Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

发表于 2023-09-23 02:17:12 来源:Return to basics and return to true nature

She made no answer. He had drawn his arm through hers and the strong, reassuring touch seemed to dispel her fears. It seemed to him that she leaned upon him, as though for physical support no less than for mental. Thus they stood, their figures silhouetted in the dull red glow. Thus they stood, the face of the one stormy with conflicting emotions— that of the other calm, restful, safe in that firm protecting companionship. Thus they stood, and to one of these two that isolated position in the midst of a brooding peril represented the sweetest, most ecstatic moment that life had ever afforded. And still upon the distant hilltops, gushing redly upward into the velvety darkness, the war-fires of the savages gleamed and burned.“We had better go in now,” said Eustace, after a while, when the flaming beacons had at length burnt low. “You must be tired to death by this time, and it won’t do to sit out here all night. You must have some rest.”“I will try,” she answered. “Do you know, Eustace, there is a something about you that seems to put everything right. I am not in the least frightened now.”There was a softness in her tone that bordered upon tenderness—a softness that was dangerous indeed to a man in his frame of mind.“Ah! you find that, do you?” he answered, in a strained, harsh, unnatural voice. Then his utterance seemed choked. Their eyes met in the starlight—met in a long, clinging gaze—then their lips. Yet, she belonged to another man, and—a life stood between these two.Thus to that extent Eustace Milne, the cool-headed, the philosophic, had allowed the impulse of his mad passion to overmaster him. But before he could pour forth the unrestrained torrent of words which should part them there and then forever, or bind them more closely for weal or for woe, Eanswyth suddenly wrenched herself from his close embrace. A clatter of rapidly approaching hoofs was borne upon the night.“It’s Tom!” she cried, at the same time fervently blessing the friendly darkness which concealed her burning face. “It must be Tom. What can

gleamed two nights before. Even so, in like fashion, the brooding cloud of war swept down upon the land, darker and darker.Chapter Fourteen.A Curtain Secret.The settlement of Komgha—called after an infinitesimal stream of that name—was, like most frontier townships, an utterly insignificant place. It consisted of a few straggling blocks of houses plumped down apparently without rhyme or reason in the middle of the veldt, which here was open and undulating. It boasted a few stores and canteens, a couple of institutions termed by courtesy “hotels,” an exceedingly ugly church, and a well-kept cricket ground. To the eastward rose the Kei Hills, the only picturesque element about the place, prominent among these the flat, table-topped summit of Moordenaar’s Kop, (Dutch, “Murderer’s Peak”) a tragical spot so named on account of the surprise and massacre of a party of officers who had incautiously ventured up there in small force during one of the previous wars. The village was virtually the headquarters of the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police, the substantial square barracks, which harboured the artillery troop of that useful force, crowning the hill nearly a mile away, and there was generally another troop or two quartered around the place. The main road from King Williamstown to the Transkeian territories ran through the village.At the period of our story, however, there was no lack of life or stir about the normally sleepy little place, for it was in process of transformation into a huge laager or armed camp. Waggons were coming in from several directions—laden mostly with the families and household goods of fleeing settlers, and the sharp crack of whips and the harsh yells of their drivers rose high above the general turmoil. Men were bustling to and fro, bent upon nothing in particular and looking as though each and all carried the fate of a nation in his pockets, or standing, in knots at street corners, discussing the situation, each perchance with a little less knowledge than his neighbour. All sorts of wild rumours were in the air, the least of which was that every white in the Transkei had been massacred, and that Kreli was marching upon Komgha at the head of the whole Gcaléka army.

Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

Mrs Hoste, with her two young daughters, were at the door as the party drove up. They received Eanswyth very cordially.“At last—at last! Why, we have been looking out for you for the last hour. I declare, I began to think you had stayed too long at Anta’s Kloof, and the Kafirs had taken you prisoner or something. How do you do, Mr Milne? But—come in. We are going to have a dreadful storm in a minute. Mercy on us! What a flash!”The blue, steely gleam was followed by a roll of thunder, long, loud, reverberating. There was a patter upon the zinc roof. A few raindrops, nearly as large as saucers, splashed around, and then, almost before the two men could get into their waterproof coats, the rain descended with a roar and a rush, in such a deluge that they could hardly see to outspan the trap.“Allamaghtaag! but that’s a fine rain,” cried Hoste, with a farmer’s appreciation, as he swung himself free of his dripping mackintosh in the little veranda.“Especially for those who are under canvas,” said Eustace with a significant glance at a group of tents pitched upon the plain just outside the village. For the surrounding veldt had been turned into something like a sea, and a miniature torrent roared down every depression in the ground.“Well, Mr Milne,” cried Mrs Hoste, from the head of the table, as the two men entered. “Its past three o’clock and dinner has been ready since half-past one. We quite expected you then.”“Which, being interpreted, means that I must prepare for the worst,” was the rejoinder. “Never mind. I dare say we shan’t starve. Well, and what’s the latest absurdity in the way of news?”“Just what I was going to ask you. You’re hand-in-glove with all the Kafir chiefs. You ought to be able to give us all the news.”Eustace smiled to himself. He could tell them a few things that wouldastonish them considerably, if he chose. But he did not choose.“We’ll loaf round the village presently,” said Hoste. “Likely enough we’ll hear something then.”“Likely enough it’ll be about as reliable as usual,” said Eustace. “What was the last report? Kreli and the Gcaléka army encamped at the Kei Drift—be here in two hours?”“It’s all very well to laugh,” said Mrs Hoste. “But what if we were attacked some fine night?”“There isn’t the ghost of a chance of it. Especially with all these wondrous fortifications about.”“I wish I thought you were serious. It would be a relief to me if I could think so.”“Pray do think so, Mrs Hoste. There is no sort of chance of this place being attacked; so make your mind easy.”“What do you think of our crib, Milne?” struck in Hoste.“It seems snug enough. Not palatial, but good enough for all purposes. You were lucky to light upon it.”“Rather. There isn’t so much as the corner of a rat hole to be had in the whole place now. But, it’s knocked off raining,” as a bright gleam of sunlight shot into the room. “Only a thunder-shower. We seem to have done dinner. Let’s go out and pick up the latest lie. By the way, you don’t want to go home again to-night, Milne? We can give you a shake-down on the sofa.”“The fact is I don’t. To-morrow will do just as well, and then I suppose I’ll have to trek with the stock down to Swaanepoel’s Hoek, while Tom, thirsting for death or glory, fills up that tally slick he was telling us about last night.”“But don’t you intend to volunteer for the front, like the rest?” askedMrs Hoste in astonishment.“No. Not at present, anyway. I’ve no quarrel with Jack Kafir; rather the reverse. I own I should like to see the campaign, but I couldn’t do that without drawing trigger, and that’s just what I’d rather avoid, except in a case of absolute necessity.”It might have been imagination, but Eustace fancied he could detect a look of intense relief pass over Eanswyth’s features as he announced his desire to avoid the scene of hostilities. Yet with so many eyes upon him—upon them both—he would not look directly at her. Such is the effect of an arrière-pensée. Two days ago he would not have been careful to study appearances. But a good deal can happen in two days, notably the establishment of a thorough understanding between two persons.“We’ll go round to Pagel’s first,” said Hoste, as the two men strolled forth. “If rumour has taken shape at all, likely as not it’s there we shall pick it up.”They soon reached the hotel. The bar and smoking-room were crammed with men—and smoke; men mostly of the farming class; men with large, sinewy hands, and habited partially or entirely in corduroy. There was a very Babel of tongues, for pretty nearly every man was talking at once, mostly on the all-absorbing topic. Some were indulging in chaff and loud laughter, and a few, we regret to say, were exceedingly unsteady on their pins.Rumour, our two friends found, had taken shape, and the great item of news which everybody was discussing had received the imprimatur of official announcement. There had been a fight between the Gcalékas and the Fingoes, and a body of Mounted Police, interfering on behalf of the latter, had been defeated and forced to retire with the loss of a sub-inspector and half a dozen men. This had happened in the Idutywa Reserve two days previously.Grave news, was the unanimous verdict. Grave news that the enemy should have triumphed in the very first engagement. Another such

Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

success, and every native from Natal to the Great Fish River would be up in arms. The news would flash from tribe to tribe, from kraal to kraal, quicker than a telegraphic message.“That you, Payne?” cried Hoste.The man addressed, who formed one of an arguing knot, turned.“Thought it was,” went on the first speaker, shaking hands. “Here’s Milne, on the scare like the rest of us. Carhayes is still on his farm, standing out longer than even you, eh Payne? We brought in his wife to-day, Milne and I.”“Then he’s all right. If it wasn’t for our women-kind we could all stick to our farms right through,” answered Payne. “Just think what sort of effect it has on Jack Kafir to see every fellow cutting away from him like mad.”“Why don’t you practise what you preach then, old chap?” put in another man, while three or four more laughed significantly, for Payne’s opinions were decidedly in disfavour among that gathering. “Why do you trek away and leave your own place?”“Oh, blazes take you all! Ain’t I jolly well hung round with women-kind?” was the reply, in a rueful, comic tone which raised a roar of laughter. “How can I?”“What has become of that Britisher who was staying with you?” asked Hoste.A very quaint expression came into the other’s face. “He’s thinking more of love than of war,” he answered, lowering his voice for Hoste’s benefit. “Expect he’ll take one of the said women-kind off my hands mighty sharp. Won’t be his fault if he doesn’t.”“Britishers ain’t no damn good!” said a burly fellow in corduroy, with a lurch up against Eustace.Some of the men looked awkward; others interested. The remarkwas enough to provoke half a dozen fights, especially in that room, frequented as it often was by Police troopers, many of whom were young Englishmen of recent importation and thus likely to resent such a slur upon the home-grown article. But it took a good deal more than this to embark Eustace in active hostilities. The expression of his immobile features was as if the remark had passed unheard. Besides, he saw at a glance that the fellow was drunk.“I say, you fellows—Hoste, Milne. Lets go and have a wet!” said Payne, making a move towards the bar, partly with a view to avoiding any further chance of a row. “Put a name to your pet poison and we’ll drink confusion to old Kreli. Hang it. This atmosphere is enough to float a line-of-battle ship. Let’s get out of it—when we’ve had our moistener, not before.”“It’s rather rough on me, this shindy,” he continued as they found themselves outside again. “What’s the good of a fellow laying himself out to improve his place? Here I’ve got a lot of splendid lands under cultivation. Fountains Gap is a perfect jewel in that line, and now I must sacrifice the whole lot. Well, we’re all in the same boat, that’s one thing,” he added philosophically. “So long, you fellows. I must go home. Hallo! Wonder if those chaps have brought any news.”Three Police troopers rode quickly by, heading for the quarters of their commanding officer. They had evidently ridden express direct from the Transkei, and had not spared their horses either, for both the latter and themselves looked jaded and travel-worn, besides being splashed from head to foot with mud.The evening passed pleasantly enough. Eustace declined his friend’s invitation to accompany him again into the village to try and learn some more news. After that night Eanswyth and he would be parted—for how long, Heaven only knew. But in that rather crowded circle there was no such thing as even a minute’s tête-à-tête, and this he well knew. The conversation was all general, still he could delight his eyes with the mere sight of her—could let his ears revel in the music of her voice. Yet was there a something underlying the tone, the glance, of one or both of them, which conveyed a more than ordinary meaning?

