Mo Wenwei, who is nearly 50 years old, stopped work for him

发表于 2023-09-30 06:50:47 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

He saw the gleam of assegai points, the deadly glare of hatred in the sea of rolling eyes closing in upon him. Then a tall warrior, springing like a leopard, struck full at his heart with a large, broad-bladed assegai.It was done like lightning. The flash of the broad blade was in his eyes. The blow, delivered with all the strength of a powerful, muscular arm, descended. A hard, numbing knock on the chest, a sharp, crashing pain in the head—Eustace swayed in his saddle, and toppled heavily to the earth. And again the fierce death-shout pealed forth over the wild veldt, and was taken up and echoed in tones of hellish exultation from end to end of the excited barbarian host.The night has melted into dawn; the dawn into sunrise. The first rays are just beginning to gild the tops of the great krantzes overhanging the Hashi. At the foot of one of these krantzes lies the motionless figure of a man. Dead? No, asleep. Slumbering as if he would never wake again.There is a faint rustle in the thick bush which grows right up to the foot of the krantz—a rustle as of something or somebody forcing a way through—cautiously, stealthily approaching the sleeper. The latter snores on.The bushes part, and a man steps forth. For a moment he stands, noiselessly contemplating the prostrate figure. Then he emits a low, sardonic chuckle.At the sound the sleeper springs up. In a twinkling he draws his revolver, then rubs his eyes, and bursts into a laugh.“Don’t make such a row, man,” warns the new arrival. “The bush may be full of niggers now, hunting for us. We are in a nice sort of a hole, whichever way you look at it.”“Oh, we’ll get out of it somehow,” is Hoste’s sanguine reply. “When we got separated last night, I didn’t know whether we should ever see each other again, George. I suppose there’s no chance for the other two fellows?”

come in from the front and not yet made known to the general public. She had even tried to establish a kind of private intelligence department of her own among some of the Kafirs who hung around the settlement, but these were so contradictory in their statements, and moreover she began to suspect that the rascals were not above drawing pretty freely upon their imaginations for the sake of the sixpences, or cast-off clothes, or packets of coffee and sugar, with which their efforts were invariably rewarded. So this she discontinued, or at any rate ceased to place any reliance on their stories.She had heard from her husband once or twice, a mere rough scrawl of half a dozen lines, and those chiefly devoted to explaining that camp life—made up as it was of patrols and horse guards and hunting up the enemy—left no time for any such trivial occupations as mere letter-writing. She had heard from Eustace oftener, letters of great length, entertaining withal, but such as all the world might read. But this in no wise troubled her now, for she understood. Eustace was far too cautious to intrust anything that the world might not read to so uncertain a means of transit as was then at his disposal. Express-riders might be cut off by the enemy in the course of their precarious and sometimes extremely perilous mission; occasionally were cut off.A few days now and she would see him again, would hear his voice, would live in the delight of his presence daily as before. Ah, but—how was it to end? The old thought, put far away into the background during the dull heartache of their separation, came to the fore now. They would go back to their home, to Anta’s Kloof, and things would be as before. Ah, but would they? There lay the sting. Never—a thousand times never. Things could never be as they were. For now that her love for the one had been awakened, what had she left for the other? Not even the kindly toleration of companionship which she had up till then mistaken for love. A sentiment perilously akin to aversion had now taken the place of this. Alas and alas! How was it to end?The return of the Kaffrarian Rangers became a matter of daily expectation. Preparations were made for their reception, including a banquet on a large scale. Still they came not.Then an ugly report got wind in Komgha—whispered at first. A disaster had befallen. Several men belonging to the expected corps had been killed. They had constituted a patrol, report said—then a shooting party straying from the main body. Anyway, they had been cut off by the enemy and massacred to a man. It was only the Moordenaar’s Kop affair over again, people said.Later the rumour began to boil down a little. Only four men had come to grief as reported. They had left the main body to get up a bushbuck hunt on the banks of the Bashi. They must have crossed the river for some reason or other, probably in pursuance of their hunt; anyhow, they were surprised by the Kafirs and killed. And the missing men were Hoste, Payne, Carhayes, and Eustace Milne.The rumour spread like wildfire. The excitement became prodigious. Men stood in eager knots at the street corners, at the bars, everywhere, each trying to appear as if he knew more about it than his fellows; each claiming to be a greater authority upon the probabilities or improbabilities of the case than all the rest put together. But all were agreed on one point —that the errand of breaking the news to those most concerned was the duty of anybody but themselves. And three of the unfortunate men were married; two of their wives—now widows, alas—being actually resident in the place, within a stone’s throw, in fact. It was further agreed that, by whoever eventually performed, the longer this duty could be deferred the better. Further information might arrive any moment. It would be as well to wait.For once, public opinion was sound in its judgment. Further information did arrive, this time authentic, and it had the effect of boiling down rumour considerably—in fact, by one-half. The four men had set out and crossed the Bashi into the Bomvana country, as at first stated. They had been attacked by the Kafirs in overwhelming numbers, and after a terrible running fight Hoste and Payne had escaped. Their horses had been mortally wounded and themselves forced to lie hidden among the thick bush and krantzes along the Bashi River for two nights and a day, when they were found in a half-starved condition by a strong patrol of the Rangers, which had turned back to search for them. The other two men were missing, and from the report of the survivors no hope could be

