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´╗┐Title: Hair-Breadth Escapes - The Adventures of Three Boys in South Africa
Author: Adams, H.C.
Language: English
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Hair-Breadth Escapes, by Rev H.C. Adams.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
HAIR-BREADTH ESCAPES, BY REV H.C. ADAMS.

DEDICATION.

To the Rev  G.G. Ross, D.C.L., Principal of St Andrew's College,
Grahamstown, Cape Colony.

My dear Ross,

I dedicate this Tale to you for two reasons: first, because it is, in
some sort, a souvenir of a very interesting visit to South Africa,
rendered pleasant by the kind hospitality shown us by so many in
Grahamstown, and by no one more than yourself.  Secondly and chiefly,
because it gives me the opportunity of expressing publicly to you my
sympathy in the noble work you are carrying on, under the gravest
difficulties--difficulties which (I am persuaded) many would help to
lighten, who possess the means of doing so, were they but acquainted
with them.

H.C. Adams.

Dry Sandford, _August 1876_.



CHAPTER ONE.

THE HOOGHLY--OLD JENNINGS--SHORT-HANDED--THE THREE BOYS--FRANK--NICK--
ERNEST--DR LAVIE--TENERIFFE.

It was the afternoon of a day late in the November of the year 1805.
His Majesty's ship _Hooghly_, carrying Government despatches and stores,
as well as a few civil and military officers of the East India Company's
service, was running easily before the trade wind, which it had caught
within two days' sail of Madeira--and was nearing the region of the
tropics.  The weather, which had been cold and stormy, when the
passengers left England some weeks before, had been gradually growing
bright and genial; until for the last three or four days all
recollections of fog and chill had vanished from their minds.  The sky
was one vast dome of the richest blue, unbroken by a single cloud, only
growing somewhat paler of hue as it approached the horizon line.  The
sea stretched out into the distance--to the east, an endless succession
of purple wavelets, tipped here and there with white; to the west, where
the sun was slowly sinking in all its tropical glory, one seething mass
of molten silver.

It was indeed a glorious sight, and most of our readers will be of
opinion that those who had the opportunity of beholding it, would--for
the time at least--have bestowed little attention on anything else.  But
if they had been at sea as long as Captain Wilmore, they might perhaps
have thought differently.  Captain Wilmore had been forty years a
sailor; and whether given, or not given, to admire brilliant skies and
golden sunsets in his early youth, he had at all events long ceased to
trouble himself about them.  He was at the outset of this story sitting
in his cabin--having just parted from his first lieutenant, Mr Grey--
and was receiving with a very dubious face the report of an old
quartermaster.  A fine mastiff was seated by the captain's chair,
apparently listening with much gravity to what passed.

"Well, Jennings, Mr Grey tells me you have something to report, which
he thinks ought to be brought straight to me, in order that I may
question you myself about it.  What is it?  Is it something about these
gentlemen we have on board?  Are they dissatisfied, or has Lion here
offended them?"

"No, cap'en," said the old sailor; "I wish 'twas only something o' that
sort.  That would be easy to be disposed of, that would."

"What is it, then?  Is it the men, who are grumbling--short rations, or
weak grog, or what?"

"There's more rations and stronger grog than is like to be wanted,
cap'en," said Jennings, evasively, for he was evidently anxious to
escape communicating his intelligence, whatever it might be, as long as
possible.

"What do you mean, Jennings?" exclaimed Captain Wilmore, roused by the
quartermaster's manner.  "More rations and stronger grog than the men
want?  I don't understand you."

"Well, cap'en, I'm afraid some on 'em won't eat and drink aboard this
ship no more."

"What, are any of them sick, or dead--or, by heaven, have any of them
deserted?"

"I'm afeared they has, cap'en.  You remember the Yankee trader, as sent
a boat to ask us to take some letters to Calcutta?"

"Yes, to be sure; what of him?"

"Well, I've heard since, as his crew was going about among our chaps all
the time he was aboard, offering of 'em a fist half full of guineas
apiece, if they'd sail with him, instead of you."

