plains of Gcalékaland, with the blue smoke rising from many a clustering kraal. Yet soft and peaceful as was the landscape, there was little of peace just then in the mind of its inhabitants, white or brown, for the savages were believed to be in active preparation for war, for a concerted and murderous outbreak on a large scale, involving a repetition of the massacres of isolated and unprepared settlers such as characterised similar risings on former occasions; the last, then, happily, a quarter of a century ago.Nearer, nearer to his western bed, dipped the sinking sun, throwing out long slanting darts of golden rays ere bringing to a close, in a flood of effulgent glory, the sweet African spring day. They fell on the placid surface of the dam, lying below in the kloof, causing it to shine like a sea of quicksilver. They brought out the vivid green of the willows, whose feathery boughs drooped upon the cool water. They blended with the soft, restful cooing of ring doves, swaying upon many a mimosa spray, or winging their way swiftly from the mealie lands to their evening roost and they seemed to impart a blithe gladsomeness to the mellow shout of the hoopoe, echoing from the cool shade of yonder rugged and bush-clad kloof.Round the house a dozen or so tiny ostrich chicks were picking at the ground, or disputing the possession of some unexpected dainty with a tribe of long-legged fowls. Quaint enough they looked, these little, fluffy balls, with their bright eyes, and tawny, spotted necks; frail enough, too, and apt to come off badly at the spur or beak of any truculent rooster who should resent their share of the plunder aforesaid. Nominally they are under the care of a small Kafir boy, but the little black rascal—his master being absent and his mistress soft hearted—prefers the congenial associations of yonder group of beehive huts away there behind the sheep kraals, and the fun of building miniature kraals with mud and three or four boon companions, so the ostrich chicks are left to herd themselves. But the volleying boom of their male parent, down there in the great enclosure, rolls out loudly enough on the evening air, and the huge bird may be described in all the glory of his jet and snowy plumage, with inflated throat, rearing himself to his full height, rolling his fiery eye in search of an adversary.
in this lot safe. Whoever of us are not on horse guard will be on cattle guard.”They were joined by the few men who had remained behind to guard the corpse of their slain comrade. This was conveyed in a sort of litter, improvised of blankets and slung between two quiet horses; and now to the dash and excitement of the conflict and pursuit, there succeeded a subdued quiet, almost a gloom, by reason of the presence of the dead man in their midst. Still—it was the fortune of war.Chapter Twenty One.Under Orders for Home.The Kaffrarian Rangers were ordered home.To be strictly accurate, that redoubtable corps had applied to be withdrawn. There was not enough to do to render it worth the while of the men who composed it—men mostly with a substantial stake in the country—to remain any longer wasting their time in a series of fruitless patrols on the off-chance of an occasional very long distance shot at a stray Gcaléka scout or two; for the enemy no longer attempted to meet them in battle. He had suffered severely, both in men and possessions, and there were those who declared that he had had nearly enough of it. The Frontier Armed and Mounted Police and, if necessary, the regular troops now stationed along the border, would be sufficient to cope with any further disturbance; so most of the volunteer forces applied to be withdrawn.They had been several weeks in the veldt—several weeks absent from their farms and businesses. They had rendered excellent service; had, in fact, constituted the very backbone of the offensive operations. It was only fair, now that there remained no more to be done, to allow them to return. Brathwaite’s Horse had already withdrawn, so had most of the mounted corps. The Kaffrarian Rangers were nearly the last.The men were in excellent health and spirits. They had lost one oftheir number—the poor young fellow who had met his fate with the patrol under Shelton, and had been buried near where he fell—a few had received wounds, none of these being, however, of a very serious nature. But they had left their mark upon the enemy, and were returning, withal, in possession of a large number of the latter’s cattle. Yet they had a grievance, or fancied they had.They had not nearly enough fighting. The combined plan of the campaign had not been carried out according to their liking. The enemy had been suffered to escape just at the very moment when it was within their power to inflict upon him a decisive and crushing blow. There had been too much of the old womanly element among those intrusted with the conduct of affairs. In a word, the whole business had been bungled. And in this thoroughly characteristic and British growl none joined more heartily than Tom Carhayes.There was one, however, who in no wise joined in it at all, and that one was Eustace Milne. He had had enough of campaigning to last him for the present, and for