and while he meant to prevent the English
strangers from escaping seaward with news of the new El Dorado
they had discovered in Barolong land, he hadn't the least idea of
turning away on that account the incidental advantages to be gained
for himself by permitting them to hunt freely in his dominions for
diamonds. So long as they acquiesced in the rough-and-ready royalty
of 50 per cent, he had proposed to them when he first decided to
detain them in his own territory--one stone for the king, and one
for the explorers--they were free to pursue their quest after gems
to their hearts' content in the valleys of Barolong land. And as the
two Englishmen, for their part, had nothing else to do in Africa,
and as they still went on hoping against hope for some chance of
escape or rescue, they dug for diamonds with a will, and secured
a number of first-class stones that would have made their fortunes
indeed--if only they could have got them to the sea or to England.
Of course they lived perforce in the Koranna hut assigned them by
the king, in pretty much the same way as the Korannas themselves
did. King Khatsua's men supplied them abundantly with grain,
and fruits, and game; and even at times procured them ready-made
clothes, by exchange with Kimberley. In other respects, they were
not ill-treated; they were merely detained "during his majesty's
pleasure." But as his majesty had no intention of killing the goose
that laid the golden eggs, or of letting them go, if he could
help it, to spread the news of their find among their greedy
fellow-countrymen, it seemed to them both as if they might go on
being detained like this in Barolong land for an indefinite period.
Still, things went indifferently with them. As they lived and worked
together in their native hut by Khatsua's village, a change began
slowly but irresistibly to come over Granville Kelmscott's feelings
towards his unacknowledged half-brother. At first, it was with the
deepest sense of distaste and loathing that the dispossessed heir
found himself compelled to associate with Guy Waring in such close
companionship. But, bit by bit, as they two saw more and more of
one another, this feeling of distaste began to wear off piecemeal.
Granville Kelmscott was more than half ashamed to admit it even
to himself, but in process of time he really almost caught himself
beginning to like--well, to like the man he believed to be a
murderer. It was shocking and horrible, no doubt; but what else
was he to do? Guy formed now his only European society. By the
side of those savage Barolongs, whose chief thought nothing of
perpetrating the most nameless horrors before their very eyes, for
the gratification of mere freaks of passion or jealousy, a European
murderer of the gentlemanly class seemed almost by comparison a mild
and gentle personage. Granville hardly liked to allow it in his own
mind, but it was nevertheless the case; he was getting positively
fond of this man, Guy Waring.
Besides, blood is generally thicker than water. Living in such
close daily communion with Guy, and talking with him unrestrainedly
at last upon all possible points--save that one unapproachable
one, which both seemed to instinctively avoid alluding to in any
way--Granville began to feel that, murderer or no murderer, Guy
was in all essentials very near indeed to him. Nay, more, he found
himself at times actually arguing the point with his own conscience
that, after all, Guy was a very good sort of fellow; and if ever he
had murdered Montague Nevitt at all--which looked very probable--he
must have murdered him under considerably extenuating circumstances.
There was only one thing about Guy that Granville didn't like when
he got to know him. This homicidal half-brother of his was gentle
as a woman; tender, kindhearted, truthful, affectionate; a gentleman
to the core, and a jolly good fellow into the bargain; but--there's
always a but--he was a terrible money-grubber! Even there in the
lost heart of Africa, at such a distance from home, with so little
chance of ever making any use of his hoarded wealth, the fellow
used to hunt up those wretched small stones, and wear them night
and day in a belt round his waist, as if he really loved them for
their own mere sakes--dirty high-priced little baubles! Granville,
for his part, couldn't bear to see such ingrained love of pelf. It
was miserable; it was mercenary.
To be sure, he himself hunted diamonds every day of his life, just
as hard as Guy did; there was nothing else to do in this detestable
place, and a man MUST find something to turn his idle hands to.
Also he carried them, like Guy, bound up in a girdle round his own
waist; it was a pity they should be lost, if ever he should chance
to get away safe in the end to England. But then, don't you see,
the cases were so different. Guy hoarded up his diamonds for mere
wretched gain; whereas Granville valued his (he said to himself
often) not for the mere worth in money of those shimmering little
trinkets, but for his mother's sake, and Gwendoline's, and the
credit of the family. He wanted Lady Emily to see her son filling
the place in the world she had always looked forward with hope to
his filling; and, by Heaven's help, he thought, he could still fill
it. He couldn't marry Gwendoline on a beggar's pittance; and, by
Heaven's help, he hoped still to be able to marry her.
Guy, on the other hand, found himself almost equally surprised
in turn at the rapid way he grew really to be fond of Granville
Kelmscott. Though Kelmscott knew, as he thought, the terrible secret
of his half-unconscious crime--for he could feel now how completely
he had acted under Montague Nevitt's compelling influence--Guy
was aware before long of such a profound and deep-seated sympathy
existing between them, that he became exceedingly attached in time
to his friendly fellow-prisoner. In spite of the one barrier they
could never break down, he spoke freely by degrees to Granville of
everything else in his whole life; and Granville in return spoke to
him just as freely. A good fellow, Granville, when you got to know
him. There was only a single trait in his character Guy couldn't
endure; and that was his ingrained love of money-grubbing. For the
way the man pounced down upon those dirty little stones, when he
saw them in the mud, and hoarded them up in his belt, and seemed
prepared to defend them with his very life-blood, Guy couldn't
conceal from himself-the fact that he fairly despised him. Such
vulgar, common-place, unredeemed love of pelf! Such mere bourgeois
avarice! Of what use could those wretched pebbles be to him here
in the dusty plains of far inland Africa?