"The scoundrel!" shouted Captain Wilmore.  "If I'd caught him at it, I'd
have run him up to the mainyard, as sure as he's alive."

"Ay, cap'en; and I'd have lent a hand with all my heart," said the old
seaman.  "But you see he was too cunning to be caught.  He went back to
his ship, which was lying a very little way off, for there wasn't a
breath of wind, if you remember.  But he guessed the breeze would spring
up about midnight, so he doesn't hoist his boats up, but hides 'em under
his lee, until--"

"I see it all plain enough, Jennings," broke in the captain.  "How many
are gone?"

"Well, we couldn't make sure for a long time, Captain Wilmore," said
Jennings, still afraid to reveal the whole of his evil tidings.  "Some
of the hands had got drunk on the rum fetched aboard at Madeira, and
they might be lying about somewhere, you see--"

"Well, but you've found out now, I suppose?" interjected his questioner
sharply.

"I suppose we has, cap'en.  There's Will Driver, and Joel Grigg, and
Lander, and Hawkins, and Job Watson--not that _he's_ any great loss--and
Dick Timmins, and--"

"Confound you, Jennings! how many?" roared the captain, so fiercely,
that the dog sprang up, and began barking furiously.  "Don't keep on
pottering in that way, but tell me the worst at once.  How many are
gone?  Keep quiet, you brute, do you hear?  How many, I say?"

"About fifteen, cap'en," blurted out the quartermaster, shaking in his
shoes.  "Leastways there's fifteen, or it may be sixteen, as can't be
found, or--"

"Fifteen or sixteen, or some other number," shouted the skipper.  "Tell
me the exact number, you old idiot, or I'll disrate you!  Confound that
dog!  Turn him out."

"Sixteen's the exact number we can't find," returned Jennings, "but some
of 'em may be aboard, and turn up sober by-and-by."

"Small chance of that," muttered the captain.  "Well, it's no use
fretting; the question is, What's to be done?  We were short-handed
before--so you thought, didn't you, Jennings?"

"Well, cap'en, we hadn't none too many, that's sartain; and we should
have been all the better for half a dozen more."

"That comes to the same thing, doesn't it?" said the skipper, who, vexed
and embarrassed as he was, could not help being a little diverted at the
old man's invincible reluctance to speaking out.

"Well, I suppose it does, sir," he answered, "only you see--"

"I don't see anything, except that we are in a very awkward scrape,"
interposed the other.  "It will be madness to attempt to make the
passage with such a handful as we have at present.  If there came a
gale, or we fall in with a French or Spanish cruiser--" He paused,
unwilling to put his thoughts into words.

"'Twouldn't be pleasant, for sartain," observed Jennings.

"But, then, if we put back to England--for I know no hands are to be had
at Madeira, we should be quite as likely to encounter a storm, or a
Frenchman."

"A good deal more like," assented the quartermaster.

"And there would be the loss and delay, and the blame would be safe to
be laid on me," continued the captain, following out his own thoughts
rather than replying to his companion's observations.  "No, we must go
on.  But then, where are we to pick up any fresh hands?"

"We shall be off the Canaries this evening, cap'en," said Jennings.
"We've been running along at a spanking rate with this wind all night.
The peak's in sight even now."

"The Canaries are no good, Jennings.  The Dons are at war with us, you
know.  And though there are no ships of war in the harbour at Santa
Cruz, they'd fire upon us from the batteries if we attempted to hold
communication with the shore."

"They ain't always so particular, are they, sir?" asked the sailor.

"Perhaps not, Jennings.  But the Dons here have never forgiven the
attack made on them seven or eight years ago, by Nelson."

"Well, sir, they might have forgiven that, seeing as they got the best
of it I was in that, sir--b'longed to the _Foxy_ and was one of Nelson's
boat's crew, and we got nothing out of the Dons but hard knocks and no
ha'pence that time."

"That's true.  But you see Nelson has done them so much harm since, that
the damage they did him then seems very little comfort to them.  No, we
mustn't attempt anything at the Canaries."

