Hide Articles List

6 articles on this Page

The Doctor's Diagnosis.

News
Cite
Share

Our Short Serial. I The Doctor's Diagnosis. CHAPTER II. About six o'clock in the afternoon a solitary rider urged his horse along one of the steep paths which led from the hills to the road at the head of the Maripstadt Valley. The path was pre- cipitous find strewn with loose stones, which made insecure footing for the horse, and care was necessary. Long before they were half-way down the hill, the sun had set, and every minute the clouds darkened .and became more threatening. Often the i idejL glanced apprehensively at the clouds, and after each glance urged his horse on afresh. Evidently, lie knew the storm would soon break, and was anxious to reach the valley road before nightfall. But both hor.se and man looked travel- stained and tired, and their progress was slow. The man was about thirty-five years of age, and of splendid physique. Very tall, well-proportioned and clean-limbed, lie had the bearing of an athlete. His closely cropped black hair and well-trimmed moustache of the same hue, set off his clear-cut features, and his skin was tanned -as from long exposure to tropical suns. He was dressed in the customary riding .outfit of breeches and leggings, soft white shirt, open at the throat, coat and soft felt hat. As he guided the horse down the .steep mountain path, he sat in the saddle with the ease and grace of the accomplished horseman. The man was Jack Woodcourt, an Englishman, veterinary Burgeon at Marip- stadt. That morning he had been sum- moned to treat some horses at a distant farm and was now on his way home. About six months previously, Jack had -strayed and found himself settled for a time, in the same way as he had strayed rto many another out-of-the-way place. He r was an adventurous rolling stone, who had seen many climes and all the stock- raising countries of the world. He Imd roughed it on the ranches out West," on the cattle plains of Texas, the llanos of Brazil, the Australian back-country," and the fever-infected uplands of Uganda. In all these remote and wild places had Jack pursued his calling, and in them all had he earned the good opinion of cow- boys and cattle-men for his pluck and ,skill. His life was crowded with adven- ture, and his experiences were many and unique. Night came on apace, and by the time Jack had struck the road it was quite dark. Hardly had he turned his horse I on to it before the storm burst with the suddenness and fury of tropical elements. He was soon drenched to the skin, but cared little for that—he had weathered many a tropical storm. The darkness became intense, and scarcely could he see his horse's head. The flashing, lightning gave him momen- tary glimpses of the road and by this ..means alone was he able to find his way. He rode on for an hour, when the sound of rushing water came to his ears, and lie knew lie was at a drift. He waited for the lightning to expose it. The next flash showed him a rather narrow but swift running stream. Jack was un- acquainted with that part of the valley, .and he. took this to be a "spruit," and ,decided to cross. He urged his horse care- .fully into the water, but before he got to the middle the horse lost his foothold .and sank into deep water. Jack stuck to the saddle and pulled up his horse's head, .and made him swim for it. The horse .struck out strongly, but made little pro- J;ress towards the bank, the racing torrent orcing them steadily clown stream. The darkness was like a pall and Jack could distinguish neither bank. He leaned forward and peered into the gloom, and hoped a bend in the river would land them. At that instant the horse seemed to find foothold, and Jack thought the bank was reached, when the horse lost his foothold again, plungel heavily forward, and threw him head fore- most into the surging water. He was an excellent swimmer and struck out for the bank, battling the strong current which carried him along with it. He felt himself dashed against something, and reaching out, his hand closed on the branch of a tree which overhung the bank. He quickly drew himself up and looked round for the horse. He waited and listened, and crept along the bank hoping the next flash of lightning would reveal him. But flash after flash came .and went, and no sign of the horse could he see or hear. He concluded the animal was drowned and carried away by the floocl. He reluctantly turned away, and regaining the road, strode down the valley. He had "lost his hat, and the .rain poured down on his bare head and into his eyes. He knew there must be farmhouses somewhere near, and resolved to seek shelter at one of them until the storm passed. He had walked about a mile, when, on turning a sharp bend in the road, he saw a light shining: from the window of a house which stood some dis- tance away from the road. He made a bee-line for the light, and crossing the lawn in front, stepped on to the sheltering verandah, where he paused to wring out the water from his clothes .