affairs. He felt confused and relapsed into silence—puffing vigorously at his pipe.The silence was broken—broken in a startling manner. A terrified scream fell upon their ears—not very loud, but breathing unmistakable tones of mortal fear. Both men sprang to their feet.“Heavens!” cried the overseer. “That’s Mrs Carhayes—”But the other said not a word. In about a half a dozen steps he was through the sitting room and had gained the door which opened out of it. This was Eanswyth’s bedroom, whence the terrified cry had proceeded.“What is wrong, Eanswyth?” he cried, tapping at the door.It opened immediately. She stood there wrapped in a long loose dressing gown, the wealth of her splendid hair falling in masses. But her face was white as death, and the large eyes were dilated with such a pitiable expression of fear and distress, as he certainly had never beheld there.“What is it, my darling? What has frightened you so?” he said tenderly, moved to the core by this extraordinary manifestation of pitiable terror.She gave a quick flurried look over her shoulder. Then clutching his hands—and he noticed that hers were trembling and as cold as ice—she gasped:“Eustace—I have seen—him!”“Who—in Heaven’s name?”“Tom.”“Darling, you must have dreamt it. You have been allowing your thoughts to run too much on the subject and—”“No. It was no dream. I have not even been to bed yet,” she
“There are but two persons known to me who would dare to come within a distance of it. Those are Ngcenika, the witch-doctress, and Hlangani, who is half a witch-doctor himself.”“By lying in wait for them we might capture or shoot one or both of them when they come to bring the poor devil his food, eh, Josane?” said Shelton. “When are they likely to come?”“It may not be for days. But there is another side to that plan. What if they should have discovered that we are in here and decide to lie in wait for us?”“Oh, by Jove! That certainly is a reverse side to the medal,” cried Hoste, with a long whistle of dismay. And indeed the idea of two such formidable enemies as the redoubted Gcaléka warrior and the ferocious witch-doctress lurking in such wise as to hold them entirely at their mercy was not a pleasant one. There was hardly a yard of the way where one determined adversary, cunningly ambushed, would not hold their lives in his hand. No. Any scheme for exacting reprisals had better keep until they were once more in the light of day. The sooner they rescued their unfortunate friend and got quit of the place the better.And even here they had their work fully cut out for them. How were they to get at the wretched maniac? The idea of descending into that horrible pit was not an alluring one; and, apart from this, what sort of reception would they meet with from its occupant? That the latter regarded them in anything but a friendly light was manifest. How, then, were they ever to convey to the unfortunate creature that their object was the reverse of hostile? Tom Carhayes was well-known to be a man of great physical power. Tom Carr hayes—a gibbering, mouthing lunatic—a furious demoniac—no wonder they shrank from approaching him.“Silence! Darken the light!”The words, quick, low, peremptory—proceeded from Josane. In an instant Eustace obeyed. The slide of the lantern was turned.“I listen—I hear,” went on the Kafir in the same quick whisper. “Thereare steps approaching.”Every ear was strained to the uttermost. Standing in the pitchy blackness and on the brink of that awful pit, no one dared move so much as a foot.And now a faint and far-away sound came floating through the darkness; a strange sound, as of the soft bass of voices from the distant spirit-world wailing weirdly along the ghostly walls of the tunnel. It seemed, too, that ever so faint a light was melting the gloom in the distance. The effect was indescribable in its awesomeness. The listeners held their very breath.“Up here,” whispered Josane, referring to the shaft already mentioned. “No! show no light—not a glimmer. Hold on to each other’s shoulder—you, Ixeshane, hold on to mine—Quick—Hamba-ké.” (Go on.)This precaution, dictated by the double motive of keeping together in the darkness, and also to avoid any one of the party accidentally falling into the pit—being observed, the Kafir led the way some little distance within the shaft.“Heavens!” whispered Hoste. “What about the snakes? Supposing we tread on one?”In the excitement of the moment this consideration had been quite overlooked. Now it struck dismay into the minds of the three white men. To walk along in pitch darkness in a narrow tunnel which you know to be infested with deadly serpents, with more than an even chance of treading upon one of the noisome reptiles at every step, is a position which assuredly needs a powerful deal of excitement to carry it through.“Au! Flash one beam of light in front, Ixeshane,” whispered the guide. “Not behind—for your life, not behind!”Eustace complied, carefully shading the sides of the light with the flaps of his coat. It revealed that the cave here widened slightly, but made a curve. It further revealed no sign of the most dreaded enemy of the
