such thing faded completely from her mind, obliterated by the one overwhelming, stunning stroke which had left her life in shadow until it should end.Then the Rangers had returned, and from the two surviving actors in the terrible tragedy—Payne and Hoste, to wit—she learned the full particulars. It was even as she had suspected—Tom’s rashness from first to last. The insane idea of bushbuck hunting in a small party in an enemy’s country, then venturing across the river right into what was nothing more nor less than a not very cunningly baited trap—all was due to his truculent fool-hardiness. But Eustace, knowing that her very life was bound up in his—how could he have allowed himself to be so easily led away? And this was the bitterest side of it.To the philosophic and somewhat cynical Payne this interview was an uncomfortable one, while Hoste subsequently pronounced it to be the most trying thing he had ever gone through in his life.“Is there absolutely no hope?” Eanswyth had said, in a hard, forced voice.The two men looked at each other.“Absolutely none, Mrs Carhayes,” said Payne. “It would be sham kindness to tell you anything different. Escape was an impossibility, you see. Both their horses were killed and they themselves were surrounded. Hoste and I only got through by the skin of our teeth. If our horses had ‘gone under’ earlier it would have been all up with us, too.”“But the—but they were not found, were they? They may have been taken prisoners.”Again the two men looked at each other. Neither liked to give utterance to what was passing through his mind. Better a hundredfold the unfortunate men were dead and at rest than helpless captives in the hands of exasperated and merciless savages.“Kafirs never do take prisoners,” said Payne after a pause. “At least,
relief against the red flashes of lightning which played with well-nigh unintermittent incandescence athwart the storm cloud beyond. There he stood, his features working horribly, the tangled masses of his beard and hair floating in the fitful gusts which came whistling up from the dizzy height. Never, to their dying day, would the spectators forget the sight. Yet they could do nothing.With a choking cackle, like an attempt at a laugh, the maniac turned again to the awful height. The spectators held their breaths and their blood ran cold. Then they saw him gather his legs beneath him and spring far out into space.Petrified with horror, they rushed to the brink and peered over. The smooth rock face fell without a break down to the tree-tops at a dizzy depth beneath. These were still quivering faintly as though recently disturbed. But at that moment heaven’s artillery roared in one vast deafening, crackling roll. The air was ablaze with vivid blue flame, and driven before the tornado blast, sheet upon sheet of deluging rain crashed down upon them, beating them to the earth by the very weight and fury of its volume.Chapter Forty Eight.Envoi.Ring we the curtain down—for our tale is ended and we have no desire to point a moral thereto. Years have gone by, and new homesteads have risen upon the ashes of the old ones; and flocks and herds are once more grazing in security upon those grassy plains, those pleasant plains, so sunny, so peaceful, so smiling.And how the broken and decimated tribes were settled on new locations, and how the ringleaders and prominent fighting men of those who owned British allegiance were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, and how the Gaika location was parcelled out into farms, and as such leased by the Department of Crown Lands to white settlers; and how in consideration of certain acts of forbearance and humanityexercised during the period of hostilities and resulting in the saving of several European lives, the sentences of imprisonment passed upon Nteya and Ncanduku were remitted—mainly through the exertions of Eustace Milne—and the two sub-chiefs were allowed to rejoin the banished remnant of their tribe in its new location beyond the Kei—are not all these things matters of history?And how the sad relics of poor Tom Carhayes, his fate now under no sort of doubt, were gathered together beneath the great krantz in the Bashi valley on the morning after his insane and fatal leap, and conveyed to the settlement for burial, and how Eustace Milne, punctilious to a hair in his dealings with his barbarous neighbours, had paid over the stipulated ransom, even to the very last hoof, to the relatives of Hlangani, even though the contingency of that warrior’s demise was in no wise provided for in the original agreement—these things, too, are they not graven in the memories of all concerned?But if, to some, the war has brought ruin and death and bereavement, it has entailed vastly different results upon two other persons at any rate; and those, needless to say, the two with whom our story has been mainly concerned. For their good fortune has been great —greater, we fear, than they had any right to expect. They are flourishing exceedingly, and now, after years of union, it still seems to them that they have only just begun to enter upon that glowing vista of lifelong happiness, down which they had gazed so wistfully in the old, troubled, and well-nigh hopeless time. But after sorrow and heaviness cometh joy —sometimes. And it has come to these two, by a weird irony of Fate, has come through the agency of a wild and sanguinary drama—through the consistent ferocity of a vindictive barbarian and the logical outcome thereof—even Hlangani’s Revenge.