|Chapter Title||A DEMAND'S WIFE AND AB ORPHAN.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Freebench. A Tale of South African Life|
A TALE OF SOUTH AFRICAN LIFE.
CHAPTER XXXI. A DEMAND'S WIFB AND AB ORPHAN.
BY COFIA FAMDI, S.C.L. (Author of" Twelve True Tales of the Laic")
Arriving as it did so soon after the proclamation, Harry's letter seemed only come to confirm the fears which the proclamation itself and Smilej'a hints had engendered in Phyllis's mind. She could not keep in view all that Harry was going through for her sake and for his own. She thought only of the effect of the news upon herself. She had of course told Smiley of her husband's letter; bat had received little consolation from the unctuous sigh, which was his only response. : I hardly like," said Smiley, as be visited her one evening," to lay before you all the news we receive about your husband's corps. But the Gold Fields' Mercury lays many very serious charges against this Yon Scblickmann, and so does the Pilgrim's Beat Correspondent of the Natal Witness. Killing women and firing on flags of truce seem to count among his minor atrocities, and he contemplated a march to Pilgrim's Best to recruit ali the diggers under the Burgher law and to rob the brancb of the Cape Commercial Bank there, where all their savings are deposited. Fortunately, however, the gold will be removed in time." Oh, my poor husband!" exclaimed Phyllis. "Iam afraid he ha« been sadly deceived," said Smiley with a sigh. " Here are the papers. I should wish you to read them for yourself. Perhaps I take too despondent a view. They are ouly lent to me, and I will call for them in a day or two, when, perhaps, you may be able to suggest something." Poor Phyllis diied her eyes to read the papers, bat these eyes filled again with tears as she read of the poor Kafir women who were shot while working iq their mealy gardens by the''filibusters," for tbat was the newspaper name for Von Schlickmanu's corps. She read of a flag of truce which came from Sekukuni's stronghold being fired upon by the orders of the German brigand, and the tale was said to come fresh from a deceived recruit whose seldierly soul shivered with abhorreuce at so dastardly a deed. But she did not read, as was the fact, that the Kafir women who were shot had been sent out to gather food for the garrison of a beleaguered fastnes*, or that the flag of trace was merely a cover for a reconnaissance, and was only fired upon after notice that all future flags of truce would be so dealt with. That her husband had, however innocently, joined a gang of bandits was now plain to Phyllis, and she even felt herself a participator in his guilt by having accepted her share of his first month's pay. Exiled from home by reason of a stepmother, married to a brigand, with means which would Lot last her another fortnight, and with no effective guidance to rely upon except tbat of a mac who had been denounced as a rascal—surely no one was ever so wretched! So she reflected as she sat in the verandah at the Faircrafts. But, alas, there were greater misfortunes destined to weigh down that head of curls. Two guns were fired from the fort. The English mail was in, and the faithful Tambooti went for the letters. In half an hour he brought her one with a black edge. It was from her stepmother, and dated from Earlstowe. I will not reproduce it verbatim. Phyllis's father was dead, and her " affectionate mother—Margaret Warden"—asked for the sympathy of her stepchild in so deep an affliction". The writer did not wish to mingle any mention of matters of business with an announcement which was so painful to her to send, and so she would only say that _ her beloved husband died without a will—which indeed was unnecessary, as the personal estate was small—but left a few verbal
directions in favour of hi8 ouly child, which, when things came to be arranged, would be duly respected by his widow; and then came the signature, which, at the very opening of the letter, had excited a loathing in the breast of its recipient. Phyllis sat there in the verandah with the letter crumpled up in her hand and Tambooti stood watching her at a distance, and wonderiug what the white men could put into their papers tbat could be BO disagreeable. Just then, by pure accident, Smiley came by. He really had not thought of calling, though the hour would not have been strange in such a climate ; but was bent on other business. The scene before him, however, dstermined him to enter. "I am glad to see you, Mr. Smiley," said Phyllis, bursting into tears; " my father is dead. Here IB my stepmother's letter." Smiley took the letter respectfully and read it carefully through. " Died intestate," said he to himself, as he held the letter before him. " Fortune favours the brave, and they who wait shall surely win. If only her husband now were dead too" He sank back into a chair beside her and gazed into space with the letter in his hand. " I always liked the old gentleman," he said ; " he was an amiable man and very kind to me. Really, Mrs. Holroyd," he went on, turning to Phyllis, " I have never known any one so feifticted as yourself; and to think of one so young, I had almost said so beautiful, the victim of the coldness and neglect of others and living unfriended in this forlorn corner of the world." " I reel it very hard," said Phyllis. " I would never have left but for that woman." " But for ' that woman,' my dear Mrs. Holroyd, I might have been the happiest man in the world." Phyllis started. " Forgive me for thinking of it in the excitement cf the moment; but there are some feelings which cannot always be repressed, and when.I reflect how different my own fate might have been" And here Smiley buried his face in his hands " My dear Madam," he said, rising after a few moments," I know your circumstances. Nothing has been sent you in that letter. Fortune, I am thankful to say, has been kinder to me of late than formerly, and what little I possess is now— as it ever has been—at the disposal ot a lady whom I have always respected." And, as Smiley took his farewell, Phyllis answered timidly, "Thank you, Mr. Smiley, you have always been a friend." And Smilev walked away down the now dark street, and Tambooti, with his naked and noise less feet, followed him a little distance. Bat if Tambooti had worn hobnailed boots it would not have disturbed the good-humoured medita tion of the gentleman whom Fortune had s&, lately favoured. " Fortune favoured me !" he said to himself; " by Jove she has, although I shall soon be in debt all over the place. However, this is a speculation which requires attention and must receive it at any risk. He died intestate. She is his only child. Just as it should be. If only she were a widow now! However, I had better exhibit my disinterestedness before she becomes one. The chances are that Sekukuni's men will kill Holroyd on one of his journeys, or be will perish in some attack on the enemy, or perhaps the blackfellows will bnrn the fort and kill all hands Luke Smiley, luck is in your way, and luck must be backed. I'll go and borrow some money." Phyllis went in and told her news to the Faircrafts, mother and daughter, and they did their best to console and encourage her, and said bow fortunate it was that, in her helpless and deserted condition, she had such a friend as Mr. Smiley. They only wished, they said, that
Mr. Smiley, who ™ so kind-hearted, had been possessed of bis former wealth, but haWM so clever in business that he would no doubt soon make his way to a fortune, and then he would be certain to render her valuable aid. Phyllis went to bed with an aching heart, thinking"of the past and of the present, of her home and of her father, of her stepmother, and her husband. A dim idea broke into her mind occasionally that she had no right to receive any aid from Smiley; but tier prevailing feeling was one of utter wretchedness, which smunped for tbe time every other consideration.