Talking on paper | More than just controversy! Both the Rockets and the Warriors are dismantling their opponents

发表于 2023-09-30 16:24:54 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

“We are four fools,” said Payne sententiously.“We are,” growled Carhayes. “You never said a truer word than that. Four damned fools to think we’d get a shot at anything in a strip of cursed country we’ve been chevying niggers up and down for the last six weeks. And as the idea was mine, I suppose I’m the champion fool of the lot,” he added with a savage laugh. “We haven’t fired a shot this blessed morning, and have had all our trouble for nothing.”This was not precisely the reflection that Payne’s words were intended to convey. But he said nothing.“I’m not sure we have had our trouble for nothing,” put in Eustace. “It’s grand country, anyhow.”It was. Magnificent and romantic scenery surrounded them; huge perpendicular krantzes towering up many hundreds of feet; piles upon piles of broken rocks and boulders, wherein the luxuriant and tangled vegetation had profusely taken root; great rifts and ravines, covered with dense black forest, and the swift murmuring current of the river joining its music with the piping of birds from rock and brake.But the remark was productive of a growl only from Carhayes. He had not come out to look at scenery. They had had enough and to spare of that during the campaign. He had come out to get a shot at a buck, and hadn’t got it.Pipes were lighted, and the quartette lounged luxuriously upon the sward. The frowning grandeur of the towering heights, the golden glow of the sunlight upon the tree-tops, the soft, sensuous warmth of the summer air, the hum of insects, and the plashing murmur of the river, unconsciously affected all four—even grumbling, dissatisfied Tom Carhayes.“Whisht!” said Payne suddenly, holding up his hand to enjoin silence, and starting from his lounging attitude. The others were prompt to follow his example.

The slight emphasis on the “you” did not escape Eustace’s quick ear, coming as it did so close upon his recent train of thought.“Why should I fear?” he said. “I see before me Ncandúku, the brother of Nteya, my friend—both my friends, both chiefs of the House of Gaika. I see before me, I say, Ncandúku, my friend, whom I know. I see before me also a number of men, fully armed, whom I do not know.”“Hau!” exclaimed the whole body of Kafirs, who, bending forwards, had been eagerly taking in every word of this address.“These armed men,” he continued, “have just threatened my life. Yet, I fear nothing. Look!”He raised the revolver, which he now held by the barrel. In a twinkling he threw open the breech and emptied the cartridges into his hand. Another emphatic murmur rose from the Kafirs at this strange move.“Look!” he went on, holding out the empty weapon towards them in one hand, and the half dozen cartridges in the other. “You are more than twenty men—armed. I am but one man—unarmed. Do I fear anything?”Again a hum went round the party—this time of admiration—respect. Eustace had played a bold—a foolhardy stroke. But he knew his men.“Whau, Ixeshane!” exclaimed Ncanduku. “You are a bold man. It is good that I have seen you this morning. Now, if you are going home, nobody will interfere with you.”“I am in no hurry, Ncandúku,” replied Eustace, who, for purposes of his own, chose to ignore this hint. “It is a long while since I have seen you, and many things have happened in that time. We will sit down and hold a little indaba.” (Talk.)So saying, he dismounted, and flinging his bridle over a bush, he walked at least a dozen yards from the horse and deliberately seated himself in the shade, thus completely placing himself in the power of the savages. He was joined by Ncandúku and two or three more. The otherKafirs 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.”

Talking on paper | More than just controversy! Both the Rockets and the Warriors are dismantling their opponents

