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 What's Bred In the Bone 24 Alerter l'administrateur Recommander à un ami Lien de l'article 

What's Bred In the Bone
by
Grant Allen







CHAPTER XXXV.

PERILS BY THE WAY.





Three weeks later, two torn and tattered, half-starved Europeans
sat under a burning South African sun by the dry bed of a shrunken
summer torrent. It was in the depths of Namaqua land, among the
stony Karoo; and the fugitives were straggling, helplessly and
hopelessly, seaward, thirsty and weary, through a half-hostile
country, making their marches as best they could at dead of night
and resting by day where the natives would permit them.

Their commissariat had indeed been a lean and hungry one. Though
they carried many thousand pounds' worth of diamonds about their
persons, they had nothing negotiable with which to buy food or
shelter from the uncivilized Namaquas. Ivory, cloth, and beads were
the currency of the country. No native thereabouts would look for
a moment at their little round nobs of water-worn pebbles. The fame
of the diamond fields hadn't penetrated as yet so far west in the
land as to have reached to the huts of the savage Namaquas.

And now their staying power was almost worn out Granville Kelmscott
lay down on the sandy soil with a wild gesture of despair. All
around were bare rocks and the dry sweltering veldts, covered only
with round stones and red sand and low bushy vegetation.

"Waring," he said feebly, in a very faint voice, "I wish you'd
leave me and go on by yourself. I'm no good any more. I'm only a
drag upon you. This fever's too bad for me to stand much longer.
I can never pull through to the coast alive. I've no energy left,
were it even to try. I'd like to lie down here and die where I sit.
Do go and leave me."

"Never!" Guy answered resolutely. "I'll never desert you, Kelmscott,
while I've a drop of blood left. If I carry you on my back to the
coast, I'll get you there at last, or else we'll both die on the
veldt together."

Granville held his friend's hand in his own fevered fingers as he
might have held a woman's.

"Oh, Waring," he cried once more, in a voice half choked with profound
emotion, "I don't know how to thank you enough for all you've done
for me. You've behaved to me like a brother--like a brother indeed.
It makes me ashamed to think, when I see how unselfish, and good,
and kind you've been--ashamed to think I once distrusted you.
You've been an angel to me all through. Without you, I don't know
how I could ever have lived on through this journey at all. And
I can't bear to feel now I may spoil your retreat--can't bear to
know I'm a drag and burden to you."

"My dear fellow," Guy said, holding the thin and fevered hand very
tenderly in his, "don't talk to me like that. I feel to you every
bit as you feel to me in this matter. I was afraid of you at first,
because I knew you misunderstood me. But the more I've seen of you,
the better we've each of us learned to sympathize with the other.
We've long been friends. I love you now, as you say, like a brother."

Granville hesitated for a moment. Should he out with it or not? Then
at last the whole long-suppressed truth came out with a burst. He
seized his companion's two hands at once in a convulsive grasp.

"That's not surprising either," he said, "after all--for Guy, do
you know, we ARE really brothers!"

Guy gazed at him in astonishment. For a moment he thought his
friend's reason was giving way. Then slowly and gradually he took
it all in.

"ARE really brothers!" he repeated, in a dazed sort of way. "Do
you mean it, Kelmscott? Then my father and Cyril's--"

"Was mine too, Waring. Yes; I couldn't bear to die without telling
you that. And I tell it now to you. You two are the heirs of
the Tilgate estates. And the unknown person who paid six thousand
pounds to Cyril, just before you left England, was your father and
mine--Colonel Henry Kelmscott."

Guy bent over him for a few seconds in speechless surprise. Words
failed him at first. "How do you know all this, Kelmscott?" he said
at last faintly.

Granville told him in as few words as possible--for indeed he was
desperately weak and ill--by what accident he had discovered his
father's secret. But he told him only what he knew himself. For, of
course, he was ignorant as yet of the Colonel's seizure and sudden
death on the very day after they had sailed from England.

Guy listened to it all in profound silence. It was a strange,
and for him a momentous tale. Then he said at last, as Granville
finished, "And you never told me this all these long months,
Kelmscott."

"I always meant to tell you, Guy," his half-brother answered, in
a sudden fit of penitence. "I always meant in the end you and your
brother Cyril should come into your own at Tilgate as you ought.
I was only waiting--"

"Till you'd realized enough to make good some part of your personal
loss," Guy suggested, not unkindly.

"Oh no," Granville answered, flushing up at the suggestion. "I
wasn't waiting for that. Don't think me so mercenary. I was waiting
for YOU, in your turn to extend to ME your own personal confidence.
You know, Guy," he went on, dropping into a still more hushed
and solemn undertone, "I saw an evening paper the night we left
Plymouth--"

"Oh, I know, I know," Guy cried, interrupting him, with a very
pale face. "Don't speak to me of that. I can't bear to think of
it. Kelmscott, I was mad when I did that deed. I wasn't myself. I
acted under somebody else's compulsion and influence. The man had
a sort of hypnotic power over my will, I believe. I couldn't help
doing whatever he ordered me. It was he who suggested it. It was
he that did it. And it's he who was really and truly guilty."

