Wu Jing and Huang Bo appeared at the press conference of the Ministry of Public Security for this matter

发表于 2023-09-23 20:01:03 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

“I hope you didn’t shoot their dogs,” said Eanswyth anxiously.“Didn’t I! one of ’em, that is. Do you think I’m the man to be bounced by Jack Kafir? Not much I’m not. I was bound to let daylight through the brute, and I did.”“Through the Kafir?” cried Eanswyth, in horror, turning pale.“Through both,” answered Carhayes, with a roar of laughter. “Through both, by Jove! Ask Eustace. He came up just in time to be in at the death. But, don’t get scared, old girl. I only ‘barked’ the nigger, and sent the dog to hunt bucks in some other world. I had to do it. Those chaps were four to one, you see, and shied Icerries at me. They had assegais, too.”“Oh, I don’t know what will happen to us one of these days!” she cried, in real distress. “As it is, I am uneasy every time you are out in the veldt.”“You needn’t be—no fear. Those chaps know me better than to attempt any tricks. They’re all bark—but when it comes to biting they funk off. That schelm I plugged to-day threatened no end of things; said I’d better have cut off my right hand first, because it was better to lose one’s hand than one’s mind—or some such bosh. But do you think I attach any importance to that? I laughed in the fellow’s face and told him the next time he fell foul of me he’d likely enough lose his life—and that would be worse still for him.”Eustace, listening to these remarks, frowned slightly. The selfish coarseness of his cousin in thus revealing the whole unfortunate episode, with the sure result of doubling this delicate woman’s anxiety whenever she should be left—as she so often was—alone, revolted him. Had he been Carhayes he would have kept his own counsel in the matter.“By the way, Tom,” said Eanswyth, “Goníwe hasn’t brought in his sheep yet, and it’s nearly dark.”“Not, eh?” was the almost shouted reply, accompanied by a

skins and cow-tails exceeding fantastic, Kreli himself had eschewed all martial adornments. An ample red blanket swathed his person, and above his left elbow he wore the thick ivory armlet affected by most Kafirs of rank or position. But there was that about his personality which marked him out from the rest. Eustace, gazing upon the arbiter of his fate, realised that the latter looked every inch a chief—every inch a man.“Why do you come here making war upon me and my people, umlúngu!” said the chief, shortly.“There is war between our races,” answered Eustace. “It is every man’s duty to fight for his nation, at the command of his chief.”“Who ordered you to take up arms against us? You are not a soldier, nor are you a policeman.”This was hard hitting. Eustace felt a trifle nonplussed. But he conceived that boldness would best answer his purpose.“There were not enough regular troops or Police to stand against the might of the Gcaléka nation,” he replied. “Those of us who owned property were obliged to take up arms in defence of our property.”“Was your property on the eastern side of the Kei? Was it on this side of the Bashi?” pursued the chief. “When a man’s house is threatened does he go four days’ journey away from it in order to protect it?” A hum of assent—a sort of native equivalent for “Hear, hear,” went up from the councillors at this hard hit.“Do I understand the chief to mean that we whose property lay along the border were to wait quietly for the Gcaléka forces to come and ‘eat us up’ while we were unprepared?” said Eustace quietly. “That because we were not on your side of the Kei we were to do nothing to defend ourselves; to wait until your people should cross the river?”“Does a dog yelp out before he is kicked?”“Does it help him, anyway, to do so after?” replied the prisoner, with a slight smile over this new rendering of an old proverb. “But the chiefcannot be talking seriously. He is joking.”“Hau!” burst forth the amapakati in mingled surprise and resentment.“You are a bold man, umlúngu,” said Kreli, frowning. “Do you know that I hold your life in my hand?”This was coming to the point with a vengeance. Eustace realised that, like Agag, he must “walk delicately.” It would not do to take up a defiant attitude. On the other hand to show any sign of trepidation might prove equally disastrous. He elected to steer as near as possible a middle course.“That is so,” he replied. “I am as anxious to live as most people. But this is war-time. When a man goes to war he does not lock up his life behind him at home. What would the Great Chief gain by my death?”“His people’s pleasure,” replied Kreli, with sombre significance, waving a hand in the direction of the armed crowd squatted around. Then turning, he began conferring in a low tone with his councillors, with the result that presently one of the latter directed that the prisoner should be removed altogether beyond earshot.Eustace accordingly was marched a sufficient distance from the debating group, a move which brought him close to the ranks of armed warriors. Many of the latter amused themselves by going through a wordless, but highly suggestive performance illustrative of the fate they hoped awaited him. One would imitate the cutting out of a tongue, another the gouging of an eye, etc., all grinning the while in high glee.Even Eustace, strong-nerved as he was, began to feel the horrible strain of the suspense. He glanced towards the group of chiefs and amapakati much as the prisoner in the dock might eye the door of the room where the jury was locked up. He began talking to his guards by way of diversion.“Who is that with Hlangani, who has just joined the amapakati?” he asked.

