Chinese companies showcase innovative achievements at International Heavy Haul Transport Conference

发表于 2023-09-23 03:21:22 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

as 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

announced the necessity of making a start that afternoon.“The time will soon pass,” he said. “It is a horrible nuisance, darling, but there is no help for it. The thing is too important. The fact is, something has come to light—something which may settle that delayed administration business at once.”It might, indeed, but in a way very different to that which he intended to convey. But she was satisfied.“Do not remain away from me a moment longer than you can help, Eustace, my life!” she had whispered to him during the last farewell, she having walked a few hundred yards with him in order to see the last of him. “Remember, I shall only exist—not live—during these next few days. This is the first time you have been away from me since—since that awful time.”Then had come the sweet, clinging, agonising tenderness of parting. Eanswyth, having watched him out of sight, returned slowly to the house, while he, starting upon his strange venture, was thinking in the bitterness of his soul how—when—they would meet again. His heart was heavy with a sense of coming evil, and as he rode along his thoughts would recur again and again to the apparition which had so terrified Eanswyth a few nights ago. Was it the product of a hallucination on her part after all, or was it the manifestation of some strange and dual phase of Nature, warning of the ill that was to come? He felt almost inclined to admit the latter.Chapter Forty One.Xalasa’s Revelation.“You ought to consider yourself uncommonly fortunate, Milne,” said Hoste, as the two men drew near Anta’s Kloof. “You are the only one of the lot of us not burnt out.”“That’s a good deal thanks to Josane,” replied Eustace, as the housecame into sight. “He thought he could manage to save it. I didn’t. But he was right.”“Ha-ha! I believe the old scamp has been enjoying himself all this time with the rebels. I dare say he has been helping to do the faggot trick.”“Quite likely.”Hoste eyed his companion with a curious glance. The latter had been rather laconic during their ride; otherwise he seemed to show no very great interest one way or another in the object of it. Yet there was reason for believing that if Xalasa’s tale should prove true it would make every difference to the whole of Eustace Milne’s future life.The sun was just setting as they reached Anta’s Kloof. The Kafir had stipulated that they should meet him at night. He did not want to incur potential pains and penalties at the hands of his compatriots as an “informer” if he could possibly help it. The house, as Hoste had said, was the only one in the whole neighbourhood which had escaped the torch, but that was all that could be said, for it was completely gutted. Everything portable had been carried off, if likely to prove of any use to the marauders, what was not likely so to prove being smashed or otherwise destroyed. Windows were broken and doors hung loose on their hinges; in fact, the place was a perfect wreck. Still it was something that the fabric would not need rebuilding.Hardly had they off-saddled their horses, and, knee-haltering them close, turned them out to graze around the house, than the night fell.“Xalasa should be here by now,” remarked Hoste, rather anxiously. “Unless he has thought better of it. I always expected we should learn something more about poor Tom when the war was over. Kafirs will talk. Not that I ever expected to hear that he was alive, poor chap—if he is, that’s to say. But what had been the actual method of his death: that was bound to leak out sooner or later.”Eustace made no reply. The remark irritated him, if only that his

Chinese companies showcase innovative achievements at International Heavy Haul Transport Conference

