Saudi Arabia and Iran exchange ambassadors

发表于 2023-09-23 19:09:05 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

back into the very jaws of its first pursuer has no alternative but to head up the valley as fast as its legs can carry it.But the new hound is fresh, and in fact a better dog than the first one. He presses the quarry very close and needs not the encouraging shouts of his master, who has leaped forth from his concealment immediately upon unleashing him. For a few moments the pace is even, then it decreases. The buck seemed doomed.And, indeed, such is the case anyhow. For, held in waiting at a given point, ready to be let slip if necessary, is a third dog. Such is the Kafir method of hunting. The best dog ever whelped is not quite equal, either in speed or staying power, to running down a full-grown buck in the open veldt, but by adopting the above means of hunting in relays, the chance are equalised. To be more accurate, the quarry has no chance at all.On speeds the chase; the new dog, a tall white grey-hound of surprising endurance and speed, gaining rapidly; the other, lashed into a final spurt by the spirit of emulation, not far behind. The two Kafirs, stimulating their hounds with yells of encouragement, are straining every nerve to be in at the death.The buck—terror and demoralisation in its soft, lustrous eyes—is heading straight for the spectator’s hiding place. The latter raises his piece, with the intention of sending a bullet through the first dog as soon as it shall come abreast of his position; the shot barrel will finish off the other.But he does not fire. The fact is, the man is simply shaking with rage. Grinding his teeth, he recognises his utter inability to hit a haystack at that moment, let alone a swiftly coursing grey-hound.The chase sweeps by within seventy yards of his position—buck, dog, and Kafirs. Then another diversion occurs.Two more natives rise, apparently out of the ground itself. One of these, poising himself erect with a peculiar springy, quivering motion, holds his kerrie ready to hurl. The buck is barely thirty yards distant, and

“This is the word of the Great Chief to his children of the House of Ngqika (Or Gaika). Lo, the time has come when the Amanglézi (English) seek a quarrel with us. We can no longer live side by side, say they. There is no room for the Ama-Gcaléka in the land they have hitherto dwelt in. They must go.“So they have located our dogs, the cowardly Amafengu (Fingoes), our slaves and our dogs, on the next land to ours, that we may have a continual plague to scourge us, that our sides may be wrung with the pest of these stinging flies, that our name may be spat upon and laughed at by those who were our own dogs. Thus would these English provoke us to quarrel.“Who were these Amafengu? Were they not our dogs and our slaves? Who are they now? Still dogs—but not our dogs. Who will they be shortly? Not our dogs—not our slaves—but—our masters! Our masters!” roared the fierce savage, shaking the broad assegai which he held, until it quivered like a band of flame in the red firelight. “The sons of Gcaléka will be the slaves of their former slaves—the dogs of their former dogs. Not the sons of Gcaléka only, but all the children of Xosa. Not the House of Gcaléka only, but the House of Ngqika. Who is doing this? The Amanglezi! Who would tread upon the necks of our chiefs and place the fetters of their lying and hypocritical creeds upon the limbs of our young men till the latter are turned into slaves and drunkards? The Amanglezi! Who would stop the mouths of our amapakati (Councillors) and drown the collective wisdom of our nation in floods of fire-water? The Amanglezi. Are we men—I say? Are we men?”A low suppressed roar ran through the circle of fierce and excitable barbarians as the orator paused. Again sounded the ominous rattle of assegai hafts. It needed all the self-control of their habitually self-contained race to restrain them from breaking forth anew into their frenzied war-dance. But a wave of the speaker’s hand availed to quell the rising tumult and he continued:“This is the ‘word’ of the rulers of the Amanglézi. The time has come when the Amaxosa races must be subdued. They are growing too numerous. They are waxing too strong. Their power must be broken. Wemust begin by breaking up the influence of the chiefs. We must put down chieftainship altogether. Hear ye this, ye sons of Ngqika? Hear you this, O Matanzima, warrior son of Saudili, the Great Chief of the House of Ngqika? Hear you this, O Nteya—pakati of the race of Ngqika? Hear you this, O Nxabahlana, of the House of the Great Chief, you who have led our bands to war before the very birth of many of the young men I see before me? Hear ye this, Maquades and Mpanhla and Sivuléle, and you, Panganisi and Untíwa, of the House of Seyolo of the House of Hlambi, golden mouthed in council—in the battle-field flames of consuming fire? Hear ye this, all ye gathered here before me this night—tried warriors, and young men who have never seen war. The children of Xosa are growing too strong. They must be subdued. The power of their chiefs must be broken. Such is the word of the rulers of the Amanglezi.”This time, as the orator paused, there was no restraining the fierce excitement of his hearers. Each warrior named, who had greeted the mention of himself with a low, but emphatic “há”—now sprang to his feet. No further example was needed. Again, the wild rhythm of the war-song rose upon the night; again the fierce thunder-roll of the tread of hundreds of feet shook the ground. Again the circle of firelight was alive with grim, threatening forms, swaying in measured time, to the unearthly chant, to the accompaniment of the shaking of fantastic adornments, to the quivering rattle of assegai hafts. For some minutes this continued—then when the excitement was almost at its height, a mysterious signal was given and the whole wild crowd dropped quickly into its listening attitude again.“Such is the word of the Amanglezi,” went on the speaker. “Now hear the word of Sarili, your father, the Paramount Chief, the father of all the children of Xosa. Hear the word of the Great Chief conveyed by the mouth of Hlangani, the herald—‘Lo, the time has come when we must unite in the strength of brethren. The Amanglézi are urging our very dogs on to provoke us. The Amafengu are located on our borders, to taunt and jeer at our young men—to lure our young women over into their kraals that the very name of Gcaléka may be debased and defiled. Not a day passes that this does not happen. Why do we not revenge this? Why do we not execute a sudden and fearful vengeance upon these dogs who

