- CHAPTER XXXII. A LIGHT BREAKS.
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A LIGHT BREAKS.
BLAKE was the first to recover himself, but something in Toby's eyes made him stand still with an abashed air, totally unlike his usual manner, and refrain from offering his hand.
"Where in the world have you sprung from?" he asked. "I thought you were at Cape Town?"
"I have been," said Toby shortly.
"And you're going back to Rhodesia now?" -- pretending not to see that his companion was literally glaring hatred at him.
"No "--coolly. "I'm on my way to India."
"India!" echoed Blake in amazement.
"That is what I said. Why not? Have you any objection?" Toby's lips curled unpleasantly.
Blake glanced round him and through the open doorway. Then he said in a low voice:
"I'm awfully glad I met you, Fitzgerald. I--I want to have a talk with you very much. But not in here. It's a private matter."
For a moment Toby looked as if he would sooner wring his neck than discuss anything with him whatever; but Blake's face now wore a grave, open expression, and Toby could not choose but see it.| | 279
"I think we can perfectly well say anything we have to say here," he asserted, still scowling blackly.
"No, we can't"--in a conciliatory tone. "It has to do with Miss Glynn." Toby winced visibly. "It is something I promised her I would tell you if I met you anywhere."
"Why should she suppose you were likely to meet me anywhere?"
"I don't know that she did. She only asked me to promise to tell you, if it happened that I did meet you anywhere."
"Well, you wouldn't have done to-night but for an entirely unlooked-for circumstance. My ship is at anchor, and we leave at daybreak. I only came ashore to help a lady traveller."
"Then I should say she was your guardian angel"--grimly--"for what I have to tell you may change your plans altogether."
Toby looked at him with an awakening gleam of interest, in spite of himself, but he only said gruffly: "I think not. Where do you wish to talk?"
"The sea-wall will be pleasant now, and little fear of listeners. Will you come?"
"I suppose so." And Toby suffered himself to ushered out of the hotel again into the night.
Blake was glad that it was dark. The story he had to relate would prove anything but easy telling, and, but for his promise to Bobbie, he would merely have left it alone, and let Toby find things out for himself. But he had made the promise, and, deeply conscious of what Bobbie had done for him, he meant to keep it.
"Have you seen any Geegi news in the papers | | 280 since you took yourself off in such an uncalled-for hurry?" he asked, as they strolled along.
"No, I have not seen any papers. What news I want I hear from others who read them."
"Did anyone tell you there had been an attempt on Sir James Fortescue's life, near his claim at Loka?"
"An attempt on Sir James Fortescue's life!" Toby repeated, with a note of incredulity, roused in spite of himself.
"Yes. I gather, from your surprise, you had heard anything?"
"No, nothing at all. But it failed? He wasn't hurt!"
"He would have been but for Miss Glynn."-- shortly. "She saved his life."
"Bobbie saved his life!" Toby was staring hard in front of him now. What could have been happening up there since he left? What did it,all mean?
Blake felt suddenly angry with him for flinging away as he had done, for no cause, and for being to go back openly and unashamed, and he abruptly: "Fortescue was not hurt at all. Miss Glynn was shot."
"Shot!" Toby stood still in swift horror. "Bobbie shot!" he repeated. "Did you say she was shot? For God's sake, man, tell me you mean!"
"I mean what I say. The man who meant commit the murder was foiled by her splendid courage, and in his rage he fired at her and hit her."
"Did he--did he--" Toby could get no further. "Go on," he finished hoarsely.| | 281
"Fortunately, she was not badly hurt. The shot went through her shoulder, and after that Fortescue protected her. She would not have been struck at all, but I was a second too late, and the damned villain with the gun knocked me senseless."
"You--you were there?"
In the darkness Blake set his teeth together with a resolute air. If lying would clear him now, he meant to be cleared.
"Yes, I had suspicions also, but I did not know as much as Miss Glynn. She overheard some remarks, and came to my house." He saw Toby stiffen suddenly and his face harden. "By the way, you seemed pretty angry with Miss Glynn for being there, but why in the world shouldn't she come and see me if she wants to? As it happened, she had come simply and solely with the object of saving Fortescue's life."
"Saving Fortescue's life!" Toby repeated the words in slow amazement, and then turned aside and leaned on the parapet of the wall, staring out to sea as if struck dumb.
Blake waited to let him thoroughly grasp the sentence, then he added: "She called out to you as you left. I suppose she wanted to tell you. But you were in such a d--d hurry, you wouldn't listen."
Suddenly Toby turned on him. "Your arm was round her. I saw it. Was that also to save Fortescue's life? You are pitching me a ridiculous yam. I don't believe a word of it."
For answer, Blake took out his pocket-book, and, producing a pellet, held it out towards him. "That is one of the shots from her wound. If you want | | 282 any further evidence, go and see the grave where they 'planted' Van Tyl, and the grave of Fortescue's , boy Jim, who died saving the two of them and killing the murderer. What you say about my arm being round Miss Glynn is utter nonsense. She would not be likely to permit such a thing for a moment."
"Good God!" Toby breathed. "And I was imagining you married to her!"
"That's the worst of those vivid imaginations" --with a little short laugh--"always running off the track! If you'd only stopped to make sure, instead of so upsetting poor Miss Glynn and probably making her much more ill--"
"More ill. Has she been ill?"