Chapter Ten.A Mutual Warning.It may not here be out of place to offer a word of explanation as to the extraordinarily cordial relations existing between Eustace Milne and his barbarian neighbours. A student of nature all the world over, he had rejoiced in finding ready to his hand so promising a subject as this fine race of savages, dwelling in close proximity to, and indeed in and among, the abodes of the white colonists, and instead of learning to look upon the Kafirs as so many more or less troublesome and indifferent farm servants, actual stock-lifters and potential foemen, he had started by recognising their many good qualities and resolving to make a complete study of the race and its characteristics. And this he had effected, with the thoroughness which marked everything he undertook. A quick linguist, he soon mastered the rather difficult, but melodious and expressive Xosa tongue, in which long and frequent conversations with its speakers had by this time rendered him nearly perfect; a man of keen intellect, he could hold his own in argument with any of these people, who, on subjects within the scope of their acquaintance, are about the shrewdest debaters in the world. His cool deliberation of speech and soundness of judgment commanded their abundant respect, and the friendly and disinterested feeling which he invariably evinced towards them being once understood and appreciated, a very genuine liking sprang up on both sides.Of course all this did not pass unnoticed by his white acquaintances and neighbours—who were wont to look upon him as an eccentricity in consequence, and to chaff him a good deal about his “blanket friends,” or ask him when he expected to be in the Cabinet as Secretary for Native Affairs. A few of the more ill-natured would sneer occasionally, his cousin among the latter. But Eustace Milne could take chaff with perfect equanimity, and as for the approval or disapproval of anybody he regarded it not one whit.Stay—of anybody? Yes—of one.And that approval he had gained to the full. Eanswyth, watching her cousin during the year that he had been living with them, had felt her regard and respect for him deepen more and more. Many a time had his judgment and tact availed to settle matters of serious difficulty and, of late, actual peril, brought about by the hot-headed imperiousness of her husband in his dealings with the natives. Living a year beneath the same roof with anybody in ordinary work-a-day intercourse affords the best possible opportunity of studying the character of that person. Eanswyth, we say, had so studied the character of her husband’s cousin and had pronounced it well-nigh flawless. But of this more elsewhere.“Who are those people, Ncanduku?” said Eustace, after a few preliminary puffs in silence. “Except yourself and Sikuni here, they are all strangers to me. I do not seem to know one of their faces.”The chief shrugged his shoulders, emitting a thick puff of smoke from his bearded lips.“They are strangers,” he answered. “They are Ama-Gcaléka, and are returning to their own country across the Kei. They have been visiting some of their friends at Nteya’s kraal.”“But why are they all so heavily armed? We are not at war.”“Whau, Ixeshane! You know there is trouble just now with the Amafengu (Fingoes). These men might be molested on their way back to their own country. They are afraid, so they go armed.”“Who are they afraid of? Not the Amafengu, their dogs? Why should they go armed and travel in such strength?”The chief fixed his glance upon his interlocutor’s face, and there was a merry twinkle in his eye as he turned away again.“A man is not afraid of one dog, Ixeshane, nor yet of two,” he replied. “But if a hundred set upon him, he must kill them or be killed himself.”Eustace uttered a murmur of assent. Then after a pause he said:“To travel in a strong party like that in these times is not wise. What if these Gcalékas were to fall in with a Police patrol—would there not surely be a fight? That might bring on a war. I am a peaceable man. Everybody is not. What if they had met a less peaceable man than myself, and threatened him as they did me? There would have been a fight and the white man might have been killed—for what can one man do against twenty?”“He need not have been killed—only frightened,” struck in the other Kafir, Sikuni.“Some men are easier killed than frightened,” rejoined Eustace. “Last night some people from Nteya’s kraal attacked my brother, (The term ‘brother’ is often colloquially used among Kafirs to designate other degrees of relationship) stole his gun, and tried to kill him. But they did not frighten him.”In spite of the conventional exclamation of astonishment which arose from his hearers, Eustace was perfectly well aware that this was no news to them.“That is bad news,” said Ncandúku, with well-feigned concern. “But it may not have been done by any of our people, Ixeshane. There may have been some Fingo dogs wandering about the land, who have done this thing in order that the English may blame us for it.”It was now Eustace’s turn to smile.“Does a dog wander to the mouth of a den of lions?” he said, keenly enjoying the notion of turning the tables. “Will a few Fingoes attack a guest of Nteya’s within the very light of the fires of the Gaika location?”“Your brother, Umlilwane, is too hot-headed,” answered the chief, forced to shift his ground. “Yet he is not a young man. Our young men, too, are hot-headed at times and escape from under the controlling eye of the chiefs. But Nteya will surely punish those who have done this thing.”

Talking on paper | More than just controversy! Both the Rockets and the Warriors are dismantling their opponents