Saudi Arabia and Iran exchange ambassadors

spit at our name and nation? We dare not. The Amanglézi say: “Your dogs are now our dogs. Touch them and we shall send armies of soldiers and you will be eaten up”—But, dare we not? Dare we not? Answer me, all ye children of the race of Xosa! I, Sarili, your father, call upon you—I, Sarili, your chief. Answer! Show that the war-fire of our free and warrior race is not dead. It has been smouldering for many years, but it is not dead. It is ready to break forth as the destroying lightning leaps from the black thunder-cloud. It is ready to blaze forth in its strength and to consume all within its reach.“‘Where is my father, Hintza? Where is he who was lured into the white man’s camp by fair promises and then shot down? Do I not hear his spirit calling unto me day and night. I cannot sleep, for the spirit of my father is crying for vengeance. It is crying day and night from the depths. Yet, not to me only. Who was Hintza? My father, yet not my father only. The father of all the sons of Xosa!“‘Lo, the white Governor has summoned me, your chief, to meet him. He has invited me, your chief, with fair promises to visit him at his camp. Shall I go, that I, Sarili, may meet with the same dealing that laid low my father, Hintza? I will, indeed, go, but it will be with the whole array of the fighting men of the Amaxosa at my back.“‘Hear my “word,” my children of the House of Nteya, pakati of the race of Ngqika. Hear my “word” as spoken through the mouth of Hlangani, my herald. Receive these oxen as a present from your father to his children. Eat them, and when you have eaten and your hearts are strong, stand prepared. Let the war-cry roll through the mountains and valleys of our fair land. Let the thunder of your war-dances shake the earth as the reeds by the water side quiver beneath the rushing of the storm wind. Let the trumpet tongues of your war-fires gleam from the mountain tops—tongue roaring to tongue—that the Amanglezi may hear it and tremble; for the spirit of Hintza, my father, which has slumbered for years, is awake again and is crying for vengeance—is crying and crying aloud that the time has come.’”The speaker ceased. A dead silence fell upon his hearers—a weird silence upon that tumultuous crowd crouching in eager expectancy in thered firelight. Suddenly, upon the black gloom of the night, far away to the eastward, there gleamed forth a streak of flame. Then another and another. A subdued roar ran around the circle. Then, as by magic, a crimson glare fell upon the serried ranks of expectant listeners, lighting up their fantastic war panoply as with the light of day. From the hill top above the kraal there shot up a great tongue of red flame. It leaped high into the velvety blackness of the heavens. Splitting up into many a forking flash it roared in the air—the gleaming rays licking up into a cloud of lurid smoke which blotted out the stars in its reddening folds. The distant war signal of the Gcaléka chieftain was answered.“Ha!” cried Hlangani, in a voice of thunder. “Ha! Now will the heart of your father, Sarili, be glad. Now have ye proved yourselves his children indeed, oh, sons of Ngqika! Now have you proved yourselves men, for the trumpet tongues of your war-flames are crying aloud—tongue roaring to tongue upon the wings of the night.”With the quickness of lightning the warriors had again thrown themselves into formation, and now worked up to a pitch of uncontrollable excitement, the unearthly cadence of the war-song rose into a fiendish roar, and the thunder of the demon dance rolled and reverberated among the hills, while lighting up the fierce array of grim, frenzied figures in its brooding glare, the huge beacon, high above on the hilltop, blazed forth sullenly upon the night in all its menacing and destructive significance.Suddenly, as if by magic, the mad orgy of the savages was suspended. For advancing into their very midst—fearlessly, boldly, contemptuously, even—rode a solitary horseman—a white man, an Englishman.Chapter Seven.In the Lion’s Den.Every eye was bent upon the new arrival. With a quick, instinctive movement the savages closed around the foolhardy Englishman. Therewas a scowl of deadly import upon each grim face. Hundreds of assegais were poised with a quiver of suppressed eagerness. The man’s life seemed not worth a moment’s purchase.“Out of my way, you schepsels!” he cried roughly, urging his horse through the sullen and threatening crowd, as though so many hundreds of armed and excited barbarians worked up to the highest pitch of blood-thirstiness were just that number of cowering and subservient slaves. “Out of my way, do you hear? Where is Nteya? I want Nteya, the chief. Where is he?”“Here I am, umlúngu (White man). What do you want with me?” answered Nteya—making a rapid and peremptory signal to restrain the imminent resentment of his followers. “Am I not always here, that you should break in upon me in this violent manner? Do I go to your house, and ride up to the door and shout for you as though you were stricken with sudden deafness?”The chief’s rebuke, quiet and dignified, might have carried some tinge of humiliation to any man less overbearing and hot-headed than Tom Carhayes, even as the low growl of hardly contained exasperation which arose from the throng might have conveyed an ominous warning. But upon this man both were alike thrown away. Yet it may be that the very insanity of his fool-hardiness constituted his safety. Had he quailed but a moment his doom was sealed.“I didn’t come here to hold an indaba,” (Talk—palaver) he shouted. “I want my sheep. Look here, Nteya. You have put me off very cleverly time after time with one excuse or another. But this time you are pagadi (Cornered). I’ve run you to earth—or rather some of those schepsels of yours. That young villain Goníwe has driven off thirty-seven of my sheep, and two of your fellows have helped him. I’ve spoored them right into your location as straight as a line. Now?”“When was this, Umlilwane?” said Nteya, imperturbably.“When? When? To-night, man. This very night, do you hear?” roared the other.

