Rare drop in temperature in Chicago, snowfall in April

发表于 2023-09-23 07:45:29 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

bleed. 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

consequences entailed by the blundering ferocity of him who should have been her first protector—to save her from some impending and terrible fate. Surely this was sufficient answer.Then a wild thrill set his pulses tingling—a thrill of joy, of fierce expectation set on foot by a single thought, the intense expectation of the gambler who sees fortune brought within his reach by the potential turn of chances already strong in his favour. They were on the eve of war. What might the chances of war not entail? Blind, blundering Tom Carhayes running his head, like a bull, at every stone wall—were not the chances of war increased tenfold against such a man as this? And then—and then —?No man could be more unfitted to hold possession of such a priceless treasure as this—argued the man who did not hold it.“Confess, Eanswyth, that you are very glad I didn’t take you at your word and go after Tom,” said Eustace, as they were sitting cosily at table.“Perhaps I am. I have been getting so dreadfully nervous and low spirited of late—so different to the strong-minded creature I used to be,” she said with a rueful smile. “I am becoming quite frightened to be left alone.”“Are you? Well, I think I can undertake to promise that you shall not be left alone again. One of us must always make a point of being around the house while the other is away. But look here, Eanswyth; I really think you oughtn’t to go on staying here at present. Why don’t you go down to the Colony and stay in one or other of the towns, or even at that other farm of Tom’s, until things are settled again?”“I won’t do that. And I’m really not in the least afraid for myself. I don’t believe the Kafirs would harm me.”“Then why are you nervous at being left alone?” was the very pertinent rejoinder.“Not on my own account. It is only that solitude gives me time tothink. I am always imagining Tom coming to frightful grief in some form or other.”The other did not at once reply. He was balancing a knife meditatively on the edge of his plate, his fine features a perfect mask of impassibility. But in reality his thoughts ran black and bitter. It was all “Tom” and “Tom.” What the deuce had Tom done to deserve all this solicitude—and how was it appreciated by its fortunate object? Not a hair’s-breadth. Then, as she rose from the table and went out on the stoep to look out for any sign of the absent one’s return, Eustace was conscious of another turn of the spear in the wound. Why had he arrived on the scene of the fray that morning just in time to intervene? suggested his evil angel. The delay of a few minutes, and...“Would it do anything towards persuading you to adopt the more prudent course and leave here for a while, if I were to tell you that Josane was urging that very thing this morning?” said Eustace when she returned. The said Josane was a grizzled old Kafir who held the post of cattle-herd under the two cousins. He was a Gcaléka, and had fled from Kreli’s country some years previously, thereby narrowly escaping one of the varied and horrible forms of death by torture habitually meted out to those accused of his hypothetical offence—for he had been “smelt out” by a witch-doctor. He was therefore not likely to throw in his lot with his own countrymen against his white protectors, by whom he was looked upon as an intelligent and thoroughly trustworthy man, which indeed he was.“I don’t think it would,” she answered with a deprecatory smile. “I should be ten times more nervous if I were right away, and, as I said before, I don’t believe the Kafirs would do me the slightest harm.”Eustace, though he had every reason to suppose the contrary, said nothing as he rose from the table and began to fill his pipe. He was conscious of a wild thrill of delight at her steadfast refusal. What would life be worth here without that presence? Well, come what might, no harm should fall upon her, of that he made mental oath.Eanswyth, having superintended the clearing of the table by the two

