THE NEW ARRIVAL.
The native constable was holding open
the door. There was a soft rustle of feminine
attire as its wearer crossed the empty Court room,
and the newcomer entered.
“Mr Elvesdon, I believe?”
she said, after a rapid glance at both men, and easily
identifying the right one. “I must introduce
myself. My name is Carden Evelyn
Carden and you may have heard of me from
Mr Thornhill. He lives near here, does he not?”
“Yes. About two hours.
Sit down, Miss Carden,” handing her a chair.
“As a matter of fact I have heard of you.
The Thornhills have been wondering that they did
not after your letter.”
The newcomer’s eyebrows went up in surprise.
“The Thornhills not heard!”
she exclaimed wonderingly. “But they must
have. Why I wired from Durban here, just as I
was directed; but it was to put off coming just then.
And they never received it?”
“No. I can answer for
that. Er by the way, did you send
it yourself, Miss Carden?”
“Well, no. The fact is
I didn’t. I gave it, the wire, and also
a letter, to a coolie porter at a station just this
side of Pinetown I forget the name to
send for me.”
“That accounts for the whole trouble,”
All this time he had been taking stock
of the newcomer. She was of fair height, and
plainly but unmistakably well dressed. She had
straight features and a reposeful expression, an abundance
of light brown hair, and clear grey eyes. She
had just missed being exactly pretty, yet the face
was an attractive one, and there was an atmosphere
of refinement and savoir faire about her that
left no room for doubt as to her standing in the social
scale. She seemed about two or three and thirty
in point of age in reality she was not more
than twenty-eight. All this he summed up in
a flash, as he went through the above preliminary
“This is Dr Vine, our District
Surgeon, Miss Carden,” he said in introduction.
“Are you travelling alone, may I ask?”
“Yes. This time I thought
I’d spring a surprise on my unknown relative,
so of course I was obliged to hire a cart at Telani the
driver is such a disagreeable old man, by the bye.
And the horses are wretched beasts. Why I had
to stop the night at a most abominable roadside place an
accommodation house, I think they called it presumably
because `accommodation’ in every sense, was
the very last thing they had to offer.”
She laughed, so did the two men.
“Then there was a monster centipede
kept appearing and disappearing on the wall above
my bed, so that I had to keep the light going all night,
and hardly got any sleep at all. And now one
of the horses is dead lame, and I am wondering how
I am going to get on to Mr Thornhill’s
unless you can help me, Mr Elvesdon.”
There was a something in the tone
of this tail-off that conveyed to the listeners the
impression that she was very much accustomed to being
`helped’ in things great as well as
small and made no scruple about requisitioning
“Certainly I can, Miss Carden,”
answered Elvesdon. “If you will allow
me I shall be delighted to drive you out to Thornhill’s
this afternoon. Meanwhile it is just lunch time if
you will give me the pleasure of your company you
too, doctor? Very well then, we may as well adjourn
During lunch Elvesdon was somewhat
silent. He had directed his native servants
when to inspan his spider and to transfer the visitor’s
baggage to that useful vehicle further,
he had arranged matters with the driver of the hired
cart, an unprepossessing specimen of what would be
defined in the Southern States as `mean white,’
and while doing so, the astounding revelation made
to him by Vine had come back to him with all its full
force. He did not know what to think. Thornhill
seemed to him the last man in the world to commit
a cold-blooded murder and that the murder
of a woman but what if it was
a hot-blooded one? Looking back upon his observation
of this new found friend he recalled a certain something
that contained the possibilities of such goaded
by the weight of an intolerable incubus. And
his sons believed in him and his daughter did not?
Well, Elvesdon leaned to the opinion of the sons,
and all his official instinct weighed on that side.
There was absolutely no evidence that any crime had
been effected at all, and did not the legal text-books
teem with instances of disappearance for which innocent
people had been executed in the `good old times’?
Why of course. No. He at any rate was
going to keep an open mind, and turn into fact the
time-worn legal fiction that the accused was innocent
until he was proved guilty.
So he was rather silent during lunch.
The weight of Vine’s revelation was still on
him; but the newcomer was quite at her ease and chatted
away with Prior and the doctor.
But later, when they were bowling
away merrily behind a fresh, well trotting pair of
horses bound for Sipazi, he was obliged to put this
new train of thought out of his head, for the new
arrival plied him with all sorts of questions, as
to the country and its natives, and other things;
then got on to the subject of Thornhill.
“I have never seen him, you
know, Mr Elvesdon, since I was ever so small.
I don’t know anything really about him beyond
what my poor mother told me. By the way did
he marry again?”
Elvesdon started unconsciously.
In his present train of thought he was wondering
how much she knew as to the matter about which he had
only just heard.
“No. He has one girl at
home now, and a boy away at the Rand.”
“Oh. That’s nice. Tell me.
What is the girl like?”
“Charming. She’s like no other girl
I’ve ever seen.”
The reply was made in a perfectly
even tone, without any perceptible enthusiasm.
The other was interested at once.
“What’s her name?”
“Edala. Peculiar name isn’t it?”
“Rather. Do you think we shall get on?”
Elvesdon burst out laughing.
“I should think it highly probable
that you would. She is very unconventional and
you well if you don’t mind my saying
so, Miss Carden, I should think the same held good
as regards yourself.”
“Of course I don’t mind
your saying so; and it happens to be true. I
like being talked to rationally, and not talked down
to as you men are too given to talking
to us women. You know a sort of humouring
us, as if we were a lot of spoilt children.”
