Shortly before the Englishman dies, he marries Tant’ Sannie, so that there will be someone to take care of his farm and his motherless daughter, Lyndall. Tant’ Sannie, a heavy, slow, and simple Boer woman, takes over the farm and the care of Lyndall and her cousin, Em. Most of the hard work is done by an old German, who lives with his young son in a small house nearby. The boy, Waldo, watches over the sheep and helps his father take charge of the black natives who do the heaviest work.
The farm lies in a dreary flat plain of red sand sparsely dotted with pale bushes. The sun always glitters in a blinding way on the zinc roofs of the buildings and on the stone walls of the enclosures for the animals. Life is monotonous and deadly. Tant’ Sannie sits in the farmhouse drinking coffee; the children play in a halfhearted way; young Waldo does his chores; and the German goes about seeing that things are as they should be.
Tant’ Sannie is asked by the Englishman to see that the two girls are educated, but she, believing only in the Bible, pays no attention to their demands for books. The two girls and Waldo find some old histories and study them when they can. Lyndall learns rapidly, for she is a quick, serious girl, fascinated especially by the story of Napoleon. Em is more quiet and reserved. Waldo is the strangest of the three. His father is deeply devout, with an innocent faith in the goodness of man and the mercy of God. He fills the boy’s head with frightening and overpowering ideas.
One day a visitor comes to the farm and asks for a night’s lodging. He introduces himself as Bonaparte Blenkins. Tant’ Sannie will have nothing to do with him, because he is English-speaking. The old German intercedes for the visitor, however, and finally wins Tant’ Sannie’s grudging permission for him to spend the night. The German cannot bear to pass up an opportunity to practice Christian charity.
Blenkins soon wins the German over completely with his fantastic tales of adventure and travel, and he even conquers Tant’ Sannie by the wonderful way he reads and preaches the service on Sunday. The children, however, are not fooled. Lyndall knows that the man is lying when he talks and that his religion is all hypocrisy. Nevertheless, Blenkins is soon installed on the farm as tutor to the children. After a few days, Lyndall walks out of class and refuses to return.
Blenkins slowly gains Tant’ Sannie’s esteem, until he feels that it is safe to try to get rid of the German and take over his job. With a trumped-up charge, he accuses the overseer to his mistress and stands by happily as the old German is ordered off the farm. Shocked the more deeply because of the support he gave Blenkins, the German goes to his house to pack up and leave. It is not in his nature to argue or to fight for his rights; what God sends must be accepted. In his grief he dies that night.
Blenkins takes over the farm. Like his namesake, he loves power and takes advantage of his new position. He orders Waldo about, beats him, and destroys the model for a sheep-shearing machine the boy made. None of these matters makes any impression on Tant’ Sannie. She thinks that Blenkins has a wonderful sense of humor, and daily he grows more and more valuable to her. She hopes someday to be his wife.
A visit by one of Tant’ Sannie’s nieces disillusions her. The niece is young, only a little overweight, and wealthy. One day Tant’ Sannie climbs up to the loft to see if everything there is neat, and she lets her maid take the ladder away. While she is there, Blenkins comes into...
(The entire section is 1479 words.)