| Chapter 1 | | Chapter 2 | | Chapter 3 | | Chapter 4 | | Chapter 5 | | Chapter 6 | | Chapter 7 | | Chapter 8 | | Chapter 9 | | Chapter 10 | | Chapter 11 | | Chapter 12 | | Chapter 13 | | Chapter 14 | | Chapter 15 | | Chapter 16 | | Chapter 17 | | Chapter 18 | | Chapter 19 | | Chapter 20 | | Chapter 21 | | Chapter 22 | | Chapter 23 | | Chapter 24 | | Chapter 25 | | Chapter 26 | | Chapter 27 | | Chapter 28 | | Chapter 29 | | Chapter 30 | | Chapter 31 | | Chapter 32 | | Chapter 33 | | Chapter 34 | | Chapter 35 | | Chapter 36 | | Chapter 37 | | Chapter 38 | | Chapter 39 | | Chapter 40 | | Chapter 41 | | Chapter 42 | | Chapter 43 | | Chapter 44 | | Chapter 45 | | Chapter 46 | | Chapter 47 | | Chapter 48 |
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The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulatinghusband.The fact was that where her strongest, deepest feelings were concerned, Eanswyth, like most other women, was a bad actress. The awful poignancy of her suffering had been too real—the subsequent and blissful revulsion too overpowering—for her to be able to counterfeit the one or dissemble the other, with anything like a satisfactory result. Those who had witnessed the former, now shook their heads, feeling convinced that they had then mistaken the object of it. They began to look at Eanswyth ever so little, askance.But why need she care if they did? She was independent, young and beautiful. She loved passionately, and her love was abundantly returned. A great and absorbing interest has a tendency to dwarf all minor worries. She did not, in fact, care.Eustace, thanks to his cool and cautious temperament, was a better actor; so good, indeed, that to those who watched them it seemed that the affection was mainly, if not entirely, on one side. Sometimes he would warn her.“For your own sake, dearest,” he would say on such rare occasions when they were alone together. “For your own sake try and keep up appearances a little longer; at any rate until we are out of this infernal back-biting, gossipy little hole. Remember, you are supposed to be plunged in an abyss of woe, and here you are looking as absurdly happy as a bird which has just escaped from a cage.”“Oh, darling, you are right as usual,” she would reply, trying to look serious. “But what am I to do? No wonder people think I have no heart.”“And they think right for once, for you have given it away—to me. Do keep up appearances, that’s all. It won’t be for much longer.”Eustace had secured a couple of rooms for his own use in one of the neighbouring cottages. The time not spent with Eanswyth was got through strolling about the camp, or now and then taking a short ride out into the veldt when the entourage was reported safe. But this, in
deference to Eanswyth’s fears, he did but seldom.“Why on earth don’t you go to the front again, Milne?” this or that friend or acquaintance would inquire. “You must find it properly slow hanging on in this hole. I know I do. Why, you could easily get a command of Fingo or Hottentot levies, or, for the matter of that, it oughtn’t to be difficult for a fellow with your record to raise a command on your own account.”“The fact is I’ve had enough of going to the front,” Eustace would reply. “When I was there I used often to wonder what business it was of mine anyway, and when the Kafirs made a prisoner of me, my first thought was that it served me devilish well right. I give you my word it was. And I tell you what it is. When a man has got up every day for nearly a month, not knowing whether he’d go to bed between his blankets that night or pinned down to a black ants’ nest, he’s in no particular hurry to go and expose himself to a repetition of the process. It tells upon the nerves, don’t you know.”“By Jove, I believe you,” replied the other. “I never knew Jack Kafir was such a cruel devil before, at least not to white men. Well, if I’d gone through what you have, I believe I’d give the front a wide berth, too. As it is, I’m off in a day or two, I hope.”“I trust you may meet with better luck,” said Eustace.One day a considerable force of mounted burghers started for the Transkei—a good typical force—hardened, seasoned frontiersmen all, well mounted, well armed; in fact, a thoroughly serviceable looking corps all round. There was the usual complement of spectators seeing them off —the usual amount of cheering and hat-waving. On the outskirts of the crowd was a sprinkling of natives, representing divers races and colours.“Au!” exclaimed a tall Gaika, as the crowd dispersed. “That will be a hard stone for Kreli to try and crush. If it was the Amapolise (Police) he could knock them to pieces with a stick. Mere boys!”“What’s that you say, Johnny?” said a hard-fisted individual, turningthreateningly upon the speaker.“Nothing. I only made a remark to my comrade,” replied the man in his own language.