The thousand-year-old road remains new: commemorating the 10th anniversary of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and looking forward to the next “golden 30 years” in China and Central Asia

发表于 2023-09-23 02:15:43 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

concealed in the long grass. Down it came, plunging heavily forward on its nose, and shooting its rider over its head.A deafening roar of exultation went up from the pursuers as they flung themselves upon Carhayes. Still, half-stunned as he was, the desperate pluck of the unfortunate man caused him to make an effort to rise. Only an effort though. As he rose to his knees he was beaten to the ground in a moment beneath the savage blows of the kerries of his assailants.Eustace heard the crash of the fall, and turning his head, in spite of the deadly risk he ran in suffering his attention to wander from his own course even for a second, he took in the whole scene—the crowd of whooping, excited barbarians, clustering round the fallen man, assegais and kerries waving in the air, then the dull, sickening sound of blows. And even in that moment of deadly peril, his own fate as hopeless as that of the slain man, a thrill of fierce exultation shot through him. Fortune had once more played into his hands. Eanswyth was his. He had got his second chance. This time it was out of his power to throw it away even had he wished to do so. Still—the mockery of it! It had come too late.Meanwhile, Payne and Hoste, being the best mounted, had obtained some little start, but even upon them the extended lines of the fierce pursuers were beginning to close.“Now, George—both together! Let ’em have it!” yelled Hoste, pointing his revolver at the foremost of a mass of Kafirs who were charging in upon them on his side. The ball sped. The savage, a tall, sinewy warrior, naked as at his birth save for a collar of jackals’ teeth and a leather belt round his waist, leaped high in the air and fell stone dead, shot through the heart. At the same time Payne’s pistol spoke, and another barbarian fell, his knee shattered by the bullet. Crack! and down went another while in the act of poising his assegai for a fling.“Up-hill work, but nearly through!” cried Payne as he dropped another of the pursuers in his tracks. The frightened steeds, with ears thrown back and nostrils distended, tugged frantically at their bits as they tore along, but the agile barbarians seemed to keep pace with them,

“Faugh!” exclaimed Hoste with a grimace of disgust, while two or three of the younger men of the party turned rather pale as they shudderingly gazed upon the sickening sight. “Poor devil! They’ve made short work of him, anyhow.”“H’m! I don’t wonder at it,” said Shelton. “It must be deuced rough to be sold by one of your own men. Still, if that chap’s story was true he was the aggrieved party. However, let’s get on. We’ve got our work all before us still.”They had. It was no easy matter to drive such an enormous herd through the thick bush. Many of the animals were very wild, besides being thoroughly scared with all the hustling to and fro they had had— and began to branch off from the main body, drawing a goodly number after them. These had to be out-manoeuvred, yet it would never do for the men to straggle, for the Kafirs would hardly let such a prize go without straining every effort to retain it. Certain it was that the savages were following them in the thick bush as near as they dared, keenly watching an opportunity to retrieve—or partially retrieve—the disaster of the day.Cautiously, then, the party retreated with their spoil, seeking a favourable outlet by which they could drive their unwieldy capture into the open country; for on all sides the way out of the valley was steep, broken, and bushy. Suddenly a shout of warning and of consternation went up from a man on the left of the advance. All eyes were turned on him—and from him upon the point to which he signalled.What they saw there was enough to send the blood back to every heart.Chapter Nineteen.The Last Cartridge.This is what they saw.Over the brow of the high ridge, about a mile in their rear, a darkmass was advancing. It was like a disturbed ants’ nest—on they came, those dark forms, swarming over the hill—and the sun glinted on assegai blades and gun-barrels as the savage host poured down the steep slope, glancing from bush to bush, rapidly and in silence.“I’m afraid we shall have to give up the cattle, lads, and fight our way out,” said Shelton, as he took in the full strength of the advancing Kafirs. “Those chaps mean business, and there are too many of them and too few of us.”“We’ll make it hot for ’em, all the same,” said Carhayes, with a scowl. “I have just put two more nicks on my gun-stock—not sure I oughtn’t to have had four or five, but am only certain of two—Hallo! That’s near.”It was. A bullet had swept his hat off, whirling it away a dozen yards. At the same time puffs of smoke began to issue from the hillside, and the twigs of the bushes beyond were sadly cut about as the enemy’s missiles hummed overhead—but always overhead—pretty thickly. At first, the said enemy was rather chary of showing himself, although they could see groups of red figures flitting from bush to bush, and the whigge of bullets and potlegs became more and more unpleasantly near, while from the slope above jets of smoke and flame kept bursting forth at all points.The plan of the whites was to make a running fight of it. While one-half of the patrol drove on the cattle, the other half was to fight on foot, covering their comrades’ retreat, but always keeping near enough to close up, if necessary.“Now, boys—let ’em have it!” cried Shelton, as a strong body of the enemy made a sudden rush upon their left flank to draw their attention, while another party, with a chorus of shouts and deafening whistles, and waving their assegais and karosses, darted in between the cattle and their captors, with the object of separating and driving off the former.A volley was discharged—with deadly effect, as testified by the number who fell, wounded, maimed, or stone dead. The rest rushed on, gliding in among the fleeing cattle—whistling and yelling in a frenzy of excitement.

