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"Next day came Pagan to pay for the work that was done. He drove up in his smart cart, and tiptoed his way daintily to the edge of the spruit where the bricks lay. He was an old man, very cleanly dressed, with hard white hair on his head and face, and a quick manner of looking from side to side, like a little bird. In all his aspect there was nothing but spoke of easy wealth and the serenity of a well-ordered life; there was even that unkindly sharpness of tone and manner that is a deadweight on the well-to-do. My husband was at work when he drove up, but he straightened his back, squared his broad shoulders, and came up from the mud, walking at the full of his height and smiling down at the rich man with halfclosed eyes.
"Daag, Heer Pagan,' he said to him, in the tone of one who needs and desires nothing, and held out his hand-mud from the elbow-with something lordly in the gesture. The rich man cocked his head quickly, in the way he had, and hung in the breeching for a moment, ere he rendered his hand to Kornel, with a reddening of the cheek above his white whisker that betrayed him, I thought, for a paltry
house where the Vrouw du Plessis (which was me) will give us some coffee.'
"I was watching, you may be sure, and again I saw the wintry red swell above the white whisker, and I clenched my hands in wrath and contempt at the creature's littleness. I was sure he would have liked to sweep my man's courtesy aside, and certainly the politeness had a prick in it. He was rich, and old, and fat, with a consequence in his mien and an air that hinted he was used to deference, and Kornel was but a muddy brickmoulder. Yet there stood my man, so easy in his quiet speech, so sure of himself, so dangerous a target for contempt, that the rich man only stammered. Kornel nodded as though he understood the invitation to be accepted, and walked up to the house, leaving old Pagan to count the bricks and follow.
"I kissed him as he came in. 'You've trampled his dirty soul under your heel,' I said, and I love you for it. I love to see you upright and a man of purpose: whatever comes of it, I shall honour you always.'
"He kissed me and laughed. 'Nothing will happen, if we are lucky,' he said. 'There is more in John Pagan than the big stomach and the money. But we mustn't crawl to him; I'll wager he never crawled himself when he was poor.'
"I set the coffee ready, spreading the table with a fine cloth I had brought from Kornel's farm, one of the few things we had taken with us, and presently in came old
Pagan. Directly I saw him o' learning, not even makin' I felt a doubt of him: there was a kind of surreptitious viciousness showing in his sour smile that warned me. He was like a man who is brewing an unpleasant joke.
"Ah, Mrs du Plessis,' he said, 'your man will have been working very hard.'
"You know what brickmoulding is, then?' I said.
"He grinned. 'A little,' he said; 'yes, a little. There's few jobs I haven't put a hand to in my time. Work's a fine thing, when a man knows how to work.'
"You are very right,' agreed Kornel.
mud-bricks. The very same thing happened to me. Lord, it's past forty years ago! turned out six hundred dozen, and had 'em thrown on my hands. It nearly broke my heart.'
"I can understand that,' said Kornel. 'But what is wrong with my bricks?'
"Old Pagan set his cup back on the table and sat up in his chair. As he began to speak he hitched back the sleeves of his coat and moved his neck in his white collar.
"See here!' he said. a little thing, like turning up the toe of a horseshoe, but just as essential. When ye set your full moulds out to dry, did ye set 'em on edge, to drain away the water?
"This is good coffee,' said John Pagan, as he stirred his cup. 'In fact, it's better than the bricks.' "A better hand was at did not? Well, that's what's work on it,' said Kornel. wrong. They're just mud-pies
"So I should judge,' answered Pagan sleekly. 'I should like another cup of this coffee, if I may trouble you, Mrs du Plessis.'
"He laid his cup on the table and bit his nails while I filled it, glancing round at my poor room the while and smiling to himself.
"Yes,' he said, 'I like the coffee, but I don't like the bricks. They're no good at all.'
"We both stared at him, silent and aghast, and the white-haired old man chuckled in our stricken faces.
"What is wrong with them?' demanded Kornel at last. His face was white, but he spoke quite naturally.
"Aha!' laughed old Pagan. 'Ye see, there's no trade that ye can take up without a bit
lumps o' damp dirt, that'll crumble as soon as they're dry. There's ninety dozen of 'em, by my count, and there'll not be three dozen that ye could use in any way consistent wi' conscience. Do ye take my meanin'?'
"Kornel nodded very thoughtfully.
"Well, you'll just need to get to work again,' said the old man. 'Maybe I'm not exactly keen on greetings and invitations and the like, but you'll not be able to teach me anything on bricks. So if you're thinking anything about the splendour o' your work, wait till ye're master of it before you waste more thought. I'm your better as a craftsman,' he said, with a glance towards
turned then to Kornel with a briskness that was not unkindly.
"I was relying on you for bricks,' he said, 'for you can work, and that's a fact. Perhaps you'll can let me have a hundred dozen by Thursday, eh? I'm waitin' on them. And if you'll make sure of it, I'll do wi' ye what's my common custom, and that's pay half the price in advance. How'll that suit?'
"Kornel rose from his chair and stammered thanks, and thanks, and John Pagan paid the money on to the table.
"I'll be down on Thursday to see the bricks,' he said, and don't forget the dodge I told ye. And maybe Mrs du Plessis 'll be willing to give me coffee again when I come. So good-day to ye, and mind -drain 'em!'
"When he was gone Kornel and I looked at each other and laughed emptily. Then he went out to the mud again to make ready for Thursday.