every reason mightily welcomed the news that they were ordered home. Of late an intense longing had corrie upon him to return, but now that that ardently desired consummation had been attained he realised that it was dashed with the sickening and desolating consciousness of hopes shattered. The campaign, so far as he was concerned, had been barren of result.But for him—but for his intervention—Tom Carhayes would have been a dead man, and Eanswyth would be free. The Kafir could not have missed at that distance. But for his interference the bullet of the savage would have sped true, and happiness for him—for her—would have become the blissful, golden, reality of a lifetime. Even now he would be hurrying back to claim her—that is, allowing for a reasonable period exacted by decorum. But no, the cup was shattered in his grasp, and his own was the hand that had shattered it. “A man who interferes in what doesn’t concern him deserves all he gets,” was the grimly disgusted reflection which lashed his mind again and again.Why had he intervened to save his cousin’s life? When Fortune was playing directly into his hands he, yielding to an idiotic scruple, had
deliberately flung back into her face the chance she had held out. She would not proffer it again. His opportunity had occurred and he had let it go by.Yet he could not have acted otherwise. Could he not? he thought savagely, as at that moment his cousin’s voice struck upon his ear. Not that its utterances contained anything objectionable, but to the listener’s then frame of mind, there was something insufferably self-assertive in their very tone. Could he not? Let him only get the chance again. But this he never would. It was thought by many that the war was practically at an end.If his cousin had been a different stamp of man and one built of finer clay, it is more than probable that Eustace would have acted differently— would have conquered that overmastering and unlawful love which he had so long and so successfully concealed, or at any rate would have fled from temptation. But it was far otherwise. The fellow was such a rough, assertive, thick-headed, inconsiderate boor, utterly unable to appreciate his own splendid good fortune. He deserved no mercy. Yet this was the being to whom Eanswyth was bound—whom, moreover, she had managed to tolerate with every semblance of, at any rate, contentment, until he himself had laid siege to the castle of her outwardly calm, but glowingly passionate nature, and had carried it by storm, by a single coup de main.And now? How could she ever resume that old contented toleration, how relegate himself to an outside place. Every look—every word of hers —during that last walk, when he had come upon her so unexpectedly— every sweet and clinging caress during that last parting, was burnt into his memory as with red-hot irons. And now it seemed that the curtain must be rung down on everything. Tom Carhayes was returning in rude health; louder, more boastful, a more aggressive personality than ever. Let the very heavens fall!A change had come over Eustace. He became moody and taciturn, at times strangely irritable for one of his equable temperament. This was noticed by many; wondered at by some.“Why, what’s the row with you, old chap!” said Carhayes one day in his bluff, off-hand manner. “Sick and sorry that we can’t scare up another fight, eh?”“Milne’s conscience is hitting him hard over the number of his ‘blanket friends’ he has shot already. Ha, ha!” cut in another man, with an asinine guffaw.The Kaffrarian Rangers were ordered home. The order reached them in their camp on the Bashi, and forthwith they acted upon it. No preparations delayed the setting out of such a light-marching-order corps. Accordingly the breakfasts were cooked and eaten, the camp was struck, and the whole troop started upon its homeward way.“I say, Hoste!” said Carhayes, while they were breakfasting on boiled mealies and ration beef. “What do you say to a shoot before we leave this? We are bound to get a bushbuck ram or two in some of these kloofs.”“Haven’t you shot away enough cartridges yet, Tom?” laughed Hoste. “Still I think we might try for a buck if only for a change after the niggers; besides, we can eat the buck, which is part of the change. I’m on. What do you say, Payne? Will you cut in?”“What do I say? I say it’s the most damn idiotic idea I ever heard mooted,” answered Payne sententiously. “Still—I’ll cut in.”“All right. We’ll have some sport then!” said Carhayes. “You’ll come, too, Eustace? That’s right,” as Eustace nodded assent. “That’ll make four of us—we don’t want any more,” he went on. “We can just hunt down the river bank for two or three hours, and catch up the troop in camp to-night. We are bound to get some sport.”“Likely so are the niggers,” murmured the more prudent Payne.The commander of the troop, when applied to, made no decided objection to the above scheme. There was, as we have said, no discipline in the ordinary sense of the word, the offices of command beingelective. Besides, they were under orders to return straight home, which was practically disbandment. So, while not forbidding the undertaking, he pointed out to those concerned that it might involve serious risk to themselves; in a word, was rather a crack-brained idea.