Guy himself kept close count of his finds, to be sure; but then,
the cases, don't you see, were so different! HE wanted his diamonds
to discharge the great debt of his life to Cyril, and to appear an
honest man, rehabilitated once more, before the brother he had so
deeply wronged and humiliated. Whereas Granville Kelmscott, a rich
man's son, and the heir to a great estate beyond the dreams of
avarice--that HE should have come risking his life in these savage
wilds for mere increase of superfluous wealth, why, it was simply
So eighteen months wore away, in mutual friendship, tempered to a
certain degree by mutual contempt, and little chance of escape came
to the captives in Barolong land.
At last, as the second winter came round once more, for two or
three weeks the Englishmen in their huts began to perceive that
much bustle and confusion was going on all around in King Khatsua's
dominions. Preparations for a war on a considerable scale were
clearly taking place. Men mustered daily on the dusty plain with
firearms and assegais. Much pomb was drunk; many palavers took
place; a constant drumming of gongs and tom-toms disturbed their ears
by day and by night. The Englishmen concluded some big marauding
expedition was in contemplation. And they were quite right.
King Khatsua was about to concentrate his forces for an attack on
a neighbouring black monarch, as powerful and perhaps as cruel as
himself, Montisive of the Bush Veldt.
Slowly the preparations went on all around. Then the great day came
at last, and King Khatsua set forth on his mighty campaign, to the
sound of big drums and the blare of native trumpets.
When the warriors had marched out of the villages on their way
northward to the war, Guy saw the two prisoners' chance of escape
had arrived in earnest. They were guarded as usual, of course;
but not so strictly as before; and during the night, in particular,
Guy noticed with pleasure, little watch was now kept upon them. The
savage, indeed, can't hold two ideas in his head at once. If he's
making war on his neighbour on one side, he has no room left to
think of guarding his prisoners on the other.
"To-night," Guy said, one evening, as they sat together in their
hut, over their native supper of mealie cakes and springbok venison,
"we must make a bold stroke. We must creep out of the kraal as
well as we can, and go for the sea westward, through Namaqua land
to Angra Pequena."
"Westward?" Granville answered, very dubiously. "But why westward,
Waring? Surely our shortest way to the coast is down to Kimberley
and so on to the Cape. It'll take us weeks and weeks to reach the
sea, won't it, by way of Namaqua land?"
"No matter for that," Guy replied, with confidence. He knew the map
pretty well, and had thought it all over. "As soon as the Barolong
miss us in the morning, they'll naturally think we've gone south,
as you say, towards our own people. So they'll pursue us in that
direction and try to take us; and if they were to catch us after
we'd once run away, you may be sure they'd kill us as soon as look
at us. But it would never occur to them, don't you see, we were
going away west. They won't follow us that way. So west we'll go,
and strike out for the sea, as I say, at Angra Pequena."
They sat up through the night discussing plans low to themselves
in the dark, till nearly two in the morning. Then, when all was
silent around, and the Barolong slept, they stole quietly out, and
began their long march across the country to westward. Each man
had his diamonds tied tightly round his waist, and his revolver
at his belt. They were prepared to face every unknown danger.
Crawling past the native huts with very cautious steps, they
made for the open, and emerged from the village on to the heights
that bounded the valley of the Lugura. They had proceeded in this
direction for more than an hour, walking as hard as their legs would
carry them, when the sound of a man running fast, but barefoot,
fell on their ears from behind in a regular pit-a-pat. Guy looked
back in dismay, and saw a naked Barolong just silhouetted against
the pale sky on the top of a long low ridge they had lately crossed
over. At the very same instant Granville raised his revolver and
pointed it at the man, who evidently had not yet perceived them.
With a sudden gesture of horror, Guy knocked down his hand and
prevented his taking aim.
"Don't shoot," he cried, in a voice of surprised dismay and
disapproval. "We mustn't take his life. How do we know he's an
enemy at all? He mayn't be pursuing us."
"Best shoot on spec, anyway," Granville answered, somewhat
discomposed. "All's fair in war. The fellow's after us no doubt.
And, at any rate, if he sees us he may go and report our whereabouts
to the village."
"What? shoot an unarmed man who shows no signs of hostility! Why,
it would be sheer murder," Guy cried, with some horror. "We mustn't
make our retreat on THOSE principles, Kelmscott; it'd be quite
indefensible. I decline to fire except when we're attacked. I
won't be any party, myself, to needless bloodshed."
Granville Kclmscott gazed at him, there in the grey dawn, in
unspeakable surprise. Not shoot at a negro! In such straits, too,
as theirs! And this rebuke had come to him--from the mouth of the
Turn it over as he might, Granville couldn't understand it.
The Barolong ran along on the crest of the ridge, still at the top
of his speed, without seeming to notice them in the gloom of the
valley. Presently, he disappeared over the edge to southward. Guy
was right, after all. He wasn't in pursuit of them. More likely
he was only a runaway slave, taking advantage, like themselves, of
King Khatsua's absence.