“Well,” she said, “come, and when my father returns we will settle how it shall be.”
THE OATH OF SIHAMBA
Suzanne came home and told me her story, and when I heard it I was like a mad woman; indeed, it would have gone ill with Swart Piet’s eyes and hair if I could have fallen in with him that night.
“Wait till your father returns, girl,” I said.
“Yes, mother,” she answered, “I wait for him—and Ralph.”
“What is to be done with the little doctoress, Sihamba?” I asked, adding, “I do not like such people about the place.”
“Let her bide also till the men come back, mother,” she answered, “and then they will see to it. Meanwhile there is an empty hut down by the cattle kraal where she can live.”
So Sihamba stopped on and became a body servant to Suzanne, the best I ever saw, though she would do no other work save that of attending to sick animals.
Ten days afterwards Jan and Ralph returned safe and sound, leaving some Kaffirs in charge of the cattle in the bush-veldt. Very glad we were to see them, since, putting everything else aside, it was lonely work for two women upon the place with no neighbour at hand, and in those days to be lonely meant to be in danger.
When we were together Jan’s first question to me was:
“Have those Englishmen been here?”
“They have been here,” I answered, “and they have gone away.”
Jan asked me nothing more of the matter, for he did not wish to know what had passed between us. Only he looked at me queerly, and, as I think, thought the worse of me afterwards, for he found out that Suzanne and I had quarrelled about the song I sang in the ears of the Englishmen, and what that song was he could guess very well. Yes, yes, although he had been a party to the fraud, in his heart Jan put all the blame of it upon me, for that is the way of men who are mean, and always love to say “The woman tempted me,” a vile habit which has come down to them with their blood.
Meanwhile another talk was passing between Ralph and Suzanne. They had rushed to meet each other like two separated colts bred in the same meadow, but when they came together it was different. Ralph put out his arms to embrace her, but she pushed him back and said, “No, not until we have spoken together.”
“This is a cold greeting,” said Ralph, amazed and trembling, for he feared lest Suzanne should have changed her mind as to their marriage. “What is it that you have to tell me? Speak on, quickly.”
“Two things, Ralph,” she answered, and taking the least of them first, she plunged straightway into a full account of the coming of the Englishmen, of all that had passed then, and of her quarrel with me upon the matter.
“And now, Ralph,” she ended, “you will understand that you have been cheated of your birthright, and this I think it just that you should know, so that, if you will, you may change your mind about staying here, for there is yet time, and follow these Englishmen to wherever it is they have gone, to claim from them your heritage.”