Please welcome the attack of the cosmic boss

发表于 2023-09-23 03:05:37 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

None followed him—at the moment. But Hlangani mixed unperceived among the crowd, whispering a word here and a word there. And soon, by twos and threes, a number of armed savages stole silently forth into the night, moving swiftly upon the retreating horseman’s track.Chapter Eight.“On the Rock they Scorch, like a Drop of Fire.”“What are they really doing over there, do you suppose, Eustace?” said Eanswyth anxiously, as they regained the house. The thunder of the wild war-dance floated across the intervening miles of space, and the misty glare of many fires luridly outlined the distant mountain slopes. The position was sufficiently terrifying to any woman alone there save for one male protector, with hundreds of excited and now hostile savages performing their weird and clamourous war rites but a few miles away.“I’m afraid there’s no mistake about it; they are holding a big war-dance,” was the reply. “But it’s nothing new. This sort of fun has been going on at the different kraals for the last month. It’s only because we are, so to say, next door to Nteya’s location that we hear it to-night at all.”“But Nteya is such a good old man,” said Eanswyth. “Surely he wouldn’t harm us. Surely he wouldn’t join in any rising.”“You are correct in your first idea, in the second, not. We are rapidly making such a hash of affairs in re Kreli and the Fingoes over in the Transkei, that we are simply laying the train for a war with the whole Amaxosa race. How can Nteya, or any other subordinate chief, refuse to join when called upon by Kreli, the Chief Paramount. The trouble ought to be settled before it goes any further, and my opinion is that it could be.”“You are quite a politician,” said Eanswyth, with a smile. “You ought to put up for the Secretaryship for Native Affairs.”“Let us sit out here,” he said, drawing up a couple of cane chairs which were always on the stoep. “Here is a very out-of-the-way

“To travel in a strong party like that in these times is not wise. What if these Gcalékas were to fall in with a Police patrol—would there not surely be a fight? That might bring on a war. I am a peaceable man. Everybody is not. What if they had met a less peaceable man than myself, and threatened him as they did me? There would have been a fight and the white man might have been killed—for what can one man do against twenty?”“He need not have been killed—only frightened,” struck in the other Kafir, Sikuni.“Some men are easier killed than frightened,” rejoined Eustace. “Last night some people from Nteya’s kraal attacked my brother, (The term ‘brother’ is often colloquially used among Kafirs to designate other degrees of relationship) stole his gun, and tried to kill him. But they did not frighten him.”In spite of the conventional exclamation of astonishment which arose from his hearers, Eustace was perfectly well aware that this was no news to them.“That is bad news,” said Ncandúku, with well-feigned concern. “But it may not have been done by any of our people, Ixeshane. There may have been some Fingo dogs wandering about the land, who have done this thing in order that the English may blame us for it.”It was now Eustace’s turn to smile.“Does a dog wander to the mouth of a den of lions?” he said, keenly enjoying the notion of turning the tables. “Will a few Fingoes attack a guest of Nteya’s within the very light of the fires of the Gaika location?”“Your brother, Umlilwane, is too hot-headed,” answered the chief, forced to shift his ground. “Yet he is not a young man. Our young men, too, are hot-headed at times and escape from under the controlling eye of the chiefs. But Nteya will surely punish those who have done this thing.”“Let your friends proceed on their way, Ncandúku,” said Eustace suddenly, and in a low tone. “I would speak with you alone.”The chief assented, and at a word from him the Gcalékas rose to their feet and gathered up their weapons. With a respectful salute to the white man they filed off into the bush, and soon the faint rattle of assegai hafts and the deep bass hum of their voices faded into silence.“Now we are alone,” began Eustace after a pause. “We are friends, Ncandúku, and can talk freely. If there is trouble between the Gcalékas and the Fingoes, surely Kreli is able to take care of his own interests. Why, then, should the Gaikas have lighted the war-fires, have danced the war-dance? The quarrel is not theirs.”“The wrongs of the Paramount Chief are the wrongs of the whole Xosa race,” answered the Kafir. “See now. We love not your brother, Umlilwane. Yet, tell him to collect his flocks and his herds and to leave, to depart into a quieter country, and that speedily; for the land will soon be dead.” (Native idiom for war.)“And what if he refuses?”“Then he, too, will soon be dead.”For some minutes Eustace kept silence. The Kafir’s remark had added fuel to the fire which was burning within his heart. It seemed a direct answer to lurid unspoken thoughts which had been surging through his mind at the time of his surprise by the at first hostile party.“Umlilwane is an obstinate man,” he said at length. “What if he laughs at the warning?”“When a man sits inside his house and laughs while his house is burning, what happens to him, Ixeshane?”“He stands a fair chance of being burnt too. But listen, Ncanduku. You have no quarrel against the Inkosikazi. (Literally Chieftainess. In this instance ‘lady.’) Surely not a man of the House of Gaika would harm her!”