The thousand-year-old road remains new: commemorating the 10th anniversary of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and looking forward to the next “golden 30 years” in China and Central Asia

“Keep cool, boys, and fire low,” cried Carhayes—who was in command of the dismounted party—as a crowd of Kafirs suddenly started up on their rear, and, with assegais uplifted, threatened a determined charge. “Now!”Again there was a roar, as the whole fire was poured into the advancing mass. Even the horses, steady, trained steeds as they were, began to show restiveness, terrified by the continuous crash of firing and the fierce yells of the savages. Then, without pausing to reload, every man discharged his revolver into the very thick of the leaping, ochre-smeared warriors. It was too much. The latter wavered, then dropped into cover.But the respite was only a temporary one. Changing his tactics, the fierce foe no longer attempted an open coup de main, but taking advantage of the bush he pressed the handful of whites who formed the rear guard so hotly as to force them to close up on their comrades, in order to avoid being entirely surrounded and cut off from the latter. But however bad had been their marksmanship earlier in the day, while excited and practising at the two fleeing Kafirs at long range, our frontiersmen were now in a different vein. There was nothing wild about their shooting now. Steady of eye, and cool of brain, they were keenly alive to every opportunity. Directly a Kafir showed his head he was morally certain to receive a ball through it, or so uncomfortably close as to make him feel as if he had escaped by a miracle, and think twice about exposing himself a second time.Meanwhile the cattle were being driven off by the enemy, and indeed matters had become so serious as to render this a mere secondary consideration. From the bush on three sides a continuous fire was kept up, and had the Kafirs been even moderately decent shots not a man of that patrol would have lived to tell the tale; but partly through fear of exposing themselves, partly through fear of their own fire-arms, to the use of which they were completely unaccustomed, the savages made such wild shooting that their missiles flew high overhead. Now and then, however, a shot would take effect. One man received a bullet in the shoulder, another had his bridle hand shattered. Several of the horses were badly wounded, but, as yet, there were no fatalities. The enemy,confident in the strength of his overwhelming numbers, waxed bolder— crowding in closer and closer. Every bush was alive with Kafir warriors, who kept starting up when and where least expected in a manner that would have been highly disconcerting to any but cool and determined men.But this is just what these were. All hope of saving the spoil had been abandoned. The frontiersmen, dismounted now, were fighting the savages in their own way, from bush to bush.“This is getting rather too hot,” muttered Shelton, with an ominous shake of the head. “We shall be hemmed in directly. Our best chance would be for someone to break through and ride to the camp for help.” Yet he hesitated to despatch anyone upon so dangerous a service.Just then several assegais came whizzing in among them. Two horses were transfixed, and Hoste received a slight wound in the leg.“Damn!” he cried furiously, stamping with pain, while a roar of laughter went up from his fellows, “Let me catch a squint at John Kafir’s sooty mug! Ah!”His piece flew to his shoulder—then it cracked. He had just glimpsed a woolly head, decked with a strip of jackal’s skin, peering from behind a bush not twenty yards away, and whose owner, doubtless, attracted by the laughter of those devil-may-care whites, had put it forward to see what the fun was about. A kicking, struggling sound, mingled with stifled groans, seemed to show that the shot had been effective.“Downed him! Hooray!” yelled Hoste, still squirming under the smart of the assegai prick in his calf. “Charge of loepers that time—must have knocked daylight through him!”Taking advantage of this diversion, a tall, gaunt Kafir, rising noiselessly amid a mass of tangled creepers, was deliberately aiming at somebody. So silent had been his movements, so occupied were the other whites, that he was entirely unperceived. His eye went down to the breech. He seemed to require a long and careful aim.But just then he was perceived by one, and instinctively Eustace brought his piece to bear. But he did not fire. For like a flash he noted that the savage was aiming full at Carhayes’ back.The latter, sublimely unconscious of his deadly peril, was keenly alert on the look out for an enemy in the other direction. Eustace felt his heart going like a hammer, and he turned white and cold. There in the wild bush, surrounded by ruthless enemies, the sweet face of Eanswyth passed before him, amid the smoke of powder and the crash of volleys. She was his now—his at last. The life which had stood between them now stood no more.With a frightful fascination, he crouched motionless. Carhayes was still unconscious of his imminent peril—his broad back turned full to the deadly tube of the savage. The distance was barely fifteen yards. The latter could not miss.It all passed like lightning—the awful, the scathing temptation. He could not do it. And with the thought, his finger pressed ever so lightly on the trigger, and the Kafir crashed heavily backward, shot through the brain—while the ball from his gun, which, with a supreme effort he had discharged in his death throes, hummed perilously near his intended victim’s head.“Hallo, Milne! You got in that shot just right,” cried one of the men, who had turned in time to take in the situation—not the whole of it, luckily.Eustace said nothing. His better nature had triumphed. Still, as he slipped a fresh cartridge into his smoking piece, there was a feeling of desolation upon him, as though the intoxicating sense of possessing the whole world had been within his grasp, and as suddenly reft from it again. The extremely critical position in which he—in which the whole party— stood, passed unheeded. “Fool!” whispered the tempting, gibing fiend. “You had your opportunity and you threw it away. You will never have it again. She is lost to you forever now. Never can you hope to possess her!”And now the firing opened from an unexpected quarter—and behold,

