That night as we lay abed I talked with Jan, saying:
“Husband, I think there are clouds upon our sky, which for many years has been so blue. Trouble gathers round us because of the beauty of Suzanne, and I fear Swart Piet, for he is not a man to be stopped by a trifle. Now, Ralph loves Suzanne and Suzanne loves Ralph, and, though they are young, they are man and woman full grown, able to keep a house and bear its burdens. Why then should they not marry with as little delay as may be, for when once they are wed Van Vooren will cease from troubling them, knowing his suit to be hopeless?”
“As you will, wife, as you will,” Jan answered, somewhat sharply, “but I doubt if we shall get rid of our danger thus, for with you I think that the tide of our lives has turned, and that it sets towards sorrow. Ay,” he went on, sitting up in the bed, “and I will tell you when it turned; it turned upon the day that you lied to the Englishmen.”
A FIGHT AND A SHOT
Early the next morning I sought for Ralph to speak to him on the matter of his marriage, which, to tell truth, I longed to see safely accomplished. But I could not find him anywhere, or learn where he had gone, though one of the slaves told me that they had seen him mount his horse at the stable.
I went down to the cattle kraal to look if he were there, and as I returned, I saw Sihamba seated by the door of her hut engaged in combing her hair and powdering it with the shining blue dust.
“Greeting, Mother of Swallow,” she said. “Whom do you seek?”
“You know well,” I answered.
“Yes, I know well. At the break of dawn he rode over yonder rise.”
“Why?” I asked.
“How can I tell why? But Swart Piet lives out yonder.”
“Had he his gun with him?” I asked again and anxiously.
“No, there was nothing but a sjambock, a very thick sjambock, in his hand.”
Then I went back to the house with a heavy heart, for I was sure that Ralph had gone to seek Piet van Vooren, though I said nothing of it to the others. So it proved indeed. Ralph had sworn to Suzanne that he would not try to kill Piet, but here his oath ended, and therefore he felt himself free to beat him if he could find him, for he was altogether mad with hate of the man. Now he knew that when he was at home it was Swart Piet’s habit to ride of a morning, accompanied by one Kaffir only, to visit a certain valley where he kept a large number of sheep. Thither Ralph made his way, and when he reached the place he saw that, although it was time for them to be feeding, the sheep were still in their kraal, baa-ing, stamping, and trying to climb the gate, for they were hungry to get at the green grass.
“So,” thought Ralph, “Swart Piet means to count the flock out himself this morning. He will be here presently.”