“Just what I said,” remarked Payne laconically, lighting his pipe.“Then why do you go, old chap?” asked one of the bystanders with a laugh.“That’s just what I don’t know myself,” was the reply, delivered so tranquilly and deliberately as to evoke a general roar.The camp had been pitched upon high ground overlooking the valley of the Bashi, which ran beneath between rugged bush-clad banks. So the troop set forth on its homeward way, while our four friends, turning their horses’ heads in the opposite direction, struck downward into the thick bush along the river bank.Chapter Twenty Two.“We are Four Fools.”For upwards of two hours they forced their way through the thick scrub, but success did not crown their efforts—did not even wait upon the same. Once or twice a rustle and a scamper in front announced that something had got up and broken away, but whatever it was, owing to the thickness of the bush and the celerity with which it made itself scarce, not one of the hunters could determine—being unable so much as to catch a glimpse of the quarry. At length, wearied with their failure to obtain sport under abnormal difficulties, they gained the edge of the river, and there, upon a patch of smooth greensward beneath the cool shade of a cliff, they decided to off-saddle and have a snack.“By Jove!” exclaimed Hoste, looking complacently around. “This is a lovely spot for a picnic. But wouldn’t John Kafir have us in a hole just, if he were to come upon us now?”
“We are four fools,” said Payne sententiously.“We are,” growled Carhayes. “You never said a truer word than that. Four damned fools to think we’d get a shot at anything in a strip of cursed country we’ve been chevying niggers up and down for the last six weeks. And as the idea was mine, I suppose I’m the champion fool of the lot,” he added with a savage laugh. “We haven’t fired a shot this blessed morning, and have had all our trouble for nothing.”This was not precisely the reflection that Payne’s words were intended to convey. But he said nothing.“I’m not sure we have had our trouble for nothing,” put in Eustace. “It’s grand country, anyhow.”It was. Magnificent and romantic scenery surrounded them; huge perpendicular krantzes towering up many hundreds of feet; piles upon piles of broken rocks and boulders, wherein the luxuriant and tangled vegetation had profusely taken root; great rifts and ravines, covered with dense black forest, and the swift murmuring current of the river joining its music with the piping of birds from rock and brake.But the remark was productive of a growl only from Carhayes. He had not come out to look at scenery. They had had enough and to spare of that during the campaign. He had come out to get a shot at a buck, and hadn’t got it.Pipes were lighted, and the quartette lounged luxuriously upon the sward. The frowning grandeur of the towering heights, the golden glow of the sunlight upon the tree-tops, the soft, sensuous warmth of the summer air, the hum of insects, and the plashing murmur of the river, unconsciously affected all four—even grumbling, dissatisfied Tom Carhayes.“Whisht!” said Payne suddenly, holding up his hand to enjoin silence, and starting from his lounging attitude. The others were prompt to follow his example.“What’s the row, George?” whispered Hoste below his breath. “Hear anything?”For answer Payne waved his hand again and went on listening intently.Up the sunlit river came a sound—a sound audible to all now, a sound familiar to all—the tread of hoofs upon the stones, of unshod hoofs. Mingling with this were other sounds—the low murmur of human voices. Water, as everybody knows, is a great conductor of sound. Though more than half a mile distant, they recognised the deep tones and inflections of Kafir voices, whose owners were evidently coming down to the river on the same side as themselves.From their resting place the river ran in a long, straight reach. Peering cautiously through the bushes, they were able to command this. Almost immediately several large oxen, with great branching horns, emerged from the forest, and, entering the water, splashed through to the other side. They were followed by their drivers, three naked Kafirs, who plunged into the river in their wake, holding their assegais high over their heads, for the water came fully breast-high. They could even hear the rattle of the assegai hafts as the savages climbed up the opposite bank, laughing like children as they shook the water drops from their sleek, well-greased skins. They counted thirteen head of cattle.“A baker’s dozen, by Jove! Stolen, of course,” whispered Hoste. “Allamaghtaag! if only we had known of that before we might have gone to voer-ly (Waylay) that drift, for it must be a drift. We might have bagged all three niggers and trundled the oxen back to camp. A full span, save three. Suppose they’ve eaten the rest. That’ll be one apiece—the schelms!”“It isn’t altogether too late now,” said Carhayes. “I smell some fun ahead. Let them get up over the rise, and then we’ll go down and look if their spoor seems worth following.”“And what if they are only the advance guard of a lot more?” suggested Hoste.
