I spent RMB 300,000 to renovate a new house of 90 square meters. The Nordic modern mix is a bit rustic.

发表于 2023-09-23 14:58:15 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

Kafirs sank down into a squatting posture where they were.“First we will smoke,” he said, handing his pouch to the Gaika chief. “Though I fear the contents won’t go very far among all our friends here.”

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

I spent RMB 300,000 to renovate a new house of 90 square meters. The Nordic modern mix is a bit rustic.

to the speaker. But a glance was enough to reassure him. The chief advanced toward him, holding nothing more formidable than a folded handkerchief.To the ordeal of being blindfolded Eustace submitted without a word. He recognised its force. They were nearing their destination. Even a captive, probably foredoomed to death, was not to be allowed to take mental notes of the approaches to the present retreat of the Paramount Chief. Besides, by insuring such ignorance, they would render any chance of his possible escape the more futile. But as he walked, steered by one of his escort, who kept a hand on his shoulder, he concentrated every faculty, short of the sight of which he was temporarily deprived, upon observations relating to the lay of the ground. One thing he knew. Wherever they might be they were at no great distance from the sea coast. That was something.Suddenly a diversion occurred. A long, loud, peculiar cry sounded from some distance in front. It was a signal. As it was answered by the returning warriors, once more the wild war-song was raised, and being taken up all along the line, the forest echoed with the thunderous roar of the savage strophe, and the clash of weapons beating time to the weird and thrilling chant. For some minutes thus they marched; then by the sound Eustace knew that his escort was forming up in martial array around him; knew moreover, from this circumstance, that the forest had come to an end. Then the bandage was suddenly removed from his eyes.The abrupt transition from darkness to light was bewildering. But he made out that he was standing in front of a hut, which his captors were ordering him to enter. In the momentary glance which he could obtain he saw that other huts were standing around, and beyond the crowd of armed men which encompassed him he could descry the faces of women and children gazing at him with mingled curiosity and wonder. Then, stooping, he crept through the low doorway. Two of his guards entered with him, and to his unspeakable gratification their first act was to relieve him of the reim which secured his arms. This done, a woman appeared bearing a calabash of curdled milk and a little reed basket of stamped mealies.“Here is food for you, Umlúngu,” said one of them. “And now you can rest until—until you are wanted. But do not go outside,” he added, shortly, and with a significant grip of his assegai. Then they went out, fastening the wicker screen that served as a door behind them, and Eustace was left alone.The interior of the hut was cool, if a trifle grimy, and there were rather fewer cockroaches than usual disporting themselves among the domed thatch of the roof—possibly owing to the tenement being of recent construction. But Eustace was dead tired and the shelter and solitude were more than welcome to him just then. The curdled milk and mealies were both refreshing and satisfying. Having finished his meal he lighted his pipe, for his captors had deprived him of nothing but his weapons, and proceeded to think out the situation. But nature asserted herself. Before he had taken a dozen whiffs he fell fast asleep.How long he slept he could not tell, but it must have been some hours. He awoke with a start of bewilderment, for his slumber had been a heavy and dreamless one: the slumber of exhaustion. Opening his eyes to the subdued gloom of the hut he hardly knew where he was. The atmosphere of that primitive and ill-ventilated tenement was stuffy and oppressive with an effluvium of grease and smoke, and the cockroaches were running over his face and hands. Then the situation came back to him with a rush. He was a prisoner.There was not much doing outside, to judge by the tranquillity that reigned. He could hear the deep inflections of voices carrying on a languid conversation, and occasionally the shrill squall of an infant. His watch had stopped, but he guessed it to be about the middle of the afternoon.He was about to make an attempt at undoing the door, but remembering the parting injunction of his guard, he judged it better not. At the same time it occurred to him that he had not yet investigated the cause of the saving of his life. Here was a grand opportunity.Cautiously, and with one ear on the alert for interruption, he took thesilver box from the inside pocket in which it was kept. Removing the chamois leather covering, which showed a clean cut an inch long, he gazed with astonishment upon, the box itself. The assegai had struck it fair, and there in the centre of the lid its point, broken off flush, remained firmly embedded. He turned the box over. The point had just indented the other side but not sufficiently to show through.For some minutes he sat gazing upon it, with a strange mixture of feeling, and well he might. This last gift of Eanswyth’s had been the means of saving his life—it and it alone. It had lain over his heart, and but for its intervention that sure and powerfully directed stroke would have cleft his heart in twain. That was absolutely a fact, and one established beyond any sort of doubt.Her hand had averted the death-stroke—the shield of her love had stood between him and certain destruction. Surely—surely that love could not be so unlawful—so accursed a thing. It had availed to save him —to save him for itself. Eustace was not a superstitious man, but even he might, to a certain extent, feel justified in drawing a highly favourable augury from the circumstance. Yet he was not out of his difficulties—his perils—yet. They had, in fact, only just begun; and this he knew.So far his captors had not ill-treated him, rather the reverse. But this augured next to nothing either way. The Gcalékas had suffered severe losses. Even now they were in hiding. They were not likely to be in a very merciful mood in dealing with a white prisoner, one of the hated race which had shot down their righting men, driven them from their country, and carried off most of their cattle. The people would clamour for his blood, the chiefs would hardly care to run counter to their wish—he would probably be handed over to the witch-doctors and put to some hideous and lingering death.It was a frightful thought, coming upon him alone and helpless. Better that the former blow had gone home. He would have met with a swift and merciful death in the excitement of battle—whereas now? And then it crossed his mind that the interposition of the silver box might not have been a blessing after all, but quite the reverse. What if it had only availed to preserve him for a death amid lingering torments? But no, he