Xi Jinping restores trust in General Stilwell’s descendants

For, that night, long after the bugle calls from the Police camps and the carolling of jolly souls wending somewhat unsteadily homeward from the convivial bar, had sunk into silence, Mrs Hoste made unto her lord and master a strange remark.“What a pity Eanswyth didn’t marry her husband’s cousin instead of her husband.”“Great Scott! What the very deuce do you mean?”“Well, I mean it is a pity. Look how well they seem to suit each other. Look at them here to-day. Anyone, any stranger coming in hap-hazard, would at once have jumped to the conclusion that they belonged to each other. And it’s a pity they don’t. Tom Carhayes isn’t at all the man for that dear Eanswyth. I should be uncommonly sorry to be his wife myself, I know that much.”“I daresay you would. But Providence has been much kinder to you in that line than you deserve. But oh, good Heavens, Ada, do be mighty careful what you say. If you had propounded that idea of yours to anyone else, for instance, there’s no knowing what amount of mischief it might open up.”“So? All right. There’s no fear of my being such a fool. If you’ve preached enough—have you? Well, go to sleep.”Chapter Fifteen.“But I am thy Love.”Three days later Carhayes arrived. He was in high spirits. The remainder of his stock was under way, and, in charge of Eustace, was trekking steadily down to his other farm in the Colony, which was sufficiently remote from the seat of hostilities to ensure its safety. He had ridden with them a day and a half to help start the trek, and had then returned with all haste to enrol himself in the Kaffrarian Rangers—a mounted corps, raised among the stock-farmers of the district, of whom it

consisted almost entirely.“Wish I was you, Tom,” Hoste had said ruefully. “Wouldn’t I just like to be going bang off to the front to have a slap at old Kreli instead of humbugging around here looking after stock. This laager business is all fustian. I believe the things would be just as safe on the farm.”“Well, shunt them back there and come along,” was Carhayes’ reply.“We are not all so fortunate as you, Mr Carhayes,” retorted Mrs Hoste with a trifle of asperity, for this advice was to her by no means palatable. “What would you have done yourself, I should like to know, but for that accommodating cousin, who has taken all the trouble off your hands and left you free to go and get shot if you like?”“Oh, Eustace? Yes, he’s a useful chap,” said Carhayes complacently, beginning to cram his pipe. “What do you think the beggar has gone and done? Why, he has inspanned four or five boys from Nteya’s location to help him with the trek! The very fellows we are trekking away from, by Jove! And they will help him, too. An extraordinary fellow, Eustace—I never saw such a chap for managing Kafirs. He can make ’em do anything.”“Well, its a good thing he can. But doesn’t he want to go and see some of the fun himself?”“Not he. Or, if he does, he can leave Bentley in charge and come back as soon as he has put things straight. Bentley’s my man down there. I let him live at Swaanepoel’s Hoek and run a little stock of his own on consideration of keeping the place in order and looking after it generally. He’ll be glad enough to look after our stock now for a consideration—if Eustace gets sick of it and really does elect to come and have a shot at his ‘blanket friends’—Ho-ho!”The Kaffrarian Rangers were, as we have said, a corps raised in the district. The farmers composing it mounted and equipped themselves, and elected their own leaders. There was little discipline, in the military sense of the word, but the men knew each other and had thoroughalready gained the ridge, brought up the rest of the party at redoubled speed.“Hau! Istiméle!” (The steamer) echoed several, as the cause of the prevailing astonishment met their eyes.The ridge was of some elevation. Beyond the succession of forest-clad valleys and rock-crowned divides lay a broad expanse of blue sea, and away near the offing stretched a long line of dark smoke. Eustace could make out the masts and funnel of a large steamer, steering to the eastward.And what a sense of contrast did the sight awaken in his mind. The vessel was probably one of the Union Company’s mail steamships, coasting round to Natal. How plainly he would conjure up the scene upon her decks, the passengers striving to while away the tediousness of their floating captivity with chess and draughts—the latter of divers kinds—with books and tobacco, with chat and flirtation; whereas, here he was, at no very great distance either, undergoing, in this savage wilderness, a captivity which was terribly real—a prisoner of war among a tribe of sullen and partially crushed barbarians, with almost certain death, as a sacrifice to their slain compatriots, staring him in the face, and a strong probability of that death being a cruel and lingering one withal. And the pure rays of the newly risen sun shone forth joyously upon that blue surface, and a whiff of strong salt air seemed borne in upon them from the bosom of the wide, free ocean.For some minutes the Kafirs stood, talking, laughing like children as they gazed upon the long, low form of the distant steamship, concerning which many of their quaint remarks and conjectures would have been amusing enough at any other time. And, as if anything was wanting to keep him alive to the peril of his position, Hlangani, stepping to the prisoner’s side, observed:“The time has come to blind you, Ixeshane.”The words were grim enough in all conscience—frightful enough to more than justify the start which Eustace could not repress, as he turned