companion had made it, in one form or another, at least half a dozen times already. Then the sound of a light footstep was heard, and a tall, dark figure stood before them in the gloom, with a muttered salutation.“Greeting, Xalasa!” said Eustace, handing the new arrival a large piece of Boer tobacco. “We will smoke while we talk. The taste of the fragrant plant is to conversation even as the oil unto the axles of a heavily laden waggon.”The Kafir promptly filled his pipe. The two white men did likewise.“Have you been in the war, Xalasa?” went on Eustace, when the pipes were in full blast. “You need not be afraid of saying anything to us. We are not Government people.”“Au!” said the Gaika, with a quizzical grin upon his massive countenance. “I am a ‘loyal,’ Ixeshane.”“The chiefs of the Ama Ngqika, Sandili and the rest of them, have acted like children,” replied Eustace, with apparent irrelevance. “They have allowed themselves to be dragged into war at the ‘word’ of Kreli, and against the advice of their real friends, and where are they now? In prison, with a lot of thieves and common criminals, threatened with the death of a dog!”The Kafir uttered an emphatic murmur of assent. Hoste, who was excusably wondering what the deuce the recent bad behaviour, and eventual fate of Sandili and Co., had to do with that of Tom Carhayes, could hardly restrain his impatience. But Eustace knew what he was about. The Briton may, as he delights to boast, prefer plain and straightforward talking in matters of importance—or he may not. The savage, of whatever race or clime, unequivocally does not. He dearly loves what we should call beating around the bush. However important the subject under discussion, it must be led up to. To dash straight at the point is not his way. So after some further talk on the prospects and politics of the Gaika nation, and of the Amaxosa race in general—past, present, and to come—Eustace went on:“You were not always a ‘loyal,’ Xalasa?”“Whau!” cried the man, bringing his hand to his mouth, in expressive native fashion. “When the fire trumpet first sounded in the midnight sky, I answered its call. While the chiefs of the Ama Ngqika yet sat still, many of their children went forth to war at the ‘word’ of the Paramount Chief. Many of us crossed into the Gcaléka country and fought at the side of our brethren. Many of us did not return. Hau!”“Then you became a ‘loyal’?”“Ihuvumenté (The Government) was very strong. We could not stand against it. Ha! Amasoja—Amapolisi—bonké. (Soldiers—police—all) I thought of all the men who had crossed the Kei with me. I thought of the few who had returned. Then I thought, ‘Art thou a fool, Xalasa? Is thy father’s son an ox that he should give himself to be slain to make strength for Sarili’s fighting men?’ Hau! I came home again and resolved to ‘sit still.’”“But your eyes and ears were open among the Ama-Gcaléka. They saw—they heard of my brother, Umlilwane?”“Thy brother, Umlilwane, was alive at the time the white Amagcagca (Rabble) knocked me down and kicked me. He is alive still.”“How do you know he is alive still?” said Eustace, mastering his voice with an effort, for his pulses were beating like a hammer as he hung upon the other’s reply. It came—cool, impassive, confident:“The people talk.”“Where is he, Xalasa?”“Listen, Ixeshane,” said the Kafir, glancing around and sinking his voice to an awed whisper. “Where is he! Au! Kwa ’Zinyoka.”“Kwa ’Zinyoka! ‘The Home of the Serpents!’” Well he remembered the jeering, but ominous, words of the hideous witch-doctress at the time his unfortunate cousin was being dragged away insensible under thedirections of his implacable foe, Hlangani. “He will wake. But he will never be seen again.” And now this man’s testimony seemed to bear out her words.“What is this ‘Home of the Serpents,’ Xalasa?” he said.“Au!” returned the Kafir, after a thoughtful pause, and speaking in a low and apprehensive tone as a timid person in a haunted room might talk of ghosts. “It is a fearsome place. None who go there ever return— none—no, not one,” he added, shaking his head. “But they say your magic is great, Ixeshane. It may be that you will find your brother alive. The war is nearly over now, but the war leaves every man poor. I have lost all I possessed. When you find your brother you will perhaps think Xalàsa is a poor man, and I have too many cattle in my kraal. I will send four or five cows to the man who told me my brother was alive.”In his heart of hearts Eustace thought how willingly he would send him a hundred for precisely the opposite intelligence.“Where is ‘The Home of the Serpents’?” he said.“Where? Who knows? None save Ngcenika, who talks with the spirits. None save Hlangani, who rejoices in his revenge as he sees his enemy there, even the man who struck him, and drew the blood of the Great Chief’s herald. Who knows? Not I. Those who go there never return,” he added impressively, conveying the idea that in his particular instance “ignorance is bliss.”Eustace’s first instinct was one of relief. If no one knew where the place was, clearly no one could tell. Then it struck him that this rather tended to complicate matters than to simplify them. There had been quite enough insinuated as to himself, and though guiltless as to his cousin’s fate, yet once it got wind that the unfortunate man was probably alive somewhere, it would devolve upon himself to leave no stone unturned until that probability should become a certainty. Public opinion would demand that much, and he knew the world far too well to make the blunder of treating public opinion, in a matter of this kind, as a negligeable quantity.