"Very good, sir.  Then go on to the Cape Verdes.  If this wind holds, we
shall soon be there, and the Cape Verdes don't belong to the Dons."

"No; to the Portuguese.  Well, I believe that will be best.  I have
received information that the French and Spanish fleets are off Cape
Trafalgar; and our fellows are likely to have a brush with them soon, if
they haven't had it already."

"Indeed, sir!  Well, Admiral Nelson ain't likely to leave many of 'em to
follow us to the Cape.  We're pretty safe from them, anyhow."

"You're right there, I expect, Jennings," said the skipper, relaxing for
the first time into a grim smile.  "Well, then, shape the ship's course
for the Cape Verdes, and, mind you, keep the matter of those scoundrels
deserting as quiet as possible.  If some of the passengers get hold of
it, they'll be making a bother.  Now you may go, Jennings.  Stay, hand
me those letters about the boys that came on board at Plymouth.  I've
been too busy to give any thought to them till now.  But I must settle
something about them before we reach the Cape, and I may as well do so
now."

The quartermaster obeyed.  He handed his commanding officer the bundle
of papers he had indicated, and then left the cabin, willing enough to
be dismissed.  The captain, throwing himself with an air of weariness
back on his sofa, broke the seal of the first letter, muttering to
himself discontentedly the while.

"I wonder why I am to be plagued with other people's children?  Because
I have been too wise to have any of my own, I suppose!  Well, Frank is
my nephew, and blood is thicker than water, they say--and for once, and
for a wonder, say true.  I suppose I _am_ expected to look after him.
And he's a fine lad too.  I can't but own that.  But what have I to do
with old Nat Gilbert's children, I wonder?  He was my schoolfellow, and
pulled me out of a pond once, when I should have been drowned if he
hadn't I suppose _he_ thought that was reason enough for putting off his
boy upon me, as his guardian.  Humph!  I don't know about that.  Let us
see, any way, what sort of a boy this young Gilbert is.  This is from
old Dr Staines, the schoolmaster he has been with for the last four or
five years.  I wonder what he says of the boy?  At present I know
nothing whatever about him, except that he looks saucy enough for a
midshipman, and laughs all day like a hyena!

"`Gymnasium House, Hollingsley,

"`September 29th, 1805.

"`Sir,--You are, no doubt, aware that I have had under my charge, for
the last five years, Master George Gilbert, the son of the late Mr
Nathaniel Gilbert, of Evertree, a most worthy and respectable man.  I
was informed, at the time of the parent's decease, that you had been
appointed the guardian of the infant; but as Mr Nathaniel had, with his
customary circumspection, lodged a sum in the Hollingsley bank,
sufficient to cover the cost of his son's education for two years to
come, there was no need to trouble you.  You were also absent from
England, and I did not know your direction.

"`The whole of the money is not yet exhausted; but I regret to say I am
unable to retain Master George under my tuition any longer.  I must beg
you to take notice that his name is _George_, as his companions are in
the habit of calling him "Nick," giving the idea that his name, or one
of his names, is Nicodemus.  Such, however, is not the case, George
being his only Christian appellative.  Why his schoolfellows should have
adopted so singular a nomenclature I am unable to say.  The only
explanation of it, which has ever been suggested to me, is one so
extremely objectionable, that I am convinced it must be a mistake.