Rare drop in temperature in Chicago, snowfall in April

little Kafir girls who filled the rôle rather indifferent handmaidens, joined him on the stoep. It was a lovely night; warm and balmy. The dark vault above was so crowded with stars that they seemed to hang in golden patches.“Shall we walk a little way down the kloof and see if we can meet Tom,” she suggested.“A good idea. Just half a minute though. I want to get another pipe.”He went into his room, slipped a “bull-dog” revolver of heavy calibre into his pocket, and quickly rejoined her.Then as they walked side by side—they two, alone together in the darkness, alone in the sweet, soft beauty of the Southern night; alone, as it were, outside the very world; in a world apart where none might intrude; the rich shroud of darkness around them—Eustace began to wonder if he were really made of flesh and blood after all. The pent-up force of his self-contained and concentrated nature was in sore danger of breaking its barriers, of pouring forth the fires and molten lava raging within—and to do so would be ruin—utter, endless, irretrievable ruin to any hopes which he might have ventured to form.He could see every feature of that sweet, patrician face in the starlight. The even, musical tones of that exquisitely modulated voice, within a yard of his ears, fairly maddened him. The rich, balmy zephyrs of the African night breathed around; the chirrup of the cricket, and now and again the deep-throated booming croak of a bull-frog from an adjacent vlei emphasising its stillness. Again those wild, raging fires surged up to the surface. “Eanswyth, I love you—love you—worship you—adore you! Apart from you, life is worse than a blank! Who, what, is the dull, sodden, senseless lout who now stands between us? Forget him, darling, and be all heaven and earth to me!” The words blazed through his brain in letters of flame. He could hardly feel sure he had not actually uttered them.“What is the matter, Eustace? I have asked you a question three times, and you haven’t answered me.”“I really beg your pardon. I—I—suppose I was thinking of something else. Do you mind asking it again?”The strange harshness of his voice struck her. It was well for him— well for both of them—that the friendly darkness stood him in such good stead.“I asked you, how far do you think Tom would have to ride before finding the sheep?”“Tom” again! He fairly set his teeth. “Well into the Gaika location,” was the savage reply that rose to his lips. But he checked it unuttered.“Oh, not very far,” he answered. “You see, sheep are slow-moving brutes and difficult to drive, especially in the dark. He’ll turn up soon, never fear.”“What is that? Look! Listen!” she exclaimed suddenly, laying a hand upon his arm.The loom of the mountains was blackly visible in the starlight. Away in the distance, apparently in the very heart of them, there suddenly shown forth a lurid glow. The V-shaped scarp of the slopes stood dully in relief against the glare, which was as that of a furnace. At the same time there floated forth upon the night a strange, weird chorus—a wild, long-drawn eerie melody, half chant, half howl, faint and distant, but yet distinct, though many miles away.“What can they be up to at the location, Eustace? Can it be that they have risen already?” ejaculated Eanswyth, turning pale in the starlight.The reddening glare intensified, the fierce, wild cadence shrilled forth, now in dirge-like wail, now in swelling notes of demon-like and merciless exultation. There was a faint, muffled roar as of distant thunder —a clamour as of fiends holding high revel—and still the wild chorus gathered in volume, hideous in its blood-chilling menace, as it cleft the dark stillness of the night.“Oh, let us turn back!” cried Eanswyth. “There is something horriblegoing on to-night. I really am quite frightened now. That hideous noise! It terrifies me!”Well it might. The deep-toned thunder note within the burning heart of the volcano is of terrible import, for it portends fire and ruin and widespread death. There were those who were then sitting on the verge of a volcano—a mere handful in the midst of a vast, teeming population of fierce and truculent savages. Well might that weird chorus strike dismay into the hearts of its hearers, for it was the preliminary rumble of the coming storm—the battle-song of the warlike and now hostile Gaika clans.