“They are not,” was the confident reply. “There are too few beasts and too few niggers. I tell you there’s some fun sticking out for us.”Quickly the horses were saddled. A high, bushy ridge precluded all chance of their presence being discovered by the three marauders as soon as the latter had crossed the river, and it certainly had not been discovered before. Then, having allowed sufficient time to elapse, they forded the river and rode forward on the other side, so as to converge on the spoor leading up from the drift below.“Here it is—as plain as mud,” said Carhayes, bending over in his saddle to examine the ground, which, dry and sandy, showed the hoof-prints and footmarks so plainly that a child might have followed them. “They are well over the rise by now, and the way isn’t so rough as I expected. Our plan is to make straight for the top of the hill. We can’t get up much quicker than they can, I’m afraid, unless we want to blow our horses, which we don’t. But once we are up there we shall find it all open veldt, and all we’ve got to do is to ride them down in the open, shoot the niggers, and head the stock back for the river again. Anyone propose an amendment to that resolution?”“We are four fools,” said Payne laconically, knocking the ashes out of his pipe and pocketing that useful implement.“Ja! That’s so,” said Carhayes, joining heartily in the laugh which greeted this remark. “And now, boys, are we on for the fun, that’s the question?”“We just are,” cried Hoste, whose dare-devil recklessness was akin to that of Carhayes. The other two acquiesced silently, but as they caught each other’s glance, a curious satirical twinkle lurked in the eyes of both men.“A case of the tail wagging the dog,” presently whispered Payne to Eustace. “Two wise men led by two fools!”The track, rough and stony, took longer to follow than they had expected. Moreover they had to exercise extreme care, lest the clink of
the hoof-stroke of a shod horse perchance stumbling on the rocky way should be borne to the quick, watchful ears of those they were following. At length, however, the brow of the ridge was gained, and there before them lay a rolling expanse of open country, yet not so open as Carhayes had predicted, for it was pretty thickly dotted with mimosa, and the grass was long, coarse, and tangled, rendering rapid riding dangerous in parts.Suddenly they came right upon a kraal nestling in a mimosa covered valley. Three old hags were seated against one of the beehive shaped huts, otherwise the place seemed quite deserted. No children were to be seen—not even a half-starved cur skulking around—and of men or cattle there was no sign. The spoor they were following had grown very indistinct, and here seemed to split up into several directions.The old women, frightful, toothless crones, all wrinkles and flaps, showed no signs of alarm at this unexpected appearance of the invading white men. On the contrary, they began to abuse them roundly in a shrill, quavering treble.“Macbeth in excelsis!” murmured Eustace at sight of them.“Stop that cackling, you old hell-cats!” said Carhayes with a growl like that of a savage dog, as he drew his revolver and pointed it right at them, a pantomime which they thoroughly understood, for their high-pitched abuse dropped to a most doleful howl. “Here, Eustace. You can patter the lingo better than any of us, and I haven’t the patience, damn it! Ask these old rag bags which way the fellows with the oxen took.”“We know nothing about men or oxen,” came the prompt and whimpering reply.“You do know. Tell us quickly!” repeated Eustace warningly.Sullenly the first disclaimer was reiterated.A furious expletive burst from Carhayes.“We can’t lose any more time being fooled by these infernal old hags!” he cried. “If they don’t tell us before I count five I’ll put a bulletharmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees, that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.Section 2. Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tmProject Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers. It exists because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from people in all walks of life.Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the assistance they need, are critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will remain freely available for generations to come. In 2001, the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations. To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4and the Foundation web page at http://www.pglaf.org.Section 3. Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive FoundationThe Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit 501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification number is 64-6221541. Its 501(c)(3) letter is posted at http://pglaf.org/fundraising. Contributions to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S. Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered throughout numerous locations. Its business office is located at 809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email [email protected]. Email contact links and up to date contact information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official page at http://pglaf.orgFor additional contact information: Dr. Gregory B. NewbyChief Executive and Director [email protected] 4. Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive FoundationProject Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest array of equipment including outdated equipment. Many small donations ($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt status with the IRS.
