Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

发表于 2023-09-30 13:26:41 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

life swell in harmonious chorus, louder and louder, in that last hour of parting day. His golden beams, now horizontal, sweep the broad and rolling plains in a sea of fire, throwing out the rounded spurs of the Kabousie Hills into so many waves of vivid green. Then the flaming chariot of day is gone.And in the unearthly hush of the roseate afterglow, that pale, heart-broken mourner wends her way home. Home! An empty house, where the echo of a footfall sounds ghostly and startling; an abode peopled with reminiscences of the dead—meet companionship for a dead and empty heart.Never so dead—never so empty—as this evening. Never since the first moment of receiving the awful news has she felt so utterly crushed, so soul-weary as here to-night. “How was it all to end?” had been their oft-spoken thought—here on this very spot. The answer had come now. Death had supplied it. But—how was this to end?The glories of departing day were breaking forth into ever varying splendours. The spurs of the mountain range, now green, now gold, assumed a rich purple against the flaming red of the sky. The deepening afterglow flushed and quivered, as the scintillating eyes of heaven sprang forth into the arching vault—not one by one, but in whole groups. Then the pearly shades of twilight and the cool, moist fragrance of the falling night.Why was the earth so wondrously lovely—why should eyes rest upon such semi-divine splendour while the heart was aching and bursting? was the unspoken cry that went up from that heart-weary mourner standing there alone gazing forth into the depths of the star-gemmed night.Stay! What is that tongue of flame suddenly leaping forth into the darkness? Another and another—and lo! by magic, from a score of lofty heights, red fires are gushing upward into the black and velvety gloom, and as the ominous beacons gather in flaming volume roaring up to a great height, the lurid glow of the dark firmament is reflected dully upon the slumbering plains.

“Inkose!”The sudden sonorous interruption caused Eanswyth to start as if she had been shot, and well it might. Her lover, however, had passed through too many strange and stirring experiences of late to be otherwise than slightly and momentarily disconcerted.A dark figure stood at the lowest step of the stoep, one hand raised in the air, after the dignified and graceful manner of native salutation.“Greeting, Josane,” he replied.“Now do mine eyes behold a goodly sight,” went on the old Kafir with animation, speaking in the pleasing figurative hyperbole of his race. “My father and friend is safe home once more. We have mourned him as dead and he is alive again. He has returned to gladden our hearts and delight our eyes. It is good—it is good.”“How did you know I had returned, Josane?”Had there been light enough they would have detected the most whimsical smile come over the old Kafir’s face as he replied:“Am I not the Inkosikazi’s watch-dog? What sort of a watch-dog is it that permits a footstep to approach from outside without his knowledge?”“You are, indeed, a man, Josane—a man among men, and trust to those who trust you,” replied Eustace, in that tone of thorough friendship and regard which had enabled him to win so effectually the confidence of the natives.The old cattle-herd’s face beamed with gratification, which, however, was quickly dashed with anxiety.“Look yonder,” he said. “There is trouble in the Gaika location to-night. Take the Inkosikazi and leave—this very night. I know what I say.” Then, marking the other’s hesitation, “I know what I say,” he repeated impressively. “Am I not the Inkosikazi’s watch-dog? Am I not her eyes and ears? Even now there is one approaching from Nteya’s kraal.”He had struck a listening attitude. Eustace, his recent experiences fresh in his mind, felt depressed and anxious, gazing expectantly into the darkness, his hand upon the butt of his revolver.“Halt! Who comes there?” he cried in the Xosa tongue.“A friend, Ixeshane!” came the prompt reply, as a dark form stepped into view.Now that life was worth living again, Eanswyth felt all her old apprehensions return; but she had every confidence in her lover’s judgment and the fidelity of her trusted old retainer.“Hau, Ixeshane! You are here; it is good,” said the new arrival in the most matter-of-fact way, as though he were not wondering to distraction how it was that the man who had been reported slain in the Bomvana country by the hostile Gcalékas, should be standing there alive and well before him. “I am here to warn the Inkosikazi. She must leave, and at once. The fire-tongues of the Amaxosa are speaking to each other; the war-cry of the Ama Ngqika is cleaving the night.”“We have seen and heard that before, Ncanduku,” answered Eustace, recognising the new arrival at once. “Yet your people would not harm us. Are we not friends?”The Kafir shook his head.“Who can be called friends in war-time?” he said. “There are strangers in our midst—strangers from another land. Who can answer for them? I am Ncanduku, the brother of Nteya. The chief will not have his friends harmed at the hands of strangers. But they must go. Look yonder, and lose no time. Get your horses and take the Inkosikazi, and leave at once, for the Ama Ngqika have responded to the call of their brethren and the Paramount Chief, and have risen to arms. The land is dead.”There was no need to follow the direction of the Kafir’s indication. A dull, red glare, some distance off, shone forth upon the night; then another and another. Signal fires? No. These shone from no prominent

Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

height, but from the plain itself. Then Eustace took in the situation in a moment. The savages were beginning to fire the deserted homesteads of the settlers.“Inspan the buggy quickly, Josane,” he said. “And, Ncandúku, come inside for a moment. I will find basela (Best rendered by the familiar term ‘backshish’) for you and Nteya.” But the voice which had conveyed such timely warning responded not. The messenger had disappeared.The whole condition of affairs was patent to Eustace’s mind. Nteya, though a chief whose status was not far inferior to that of Sandili himself, was not all-powerful. Those of his tribesmen who came from a distance, and were not of his own clan, would be slow to give implicit obedience to his “word,” their instincts for slaughter and pillage once fairly let loose, and so he had sent to warn Eanswyth. Besides, it was probable that there were Gcalékas among them. Ncanduku’s words, “strangers from another land,” seemed to point that way. He put it to Josane while harnessing the horses. The old man emitted a dry laugh.“There are about six hundred of the Gcaléka fighting men in Nteya’s location to-night,” he replied. “Every farmhouse in the land will be burned before the morning. Whau, Ixeshane! Is there any time to lose now?”Eustace realised that assuredly there was not. But inspanning a pair of horses was, to his experienced hand, the work of a very few minutes indeed.“Who is their chief?” he asked, tugging at the last strap. “Sigcau?”“No. Ukiva.”An involuntary exclamation of concern escaped Eustace. For the chief named had evinced a marked hostility towards himself during his recent captivity; indeed, this man’s influence had more than once almost turned the scale in favour of his death. No wonder he felt anxious.Eanswyth had gone into the house to put a few things together, having, with an effort, overcome her reluctance to let him out of her sightduring the few minutes required for inspanning. Now she reappeared. “I am ready, Eustace,” she said.He helped her to her seat and was beside her in a moment.“Let go, Josane!” he cried. And the Kafir, standing away from the horses’ heads, uttered a sonorous farewell.“What will become of him, dear?” said Eanswyth, as they started off at a brisk pace.“He is going to stay here and try and save the house. I’m afraid he won’t be able to, though. They are bound to burn it along with the others. And now take the reins a moment, dearest. I left my horse hitched up somewhere here, because I wanted to come upon you unawares. I’ll just take off the saddle and tie it on behind.”“But what about the horse? Why not take him with us?”“Josane will look after him. I won’t take him along now, because— well, it’s just on the cards we might have to make a push for it, and a led horse is a nuisance. Ah—there he is,” as a low whinnying was heard on their left front and duly responded to by the pair in harness.In less than two minutes he had the saddle secured at the back of the buggy and was beside her again. It is to be feared Eustace drove very badly that night. Had the inquiry been made, candour would have compelled him to admit that he had never driven so badly in his life.Eanswyth, for her part, was quite overcome with the thrilling, intoxicating happiness of the hour. But what an hour! They were fleeing through the night—fleeing for their lives—their way lighted by the terrible signal beacons of the savage foe—by the glare of flaming homesteads fired by his ravaging and vengeful hand. But then, he who was dead is alive again, and is beside her—they two fleeing together through the night.“Darling,” she whispered at last, nestling up closer to him. “Why did they try to kill me by telling me you were dead?”“They had every reason to suppose so. Now, what do you think stood between me and certain death?”“What?”“Your love—not once, but twice. The silver box. See. Here it is, where it has ever been—over my heart. Twice it turned the point of the assegai.”“Eustace!”“It is as I say. Your love preserved me for yourself.”“Oh, my darling, surely then it cannot be so wicked—so unlawful!” she exclaimed with a quiver in her voice.“I never believed it could,” he replied.Up till then, poor Tom’s name had not been mentioned. Both seemed to avoid allusion to it. Now, however, that Eustace had to narrate his adventures and escape, it could not well be avoided. But in describing the strange impromptu duel between the Gcaléka warrior and his unfortunate cousin, he purposely omitted any reference to the latter’s probable hideous fate, leaving Eanswyth to suppose he had been slain then and there. It was impossible that she should have been otherwise than deeply moved.“He died fighting bravely, at any rate,” she said at last.“Yes. Want of courage was never one of poor Tom’s failings. All the time we were out he was keener on a fight than all the rest of the command put together.”There was silence after this. Then at last:“How did you escape, Eustace, my darling? You have not told me.”“Through paying ransom to that same Hlangani and paying pretty

Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

stiffly too. Four hundred and fifty head of good cattle was the figure. Such a haggle as it was, too. It would have been impolitic to agree too quickly. Then, I had to square this witch-doctress, and I daresay old Kreli himself will come in for some of the pickings. From motives of policy we had to carry out the escape as if it was a genuine escape and not a put-up job— but they managed it all right—took me across the river on some pretext or other and then gave me the opportunity of leg-bail. As soon as the war is over Hlangani will come down on me for the cattle.”“How did you know I was back at Anta’s Kloof, dearest? Did the Hostes tell you?” said Eanswyth at last.“No. I met that one-eyed fellow Tomkins just outside Komgha. I only waited while he called up two or three more to back his statement and then started off here as hard as ever I could send my nag over the ground.”The journey was about half accomplished. The buggy bowled merrily along—and its occupants—alone together in the warm balmy southern night—began to wish the settlement was even further off. They were ascending a long rise.“Hallo, what’s up?” exclaimed Eustace suddenly, whipping up his horses, which he had been allowing to walk up the hill.The brow of the hill was of some altitude and commanded a considerable view of the surrounding country. But the whole of the latter was lit up by a dull and lurid glow. At intervals apart burned what looked like several huge and distant bonfires.“They mean business this time,” said Eustace, reining in a moment to breathe his horses on the brow of the rise. “Look. There goes Hoste’s place. That’s Bradfield’s over there—and beyond that must be Oesthuisen’s. Look at them all blazing merrily; and—by jingo—there goes Draaibosch!”Far and wide for many a mile the country was aglow with blazing homesteads. Evidently it was the result of preconcerted action on the partof the savages. The wild yelling chorus of the barbarous incendiaries, executing their fierce war-dances around their work of destruction, was borne distinctly upon the night.“The sooner we get into Komgha the better now,” he went on, sending the buggy spinning down the long declivity which lay in front. At the bottom of this the road was intersected by a dry water course, fringed with bush; otherwise the veldt was for the most part open, dotted with straggling clumps of mimosa.Down went the buggy into the dry sandy drift. Suddenly the horses shied violently, then stopped short with a jerk which nearly upset the vehicle. A dark firm, springing panther-like, apparently from the ground, had seized the reins.Instinctively Eustace recognised that this was no time for parleying. Quick as thought he drew his revolver and fired. The assailant relaxed his hold, staggered, spun round, then fell heavily to the earth. The horses, thus released, tore wildly onward, mad with terror.A roar and a red, sheeting flash split the darkness behind. The missiles hummed overhead, one of them tearing a hole in the wide brim of Eanswyth’s hat. This aroused all the demon in the blood of her companion. Standing up in his seat, regardless of prudence, he pointed his revolver at the black onrushing mass discernible in the starlight, and fired three shots in rapid succession. A horrible, shrill, piercing scream, showed that they had told with widespread and deadly effect.“Ha! Bulala abelúngu!” (Death to the whites) howled the exasperated barbarians. And dropping flat on the ground they poured another volley into the retiring vehicle.But the latter had gained some distance now. The horses, panic-stricken and well-nigh unmanageable, were tearing up the hill on the other side of the drift, and it was all their driver could do in the darkness to keep them in the track. The buggy swayed fearfully, and twice catching a wheel in an ant-heap was within an ace of turning over.

Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

Suddenly one of the horses stumbled heavily, then fell. All his driver’s efforts to raise him were useless. The poor beast had been struck by a bullet, and lay, feebly struggling, the blood pouring from a jagged wound in his flank.The black bolt of despair shot through Eustace’s heart. There was a feeble chance of escape for Eanswyth, but a very feeble one. Of himself he did not think. Quickly he set to work to cut loose the other horse.But the traditional sagacity of that quadruped, as is almost invariably the case, failed in an emergency. He plunged and kicked in such wise as to hinder seriously, if not defeat, every effort to disengage him from the harness. Eustace, his listening powers at their utmost tension, caught the light pit-pat of the pursuers’ footsteps racing up the hill in the darkness. They would be upon him before—Ha! The horse was loose.“Quick, Eanswyth. Mount! It is your only chance!” he said, shortening the reins into a bridle and holding them for her.“I will not.”“Quick, quick! Every moment lost is a life!”“I will not. We will die together. I will not live without you,” and the heroic flash in the grand eyes was visible in the starlight.The stealthy footsteps were now plainly audible. They could not have been two hundred yards distant. Suddenly the horse, catching a renewed access of panic, plucked the reins from Eustace’s hand, and careered wildly away into the veldt. The last chance of escape was cut off. They must die together now. Facing round, crouching low behind the broken-down vehicle, they listened for the approach of the pursuers.All the bitterness of the moment was upon those two—upon him especially—crouching there in the dark and lonely veldt. Their reunion was only to be a reunion in death.

The last dread act was drawing on. The stealthy steps of the approaching foe were now more distinctly audible. With a deadly and vengeful fire at his heart, Eustace prepared to sell their lives as dearly as ever life was sold.“We need not fear, my sweet one,” whispered the heroine at his side. “We are dying together.”Nearer—nearer, came those cat-like footfalls. Then they ceased. The pulses of the two anxious listeners beat with an intense and surging throb of expectation in the dead silence.But instead of those stealthy feet, swift to shed blood, there was borne upon the night the sound of horses’ hoofs. Then a crash of fire-arms, and a ringing cheer. No savage war-cry that, but a genuine British shout.“That you, Milne?” cried a familiar voice. “All right: keep cool, old man. We shan’t hit you by mistake. How many are there?”“I don’t know. Better not tackle them in the dark, Hoste. Who is with you?”“Some Police. But where are the niggers?”Where indeed? Savages have no stomach for facing unknown odds. Their late assailants had prudently made themselves scarce.“We seem to be only just in time, anyway?” said Hoste, with a long whistle of consternation as he realised the critical position of affairs. “Is Mrs Carhayes all right?” he added anxiously.“Quite, thanks, Mr Hoste,” replied Eanswyth. “But you are, as you say, only just in time.”Two of the Police horses were inspanned to the buggy, the men mounting behind comrades, and the party set forth. It would not do to linger. The enemy might return in force at any moment.No living thing could have stood under that window, much less climbed up to it, without leaving its traces. There were no traces; ergo, no living thing had been there, and he did not believe in ghosts. The whole affair had been a hallucination on the part of Eanswyth. This was bad, in that it seemed to point to a weak state of health or an overloaded mind. But it was nothing like so bad as the awful misfortune involved by the reality would have been—at any rate, to him.He did not believe in ghosts, but the idea crossed his mind that so far as from allaying Eanswyth’s fears, the utter impossibility of any living being having approached her window without leaving spoor in the sandy, impressionable soil, would have rather the opposite tendency. Once the idea got firmly rooted in her mind that the dead had appeared to her there was no foreseeing the limits of the gravity of the results. And she had been rather depressed of late. Very anxiously he re-entered the house to report the utter futility of his search.“At all events we’ll soon make it impossible for you to get another schrek in the same way, Mrs Carhayes,” said the overseer cheerily. “We’ll fasten the shutters up.”It was long before the distressed, scared look faded from her eyes. “Eustace,” she said—Bentley having judiciously left them together for a while—“When you were—when I thought you dead—I wearied Heaven with prayers to allow me one glimpse of you again. I had no fear then, but now—O God! it is his spirit that I have seen.”He tried to soothe her, to reassure her, and in a measure succeeded. At last, to the surprise of himself and the overseer, she seemed to shake off her terror as suddenly as it had assailed her. She was very foolish, she declared. She would go to bed now, and not keep them up all night in that selfish manner. And she actually did—refusing all offers on the part of Eustace or the overseer to remain in the sitting room in order to be within call, or to patrol around the house for the rest of the night.“No,” she said, “I am ashamed of myself already. The shutters are fastened up and I shall keep plenty of light burning. I feel quite safe now.”

