6. The Indiscretions of the Same
I was standing stark naked next morning in that icy bedroom, trying to bathe in about a
quart of water, when Stumm entered. He strode up to me and stared me in the face. I
was half a head shorter than him to begin with, and a man does not feel his stoutest
when he has no clothes, so he had the pull on me every way.
'I have reason to believe that you are a liar,' he growled.
I pulled the bed-cover round me, for I was shivering with cold, and the German idea of a
towel is a pocket-handkerchief. I own I was in a pretty blue funk.
'A liar!' he repeated. 'You and that swine Pienaar.'
With my best effort at surliness I asked what we had done.
'You lied, because you said you know no German. Apparently your friend knows enough
to talk treason and blasphemy.'
This gave me back some heart.
'I told you I knew a dozen words. But I told you Peter could talk it a bit. I told you that
yesterday at the station.' Fervently I blessed my luck for that casual remark.
He evidently remembered, for his tone became a trifle more civil.
'You are a precious pair. If one of you is a scoundrel, why not the other?'
'I take no responsibility for Peter,' I said. I felt I was a cad in saying it, but that was the
bargain we had made at the start. 'I have known him for years as a great hunter and a
brave man. I knew he fought well against the English. But more I cannot tell you. You
have to judge him for yourself. What has he done?'
I was told, for Stumm had got it that morning on the telephone. While telling it he was
kind enough to allow me to put on my trousers.
It was just the sort of thing I might have foreseen. Peter, left alone, had become first
bored and then reckless. He had persuaded the lieutenant to take him out to supper at a
big Berlin restaurant. There, inspired by the lights and music - novel things for a
backveld hunter - and no doubt bored stiff by his company, he had proceeded to get
drunk. That had happened in my experience with Peter about once in every three years,
and it always happened for the same reason. Peter, bored and solitary in a town, went
on the spree. He had a head like a rock, but he got to the required condition by wild