I spent RMB 300,000 to renovate a new house of 90 square meters. The Nordic modern mix is a bit rustic.

would not think that. If her love had been the means of preserving him thus far, it had preserved him for itself. Yet it was difficult to feel sanguine with the odds so terribly against him.What would she do when she heard that Tom had been killed and himself captured by the savages? “Were anything to befall you, my heart would be broken,” had been almost her last words, and the recollection of them tortured him like a red-hot iron, for he had only his own fool-hardiness to thank that he was in this critical position at all. Fortunately it did not occur to him that he might be reported dead, instead of merely missing.His reflections were interrupted. A great noise arose without—voices —then the steady tramp of feet—the clash of weapons—and over and above all, the weird, thrilling rhythmical chant of the war-song. He had just time to restore the silver box to its place, when the door of the hut was flung open and there entered three Kafirs fully armed. They ordered him to rise immediately and pass outside.Chapter Twenty Nine.The Paramount Chief.The spectacle which met Eustace’s eyes, on emerging from the dark and stuffy hut, struck him as grand and stirring in the extreme.He saw around him an open clearing, a large natural amphitheatre, surrounded by dense forest on three sides, the fourth being constituted by a line of jagged rocks more or less bush-grown. Groups of hastily constructed huts, in shape and material resembling huge beehives, stood around in an irregular circle, leaving a large open space in the centre. And into this space was defiling a great mass of armed warriors.On they came, marching in columns, the air vibrating to the roar of their terrible war-song. On they came, a wild and fierce array, in their fantastic war dresses—the glint of their assegai blades dancing in the sunlight like the ripples of a shining sea. They were marching round thegreat open space.Into this muster of fierce and excited savages Eustace found himself guided. If the demeanour of his guards had hitherto been good-humoured and friendly, it was so no longer. Those immediately about him kept turning to brandish their assegais in his face as they marched, going through the pantomime of carving him to pieces, uttering taunts and threats of the most blood-curdling character.“Hau umlúngu! Are you cold? The fire will soon be ready. Then you will be warm—warm, ha-ha!” they sang, rubbing their hands and spreading them out before an imaginary blaze. “The wood is hot—ah-ah! It burns! ah-ah!” And then they would skip first on one foot, then on another, as if trying to avoid a carpeting of glowing coals. Or, “The fighting men of the Ama-Gcaléka are thirsty. But they will soon have to drink. Blood—plenty of blood—the drink of warriors—the drink that shall make their hearts strong. Hau!” And at this they would feign to stab the prisoner—bringing their blades near enough to have frightened a nervous man out of his wits. Or again: “The ants are hungry. The black ants are swarming for their food. It shall soon be theirs. Ha-ha! They want it alive. They want eyes. They want brains. They want blood! Ha-ha! The black, ants are swarming for their food.” Here the savages would squirm and wriggle as in imitation of a man being devoured alive by insects. For this was an allusion to a highly popular barbarity among these children of Nature; one not unfrequently meted out to those who had incurred the envy or hostility of the chiefs and witch-doctors, and had been “smelt out” accordingly.When all were gathered within the open space the war chant ceased. The great muster of excited barbarians had formed up into crescent rank and now dropped into a squatting posture. To the open side of this, escorted by about fifty warriors, the prisoner was marched.As he passed through that sea of fierce eyes, all turned on him with a bloodthirsty stare, between that great crowd of savage forms, squatted around like tigers on the crouch, Eustace felt his pulses quicken. The critical time had arrived.