Mo Wenwei, who is nearly 50 years old, stopped work for him

entertained of their escape. In fact, their fate was placed beyond the shadow of a doubt, for the Rangers had proceeded straight to the scene of the conflict, and though they did not discover the bodies—which the jackals and other wild animals might have accounted for meanwhile— they found the spots, not very far apart, where both men had been slain, and in or near the great patches of dried-up blood were fragments of the unfortunate men’s clothing and other articles, including a new and patent kind of spur known to have belonged to Milne.This was better. The killed had been reduced from four to two, the number of widows from three to one. Still, it was sufficiently terrible. Both men had lived in their midst—one for many years, the other for a shorter time—and were more or less well-known to all. This time the news was genuine, for three of the Rangers themselves had ridden in with all particulars. The sensation created was tremendous. Everybody had something to say.“Tell you what it is, boys,” a weather-beaten, grizzled old farmer was saying—haranguing a gathering of idlers on the stoep of the hotel. “There’s always something of that sort happens every war. Fellers get so darn careless. They think because Jack Kafir funks sixty men he’s in just as big a funk of six. But he ain’t. They reckon, too, that because they can’t see no Kafirs that there ain’t no Kafirs to see. Jest as if they weren’t bein’ watched every blessed step they take. No, if you go out in a big party to find Jack Kafir you won’t find him, but if you go out in a small one, he’ll be dead sure to find you. You may jest bet drinks all round on that. Hey? Did you say you’d take me, Bill?” broke off the old fellow with a twinkle in his eye as he caught that of a crony in the group.“Haw, haw! No, I didn’t, but I will though. Put a name to it, old Baas.”“Well, I’ll call it ‘French.’ Three star for choice.”The liquid was duly brought and the old fellow, having disposed of two-thirds at a gulp, resumed his disquisition.“It’s this way,” he went on. “I’m as certain of it as if I’d seen it. Them oxen were nothin’ more or less than a trap. The Kafirs had been watchingthe poor devils all along and jest sent the oxen as a bait to draw them across the river. It’s jest what might have been expected, but I’m surprised they hadn’t more sense than to be took so easily. Hoste and Payne especially—not being a couple of Britishers—”“Here, I say, governor—stow all that for a yarn,” growled one of a brace of fresh-faced young Police troopers, who were consuming a modest “split” at a table and resented what they thought was an imputation.“Well, I don’t mean no offence,” returned the old fellow testily. “I only mean that Britishers ain’t got the experience us Colonial chaps has, and ’ll go runnin’ their heads into a trap where we should know better.”“All the more credit to their pluck,” interrupted another patriotically disposed individual.“Oh, shut up, Smith. Who the deuce is saying anything against their pluck?” cried someone else.“Well, I’m sure I wasn’t,” went on the original speaker. “Tom Carhayes, now, is as plucky a fellow as ever lived—was, rather—and—”“You don’t call Tom Carhayes a Britisher, do you?” objected another man.“Yes, I do. At least, perhaps not altogether. He’s been here a good number of years now and got into our ways. Still, I remember when he first came out. And Milne only came out the other day.”“Well, Milne’s ‘blanket friends’ have paid him off in a coin he didn’t bargain for. Wonder what he thinks of ’em now—if he can think,” said someone, with an ill-natured sneer—for Eustace, like most men with any character in them, was not beloved by everybody.“Ah, poor chap,” went on the old man. “Milne was rather too fond of the Kafirs and Carhayes was a sight too much down on ’em. And now the Kafirs have done for them both, without fear, favour, or—”“Tsh—tsh—tsh! Shut up, man alive, shut up!”This was said in a low, warning whisper, and the speaker’s sleeve was violently plucked.“Eh? What’s the row?” he asked, turning in amazement.“Why, that’s her!” was the reply, more earnest than grammatical.“Her? Who?”“His wife, of course.”A Cape cart was driving by, containing two ladies and two young girls. Of the former one was Mrs Hoste, the other Eanswyth. As they passed quite close to the speakers, Eanswyth turned her head with a bow and a smile to someone standing in front of the hotel. A dead, awkward silence fell upon the group of talkers.“I say. She didn’t hear, did she?” stage-whispered the old man eagerly, when the trap had gone by.“She didn’t look much as though she had—poor thing!” said another whom the serene, radiant happiness shining in that sweet face had not escaped.“Poor thing, indeed,” was the reply. “She ought to be told, though. But I wouldn’t be the man to do it, no—not for fifty pounds. Why, they say she can hardly eat or sleep since she heard Tom Carhayes was coming back, she’s so pleased. And now, poor Tom—where is he? Lying out there hacked into Kafir mince-meat.” And the speaker, jerking his hand in the direction of the Transkei, stalked solemnly down the steps of the stoep, heaving a prodigious sigh.Chapter Twenty Five.