Rare drop in temperature in Chicago, snowfall in April

Chapter Five.The War-Dance at Nteya’s Kraal.The sun has just touched the western horizon, bathing in a parting flood of red and gold the round spurs of the rolling hills and the straggling clusters of dome-shaped huts which lie dotted about the valley in irregular order for a couple of miles. There is a continuous hum of voices in the air, mingling with the low of cattle, and the whole place seems to be teeming with human life. Indeed, such is the case; for this kraal—or rather collection of kraals—is the head centre of Nteya’s location and the residence of that chief himself.Each group of huts owns its cattle inclosure, whose dark space, girdled with a strong thorn palisade, is now filled with the many-coloured forms of its horned denizens. It is milking time, and the metallic squirt of liquid into the zinc pails rises rhythmic above the deep hum of the monotonous chant of the milkers. Women step forth from the kraal gates balancing the full pails on their heads, their ochre-smeared bodies shining like new flower pots, while their lords, reim in hand, set to work to catch a fresh cow—for among Kafirs milking is essentially man’s work. About the huts squat other groups of natives, men smoking their queer shaped, angular pipes, and exchanging indaba (Gossip or news); women also smoking, and busy with their household affairs, whether of the culinary or nursery order; round bellied, beady-eyed children tumbling over each other in their romps, and dogs ever on the prowl to pick up a stray bone, or to obtain a surreptitious lick at the interior of a cooking-pot; and over all the never-ending flow of voices, the deep bass of the men blending with the clearer feminine treble, but all rhythmic and pleasing, for the language and voices of the Bantu races are alike melodious. The blue reek of wood-smoke rising upon the evening air, mingles with that pungent odour of grease and kine inseparable from every Kafir kraal.That something unwonted is impending here to-night is manifest. Men would start suddenly from beside their fellows and gaze expectantly out upon the approaches to the kraal, or now and again the heads of awhole group would turn in eager scrutiny of the surrounding veldt. For strung out upon the hillsides in twos and threes, or in parties of ten or a dozen, some mounted, some afoot, come a great number of Kafirs. On they come: those who are mounted kicking their shaggy little ponies into a headlong gallop; those who are not, starting into a run, leaping into the air, singing, or now and again venting a shrill and ear-splitting whistle. From far and near—from every direction converging upon the kraal, on they come. And they are all armed.The excitement in the kraal itself intensifies. All rise to their feet to receive the newcomers, each group of whom is greeted with boisterous shouts of welcome. Snatches of war-songs rise upon the air, and the rattle of assegai hafts blends with the barbaric melody. Still, pouring in from all sides, come fresh arrivals, and by the time the sun has shot his last fading ray upon the stirring scene, the kraal cannot have contained far short of a thousand men.Near the principal group of huts stands a circular inclosure about fifty yards in diameter. Above the thorn fence bristle the great branching horns of oxen. To this point all eyes are now turned, and the deafening clamour of voices is hushed in expectation of a new diversion.A narrow opening is made in the fence and half a dozen Kafirs enter. An ox is turned out. No sooner is the poor beast clear of the fence than it is suddenly seen to plunge and fall forward in a heap, stabbed to the heart by a broad-bladed assegai. The slaughterer steps back to his lurking position and stands with arm upraised. Quickly another ox follows upon the first. The weapon, now dimmed and reddened with blood, flashes in the air. The second animal plunges forward dead. A third follows, with like result.Then, scenting danger, and terrified moreover by the crowd which is gathering outside, the beasts stubbornly refuse to move. They huddle together with lowered heads, backing away from the opening and emitting the muffled, moaning noise evoked in cattle by the scent of blood. In vain their would-be drivers shout and goad them with assegais. Move they will not.

Rare drop in temperature in Chicago, snowfall in April

Another opening is made on the opposite side to that of the first. After some trouble two oxen are driven through. They rush out together, one falling by the hand of the lurking slaughterer, the other meeting a speedy death at the assegais of the spectators.There still remain upwards of a dozen within the kraal, but of these not one can be induced to pass out. Panic-stricken they huddle together closer still, until at last, their terror giving way to a frenzy of rage, the maddened brutes turn and furiously charge their tormentors. The air is rent with savage bellowings and the clashing of horns. The dust flies in clouds from the rumbling earth as the frenzied creatures tear round and round the inclosure. Two of the Kafirs, less agile or less fortunate than their fellows, are flung high in the air, falling with a lifeless thud among the spectators outside; then, crashing through the fence in a body, the panic-stricken bullocks stream forth into the open, scattering the crowd right and left before the fury of their rush.Then ensues a wild and stirring scene. Their great horns lowered, the infuriated animals course madly through the village, each beset by a crowd of armed savages whose dark, agile forms, avoiding the fierce impetus of their charge, may be seen to spring alongside, plying the deadly assegai. One turns suddenly and heads straight for its pursuers, bellowing hideously. Like magic the crowd parts, there is a whizz of assegais in the air, and the poor beast crashes earthward, bristling with quivering assegai hafts, as a pin cushion with pins. Yelling, whistling like fiends, in their uncontrollable excitement, the savages dart in and out among the fleeing beasts, and the red firelight gleams upon assegai points and rolling eyeballs, and the air rings with the frenzied bellowing of the pursued, and the wild shouts of the pursuers.But it cannot last long. Soon the mad fury of the chase gives way to the nauseous accompaniments of a slaughter house on a large scale. In an incredibly short space of time, each of the bullocks is reduced to a disjointed heap of flesh and bones. Men, staggering beneath huge slabs of quivering meat, make their way to the fires, leaving the dogs to snarl and quarrel over an abundant repast of steaming offal.The great joints frizzle and sputter over the red coals. Squatted