"`But to proceed'--(`A long-winded fellow this!' muttered the captain as
he turned the page; `who cares what the young scamp's called?')--`But to
proceed.  I cannot retain Master George any longer.  His continually
repeated acts of mischief render it impossible for me any longer to
temper the justice due to myself and family with the mercy which it is
my ordinary habit to exercise.  I will not detail to you his offences
against propriety'--(`thank goodness for that,' again interjected
Captain Wilmore, `though I dare say some of his offences would be
entertaining enough')--`I will not detail his offences--they would fill
a volume.  I will only mention what has occurred to-day.  If there is
any practice I consider more objectionable than another, it is that of
using the dangerous explosives known as fireworks.  Master Gilbert is
aware that I strictly interdict their purchase; in consequence of which
they cannot be obtained at the only shop in Hollingsley where they are
sold, by any of my scholars.  But what were my feelings--I ask you,
sir--when I ascertained that he had obtained a large number of
combustibles weeks ago, and had concealed them--actually concealed them
in a chest under Mrs Staines's bed!  The chest holds a quantity of
linen, and under this he had hidden the explosives, thinking, I
conclude, that it was seldom looked into.  Seldom looked into!  Why,
merciful heaven, Mrs Staines is often in the habit of examining even by
candlelight'--(`I say, I can't read any more of this,' exclaimed the
captain; `anyhow, I'll skip a page or two.'  He turned on a long way and
resumed.)--`When I found out this morning that he was missing, I felt no
doubt that my words had produced even a deeper effect than I had
designed.  Mrs Staines and myself both feared that in his remorse he
had been guilty of some desperate act; and we made every effort,
immediately after breakfast, to discover the place of his retreat.
Being St Michael's day, it was a whole holiday, and we were thus enabled
to devote the entire day to the quest.  It has been extremely rainy
throughout; but when we returned, two hours ago, exhausted and wet to
the skin, after a fruitless search, we found him, dry and warm, awaiting
us in the hall.  This was some relief; but judge of our feelings when we
discovered that the shameless boy had put on my camlet-cloak and
overalls--they had been missing, and I had been obliged to go without
them! he had taken Mrs Staines's large umbrella, and had waited for us,
from breakfast time, round the corner, under the confident assurance
that we should go to look for him.  Sir, it has been his amusement to
follow us about all day, gratifying his malevolent feelings with the
spectacle of our exposure to the elements, our weariness, our
ever-increasing anxiety!  You will not wonder after this, sir--'"

"There, that will do," once more exclaimed the skipper, throwing aside
the letter with a chuckle of amusement.  "I must say I don't wonder at
the doctor's refusing to keep him any more after that!  Well, his father
wanted him to be a sailor, and maybe he won't make a bad one.  Only we
must have none of his tricks on board ship.  I'll have a talk with him,
when I can spare the time.  That's settled.  And now I can see Dr Lavie
about this other lad, young Warley.  Hallo there, Matthews, tell the
doctor I am at liberty now."

In a few minutes the person named was ushered into Captain Wilmore's
presence.  The new comer was a gentlemanly and well-looking young man,
and bore a good character, so far as he was known, in the ship.  The
captain was pleased with his appearance, and felt at the moment more
than usually gracious--possibly in consequence of his recent mirth over
George Gilbert's exploits.  He spoke with unusual kindness.

"Well, doctor, what can I do for you?  You have come to speak to me
about young Ernest Warley, I think?"

"Yes, Captain Wilmore, I want to ask your advice.  His father was the
best friend I ever had.  He took me by the hand when I was left an
orphan without a sixpence, and put me to school, and took care of me.
When he was dying, he made me promise to do my best for his boy, as he
had for me.  But I'm afraid I can't do that, glad as I should be to do
it, if I could--"

"But I don't understand, doctor.  Old Warley--I knew a little of him--
was a wealthy man, partner in Vanderbyl and Warley's house, one of the
best in Cape Town.  The lad can't want for money."

"Ah, he does, though.  His elder brother has all the money.  He was the
son of the first wife, old Vanderbyl's daughter, and all the money
derived from the business went to him.  The second wife's fortune was
settled on Ernest; but it was lost, every farthing of it, in the failure
of Steinberg's bank last year."

"Won't the elder brother do anything?"

"No more than very shame may oblige him to do.  He hated his father's
second wife, and hates her son now."

"How old is the lad?"

"Past nineteen; very steady and quiet, but plenty of stuff in him.  He
wouldn't take his brother's money, if he had the chance; says he means
to work for himself.  He wanted to be a parson, and would have gone this
autumn to the University, but for the smash of the bank.  He'll do
anything now that I advise him, but I don't know what to advise."