Saudi Arabia and Iran exchange ambassadors

“Hau! The white man has the eyes of twenty vultures that he can see to follow the spoor of thirty-seven sheep on a dark night,” cried a mocking voice—and a great shout of derisive laughter went up from the whole savage crowd. The old chief, however, preserved his dignified and calm demeanour.“You are excited, Umlilwane,” he said—a faint smile lurking round the corners of his mouth. “Had you not better go home and return in the morning and talk things over quietly? Surely you would not forget yourself like a boy or a quarrelsome old woman.”If a soft answer turneth away wrath, assuredly an injunction to keep cool to an angry man conduceth to a precisely opposite result. If Carhayes had been enraged before, his fury now rose to white heat.“You infernal old scoundrel!” he roared. “Don’t I tell you I have spoored the sheep right bang into your kraal? They are here now, I tell you; here now. And you try to put me off with your usual Kafir lies and shuffling.” And shaking with fury he darted forth his hand, which still held the heavy rhinoceros hide sjambok, as though he would have struck the chief then and there. But Nteya did not move.“Hau!” cried Hlangani, who had been a silent but attentive witness to this scene. “Hau! Thus it is that the chiefs of the Amaxosa are trampled on by these abelúngu (whites). Are we men, I say? Are we men?” And the eyes of the savage flashed with terrible meaning as he waved his hand in the direction of the foolhardy Englishman.Thus was the spark applied to the dry tinder. The crowd surged forward. A dozen sinewy hands gripped the bridle, and in a moment Carhayes was flung violently to the earth.Stunned, half-senseless he lay. Assegais flashed in the firelight. It seemed that the unfortunate settler’s hours were numbered. Another moment and a score of bright blades would be buried in his body.But a stern and peremptory mandate from the chief arrested each impending stroke.“Stop, my children!” cried Nteya, standing over the prostrate man and extending his arms as though to ward off the deadly blows. “Stop, my children! I, your chief; I, your father, command it. Would you play into the hands of your enemies? Be wise, I say. Be wise in time.”Sullenly the crowd fell back. With weapons still uplifted, with eyes hanging hungrily upon their chief’s face, like tigers balked momentarily of their prey, the warriors paused. And the dull, brooding glare of the signal fire flashing aloft upon the hilltop fell redly upon that fierce and threatening sea of figures standing over the prostrate body of their hated and now helpless enemy. But the word of a Kafir chief is law to his followers. There was no disputing that decisive mandate.“Rise, Umlilwane,” went on Nteya. “Rise, and go in peace. In the evening, when the blood is heated, it is not well to provoke strife by angry words. In the morning, when heads are cool, return here and talk. If your sheep are here, they shall be restored to you. Now go, while it is yet safe.”Carhayes, still half-stunned by the violence of his fall, staggered to his feet.“If they are here!” he repeated sullenly. “Damn it, they are here!” he blazed forth in a fresh access of wrath. Then catching the malevolent glance of Hlangani, and becoming alive to the very sinister and menacing expression on the countenances of the other Kafirs, even he began to realise that some degree of prudence was desirable, not to say essential. “Well, well, it’s the old trick again, but I suppose our turn will come soon,” he growled, as he proceeded to mount his horse.The crowd parted to make way for him, and amid ominous mutterings and an unpleasantly suggestive shaking of weapons towards him, he rode away as he had come. None followed him. The chief’s eye was upon his receding figure. The chief’s “word” had been given. But even protected by that safe conduct, he would be wise to put as much space as possible between himself and that sullen and warlike gathering, and that, too, with the greatest despatch.

Saudi Arabia and Iran exchange ambassadors

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