around, a hungry gleam in their eyes, the Kafirs impatiently watch each roasting morsel. Then, hardly waiting until it is warmed through, they drag the meat from the fire. Assegais are plied, and soon the huge joints are reduced to strips of half-raw flesh, and the champing of hundreds of pairs of jaws around each red blaze takes the place of the deep bass hum of conversation, as the savages throw all their energies into the assimilation of their unwonted meal. It is like a cannibal feast—the smoky flare of the great fires—the mighty slabs of red flesh—the fierce, dark figures seated around—the gleam of weapons in the firelight.(The unwonted meal. In former days, meat was very sparingly eaten among the Amaxosa races, milk and mealies being the staple articles of diet. When employed on such a scale as above described, it had a curiously stimulating effect upon a people habitually almost vegetarians. Hence it was looked upon as a preparation for war.)At length even the very bones are picked clean, and thrown over the feasters’ shoulders to the dogs. Then voices are raised and once more the kraal becomes a scene of wild and excited stir. Roused by a copious indulgence in an unwonted stimulant, the Kafirs leap to their feet. Weapons are brandished, and the firelight glows upon assegai points and rolling eyeballs. A wild war-song rises upon the air; then falling into circular formation, the whole gathering of excited warriors join in, beating time with their feet—clashing the hefts of their weapons together. The weird rhythm is led off in a high, wailing key by a kind of choragus, then taken up by the rest, rising louder and louder, and the thunder of hundreds of pairs of feet keeping regular time, make the very earth itself tremble, and the quivering rattle of assegai hafts is echoed back from the dark, brooding hills, and the volume of the fierce and threatening song, with its final chorus of “Ha—ha—ha!” becomes as the mad roaring of a legion of wild beasts, ravaging for blood. Worked up to a degree of incontrollable excitement, the savages foam at the lips and their eyeballs seem to start from the sockets, as turning to each other they go through the pantomime of encountering and slaying an imaginary foe; and even in the background a number of women have formed up behind the dancing warriors and with more than all the barbarity of the latter are playing at beating out the brains of the wounded with knob-kerries. The roar andNow 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

knew the other’s impetuous temper, and by wearing out his patience reckoned on obtaining a sure and tolerably easy victory.And it seemed as if he would gain the result of his reasoning even sooner than he expected. Bristling with rage, literally smarting with the indignity recently put upon him, Carhayes abandoned the defensive. With a sudden rush, he charged his antagonist, and for a few moments nothing was heard but the clash of hard-wood in strike and parry. Hlangani was touched on the shoulder, while Carhayes got a rap on the knuckles, which in cold blood would have turned him almost sick with pain. But his blood was at boiling point now, and he was fighting with the despairing ferocity of one who has no hope left in life. He pressed his gigantic adversary with such vigour and determination that the other had no alternative but to give way.The fun was waxing fast and furious now. The warriors crowding in nearer and nearer, pressed forward in breathless attention, encouraging their champion with many a deep-toned hum of applause when he scored or seemed likely to score a point. The few women then in the kraal stood on tiptoe, trying to peer over the heads and shoulders of the armed men. Even the chiefs and councillors condescended to show considerable interest in this impromptu tournament, while Eustace Milne, animated by various motives, watched its progress narrowly.For a few moments it really seemed that the white man would prove the victor. Before the impetuosity of his furious attacks Hlangani was constrained to give way more and more. A Beserk ferocity seemed to have taken possession of Carhayes. His eyes glared through the blood and dust which clung to his unwashen visage. Every hair of his beard seemed to bristle and stand upright, like the mane of a wild boar. His chest heaved, and the dexterity with which he whirled his kerrie around his adversary’s ears—always quick to ward the latter’s blows from himself—was wonderful to behold.Crash—scroosh! The blow told. A sound as of the crunching of bone. Hlangani staggered back half a dozen paces, the blood pouring from a wound in his skull. It was a blow that would probably have shattered the skull of a white man.But before Carhayes could follow it up, the wily savage adopted a different plan. By a series of astonishing leaps and bounds, now backward, now from side to side, he endeavoured to bewilder his enemy, and very nearly succeeded. Mad with rage, desperation, and a consciousness of failing strength, Carhayes was fast losing control over himself. He roared like a wild animal. He began to strike out wildly, leaving his guard open. This the cunning barbarian saw and encouraged. Those looking on had no doubt now as to who held the winning cards; even Eustace could see it, but his cousin was too far off now to hear a word of warning or advice, which, however, was just as well for himself.Again the combatants closed. The splinters began to fly in all directions as the hard-wood sticks whirled and crashed. Then suddenly a crushing blow on the wrist sent Carhayes’ kerrie flying from his grasp and almost simultaneously with it came a sickening “scrunch.” The white man dropped like an ox at the shambles, the blood pouring from his head.Echoing the mighty roar of exultation that went up from the spectators, Hlangani stood with his foot on the chest of his prostrate adversary, his kerrie raised to strike again. But there was no necessity. Poor Tom lay like a corpse, stunned and motionless. The ferocious triumph depicted on the countenance of the savage was horrible to behold.“He is mine,” he cried, his chest heaving, his eyes blazing, “mine absolutely. The Great Chief has said it. Bring reims.”In a trice a few stout rawhide thongs were procured, and Carhayes was once more bound hand and foot. Then acting under the directions of his fierce conqueror—three or four stalwart Kafirs raised the insensible form of the unfortunate settler and bore it away.“He has only begun to taste the fury of Hlangani’s revenge,” said a voice at Eustace’s side. Turning he beheld the witch-doctress, Ngcenika. The hag pointed to the retreating group with a mocking leer.“He will wake,” she went on. “But he will never be seen again, Ixeshane—never. Hau!”