Chinese companies showcase innovative achievements at International Heavy Haul Transport Conference

“But if you don’t know where the place is, Xalasa, how am I to find it?” he said at length. “I would give much to the man who would guide me to it. Think! Is there no man you know of who could do so?”But the Kafir shook his head. “There is none!” he said. “None save Ngcenika. Whau, Ixeshane! Is not thy magic as powerful as hers? Will it not aid thee to find it? Now I must go. Where the ‘Home of the Serpents’ is, thy brother is there. That is all I can tell thee.”He spoke hurriedly now and in an altered tone—even as a man who has said too much and is not free from misgiving as to the consequences. He seemed anxious to depart, and seeing that nothing more was to be got out of him for the present, the two made no objection.Hardly had he departed than Josane appeared. He had noted the arrival of Xalasa, though Xalasa was under the impression that he was many miles distant. He had waited until the amakosi (Literally “chiefs.” In this connection “masters”) had finished their indaba (Talk) and here he was. He was filled with delight at the sight of Ixeshane and his eyes felt good. His “father” and his “friend” had been away for many moons, but now he was back again and the night was lighter than the day. His “father” could see, too, how he had kept his trust, the old man went on. Where were the houses of all the other white amakosi! Heaps of ashes. The house of his “father” alone was standing—it alone the torch had passed by. As for the destruction which had taken place within it, that could not be prevented. The people “saw red.” It had taxed the utmost effort of himself and Ncanduku to preserve the house. Reft of hyperbole, his narrative was plain enough. A marauding band had made a descent upon the place on the very night they had quitted it, and, although with difficulty dissuaded from burning it down, the savages had wrecked the furniture and looted the stores, as we have shown. This, however, was comparatively a small evil.Hoste, wearied with all this talk, which moreover he understood but imperfectly, had waxed restive and strolled away. No sooner was he out of earshot than Josane, sinking his voice, remarked suddenly:“Xalasa is a fool!”Eustace merely assented. He saw that something was coming, and prepared to listen attentively.“Do you want to find Umlilwane?” went on the old Kafir with ever so slight an expression on the “want.”“Of course I do,” was the unhesitating reply. But for the space of half a minute the white man and the savage gazed fixedly into each other’s faces in the starlight.“Au! If I had known that!” muttered Josane in a disappointed tone. “If I had known that, I could have told you all that Xalasa has—could have told you many moons ago.”“You knew it, then?”“Yes.”“And is it true—that—that he is alive now?”“Yes.”“But, Josane, how is it you kept your knowledge to yourself? He might have been rescued all this time. Now it may be too late.”“Whau, Ixeshane! Did you want him rescued?” said the old fellow shrewdly. “Did the Inkosikazi want him rescued?”This was putting matters with uncomfortable plainness. Eustace reddened in the darkness.“Whatever we ‘wanted,’ or did not want, is nothing,” he answered. “This is a matter of life and death. He must be rescued.”“As you will,” was the reply in a tone which implied that in the speaker’s opinion the white man was a lunatic. And from his point of view such was really the case. The old savage was, in fact, following out a thoroughly virtuous line of conduct according to his lights. All this while, in order to benefit the man he liked, he had coolly and deliberately been