Wu Jing and Huang Bo appeared at the press conference of the Ministry of Public Security for this matter

“Ukiva.”He looked with new interest at the warrior in question, in whose name he recognised that of a fighting chief of some note, and who was reported to have commanded the enemy in the fight with Shelton’s patrol.“And the man half standing up—who is he?”“Sigcau—the great chief’s first son. Whau umlúngu!” broke off his informant. “You speak with our tongue even as one of ourselves. Yet the chiefs and principal men of the House of Gcaléka are unknown lo you by sight.”“Those of the House of Gaika are not. Tell me. Which is Botmane?”“Botmane? Lo!” replied several of the Kafirs emphatically. “He next to the Great Chief.”Eustace looked with keen interest upon the man pointed out—an old man with a grey head, and a shrewd, but kindly natured face. He was Kreli’s principal councillor and at that time was reported to be somewhat in disfavour by reason of having been strenuously opposed to a war with the whites. He was well-known to Eustace by name; in fact the latter had once, to his considerable chagrin, just missed meeting him on the occasion of a political visit he had made to the Komgha some months previously.Meanwhile the prisoner might well feel anxious as he watched the group of amapakati, for they were debating nothing less than the question whether he should be put to death or not.The chief Kreli was by no means a cruel or bloodthirsty ruler—and he was a tolerably astute one. It is far from certain that he himself had ever been in favour of making war at that time. He was too shrewd and far-seeing to imagine that success could possibly attend his arms in the long run, but on the other hand he bore a deep and latent grudge against the English by reason of the death at their hands of his father, Hintza, who had been made a prisoner not altogether under circumstances of anunimpeachable kind and shot while attempting to escape. This had occurred forty years earlier.So when the young bloods of the tribe, thirsting for martial distinction, had forced the hands of their elders and rulers, by provoking a series of frictions with their Fingo neighbours then under British protection, the old chief had exercised no very strenuous opposition to their indulging themselves to the top of their bent.Having, however, given way to the war spirit, he left no stone unturned to insure success. Runners were sent to the Gaika and Hlambi tribes located in British Kaffraria, viz.: within the Colonial limits—but although plenty of young men owning those nationalities drifted across the Kei in squads to join his standard, the bulk of the tribes themselves were slow to respond to his appeal. Had it been otherwise, the position of the border people would have been more serious. With the enemy at their very doors they would have found plenty of occupation at home, instead of being free to pour their forces into the Transkei. Things, however, had turned out differently. The Gcaléka country had been ravaged from end to end, and the old chief was at that moment practically a fugitive. It may readily be imagined, therefore, that he was in rather an ugly humour, and not likely to show much clemency towards the white prisoner in his power.There was another consideration which militated against the said clemency. Although he had made no allusion to it, it must not be supposed that Kreli was all this time unaware of the identity of his prisoner. The latter’s friendship with many of the Gaika rulers was a rank offence in the eyes of the Paramount Chief just then. Had he not sent his “word” to those chiefs, and had not his “word” fallen on ears dull of hearing? Instead of rising at his call they were yet “sitting still.” What more likely than that white men, such as this one, were influencing them —were advising them contrary to their allegiance to him, the Paramount Chief?Some of the amapakati were in favour of sparing the prisoner at present. He might be of use to them hereafter. He seemed not like an ordinary white man. He spoke their tongue and understood their customs.There was no knowing but that he might eventually serve them materially with his own people. Others, again, thought they might just as well give him over to the people to be put to death in their own way. It would please the fighting men—many of whom had lost fathers and brothers at the hands of the whites. Yet again, one or two more originated another proposal. They had heard something of this white man being a bit of a wizard—that he owned a “charm” which had turned the blade of a broad assegai from his heart. Let him be handed over to Ngcenika, the great witch-doctress. Let her try whether his “charm” was too strong for her.This idea met with something like universal acceptance. Shrewd and intelligent as they are in ordinary matters, Kafirs are given to the most childish superstitions, and, in adopting the above suggestion, these credulous savages really did look forward to witnessing something novel in the way of a competition in magic. In their minds the experiment was likely to prove a thing worth seeing.“Ewa! Ewa!” (“Yes—yes”) they cried emphatically. “Let Ngcenika be called.”“So be it,” assented Kreli. “Let the witch-doctress be sought.”But almost before the words had left his lips—there pealed forth a wild, unearthly shriek—a frightful yell—emanating from the line of rugged and bush-grown rocks which shut in one side of the clearing. Chiefs, amapakati, warriors—all turned towards the sound, an anxious expression upon every face—upon many, one of apprehension, of fear. Even to the white prisoner the interruption was sufficiently startling. And then there bounded forth into their midst a hideous, a truly appalling apparition.Chapter Thirty.The Witch-Doctress.

