Chapter 9

Written by: Suraya Dewing

Alice wished she was noble. She really wished she was so noble that she could say to Oliver, ‘go back to Emma and be a happy man with your wife.’ After all Emma had sacrificed a life of luxury for him.

The sound of thunderous guns and trilling Xhosa war cries filled the hallway. They were emanating from the mirror which had become ominously dark.

Alice clutched his arm. Now it was even more important that Oliver stayed.

“Don‘t you see how dangerous it is to go back.”

Her heart beat wildly. His rugged face became embattled with conflicting emotions.

“Please stay,” she beseeched. “We could have such a good life." He seemed to consider the idea for a moment. She hurried on, “There are wonderful restaurants nearby, beautiful wild life and golden sand beaches...”

Then his features hardened and he shook her arm away.

“How can you suggest such a thing?” He cast around helplessly. “Oh god, I don’t know why I came here.”

A bright red flush washed up her neck and stained her normally pale cheeks.

The roar of a cannon crashed into the hallway followed by the agonised screaming of wounded men.

A dusty storm filled the glass and then cleared to reveal men in red uniforms marching, deadly bayonets fixed. Then came the sound of spears humming through the air.

He could stand still no longer. “I must go,” he cried. “Emma is alone.”

She held her words, begging him to stay with her deep blue eyes. “Please don’t go,” she whispered.

He stared at her in stunned disbelief. She was asking too much of him. As if the patterned paper of the walls had come to life the perfume of orange blossoms drifted around them.  This was the smell of South Africa...their future if he would only allow it.

But behind them was the terrible sound of war and the terrifying smell of gunpowder and the cacophony of roaring guns.

Away in the far distance a ship was sailing into the harbour. He was suddenly filled with engulfing excitement. He pointed. “Look, my new ship.”

In his agitation he stepped first one way then another. “I must be with my men,” he cried desperately.

Alice said nothing. If her Oliver went back he would surely die.

The sound of a bugle further agitated Oliver. Alice once again placed her hand on his arm. This time he did not draw away but grim determination replaced his confusion. A certain calm settled over Alice as she accepted she must part with Oliver.

They were both distracted by a knock at the door. Rashidi walked in. On seeing Oliver, he flew into a wild rage.

“So that’s why you sent me away.”

He rushed at Oliver, whose face filled with horror.

“For God’s sake get me out of here,” he yelled.

The grey wafting smoke of the gun powder temporarily parted and a stallion reared up through it. Oliver leapt and was gone.