Story of an African Farm | Olive Schreiner | Action & Adventure Fiction, General Fiction | 6/6

chapter 2 part 12 of the story of an African farm by olive Shriner this LibriVox recording is in the public domain read by Sally McConnell in Betty's Bay South Africa in April 2010 Gregory's womanhood slowly over the flat came a cart on the back seat said Gregory his arms folded his head drawn over his eyes a calf a boy sat on the front seat driving and at his feet set dos who now and again lifted his nose and eyes above the level of the splash board to look at the surrounding country and then with an exceedingly knowing wink of his left eye turned to his companions thereby intimating that he clearly perceived his whereabouts no one noticed the car coming Waldo who was at work at his carpenter's table in the wagon house saw nothing till chancing to look down he perceived dos standing before him the legs trembling the little nose wrinkled and a series of short suffocating box giving utterance to his joy at reunion in whose eyes had ached with looking out across the plain was now at work in a backroom and knew nothing till looking up she saw Gregory with his straw hat and blue eyes standing in the doorway he greeted her quietly hung his hat up in its old place behind the door and for any change in his manner or appearance he might have been gone only the day before to fetch letters from the town only his beard was gone and his face was grown thinner he took off his leather gaiters said the afternoon was hot on the roads dusty and asked for some tea they talked of wool and the cattle and the sheep and M gave him the pile of litters that had come for him during the months of absence but of the thing that layered their hearts neither said anything then he went up to look at the cross and at supper M gave him cupcakes and coffee they talked about the servants and then ate their meal in quiet she asked no questions when it was ended Gregory went into the front room and lay in the dark on the sofa do you not want a light asked M venturing to look no he answered then presently called to her come and sit here I want to talk to you she came and sat on a footstool near him do you wish to hear anything he asked she was.but yes if it does not hurt you what difference does it make to me he said if I talk or I'm silent is there any change yet he lay quiet for a long time the light through the open door showed him to her where he lay with his arms thrown across his eyes at last he spoke perhaps it was a relief to him to speak to bloom from 10:00 in the free state to which through an agent he could trace them Gregory had gone at the hotel where Lindell and her stranger had stayed he put up he was shown the very room in which they had slept the colored boy who had driven them to the next town told him in which house they had bordered and Gregory went on in that town he found there had lift the cart and brought a spider and four greys and Gregory's heart rejoiced now indeed it would be easy to trace their course and he turned his tips northwards at the farmhouse where he stopped the worms and hunters remembered clearly the spider with its four gray horses at one place the boy wife told how the tall blue-eyed Englishman had bought milk and asked the way to the next farm at the next farm the Englishman had bought a bunch of flowers and given half a crown for them to the little girl it was quite true the boor mother had made her get it out of the box and show it at the next place they had slipped yeah they told him that the great Bulldog who hated all strangers had walked in in the evening and laid its head on the lady's lap so at every place he heard something and traced them step by step at one distillate for him the boy had a good deal to tell the lady had said she liked a wagon that stood before the door without asking the price the Englishman had offered a hundred and fifty pounds for the old thing and bought oxen worth ten pounds for sixteen the Dutchmen chuckled for he had the salt rims money in the box under his bed Grigory laughed too in silence he could not lose sight of them now sir slowly would they have to move with that cumbrous ox wagon yet when that evening came and he reached a little wayside in no one could tell him anything of the travelers the master a surly creature half stupid with boy brandy sat on the bench before the door smirking Gregory sat beside him questioning but he smoked on he remembered nothing of such strangers how should he know who had been here three months and months before he smoked on Grigory very weary tried to awake his memory said that the lady he was seeking for was very beautiful had a little mouth and tiny very tiny feet the man only smoked honest sullenly is at first what were little furry little mouths and feet to him but his daughter leaned out in the window above she was dirty and lazy and liked to Lowell there when travelers came to hear the men talk but she had a soft heart presently a hand came out of the window and a pair of velvet slippers touched his shoulder tiny slippers with black flowers he pulled them out of her hand only one woman's feet had worn them he knew that lift air last summer by a lady said the girl might be the one you're looking for never saw any feet so small Gregory rose and questioned her they might have come in a wagon and spider she could not tell but the gentleman was very handsome tall lovely figure blue eyes wore gloves always when he went out an English officer perhaps now africana certainly Gregory stopped her the lady well she was pretty rather the girl said very cold dull air silent they stayed for it might have been five days slipped in the wing over against the stop quarrel sometimes she thought the lady she had seen everything when she went in to wait one day the gentleman touched her hair she drew back from him as though his fingers poisoned her went to the other end of the room if he came to sit near her walked out alone cold why for such a handsome husband the girl thought she evidently pitied him he was such a beautiful man they went away early one morning or in which way the girl could not tell Gregory inquired of the servants but nothing more was to be learnt so the next morning he settled his horse and went on at the farms he came to the good old ones and Tenace asked him to have coffee and the little shoeless children peeped out at the stranger from behind ovens and Gables but no one had seen what he asked for this way and that he rode to pick up the thread he had dropped but the spider in the wagon the little lady and the handsome gentleman no one had seen in the towns he fairly at works once indeed hope came to him on the stoop of an Hotel at which he stayed the night in a certain little village there walked a gentleman grave and kindly looking it was not hard to open conversation with him about the weather and then had he ever seen such and such people a gentleman and a lady a spider and wagon arrived at that place the kindly gentleman shook his head what was the lady like he inquired Gregory painted hair like silk and floss small mouths under lip very full and pink upper lip pink but very thin and curled there were four white spots on the nail of her right hand forefinger and her eyebrows were very delicately curved the gentleman looked thoughtful as trying to remember yes and a rosebud tinge in the cheeks hands like lilies and perfectly so Rafic smile that is she that is she cried Gregory who else could it be he asked where she had gone to the gentleman most thoughtfully stroked his beard he would try to remember were not her ears yea such a violent fit of coughing seized him that he ran away into the house and ill-fed o'clock and a dirty bomb and standing in the doorway laughed aloud Gregory wondered if they could be laughing at the gentleman's cough and then he heard someone laughing in the room into which the gentleman had gone he must follow him and try to learn more but he soon found there was nothing more to be learned there poor Gregory Edwards and forwards backwards and forwards from the dirty little hotel where he had dropped the thread to this farm into that road Gregory till his heart was sick and tired that from death spot the wagon might have gone its own way and the spider another was an idea that did not occur to him at last he saw it was no use lingering in that neighborhood and pressed on one day coming to a little town his horses knocked up and he resolved to rest them there the little hotel of the town was a bright and sunny place like the joy of your face of the clean little woman who kept it and who trotted about talking always talking to the customers in the tap room and to the maids in the kitchen and to the passers-by when she could hail them from the windows talking as good-natured women with large mouths and small noses always do in season and out there was a little front parlor in the hotel kept for strangers who wanted to be alone Gregory sat there to eat his breakfast and the landlady dusted the room and talked of the great fans of the darman fields and the badness of maid servants and the shameful conduct of the Dutch parson in that town to the English inhabitants Gregory ate his breakfast and listened to nothing he had asked his one question had had his answer now she might talk on presently a door in the corner opened and a woman came out a Mosin beaker with a red handkerchief twisted round her head she carried in her hand a tray with a slice of toast crumbled fine and a half filled cup of coffee and an egg broken open but not eaten her eye Bini face grinned complacently as she shut