Chinese companies showcase innovative achievements at International Heavy Haul Transport Conference

sacrificing the man he—well, did not like.“Where is ‘The Home of the Serpents,’ Josane? Do you know?”“Yes. I know?”Eustace started.“Can you guide me to it?” he said, speaking quickly.“I can. But it is a frightful place. The bravest white man would take to his heels and run like a hunted buck before he had gone far inside. You have extraordinary nerve, Ixeshane—but—You will see.”This sounded promising. But the old man’s tone was quiet and confident. He was not given to vapouring.“How do you know where to find this place, Josane?” said Eustace, half incredulously in spite of himself. “Xalasa told us it was unknown to everybody—everybody but the witch-doctress?”“Xalasa was right. I know where it is, because I have seen it. I was condemned to it.”“By Ngcenika?”“By Ngcenika. But my revenge is coming—my sure revenge is coming,” muttered the old Gcaléka, crooning the words in a kind of ferocious refrain—like that of a war-song.As this juncture they were rejoined by Hoste.“Well, Milne,” he said. “Had enough indaba? Because, if so, we may as well trek home again. Seems to me we’ve had a lot of trouble for nothing and been made mortal fools of down to the ground by that schelm, Xalasa’s, cock-and-bull yarns.”“You’re wrong this time,” replied Eustace. “Just listen here a while and you’ll see that we’re thoroughly on the right scent.”

At the end of half an hour the Kafir and the two white men arose. Their plans were laid. The following evening—at sundown—was the time fixed on as that for starting upon their perilous and somewhat dimly mysterious mission.“You are sure three of us will be enough, Josane?” said Hoste.“Quite enough. There are still bands of the Gcaléka fighting men in the forest country. If we go in a strong party they will discover us and we shall have to fight—Au! ‘A fight is as the air we breathe,’ you will say, Amakosi,” parenthesised the old Kafir, whimsically—“But it will not help us to find ‘The Home of the Serpents.’ Still, there would be no harm in having one more in the party.”“Who can we get?” mused Hoste. “There’s George Payne; but he’s away down in the Colony—Grahamstown, I believe. It would take him days to get here and even then he might cry off. I have it; Shelton’s the man, and I think he’ll go, too. Depend upon it, Milne, Shelton’s the very man. He’s on his farm now—living in a Kafir hut, seeing after the rebuilding of his old house. We’ll look him up this very night; we can get there in a couple of hours.”This was agreed to, and having arranged where Josane was to meet them the following evening, the two men saddled up and rode off into the darkness.Chapter Forty Two.The Search Party.Midwinter as it was, the heat in the valley of the Bashi that morning was something to remember.Not so much the heat as an extraordinary closeness and sense of oppression in the atmosphere. As the sun rose, mounting higher and higher into the clear blue of the heavens, it seemed that all his rays were concentrated and focussed down into this broad deep valley, whosewas moving. And now as the sun rose, flooding the air with a mellow warmth, a great elation came upon him. He still seemed to feel the pressure of those lips to his, the instinctive clinging to him in the hour of fear. He had yielded to the weird enchantment of the moment, when they two were alone in the hush of the soft, sensuous night—alone almost in the very world itself. His better judgment had failed him at the critical time —and for once his better judgment had been at fault all along—for once passion was truer than judgment. She had returned his kiss.Then had come that horribly inopportune interruption. But was it inopportune? Thinking things over now he was inclined to decide that it was not. On the contrary, the ice must be broken gently at first, and this is just the result which that interruption had brought about. Again, the rough and bitter words which had followed upon it could only, to one of Eanswyth’s temperament, throw out in more vivid contrast the nectar sweetness of that cup of which she had just tasted. He had not seen her since, but he soon would. He would play his cards with a master hand. By no bungling would he risk the game.It was characteristic of the man that he could thus reason—could thus scheme and plot—that side by side with the strong whirl of his passion, he could calculate chances, map out a plan. And there was nothing sordid or gross in his thoughts of her. His love for Eanswyth was pure, even noble—elevating, perfect—but for the fact that she was bound by an indissoluble tie to another man.Ah, but—there lay the gulf; there rose the great and invincible barrier. Yet, why invincible?The serpent was abroad in Eden that morning. With the most sweet recollection of but a few hours back fresh in his heart, there rested within Eustace’s mind a perfect glow of radiant peace. Many a word, many a tone, hardly understood at the time, came back to him now with startling clearness. For a year they had dwelt beneath the same roof, for nearly that period, for quite that period, as he was forced to own to himself, he had striven hard to conquer the hopeless, the unlawful love, which he plainly foresaw would sooner or later grow too strong for him. But now it had overwhelmed him, and—she had returned it. The scales had fallen