The thousand-year-old road remains new: commemorating the 10th anniversary of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and looking forward to the next “golden 30 years” in China and Central Asia

the bushy slope in front was alive with Kafir warriors. The patrol was entirely surrounded, and now the savages began to shout exultantly to each other.“We have got the white men in a hole,” they cried. “Ha! They cannot get out. Look, the sun is shining very bright, but it will be dark for the white men long before it touches the hill. They are caught like wolves in a trap. Hau!”“Ho-ho! Are they!” sung out Carhayes, in reply to this taunt. “When a wolf is caught in a trap, the dogs cannot kill him without feeling his teeth. The Amaxosa dogs have caught not a wolf, but a lion. Here is one of his bites.” And quick as lightning he brought up his rifle and picked off a tall Gcaléka, who was flitting from one bush to another a couple of hundred yards above. The Kafir lurched heavily forward, convulsively clutching the earth with both hands. A yell of rage arose from the savages and a perfect hail of bullets and assegais came whistling around the whites— fortunately still overhead.“Aha!” roared Carhayes with a shout of reckless laughter. “Now does any other dog want to feel the lion’s bite? Ha, ha! I am he whom the people call Umlilwane. ‘The Little Fire’ can burn. He it was who helped to burn the kraal of Sarili, the Great Chief of the House of Gcaléka. He it is who has ‘burned’ the life out of many dogs of the race of Xosa. He will burn out the lives of many more! Ha, ha—dogs—black scum! Come forth! Try who can stand before The Little Fire and not be burned up—utterly consumed away! Come forth, dogs, come forth!”Catching their comrade’s dare-devil spirit, the men laughed and cheered wildly. But the Kafirs, full of hate and rage, forgot their prudence. A great mass of them leaped from their cover, and shrilling their wild war-whistles, snapped their assegais off short, and bore down upon the handful of whites in full impetuous charge.Critical as the moment was, the latter were prepared never more dangerously cool than now when it was almost a case of selling their lives dearly. They instantly gave way, melting into cover with the serpent-like celerity of the savages themselves, and before these could so muchas swerve, they poured such a deadly cross-fire upon the compact onrushing mass that in a second the ground was strewn with a groaning, writhing heap of humanity.With a roar like a wild beast, Carhayes sprang from his cover and, wrenching a heavy knob-kerrie from the hand of a dead Kafir, dashed among the fallen and struggling foe, striking to right and left, braining all those who showed the slightest sign of resistance or even of life. A Berserk ferocity seemed to have seized the man. His hair and beard fairly bristled, his eyes glared, as he stood erect, whirling the heavy club, spattered and shiny with blood and brains. He roared again:“Ho, dogs! Come and stand before the lion! Come, feel his bite—who dares? Ha, ha!” he laughed, bringing the kerrie down with a sickening crash upon the head of a prostrate warrior whom he had detected in the act of making a last desperate stab at him with an assegai—shattering the skull to atoms. “Come, stand before me, cowards. Come, and be ground to atoms.”But to this challenge no answer was returned. There was a strange silence among the enemy. What did it portend? That he was about to throw up the game and withdraw? No such luck. His strength was too great, and he was burning with vengeful rage at the loss of so many men. It could only mean that he was planning some new and desperate move.“I say, Milne, lend us a few cartridges; I’ve shot away all mine.”Eustace, without a word, handed half a dozen to the speaker. The latter, a fine young fellow of twenty-one, was enjoying his first experience in the noble game of war. He had been blazing away throughout the day as though conscious of the presence of a waggon-load of ammunition in the patrol.“Thanks awfully—Ah-h!”The last ejaculation escaped him in a kind of shuddering sigh. His features grew livid, and the cartridges which he had just grasped dropped from his grasp as he sank to the ground with scarcely a struggle. A Kafir