“Let your friends proceed on their way, Ncandúku,” said Eustace suddenly, and in a low tone. “I would speak with you alone.”The chief assented, and at a word from him the Gcalékas rose to their feet and gathered up their weapons. With a respectful salute to the white man they filed off into the bush, and soon the faint rattle of assegai hafts and the deep bass hum of their voices faded into silence.“Now we are alone,” began Eustace after a pause. “We are friends, Ncandúku, and can talk freely. If there is trouble between the Gcalékas and the Fingoes, surely Kreli is able to take care of his own interests. Why, then, should the Gaikas have lighted the war-fires, have danced the war-dance? The quarrel is not theirs.”“The wrongs of the Paramount Chief are the wrongs of the whole Xosa race,” answered the Kafir. “See now. We love not your brother, Umlilwane. Yet, tell him to collect his flocks and his herds and to leave, to depart into a quieter country, and that speedily; for the land will soon be dead.” (Native idiom for war.)“And what if he refuses?”“Then he, too, will soon be dead.”For some minutes Eustace kept silence. The Kafir’s remark had added fuel to the fire which was burning within his heart. It seemed a direct answer to lurid unspoken thoughts which had been surging through his mind at the time of his surprise by the at first hostile party.“Umlilwane is an obstinate man,” he said at length. “What if he laughs at the warning?”“When a man sits inside his house and laughs while his house is burning, what happens to him, Ixeshane?”“He stands a fair chance of being burnt too. But listen, Ncanduku. You have no quarrel against the Inkosikazi. (Literally Chieftainess. In this instance ‘lady.’) Surely not a man of the House of Gaika would harm her!”The chief shook his head with a troubled expression.“Let her go, too!” he said emphatically. “Let her go, too, and that as soon as possible. When the red wave of war is rolling over the land, there is no place where the delicate feet of white women may stand dry. We are friends, Ixeshane. For your sake, and for that of the Inkosikazi, tell Umlilwane to gather together his cattle and to go.”“We are friends, indeed, Ncanduku. But how long can we be so? If war breaks out between our people how can I sit still? I cannot. I must fight—must fight for my own race, and in defence of our property. How, then, can we remain friends?”“In war-time every man must do his duty,” answered the Gaika. “He must obey the word of his chief and fight for his race and colour.”“Truly spoken and well understood. And now a warning for a warning. If I had the ears of your chiefs and amapakati (Councillors) this is what I should say: Do not be drawn into this war. Let the Gcalékas fight out their own quarrel. They stand upon wholly different ground. If they are vanquished—as, of course, they will be in the long run—the Government will show them mercy, will treat them as a conquered people. But you, and the other tribes within the colonial border, are British subjects. Queen Victoria is your chief, not Kreli, not Sandili, not Seyolo, not Ndimba—no man of the House of Gaika or Hlambi, but the White Queen. If you make war upon the Colony the Government will treat you as criminals, not as a conquered people, but as rebels against the Queen, your chief. You will be shown no mercy. Your chiefs will very likely be hung and your fighting men will be sent to the convict prisons for many a long year. That when you are beaten. And how long can you carry on the war? Things are not as they were. The country is not as it was. Think of the number of soldiers that will be sent against you; of the police; of the settlers, who will turn out to a man—all armed with the best breechloaders, mind. And what sort of weapons have you? A few old muzzle loaders more dangerous to the shooter than to his mark. What can you do with these and your assegais against people armed with the best rifles in the world? I am indeed your friend, Ncanduku, and the friend of your race. Let my warning sink deep in your mind, and carry it to the chiefs. Let them be

Talking on paper | More than just controversy! Both the Rockets and the Warriors are dismantling their opponents

wise in time.”“The words of Ixeshane are always the words of wisdom,” said the Kafir, rising in obedience to the other’s example. “But the young men are turbulent. They will not listen to the counsels of their elders. The cloud grows darker every day. I see no light,” he added, courteously holding the stirrup for Eustace to mount, “Go in peace, Ixeshane, and remember my warning.”And gathering up his assegais the chief disappeared among the trees, following the direction taken by the larger party.Chapter Eleven.“The Tail Wags the Dog.”Eustace had plenty to occupy his thoughts during his homeward ride. The emphatic warning of the Gaika chief was not to be set aside lightly. That Ncandúku knew more than he chose to say was evident. He had spoken out very plainly for one of his race, who dearly love veiled hints and beating around the bush. Still there was more behind.Especially did the chief’s perturbation when Eanswyth was referred to strike him as ominous to the last degree. Even in war-time there are few instances of Kafirs seriously maltreating white women, and Eanswyth was well liked by such of her dusky neighbours as she had come in contact with. Yet in the present case so thoroughly hated was her husband that it was conceivable they might even strike at him through her.Why had Carhayes not fallen in with the armed party instead of himself, thought Eustace bitterly. That would have cut the knot of the difficulty in a trice. They would not have spared him so readily. They were Gcalékas, Hlangani’s tribesmen. Hlangani’s wound would have been avenged, and Eanswyth would by this time be free.Very fair and peaceful was the aspect of the farm as the last rise

