“Then, Aunt, you must climb the tree and pluck it.”
“And what if by that time it is in another man’s pouch?”
“Then, Aunt,” he answered with one of those dark smiles that turned my blood cold, “then, Aunt, the best thing which you can do is to kill the other man and take it out, for after that the fruit will taste all the sweeter.”
“Get you gone, Swart Piet,” I said in anger, “for no man who talks thus shall stay in my house, and it is very well for you that neither my husband nor Ralph Kenzie are here to put you out of it.”
“Well,” he answered, “they are not here, are they? And as for your house, it is a pretty place, but I only seek one thing in it, and that is not built into the walls. I thank you for your hospitality, Aunt, and now, good-day to you.”
“Suzanne!” I called, “Suzanne!” for I thought that she was in her chamber; but the girl, knowing that Piet van Vooren was here, had slipped out, and of this he was aware. He knew, moreover, where she had gone, for I think that one of his Kaffir servants was watching outside and told him, and thither he followed her and made love to her.
In the end—for he would not be put off—he asked her for a kiss, whereat she grew angry. Then, for he was no shy wooer, he tried to take it by force; but she was strong and active and slipped from him. Instead of being ashamed, he only laughed after his uncanny fashion, and said:
“Well, missy, you have the best of me now, but I shall win that kiss yet. Oh! I know all about it; you love the English castaway, don’t you? But there, a woman can love many men in her life, and when one is dead another will serve her turn.”
“What do you mean, myn Heer van Vooren?” asked Suzanne, afraid.
“Mean? Nothing, but I shall win that kiss yet, yes, and before very long.”
HOW SUZANNE SAVED SIHAMBA
Now in a valley of the hills, something over an hour’s ride from the farm, and not far from the road that ran to Swart Piet’s place, lived the little Kaffir witch-doctoress, Sihamba Ngenyanga. This woman did not belong to any of the Transkei or neighbouring tribes, but had drifted down from the North; indeed, she was of Swazi or some such blood, though why she left her own people we did not know at that time. In appearance Sihamba was very strange, for, although healthy, perfectly shaped and copper-coloured rather than black, she was no taller than a child of twelve years old—a thing that made many people believe that she was a bush woman, which she most certainly was not. For a Kaffir also she was pretty, having fine small features, beautiful white teeth, and a fringe of wavy black hair that stood out stiffly round her head something after the fashion of the gold plates which the saints wear in the pictures in our old Bible.