-and hair, and then strode to the door and knocked. It was old Jan's house, and the window through which shone the welcome light was that at which Louise had looked out at the raging storm. Inside, the girl and her father sat silently looking into the fire, listening to the storm, each engrossed in thought. Louise heard an indistinct knocking sound, but took no notice of it, thinking it came from the kitchen. But she heard the sound again, this time more distinctly. *• Dad," she said, was that a knock at the door? Didn't hear anything," returned the ,old man. I feel sure it was," she said. "Listen." Jack's third rapping left no doubt in their minds. I" Whoever can it be," said Louise, oil such an awful night? while she huriied to get a light. "It's AYillem, I expect," said her father. Willem! exclaimed the girl. "It must be something important that brings him here on such a night and at this hour." As she hurried out into the hall, old Jan thought it would take more than rain to quench love's ardent fire, especially when Louise was the object. Louise opened the door and looked out, to see Jack Woodcourt, bareheaded and bowing politely. She suppressed an ex- clamation of surprise on beholding a stranger of such unkempt appearance. His wet, matted hair gave him a rather wild appearance in the flickering candle-light, and his drenched clothes -clinging to his limbs were dyed nearly yellow with the muddy water of the ■river. "Good evening," said Jack. "May I beg shelter for a little while from the storm? His politeness and well modulated voice reassured. Wliy, of course," she said. Come UIl. You must be wet to the skin." Old Jan was surprised to find that the man who walked in was not Willem, but rose and welcomed the stranger. Shading his eyes from the dazzling light of the lamp, Jack apologised for dis- turbing them at such a late hour, told them his name, and the predicament he Avas in. The girl brought him a towel to dry I I his head and face, and asked for his coat, which she took to the kitchen to dry. While she was gone, Jack addressed himself to the old man, who in response merely grunted all occasional Yah," or gave a nod of his grizzled head. He had immediately understood that his visitor was an Englishman who could not speak the Taal," and at once retired into a shell of reserve. He would not "praat" English to the stranger, who would not condescend to learn his native Taal, the language of the country. Louise returned from the kitchen, and with the customary kind hospitality of the Boers, of which a steaming cup of coffee is always the first mark, soon made Jack feel quite at home. In excellent English she chatted plea- santly, and expressed much concern at his adventure and the fate of the horse. He looked at her approvingly, and thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and her frank, cheerful manner left a most agreeable impression". The storm increased in fury, and the din on the iron roof almost drowned their voices. The lightning flashed with in- creasing brilliance and seemed to come dangerously near. An hour passed, and cstill they sat comfortably near the fire. Jack, his natural reserve gradually melt- ing before Louise's gracious hospitality, and instigated, perhaps, by his recent adventure, related a few of his experi- ences in other countries, to which she listened with attentive interest, and a'sked him many questions regarding people and things in other lands in which lie had lived. Old Jan Maritz said not a word and aiiswered in a monosyllable when ad- dressed. Smoking his great pipe and staring into the fire, he appeared to have no interest in the conversation. Never- theless, he was keenly awake to all that passed. He noted Jack's admiring glances with disfavour, and in the same pro- portion as Louise became interested in him and his conversation, old Jan dis- liked his English guest. Presently she rose, and asking to be excused for a minute, went to the door, and looked out at the wild night. Return- ing, she walked up to her father. Dad," she said, the storm is worse than ever, and as it is late. I think you had better ask Mr. Woodcourt to stay here to-night." Without waiting for her father to reply, she turned to Jack. Mr. Woodcourt. it is impossible for you to go on to-night. You must stay here. What do you say, dad? The old man slowly removed the pipe from his mouth, frowned, and grunted out rather grudgingly "Yah, certainly." He disliked his guest more than ever, but extended his hospitality and main- tained the traditional courtesy of the Boers. (To be continued).

Ponth Police Court.

Ogmore Vale.

General Booth's Motor Tour

Advertising

Advertising