human race.Here, then, it was decided to lie in wait. The lights carried by those approaching would hardly reach them here, and they could lurk almost concealed, sheltered by the formation of the tunnel.The flash from Eustace’s lantern had been but momentary. And now, as they crouched in the inky gloom, the sense of expectation became painful in its intensity. Nearer and nearer floated the wailing chant, and soon the lurking listeners were able to recognise it as identical with the wild, heathenish rune intoned by their guide—the weird, mysterious invocation of the Serpent.“Harm us not, O Snake of snakes! Do us no hurtO Inyeka ’Nkúlu!”The sonorous, open vowels rolled forth in long-drawn cadence, chanted by two voices—both blending in wonderful harmony. Then a cloud of nebulous light filled up the entrance to their present hiding place, hovering above the fearful hell-pit where the maniac was imprisoned, throwing the brink into distinct relief.The watchers held their very breath. The song had ceased. Suddenly there was a flash of light in their eyes, as from a lantern.Two dark figures were standing on the brink of the hole. Each carried a lantern, one of those strong, tin-rimmed concerns used by transport-riders for hanging in their waggon-tents. There was no lack of light now.“Ho, Umlilwane!” cried a deep, bass voice, which rumbled in hoarse echoes beneath the domed roof, while the speaker held his lantern out over the pit. “Ho, Umlilwane! It is the dog’s feeding time again. We have brought the dog his bones. Ho, ho!”The wretched maniac who, until now, had kept silence, here broke forth again into his diabolical howls. By the sound the watchers could tellthat he was exhausting himself in a series of bull-dog springs similar to those prompted by his frenzy on first discovering themselves. At each of these futile outbursts the two mocking fiends shouted and roared with laughter. But they little knew how near they were laughing for the last time. Three rifles were covering them at a distance of fifty yards—three rifles in the hands of men who were dead shots, and whose hearts were bursting with silent fury. Josane, seeing this, took occasion to whisper under cover of the lunatic’s frenzied howls:“The time is not yet. The witch-doctress is for me—for me. I will lure her in here, and when I give the word—but not before—shoot Hlangani. The witch-doctress is for me.”The identity of the two figures was distinct in the light. The hideous sorceress, though reft of most of the horrid accessories and adornments of her order, yet looked cruel and repulsive as a very fiend—fitting figure to harmonise with the Styx-like gloom of the scene. The huge form of the warrior loomed truly gigantic in the sickly lantern light. “Ho, Umlilwane, thou dog of dogs!” went on the latter. “Art thou growing tired of thy cool retreat? Are not the serpents good companions? Haul Thou wert a fool to part so readily with thy mind. After so many moons of converse with the serpents, thou shouldst have been a mighty soothsayer—a mighty diviner —by now. How long did it take thee to lose thy mind? But a single day? But a day and a night? That was quick! Ho, ho!” And the great taunting laugh was echoed by the shriller cackle of the female fiend.“Thou wert a mighty man with thy fists, a mighty man with thy gun, O Umlilwane!” went on the savage, his mocking tones now sinking to those of devilish hatred. “But now thou art no longer a man—no longer a man. Au! What were my words to thee? ‘Thou hadst better have cut off thy right hand before shedding the blood of Hlangani for it is better to lose a hand than one’s mind.’ What thinkest thou now of Hlangani’s revenge? Hi!”How plain now to one of the listeners were those sombre words, over whose meaning he had so anxiously pondered. This, then, was the fearful vengeance promised by the Gcaléka warrior. And for many months his wretched victim had lain here a raving maniac—had lain herein a darkness as of the very pit of hell—had lain among noisome serpents —among crawling horrors untold—small wonder his reason had given way after a single night of such, as his tormentor had just declared. Small wonder that he had indeed lost his mind!A fiendish yell burst from the maniac. Suddenly a great serpent was thrown upward from the pit. Petrified with horror, the watchers saw its thick, writhing form fly through the air and light on the witch-doctress’s shoulder. With a shrill laugh the hag merely seized the wriggling, squirming reptile, which, with crest waving, was hissing like a fury, and hurled it back into the pit again. What sort of devil’s influence was protecting these people, that they could handle the most deadly reptiles with absolute impunity? Were they, indeed, under some demoniac spell? To one, however, among the white spectators, the real solution of the mystery may have suggested itself.“Here are thy bones, dog,” resumed the great barbarian, throwing what looked like a half-filled sack into the hole. “Here is thy drink,” and he lowered a large calabash at the end of a string. “Eat, drink, and keep up thy strength. Perhaps one day I may turn thee loose again. Who knows! Then when thy people see thee coming they will cry: ‘Here comes Hlangani’s Revenge.’ And they will fly from thee in terror, as from the approach of a fell disease.”The watchers looked at each other. These last words, coupled with the act of throwing down the food, seemed to point to the speedy conclusion of the visit. They could hear the miserable victim mumbling and crunching what sounded like literally bones, and growling like a dog. But Hlangani went on.“Wouldst thou not rather have gone to feed the black ants, or have died the death of the red-hot stones, Umlilwane? Thou wouldst be at rest now. And now thou hast only just begun to live—alone in the darkness— alone with the serpents—a man whose mind is gone. Thou wilt never see the light of day again. Whau! The sun is shining like gold outside. And thy wife, Umlilwane—thy beautiful wife—tall and graceful, like the stem of the budding umbona (Maize)—dost thou never think of her? Ha! There is another who does—another who does. I have seen him—I have seen
them both—him and thy beautiful wife—”Eustace had nudged Josane in such wise as to make that individual understand that the curtain must be rung down on this scene—and that at once. Simultaneously the “yap” of a puppy dog burst forth almost beneath his feet. Its effect upon the pair at the pit’s brink was electric.“Yau!” cried Ngcenika, turning toward the sound. “The little dog has followed me in after all. Ah, the little brute. I will make him taste the stick!”“Or throw him down to Umlilwane,” laughed her companion. “He will do for him to play with, two dogs together. Mawo!”Again the “yap” was heard, now several times in rapid succession. So perfect was the imitation that the watchers themselves were for a moment taken in.“Iza, inja! Injane, izapa!” (“Come, dog! Little dog—come here!”) cried the witch-doctress coaxingly, advancing into the lateral gallery, holding her lantern in front of her. Josane, with his mouth to the ground was emitting a perfect chorus of yaps.“Now,” he whispered, under cover of the echoes produced, as the width of the gallery left a clear chance at Hlangani, without endangering the witch-doctress. “Remember—the female beast, Ngcenika, is for me. Shoot Hlangani—Now!”Scarce had the word left his mouth than the shots crashed forth simultaneously.Chapter Forty Six.The End of the Witch-Doctress.To convey anything like an adequate idea of what followed is well-nigh impossible. The stunning, deafening roar of the volley in that narrow space was as though the very earth had exploded from its foundations.Through it came the shivering crash of glass, as Hlangani’s lantern fell into the pit, but whether its owner followed it or not could not be determined through the overpowering din. Still holding the lantern, the hideous witch-doctress was seen through the sulphurous smoke, standing there as one turned to stone—then like lightning, a dark, lithe body sprang through the spectators and with a growl like that of a wild beast leaped upon the bewildered Ngcenika. There was the gleam of an assegai in the air—then darkness and the shatter of glass. The lantern fell from the sorceress’ hand.“Turn on the light, Milne; quick!” cried the other two.