“Where will he wake, Ngcenika?” asked Eustace, in a voice which he strove to render unconcerned.“Kwa, Zinyoka,” (At the Home of the Serpents) replied the hag with a brutal laugh.“And where is that?”“Where is it? Ha, ha!” mocked the witch-doctress. “Thou art a magician, too, Ixeshane. Wouldst thou indeed like to know?”“Perhaps.”“Invoke thy magic then, and see if it will tell thee. But better not. For they who look upon the Home of the Serpents are seen no more in life. Thou hast seen the last of yon white man, Ixeshane; thou and these standing around here. Ha, ha! Better for him that he had never been born.” And with a Satanic laugh she turned away and left him.Strong-nerved as he was, Eustace felt his flesh creep. The hag’s parting words hinted at some mysterious and darkly horrible fate in store for his unfortunate cousin. His own precarious position brought a sense of this doubly home to him. He remembered how jubilant poor Tom had been over the outbreak of the war. This, then, was to be the end of it. Instead of paying off old scores with his hated and despised foes, he had himself walked blindfold into the trap, and was to be sacrificed in some frightful manner to their vengeance.Chapter Thirty Three.“I walk in Shadow.”Eanswyth was back again in her old home—living her old life, as in the times that were past—but alone.When she had announced her intention of returning to Anta’s Kloof, her friends had received the proposition with incredulity—when they sawthat she was determined, with dismay.It was stark lunacy, they declared. She to go to live on an out-of-the-way farm, alone! There was not even a neighbour for pretty near a score of miles, all the surrounding stock-farmers having trekked into laager. The Gaikas were reported more restless than ever, nor were symptoms wanting that they were on the eve of an outbreak. The Gcaléka campaign had fired their warlike spirits, but had failed to convey its accompanying warning, and those “in the know” asserted that the savages might rise any minute and make common cause with their countrymen across the Kei. And in the face of all this, here was Eanswyth proposing to establish herself on a lonely farm bordering on the very location of the plotting and disaffected tribesmen. Why, it was lunacy—rank suicide!The worst of it was that nobody on earth had the power to prevent her from doing as she chose. Her own family were Western Province people and lived far up in the Karroo. Had they been ever so willing, it would take them nearly three weeks to arrive—by which time it might be too late. But Eanswyth did not choose to send for any one. She wanted to be alone.“You need not be in the least alarmed on my account,” she had said to the Hostes in answer to their reiterated expostulations. “Even if the Gaikas should rise, I don’t believe they would do me the slightest harm. The people on Nteya’s location know me well, and the old chief and I used to be great friends. I feel as if I must go to my old home again—and —don’t think me ungracious, but it will do me good to be entirely alone.”“That was how poor Milne used to argue,” said Hoste gravely. “But they killed him all the same.”“Yes,” she replied, mastering the quick sharp spasm which the allusion evoked. “But they were Gcalékas—not our people, who knew him.”Hoste shook his head.“You are committing suicide,” he said. “And the worst of it is we have


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