Wu Jing and Huang Bo appeared at the press conference of the Ministry of Public Security for this matter

Man, woman, or demon—which was it?A grim, massive face, a pair of fierce, rolling eyes, which seemed to sparkle with a cruel and blood thirsty scintillation, a large, strongly built trunk, whose conformation alone betrayed the sex of the creature. Limbs and body were hung around thickly with barbarous “charms” in hideous and disgusting profusion—birds’ heads and claws, frogs and lizards, snakes’ skins, mingling with the fresh and bloody entrails of some animal. But the head of this revolting object was simply demoniacal in aspect. The hair, instead of being short and woolly, had been allowed to attain some length, and hung down on each side of the frightful face in a black, kinky mane, save for two lengths of it, which, stiffened with some sort of horrid pigment, stood erect like a couple of long red horns on each side of the wearer’s ears. Between these “horns,” and crowning the creature’s head, grinned a human skull, whose eyeless sockets were smeared round with a broad circle in dark crimson. And that nothing should be wanting to complete the diabolical horror of her appearance, the repulsive and glistening coils of a live serpent were folding and unfolding about the left arm and shoulder of the sorceress.Something like a shudder of fear ran through the ranks of the armed warriors as they gazed upon this frightful apparition. Brave men all— fearless fighters when pitted against equal forces—now they quailed, sat there in their armed might, thoroughly cowed before this female fiend. She would require blood—would demand a life, perhaps several—that was certain. Whose would it be?The wild, beast-like bounds of the witch-doctress subsided into a kind of half-gliding, half-dancing step—her demoniacal words into a weird nasal sort of chant—as she approached the chief and his councillors.“Seek not for Ngcenika, O son of Hintza, father of the children of Xosa!” she cried in a loud voice, fixing her eyes upon Kreli. “Seek not for Ngcenika, O amapakati, wise men of the House of Gcaléka, when your wisdom is defeated by the witchcraft of your enemies. Seek not Ngcenika, O ye fighting men, children of the Great Chief, your father, when your blood is spilled in battle, and your bullets fly harmless from the bodies of the whites because of the evil wiles of the enemy within your ranks. Seek her not, for she is here—here to protect you—here to ‘smell out’ the evil wizard in your midst. She needs no seeking; she needs no

Wu Jing and Huang Bo appeared at the press conference of the Ministry of Public Security for this matter

calling. She is here!”“Ha! ha!” ejaculated the warriors in a kind of gasping roar, for those ominous words told but too truly what would presently happen. Not a man but dreaded that he might be the victim, and in proportion as each man stood well in rank or possessions, so much the greater was his apprehension.“I hear the voices of the shadowy dead!” went on the sorceress, striking an attitude of intense listening, and gazing upwards over the heads of her audience. “I hear their voices like the whispering murmur of many waters. I hear them in the air? No. I hear them in the roar of the salt waves of yonder blue sea? No. I hear them in the whispering leaves of the forest—in the echoing voices of the rocks? No. In the sunshine? No. I am in the dark—in the dark!” she repeated, raising her tone to a high, quavering shriek, while her features began to work, her eyes to roll wildly. “I am in the gloom of the far depths, and the world itself is rolling above me. The air is thick. I choke. I suffocate. I am in the tomb. The rock walls close me in. There are faces around me—eyes—myriads of eyes— serpent eyes—hissing tongues. They come about me in the black gloom. They scorch—they burn. Ah-ah!”An awful change had come over the speaker. Her features were working convulsively—she foamed at the mouth—her eyes were turned literally inward so that nothing but the white was visible. Her body swayed to and fro in short, irregular jerks, as though avoiding the attack of unseen enemies. The live serpent, which, grasped by the neck, she held aloft in the air, writhed its sinuous length, and with hood expanded and eyes scintillating, was hissing ferociously. The effect upon the savage audience was striking. Not a word was uttered—not a finger moved. All sat motionless, like so many statues of bronze, every eye bent in awesome entrancement upon the seer. Even Eustace felt the original contemptuous interest with which he had watched the performance deepen into a blood-curdling sort of repulsion. From the stage of mere jugglery the case had entered upon one which began to look uncommonly like genuine diabolical possession.“I am in the gloom of the depths,” shrieked the hideous sorceress,