Mo Wenwei, who is nearly 50 years old, stopped work for him

“The Curse has come upon me...”The party in the Cape cart were returning from a drive out to Draaibosch, a roadside inn and canteen some ten or a dozen miles along the King Williamstown road. Two troops of Horse, one of them Brathwaite’s, were encamped there the night before on their way homeward, and a goodly collection of their friends and well-wishers had driven or ridden over to see them start.It was a lovely day, and the scene had been lively enough as the combined troops—numbering upwards of two hundred horsemen, bronzed and war-worn, but “fit” and in the highest of spirits, had struck their camp and filed off upon their homeward way, cheering and being cheered enthusiastically by the lines of spectators. An enthusiasm, however, in no wise shared by groups of Hlambi and Gaika Kafirs from Ndimba’s or Sandili’s locations, who, in all the savagery of their red paint and blankets, hung around the door of the canteen with scowling sneers upon their faces, the while bandying among themselves many a deep-toned remark not exactly expressive of amity or affection towards their white brethren. But for this the latter cared not a jot.“Hey, Johnny!” sang out a trooper, holding out a bundle of assegais towards one of the aforesaid groups as he rode past, “see these? I took ’em from one of Kreli’s chaps, up yonder. Plugged him through with a couple of bullets first.”“Haw! haw!” guffawed another. “You fellows had better behave yourselves or we shall be coming to look you up next. Tell old Sandili that, with our love. Ta-ta, Johnny. So long!”It was poor wit, and those at whom it was directed appreciated it at its proper value. The scowl deepened upon that cloud of dark faces, and a mutter of contempt and defiance rose from more than one throat. Yet in the bottom of their hearts the savages entertained a sufficiently wholesome respect for those hardened, war-worn sharpshooters.Handkerchiefs waved and hats were flourished in the air, and amid uproarious and deafening cheers the mounted corps paced forth, Brathwaite’s Horse leading. And over and above the clamour and tumult of the voices and the shouting. Jack Armitage’s bugle might be heard,