Please welcome the attack of the cosmic boss

The chief shook his head with a troubled expression.“Let her go, too!” he said emphatically. “Let her go, too, and that as soon as possible. When the red wave of war is rolling over the land, there is no place where the delicate feet of white women may stand dry. We are friends, Ixeshane. For your sake, and for that of the Inkosikazi, tell Umlilwane to gather together his cattle and to go.”“We are friends, indeed, Ncanduku. But how long can we be so? If war breaks out between our people how can I sit still? I cannot. I must fight—must fight for my own race, and in defence of our property. How, then, can we remain friends?”“In war-time every man must do his duty,” answered the Gaika. “He must obey the word of his chief and fight for his race and colour.”“Truly spoken and well understood. And now a warning for a warning. If I had the ears of your chiefs and amapakati (Councillors) this is what I should say: Do not be drawn into this war. Let the Gcalékas fight out their own quarrel. They stand upon wholly different ground. If they are vanquished—as, of course, they will be in the long run—the Government will show them mercy, will treat them as a conquered people. But you, and the other tribes within the colonial border, are British subjects. Queen Victoria is your chief, not Kreli, not Sandili, not Seyolo, not Ndimba—no man of the House of Gaika or Hlambi, but the White Queen. If you make war upon the Colony the Government will treat you as criminals, not as a conquered people, but as rebels against the Queen, your chief. You will be shown no mercy. Your chiefs will very likely be hung and your fighting men will be sent to the convict prisons for many a long year. That when you are beaten. And how long can you carry on the war? Things are not as they were. The country is not as it was. Think of the number of soldiers that will be sent against you; of the police; of the settlers, who will turn out to a man—all armed with the best breechloaders, mind. And what sort of weapons have you? A few old muzzle loaders more dangerous to the shooter than to his mark. What can you do with these and your assegais against people armed with the best rifles in the world? I am indeed your friend, Ncanduku, and the friend of your race. Let my warning sink deep in your mind, and carry it to the chiefs. Let them bewise in time.”“The words of Ixeshane are always the words of wisdom,” said the Kafir, rising in obedience to the other’s example. “But the young men are turbulent. They will not listen to the counsels of their elders. The cloud grows darker every day. I see no light,” he added, courteously holding the stirrup for Eustace to mount, “Go in peace, Ixeshane, and remember my warning.”And gathering up his assegais the chief disappeared among the trees, following the direction taken by the larger party.Chapter Eleven.“The Tail Wags the Dog.”Eustace had plenty to occupy his thoughts during his homeward ride. The emphatic warning of the Gaika chief was not to be set aside lightly. That Ncandúku knew more than he chose to say was evident. He had spoken out very plainly for one of his race, who dearly love veiled hints and beating around the bush. Still there was more behind.Especially did the chief’s perturbation when Eanswyth was referred to strike him as ominous to the last degree. Even in war-time there are few instances of Kafirs seriously maltreating white women, and Eanswyth was well liked by such of her dusky neighbours as she had come in contact with. Yet in the present case so thoroughly hated was her husband that it was conceivable they might even strike at him through her.Why had Carhayes not fallen in with the armed party instead of himself, thought Eustace bitterly. That would have cut the knot of the difficulty in a trice. They would not have spared him so readily. They were Gcalékas, Hlangani’s tribesmen. Hlangani’s wound would have been avenged, and Eanswyth would by this time be free.Very fair and peaceful was the aspect of the farm as the last risebrought it full into the horseman’s view. The bleating of sheep, mellowed by distance, as the flocks streamed forth white upon the green of the veldt, and the lowing of cattle, floated upon the rich morning air—together with the sound of voices and laughter from the picturesque group of native huts where the farm servants dwelt. Doves cooed softly, flitting among the sprays of mimosa fringing the mealie lands; and upon the surface of the dam there was a shimmer of silver light. All seemed peaceful—happy—prosperous; yet over all brooded the red cloud of war.Eustace felt his pulses quicken and his heart stir as he strained his eyes upon the house, to catch maybe the flutter of a light dress in the veranda. Many a morning had he thus returned from a ride without so much as a heartstirring. Yet now it was different. The ice had been broken. A new light had been let in—a sweet new light, glowing around his path like a ray of Paradise. They understood each other at last.Yet did they? How would she receive him—how greet him after the disclosure of last night? Would she have thought better of it? For the first time in his life he felt his confidence fail him.“Hallo, Eustace! Thought you had trekked off somewhere for the day,” growled Carhayes, meeting him in the doorway. “Been looking up some of your blanket friends?”“Where are you off to yourself, Tom?” was the reply. For the other was got up in riding boots and breeches, as if for a journey.“To Komgha—I’m going over to lay an information against Nteya. I’ll have the old schelm in the tronk by to-night.”“Not much to be taken by that, is there? Just come this way a minute, will you? I’ve heard something you may as well know.”With a mutter and a growl Carhayes joined him outside. In a few words Eustace conveyed to him Ncanduku’s warning. It was received characteristically—with a shout of scornful laughter.“Gammon, my dear chap. I never funked a nigger yet and I never