“But you must remember that
if we don’t humour you, `you women,’ or
at any rate the majority of you, vote us disagreeable
if not rude; a favourite word with `you women’
by the way. It has such a fine, sonorous, roll-round-the-tongue
flavour, you know.”
Evelyn Carden laughed and
laughed merrily. Elvesdon noticed that her laugh
was light, open, free-hearted. There was no affectation,
or posing, about it.
“I like that,” she said,
“the more so that it is absolutely true.
I suppose you are often over at the Thornhills’,
Mr Elvesdon, as you are so near?”
“Oh yes. I put in Sundays
with them, and enjoy it. Your relative is a
particularly cultured and companionable man, Miss Carden,
and in his quiet way, very genial.”
This with just a spice of mischief, which the other
“I have already given you my opinion on that
subject,” he said.
“How delightful. I am
so glad I came up here. I only put it off because
some people whose acquaintance I made on board ship
asked me out to stay with them at their place near
Malvern. I do hope, though, that Mr Thornhill
won’t be offended with me about the non-delivery
of the wire, but it really wasn’t my fault.”
Here Elvesdon did not entirely agree.
He thought she ought to have made more sure.
But he said:
“You need have no uneasiness
on that score. Thornhill is a man with a large
up-country experience, and I know of no better training
for teaching a man to take things as they come.”
“Better and better,” she
pronounced. “Why, how interesting he will
be. But, you yourself, Mr Elvesdon you
must have some strange experiences too?”
“Well, you see, one can’t
go through an official life like mine without.
But, for the most part, they are experiences of queer
and out of the way phases of human nature. I
haven’t had any serious adventures if that’s
what you mean.”
“No. Never mind.
I’m used to that note of disappointment.
When I was over in England on leave three years and
a half ago, I was always being asked how many lions
I’d shot the impression apparently
being that one strolled out after office hours and
bagged a few brace and I answered frankly
that I’d never seen a lion outside a cage though
I’ve heard them, by the way, at a long and respectful
distance I went down like a shot in general
estimation. At last I began to feel like Clive,
when hauled up over the looting business, `astonished
at my own moderation,’ and thought it time to
invent a lion lie or two. But it was too late
Again she laughed heartily,
merrily. She turned a glance of unmitigated
approval upon the man beside her. He, too, seemed
rather unlike other people, with his easy, unconventional
flow of talk and ideas; yet whether his life had been
spent outside the sphere of adventure or not, she
felt certain that given an emergency he would prove
the strong, capable official, ready and able to deal
with it at the critical or perilous moment.
Elvesdon’s mind, too, was running
upon her and he was speculating as to the effect her
presence would have upon those among whom her lot was
to be cast for a time. She was bright, lively,
natural; just the very companion for Edala, though
somewhat older. Thornhill, too, wanted livening
up; and now, seen in the light of the revelation he
had heard that morning, Elvesdon thoroughly understood
the restraint which had lain upon that household of
two. This stranger from the outside world was
just the one to take both out of themselves.
They left the more open rolling country,
where the road suddenly dived down into the bosky
ruggedness of a long winding valley, and here Evelyn
grew enthusiastic over the romantic grandeur of the
black forest-clad rifts sloping down from a great
row of castellated crags. Here, too, bird and
animal life seemed suddenly to blossom into being.
Troops of monkeys skipped whimsically among the tree-tops
chattering at the wayfarers, and the piping of bright
spreuws flashing from frond to frond among the thorn
bushes, and the call of the hoepoe, and the mellow
cooing of doves making multitudinous melody throughout
the broad valley into which they were descending,
together with the quaint, grating duet of the yellow
thrush then, too, the deep boom of great
hornbills stalking among the grass and stones, yonder,
down the slope all blended harmoniously
in the unclouded evening calm, for the sun was near
his rest now, and the stupendous krantz fronting the
Sipazi mountain shone like fire.
“Why, it is glorious,”
declared the newcomer gazing around. “What
a lovely country this is.”
“There’s our destination,”
said Elvesdon, pointing to the homestead lying on
the farther side of the valley beneath, whence already
the dogs were announcing their arrival in deep-mouthed
clamour. “And there are your relatives,”
he added, as two figures could be seen coming down
from the front stoep, “and they are already
taking stock of us through binoculars.”
Thornhill’s greeting was quiet but cordial.
“Welcome to Sipazi,” he
said. “We had about given you up, but better
late than never. I am afraid you’ll find
it dull here, but after all, it’ll be a new
experience I should think.”
“Of course it will, Mr Thornhill,
and a delightful one. So this is
Edala.” And the two girls kissed each other.
“How did you know my name?” said Edala,
with a laugh.
“Why you don’t suppose
I haven’t been `pumping’ Mr Elvesdon all
about you during our most delightful drive out here,
do you? Of course I have.” And then
she began entering upon explanations as to the seeming
silence in answer to the telegram.
“Oh well, no matter. You’re
here now, anyhow,” answered Thornhill characteristically.
And Evelyn Carden, looking up into the strong, bearded,
rather melancholy face, was deciding that she was going
to like its owner very much indeed; and Elvesdon superintending
the process of outspanning, was wondering whether
these two girls were going to take to each other;
and Edala was thinking that they were.
But somehow, with the faintest
possible twinge of uneasiness, the emphasis on those
words `our most delightful drive’ jarred on her.