the door softly and said good morning you are not going to leave her really ayah are you she said the maid say so but I'm sure you wouldn't do such a thing the Mozambique her grinned husband says I must go home but she hasn't got anyone else and won't have anyone else come now said the landlady I have no time to be sitting always in a sick room not if I was paid anything for it the Mozambique only showed her white teeth good-naturedly for answer and went out and the landlady followed her Gregory glad to be alone watched the sunshine as it came over the in the window and ran up and down on the panel door in the corner the Mosin beaker had closed it loosely behind her and presently something touched it inside it moved a little then it was still then moved again then through the gap a small nose appeared and a yellow ear overlapping one eye then the hole hid obtrude it placed itself critically on one side wrinkled its nose disapprovingly at Gregory and withdrew through the half-open door came a faint scent of vinegar and the room was dark and still presently the landlady came back lift the door open she said bustling to shut it butter dark he will be a darky and never carries a hit on its shoulders like other folks not ill i hope sir she said looking at Gregory when she had shut the bedroom door no said Gregory no the landlady began putting the things together who asked Gregory is in that room glad to have a little innocent piece of gossip to relate and someone willing to hear it the landlady made the most of a little story as she cleared the table six months before a lady had come alone to the hotel in a wagon with only a colored leader and driver eight days after a little baby had been born if Gregory stood and looked out at the window he would see a blue country in the graveyard cursed by it was a little grave the baby was buried there a tiny thing only lived two hours and the mother herself almost went with it after a while she was bitter but one day she got up out of bed dressed herself without saying a word to anyone and went out it was a drizzly day a little time after someone saw her sitting on the wet ground under the blue gum tree with the rain dripping from her hat and sure they went to fetch her but she would not come until she chose when she did she had gone to bed and had not risen again from it never would the doctor said she was very patient poor thing when you went in to ask her how she was she said always bitter or nearly well lay still in the darkened room and never troubled anyone the Mozambique earth took care of her and she would not allow anyone else to touch her would not so much as allow anyone to see her foot uncovered she was strange in many ways but she paid well coughing and now the Mozambique who was going and she would have to take up with someone else landlady prattled on pleasantly and now carried away the tray with the breakfast things when she was gone Gregory leaned his head on his hands but he did not think long before dinner he had written out of the tongue to wear on her eyes a number of transport wagons were out spanned the Dutchman driver of one wondered at the strangers eagerness to free himself of his horses stolen perhaps but it was worth his while to buy them it's so low a price so the horses changed masters and Gregory walked off with his saddlebags slung across his arm once out of sight of the wagons he struck out of the road and walked across the felt the dry flowering grasses waving everywhere about him halfway across the plain he came to a deep gully which the rain torrents had washed out but which was now dry gregory sprang down into its red bed it was a safe place and quiet when he had looked about him he sat down under the shade of an overhanging bank and found himself with his hat for the afternoon was hot and he had walked fast at his feet the dusty ants ran about and the high red bank before him was covered by a network of roots and fibres washed bare by the rains above his head rose the clear blue African sky at his side were the saddlebags full of a woman's clothing Gregory looked up half plaintively into the blue sky meye meye gregory nazianzen rose he said it was also strange he's sitting there in that salute and that upcountry plane strange as the fantastic changing shapes in a summer cloud at last tired out he fell asleep with his head against the bank when he worked the shadow had stretched across the Lewton the Sun was on the edge of the plane now he must be up and doing he drew from his breast-pocket a little six Bernie looking glass and hang it on one of the roofs that stuck out from the bank then he dressed himself in one of the old-fashioned guns and a great pink tout collar then he took out a razor theft by tuft the soft brown beard fell down into the sand and the little ants took it to line their nests with then the glass shared a face surrounded by a frilled cap white as a woman's with a little mouth a very short upper lip and a receding chin presently a rather tall woman's figure was making its way across the felt as it passed a hollowed-out ant heap it knelt down and stuffed in the saddlebag with the man's clothing closing up the anthill with bits of ground to look as natural as possible like a sinner hiding his deed of sin the hider started once and looked around but yet there was no one near save a mere cat who had lifted herself out of her hole and sat on her hind legs watching he did not like that even she should see and when he rose she dived away into her hole then he walked on literally that the dusk might have reached the village streets before he walked there the first house was the Smiths and before they opened all to idle urchins Lord as he hurried up the street in the gathering gloom he heard them laugh long and loudly behind him he glanced round fearing Lea and would almost have fled but that the strange skirts clung about his legs and after all it was only a spark that had alighted on the head of one and not the strange figure they laughed at the door of the hotel stood wide open and the light fell out into the street he knocked and the landlady came she peered up to look for the cot that had brought the traveler but Gregory's heart was brave now he was so near the quiet room he told her he had come with the transport wagons that stood outside the town he had walked in and wanted lodgings for the night it was a deliberate lie glibly told he would have told fifty though the recording angel had stood in the next room with his pin dipped in ink what was it to hear he remembered that she lay there saying always I am bitter the landlady put his supper in the little parlour where he had sat in the morning when it was on the table she sat down in the rocking chair as her fashion was to knit and talk that she might gather news for her customers in the tech room in the white face under the queer deep fringed cap he saw nothing of the mornings traveler the newcomer was communicative she was a nurse by profession she said had come to the Transvaal hearing that good nurses were needed there she had not yet found work the landlady did not perhaps know whether there would be any for her in that town the landlady put down her knitting and smote her fat hands together if it wasn't a very finger of God's providence as though you saw it hanging out of the sky she said here was a lady ill and needing a new nurse that very day and not able to get one to her mind and now well if it wasn't enough to convert all the atheists and freethinkers in the transfer she didn't know then the landlady proceeded to detailed facts I am sure you will suit her she added you were just the kind she has heaps of money to pay you with has everything that money can buy and I got a litter with a chick in it for fifty pounds the other day from someone who says I'm to spend it for her and not to let her know she's asleep now but I'll take you in to look at her the landlady opened the door of the next room and Gregory followed her a table stood near the bed and a lamp burning low stood on it the bed was a great four poster with white curtains and the quilt was made of rich crimson satin but Gregory stood just inside the door with his head bent low and saw no further come nearer I turned the lamp up a bit that you can have a look at her a pretty thing isn't it said the landlady near the foot of the bed was a dent in the crimson quilt and out of it does a small head and bright eyes looked knowingly see how the lips move she's in pain said the landlady then Gregory looked up at what lay on the cushion a little white white face transparent as an Angels with a cloth bound round the forehead and with soft short hair tossed about on the pillow we had to cut it off said the woman touching it with her forefinger soft as silk like a wax dolls but Gregory's heart was bleeding never get up again the doctor says said the landlady Gregory uttered one word in an instant the beautiful eyes opened widely looked around the room and into the dark corners who is here whom do I hear speak Gregory had sunk back behind the curtain the landlady drew at her side and pulled him forward only this lady ma'am a nurse by profession she is willing to stay and take care of you if you can come to terms with her Lindell raised herself on her elbow and cast one keen scrutinizing glance over him have I never seen you before she asked no she fell back wearily perhaps you would like to arrange the terms between yourselves said the landlady here is a chair I will be back presently Gregory sat down with bent head and quick breath she did not speak and lay with half-closed eyes seeming to