I spent RMB 300,000 to renovate a new house of 90 square meters. The Nordic modern mix is a bit rustic.

Even at that perilous moment he took in the place and its surroundings. He noted the faces of women, behind the dark serried ranks of the warriors, peering eagerly at him. There were, however, but few, and they wore a crushed and anxious look. He noted, further, that the huts were of recent and hasty construction, and that the cattle inclosure was small and scantily stocked. All this pointed to the conclusion that the kraal was a temporary one. The bulk of the women and cattle would be stowed away in some more secure hiding place. Only for a moment, however, was he thus suffered to look around. His thoughts were quickly diverted to a far more important consideration.His guards had fallen back a few paces, leaving him standing alone. In front, seated on the ground, was a group consisting of a dozen or fourteen persons, all eyeing him narrowly. These he judged to be the principal chiefs and councillors of the Gcaléka tribe. One glance at the most prominent figure among these convinced him that he stood in the presence of the Paramount Chief himself.Kreli, or Sarili, as the name is accurately rendered—the former being, however, that by which he was popularly, indeed, historically known—the chief of the Gcalékas and the suzerain head of all the Xosa race, was at that time about sixty years of age. Tall and erect in person, dignified in demeanour, despising gimcrack and chimney-pot hat counterfeits of civilisation, he was every inch a fine specimen of the savage ruler. His shrewd, massive countenance showed character in every line, and the glance of his keen eyes was straight and manly. His beard, thick and bushy for a Kafir, was only just beginning to show a frost of grey among its jetty blackness. Such was the man before whom Eustace Milne stood—so to speak—arraigned.For some moments the august group sat eyeing the prisoner in silence. Eustace, keenly observing those dark impassive faces, realised that there was not one there which was known to him. He had seen Hlangani’s gigantic form, resplendent or the reverse in the most wildly elaborate war costume, seated among the fighting men. Here in the group before him all were strangers.While some of his chiefs were arrayed in costumes of plumes and

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 chiefFor, that night, long after the bugle calls from the Police camps and the carolling of jolly souls wending somewhat unsteadily homeward from the convivial bar, had sunk into silence, Mrs Hoste made unto her lord and master a strange remark.“What a pity Eanswyth didn’t marry her husband’s cousin instead of her husband.”“Great Scott! What the very deuce do you mean?”“Well, I mean it is a pity. Look how well they seem to suit each other. Look at them here to-day. Anyone, any stranger coming in hap-hazard, would at once have jumped to the conclusion that they belonged to each other. And it’s a pity they don’t. Tom Carhayes isn’t at all the man for that dear Eanswyth. I should be uncommonly sorry to be his wife myself, I know that much.”“I daresay you would. But Providence has been much kinder to you in that line than you deserve. But oh, good Heavens, Ada, do be mighty careful what you say. If you had propounded that idea of yours to anyone else, for instance, there’s no knowing what amount of mischief it might open up.”“So? All right. There’s no fear of my being such a fool. If you’ve preached enough—have you? Well, go to sleep.”Chapter Fifteen.“But I am thy Love.”Three days later Carhayes arrived. He was in high spirits. The remainder of his stock was under way, and, in charge of Eustace, was trekking steadily down to his other farm in the Colony, which was sufficiently remote from the seat of hostilities to ensure its safety. He had ridden with them a day and a half to help start the trek, and had then returned with all haste to enrol himself in the Kaffrarian Rangers—a mounted corps, raised among the stock-farmers of the district, of whom it

