it was lucky for us that this did not happen three hours

rain and cloudinternet2023-12-07 13:07:51 75139 3962

I reasoned the whole thing out very clearly, and I saw no gap in my logic. I cannot describe how that scribble had heartened me. I felt no more the crushing isolation of yesterday. There were others beside me in the secret. Help must be on the way, and the letter was the first tidings.

it was lucky for us that this did not happen three hours

But how near? - that was the question; and it occurred to me for the first time to look at the postmark. I went back to the store and got the envelope out of the waste-paper basket. The postmark was certainly not Durban. The stamp was a Cape Colony one, and of the mark I could only read three letters, T. R. S. This was no sort of clue, and I turned the thing over, completely baffled. Then I noticed that there was no mark of the post town of delivery. Our letters to Blaauwildebeestefontein came through Pietersdorp and bore that mark. I compared the envelope with others. They all had a circle, and 'Pietersdorp' in broad black letters. But this envelope had nothing except the stamp.

it was lucky for us that this did not happen three hours

I was still slow at detective work, and it was some minutes before the explanation flashed on me. The letter had never been posted at all. The stamp was a fake, and had been borrowed from an old envelope. There was only one way in which it could have come. It must have been put in the letter- bag while the postman was on his way from Pietersdorp. My unknown friend must therefore be somewhere within eighty miles of me. I hurried off to look for the post-runner, but he had started back an hour before. There was nothing for it but to wait on the coming of the unknown.

it was lucky for us that this did not happen three hours

That afternoon I again took Mr Wardlaw for a walk. It is an ingrained habit of mine that I never tell anyone more of a business than is practically necessary. For months I had kept all my knowledge to myself, and breathed not a word to a soul. But I thought it my duty to tell Wardlaw about the letter, to let him see that we were not forgotten. I am afraid it did not encourage his mind. Occult messages seemed to him only the last proof of a deadly danger encompassing us, and I could not shake his opinion.

We took the same road to the crown of the Berg, and I was confirmed in my suspicion that the woods were empty and the watchers gone. The place was as deserted as the bush at Umvelos'. When we reached the summit about sunset we waited anxiously for the sound of drums. It came, as we expected, louder and more menacing than before. Wardlaw stood pinching my arm as the great tattoo swept down the escarpment, and died away in the far mountains beyond the Olifants, Yet it no longer seemed to be a wall of sound, shutting us out from our kindred in the West. A message had pierced the wall. If the blesbok were changing ground, I believed that the hunters were calling out their hounds and getting ready for the chase.


It froze in the night, harder than was common on the Berg even in winter, and as I crossed the road next morning it was covered with rime. All my fears had gone, and my mind was strung high with expectation. Five pencilled words may seem a small thing to build hope on, but it was enough for me, and I went about my work in the store with a reasonably light heart. One of the first things I did was to take stock of our armoury. There were five sporting Mausers of a cheap make, one Mauser pistol, a Lee-Speed carbine, and a little nickel- plated revolver. There was also Japp's shot-gun, an old hammered breech-loader, as well as the gun I had brought out with me. There was a good supply of cartridges, including a stock for a .400 express which could not be found. I pocketed the revolver, and searched till I discovered a good sheath-knife. If fighting was in prospect I might as well look to my arms.

All the morning I sat among flour and sugar possessing my soul in as much patience as I could command. Nothing came down the white road from the west. The sun melted the rime; the flies came out and buzzed in the window; Japp got himself out of bed, brewed strong coffee, and went back to his slumbers. Presently it was dinner-time, and I went over to a silent meal with Wardlaw. When I returned I must have fallen asleep over a pipe, for the next thing I knew I was blinking drowsily at the patch of sun in the door, and listening for footsteps. In the dead stillness of the afternoon I thought I could discern a shuffling in the dust. I got up and looked out, and there, sure enough, was some one coming down the road.



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