have forgotten him will you turn the lamp down a little she said at last I cannot bear the light then his heart grew braver in the shadow and he spoke Nursing was to him he said his chosen life's work he wanted no money if she stopped him I take no service for which I do not pay she said what I gave to my last nurse I will give to you if you do not like it you may go and Gregory muttered humbly he would take it afterwards she tried to turn herself he lifted her a shrunken little body he could feel its weakness as he touched his hands were to him glorified for what they had done thank you that's so nice other people hurt me when they touch me she said thank you then after a while she repeated humbly thank you they hurt me so Gregory sat down trembling his little ewe lamb could they hurt her the doctor said of Gregory four days after she is the most experienced nurse I ever came in contact with Gregory standing in the passage heard it and laughed in his heart what need had he of experienced experience teaches us in a millennium what passion teaches us in an hour a kafir studies all his life the discerning of distant sounds but he will never hear my step when my love hears it coming to her window in the dark over the short grass at first Gregory's hot was saw when day by day the body grew lighter and the mouth he fed took less but afterwards he grew accustomed to it and was happy for passion has one cry one only o to touch thee beloved in that quiet room Lindell lay on her bed with the dog at her feet and Gregory sat in his dog corner watching she seldom slipped and through those long long days she would lie watching the round streak of sunlight that came through the knot in the shutter or the mass of lands paw on which the Wardrobe rested what thoughts were in those eyes Gregory wondered he dared not ask sometimes dust where he lay on her feet would dream that they too were in the cart tearing over the felt with the black horses snorting and the wind in their faces and he would start up in his sleep and barked aloud then awaking he would lick his mistress's hand almost remorsefully and slink quietly down into his place Gregory thought she had no pain she never groaned only sometimes when the LAT was near her he thought he could see slight contractions about her lips and eyebrows he slipped on the sofa outside the door one night he thought he heard a sound and opening it softly he looked in she was crying aloud as if she and her pain were alone in the world the light fell on the red quilt and on the little hands that were clasped over her head the wide-open eyes were looking up and the heavy drops fell slowly from them I cannot bear any more not any more she said in a deep voice Oh God God have I not borne in silence have I not endured these long long months but now now oh god I cannot gregory milk in the doorway listening i do not ask for wisdom not human love not work not knowledge not for all things i have longed for she cried only a little freedom from pain only one little hour without pain then i will suffer again she set up and bit the little hand gregory loved he crept away to the front door and stood looking out at the quiet starlight when he came back she was lying in her usual posture the quiet eyes looking at the lands cool he came close to the bed you have much pain tonight he asked her no not much can I do anything for you no nothing she still drew her lips together and motioned with her fingers towards the dog who lay sleeping at her feet Gregory lifted him and laid him at her side she made Gregory turn open the bosom of her nightdress that the dog might put his black muzzle between her breasts she crossed her arms over him Gregory left them lying there together the next day when they asked how she was she answered better someone ought to tell her said the landlady we can't let her soul go into eternity not knowing especially when I don't think it was all right about the child he ought to go and tell her doctor so the little doctor urged on and on went in at last when he came out of the room he shook his fist in the landlady's face next time you have any devil's work to do do it yourself he said and shook his fist in her face again and went waste swearing when Gregory went into the bedroom he only found her moved her body curled up and drawn close to the wall he dared not disturb her at last after a long time she turned bring me food she said I want to eat two eggs and toast and meat two large slices of toast please one during Gregory brought a tray with all that she had asked for sit me up and put it close to me she said I am going to eat it all she tried to draw the things near her with her fingers and rearranged the plates she cut the toast into long strips broke open both eggs put a tiny morsel of bread into her own mouth and fed the dog with pieces of meat put into his jaws with her fingers he's at 12 o'clock yet she said I think I do not generally eat so early put it away please carefully no do not take it away only on the table when the clock strikes twelve I will eat it she lay down trembling after a while she said give me my clothes he looked at her yes I'm going to dress tomorrow I should get up now but it's rather late put them on that chair my colors are in the little box my boots behind the door her eyes followed him intently as he collected the articles one by one and placed them on the chair as she directed put it nearer she said I cannot see it and she lay watching the clothes with her hand under her cheek now open the shutter wide she said I'm going to read the old old turn was again in the sweet voice he obeyed her and opened the shutter and raised her up among the pillows now bring my books to me she said motioning eagerly with her fingers the large book and the reviews and the place I want them all he piled them round her on the bed she drew them greedily closer her eyes very bright but her face as white as a mountain Lilly now the big one off the drawers no you need not help me hold my book she said I can hold it for myself Gregory went back to his corner and for a little time the Restless turning over of leaves was to be heard will you open the window she said almost querulously and throw this book out it is so utterly foolish I thought it was a valuable book but the words are merely strung together they make no sense yes so she said with approval seeing him fling it out into the street I must have been very foolish when I thought that book good then she turned to read and leaned her little elbows resolutely on the great volume and lit her bras this was Shakespeare it must mean something I wish he would take a handkerchief and tire tacker on my head it aches so he had not been long in his seat when he saw drops fall from beneath the hands that shaded the eyes onto the page I am not accustomed to so much light it makes my head swim a little she said go out and close the shutter when he came back she lay shriveled-up among the pillows he heard no sound of weeping but the shoulders shook he darkened the room completely when Gregory went to his sofa that night she told him to wake her early she would be dressed before breakfast nevertheless when morning came she said it was a little cold and lay all day watching her clothes upon the chair still she sent for her oxen in the country they would start on Monday and go down to the colony in the afternoon she told him to open the window wide and draw the bed near to it it was a leaden afternoon the doll rain clouds rested close to the roofs of the houses a militant Street was silent and deserted now and then a gust of wind eddying round caught up the dried leaves whirled them hither and live there under the trees and dropped them again into the gutter then all was quiet she lay looking at presently the bell of the church began to toll and up the village street came a long procession they were carrying an old man to his last resting place she followed them with her eyes till they turned in amongst the trees at the gate who was that she asked an old man he answered a very old man they say he was 94 but his name I do not know she mused awhile looking at with fixed eyes that is why the bell rang so cheerfully she said when they old die it is well they have had their time it is when the young died that the bells weep drops of blood but the old love life he said for it was sweet to hear her speak she raised herself on her elbow they love life they do not want to die she answered but what of it they have had their time they knew that a man's life is threescore years and ten they should have made their plans accordingly but they young she said the young cut down cruelly when they have not seen when they have not known when they have not found it is for them that the bells we blood I heard in the ringing it was an old man when they old died listen to the bell it is laughing it is right it is right he has had his time they cannot ring so for the young she fell back exhausted the hot light died from her eyes and she lay looking out into the street by-and-by stragglers from the funeral began to come back and disappear here and there among the houses then all was quiet and the night began to settle down upon the village street afterwards when the room was almost dark so they could not see each other's faces she said it will rain tonight and moved restlessly on the pillows how terrible when the rain falls down on you he wondered what she meant and they sat on in the still darkening room she moved again will you presently take my cloak the new gray cloak from behind the door and go out with it you will find a little grave at