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A Vendetta of the Desert   By: (1855-1943)

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A Vendetta of the Desert By William Charles Scully Published by Methuen and Co, London. This edition dated 1898. A Vendetta of the Desert, by William Charles Scully.

A VENDETTA OF THE DESERT, BY WILLIAM CHARLES SCULLY.

CHAPTER ONE.

THE POWER OF THE DOG.

Old Tyardt van der Walt, head of the family of that name, came of good Netherlands stock. His grandfather had emigrated from Holland with his family in the middle of the Eighteenth Century and settled at the Cape. He bought a farm in the Stellenbosch district and there commenced life anew as a wine farmer. The family consisted of his wife, a son and several daughters all of whom married early. At his death the farm descended to his son Cornelius from whom, in course of time, another Tyardt inherited it.

The last mentioned Tyardt forsook the settled and fertile environs of Stellenbosch and trekked forward to seek his fortune in the unknown and perilous wilderness. A story is told as to the reason for this migration which, though it has no direct bearing on the story which is to be recorded in this volume, is interesting enough in itself to merit relation.

There was, it is said, a gruesome legend connected with the van der Walts. It dated from the times of William the Silent and was to the following effect: The head of the van der Walt family of that period lived in the town of Maestricht. He was a man of solitary habits. In his youth his wife had deserted him for another. He had been passionately attached to her, and he never recovered from the blow, but lived the rest of his days in solitude.

Years afterwards, when he was quite an old man, a son of the man who had wronged him a young and zealous Lutheran preacher, came to live in his vicinity. This preacher was in the habit of visiting in disguise families of his co religionists in the Provinces where the Spaniards held complete dominion. He had a dog that had been trained to convey cypher messages from place to place. Van der Walt betrayed this preacher to the authorities, with the result that he was captured and sentenced to be burnt alive. The betrayer was among those who crowded round the stake to gloat over the agonies of the victim. The dog had followed its master and, seeing his evil case, set up a piteous howling. The Spaniards, judging the heretic to be a wizard, and the dog his familiar spirit, caught the unhappy animal and bound it among the faggots at its master's feet. Just as the pile was lit the preacher lifted up his voice and cried aloud:

"Gerrit van der Walt, for thy black treachery to a servant of the Lord, thou shalt die in misery within a year and a day. Thy soul shall wander homeless for ever and shall howl like a dog as the harbinger of misfortune whenever it is about to fall upon one of thy blood."

It has been declared on respectable authority that from and after the death of Gerrit, which took place under miserable circumstances within the period named by his victim, a dog which was never seen would howl around the dwelling of any van der Walt about to die, for the three nights previous to the passing of his soul. Thus a new terror was added to the death bed of any member of the family.

The following account of the last occasion when this warning howl was heard is firmly believed by the few surviving descendants in the direct line. It is taken from an old manuscript which purports to date from the year in which the incidents related are alleged to have taken place.

Towards the end of the last century, Tyardt's father, Cornelius van der Walt, lay ill in bed, but no one imagined that his illness was likely to be fatal, until one night after supper the dreaded howl was heard under his window. The sick man, filled with terror, arose to a sitting posture in his bed, and called Tyardt, who was his eldest son, before him... Continue reading book >>




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