The thousand-year-old road remains new: commemorating the 10th anniversary of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and looking forward to the next “golden 30 years” in China and Central Asia

had crawled up behind him, and had stabbed him between the shoulders with a broad-bladed assegai—right through to the heart. A deep vengeful curse went up from his comrades, and they looked wildly around for an object on which to exact retribution. In vain. The wily foe was not going to show himself.But the incident threw a new light upon the state of affairs, and a very lurid one it was. Several had run out of ammunition, but had refrained from saying so lest the fact, becoming known, should discourage the others. Now it was of no use disguising matters further. There were barely fifty rounds left among the whole patrol—that is to say, something less than a round and a half per man. And they were still hemmed in by hundreds of the enemy, closely hemmed in, too, as the recent fatality proved, and it still wanted a good many hours till dark. Small wonder that a very gloomy expression rested upon almost every countenance. The position was almost as bad as it could possibly be.Chapter Twenty.The Tables Turned Again.Suddenly a tremendous volley crashed forth from the hillside on their left front, followed immediately by another on the right. For a moment the men looked at each other in silence, and the expression of gloomy determination hitherto depicted on their countenances gave way to one of animated and half-incredulous relief.For no sound of hostile volley was that. No. Help was at hand. Already they could see the Kafirs gliding from bush to bush in groups, hastening to make good their retreat, thoroughly disconcerted by this new and disastrous surprise.“Whoop!—Hooray! Yoicks forward!” shouted the beleaguered combatants, each man giving his particular form of cheer, varying from savage war-cry to view halloo. They were wild with excitement, not only by reason of their unlooked for deliverance from almost certain massacre, but also on account of being in a position to turn the tables