"And who was that man?" Granville Kelmscott asked with some little
curiosity.

"There's no reason I shouldn't tell you," Guy answered, "now we've
once broken the ice; and I'm glad in my heart, I must say, that
we've broken it. For a year and a half, day and night, that barrier
has been raised between us always, and I've longed to get rid of
it. But I was afraid to speak of it to you, and you to me! Well,
the man, if you must know, was Montague Nevitt!"

Granville Kelmscott looked up at him in credulous surprise. But he
was too ill and weak to ask the meaning of this riddle. Montague
Nevitt! What on earth could Waring mean by that? How on earth could
Montague Nevitt have influenced and directed him in assaulting and
murdering Montague Nevitt?

For a long time there was silence. Each brother was thinking his
own thoughts to himself about this double disclosure. At last,
Granville lifted his head and spoke again.

"And you'll go home to England now," he said, "under an assumed
name, I suppose; and arrange with your brother Cyril for him to
claim the Kelmscott estates, and allow you something out of them
in retirement somewhere."

"Oh no," Guy answered manfully. "I'm going home to England now, if
I go at all, under my own proper name that I've always borne, to
repay Cyril in full every penny I owe him, to make what reparation
I can for the wrong I've done, and to give myself up to the police
for trial."

Granville gazed at him, more surprised and more admiring than ever.

"You're a brave man, Waring," he said slowly. "I don't understand
it at all. But I know you're right. And I almost believe you. I
almost believe it was not your fault. I should like to get through
to England after all, if it was only to see you safe out of your
troubles."

Guy looked at him fixedly.

"My dear fellow," he said, in a compassionate tone, "you mustn't
talk any more. You've talked a great deal too much already. I see
a hut, I fancy, over yonder, beside that dark patch of brush. Now,
you must do exactly as I bid you. Don't struggle or kick. Lie as
still as you can. I'll carry you there on my back, and then we'll
see if we can get you anyhow a drop of pure water."






CHAPTER XXXVI.

DESERTED.





That was almost the last thing Granville Kelmscott knew. Some
strange shadowy dreams, to be sure, disturbed the lethargy into which
he fell soon after; but they were intermittent and indefinite. He
was vaguely aware of being lifted with gentle care into somebody's
arms, and of the somebody staggering along with him, not without
considerable difficulty, over the rough stony ground of that South
African plateau. He remembered also, as in a trance, some sound of
angry voices--a loud expostulation--a hasty palaver--a long slow
pause--a gradual sense of reconciliation and friendliness--during
all which, as far as he could recover the circumstances afterwards,
he must have been extended on the earth, with his back propped
against a great ledge of jutting rock, and his head hanging listless
on his sinking breast. Thenceforward all was blank, or just dimly
perceived at long intervals between delirium and unconsciousness.
He was ill for many days, where or how he knew not.

In some half dreamy way, he was aware too, now and again, of strange
voices by his side, strange faces tending him. But they were black
faces, all, and the voices spoke in deep guttural tones, unlike
even the clicks and harsh Bantu jerks with which he had grown
so familiar in eighteen months among the Barolong. This that he
heard now, or seemed to hear in his delirium, like distant sounds
of water, was a wholly different and very much harsher tongue--the
tongue of the Namaquas, in fact, though Granville was far too ill
and too drowsy just then to think of reasoning about it or classifying
it in any way. All he knew for the moment was that sometimes, when
he turned round feebly on his bed of straw, and asked for drink
or help in a faltering voice, no white man appeared to answer
his summons. Black, faces all--black, black, and unfamiliar. Very
intermittently he was conscious of a faint sense of loneliness. He
knew not why. But he thought he could guess. Guy Waring had deserted
him!

At last, one morning, after more days had passed than Granville
could possibly count, all of a sudden, in a wild whirl, he came
to himself again at once, with that instant revulsion of complete
awakening which often occurs at the end of long fits of delirium
in malarious fever. A light burst in upon him with a flash. In
a moment, his brain seemed to clear all at once, and everything
to grow plain as day before him. He raised himself on one wasted
elbow and gazed around him with profound awe. He saw it all now;
he remembered everything, everything.

He was alone, among savages in the far heart of Africa.

He lay on his back, on a heap of fresh straw, in a close and filthy
mud-built hut. Under his aching neck a wooden pillow or prop of
native make supported his head. Two women and a man bent over him
and smiled. Their faces, though black, were far from unkindly.
They were pleased to see him stare about with such meaning in his
eyes. They were friendly, no doubt. They seemed really to take an
interest in their patient's recovery.

But where was Guy Waring? Dead? Dead? Or run away? Had his
half-brother, in this utmost need, then, so basely deserted him?

For some minutes, Granville gazed around him, half dazed, and in
a turmoil of surprise, yet with a vivid passion of acute inquiry.
Now he was once well awake, he must know all immediately. But
how? Who to ask? This was terrible, terrible. He had no means of
intercommunication with the people in the hut. He knew none of their
language, nor they of his. He was utterly alone, among unmitigated
savages.

