The Ghost Kings HTML version
its crest, and finally pushed down a boulder before it departed, barking
indignantly. Her mother could not come because she was ill with grief
and fever in a little tent by the waggon. When it was all over they re-
turned to her, and there had been a painful scene.
Mrs. Dove was lying on a bed made of the cartel, or frame strung with
strips of green hide, which had been removed from the waggon, a pretty,
pale-faced woman with a profusion of fair hair. Rachel always re-
membered that scene. The hot tent with its flaps turned up to let in
whatever air there might be. Her mother in a blue dressing-gown, dingy
with wear and travel, from which one of the ribbon bows hung by a
thread, her face turned to the canvas and weeping silently. The gaunt
form of her father with his fanatical, saint-like face, pale beneath its tan,
his high forehead over which fell one grizzled lock, his thin, set lips and
far-away grey eyes, taking off his surplice and folding it up with quick
movements of his nervous hands, and herself, a scared, wondering child,
watching them both and longing to slip away to indulge her grief in
solitude. It seemed an age before that surplice was folded, pushed into a
linen bag which in their old home used to hold dirty clothes, and finally
stowed away in a deal box with a broken hinge. At length it was done,
and her father straightened himself with a sigh, and said in a voice that
tried to be cheerful:
"Do not weep, Janey. Remember this is all for the best. The Lord hath
taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
Her mother sat up looking at him reproachfully with her blue eyes,
and answered in her soft Scotch accent:
"You said that to me before, John, when the other one went, down at
Grahamstown, and I am tired of hearing it. Don't ask me to bless the
Lord when He takes my babes, no, nor any mother, He Who could spare
them if He chose. Why should the Lord give me fever so that I could not
nurse it, and make a snake bite the cow so that it died? If the Lord's ways
are such, then those of the savages are more merciful."
"Janey, Janey, do not blaspheme," her father had exclaimed. "You
should rejoice that the child is in Heaven."
"Then do you rejoice and leave me to grieve. From to-day I only make
one prayer, that I may never have another. John," she added with a sud-
den outburst, "it is your fault. You know well I told you how it would be.
I told you that if you would come this mad journey the babe would die,
aye, and I tell you"Ã‘here her voice sank to a kind of wailing whis-
perÃ‘"before the tale is ended others will die too, all of us, except Rachel