"Of course she has been ill. She ran or walked ten miles through the kopjes in the blazing heat, and sprained her arm, and then got shot for a finish."
"Heavens, I must have been behaving like a d--d fool!" And Toby spoke in a breathless manner, as if he was still staggered by Blake's revelations.
"Of course you have. It wasn't very nice for her to lie there, supposing you were mortally offended about nothing, and getting no word from you. It. wouldn't be nice about any friend."
"Why didn't she write, or--or anything?"
"How could anyone write? 'Fitzgerald, Cape Colony,' was hardly likely to find you."
Toby looked round suddenly with a driven air. "I suppose I couldn't catch up that train?" he said.
Blake laughed. "You might have done an hour earlier. But probably there will be a goods train to-morrow."
Toby grew serious again. "Tell me about this | | 283 monstrous murder attempt,"he said, struggling to calm his racing pulses and speak composedly.
"It was a Dutchman named Van Tyl, who had sworn to revenge himself upon Fortescue for getting him convicted, about fifteen years ago, on various criminal charges in the Transvaal. By a curious circumstance, he inherited from a brother the claim on Loka kopje next to Fortescue's, and that brought him up here. Then he found out Fortescue owned the next claim--the one which practically damns his as useless--and was himself in the neighbourhood.He followed him to Shagann's kraal, and apparently made the niggers there very drunk, and bribed them into attempting to commit the murder. If Miss Glynn had not overheard a remark about it, and immediately grown suspicious, he would have carried it out all right, and everyone would have thought Shagann's natives had done it after a drinking bout. The Dutchman came down my way, and she followed him, and came into my house for lunch before she went to warn Sir James."
"Why in the world didn't you ride after him?" Toby broke in.
"Because she did not tell me"--drily. "That part of the story she will probably relate to you best herself. She left my place in a hurry, and went after Fortescue herself, reaching his camp soon after dark, and shouted to warn him just as Van Tyl's bribed murderers were approaching. Van Tyl himself was close by, and, when he heard her shout, he knew his plot had been discovered. I suppose it made him desperate, for, when she came into the firelight, he raised his gun to shoot her. I had doubts of the man for another reason, and had gone after Fortescue | | 284 on horseback, but I was only in time to grapple with Van Tyl after he had raised his gun. The next minute he knocked me senseless."
"What an extraordinary story!"--knitting brows in the darkness.
"Miss Glynn will tell you the rest of it better than I can. I suppose you will, at any rate, write to her before you leave for India. I think she was a good deal upset at your unaccountable disappearance."
"I shall not go to India until I have seen her." And again Toby stared straight before him into the night. "I owe her an apology. I have behaved abominably to her. I cannot rest until I have her!" There was a short silence, and then he out: "Good heavens, Blake, you've given me the most glorious news I ever had in my life! I can't believe it yet. I feel dazed with it. An hour ago everything seemed over, and nothing of any consequence any more. Now the world is suddenly flooded with sunlight. And if I hadn't chanced to run into you here, I should have sailed at daybreak for India. It--it's wonderful! It simply takes breath away!"
Blake said nothing, and presently Toby continued in a quieter voice: "You see, I took it for pan. there was some understanding between you"--pause--" and--and it hit me rather hard." He looked at Blake as if expecting him to speak, and in the darkness he could not see that his face unnaturally white and rigid.
After a silence, Blake remarked in the most matter-of-fact tone he could command: "Of course, I admire Miss Glynn very much. I dare say she is the | | 285 kind of girl most men admire. But marriage is not in my line at all. I am a born rover, and always shall be. Far from settling down, even now I'm on the rove again. I have sold my farm."
"Sold your farm!" Toby stood still in his amazement, and spoke as if he could not believe his own ears.
"Yes. I've suddenly broken out afresh with a taste for wandering." He gave a low, harsh laugh. "Fortescue offered me a high price, and I decided to close."
"Fortescue?"--growing more amazed still.
"Yes. He's going to work the Loka claim, and wants a nice place in the neighbourhood to stop at."
"Some amazing things seem to have happened since I left--" He hesitated. "I hope good luck has come the Glynns' way?"
"Bay Glynn is to manage the new mine, so I suppose it has. Fortescue is sure to pay well."
"I'm glad--I'm thundering glad! Poor old Bay! He will be pleased. Anything else?"
"No, I don't think so. You'll hear the rest for yourself. I've a good mind to come back with you, only I want to get away to East Africa with a man I know coming up on the next boat."
"I shall be thankful to get back," Toby answered simply. "There's something very attractive about that neighbourhood. I've been desperately home-sick since I left, when I let myself think about it. I shall have to hurry back to the ship now and get my things ashore somehow. I wonder if they'll allow me anything on the beastly passage? I booked to Bombay. By gad! when I came ashore, I little thought I should only go back to fetch my things for | | 286 good. It seems to have been about one chance in a million that I saw you. I owe it to my fellow-traveller," and his eyes grew soft, thinking of all Lucia had unconsciously meant to him, and of how she now journeyed on through the darkness alone, while for him had come the breaking of a great light. With all his heart, he wished it might have come for her, too, and hoped earnestly that it yet would.
Blake said very little as they paced back to the quay together. The interview had been easier than he anticipated, for Toby had asked none of the awkward questions he might have done.
For the rest, it seemed the die was cast. He, Toby, would go back, and Blake would remain away. Well, there was the wide world to roam in. He would roam and forget.
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