Meanwhile, the man and the women talked loud among themselves in
their own harsh speech, evidently well pleased and satisfied at
their guest's improvement. With a violent effort, Granville began to
communicate with them in the language of signs which every savage
knows as he knows his native tongue, and in which the two Englishmen
had already made some progress during their stay in Barolong land.

Pointing first to himself, with one hand on his breast, he held
up two fingers before the observant Namaqua, to indicate that at
first there had been a couple of them on the road, both white men.
The latter point he still further elaborated by showing the white
skin on his own bare wrist, and once more holding up the two fingers
demonstratively. The Namaqua nodded. He had seized the point well.
He held up two fingers in return himself; then looked at his own
black wrist and shook his head in dissent--they were not black men;
after which he touched Granville's fair forearm with his hand; yes,
yes, just so; he took it in; two white men.

What had become of the other one? Granville asked in the same fashion,
by looking around him on all sides in dumb show, inquiringly. One
finger only was held up now, pointing about the hut; one hand was
laid upon his own breast to show that a single white man alone
remained. He glanced about him uneasily. What had happened to his
companion?

The Namaqua pointed with his finger to the door of the hut, as much
as to say the other man was gone. He seized every sign at once
with true savage quickness.

Then Granville tried once more. Was his companion dead? Had he been
killed in a fight? Was that the reason of his absence? He lunged
forward with his hand holding an imaginary assegai. He pressed on
upon the foe; he drove it through a body. Then he fell, as if dead,
on the floor, with a groan and a shriek. After which, picking
himself up as well as he was able, and crawling back to his straw,
he proceeded in mute pantomime to bury himself decently.

The Namaqua shook his head again with a laugh of dissent. Oh no;
not like that. It had happened quite otherwise. The missing white
man was well and vigorous, a slap on his own chest sufficiently
indicated that news. He placed his two first fingers in the ground,
astride like legs, and made them walk along fast, one in front
of the other. The white man had gone away. He had gone on foot.
Granville nodded acquiescence. The savage took water in a calabash
and laid it on the floor. Then he walked once more with his fingers,
as if on a long and weary march, to the water's brink. Granville
nodded comprehension again. He understood the signs. The white man
had gone away, alone, on foot--and seaward.

At that instant, with a sudden cry of terror, the invalid's hands
went down to his waist, where he wore the girdle that contained
those precious diamonds--the diamonds that were to be the ransom
of some fraction of Tilgate. An awful sense of desertion broke over
him all at once. He called aloud in his horror. It was too much to
believe. The girdle was gone, and the diamonds with it!

Hypocrite! Hypocrite! Thief! Murderer! Robber! He had trusted that
vile creature, that plausible wretch, in spite of all the horrible
charges he knew against him. And THIS was the sequel of their talk
that day! THIS was how Guy Waring had requited his confidence.

He had stolen the fruits of eighteen months' labour.

Granville turned to the Namaqua, wild with his terrible loss, and
pointed angrily to his loins, where the diamonds were not. The
savage nodded; looked wise and shook his head; pretended to gird
himself round the waist with a cloth; then went over to Granville,
who lay still in the straw, undid an imaginary belt, with deliberate
care, tied it round his own body above the other one, with every
appearance of prudence and forethought, counted the small stones
in it one by one, in his hand, to the exact number, with grotesque
fidelity, and finally set his fingers to walk a second time at a
rapid pace, in the direction of the calabash which represented the
ocean.

Granville fell back on his wooden pillow with a horrible groan of
awakened distrust. The man had gone off, that was clear, and had
stolen his diamonds That is what comes of intrusting your life and
property to a discovered murderer. How could he ever have been such
a fool? He would never forgive himself.

The desertion itself was bad enough in all conscience; but it was
as nothing at all in Granville's mind to the wickedness of the
robbery.

He might have known it, of course. How that fellow toiled and moiled
and gloated over his wretched diamonds! How little he seemed to
think of the stain of blood on his hands, and how much of the mere
chance of making filthy lucre! Pah! Pah! it was pitiable. The man's
whole mind was distorted by a hideous fungoid growth--the love of
gain, which is the root of all evil. For a few miserable stones,
he would plunder his own brother, lying helpless and ill in that
African hut, and make off with the booty himself, saving his own
skin, seaward.

If it hadn't been for the unrequited kindness of these mere savage
Namaquas, Granville cried to himself in his bitterness, he might
have died of want in the open desert. And now he would go down to
the coast, after all, a ruined man, penniless and friendless. It
was a hard thought indeed for a Kelmscott to think he should have
been abandoned and robbed by his own half-brother, and should owe
his life now to a heathen African. The tender mercies of a naked
barbarian in a mud-built hut were better than the false friendship
of his father's son, the true heir of Tilgate.

It was miserable! pitiable! The shock of that discovery threw
Granville back once more into a profound fever. For several hours
he relapsed into delirium. And the worst of it was, the negroes
wouldn't let him die quietly in his own plain way. In the midst of
it all, he was dimly aware of a dose thrust down his throat. It
was the Namaqua administering him a pill--some nauseous native
decoction, no doubt--which tasted as if it were made of stiff white
paper.

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