the foot of the tall blue gum tree the water drips off the long pointed leaves you must cover it up with that she moved restlessly as there in pain grigory assented and there was silence again it was the first time she had ever spoken of her child it was so small she said it lived such a little while only three hours they laid it close by me but I never saw it I could feel it by me she waited its feet was so cold I took them in my hand to make them warm and my hand closed right over them they were so little there was an uneven trembling in the voice it crept close to me it wanted to drink it wanted to be warm she hardened herself I did not love it it's father was not my prince I did not care for it that it was so little she moved her hand they might have kissed it one of them before they put it in it never did anyone harm in all its little life they might have kissed it one of them Gregory felt that someone was sobbing in the room later on in the evening when the shutter was closed in the lamp lighted and the raindrops beat on the roof he took the cloak from behind the door and went away with it on his way back he called at the village post office and brought back a litter in the hall he stood reading the address how could he fail to know whose hand had written it had he not long ago studied those characters on the torn fragments of paper in the parlour a burning pain was at Gregory's heart if now no the last one should come should step in between he carried the litter into the bedroom and gave it to her bring the lamp nearer she said when she had read it she asked for her disk then Gregory sat down in the lamplight on the other side of the curtain and heard the pencil move on the paper when he looked round the curtain he saw she was lying on the pillow musing the open letter lay at her side she glanced at it with soft eyes the man with that languid eyelids must have been strangely moved before his hand sit down those words let me come back to you my darling let me put my hand around you and guard you from the world as my wife they shall never touch you I have learnt to love you more wisely more tenderly than of old you shall have perfect freedom Lindell grand little woman for your own sake be my wife why did you send that money back to me you are cruel to me it is not rightly done she rolled the little red pencil softly between her fingers and her face grew very soft yet it cannot be she read I thank you much for the love you have shown me but I cannot listen you will call me mad foolish the world would do so but I know what I need and the kind of path I must walk in I cannot marry you I will always love you for the sake of what lay by me those three hours but there it ends I must know and see I cannot be bound to one whom I love as I love you I am Not Afraid of the world I will fact the world one day perhaps it may be far off I shall find what I have wanted all my life something nobler stronger than I before which I can kneel down you lose nothing by not having me now I am a weak selfish erring woman one day I shall find something to worship and then I shall be nurse she said take my disk away I'm suddenly so sleepy I will rack more tomorrow she turned her face to the pillow it was the sudden drowsiness of great weakness she had dropped asleep in a moment and Gregory moved the disk softly and then sat in the chair watching hour after hour passed but he had no wish Forrest he sat on hearing the rain cease and the macked settle down everywhere at a quarter past twelve he rose and took a last look at the bed where she lay sleeping so peacefully then he turned to go to his couch before he had reached the door she started up and was calling him back are you sure you have put it up she said with a look of blank terror at the window it will not fall open in the night the shutter are you sure he comforted her yes it was tightly fastened even if it is shut she said in a whisper you cannot keep it out you feel it coming in at four o'clock creeping creeping up up deadly cold she shuddered he thought she was wandering and laid her little trembling body down among the blankets I'd dreamed just now that it was not put up she said looking into his eyes and it crept right in and I was alone with it what do you fear he asked tenderly the gray dawn she said glancing round at the window I was never afraid of anything never when I was a little child but I have always been afraid of that he will not let it come into me no no I will stay with you he continued but she was growing karma no you must go to bed I only awoke with a start you must be tired I am childish that is all but she shivered again he sat down beside her after some time she said will you not rub my feet he knelt down at the foot of the bed and took the tiny foot in his hand it was swollen and unsightly now but as he touched it he bent down and covered it with kisses it makes it better when you kiss it thank you what makes you all love me so then dreamily she muttered to herself not utterly bad not quite bad what makes them all love me sir kneeling there rubbing softly with his cheek pressed against the little foot Gregory dropped to sleep at last how long he knelt there he could not tell but when he started up awake she was not looking at him the eyes were fixed on the far corner gazing wide and intent with an unearthly light he looked round fearfully what did she see there God's angels come to call her something fearful he only saw the purple curtain with the shadows that fell from it softly he whispered asking what she saw there and she said in a voice strangely unlike her own I see the vision of a poor weak soul striving after good it was not cut short and in the end had learnt through tears and such pain that holiness is an infinite compassion for others that greatness is to take the common things of life and walk truly among them that she moved her white hand and laid it on her forehead happiness is a great love and much serving it was not cut short and it loved what it had learnt it loved and was that all she saw in corner gregory told the landlady the next morning that she had been wandering all night yet when he came in to give her her breakfast she was sitting up against the pillows looking as he had not seen her look before put it close to me she said and when I have had breakfast I'm going to dress she finished all that he had bought her eagerly I am sitting up quite by myself she said give me his meat and she fed the dog herself cutting his food small for him she moved to the side of the bed now bring the chair near and dress me it is being in this room so long and looking at that miserable little bit of sunshine that comes in through the shutter that is making me so ill always that lands poor she said with a look of disgust at it come and dress me gregory not on the floor before her and tried to draw on one stocking but the little swollen foot refused to be covered it is very funny that i should have grown fat since i have been so ill she said peering down curiously perhaps it is want of exercise she looked troubled and again perhaps it is wont of exercise she wanted gregory to say so too but he only found a larger pair and then tried to force the shoes oh so tenderly onto her feet there she said looking down at them when they were on with the delight of a small child over its first shoes I could walk far now how nice it looks no she said seeing the soft gun he had prepared for her I will not put that on get one of my white dresses the one with the pink bows I do not even want to think I have been ill it is thinking and thinking of things that makes them real she said when you draw your mind together and resolve that a thing shall not be it gives way before you it is not everything is possible if one is resolved she said she drew in her little lips together and Gregory obeyed her she was so small and slack now it was like dressing a small doll he would have lifted her down from the bed when he had finished but she pushed him from her laughing very softly it was the first time she had laughed in those long dreary months no no I can get down myself she said slipping cautiously onto the floor you see she cast a defiant glance of triumph when she stood there hold the curtain up hi I want to look at myself he raised it and stood holding it she looked into the glass on the opposite wall such a queenly little figure in its pink and white such a transparent little face refined by suffering into an almost angel like beauty the face looked at her she looked back laughing softly das quivering with excitement ran round her barking she took one step towards the door balancing herself with outstretched hands I am nearly there she said then she groped blindly oh cannot see I cannot see where am I she cried when Gregory reached her she had fallen with her face against the shop foot of the Wardrobe and cut her forehead very tenderly he raised the little crushed heap of muslin and ribbons and laid it on the bed thus climbed up and set looking down at it very softly Gregory's hands disrobed her you will be stronger tomorrow and then we shall try again he said but she neither looked at him no stirred when he had undressed her and laid her in bed dust stretched himself across her feet and lay whining softly so she lay all that morning and all that afternoon again and again Gregory crept close to the bedside and looked at her but she did not speak to him was it stupor or was it sleep that shone under those half closed eyelids Gregory could not tell at last in the evening he bent over her the oxen have come he said we can stop tomorrow if you like