Stories by English Authors in Africa
The Mystery Of Sasassa Valley
Do I know why Tom Donahue is called "Lucky Tom"? Yes, I do; and that is more
than one in ten of those who call him so can say. I have knocked about a deal in
my time, and seen some strange sights, but none stranger than the way in which
Tom gained that sobriquet, and his fortune with it. For I was with him at the time.
Tell it? Oh, certainly; but it is a longish story and a very strange one; so fill up
your glass again, and light another cigar, while I try to reel it off. Yes, a very
strange one; beats some fairy stories I have heard; but it's true, sir, every word of
it. There are men alive at Cape Colony now who'll remember it and confirm what
I say. Many a time has the tale been told round the fire in Boers' cabins from
Orange state to Griqualand; yes, and out in the bush and at the diamond-fields
I'm roughish now, sir; but I was entered at the Middle Temple once, and studied
for the bar. Tom--worse luck!--was one of my fellow- students; and a wildish time
we had of it, until at last our finances ran short, and we were compelled to give
up our so-called studies, and look about for some part of the world where two
young fellows with strong arms and sound constitutions might make their mark.
In those days the tide of emigration had scarcely begun to set in toward Africa,
and so we thought our best chance would be down at Cape Colony. Well,--to
make a long story short,--we set sail, and were deposited in Cape Town with less
than five pounds in our pockets; and there we parted. We each tried our hands at
many things, and had ups and downs; but when, at the end of three years,
chance led each of us up-country and we met again, we were, I regret to say, in
almost as bad a plight as when we started.
Well, this was not much of a commencement; and very disheartened we were, so
disheartened that Tom spoke of going back to England and getting a clerkship.
For you see we didn't know that we had played out all our small cards, and that
the trumps were going to turn up. No; we thought our "hands" were bad all
through. It was a very lonely part of the country that we were in, inhabited by a
few scattered farms, whose houses were stockaded and fenced in to defend
them against the Kaffirs. Tom Donahue and I had a little hut right out in the bush;
but we were known to possess nothing, and to be handy with our revolvers, so
we had little to fear. There we waited, doing odd jobs, and hoping that something
would turn up. Well, after we had been there about a month something did turn
up upon a certain night, something which was the making of both of us; and it's
about that night, sir, that I'm going to tell you. I remember it well. The wind was
howling past our cabin, and the rain threatened to burst in our rude window. We
had a great wood fire crackling and sputtering on the hearth, by which I was
sitting mending a whip, while Tom was lying in his bunk groaning disconsolately
at the chance which had led him to such a place.