Unexpected love

Unexpected love
A short story
Stephen Dunkley

“So did you find anything on your recent week long reconnaissance into the Maluti’s? asked Captain E Bennet, “Nothing at all sir” replied Lieutenant Cairns “dismissed” , “thank you sir”.

As he exited the tent Lt Cairns of the 2nd Brabants horse let out an audible sigh, he had just lied to a superior officer. There was no time to waste he hurriedly packed what he needed and changed into civilian clothing and without as much as a glance backwards took his horse and slipped through the picket lines, when he felt he was far enough away he mounted the stallion and headed east towards the Maluti Mountains

Elmarie awaited in those mountains and she was the reason that Lt Cairns was risking his life, desertion was not taken lightly by the British high command and if caught would be summarily executed. While on his recent reconnaissance looking for pockets of Boer families eluding the British by hiding in the mountains he stumbled upon a cave tucked away in a concealed valley. His first reaction was to turn around and report his find, but something made him hesitate, he dismounted and crept nearer the cave and it was then that he saw her, standing over a 3 legged pot cooking for the 24 women and 34 children hiding there.

While he watched Elmarie he heard a “click” and realised that it was the sound of a ? being pulled back………”get up sir or I will shoot you” are the words that he heard, slowly he stood and with hands on the back of his head was pushed into the cave. The rifle pressing into his back was only removed once two of the other ladies had disarmed Lt Cairns and he had is hands tied together.

Neither Elmarie or Lt Cairns know why they started to talk, but they did, Elmarie told him about the loss of her husband at Modderfontein as well as how their farm had been all but destroyed by the British army. And in this cave in the middle of a war they fell in love, but how to stay together? It was then that Lt Cairns came up with the idea of deserting and coming back to the cave to live out the rest of the war with Elmarie, perhaps getting married and start a new life together. Convincing the other 13 ladies that he would not betray them and was in fact in love with Elmarie took 3 days and when he saddled up the horse to head back to Harrismith, Elmarie took his hand and gave him a brief kiss.

It was the thought of seeing his love again that spurred him on towards the mountains and a life with Elmarie……….. He did not see the 3 men crouched behind the boulders and the first time he realised he was not alone in the veld was when he heard the retort of a rifle and the pain of a bullet hitting him square in the chest. As he fell from the horse and his life ebbed away he looked up into the Free State sky and called out her name. Elmarie never knew what happened to Lt Cairns and no one ever visits his grave In a lonely overgrown cemetery not far from the farm that once belonged to Elmarie and her husband.

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