[from 'The Manxman' 1894]


AT that moment day was breaking over the plains of the Transvaal. The bare Veldt was opening out as the darkness receded, depth on depth, like the surface of an unbroken sea. Not a bush, not a path, only a few log-houses at long distances and wooden beacons like gibbets to define the Boer farms. No sound in the transparent air, no cloud in the unveiling sky; just the night creeping off in silence as if in fear of awakening the sleeping morning.

Across the soulless immensity a covered waggon toiled along with four horses rattling their link chains, and a lad sideways on the shaft dangling his legs, twiddling the rope reins and whistling. Insidek the waggon, under a little window with its bit of muslin curtain, a man lay in the agony of a bullet-wound in his side, and an old Boer and a woman stood beside him. He was lying hard on the place of his pain. and rambling in delirium.

" See, boys ! Don't you see them ?"

" See what, my lad ?" said the Boer simply, and he looked through the waggon window.

" There's the head-gear of the mines. Look! the iron roofs are glittering. And yonder's the mine tailings. We'll be back in a jiffy. A taste of the whip, boys, and away ! " Untouched by visions, the old Boer could see nothing. "What does he see, wife, think you ?i"

" What can he see, stupid, with his face in the pillow like that ?" With the rushing of blood in his ears the sick man called out again

" Listen ! Don't you hear it? That's the noise of the batteries.

Whip up, and away ! Away! " And he tore at the fringe of the blanket covering him with his unconscious fingers.

" Poor boy! be's eager to get to the coast. But will he live to cover another morgen, think You?"

" God knows, Jan-God only knows." .

And the Veldt was very wide, and the sea and its ships were far away, and over the weary stretch of grass, and rock, and sand, there was nothing on the horizon between desolate land and dominating sky but a waste looking like a chaos of purple and green, where no bird ever sang and no man ever lived, and God Himself was not.

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