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The dog is some fifty yards behind the buck. The Kafir is about the same distance behind the dog, which distance he is striving right manfully to maintain; not so unsuccessfully, either, considering that he is pitting the speed of two legs against that of eight.Down the long grass slope they course—buck, dog, and savage. The former, a game little antelope of the steinbok species, takes the ground in a series of long, flying leaps, his white tail whisking like a flag of defiance. The second, a tawny, black-muzzled grey-hound, stretching his snaky length in the wake of his quarry, utters no sound, as with arrow-like velocity he holds on his course, his cruel eyes gleaming, his jaws dripping saliva in pleasurable anticipation of the coming feast. The third, a fine, well-knit young Kafir, his naked body glistening from head to foot with red ochre, urges on his hound with an occasional shrill whoop of encouragement, as he covers the ground at a surprising pace in his free, bounding stride. He holds a knob-kerrie in his hand, ready for use as soon as the quarry shall be within hurling distance.But of this there seems small chance at present. It takes a good dog indeed to run down an unwounded buck with the open veldt before him, and good as this one is, it seems probable that he will get left. Down the long grass slope they course, but the opposite acclivity is the quarry’s opportunity. The pointed hoofs seem hardly to touch ground in the arrowy flight of their owner. The distance between the latter and the pursuing hound increases.Along a high ridge overlooking this primitive chase grow, at regularintervals, several circular clumps of bush. One of these conceals a spectator. The latter is seated on horseback in the very midst of the scrub, his feet dangling loosely in the stirrups, his hand closed tightly and rather suggestively round the breech of a double gun—rifle and smooth bore—which rests across the pommel of his saddle. There is a frown upon his face, as, himself completely hidden, he watches intently the progress of the sport. It is evident that he is more interested than pleased.For Tom Carhayes is the owner of this Kaffrarian stock run. In that part of Kaffraria, game is exceedingly scarce, owing to the presence of a redundant native population. Tom Carhayes is an ardent sportsman and spares no effort to protect and restore the game upon his farm. Yet here is a Kafir running down a buck under his very nose. Small wonder that he feels furious.“That scoundrel Goníwe!” he mutters between his set teeth. “I’ll put a bullet through his cur, and lick the nigger himself within an inch of his life!”The offence is an aggravated one. Not only is the act of poaching a very capital crime in his eyes, but the perpetrator ought to be at that moment at least three miles away, herding about eleven hundred of his master’s sheep. These he has left to take care of themselves while he indulges in an illicit buck-hunt. Small wonder indeed that his said master, at no time a good-tempered man, vows to make a condign example of him.The buck has nearly gained the crest of the ridge. Once over it his chances are good. The pursuing hound, running more by sight than by scent, may easily be foiled, by a sudden turn to right or left, and a double or two. The dog is a long way behind now, and the spectator has to rise in his stirrups to command a view of the situation. Fifty yards more and the quarry will be over the ridge and in comparative safety.But from just that distance above there suddenly darts forth another dog—a white one. It has sprung from a patch of bush similar to that which conceals the spectator. The buck, thoroughly demoralised by the advent of this new enemy, executes a rapid double, and thus pressed