Jeremy’s feet found solid ground as he was thrown back to Makhadzi.
“Mon grace!” he exclaimed. “Where will it stop?”
It was obviously two, three months later. The whole camp had undergone some changes again. There seemed to be more order somehow, a platoon soldiers were marching along the neat clearing in the centre, up and down, up and down, the wooden buildings were cleaned up, the soldiers in general were dressed more tidily and on the far side the ramshackle stables were renovated and enlarged.
“Huh? Did they have a visit from one of the generals or what?”
Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter anyhow, for there was Captain Peter Holden coming out of a tent and going into the next. From the voices within Jeremy could infer that he was conducting some strict inspection.
Psychological changes, that was what was transpiring here! Peter was doing a cleaning up of his MIND! A mind that was riddled with a bad conscience, with anger, hopelessness, denial, sorrow and regret. In the near permanent absence of their Colonel, Peter had taken over the disciplining and restoration of order in the commando. Well, well. That made sense although it meant that he was busy losing his sanity!
As he came from the next tent, Jeremy noticed how much weight the man had lost. Skin and bone, face drawn and haggard, clothes that should hang on him like a sack was firmly tucked into neatness by a belt.
Nightfall came and as the men gathered around their campfire the captain disappeared into the foliage on the banks of the Makhadzi River. The soldiers watched him go, shook their heads and sighed.
Jeremy however followed him.
Found him at the exact spot gazing up into the sky, crying, as he had seen him earlier on in the day.
Peter Holden had evidently starved himself to death, had willed himself to death, but to the last minute of his life managed to keep up the appearance of normality while madness was eating away at him. He had held the derangement in check by an obsession of extreme order and pristine cleanliness.
As the dark clouds started coming down over the scene of tragedy where Peter Holden had collapsed, Jeremy walked away and strolled back to the base.
It had started drizzling.
The base camp had undergone major alterations again. It was replaced by the present-day Makhadzi Picnic Spot, the restructured timber buildings on stilts being quite an achievement in architecture as the similarity to those of days gone by was striking. The archaeologists had done a good job after the discovery of this site in 1996.
Dripping wet from the rain, a bit shook up and deep in thought, Jeremy walked to the lapa in the middle of the site where the caretaker was sitting. This was where the huge campfire was burning a little more than a century ago.
“How much do you charge for those flowery things you make from soda cans?” he asked curiously. “And can I have a coke too, please?”
To be continued.