“even the Home of the Immortal Serpents, which none can find save those who are beloved of the spirits. The air is black and thick. It is shining with eyes—eyes, eyes—everywhere eyes. The ground is alive with serpents, even the spirits of our valiant dead, and they speak. They speak but one word and that is ‘Blood! Blood—blood—blood!’” repeated the frightful monster. “Blood must flow! blood! blood!” And uttering a series of deafening howls she fell prone to the earth in frightful convulsions.Not one of the spectators moved. The hideous features working, the eyes rolling till they seemed about to drop from their sockets, the foam flying from the lips—the body of Ngcenika seeming to stiffen itself like a corpse, bounded many feet in the air, and falling to the earth with a heavy thud, bounded and rebounded again—the festoons of barbarous and disgusting ornaments which adorned her person, twisting and untwisting in the air like clusters of snakes. The live rinkhaals, which had escaped from her grasp, lay coiled in an attitude of defence, its head reared threateningly.For some minutes this appalling scene continued. Then the horrible contortions of the body ceased. The witch-doctress lay motionless; the swollen eyes, the terrible face, set and rigid, staring up to Heaven. She might have been dead. So, too, might have been the spectators, so still, so motionless were they.The suspense was becoming horrible, the silence crushing. There was just a whisper of air among the leaves of the surrounding forest, causing a faint rustle, otherwise not a sound—not even the distant call of a bird. Eustace, gazing upon the motionless dark forms that surrounded him and upon the immeasurably repulsive figure of the prostrate demoniac, felt that he could stand it no longer—that he must do something to break that awful silence even though it should cost him his life, when an interruption occurred, so sudden, so startling in its unexpectedness, that he could hardly believe his eyes.The witch-doctress, who had seemed prone in the powerlessness of extreme exhaustion for hours at least, suddenly sprang to her feet with a blood-curdling yell.could do to keep on his feet at all. Still his new character must be kept up, and the night air was cool and invigorating. But just as he was about to step forth with the others, his arms were suddenly forced behind him and quickly and securely bound. There was no time for resistance, even had he entertained the idea of offering any, which he had not.“Am I a fool, Hlangani?” he said. “Do I imagine that I, unarmed and alone, can escape from about two hundred armed warriors, think you? Why, then, this precaution?”“It is night,” replied the chief laconically.It was night, but it was bright moonlight. The Kafirs were marching in no particular order, very much at ease in fact, and as he walked, surrounded by a strong body guard, he could form some idea of the strength of the band. This numbered at least a couple of hundred, he estimated; but the full strength of the party which had so disastrously surprised them must have consisted of nearly twice that number. Then he questioned them concerning the fate of his comrades. For answer they grinned significantly, going through a pantomimic form of slaying a prostrate enemy with assegais.“All killed?” said Eustace, incredulously.“No. Only the one who is with you,” was the answer. “But the other two will be dead by this time. Their horses were used up, and our people are sure to have overtaken them long before they got to the river. Au umlúngu!” went on the speaker, “Were you all mad, you four poor whites, that you thought to come into the country of the Great Chief, Sarili, the Chief Paramount, and eat the cattle of his children?”“But this is not his country. It belongs to Moni, the chief of the Amabomvane.”“Not his country. Ha!” echoed the listeners, wagging their heads in disdain. “Not his country! The white man’s ‘charm’ may be potent, but it has rendered him mad.”