"So it was we lived for a time that was shorter than it seemed, building on the mud of our shaky fortunes a pride that our poverty could not overturn. Kornel had a saying that seemed irreligious but very true. There are ministers and farmers and lawyers who are rich,' he would observe, but there's no money in work.' I have since been
won to believe that there is a flaw in the argument, but for us it was true, and bitterly true. We were never on the right side of ten shillings; we were never out of sight of the thin brink of want. That we were preserved and kept clear of disaster was due only to the toil of Kornel and my own anxious care for the spending of the money. I found out that a wife who is strong has a great trade to drive in upholding her house, and I, at any rate, was proficient in maintaining cleanliness, in buying and making food, and preserving to my home the atmosphere of happiness and welcome that anchors a man to his own place. Take it all in all, we were happy, and yet I would not pretend that there were not grim hours when we wondered if the mere living were worth all that it cost. Kornel, hard as iron always, grew lean and stooped, and there appeared in his face a kind of wild care that frightened me. From the chill upcoming of the dawn to the rising of the wind at evening he taxed himself remorselessly at the sorry work in the mud, while I scrubbed and scraped and plotted and prayed to make the meagre pay cover wants that were pared meagre enough. Yes, there were certainly times when we thought the cost too great, but, God be praised! we never thought it at the same moment, and the stronger always upheld the weaker.
"And there was never any shame in the matter. Even
as we feared nothing, we were he said. never ashamed. Never!
"One morning, about hour before high sun, when the dust lay thick on the road into the town that passed our land, and the neighbourhood around was feverish with the fuss of the Kafirs and yellow folk, I stood for a moment at my door, looking down to where Kornel was fervently at work in the spruit. There was always traffic on the road at that hour, and something drew me to look towards it. At once I saw my father. He was riding in, dressed in his black clothes, very solemn and respectable, with his beard flowing over his chest. At the same moment he saw me, and seemed to start in his saddle and glance quickly at all about-at my poor little house, the litter that lay around, the squalor of the town-end we lived in, and the laborious bent back of my man as he squattered about in the mud. He checked his horse an instant, as though by an impulse-for my father, though I honoured him, was a weak man, in whom no purpose was steadfast. I saw the wavering in his face and the uncertainty of his big pale eyes; and then, half-nodding to me as though in an embarrassment, he pushed on and entered the town. I went down and told Kornel.
"H'm!' He stood as though in thought, looking up to me from the water. Your father, eh? Would you like him to come and see you?'
"He laughed and climbed up the bank to me. 'So would I,'
'I have a stiffness in my back that makes me inclined for anything rather than this work,—even your father.'
"We walked up to the house together, and Kornel's brow was creased with thought, while his lips smiled.
"You see,' he said, 'we want nothing from him—nothing at all, so we can't afford to be humble. Have we any money at all?'
"We have three shillings,' I answered, and I owe shilling for food.'
"That's not enough,' he said, shaking his head. say he saw me working? We must have thirty shillings at least; we must treat him well; I can't let him off, now that he has seen so much. We'll stuff him till he bulges like a rotten cask, and wishes he could make bricks as I can. I wonder if Pagan would pay me in advance for a thousand dozen. I'll go and ask him.'
"He started for the door at once, but turned and came back to me.
"He said once he had nothing to give me,' he whispered to me. 'Do you grudge me this, kleintje?'
"Not I,' I answered. 'I only wish we could do more.' "He kissed me, and was off in a moment. Pagan made no difficulty about the money. He looked at Kornel shrewdly when my man made the request, and paid at once.
"It suits me ye should be a wee thing in my debt,' he said. But you're so damned proud, there's times I'm scared o' ye. Sign yer name here.?
"Now,' said Kornel, when he had put the money in my hand, 'get what you need for a dinner that will tickle the ou pa's stomach, and a bottle of whisky. There never was a deacon that did not suffer from some complaint that whisky would ease; and I'll get into what clean clothes I have and go to look for him.'
"So I bought the dinner. was willing enough to suffer the emptiness to come, if only I could wipe from my father's memory his impression of my man's poverty; but all the same, in case he should refuse to visit us, I bought things that would last long enough to serve ourselves until the thirty shillings should have been earned. They made a good show for I have never been a fool in the matter of food, and I knew my father's tastes. I promised myself that his dinner should be his chief memory of that day, at all events. He was, I fear, the kind of man who remembers his good dinners better than anything else.
"It was a long time before they came, and I had given up all hope of the visit when I heard their voices. Or rather, it was Kornel's voice that I heard, in a tone of careless civility, like one who performs a casual duty of politeness. He was talking nonsense in a slow drawl, and as they picked their way from the road to the house my father looked up to him in a kind of wonder.
"The evenings are pleasant
here,' Kornel was saying. We have a little time to ourselves then, for people have learned at last not to trouble us much. One sees the sun go down yonder across the hills, and it is very pretty. Now, on the farm, nobody ever knew how handsome the sunset is. We were like Kafirs on the farm; but life in the town is quite different.'
"He chattered on in the same strain, and my father was plainly dazed by it; so that his judgment was all fogged, and he took the words at their face-value. I noticed that my father seemed a little abashed and doubtful: it was easy to see that this was the opposite of what he had expected.
"He greeted me with a touch of hesitation in his manner; but I kissed him on the forehead and tried to appear a fortunate daughter smiling assuredly, you know, glad to exercise hospitality and to receive my father in my own house. It was not all seeming, either; for I had no shame in my condition and my husband's fortune,-only a resentment for those who affected to expect it.
"You are looking well,' said my father, staring at me. 'How do you like the life you are living?'
"Kornel smiled boldly across to me, and I laughed.
"I was never so happy in my life,' I answered-and that, at any rate, was true.
"My father grunted, and sat listening to the gentle flow of talk with which Kornel gagged