Please welcome the attack of the cosmic boss

will. And, I say. You’d better take a ride round presently and look after the sheep. I’ve been obliged to put on Josáne’s small boy in Goníwe’s place, and he may not be up to the mark. I daresay I’ll be back before dark.”“Well, the sheep will have to take their chance, Tom. I’m not going out of call of the homestead while Eanswyth is left here alone.”“Bosh!” returned Carhayes. “She don’t mind. Has she not been left alone here scores of times? However, do as you like. I must be off.”They had been walking towards the stable during this conversation. Carhayes led forth his horse, mounted, and rode away. Eustace put up his, and having cut up a couple of bundles of oat-hay—for they were short of hands—took his way to the house.He had warned his cousin and his warning had been scouted. He had struggled with a temptation not to warn him, but now it came to the same thing, and at any rate his own hands were clean. The journey to Komgha was long, and in these times for a man so hated as Tom Carhayes, might not be altogether safe, especially towards dusk. Well, he had been warned.Eustace had purposely taken time over attending to his horse. Even his strong nerves needed a little getting in hand before he should meet Eanswyth that morning; even his pulses beat quicker as he drew near the house. Most men would have been eager to get it over; would have blundered it over. Not so this one. Not without reason had the Kafirs nicknamed him “Ixeshane”—the Deliberate.Eanswyth rose from the table as he entered. Breakfast was over, and Tom Carhayes, with characteristic impulsiveness, had started off upon his journey with a rush, as we have seen. Thus once more these two were alone together, not amid the romantic witchery of the southern night, but in the full broad light of day.Well, and then? Had they not similarly been together alone countless times during the past year? Yes, but now it was different—widely different. The ice had been broken between them.Still, one would hardly have suspected it. Eanswyth was perfectly calm and composed. There was a tired look upon the sweet face, and dark circles under the beautiful eyes as if their owner had slept but little. Otherwise both her tone and manner were free from any trace of confusion.“I have put your breakfast to the kitchen fire to keep warm, Eustace,” she said. “Well, what adventures have you met with in the veldt this morning?”“First of all, how good of you. Secondly—leaving my adventures in abeyance for the present—did you succeed in getting any rest?”He was looking straight at her. There was a latent caress in his glance—in his tone.“Not much,” she answered, leaving the room for a moment in order to fetch the hot dish above referred to. “It was a trying sort of a night for us all, wasn’t it?” she resumed as she returned. “And now Tom must needs go rushing off again on a fool’s errand.”“Never mind Tom. A little blood-letting seems good for him rather than otherwise,” said Eustace, with a dash of bitterness. “About yourself. I don’t believe you have closed your eyes this night through. If you won’t take care of yourself, other people must do so for you. Presently I am going to sling the hammock under the trees and you shall have a right royal siesta.”His hand had prisoned hers as she stood over him arranging the plates and dishes. A faint colour came into her face, and she made a movement to withdraw it. The attempt, however, was a feeble one.“I think we are a pair of very foolish people,” she said, with a laugh whose sadness almost conveyed the idea of a sob.“Perhaps so,” he rejoined, pressing the hand he held to his cheek a moment, ere releasing it. “What would life be worth without its foolishness?”