It was late next morning when Eanswyth appeared. Thoroughly refreshed by a long, sound sleep, she had quite forgotten her fears. Only as darkness drew on again a restless uneasiness came over her, but again she seemed to throw it off with an effort. She seemed to have the faculty of pulling herself together by an effort of will—even as she had done that night beside the broken-down buggy, while listening for the approaching footsteps of their savage enemies in the darkness. To Eustace’s relief, however, nothing occurred to revive her uneasiness.But he himself, in his turn, was destined to receive a rude shock.Chapter Forty.A Letter from Hoste.There was no postal delivery at Swaanepoel’s Hoek, nor was there any regular day for sending for the mails. If anybody was driving or riding into Somerset East on business or pleasure, they would call at the post office and bring out whatever there was; or, if anything of greater or less importance was expected, a native servant would be despatched with a note to the postmaster.Bentley had just returned from the township, bringing with him a batch of letters. Several fell to Eustace’s share, all, more or less, of a business nature. All, save one—and before he opened this he recognised Hoste’s handwriting:My Dear Milne (it began): This is going to be an important communication. So, before you go any further, you had better get into some sequestered corner by yourself to read it, for it’s going to knock you out of time some, or I’m a Dutchman.“That’s a shrewd idea on the part of Hoste putting in that caution,” he said to himself. “I should never have credited the chap with so much gumption.”He was alone in the shearing-house when the overseer had handedhim his letters. His coat was off, and he was doing one or two odd carpentering jobs. The time was about midday. Nobody was likely to interrupt him here.Something has come to my knowledge (went on the letter) which you, of all men, ought to be the one to investigate. To come to the point, there is some reason to suppose that poor Tom Carhayes may still be alive.You remember that Kafir on whose behalf you interfered when Jackson and a lot of fellows were giving him beans? He is my informant. He began by inquiring for you, and when I told him you were far away, and not likely to be up here again, he seemed disappointed, and said he wanted to do you a good turn for standing his friend on that occasion. He said he now knew who you were, and thought he could tell you something you would like to know.Well, I told him he had better unburden himself to me, and if his information seemed likely to be of use, he might depend upon me passing it on to you. This, at first, he didn’t seem to see—you know what a suspicious dog our black brother habitually is—and took himself off. But the secret seemed to weigh upon him, for, in a day or two, he turned up again, and then, in the course of a good deal of “dark talking,” he gave me to understand that Tom Carhayes was still alive; and, in fact, he knew where he was.Milne, you may just bet your boots I felt knocked all out of time. I hadn’t the least suspicion what the fellow was driving at, at first. Thought he was going to let out that he knew where old Kreli was hiding, or Hlangani, perhaps. So, you see, you must come up here at once, and look into the matter. I’ve arranged to send word to Xalasa —that’s the fellow’s name—to meet us at Anta’s Kloof directly you arrive.Don’t lose any time. Start the moment you get this. Of course I’ve kept the thing as dark as pitch; but there’s no knowing when an affair of this kind may not leak out and get into all the papers.

Kind regards to Mrs Carhayes—and keep this from her at present.Yours ever, Percy F. Hoste.Carefully Eustace read through every word of this communication; then, beginning again, he read it through a second time.“This requires some thinking out,” he said to himself. Then taking up the letter he went out in search of some retired spot where it would be absolutely impossible that he should be interrupted.Wandering mechanically he found himself on the very spot where they had investigated the silver box together. That would do. No one would think of looking for him there.He took out the letter and again studied every word of it carefully. There was no getting behind its contents: they were too plain in their fatal simplicity. And there was an inherent probability about the potentiality hinted at. He would certainly start at once to investigate the affair. Better to know the worst at any rate. And then how heartily he cursed the Kafir’s obtrusive gratitude, wishing a thousand-fold that he had left that sable bird of ill-omen at the mercy of his chastisers. However, if there was any truth in the story, it was bound to have come to light sooner or later in any case—perhaps better now, before the mischief wrought was irreparable. But if it should turn out to be true—what then? Good-bye to this beautiful and idyllic dream in which they two had been living during all these months past. Good-bye to a life’s happiness: to the bright golden vista they had been gazing into together. Why had he not closed with Hlangani’s hideous proposal long ago? Was it too late even now?The man suffered agonies as he sat there, realising his shattered hopes—the fair and priceless structure of his life’s happiness levelled to the earth like a house of cards. Like Lucifer fallen from Paradise he felt ready for anything.Great was Eanswyth’s consternation and astonishment when he


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