“I’m trying to, but the infernal thing won’t work. The slide’s jammed—Oh!”For he was swept off his feet. Two heavy bodies rolled over him— striving, cursing, struggling, stabbing—then half stumbled, half rolled away into the gloom beyond.The others bethought them of their candles, which, up till now, had been kept unused. Quickly two of them were produced and lighted.The din of the scuffle seemed to be receding further and further; nor in the faint and flickering impression cast upon the cavernous gloom by the light of the candles could anything be seen of the combatants. But that the scuffle was a hard and fierce one was evident from the sounds.Just then Eustace succeeded in opening the lantern slide, and now they were able to advance boldly in the strong disk of light. The latter revealed the object of their search.Rolling over and over each other were two dark bodies, one now uppermost, now the other. Both seemed equally matched; even if in point of sheer physical strength the advantage did not lie slightly with the witch-doctress, for Josane, though wiry and active, was a good deal older than he looked. Each firmly gripped the other’s right wrist, for the purpose of preventing the use of the broad-bladed, murderous assegai with which the right hand of each was armed. Victory would lie with whoever could
hold out the longest.As soon as the light fell upon the two struggling bodies, the witch-doctress threw all her energies into afresh and violent effort. She seemed to divine that the new arrivals would refrain from shooting at her for fear of injuring Josane. So she redoubled her struggles and kicked and bit and tore like one possessed.“Keep her in that position a moment, Josane,” sung out Hoste. “I’ll put a hunk of lead through the devil’s carcase. There—so!”But it was not to be. With a supreme effort she wrenched her wrist free from her opponent’s grasp, and turning with the rapidity of a cat, leaped out of sight in the darkness. But a moment later she stumbled over a boulder and sprawled headlong. Before she could rise her pursuer was upon her and had stabbed her twice through the body with his assegai.“Ha! Spawn of a Fingo dog!” cried Josane, his voice assuming a fierce, throaty growl in the delirious satiety of his vengeance. “I am Josane—whom thou wouldst have thrown to the serpents, as thou didst this white man—ha! whom thou wouldst have given alive to feed the black ants, as thou didst Vudana, my kinsman. Ha! I am Josane, who was eaten up at thy accursed bidding. Ha! But I lived for revenge and it has come. Ha! How does this feel?—and this?—and this?”With each ejaculation “ha!” he had plunged his assegai into the writhing body of the prostrate witch-doctress. To the white men his aspect was that of a fiend—standing there in the cavernous gloom, his eyes rolling in frenzy—literally digging with his spear into the body of his vanquished enemy, out of which the red blood was squirting in a dozen great jets. Not until the corpse had entirely ceased to move did he cease his furious stabs.“The hell-hag is dead!” he cried, as he at length turned to leave. “The hell-hag is dead,” he repeated, turning the words into a fierce chant of exultation. “The hell-hag bleeds, and my revenge is sweet. Ha! Revenge is brighter than the sun in the heavens, for it is red, blood red. Ha! Mine
enemy is dead!”By this time they had returned to the brink of the pit. But there was no sign of Hlangani. Something like dismay was on every face. The fragments of his shattered lantern lay strewn about at the bottom of the hole, but of the savage himself there was no sign. It was marvellous. All three men were first-rate shots. It was impossible that any one of them could have missed him at that distance, let alone all three. How could he have got away with three bullets in his body?Cautiously they hunted everywhere with increasing anxiety, but nothing occurred to reward their search. The latter led them almost back to the great rock-chamber where the serpents swarmed. Still no sign of Hlangani.This was serious in the extreme. They would have their hands full enough with the wretched maniac, even if they succeeded in bringing him away at all; and the idea that the fierce Gcaléka, desperately wounded perhaps, might be lying in wait, in some awkward place, ready to fall upon them with all the reckless, despairing ferocity of a cornered leopard, was anything but encouraging. Or, what if he had escaped altogether, and were to bring back a swarm of his countrymen to cut off their retreat.“I tell you what it is,” said Hoste. “The sooner we get this poor chap out, and clear out ourselves, the better.”This was true enough; but how to act upon it was another thing.Several candles were lighted and stuck about on the rocks, making the black, gloomy cavern a trifle less sepulchral. Then they advanced to the pit’s brink. The lunatic, crouched on the ground gnawing a bone, stared stupidly at them.“Don’t you know me, Tom?” said Eustace, speaking quietly. “We are come to get you away from here, old chap. You know me? Come now!”But the poor wretch gave no sign of intelligence, as he went on munching his revolting food. Several times they tried him, each inharmless 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