consisted almost entirely.“Wish I was you, Tom,” Hoste had said ruefully. “Wouldn’t I just like to be going bang off to the front to have a slap at old Kreli instead of humbugging around here looking after stock. This laager business is all fustian. I believe the things would be just as safe on the farm.”“Well, shunt them back there and come along,” was Carhayes’ reply.“We are not all so fortunate as you, Mr Carhayes,” retorted Mrs Hoste with a trifle of asperity, for this advice was to her by no means palatable. “What would you have done yourself, I should like to know, but for that accommodating cousin, who has taken all the trouble off your hands and left you free to go and get shot if you like?”“Oh, Eustace? Yes, he’s a useful chap,” said Carhayes complacently, beginning to cram his pipe. “What do you think the beggar has gone and done? Why, he has inspanned four or five boys from Nteya’s location to help him with the trek! The very fellows we are trekking away from, by Jove! And they will help him, too. An extraordinary fellow, Eustace—I never saw such a chap for managing Kafirs. He can make ’em do anything.”“Well, its a good thing he can. But doesn’t he want to go and see some of the fun himself?”“Not he. Or, if he does, he can leave Bentley in charge and come back as soon as he has put things straight. Bentley’s my man down there. I let him live at Swaanepoel’s Hoek and run a little stock of his own on consideration of keeping the place in order and looking after it generally. He’ll be glad enough to look after our stock now for a consideration—if Eustace gets sick of it and really does elect to come and have a shot at his ‘blanket friends’—Ho-ho!”The Kaffrarian Rangers were, as we have said, a corps raised in the district. The farmers composing it mounted and equipped themselves, and elected their own leaders. There was little discipline, in the military sense of the word, but the men knew each other and had thoroughconfidence in their leaders. They understood the natives, and were as much at home on the veldt or in the bush as the Kafirs themselves. They affected no uniforms, but all were clad in a serviceable attire which should not be too conspicuous in cover—an important consideration— and all were well equipped in the way of arms and other necessaries. They asked for no pay—only stipulating that they should be entitled to keep whatever stock they might succeed in capturing from the enemy— which in many cases would be merely retaking their own. The Government, now as anxious as it had been sceptical and indifferent a month previously, gladly accepted the services of so useful a corps. The latter numbered between sixty and seventy men.This, then, was the corps to which Carhayes had attached himself, and among the ranks of which, after two or three days of enforced delay while waiting for orders—and after a characteristically off-hand farewell to the Hostes and his wife—he proceeded to take his place.They were to march at sundown and camp for the night at the Kei Drift. All Komgha—and its wife—turned out to witness their departure. Farmers and storekeepers, transport-riders and Mounted Police, craftsmen and natives of every shade and colour, lined the roadway in serried ranks. There was a band, too, blowing off “God Save the Queen,” with all the power of its leathern lungs. Cheer after cheer went up as the men rode by, in double file, looking exceedingly workman-like with their well filled cartridge belts and their guns and revolvers. Hearty good-byes and a little parting chaff from friends and intimates were shouted after them through the deafening cheers and the brazen strains of the band, and, their numbers augmented by a contingent of mounted friends, who were to ride a part of the way with them, “just to see them squarely off,” the extremely neat and serviceable corps moved away into a cloud of dust.There was another side to all this enthusiasm, however. A good many feminine handkerchiefs waved farewell to that martial band. A good many feminine handkerchiefs were, pressed openly or furtively to tearful eyes. For of those threescore and odd men going forth that evening in all the pride of their strength and martial ardour, it would be strange, indeed, if some, at any rate, were not destined to leave their bones in a far-away