phenomenon—one the like of which we might not witness again in a lifetime. We may as well see it out.”If Eanswyth had been rather alarmed heretofore, the other’s perfect unconcern went far to reassure her. The wild, unearthly chorus echoing through the darkness—the glare of the fires, the distant, but thundrous clamour of the savage orgy, conveyed no terrors to this strong-nerved and philosophical companion of hers. He only saw in them a strange and deeply interesting experience. Seated there in the starlight, some of that unconcern communicated itself to her. A restful calm came upon her. This man beside her was as a very tower of strength. And then came over her a consciousness—not for the first time, but stronger than she had ever felt it—of how necessary his presence was to her. His calm, strong judgment had kept matters straight for a long time past. He had been the one to pour oil on the troubled waters; to allay or avert the evils which her husband’s ungovernable temper and ill-judged violence had thickly gathered around them. Now, as he sat there beside her calmly contemplating the sufficiently appalling manifestations of that night— manifestations that would otherwise have driven her wild with terror—she was conscious of feeling hardly any fear.And what of Eustace himself? Lucky, indeed, that his judgment was strong, his brain habitually clear and unclouded. For at that moment his mind could only be compared to the seething, misty rush of a whirlpool. He could see her face in the starlight—even the lustrous glow of the great eyes—could mark the clear outline or the delicate profile turned half away from him. He was alone with her in the sweet, soft African night—alone with her—her sole protector, amid the brooding peril that threatened. A silence had fallen between them. His love—his concealed and hopeless love for her overcame him. He could not command words—not even voice, for the molten, raging fires of passion which consumed him as he sat there. His hand clenched the arm of his cane chair—a jagged nail, which protruded, lacerating it nearly to the bone—still he felt nothing of physical pain—mind triumphed.Yes, the anguish of his mind was so intense as to be akin to physical pain. Why could they not be thus together always? They could, but for one life. One life only, between him and such bliss that the whole world“Ho! Ngcenika,” he cried, in a tone of exultation mingled with suppressed fury. “Thou art not dead yet—toad—carrion bird!”He was standing over the inanimate form, his assegai uplifted in his right hand, in his left the dim and sputtering candle. He made a feint to plunge it into her body, then as rapidly withdrew it.“Ha! I have a better plan. Thou shalt take Umlilwane’s place.”He stuck his candle on a projecting slab of rock, then bending down he laid hold of the witch-doctress by the feet and began to drag her along the ground. She was massive in her proportions, and he did not make rapid headway; the more so that the wretched creature began to struggle, though feebly, for she had lost an enormous quantity of blood, and indeed but for the endurance of her race, which dies as hard as it lives, life would have been extinct in her long ago. It was a horrible scene. The almost nude body of the hag was one mass of blood, which, coagulated over a dozen ghastly wounds, now began to well forth afresh; the muscular, half-bent form of the grim old warrior, glistening with perspiration, as with the blaze of unsatiated revenge burning in his eyes he dragged her along that grisly cavern floor. Tugging, hauling, perspiring, growling, he at length reached the brow of the pit with his ghastly freight. Then pausing a moment, with a devilish grin on his face, to contemplate the object of his deadly rancour, he pushed the body over. A dull thud and a smothered groan told that it had reached the bottom.“Hau! hell cat—toad’s spawn!” he cried. “How do you feel down there? Where is the great witch-doctress of the Gcaléka nation now? Where is Sarili’s great councillor of the Spirit-world now? With those whom her wizard arts destroyed. Men, brave fighting men all, were they —what are they now? Bones, skulls, among which the serpents crawl in and out,” and as if to emphasise his words, a hissing went forth from the reptiles disturbed by this new invasion of their prison house. “Ha, ha, ha!” he laughed. “Wise witch-doctress, thou canst ‘smell out’ their spirits once more in the darkness before thou diest. Thou art a great magician, but the magic of the white men—the magic of Ixeshane—is greater than thine, and it has delivered thee into my hand.