“Did you?” said the other walking up to the Kafir and looking him straight in the eye. “Then just keep your damned remarks to yourself, Johnny, or we shall quarrel. D’you hear?”But the Kafir never quailed, never moved. He was a tall, powerful native and carried his head grandly. The white man, though shorter, looked tough and wiry as whip cord. The crowd, which had been scattering, gathered round the pair with the celerity of a mob of London street-cads round a fallen cab-horse.“What’s the row? A cheeky nigger? Give him fits, Mister! Knock him into the middle of next week!” were some of the cries that burst from the group of angry and excited men.“I have committed no offence,” said the Kafir. “I made a remark to a comrade, saying what a fine lot of men those were.”“Oh, yes? Very likely!” shouted several ironically.“See here now. You get out of this,” said the first man. “Do you hear, get out. Don’t say another word—or—”He did not finish. Stung by a contemptuous look in the Kafir’s eyes, he dashed his fist full into his face.It was a crushing blow—but the native did not fall. Like lightning he aimed a blow at his assailant’s head with his heavy kerrie—a blow which would have shattered the skull like an egg shell. But the other threw up his arm in time, receiving nearly the full force of the blow on that member, which dropped to his side completely paralysed. Without attempting to follow up his success the savage sprang back, whirling his kerrie round his head. The crowd, taken by surprise, scattered before him.Only for a moment, though. Like a pack of hounds pressed back by a
stag at bay they gave way but to close up again. In a trice the man’s kerrie was struck from his grasp, and he was thrown down, beaten, kicked, and very roughly handled.“Tie up the schelm!”“Give him six dozen well-laid on!” “Six dozen without counting!” “Cheeky brute!” were some of the shouts that accompanied each kick and blow dealt or aimed at the prostrate Kafir, who altogether seemed to be having a pretty bad time of it.“That’s a damned shame!” exclaimed a voice behind them.All started and turned their heads, some astonished—all angry— some perhaps a little ashamed of themselves—towards the owner of the voice, a horseman who sat calmly in his saddle some twenty yards away —an expression of strong disgust upon his features.“What have you got to say to it anyhow, I’d like to know?” cried the man who had just struck the native.“What I said before—that it’s a damned shame,” replied Eustace Milne unhesitatingly.“What’s a shame, Mister?” sneered another. “That one o’ your precious black kids is getting a hidin’ for his infernal cheek?”“That it should take twenty men to give it him, and that, too, when he’s down.”“I tell you what it is, friend,” said the first speaker furiously. “It may take rather less than twenty to give you one, and that, too, when you’re up!” which sally provoked a blatant guffaw from several of the hearers.“I’m not much afraid of that,” answered Eustace tranquilly. “But now, seeing that British love of fair play has been about vindicated by a score of Englishmen kicking a prostrate Kafir, how would it be to let him get up and go?”The keen, biting sarcasm told. The group, which mainly consisted of the low element, actually did begin to look a trifle ashamed of itself. The better element composing it gave way and took itself off, as Eustace deliberately walked his horse up to the fallen native. There were a few muttered jeers about “the nigger’s friend” and getting into the Assembly on the strength of “blanket votes,” (The native franchise, derisively so termed) and so forth, but none offered any active opposition except one, however, and that was the man who had originated the disturbance.“Look here,” he shouted savagely. “I don’t know who you are and I don’t care. But if you don’t take yourself off out of this mighty quick, I’ll just about knock you into a jelly; you see if I don’t.”“Ja, that’s right. Serve him as you did the nigger!” yelled the bystanders, a lot of rowdy hobbledehoys and a contingent of town loafers whom the prospect of an easy-going, devil-may-care life in the veldt had drawn from the more sober avocations of bricklaying and waggon-building within the Colony, and who, it may be added, distinguished themselves at the seat of hostilities by such a line of drunken mutinous insubordination as rendered them an occasion of perennial detestation and disgust to their respective commanders. These now closed up around their bullying, swash-bucklering champion, relieving their ardently martial spirits by hooting and cat’s calls. It was only one man against a crowd. They felt perfectly safe.“Who sold his mate to the blanked niggers!” they yelled. “Ought to be tarred and feathered. Come on, boys; let’s do it. Who’s for tarring and feathering the Kafir spy?”All cordially welcomed this spicy proposal, but curiously enough, no one appeared anxious to begin, for they still kept some paces behind the original aggressor. That worthy, however, seemed to have plenty of fight in him, for he advanced upon Eustace unhesitatingly.“Come now. Are you going to clear?” he shouted. “You’re not? All right. I’ll soon make you.”A stirrup-iron, wielded by a clever hand, is a terribly formidable