Please welcome the attack of the cosmic boss

For a few moments neither spoke. Eanswyth was busying herself arranging some of the things in the room, adjusting an ornament here, dusting one there. Eustace ate his breakfast in silence, tried to, rather, for it seemed to him at times as if he could not eat at all. The attempt seemed to choke him. His thoughts, his feelings, were in a whirl. Here were they two alone together, with the whole day before them, and yet there seemed to have arisen something in the nature of a barrier between them.A barrier, however, which it would not be difficult to overthrow, his unerring judgment told him; yet he fought hard with himself not to lose his self-control. He noted the refined grace of every movement as she busied herself about the room—the thoroughbred poise of the stately head, the sheen of light upon the rich hair. All this ought to belong to him—did belong to him. Yet he fought hard with himself, for he read in that brave, beautiful face an appeal, mute but eloquent—an appeal to him to spare her.A rap at the door startled him—startled them both. What if it was some neighbour who had ridden over to pay them a visit, thought Eustace with dismay—some confounded bore who would be likely to remain the best part of the day? But it was only old Josáne, the cattle-herd. His master had told him to look in presently and ask for some tobacco, which he had been promised.“I’ll go round to the storeroom and get it for him,” said Eanswyth. “You go on with your breakfast, Eustace.”“No, I’ll go. I’ve done anyhow. Besides, I want to speak to him.”Followed by the old Kafir, Eustace unlocked the storeroom—a dark, cool chamber forming part of an outbuilding. The carcase of a sheep, freshly killed that morning, dangled from a beam. Piles of reims, emitting a salt, rancid odour—kegs of sheep-dip, huge rolls of Boer tobacco, bundles of yoke-skeys, and a dozen other things requisite to the details of farm work were stowed around or disposed on shelves. On one side was a grindstone and a carpenter’s bench. Eustace cut off a liberal length from one of the rolls of tobacco and gave it to the old Kafir. Then he filled

his own pipe.“Josane?”“Nkose!”“You are no fool, Josane. You have lived a good many years, and your head is nearly as snow-sprinkled as the summit of the Great Winterberg in the autumn. What do you thing of last night’s performance over yonder?”The old man’s shrewd countenance melted into a slight smile and he shook his head.“The Gaikas are fools,” he replied. “They have no quarrel with the English, yet they are clamouring for war. Their country is fertile and well watered, yet they want to throw it away with both hands. They are mad.”“Will they fight, Josane?”“Au! Who can say for certain,” said the old man with an expressive shrug of the shoulders. “Yet, was ever such a thing seen? The dog wags his tail. But in this case it is the tail that wags the dog.”“How so, Josane?”“The chiefs of the Gaikas do not wish for war. The old men do not wish for it. But the young men—the boys—are eager for it. The women taunt them, they say; tell them they have forgotten how to be warriors. So the boys and the women clamour for war, and the chiefs and the old men give way. Thus the tail wags the dog. Hau!”“And what about the Gcalékas?”“The Gcalékas? It is this way, Nkose. If you shut up two bulls alone in the same kraal, if you put two scorpions into a mealie stamp, how long will it be before they fight? So it is with the Gcalékas and the Fingoes. The land is not large enough for both. The Gcalékas are ready for war.”Chapter Thirty Two.A Strange Duel.In the midst of the savage throng was another white man, also a prisoner, who had been forced to assist at the barbarous scene just detailed. His lot, however, had been cast in far worse lines than that of Eustace, for his hands were tightly fastened behind his back and a reim connected his ankles in such wise that he could only take short steps— which painful fact he would every now and then forget, with the result of just so many ignominious “croppers.” Whereat his dusky tormentors would shout with gleeful laughter.In addition to his bonds the unfortunate man appeared to have undergone considerable maltreatment. His hair and beard were matted with dust and blood, and his head was rudely bandaged with rags of the filthiest description. He was clad in a greasy and tattered shirt, and trousers to match—his own clothes having been impounded by his captors. Moreover there were livid wales upon his face and hands, and such parts of his person as were visible through his ragged apparel, which showed that he had been unmercifully beaten. Well might Eustace start in amazement, absolute and unfeigned. In this pitiable object he recognised Tom Carhayes.He gazed at him speechless—as at one who has risen from the dead. If ever he could have sworn to any man’s death it would have been to that of the man before him. He had seen the assegais flash in the air and descend—had heard the dull, sickening blows of the kerries which had beaten the life out of his unfortunate cousin. Yet, here stood the latter —not exactly unhurt, but yet full of life.“Hau, Umlilwane!” said Hlangani, who was standing beside the latter —grinning hideously into his victim’s face. “You are not near enough to see well. The black ants bite—harder than the shot from your gun,” he went on, with grim meaning, beckoning to those who stood by to drag the prisoner nearer to the body of the unfortunate Vudana, which lay, raw and