shall I get the wagon ready tonight twice he repeated his question then she looked up at him and Gregory saw that all hope had died out of the beautiful eyes it was not stupid that Shaam there it was despair yes let us go she said it makes no difference said the doctor staying or going it is closed now so the next day Gregory carried her out in his arms to the wagon which stood in spand before the door as he laid her down on the cartel she looked far out across the plane for the first time she spoke that day that Blue Mountain far away let us stop when we get to it not before she closed her eyes again he drew the sails down before and behind and the wagon rolled away slowly the landlady and the niggers stood to watch it from stupid very silently the great wagon rolled along the grass covered plain the driver on the front box did not clap his whip or call to his oxen and Gregory sat beside him with folded arms behind them in the cursed wagon she lay with the dog at her feet very quiet with folded hands he Gregory dared not be in there like Haga when she laid her treasure down in the wilderness he sat afar off for Hagar said let me not see the death of the child evening came and yet the Blue Mountain was not reached and all the next day they rode on slowly but still it was far off only at evening they reached it not blue now but low and brown covered with long waving grasses and rough stones they drew the wagon that close to its foot for the night it was a sheltered warm spot when the dark night had come when the tired oxen were tied to the wheels and the driver and leader had rolled themselves in their blankets before the fire and gone to sleep then Gregory fastened down the sails of the wagons securely he fixed a long candle near the head of the bed and laid down himself on the floor of the wagon near the back he leaned his head against the cartel and listened to the chewing of the tired oxen and to the crackling of the fire till overpowered by weariness he fell into a heavy sleep then all was very still in the wagon the dog slept on his mistress's feet and only two mosquitoes creeping in through a gap in the front sail buzzed really round the night was grown very old when four long peaceful sleep Lindell awoke the candle burnt at her hid the dog lay on her feet but he shivered it seemed as though a coldness struck up to him from his resting place she lay with folded hands looking upwards and she heard the oxen chewing and saw the two mosquitoes buzzing drearily round and round and her thoughts her thoughts ran far back into the past through these months of anguish a mist had rested on her mind it was rolled together now and the old clear intellect to work from its long torpor it looked back into the past it saw the present there was no future now the old soul gathered itself together for the last time it knew where it stood slowly raising herself on her elbow she took from the sale a glass that hung pinned there her fingers were stiff and cold she put the pillow on her breast and stood the glass against it then the white face on the pillow looked into the white face in the glass they had looked at each other often so before it had been a child's face once looking at above it's blue pinafore it had been a woman's face with a dim shadow in the eyes and the something which had said we are not afraid you and I we are together we will fat you and I now tonight it had come to this the dying eyes on the pillow looked into the dying eyes in the glass they knew that there are had come she raised one hand and pressed the stiff fingers against the glass they were growing very stiff she tried to speak to it but she would never speak again only the wonderful yearning lat was in the ayahs still the body was dead now but the so clear and unclouded looked forth then slowly without a sound the beautiful eyes closed the dead face that the glass reflected was a thing of marvellous beauty and tranquility the grey dawn crept in over it and saw it lying there had she found what she soaked for something to worship had she ceased from who shall tell us there is a veil of terrible mist over the face of the hereafter end of chapter 2 part 12 chapter 2 part 13 of the story of an African farm by olive Shriner this LibriVox recording is in the public domain read by Sally McConnell in Betty's Bay South Africa in April 2010 dreams tell me what a soul desires and I will tell you what it is so runs the phrase tell me what a man dreams and I will tell you what he loves that also has its truth forever from the earliest childhood to the latest age day by day and step by step the busy waking life is followed and reflected by the laughs of dreams waking dreams sleeping dreams weird misty and distorted as the inverted image of a mirage or a figure seen through the mountain mists they are still the reflections of a reality on the night when Gregory told his story Waldo set alone before the fire his untested supper before him he was weary after his days work to weary to eat he put the plate down on the floor for das who licked it clean and then went back to his corner after a time the master threw himself across the foot of the bed without undressing and fell asleep there he slept so long that the candle burnt itself up and the room was in darkness but he dreamed a lovely dream as he lay there in his dream to his rat rose high mountains their tops crowned with snow their sides curved with Bush and bathed in the sunshine at their feet was the sea blue and breezy bluer than any earthly sea Lakha see he had dreamed of in his boyhood in the narrow forest that ran between the mountains and the sea the air was rich with the scent of the honey creeper that hung from dark green bushes and through the velvety grass little streams ran pearling down into the sea he sat on a high square rock among the bushes and until set by him and sang to him she was only a small child with a blue pinafore and a grave grave little face he was looking up at the mountains then suddenly when he looked round she was gone he slipped down from his rock and went to look for her but he only found her little foot marks he found them on the bright green grass and in the moist sand and there where the little streams ran pearling down into the sea in and out in and out and among the bushes were the honey creeper hung he went looking for her at last far off in the sunshine he saw her gathering shells upon the sand she was not a child now but a woman and the Sun shone on her soft brown hair and in her white dress she put the shells she gathered she was stooping but when she heard his tip she stood up holding her skirt close about her and waited for his coming one hand she put in his and they walked together on over the glittering sand and pink shells and they heard the leaves talking and they heard the waters babbling on their way to the sea and they heard the sea singing to itself singing singing at last they came to a place where there was a long reach of pure white sand there she stood still and dropped on to the sand one by one the shells that she had gathered then she looked up into his face with her beautiful eyes she said nothing but she lifted one hand and laid it softly on his forehead the other she laid on his heart with a cry of suppressed agony waldo sprang from the bed flung open the upper half of the door and leaned out breathing heavily great god it might be only a dream but the pain was very real as though a knife ran through his heart as though some treacherous murderer crept on him in the dark the strong man drew his breath like a frightened woman only a dream but the pain was very real he muttered as he pressed his right hand upon his breast then he folded his arms on the door and stood looking out into the Starlight the dream was with him still the woman who was his friend was not separated from him by years only that very night he had seen her he looked up into the night sky that all his long had mingled itself with his existence there were a thousand faces that he loved looking down at him a thousand stars in their glory in crowns and circles and solitary grandeur to the man they were not less dear than to the boy they had been not lifts mysterious yet he looked up at them and shuddered at last turned away from them with horror such countless multitude stretching out far into space and yet not in one of them all was she though he searched through them all to the farthest faintest point of light nowhere should he ever say she is here tomorrow's Sun would rise and gild the world's mountains and shine into its thousand valleys it would sit and the Stars creep out again year after year century after century the old changes of nature would go on day and night summer and winter seed time and harvest but in none of them all would she have part he shut the door to keep up their hideous shining and because the dark was intolerable lit a candle and pasted the little room faster and fasting it he saw before him the long ages of eternity that would roll on on on and never bring her she would exist no more a dark mist filled the little room o little hand oh look voice o little form he cried o little soul that walked with mine o little soul that looked so fearless lead on into the dips do you exist no more forever for all time he cried more bitterly it is for this hour this that men blind reason and crush up thought for this hour this this they brought her truth and knowledge take any lie any Creed so it does not whisper to them of the dead that they are did Oh God God for a hereafter pain made his soul weak it cried for the old faith they are the tears that