from his eyes at last—from both their eyes. What a very paradise was opening out its golden glories before them. Ah, but—the barrier between them—and that barrier the life of another!Yet what is held upon more desperately frail tenure than a life? What is more easily snapped than the cord of a life? It might have been done during the past night. By no more than a hair’s-breadth had Carhayes escaped. The savages might on the next occasion strike more true. Yes, assuredly, the serpent was abroad in that Eden now—his trail a trail of blood. There was something of the murderer in Eustace Milne at that moment.Mechanically still he rode on. He was skirting a high rounded spur. Rising from a bushy valley not many miles in front were several threads of blue smoke, and the faint sound of voices, with now and then the yelp of a dog, was borne upon the silent morning air. He had travelled some distance and now not far in front lay the outlying kraals of Nteya’s location.A set, ruthless look came over his fine face. Here were tools enough ready to his hand. Not a man among those clans of fierce and truculent barbarians but hated his cousin with a hatred begotten of years of friction. On the other hand he himself was on the best of terms with them and their rulers. A little finessing—a lavish reward, and—well, so far he shrank from deliberate and cold-blooded murder. And as though to cast off temptation before it should become too strong for him, he wrenched round his horse with a sudden jerk and rode down into a wild and bushy kloof which ran round the spur of the hill.“Never mind!” he exclaimed half aloud. “Never mind! We shall have a big war on our hands directly. Hurrah for war, and its glorious chances!— Pincher, you fool, what the deuce is the matter with you?”For the horse had suddenly stopped short. With his ears cocked forward he stood, snorting violently, trembling and backing. Then with a frantic plunge he endeavoured to turn and bolt. But his master’s hand and his master’s will were strong enough to defeat this effort. At the same time his master’s eye became alive to the cause of alarm.Issuing from the shade of the mimosa trees, seeming to rise out of the tangle of long, coarse herbage, were a number of red, sinuous forms. The ochre-smeared bodies, the gleaming assegai blades, the brawny, muscular limbs still bedecked with the barbarous and fantastic adornments of the night’s martial orgy, the savage and threatening aspect of the grim, scowling countenances looked formidable enough, not merely to scare the horse, but to strike dismay into the heart of the rider, remembering the critical state of the times.“Stop!” cried one of the Kafirs peremptorily. “Come no farther, white man!”With a rapid movement two of them advanced as if to seize his bridle.“Stop yourselves!” cried Eustace decisively, covering the pair with a revolver.So determined was his mien, and withal so cool and commanding, that the savages paused irresolute. A quick ejaculation rose from the whole party. There was a flash and a glitter. A score of assegais were poised ready for a fling. Assailants and assailed were barely a dozen yards apart. It was a critical moment for Eustace Milne. His life hung upon a hair.Suddenly every weapon was lowered—in obedience to a word spoken by a tall Kafir who at that moment emerged from the bush. Then Eustace knew the crisis was past. He, too, lowered his weapon.“What does this mean, Ncandúku?” he said, addressing the new arrival. “Why do your people make war upon me? We are not at war.”“Au!” ejaculated several of the Kafirs, bringing their hands to their faces as if to hide the sarcastic grin evoked by this remark. He addressed shrugged his shoulders.“Fear nothing, Ixeshane,” (The Deliberate) he replied, with a half-amused smile. “No harm will be done you. Fear nothing.”

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.”


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