bloody, the veins exposed in many places by the bites of the myriad swarming insects. Carhayes gazed upon the horrid sight with a shudder of disgust. Then raising his eyes he encountered those of Eustace. A shout of astonishment escaped him.“How did you get here?” he cried. “Thought you were rubbed out if ever any fellow was. Suppose you thought the same of me. Well, well. It’ll come to that soon. These damned black devils have bested me, just as I reckoned I was besting them. They’ve been giving me hell already. But I say, Eustace, you seem to be in clover,” noticing the other’s freedom from bonds or ill-treatment. Then he added bitterly, “I forgot; you always did stand in well with them.”“That isn’t going to help me much now, I’m afraid,” answered Eustace. “I’ve just made a fool of the witch-doctress and she won’t let things rest there, depend upon it. My case isn’t much more hopeful than yours. Have you tried the bribery trick?”“No. How do you mean?”“Offer some big-wig, like our particular friend there—I won’t mention names—a deuce of a lot of cattle to let you escape. Try and work it—only you must be thundering careful.”The Kafirs, who had been attentively listening to the conversation between the two white men, here deemed that enough had been said. Dialogue in an unknown tongue must represent just so much plotting, argued their suspicious natures. So they interposed.“See there,” said Hlangani, with a meaning glance at the fearfully contorted features of the miserable victim of the witch-doctress. “See there, Umlilwane, and remember my ‘word’ to you the day you shot my white hunting dog and wounded me in the shoulder. You had better first have cut off your right hand, for it is better to lose a hand than one’s mind. Hau! You laughed then. Who laughs now?”To Eustace those words now stood out in deadly significance. The wretched Vudana had died raving mad. This, then, was the promisedvengeance. Whatever his own fate might be, that of his cousin was sealed. Nothing short of a miracle could save him. Carhayes, noting the deadly and implacable expression upon the dark countenance of his enemy, realised something of this, and fearless as he habitually was, it was all he could do to keep from betraying some misgiving.At this juncture a mandate arrived from Kreli that the warriors should once more assemble within the temporary kraal, and that the white prisoners should again be brought before him. Singing, chatting, laughing, administering many a sly kick or cuff to poor Carhayes, the savages swarmed back to the open space, dragging that unfortunate along in rough, unceremonious fashion. Soon the glade was empty, save for the body of the miserable victim of their blindly superstitious ferocity. It lay there, stark, mangled, and hideous.The Paramount Chief and his councillors still sat in a group apart. They had borne no part in, betrayed no interest in, the barbarous tragedy which had just taken place. Such a matter as the punishment of a wizard was entirely beneath their notice—in theory at any rate. They still sat in grave and dignified impassiveness.Eustace, noting the difference between his own treatment and that of his cousin—the one bound with unnecessary rigour, hustled and kicked, the other, though disarmed, treated with a certain amount of consideration—began to entertain strong hopes on his own account. But tending materially to dash them was the fact that Ngcenika, standing before the chief and the amapakati, was favouring that august assemblage with a very fierce and denunciatory harangue.There were two white men, she said—two prisoners. One of these was a man of some power, who had been able to oppose her magic with his own; only for a time, however—the hag took care to add. This man it might be well to keep for a little while longer at any rate; there were several experiments which she herself intended to try upon him. But the other—he had always been a bitter enemy of their race. Many had fallen at his hands. Had he not cut a notch upon his gun-stock for every fighting man of the race of Xosa whom he had slain? There was the gun-stock and there were the notches. There were many of them, let the Great