to the speaker. But a glance was enough to reassure him. The chief advanced toward him, holding nothing more formidable than a folded handkerchief.To the ordeal of being blindfolded Eustace submitted without a word. He recognised its force. They were nearing their destination. Even a captive, probably foredoomed to death, was not to be allowed to take mental notes of the approaches to the present retreat of the Paramount Chief. Besides, by insuring such ignorance, they would render any chance of his possible escape the more futile. But as he walked, steered by one of his escort, who kept a hand on his shoulder, he concentrated every faculty, short of the sight of which he was temporarily deprived, upon observations relating to the lay of the ground. One thing he knew. Wherever they might be they were at no great distance from the sea coast. That was something.Suddenly a diversion occurred. A long, loud, peculiar cry sounded from some distance in front. It was a signal. As it was answered by the returning warriors, once more the wild war-song was raised, and being taken up all along the line, the forest echoed with the thunderous roar of the savage strophe, and the clash of weapons beating time to the weird and thrilling chant. For some minutes thus they marched; then by the sound Eustace knew that his escort was forming up in martial array around him; knew moreover, from this circumstance, that the forest had come to an end. Then the bandage was suddenly removed from his eyes.The abrupt transition from darkness to light was bewildering. But he made out that he was standing in front of a hut, which his captors were ordering him to enter. In the momentary glance which he could obtain he saw that other huts were standing around, and beyond the crowd of armed men which encompassed him he could descry the faces of women and children gazing at him with mingled curiosity and wonder. Then, stooping, he crept through the low doorway. Two of his guards entered with him, and to his unspeakable gratification their first act was to relieve him of the reim which secured his arms. This done, a woman appeared bearing a calabash of curdled milk and a little reed basket of stamped mealies.“Here is food for you, Umlúngu,” said one of them. “And now you can rest until—until you are wanted. But do not go outside,” he added, shortly, and with a significant grip of his assegai. Then they went out, fastening the wicker screen that served as a door behind them, and Eustace was left alone.The interior of the hut was cool, if a trifle grimy, and there were rather fewer cockroaches than usual disporting themselves among the domed thatch of the roof—possibly owing to the tenement being of recent construction. But Eustace was dead tired and the shelter and solitude were more than welcome to him just then. The curdled milk and mealies were both refreshing and satisfying. Having finished his meal he lighted his pipe, for his captors had deprived him of nothing but his weapons, and proceeded to think out the situation. But nature asserted herself. Before he had taken a dozen whiffs he fell fast asleep.How long he slept he could not tell, but it must have been some hours. He awoke with a start of bewilderment, for his slumber had been a heavy and dreamless one: the slumber of exhaustion. Opening his eyes to the subdued gloom of the hut he hardly knew where he was. The atmosphere of that primitive and ill-ventilated tenement was stuffy and oppressive with an effluvium of grease and smoke, and the cockroaches were running over his face and hands. Then the situation came back to him with a rush. He was a prisoner.There was not much doing outside, to judge by the tranquillity that reigned. He could hear the deep inflections of voices carrying on a languid conversation, and occasionally the shrill squall of an infant. His watch had stopped, but he guessed it to be about the middle of the afternoon.He was about to make an attempt at undoing the door, but remembering the parting injunction of his guard, he judged it better not. At the same time it occurred to him that he had not yet investigated the cause of the saving of his life. Here was a grand opportunity.Cautiously, and with one ear on the alert for interruption, he took the