fall into the new-made grave that cement the power of the priest for the cry of the soul that loves and losses is this bridge over death blend the here with the hereafter cause the mortal to rope himself in immortality let me not say of my did that it is dead I will believe all else bear all else endure all else muttering to himself waldo walked with bent head the mist in his eyes to the souls wild cry for its own there are many answers he began to think of them was there not one of them all from which he might suck one drop of comfort you shall see her again says the Christian the true Bible Christian yes you shall see her again and I saw the dead small and great stand before God and the books were opened and the dead were judged from those things that were written in the books and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire which is the second death yes you shall see her again she died so with her knee and bent and her hand unraised with a prayer and uttered in the pride of her intellect and the strength of her youth she loved and she was loved but she said no prayer to God she cried for no mercy she repented of no sin yes you shall see her again in his bitterness Waldo laughed lo ha he had long ceased to hearken to the hellish voice but yet another speaks you shall see her again says the 19th century Christian deep into his soul modern and belief and thought have Crypt though he knows it not he it is who uses his Bible as the Pearl Fishers used their shells sorting out gyms from refuse he sits his pearls off to his earned fashion and he sits them will do not fear he says hell and judgment or not God is love I know that beyond this blue sky above us love as wide-spreading over all the all-father will show her to you again not spirit only the little hands the little feet do you loved you shall lie down and kiss them if you will Christ arose and did eat and drink social she arise the dead all the dead raised incorruptible God is love you shall see her again it is a heavenly song thus of the 19th century Christian a man might dry his tears to listen to it but for this one thing waldo muttered to himself confusedly the thing i loved was a woman proud and young it had a mother once who dying kissed her little baby and prayed to God that she might see it again if it had lived the loved thing would itself have had a son who when he closed the weary eyes and smoothed the wrinkled forehead of his mother would have prayed God to see that old face smile again in the hereafter to the son heaven will be no heaven if the sweet worn face is not in one of the choirs he will look for it through the phalanx of God's glorified angels and the youth will look for the maid and the mother for the baby and whose then shall she be at the resurrection of the Dead oh god oh god what a beautiful dream he cried but can anyone dream it not sleeping Waldo paced on moaning in agony and longing he heard the transcendentalists high answer what have you to do with flesh the gross and miserable garment in which spirit hides itself you shall see her again but the hand the foot the furrowed you loved you shall see no more the loves the fears the frailties that are born with the flesh with the flesh they shall die let them die there is that in a man that cannot die a seed a germ an embryo a spiritual essence higher than she was on earth as the tree is higher than the seed the man in the embryo so shall you behold her changed glorified hi words ringing well there are the offering of jewels to the hungry of gold to the man who dies for bread bread is corruptible Gold is incorruptible bread is light gold is heavy bread is common gold is rare but the hungry man will barter all your minds for one morsel of bread around God's throne there may be choirs and companies of angels cherubim and Seraphim rising tier above tier but not for one of them all does the soul cry aloud only perhaps for a little human woman full of sin that it once loved change is death change is death he cried I want no angel only she no holier and no bitter with all her sins upon her so give her me or give me nothing and truly does not the heart love its own with the strongest passion for their very frailties heaven might keep its angels if men were but left to men change is death he cried change is death who dares to save the body never dies because it turns a game to grass and flowers and yet there dare to say the spirit never dies because in space some strange unearthly being may have sprung up upon its ruins leave me leave me he cried in frantic bitterness give me back what I have lost or give me nothing for the souls fierce cry for immortality is this only this return to me after death the thing as it was before leave me in the hereafter the being that I am today rob me of the thoughts the feelings the desires that are my life and you have left nothing to take your immortality is annihilation your hereafter is a lie Waldo flung open the door and walked out into the starlight his pain stricken thoughts ever driving him on as he paced there there must be a hereafter because a man longs for it he whispered is not all life from the cradle to the grave one long yearning for that which we never touch there must be a hereafter because we cannot think of any end to life can we think of a beginning is it easier to say I was not than to say I shall not be and yet where were we 90 years ago dreams dreams ah all dreams and lies no ground anywhere he went back into the cabin and walked there are after our past and he was dreaming for Mark you men will dream the most that can be asked to them is but that the dream be not in too glaring discord with the thing they know he walked with bent head all dies all dies the roses are red with the matter that once ridden the cheek of the child the flowers bloom the fairest on the last year's battleground the work of deaths finger cunningly read over is at the heart of all things even of the living deaths finger is everywhere the rocks are built up of a laugh that was body's thoughts and loves died from where Springs that whisper to the tiny soul of man you shall not die ah is there no truth of which this dream is shadow he fell into perfect silence and at last as he walked there with his bent head his soul passed down the steps of contemplation into that vast land where there is always peace that land where the soul gazing long loses all consciousness of its little self and almost feels its hand on the old mystery of universal unity that surrounds it no death no death he muttered there is that which never dies which abides it is but the individual that perishes the whole remains it is the organism that vanishes the atoms are there it is but the man that dies the universal of which he is part reworks him into its inmost self ah what matter that man's day be short that the sunrise sees him in the sunset sees his grave that of which he is but the breath has breathed him forth and drawn him back again that abides we abide for the little soul that cries aloud for continued personal existence for itself and its beloved there is no help for the soul which knows itself no more as a unit but as a part of the universal unity of which the beloved is also a part which feels within itself the throb of the universal life for that soul there is no death let us die beloved you and I that we may pass on forever through the universal life in that deep world of contemplation all fierce desires die out and peace comes down he waldo as he walked there saw no more the world that was about him cried out no more for the thing that he had lost his soul wristed was it only john thank you who saw the heavens open the dreamers see it every day long years before the father had walked in the little cabin and seen choirs of angels and a prince slack unto men but clothed in immortality the sons knowledge was not as the fathers therefore the dream was new tinted but the sweetness was all there the infinite peace that men find not in the cankered kingdom of the tangible the bars of the real are set close about us we cannot open our wings but they are struck against them and drop bleeding but when we glide between the bars into the great unknown beyond we may sail forever in the glorious blue seeing nothing but our own shadows so age succeeds age and dreams succeeds dream and of the joy of the dreamer no man knoweth but he who dreamer our fathers had their dreams we have ours the generation that follows will have its own without dreams and phantoms man cannot exist end of chapter 2 part 13 chapter 2 part 14 of the story of an African farm by olive Shriner this LibriVox recording is in the public domain read by Sally McConnell in Betty's Bay South Africa in April 2010 water goes up to sit in the sunshine it had been a princely day the long warning had melted slowly into rich afternoon rains had covered the kuru with a heavy coat of green that hid the red earth everywhere in the very chinks of the stone walls dark green leaves hung out and beauty and growth had crypt even into the beds of the sandy furrows and lined them with weeds on the broken sod walls of the old pigsty chick weeds flourished and ice plants lifted their transparent leaves water was at work in the wagon house again he was making a kitchen table for EM as the long curls gathered in heaps before his plane he paused for an instant now and again to throw one down to a small naked nigger who had crept from its mother who stood churning in the sunshine and crawled into the wagon house from time to time the little animal looked at its fat hand as it expected a fresh shower of curls till dose