“Ho, Sarili—father!” chorused the warriors, launching out into an impromptu song in honour of the might and virtues of their chief. “Sarili— lord! The Great, Great One! The deadly snake! The mighty buffalo bull, scattering the enemy’s hosts with the thunder of his charge! The fierce tiger, lying in wait to spring! Give us thy white enemies that we may devour them alive. Ha—ah!”The last ejaculation was thundered out in a prolonged, unanimous roar, and inspired by the fierce rhythm of the chant, the warriors with one accord formed up into columns, and the dark serried ranks, marching through the night, swelling the wild war-song, beating time with sticks, the quivering rattle of assegai hafts mingling with the thunderous tread of hundreds of feet, and the gleam of the moonlight upon weapons and rolling eyeballs, went to form a picture of indescribable grandeur and awe.Again and again surged forth the weird rhythm:Ho, Sarili, son of Hintza!Great Chief of the House of Gcaléka! Great Father of the children of Xosa! Strong lion, devourer of the whites!Great serpent, striking dead thine enemies! Give us thy white enemiesthat we may hew them into small pieces.Ha - Ah! Great Chief! whose kraals overflow with fatness! Great Chief! whose cornfields wave to feed a people! Warrior of warriors,whom weapons surround like the trees of a forest! We return to thee drunk with the blood of thine enemies. “Há - há - há!”With each wild roar, shouted in unison at the end of each of these impromptu strophes, the barbarians immediately surrounding him would turn to Eustace and flash their blades in his face, brandishing their weapons in pantomimic representation of carving him to pieces. This to one less versed in their habits and character would have been to the last degree terrifying, bound and at their mercy as he was. But it inspired inhim but little alarm. They were merely letting off steam. Whatever his fate might eventually be, his time had not yet come, and this he knew.After a great deal more of this sort of thing, they began to get tired of their martial display. The chanting ceased and the singers subsided once more into their normal state of free and easy jollity. They laughed and poked fun among themselves, and let off a good deal of chaff at the expense of their prisoner. And this metamorphosis was not a little curious. The fierce, ruthless expression, blazing with racial antipathy, depicted on each dark countenance during that wild and headlong chase for blood, had disappeared, giving way to one that was actually pleasing, the normal light-hearted demeanour of a keen-witted and kindly natured people. Yet the chances of the prisoner’s life being eventually spared were infinitesimal.

Chapter Twenty Eight.The Silver Box.Throughout the night their march continued. Towards dawn, however, a short halt was made, to no one more welcome than to the captive himself; the fact being that poor Eustace was deadly tired, and, but for the expediency of keeping up his character for invulnerability, would have requested the chief, as a favour, to allow him some rest before then. As it was, however, he was glad of the opportunity; but, although he had not tasted food since the previous midday, he could not eat. He felt feverish and ill.Day was breaking as the party resumed its way. And now the features of the country had undergone an entire change. The wide, sweeping, mimosa-dotted dales had been left behind—had given place to wild forest country, whose rugged grandeur of desolation increased with every step. Great rocks overhung each dark ravine, and the trunks of hoary yellow-wood trees, from whose gigantic and spreading limbs depended lichens and monkey ropes, showed through the cool semi-gloom like the massive columns of cathedral aisles. An undergrowth of dense bush hemmed in the narrow, winding path they were pursuing, and its tangled depths were ever and anon resonant with the piping whistle of birds, and the shrill, startled chatter of monkeys swinging aloft among the tree-tops, skipping away from bough to bough with marvellous alacrity. Once a sharp hiss was heard in front, causing the foremost of the party to halt abruptly, with a volley of excited ejaculations, as a huge rinkhaals, lying in the middle of the narrow track, slowly unwound his black coils, and, with hood inflated, raised his head in the air as if challenging his human foes. But these, by dint of shouting and beating the ground with sticks, induced him to move off—for, chiefly from motives of superstition, Kafirs will not kill a snake if they can possibly help it—and the hideous reptile was heard lazily rustling his way through the jungle in his retreat.They had been toiling up the steep, rugged side of a ravine. Suddenly an exclamation of astonishment from those in front, who hadalready gained the ridge, brought up the rest of the party at redoubled speed.“Hau! Istiméle!” (The steamer) echoed several, as the cause of the prevailing astonishment met their eyes.The ridge was of some elevation. Beyond the succession of forest-clad valleys and rock-crowned divides lay a broad expanse of blue sea, and away near the offing stretched a long line of dark smoke. Eustace could make out the masts and funnel of a large steamer, steering to the eastward.And what a sense of contrast did the sight awaken in his mind. The vessel was probably one of the Union Company’s mail steamships, coasting round to Natal. How plainly he would conjure up the scene upon her decks, the passengers striving to while away the tediousness of their floating captivity with chess and draughts—the latter of divers kinds—with books and tobacco, with chat and flirtation; whereas, here he was, at no very great distance either, undergoing, in this savage wilderness, a captivity which was terribly real—a prisoner of war among a tribe of sullen and partially crushed barbarians, with almost certain death, as a sacrifice to their slain compatriots, staring him in the face, and a strong probability of that death being a cruel and lingering one withal. And the pure rays of the newly risen sun shone forth joyously upon that blue surface, and a whiff of strong salt air seemed borne in upon them from the bosom of the wide, free ocean.For some minutes the Kafirs stood, talking, laughing like children as they gazed upon the long, low form of the distant steamship, concerning which many of their quaint remarks and conjectures would have been amusing enough at any other time. And, as if anything was wanting to keep him alive to the peril of his position, Hlangani, stepping to the prisoner’s side, observed:“The time has come to blind you, Ixeshane.”The words were grim enough in all conscience—frightful enough to more than justify the start which Eustace could not repress, as he turned


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