silver box from the inside pocket in which it was kept. Removing the chamois leather covering, which showed a clean cut an inch long, he gazed with astonishment upon, the box itself. The assegai had struck it fair, and there in the centre of the lid its point, broken off flush, remained firmly embedded. He turned the box over. The point had just indented the other side but not sufficiently to show through.For some minutes he sat gazing upon it, with a strange mixture of feeling, and well he might. This last gift of Eanswyth’s had been the means of saving his life—it and it alone. It had lain over his heart, and but for its intervention that sure and powerfully directed stroke would have cleft his heart in twain. That was absolutely a fact, and one established beyond any sort of doubt.Her hand had averted the death-stroke—the shield of her love had stood between him and certain destruction. Surely—surely that love could not be so unlawful—so accursed a thing. It had availed to save him —to save him for itself. Eustace was not a superstitious man, but even he might, to a certain extent, feel justified in drawing a highly favourable augury from the circumstance. Yet he was not out of his difficulties—his perils—yet. They had, in fact, only just begun; and this he knew.So far his captors had not ill-treated him, rather the reverse. But this augured next to nothing either way. The Gcalékas had suffered severe losses. Even now they were in hiding. They were not likely to be in a very merciful mood in dealing with a white prisoner, one of the hated race which had shot down their righting men, driven them from their country, and carried off most of their cattle. The people would clamour for his blood, the chiefs would hardly care to run counter to their wish—he would probably be handed over to the witch-doctors and put to some hideous and lingering death.It was a frightful thought, coming upon him alone and helpless. Better that the former blow had gone home. He would have met with a swift and merciful death in the excitement of battle—whereas now? And then it crossed his mind that the interposition of the silver box might not have been a blessing after all, but quite the reverse. What if it had only availed to preserve him for a death amid lingering torments? But no, hewould not think that. If her love had been the means of preserving him thus far, it had preserved him for itself. Yet it was difficult to feel sanguine with the odds so terribly against him.What would she do when she heard that Tom had been killed and himself captured by the savages? “Were anything to befall you, my heart would be broken,” had been almost her last words, and the recollection of them tortured him like a red-hot iron, for he had only his own fool-hardiness to thank that he was in this critical position at all. Fortunately it did not occur to him that he might be reported dead, instead of merely missing.His reflections were interrupted. A great noise arose without—voices —then the steady tramp of feet—the clash of weapons—and over and above all, the weird, thrilling rhythmical chant of the war-song. He had just time to restore the silver box to its place, when the door of the hut was flung open and there entered three Kafirs fully armed. They ordered him to rise immediately and pass outside.Chapter Twenty Nine.The Paramount Chief.The spectacle which met Eustace’s eyes, on emerging from the dark and stuffy hut, struck him as grand and stirring in the extreme.He saw around him an open clearing, a large natural amphitheatre, surrounded by dense forest on three sides, the fourth being constituted by a line of jagged rocks more or less bush-grown. Groups of hastily constructed huts, in shape and material resembling huge beehives, stood around in an irregular circle, leaving a large open space in the centre. And into this space was defiling a great mass of armed warriors.On they came, marching in columns, the air vibrating to the roar of their terrible war-song. On they came, a wild and fierce array, in their fantastic war dresses—the glint of their assegai blades dancing in the sunlight like the ripples of a shining sea. They were marching round the


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