jealous of his masters noticing in the other small creature but himself would catch the curl in his mouth and roll the little kafir over in the sawdust matched to that small animals contentment it was too lazy an afternoon to be rarely ill-natured so das satisfied himself with snapping at the little nigga's fingers and sitting on him till he laughed Waldo as he worked glanced down at them now and then and smiled but he never looked out across the plain he was conscious without looking of that broad green earth it made his work pleasant to him near the shadow at the gable the mother of the little nigga stood churning slowly she raised and lit fall the stick in her murmuring to herself a sleepy chant such as her people loved it sounded like the humming of far-off bees a different life showed itself in the front of the house where Ted Sonny Scott stood ready and spammed and the poor woman herself sat in the front room drinking coffee she had come to visit her stepdaughter probably for the last time as she now weighed 260 pounds and was not easily able to move on a chair sat her mild young husband nursing the baby a pudding faced weak eyed child you take it and get into the cup with it said son Sonny what do you want here listening to our woman's talk the young man arose and meekly when topped with the baby I am very glad you are going to be married to my child said ton Sonny as she drained the last drop from her coffee cup I wouldn't sing so well that boy was here it would make him too conceited but Merritt is the finest thing in the world I've been at it three times and if it pleased God to take this husband from me I should have another there's nothing like it my child nothing perhaps it might not suit all people at all times as well as it suits you tain't Sonny said in there was a little shade of weariness in the voice not suit everyone said tain't Sonny if the bolometer edema didn't mean men to have wives what did he make women for that's what I say if a woman's old enough to marry and doesn't she's sinning against the Lord it's a wanting to know better than him what does she think the Lord took all the trouble in making her for nothing it's evident he wants babies otherwise why does he send them not that I've done much in that way myself said tain't Sonny sorrowfully but I've done my best she rose with some difficulty from her chair and began moving slowly towards the door it's a strange thing she said but you can't love a man till you've had a baby by him now there's that boy there when we were first married if he only sneezed in the night I boxed his ears now if he lets his pipe ash come on my milk lofts I don't even lay a finger on him there's nothing like being married said tain't Sonia she puffed towards the door if a woman's got a baby and a husband she's got the best things the Lord can give her if only the baby doesn't have convulsions ask for a husband it's very much the same who one has some in effect and some me nothin some men drink brandy and some men drink gin but it all comes to the same thing in the end it's all one a man's a man you know here they came upon Gregory who was sitting in the shade before the house tent sunny shook hands with him I am glad you're going to get married she said I hope you'll have as many children in five years as a cow has coughs and more – I think I'll just go and have a look at yourself but before I start she said turning to him look that I believe in this new plan of putting soda in the pot if the dear father had meant soda to be put into soap what would he have made milk bushes for and stuck them all over the felt as thick as the lands in the lambing season she watered off off 2m in the direction of the built in Sopot leaving Gregory as they found him with his dead pipe lying on the bench beside him and his blue eyes gazing out far across the flat like one who sits on the seashore watching that which is fading fading from him against his breast was a letter found in a desk addressed to himself but never posted it held only four words you must marry M he wore it in a black bag around his neck it was the only litter she had ever written to him you see if the sheeple don't have scab this year said tain't sunny as she waddled off to him ifs with all these new inventions that the wrath of God must fall on us what were the of Israel punished for if it wasn't for making a golden calf I may have my sins but I do remember the tenth commandment honor thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee and that thou mayst live long in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee it's all very well to say we honor them and then to be finding out things that they never knew and doing things in a way that they never did them my mother boiled soap with bushes and I will boil soap with bushes if the wrath of God is to fall upon this land said tain't sunny with the serenity of conscious virtue it shall not be through me let them make their steamed wagons and their fire carriages let them go on as though the deer glowed didn't know what he was about when he gave horses and oxen legs the destruction of the Lord will follow them I don't know how such people who read their Bibles when do we hear of Moses or Noah riding in a railway the Lord sent fire characters out of heaven in those days there's no chance of his sending them for us if we go on in this way said tent sunny sorrowfully thinking of the splendid chance which this generation had lost arrived at the surf but she looked over into it thoughtfully depend on it you'll get the itch or some other disease the blessing of the Lord will never rest upon it said the poor woman then suddenly she broke forth and she 82 and goats and the rams and eight thousand Morrigan and the rams reel and Laura and two thousand sheep and a sharp horn boom said hunt sunny standing upright and planting a hand on each hip him looked at her in silent wonder had connubial bliss and the joys of motherhood really turned the old woman's head yes said tan sunny I had almost forgotten to tell you by the Lord if I had him yet we working to church lost sacrament Sunday Pete and I clogs in front of us was old temprana with dropsy and cancer and caught love eight months walking by her was something with its hands under its coattails flap flap flap and it's chill in the air and a stick-up collar and the black hat on the very back of the head I knew him who's that I asked the rich Englishman that temprana married last week rich Englishman I love rich Englishman him I said I'll tell tant Rana a thing or two my fingers were just in his little white girls if it hadn't been the Blessed Sacrament he wouldn't have what's a silca silca cuca anymore but I thought wait till I've had it and then but he Sly Fox son of Satan seed of the Amalekites usually looking at him in the church the Blessed Sacrament wasn't half over when he takes thumb trauma by the arm and out they go I kept my baby down to its father and I'll go after them but said tell Sonny regretfully I couldn't get up to him I am too fat when I got to the corner he was pulling front camera up into the cart don't drama I said you've married a cousin stop Oh hot tubs Brockie I hadn't any more breath he winked at me he went at me said tain't Sonny her sights shaking with indignation first one eye and then the other and then drove away child of the Amalekite said can't Sonny if it hadn't been the Blessed Sacrament no no what not here at the little bush girl came running to say that the horses would stand and still breathing out vengeance against her old adversary she labored towards the cot shaking hands and affectionately kissing him she was with some difficulty drawn up then slowly the car crawled away the good Boer woman putting her head up between the sails to smile and nod M stood watching it for a time then as the Sun dazzled her eyes she turned away there was no use in gang to sit with Gregory he liked best sitting there alone staring across the green kuru until the mate had done churning there was nothing to do so him walked away to the wagon house and climbed onto the end of Waldo's table and sat there swinging one little foot slowly to and fro while the wooden curls from the plain heaped themselves up against her black print dress father she said at last Gregory has given me the money he got for the wagon and oxen and I have 50 pounds beside that once belonged to someone I know what they would have liked to have done with it you must take it and go to some place and study for a year or two no little one I will not take it he said as he planed slowly away the time was when I would have been very grateful to anyone who would have given me a little money a little help a little power of gaining knowledge but now I have gone so far alone I may go on to the end I don't want it little one she did not seem pained at his refusal but swung her foot to and throw the old wrinkled furrowed more wrinkled up than ever why is it always so Walder always so she said we long for things and long for them and pray for them we would give all we have to come near to them but we never reached them then at last too late just when we don't want them anymore when all the sweetness is taken out of them then they come we don't want them then she said folding her hands resignedly on her little apron after a while she added I remember once very long ago when I was a very little girl my mother had a work box full of colored reels I always wanted to play with them but she would never lift me at last one day she said I might take the box I was so glad I hardly knew what to do I ran round the house and