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A Veldt Official A Novel of Circumstance   By: (1855-1914)

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A Veldt Official, by Bertram Mitford.

A VELDT OFFICIAL, BY BERTRAM MITFORD.

CHAPTER ONE.

"WHERE'S DOPPERSDORP?"

"Now where the very mischief is Doppersdorp?"

He who thus uttered his thoughts aloud looked up from the sheet of paper in his hand, and gazed forth over the blue waters of Algoa Bay. Over the vessels riding at their anchorage his gaze wandered, over the stately hulls of two or three large mail steamships similar to that upon whose deck he then stood; over the tall, tapering masts and web like rigging of numerous sailing craft; over the flotilla of cargo boats and lighters; over the low, sandy shores and sunbaked buildings of busy, dusty Port Elizabeth, right away to the bold ridges of the Winterhoek range looming black and hazy to the blue heavens; then returned to re peruse the large official communication. Thus it began:

Sir, I have the honour to inform you that His Excellency the Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, has been pleased to appoint you to be provisionally clerk to the Resident Magistrate of Doppersdorp, and distributer of stamps... Then followed particulars as to salary, and, with the request that the recipient would be good enough to proceed to that place as soon as possible, somebody whose name he could not quite decipher, but whose style was "Acting Under Colonial Secretary," had the honour to be his obedient servant.

The letter was dated from the Colonial Secretary's Office, and was directed to "Roden Musgrave, Esq."

"The pay is not profuse," soliloquised the fortunate recipient of this missive, "especially to make a fresh start upon at my time of life. Well, the old saw about beggars and choosers holds good, but where the very deuce is Doppersdorp?"

"Hallo, Musgrave! Had ten thousand a year left you?" cried a jolly, hail the maintop sort of voice behind him.

Its owner was a powerfully built man of middle age, whose handsome face, bronzed and bearded, was lit up by a pair of keen brown eyes with a merry twinkle in them which was more than half satirical. He was clad in a dark blue, gold laced, quasi naval uniform.

"You know something about this country, eh, skipper?" said the other, turning away from the taffrail, over which he had been leaning.

"I ought to by now, considering the number of years I've had to do with it," was the confident reply.

"So? Well, I'll bet you a bottle of Heidsieck you don't answer the first question I put to you concerning it. But whether I win or lose it'll be our parting drink together."

"Our parting drink? Man alive, what sort of humbug are you talking? Aren't we going on as far as Natal together, and haven't we only just begun our unlading? That means two days more here, if not three. Then we are sure to be kept a couple of days at East London. So this day week we can talk about our parting drink, not to day."

"Never mind that for a moment. Is that bet on?"

"All right yes. Now then, what's the question?"

"Where is Doppersdorp?"

"Eh?"

"To be more explicit what section of this flourishing colony is distinguished by the proud possession of the town or village of Doppersdorp?"

"I'll be hanged if I know."

"I thought not. Skipper, you've lost; so order up the Monopole, while I dive down and roll up my traps, for to that unpromising township, of so far nebulous locality, I am officially directed to proceed without loss of time."

"The dickens you are! That's a nuisance, Musgrave; especially as all the other fellows are leaving us here. I thought you were going on to Natal with us."

"So did I. But nothing is certain in this world, let alone the plans of such a knock about as yours truly. Well, we've done more than our share of lie splitting during the last three weeks, Cheyne, and it'll be for your moral good now to absorb some of the improving conversation of that elderly party who is dying to come down to your end of the table; also of Larkins, who can succeed to my chair... Continue reading book >>




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