Chief—let the amapakati count.At the production of this damning “pièce de conviction,” a shout of fury rose from the ranks of the warriors.“To the fire!” they cried. “To the fire with him!”The situation was appalling, yet Carhayes never quailed. The desperate pluck of the man bore him up even then. He scowled contemptuously upon the lines of dark and threatening faces, then turned erect and fearless towards the chief.For a few moments they confronted each other thus in silence. The Englishman, somewhat weak and unsteady from exhaustion and ill-treatment, could still look the arbiter of his fate straight in the eyes without blenching. They might do their worst and be damned, he said to himself. He, Tom Carhayes, was not going to whine for mercy to any nigger— even if that “nigger” was the Chief Paramount of all the Amaxosa tribes.The latter, for his part, was not without respect for the white man’s intrepidity, but he had no intention of sparing him for all that. He had been debating with his chiefs and councillors, and they had decided that Carhayes ought to be sacrificed as an uncompromising and determined enemy of their race. The other it might be expedient to keep a little longer and see how events would turn.“What have you to say, umlúngu?” said Kreli at length.“Nothing. Not a damn thing,” broke in Carhayes, in a loud, harsh tone.“Tom, for God’s sake don’t be such a fool,” whispered Eustace, who was near enough to be heard. “Can’t you be civil for once?”“No, I can’t; not to any infernal black scoundrel,” roared the other savagely. “It’s different with you, Eustace,” changing his tone to a bitter sneer. “Damn it, man, you’re about half a Kafir already. Why don’t you ask old Kreli for a couple of his daughters and set up a kraal here among them, eh?”A sounding whack across the ear with the haft of an assegai choked the words in his throat. He stood, literally foaming with fury.“Attend, thou white dog,” cried a great deep-toned voice. “Attend when the Great Chief is talking to thee. Au!”An infuriated mastiff straining at his chain is a pretty good exemplification of impotent wrath, but even he is nothing to the aspect and demeanour of Carhayes as he turned to the perpetrator of this indignity. The veins rolled in his forehead as if they would burst. The muscles stood out upon his neck like cords as he strove by a superhuman effort to burst his bonds. But Hlangani only sneered.“Listen when the Great Chief is talking to thee, thou jackal, or I will strike thee again,” he said.“God damn the Great Chief!” roared poor Tom, his voice rising to a hurricane shriek of fury under this shameful indignity, which he was powerless to resent. “And you, Hlangani, you dog, if I stood unbound I would kill you at this moment—kill you all unarmed as I am. Coward! Dare you try it!”“What is this indaba?” interrupted Kreli sternly. “This white man has a very long tongue. Perhaps it may be shortened with advantage.” A hum of applause greeted this remark, and the chief went on. “You are asked a question, umlúngu, and instead of answering you rave and bellow and throw yourself about like a cow that has lost her calf. And now what have you to say? You have invaded our country and shot our people with your own hand. If a man thrusts his head into a hornet’s nest, whom shall he blame but himself if he gets stung—if he treads upon a serpent, how shall he complain if made to feel the reptile’s fangs?”“Well, you see, it’s war-time,” answered Carhayes bluntly, beginning to think he might just as well say something to save his life, if words could save it, that is. “I have met your people in fair fight, and I challenge any man, black or white, to deny that I have acted fair, square, and above board. And when we do take prisoners we don’t treat them as I have


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