“Hlangani, the valiant—the fighting chief of the Ama Gcaléka—the herald of Sarili—is dead. Hau!” Then raising his voice to a high taunting pitch, he cried, “where is Maqwela, the warrior who struck the Amanglezi in three wars? His skull is beside thee—talk to it. Where is Mpunhla, erstwhile my friend? He, too, was condemned to ‘The Home of the Serpents’ by thee. He, too, is beside thee. Where is Vudana, my kinsman? The black ants have picked his bones. This, too, was thy work, and I, Josane, would be even as they, but that I have been reserved to deal out vengeance to their slayer! And now when Sarili—when the amapakati of the house of Gcaléka call for their wise witch-doctress, they will call long and loud but will get no answer, for ‘The Home of the Serpents’ yields not up its secrets. Fare thee well, Ngcenika; rest peacefully. My vengeance is complete. Hlala-gahle!”The weird flickering light of the dying candles danced on the figure of the savage standing there on the brink of that horrible hell-pit, gibing at his once terrible but now vanquished foe. Verily there was an appropriateness, a real poetic justice in the fate which had overwhelmed this female fiend. Many a man had she doomed to this awful, this unspeakably horrible fate, through the dictates of revenge, of intrigue, or of sheer devilish, gratuitous savagery. They had languished and died— some in raving mania—here in black darkness and amid horrors unspeakable. Now the same fate had overtaken herself.Josane paused. The groans of his victim were becoming fainter and fainter.“Hau! It is music to my ears,” he muttered. Then, turning, he deliberately blew out all the lights save the one that he carried, and once more humming his fierce improvised song of vengeance, he sped away through the gloom to rejoin his white companions, leaving this horrible pit of Tophet to the grisly occupancy of its hissing, crawling serpents and its new but fast dying human denizen.Chapter Forty Seven.Into Space.“Heavens! What a glorious thing is the light of day!” exclaimed Hoste, looking around as if he never expected to behold that blessing again, instead of having just been restored to it.“Let’s hope that philosophical reflection will console us throughout our impending ducking,” rejoined Eustace drily. “We are going to get it in half an hour at the outside.”Great storm clouds were rolling up beyond the Bashi Valley. The same brooding stillness, now greatly intensified, hung in the air; broken every now and again by fitful red flashes and the dull, heavy boom of thunder. The far off murmur of the river rose up between its imprisoning krantzes and steep forest-clad slopes to the place where their halt was made.They had emerged safely to the upper air with their unfortunate and oft-times troublesome charge. Recognising the impracticability of conveying the latter along the perilous causeway which had taxed their own powers so severely, they had elected to try the other way out, to wit, the vertical shaft, beneath which they had passed shortly after first entering the cavern, and, after a toilsome climb, by no means free from danger, burdened as they were with the unhappy lunatic, had regained the light of day in safety.But their difficulties and dangers were by no means at an end. For the first, they were a long way above the spot where they had left their horses. To regain this would take several hours. It was frightfully rugged and tangled country, and they had but an hour of daylight left. Moreover a tremendous thunderstorm was working up, and one that, judging by the heavy aspect of the clouds, and the brooding sense of oppression in the atmosphere, threatened to last the best part of the night. For the second, they had every reason to believe that these wild and broken fastnesses

