16 A Time to Die by Wilbur Smith

16 A Time to Die by Wilbur Smith

Author:Wilbur Smith [Smith, Wilbur]
Format: epub
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

Once Claudia was manacled the wardress seemed to recapture her harsh mood of authority. She tipped the contents of the maize bowl onto the 1loor and lifted her boot to grind it into the dirL Claudia flew at her. “Don’t you dare!” she hissed, thrusting her face close to the woman’s and glaring into her eyes so viciously that she recoiled involuntarily.

“Get out!” Claudia told her. “Allez! Vamoose!” The wardress backed out of the cell with a muttered but unconvincing show of defiance and dragged the door closed behind her.

Claudia was amazed at her own courage. She leaned against the door, trembling with the effort that the contest of wills had cost her, only then realizing the risk she had taken-she could have been brutally beaten or deprived altogether of her precious supply of water.

It was Sean’s letter that had given her the strength and bravado to defy the wardress. Leaning against the door, she reached back into her pocket and touched the scrap of folded notepaper, merely to reassure herself that it was safe. She would not read it yet. She wanted to delay and savor that pleasure. Instead she retrieved her drinking straw from its biding place.

After she had drunk from the billy, she ate the maize cake, delicately picking it out of the dirt with her teeth and trying to shake loose the earth and dirt that clung to the sticky lumps of porridge. She was determined not to leave a scrap of it, not only because she was hungry but because she knew she would have need of all her strength in the days ahead, and also because she had learned that food scraps attracted the rats. Only when she had eaten and drunk did she allow herself the luxurious pleasure of reading Sean’s note.

She took it out of her pocket and carefully smoothed it between her swollen fingers. Then she squatted and placed it in the beam of sunlight that fell in a corner of the cell. At last she turned and knelt over it.

She read slowly, moving her lips like a semiliterate, forming every word he had written as though she could taste it on her tongue.

“Be strong, it won,”I-be for much longer and remember I love u. Whatever happeds, I love you.” Her vision swam with tears YO as she read his la,stVords. Then she sat back and whispered softly, “I’ll be strong. I promise you I’ll be strong for you, and I love you too. With my very existence, I love you.”

“They may fight like women,” said Sergeant Alphonso as he surveyed the piles of captured Zimbabwean Army equipment, “but at least they dress like warriors.”

The uniforms had been supplied by Britain as part of its aid commitment to Mugabe after the capitulation of Ian Smith’s white regime. They were of the finest quality, and Alphonso and his men stripped off their old faded and patched tiger-striped battle dress with alacrity. In particular they were delighted with the gleaming black leather paratrooper


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