Mo Wenwei, who is nearly 50 years old, stopped work for him

wildly emitting a shrill and discordant melody, which common consent, amid roars of laughter, pronounced to be a cross between the National Anthem and “Vat you goed an trek Ferreia.” (A popular old Boer song.)Into the fun and frolic of the occasion Eanswyth entered with zest. She had laughed until she nearly cried over the hundred-and-one comic little incidents inseparable from this scene of universal jollity. Even the boldest flights of wit attempted during the multifold and promiscuous good-byes interchanged had moved her mirth. But it was the light, effervescing, uncontrollable laughter of the heart.The genial, careless jests of the light-hearted crowd, the good humour on every face, found its echo in her. In the unclouded blue of the heavens, the golden sunlit air, there seemed a vibrating chord of joyous melody, a poetry in the sweeping plains, even in the red lines of ochre-smeared savages filing along the narrow tracks leading to or from their respective locations. Her heart sang within her as once more the horses’ heads were turned homeward. Any hour now might bring him. Why, by the time they reached home he might have arrived, or at any rate an express hurried on in advance to announce the arrival of the corps by nightfall.“Rangers arrived?” repeated in reply to Mrs Hoste’s eager question, one of two acquaintances whom they met upon the road when within a mile of the village. “N-no, not yet. They can’t be far off, though. Three or four of their men have come in—Shelton among them.”“Oh, thanks, so much!” cried both the ladies, apparently equally eager. “We had better get on as soon as we can. Good-day.”In the fullness of her joy, the clouded expression and hesitating speech accompanying the information had quite escaped Eanswyth—nor had it struck her friend either. Then laughing and chatting in the highest of spirits, they had driven past the conversing groups upon the stoep of the hotel, as we have seen.The trap had been outspanned, and the horses turned loose into the veldt. The household were about to sit down to dinner. Suddenly the

doorway was darkened and a head was thrust in—a black and dusty head, surmounted by the remnant of a ragged hat.“Morrow, missis!” said the owner of this get-up, holding out a scrap of paper folded into a note. Mrs Hoste opened it carelessly—then a sort of gasp escaped her, and her face grew white.“Where—where is your Baas!” she stammered.“La pa,” replied the native boy, pointing down the street.Flurried, and hardly knowing what she was about, Mrs Hoste started to follow the messenger. Eanswyth had gone to her room to remove her hat, fortunately.“Oh, Mr Shelton—is it true?” she cried breathlessly, coming right upon the sender of the missive, who was waiting at no great distance from the house. “Is it really true? Can it be? What awful news! Oh, it will kill her! What shall we do?”“Try and be calm, Mrs Hoste,” said Shelton gravely. “There is no doubt about its truth, I am sorry to say. It is fortunate you had not heard the first report of the affair which arrived here. All four of them were rumoured killed, I’m told. But—No, don’t be alarmed,” he added, hastily interrupting an impending outburst. “Your husband is quite safe, and will be here this evening. But poor Tom is killed—not a doubt about it—Milne too. And, now, will you break it to Mrs Carhayes? It must be done, you know. She may hear it by accident any moment; the whole place is talking about it, and just think what a shock that will be.”“Oh, I can’t. Don’t ask me. It will kill her.”“But, my dear lady, it must be done,” urged Shelton. “It is a most painful and heart-breaking necessity—but it is a necessity.”“Come and help me through with it, Mr Shelton,” pleaded Mrs Hoste piteously. “I shall never manage it alone.”Shelton was in a quandary. He knew Eanswyth fairly well, but hewould 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 the

great 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.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 chiefcannot be talking seriously. He is joking.”“Hau!” burst forth the amapakati in mingled surprise and resentment.“You are a bold man, umlúngu,” said Kreli, frowning. “Do you know that I hold your life in my hand?”This was coming to the point with a vengeance. Eustace realised that, like Agag, he must “walk delicately.” It would not do to take up a defiant attitude. On the other hand to show any sign of trepidation might prove equally disastrous. He elected to steer as near as possible a middle course.“That is so,” he replied. “I am as anxious to live as most people. But this is war-time. When a man goes to war he does not lock up his life behind him at home. What would the Great Chief gain by my death?”“His people’s pleasure,” replied Kreli, with sombre significance, waving a hand in the direction of the armed crowd squatted around. Then turning, he began conferring in a low tone with his councillors, with the result that presently one of the latter directed that the prisoner should be removed altogether beyond earshot.Eustace accordingly was marched a sufficient distance from the debating group, a move which brought him close to the ranks of armed warriors. Many of the latter amused themselves by going through a wordless, but highly suggestive performance illustrative of the fate they hoped awaited him. One would imitate the cutting out of a tongue, another the gouging of an eye, etc., all grinning the while in high glee.Even Eustace, strong-nerved as he was, began to feel the horrible strain of the suspense. He glanced towards the group of chiefs and amapakati much as the prisoner in the dock might eye the door of the room where the jury was locked up. He began talking to his guards by way of diversion.“Who is that with Hlangani, who has just joined the amapakati?” he asked.


Copyright © 2016 Powered by Mo Wenwei, who is nearly 50 years old, stopped work for him,Return to basics and return to true nature   sitemap