grave—victims to the bullet and assegai of the savage.The days went by and grew into weeks, but there was no want of life and stir in the little settlement. As Carhayes had remarked grimly during his brief sojourn therein—life appeared to be made up of bugle calls and lies. Hardly a half-hour that the bugle was not sounding—either at the Police camps, or at those of the regular troops now being rapidly moved to the front, and scarcely a day went by but a corps of mounted burghers or volunteers passed through, en route for the seat of war. The store keepers and Government contractors laughed and waxed fat.All sorts of rumours were in the air, and as usual wildly contradictory. The white forces in the Transkei were in imminent peril of annihilation. The Gcaléka country had been swept clear from end to end. Kreli was sueing for peace. Kreli had declared himself strong enough to whip all the whites sent against him, and then with the help of the Gaikas and Hlambis to invade and ravage the Eastern Province of the Colony. The Gaikas were on the eve of rising, and making common cause with their Gcaléka brethren. The Gaikas had not the slightest wish for war. The Gaikas were never more insolent and threatening. The Gaikas were thoroughly cowed and lived in mortal dread of being attacked themselves. Thus Rumour many tongued.The while events had taken place at the seat of war. The Kafirs had attacked the Ibeka, a hastily fortified trading post in the Transkei, in great force, and after many hours of determined fighting had been repulsed with great loss, repulsed by a mere handful of the Mounted Police, who, with a Fingo levy, garrisoned the place. Kreli’s principal kraal on the Xora River had been carried by assault and burnt to the ground,—the Gcaléka chieftain, with his sons and councillors, narrowly escaping falling into the hands of the Colonial forces—and several other minor engagements had been fought. But the powerful Gaika and Hlambi tribes located throughout British Kaffraria, though believed to be restless and plotting, continued to “sit still,” as if watching the turn of events, and night after night upon the distant hills the signal fires of the savages gleamed beneath the midnight sky in flashing, lurid tongues, speaking their mysterious, awesome messages from the Amatola to the Bashi.Hoste—who, with other of his neighbours, was occupied with the armed tending of his stock in laager—was growing daily more restless and discontented. It was cruelly rough on him, he declared, to be pinned down like that. He wanted to go and have his share of the fun. The war might be brought to an end any day, and he would have seen nothing of it. He would try and make some satisfactory arrangement and then get away to the front at once, he vowed. In which resolution he met with but lukewarm encouragement from his wife.“You should just see the yarn that friend of Payne’s wrote him about the fight at Kreli’s kraal, Ada,” he remarked one day, having just ridden in. “He says it was the greatest sport he ever had. Eh, Payne?”That worthy, who had accompanied him, nodded oracularly—a nod which might mean anything. Taught wisdom by the possession of a partner of his own joys and sorrows, he was not going to put himself in active opposition to what he termed the Feminine Controller-General’s Department. But he and Hoste had hatched out between them a little plan which should leave them free, in a day or two, to start off in search of the death or glory coveted by their martial souls.The cottage which Hoste had taken for his family was a tiny pill-box of a place on the outer fringe of the settlement, fronting upon the veldt, which situation rendered the ladies a little nervous at night, notwithstanding an elaborate system of outposts and pickets by which the village was supposed to be protected. At such a time the presence of Eanswyth, of whom they were very fond, was a perfect godsend to Mrs Hoste and her daughters. The latter were nice, bright children of fifteen and thirteen, respectively, and there were also two boys—then away at a boarding school in Grahamstown. If Eanswyth ever had reason to complain of the dullness or loneliness of her life on the farm, here it was quite the reverse. Not only was the house so small that four persons were sufficient to crowd it, but somebody or other, situated like themselves, was always dropping in, sitting half the day chatting, or gossiping about the progress of the war and the many rumours and reports which were flying around. In fact, there was seldom a respite from the “strife of tongues,” for no sooner had one batch of visitors departed than another would arrive, always in the most informal manner. Now, of


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