brought it full into the horseman’s view. The bleating of sheep, mellowed by distance, as the flocks streamed forth white upon the green of the veldt, and the lowing of cattle, floated upon the rich morning air—together with the sound of voices and laughter from the picturesque group of native huts where the farm servants dwelt. Doves cooed softly, flitting among the sprays of mimosa fringing the mealie lands; and upon the surface of the dam there was a shimmer of silver light. All seemed peaceful—happy—prosperous; yet over all brooded the red cloud of war.Eustace felt his pulses quicken and his heart stir as he strained his eyes upon the house, to catch maybe the flutter of a light dress in the veranda. Many a morning had he thus returned from a ride without so much as a heartstirring. Yet now it was different. The ice had been broken. A new light had been let in—a sweet new light, glowing around his path like a ray of Paradise. They understood each other at last.Yet did they? How would she receive him—how greet him after the disclosure of last night? Would she have thought better of it? For the first time in his life he felt his confidence fail him.“Hallo, Eustace! Thought you had trekked off somewhere for the day,” growled Carhayes, meeting him in the doorway. “Been looking up some of your blanket friends?”“Where are you off to yourself, Tom?” was the reply. For the other was got up in riding boots and breeches, as if for a journey.“To Komgha—I’m going over to lay an information against Nteya. I’ll have the old schelm in the tronk by to-night.”“Not much to be taken by that, is there? Just come this way a minute, will you? I’ve heard something you may as well know.”With a mutter and a growl Carhayes joined him outside. In a few words Eustace conveyed to him Ncanduku’s warning. It was received characteristically—with a shout of scornful laughter.“Gammon, my dear chap. I never funked a nigger yet and I neversinned in yielding to a love that was unlawful, surely she was expiating it now. The punishment seemed greater than she could bear.She made no outcry—no wild demonstrations of grief. Her sorrow was too real, too sacred, for any such commonplace manifestations. But when she emerged from her first retirement, it was as a walking ghost. There was something about that strained and unnatural calm, something which overawed those who saw it. She was as one walking outside the world and its incidents. They feared for her brain.As the days slipped by, people wondered. It seemed strange that poor Tom Carhayes should have the faculty of inspiring such intense affection in anybody. No one suspected anything more than the most ordinary of easy-going attachment to exist between him and his wife, yet that the latter was now a broken-hearted woman was but too sadly obvious. Well, there must have been far more in the poor fellow than he had generally been credited with, said the popular voice, and after all, those outside are not of necessity the best judges as to the precise relationship existing between two people. So sympathy for Eanswyth was widespread and unfeigned.Yet amid all her heart-torture, all her aching and hopeless sorrow, poor Tom’s fate hardly obtruded itself. In fact, had she been capable of a thorough and candid self-analysis she would have been forced to admit that it was rather a matter for gratulation than otherwise, for under cover of it she was enabled to indulge her heart-broken grief to the uttermost. Apart from this, horrible as it may seem, her predominating feeling toward her dead husband was that of intense bitterness and resentment. He it was who had led the others into peril. That aggressive fool-hardiness of his, which had caused her many and many a long hour of uneasiness and apprehension, had betrayed him to a barbarous death, and with it that other. The cruel irony of it, too, would burst upon her. He had avenged himself in his very death—had broken her heart.Had Tom Carhayes been the only one to fall, it is probable that Eanswyth would have mourned him with genuine—we do not say with durable—regret. It is possible that she might have been afflicted with acute remorse at the part she had played. But now all thoughts of any