of bush and rock held the lurking remnants of the Gcaléka bands who were still under arms, and should these discover the presence of intruders, the position of the four men, dismounted, scantily supplied with food, and hampered with their worse than useless charge, would be serious indeed.The latter they still deemed it necessary to keep carefully secured. His transition to the upper air had effected a curious change in him. He was no longer violent. He seemed dazed, utterly subdued. He would blink and shut his eyes, as if the light hurt them. Then he would open them again and stare about him with a gaze of the most utter bewilderment. A curious feature in his demeanour was that the world at large seemed to excite his interest rather than its living inhabitants. In these, as represented by his rescuers, he seemed to evince no interest at all. His gaze would wander past them, as though unaware of their presence, to the broad rugged river-valley, with its soaring krantzes and savage forest-clad depths, as if he had awakened in a new world. And indeed he had. Think of it! Seven or eight months spent in utter darkness; seven or eight months without one glimmer of the blessed light of Heaven; seven or eight months in the very bowels of the earth, in starvation and filth, among living horrors which had turned his brain; the only glint of light, the only sound of the human voice vouchsafed to him being on those occasions when his barbarous tormentors came to taunt him and bring him his miserable food! Small wonder that the free air, the light, and the spreading glories of Nature, had a dazing, subduing effect on the poor lunatic.His own safety necessitated the continuance of his bonds—that of his rescuers, that he should be kept securely gagged. It would not do, out of mistaken kindness, to run any risks; to put it in the poor fellow’s power to break forth into one of his paroxysms of horrible howls, under circumstances when their lives might depend upon secrecy and silence. It would be time enough to attempt the restoration of the poor clouded brain, when they should have conveyed him safe home again. It was a curious thing that necessity should oblige his rescuers to bring him back bound as though a prisoner.Their camp—rather their halting place, for caution would precludethe possibility of building a fire—had been decided upon in a small bushy hollow, a kind of eyrie which would enable them to keep a wide look out upon the river-valley for many miles, while affording them a snug and tolerably secure place of concealment. In front a lofty krantz fell sheer to a depth of at least two hundred feet. Behind, their retreat was shut in by a line of bush-grown rocks. It was going to be a wet and comfortless night. The storm was drawing nearer and nearer, and they would soon be soaked to the skin, their waterproof wraps having been left with the horses. Food, too, was none too plentiful—indeed, beyond some biscuit and a scrap or two of cold meat, they had none. But these were mere trivial incidents to such practised campaigners. They had succeeded in their quest—they had rescued a friend and comrade from a fate ten thousand-fold more hideous than the most fearful form of death; moreover, as Hoste had remarked, the light of day alone, even when seen through streaming showers, was glorious when compared with the utter gloom of that awful cave and the heaving, hissing, revolting masses of its serpent denizens. On the whole they felt anything but down-hearted.“I tell you what it is, Hoste,” said Shelton, seizing the moment when Eustace happened to be beyond earshot. “There have been a good many nasty things said and hinted about Milne of late; but I should just like to see any one of the fellows who have said them do what he did. Heavens! The cool nerve he showed in deliberately going down into that horrible hole with the chances about even between being strangled by poor Tom there, or bitten by a puff-adder, was one of the finest things I ever saw in my life. It’s quite enough to give the lie to all these infernal reports, and I’ll take care that it does, too.”“Rather. But between you and me and Josane there, who can’t understand us,” answered Hoste, lowering his voice instinctively, “it’s my private opinion that poor Milne has no particular call to shout ‘Hurrah’ over the upshot of our expedition. Eh? Sort of Enoch Arden business, don’t you know. Likely to prove inconvenient for all parties.”“So? All the more to his credit, then, that he moved heaven and earth to bring it about. By Jove! I believe I’d have thought a long while before going down there myself.”


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