sat down with it on the back steps but when I opened the Box all the Cotton's were taken up she sat for a while longer till the cafe maid had finished churning and was carrying the butter towards the house then in prepared to slip off the table but first she laid her little hand on Waldo's he stopped his planing and looked up Gregory is going to the town tomorrow he's going to give in our bands to the minister we're going to be married in three weeks Waldo lifted her very gently from the table he did not congratulate her perhaps he thought of the empty box but he kissed her furrowed gravely she walked away towards the house but stopped when she had got halfway I will bring you a glass of buttermilk when it's cool she called out and soon her clear voice came ringing up through the back windows as she sang the blue water to herself and washed the butter Waldo did not wait till she returned perhaps he had at last really grown weary of work perhaps he felt the wagon house chilly for he had shuddered two or three times though it was hardly likely in that warm summer weather or perhaps and most probably one of his old dreaming fits had come upon him suddenly he put his tools carefully together ready for tomorrow and walked slowly out at the side of the wagon house there was a world of bright sunshine and the hen with her chickens was scratching among the gravel waldo seated himself near them with his back against the red brick wall the long afternoon was half spent and the copy was just beginning to cast its shadow over the round-headed yellow flowers that grew between it and the farmhouse among the flowers the white butterflies hovered and on the old crawl mounds three white kids gambled and at the door of one of the huts an old gray-headed calf woman sat on the ground mending her meths a barmy wrist for peacefulness seemed to rain everywhere even the old hen seemed well satisfied she scratched among the stones and to her chickens when she found a treasure and all the while clucked to herself with intense inward satisfaction Waldo as he sat with his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms folded on them looked at it all and smiled an evil world a deceitful treacherous Mirage like world it might be but a lovely world for all that and to sit there gloating in the sunlight was perfect it was worth having been a little child and having cried and prayed so that one might sit there he moved his hands as though he were washing them in the sunshine there will always be something worth living for while there are shimmery afternoons Waldo chuckled with intense inward satisfaction as the old hen had done she over the insects and the warmth he over the old brick walls and the haze and the little bushes beauty is God's wine with which he recompenses the souls that love him he makes them drunk the fellow looked and at last stretched out one hand to a little ice plant that grew on the sod wall of the sty not as though he would have picked it but as it were in a friendly greeting he loved it one little leaf of the ice plant stood upright and the Sun shone through it he could see every little crystal cell like a drop of ice in the transparent green and had thrilled him there are only rare times when a man's soul can see nature so long as any passion holds its revel there the eyes are holdin that they should not see her go out if you will and walk alone on the hillside in the evening but if your favorite child lies ill at home or your lover comes tomorrow or at your heart there lies a scheme for the holding of wealth then you will return as you went out you will have seen nothing for nature ever lack the old Hebrew God cries out thou shalt have no other gods before me only then when there comes a pause a blank in your life when the old idol is broken when the old hope is dead when the old desire is crushed then the divine compensation of nature is made manifest she shows herself to you so near she draws you the the blood seems to flow from her to you through a still uncut cord you feel the throb of her life when that day comes that you sit down broken without one human creature to whom you cling with your loves the dead and the living dead when the very thirst for knowledge through long-continued throating has grown dull when in the present there is no craving and in the future no hope then her with a beneficent tenderness nature unfolds you then the large white snowflakes as they flutter down softly one by one whisper soothingly wrists poor heart wrists it as though our mother smoothed our hair and we are comforted and yellow-legged bees as they hum make a dreamy lyric and the light on the brown stone wall is a great work of art and the glitter through the leaves makes the pulses beat well to die then for if you live so surely as the years come so surely as the spring succeeds the winter so surely your passions arise they will creep back one by one into the bosom that has cost them forth and faster there again and peace will go desire ambition and the fierce agonizing flood of love for the living they will spring again then nature will draw down her veil with all your longing you shall not be able to raise one corner you cannot bring back those peaceful days well to die then sitting there with his arms folded on his knees his hat slouched down over his face Waldo looked out into the yellow sunshine that tinted even the very air with the colour of Raccoon and was happy he was an uncouth creature with small learning and no prospect in the future but that of making endless tables and stone walls yet it seemed to him as he sat there that life was a rare and very rich thing he rubbed his hands in the sunshine Oh to LaVon so year after year how well always in the present living each day glide bringing its own labor in its own beauty the gradual acting up of the hills night and the stars firelight and the coals to live on so calmly far from the paths of men and to look at the lives of clouds and insects to look deep into the heart of flowers and see how lovingly the pistol and the stamens nestled there together and to see in the thorn pods how the little seeds suck their life through the delicate curled up string and how the little embryo sleeps inside well how well to sit so on one side taking no part in the world's life but when great men blossom into books looking into those flowers also to see how the world of men too opens beautifully leaf after leaf ah that is delicious well to live long and see the darkness breaking and the day coming the day when so shall not thrust back soul that would come to it when men shall not be driven to seek solitude because of the crying out of their hearts for love and sympathy well to live long and see the new time breaking well to live long laugh is sweet sweet sweet in his breast pocket wear of old the broken slate used to be there was now a little dancing shoe of his friend who was sleeping he could feel it when he folded his arm tight against his breast and that was well also he drew his hat lower over his eyes and sat so motionless that the chickens thought he was asleep and gathered closer around him one even ventured to pick at his boot but he ran away quickly tiny yellow fellow that he was he knew that men were dangerous even sleeping there might awake but Waldo did not sleep and coming back from his sunshiny dreams stretched out his hand for the tiny thing to mount but the chicken I'd the hand askance and then ran off to hide it's Mother's wing and from beneath it sometimes put out its round head to peep at the great figure sitting there presently its brothers ran off after a little white moth and it ran off to join them and when the moth fluttered away over their heads they stood looking up disappointed and then ran back to their mother Waldo through his half closed eyes looked at them thinking fearing craving those tiny sparks of brother life what were they so real there in that old yard on that sunshiny afternoon a few years where would they be strange little brother spirits he stretched his hand towards them for his heart went up to them but not one of the little features came near him and he watched them gravely for a time then he smiled and began muttering to himself after his old fashion afterwards he folded his arms upon his knees and rested his Feraud on them and so he sat there in the yellow sunshine muttering muttering muttering to himself it was not very long after when M came out at the back door with the towel thrown across her head and in her hand a cup of milk ah she said coming close to him he's sleeping now he'll find it when he wakes and be glad of it she put it down upon the ground beside him the mother hen was still at work among the stones but the chickens had climbed about him and were perching on him one stood upon his shoulder and rubbed its little head softly against his black curls another tried to balance itself on the very edge of the old felt hat one tiny fellow stood upon his hand and tried to crow another had nestled itself down comfortably on the old coat sleeve and gone to sleep there M did not drive them away but she covered the glass softly at his side he will wake soon she said and be glad of it but the chickens were wiser end of chapter two part 14 end of the story of an African farm by Olive Shriner

Michael Martin

1 Response

  1. Story of an African Farm | Olive Schreiner | Action & Adventure Fiction, General Fiction | 6/6

    25: [00:00:00] – 25 – Chapter 2, Part 12

    26: [00:49:21] – 26 – Chapter 2, Part 13

    27: [01:07:26] – 27 – Chapter 2, Part 14

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