upon their skulking foe.Then came the crack—crack—crack—of the rifles of the new arrivals, who advanced rapidly, yet not entirely without caution, through the bush, picking off the retreating Kafirs as these showed themselves in fleeing from cover to cover. And above the crackle of the dropping shots rang out the wild notes of a bugle, villainously played. A roar of laughter went up from our friends.“Brathwaite’s Horse for a fiver!” cried Hoste. “That’s Jack Armitage’s post-horn. I know its infamous old bray—And—there’s Brathwaite himself.”“Any of you fellows hurt?” sung out the latter, a fine, stalwart frontiersman, who, with several of his men, rode down upon the group. The remainder were spread out in skirmishing line on either side, the irregular rattle of their fire showing that they were still busy peppering the enemy in sight.“One man killed,” answered Shelton. “It’s Parr, poor chap.”“So? Well, fall in with us and come on. We haven’t done with Jack Kafir yet.”“Can’t. We’re all but cleaned out of ammunition.”“So?” said Brathwaite again. “We’ve turned up none too soon then. Fortunately we’ve got plenty.”A hurried levy was made upon the cartridge belts of the new arrivals, and thus reinforced in every sense of the word, the Kaffrarian men, keen to avenge their comrade and retrieve their position, fell in with their rescuers, and the whole force moved rapidly forward in pursuit of the enemy.But the latter had hastened to make himself scarce. With characteristic celerity, the wily savages seemed to have melted into earth or air. If thirty-five whites—a mere handful—had given them about as much fighting as they could stomach, they were not going to standA sounding whack across the ear with the haft of an assegai choked the words in his throat. He stood, literally foaming with fury.“Attend, thou white dog,” cried a great deep-toned voice. “Attend when the Great Chief is talking to thee. Au!”An infuriated mastiff straining at his chain is a pretty good exemplification of impotent wrath, but even he is nothing to the aspect and demeanour of Carhayes as he turned to the perpetrator of this indignity. The veins rolled in his forehead as if they would burst. The muscles stood out upon his neck like cords as he strove by a superhuman effort to burst his bonds. But Hlangani only sneered.“Listen when the Great Chief is talking to thee, thou jackal, or I will strike thee again,” he said.“God damn the Great Chief!” roared poor Tom, his voice rising to a hurricane shriek of fury under this shameful indignity, which he was powerless to resent. “And you, Hlangani, you dog, if I stood unbound I would kill you at this moment—kill you all unarmed as I am. Coward! Dare you try it!”“What is this indaba?” interrupted Kreli sternly. “This white man has a very long tongue. Perhaps it may be shortened with advantage.” A hum of applause greeted this remark, and the chief went on. “You are asked a question, umlúngu, and instead of answering you rave and bellow and throw yourself about like a cow that has lost her calf. And now what have you to say? You have invaded our country and shot our people with your own hand. If a man thrusts his head into a hornet’s nest, whom shall he blame but himself if he gets stung—if he treads upon a serpent, how shall he complain if made to feel the reptile’s fangs?”“Well, you see, it’s war-time,” answered Carhayes bluntly, beginning to think he might just as well say something to save his life, if words could save it, that is. “I have met your people in fair fight, and I challenge any man, black or white, to deny that I have acted fair, square, and above board. And when we do take prisoners we don’t treat them as I have

been treated since I was brought here. They are taken care of by the doctors if wounded, as I am; not tied up and starved and kicked, as I have been.”“Their doctors are the Fingo dogs,” interrupted the chief darkly, “their medicine a sharp assegai. Freeborn men of the House of Gcaléka to die at the hand of a Fingo slave! Hau!”A roar of execration went up at this hit. “To the fire with him!” howled the savage crowd. “Give him to us, Great Chief, that we may make him die a hundred deaths!”“That is the sort of healing my children get when they fall into the hands of Amanglezi. And you, umlúngu, you have offered an insult to the House of Gcaléka in the person of Hlangani, my herald, a man of the House of Hintza, my father. Was it war-time when you shed his blood? Did you meet in fair fight when you shot him suddenly and at close-quarters, he having no gun?”“Was it war-time when Hlangani entered the Gaika location to stir up strife? Was it right that he should bring his dogs on to my farm to hunt my bucks?” answered Carhayes fearlessly. “Again, was it fair play for four men, armed with assegais, to attack one, who had but two shots? Or was it self-defence? Listen to my words, Kreli, and you chiefs and amapakati of the House of Gcaléka,” he went on, raising his voice till it was audible to the whole assemblage. “In the presence of you all I proclaim Hlangani a coward. He has struck and insulted me because I am bound. He dare not meet me free. I challenge him to do so. Loosen these bonds. I am weak and wounded. I cannot escape—you need not fear—and let him meet me if he dares, with any weapon he chooses. I challenge him. If he refuses he is nothing but a cowardly dog, and worse than the meanest Fingo. If you, Kreli, refuse my request, it is because you know this bragging herald of yours to be a coward.”The fierce rapidity of this harangue, the audacity of the request embodied within it, took away the auditors’ breath. Yet the idea appealed to them—appealed powerfully to their ardently martial sympathies. The very novelty of such a duel as that proposed invested it with a rareattractiveness.“What does Hlangani say?” observed Kreli, with a partly amused glance at his subordinate.“This, O Great Chief of my father’s house,” replied the warrior, the light of battle springing into his eyes. “Of what man living was Hlangani ever afraid? What man ever had to call him twice? Yet, O Great Chief, the head of my father’s house, I would ask a boon. When I have whipped this miserable white dog, I would claim possession of his wretched carcase absolutely, alive or dead.”“It is granted, Hlangani,” said the chief.“And I?” cried Carhayes. “What shall be given to me when I have sent this cur, who strikes helpless men, howling to his hut? My liberty, of course?”“No,” replied Kreli, shortly.“No?” echoed the prisoner. “My life then?”“No,” answered the chief again. “Be content, umlúngu. If you conquer you shall have a swift and merciful death. If you fail, Hlangani claims you.”Carhayes stared at the chief for a moment, then, as he realised that he had nothing to hope for, whether he won in the combat or not—an expression of such deadly ferocity, such fell and murderous purpose swept across his face, that many of those who witnessed it realised that their countryman was going to snatch no easy victory.The stout rawhide reims which bound his hands behind him were loosened—and that which secured his feet was removed. He stood swinging his arms and stamping to hasten the circulation—then he asked for some water, which was brought him.“Ha, umlúngu!” jeered Ngcenika, addressing Eustace, as the two white men stood talking together. “Give this valiant fighter some white