such thing faded completely from her mind, obliterated by the one overwhelming, stunning stroke which had left her life in shadow until it should end.Then the Rangers had returned, and from the two surviving actors in the terrible tragedy—Payne and Hoste, to wit—she learned the full particulars. It was even as she had suspected—Tom’s rashness from first to last. The insane idea of bushbuck hunting in a small party in an enemy’s country, then venturing across the river right into what was nothing more nor less than a not very cunningly baited trap—all was due to his truculent fool-hardiness. But Eustace, knowing that her very life was bound up in his—how could he have allowed himself to be so easily led away? And this was the bitterest side of it.To the philosophic and somewhat cynical Payne this interview was an uncomfortable one, while Hoste subsequently pronounced it to be the most trying thing he had ever gone through in his life.“Is there absolutely no hope?” Eanswyth had said, in a hard, forced voice.The two men looked at each other.“Absolutely none, Mrs Carhayes,” said Payne. “It would be sham kindness to tell you anything different. Escape was an impossibility, you see. Both their horses were killed and they themselves were surrounded. Hoste and I only got through by the skin of our teeth. If our horses had ‘gone under’ earlier it would have been all up with us, too.”“But the—but they were not found, were they? They may have been taken prisoners.”Again the two men looked at each other. Neither liked to give utterance to what was passing through his mind. Better a hundredfold the unfortunate men were dead and at rest than helpless captives in the hands of exasperated and merciless savages.“Kafirs never do take prisoners,” said Payne after a pause. “At least,never in the heat and excitement of battle. And it is not likely that Carhayes or Milne would give them a chance, poor chaps.”“You mean—?”“They would fight hard to the bitter end—would sell their lives dearly. I am afraid you must face the worst. I wish I could say otherwise, but I can’t. Eh, Hoste?”The latter nodded. He had very willingly allowed the other to do all the talking. Then, as all things come to an end sooner or later—even Wigmore Street—so eventually did this trying interview.“I say, George. That just was a bad quarter of an hour,” said Hoste, as the two companions-in-arms found themselves once more in their favourite element—the open air, to wit. “I don’t want to go through it again many times in a lifetime. If ever there was ‘broken heart,’ writ large in any woman’s face, it is on that of poor Mrs Carhayes. I believe she’ll never get over it.”Payne, who had shown himself far from unfeeling during the above-mentioned trying interview, regarded this remark as a direct challenge to the ingrained cynicism of his nature.“You don’t, eh?” he replied. “Well, I don’t want to seem brutal, Hoste, but I predict she’ll be patching up that same ‘broken heart’ in most effective style at some other fellow’s expense, before the regulation two years are over. They all do it. Lend us your ’bacco pouch.”Hoste said nothing. But for that little corner of the curtain of her suspicions which his wife had lifted on the first night of Eanswyth’s arrival, he might have been three parts inclined to agree with his friend. As things stood, he wasn’t.But could they at that moment have seen the subject of their conversation, it is possible that even the shelly and cynical Payne might have felt shaken in his so glibly expressed opinion. In the seclusion of her room she sat, soft tears coming to the relief of the hitherto dry and

burning eyes as she pressed to her lips, forehead, and heart, a little bit of cold and tarnished metal. It was the broken spur which Eustace had been wearing at the time of the disaster, and which her recent visitors had just given her. And over this last sorry relic she was pouring out her whole soul—sorrowing as one who had no hope.Chapter Twenty Seven.The Shield of her Love.When Eustace Milne fell from his saddle to the earth, the savage who had stabbed him, and who was about to follow up the blow, started back with a loud shout of astonishment and dismay.It arrested the others. They paused as they stood. It arrested assegai blades quivering to bury themselves in the fallen man’s body. It arrested murderous knob-kerries whistling in the air ready to descend and crash out the fallen man’s brains. They stood, those maddened, bloodthirsty barbarians, paralysed, petrified, as they took up with one voice their compatriot’s dismayed shout.“Au! Umtagati! Mawo!” (Ha! Witchcraft! A wonder!)They crowded round the prostrate body, but none would touch it. The blow had been dealt hard and fair, by a hand which had dealt more than one such blow before, and always with deadly effect. Yet the wound did not bleed.The dealer of it stood, contemplating his assegai, with looks of amazement, of alarm. Instead of driving its great broad blade up to the hilt in the yielding body of his victim, and feeling the warm blood gush forth upon his hand, the point had encountered something hard, with the effect of administering quite a shock to wrist and arm, so great was the force of the blow and the resistance. And the point of the spear blade had snapped off by at least an inch.“Witchcraft!” they cried again. “He is dead, and yet he does notbleed. Mawo!”He was. Not a movement stirred his limbs; not a breath heaved his chest ever so faintly. The lips, slightly parted, were as livid as the features.For a few moments they stood contemplating their victim in speechless amazement. Then one, more daring or less credulous than his fellows, reached forward as if about to plunge his assegai into the motionless body. The rest hung breathlessly watching the result of the experiment. But before it could be carried into effect the deep tones of a peremptory voice suspended the uplifted weapon. Every head turned, and the circle parted to make way for the new arrival.He was a tall, muscular Kafir, as straight as a dart, and carried his head with an air of command which, with the marked deference shown him, bespoke him a man of considerable rank. His bronzed and sinewy proportions were plentifully adorned with fantastic ornaments of beadwork and cow-tails, and he wore a headpiece of monkey skin surmounted by the long waving plumes of the blue crane.Without a word he advanced, and, bending over the prostrate body, scrutinised the dead man’s features. A slight start and exclamation of astonishment escaped him, then, recovering himself, he carefully examined, without touching it, the place where the assegai had struck. There it was, visible to all, a clean cut in the cord jacket—yet no sign of blood.“Au! He does not bleed! He does not bleed!” ejaculated the crowd again.By this time the numbers of the latter had augmented. Having given up the chase of the other two whites, or leaving it to their advance guards, the Kafirs swarmed back by twos and threes to where the gathering crowd showed that something unusual was going on.The chief drew a knife from his girdle and bent once more over the prostrate form. But his purpose was not at present a bloodthirsty one, for


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