magic to strengthen him. He will need it.”“Well, Eustace, I’m going to kill that dog,” said Carhayes. “I’m going to die fighting anyway, so that’s all right. Now—I’m ready. What are we going to fight with?”“This,” said one of the bystanders, handing him a pair of hard-wood kerries.Hlangani now made his appearance similarly armed. The crescent formation of warriors had narrowed their ranks, the chiefs and councillors and Eustace and his guards composing the upper arc of the circle. The prisoner could not have broken through that dense array of armed men which hemmed him in on every side, had he entertained the idea.Both the principals in that strange impromptu duel were men of splendid physique. The Kafir, nearly naked, looked like a bronze giant, towering above his adversary in his magnificent height and straight and perfect proportions. The Englishman, thick-set, deep-chested, concentrated a vast amount of muscular power within his five-foot-eight. He had thrown off his ragged shirt, and the muscles of his chest and arms stood out like ropes. He looked a terribly awkward antagonist, and moreover on his side the conflict would be fought with all the ferocity of despair. He was a man bent on selling his life dearly.Hlangani, for his part, was confident and smiling. He was going to fight with his natural weapons, a pair of good, trusty kerries. This blundering white man, though he had the strength and ferocity of an enraged bull, had more than that quadruped’s stupidity. He would knock him out of shape in no time.When blood is up, the spirit of Donnybrook is very strong among Kafirs. The next best thing to taking part in a fight is to witness one—and now, accordingly, every head was bent forward with the most eager interest as the two combatants advanced towards each other in the open space. There was no “ring” proper, nor were there any recognised rules; no “time” either. Each man’s business was to kill or disable the other—as effectually as possible, and by any means in his power.Now a smart Kafir, armed with two good kerries whose use he thoroughly understands, is about as tough a customer to tackle as is a professional pugilist to the average Briton who knows how to use his hands but indifferently. Of this Carhayes was perfectly aware. Consequently his plan was to meet his antagonist with extreme wariness; in fact, to stand rather on the defensive, at any rate at first. He was a fair single stick player, which tended not a little to equalise the chances.As they drew near each other and reached striking distance, they looked straight into each other’s eyes like a pair of skilful fencers. The savage, with one kerrie raised in the air, the other held horizontally before his breast, but both with a nervous, supple grasp, ready to turn any way with lightning rapidity—his glance upon that of his foe—his active, muscular frame poised lightly on one foot, then on another, with feline readiness, would have furnished a perfect subject for an instantaneous photograph representing strength and address combined. The Englishman, his bearded lips compressed, his blue eyes sparkling and alert, shining with suppressed eagerness to come to close-quarters with his crafty and formidable foe, was none the less a fine specimen of courage and undaunted resolution.Hlangani, a sneering laugh upon his thick lips, opened the ball by making a judicious feint. But his adversary never moved. He followed it up by another, then a series of them, whirling his striking kerrie round the Englishman’s head in the most startling proximity, now on this side, now on that, holding his parrying one ready for any attack the other might make upon him. Still Carhayes stood strictly on the defensive. He knew the Kafir was trying to “draw him”—knew that his enemy’s quick eye was prepared for any opportunity. He was not going to waste energy gratuitously.Suddenly, and with lightning-like celerity, Hlangani made a sweep at the lower part of his adversary’s leg. It would have been the ruin of a less experienced combatant, but Carhayes’ kerrie, lowered just two inches, met that of his opponent with a sounding crash just in time to save his skull somewhere in the region of the ear. It was a clever feint, and a dexterous follow-up, but it had failed. Hlangani began to realise that he had met a foeman worthy of his steel—or, rather, of his wood. Still he


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