"`Nineteen!'--too old for the navy.  `Wanted to be a parson!'--wouldn't
do for the army.  `Do anything you advise!'  Are you sure of that?  Few
young fellows now-a-days will do anything but what they themselves
like."

"Yes, he'll do anything I advise, because he knows I really care for
him.  Where he fancies he's put upon, he can be stiff-backed and defiant
enough.  I've seen that once or twice.  Ernest hasn't your nephew
Frank's temper, which is hot and hasty for the moment, but is right
again the next.  He doesn't come to in a minute, as Frank does, but he's
a good fellow for all that."

The captain's brow was overcast as he heard his nephew's name.  "Frank's
spirit wants breaking, Mr Lavie," he said in an angry tone.  "I shall
have to teach him that there's only one will allowed aboard ship, and
that's the captain's.  Frank can ride and leap and shoot to a bead they
tell me, but he can't command my ship, and he shan't.  I won't have him
asking for reasons for what I order, and if he does it again--he'll wish
he hadn't.  But this is nothing to the purpose, Mr Lavie," he added,
recovering himself.  "We were talking about young Warley.  You had
better try to get him a clerkship in a house at Cape Town.  You mean to
settle there yourself after the voyage, do you not?"

"Well, no, sir, I think not I had meant it, but my inclination now
rather is to try for a medical appointment in Calcutta.  You see it
would be uncomfortable for Ernest at the Cape with his brother--"

"I see.  Well, then, both of you had better go on to Calcutta with me.
I dare say--if I am pleased with the lad--I may be able to speak to one
of the merchants or bankers there.  What does he know? what can he do?"

"He is a tolerable classical scholar, sir, and a good arithmetician, Dr
Phelps told me--"

"That's good," interposed the captain.

"And he knows a little French, and is a fair shot with a gun, and can
ride his horse, though he can't do either like Frank--"

"Never mind Frank," broke in Captain Wilmore hastily.  "He'd behave
himself at all events, which is more than Frank does.  Well, that will
do, then.  You two go on with the _Hooghly_ to Calcutta, and then I'll
speak to you again."

Mr Lavie rose and took his leave, feeling very grateful to his
commanding officer, who was not in general a popular captain.  He was in
reality a kind-hearted man, but extremely passionate, as well as
tenacious of his authority, and apt to give offence by issuing unwelcome
orders in a peremptory manner, without vouchsafing explanations, which
would have smoothed away the irritation they occasioned.  In particular
he and his nephew, Frank Wilmore, to whom reference more than once has
been made, were continually falling out Frank was a fine high-spirited
lad of eighteen, for whom his uncle had obtained a military cadetship
from a director, to whom he had rendered a service; and the lad was now
on his way to join his regiment.  Frank had always desired to be a
soldier, and was greatly delighted when he heard of his good fortune.
But his uncle gave him no hint that it was through him it had been
obtained.  Indeed, the news had been communicated in a manner so gruff
and seemingly grudging, that Frank conceived an aversion to his uncle,
which was not removed when they came into personal contact on board the
_Hooghly_.

The three lads, however, soon fraternised, and before they had sighted
Cape Finisterre were fast friends.  Many an hour had already been
beguiled by the recital of adventures on shore, and speculation as to
the future, that lay before them.  Nor was there any point on which they
agreed more heartily than in denunciation of the skipper's tyranny, and
their resolve not to submit to it.  When Mr Lavie came on deck, after
his interview in the captain's cabin, they were all three leaning over
the bulwarks, with lion crouching at Frank's side, but all three, for a
wonder, quite silent.  Mr Lavie cast a look seaward, and saw at once
the explanation of their unusual demeanour.  The ship had been making
good way for the last hour or two, and was now near enough to the
Canaries to allow the Peak of Teneriffe to be clearly seen, like a low
triangular cloud, and the rest of the island was coming gradually into
clearer sight Mr Lavie joined the party, and set himself to watch what
is perhaps the grandest spectacle which the bosom of the broad Atlantic
has to exhibit.  At first the outline of the great mountain, twelve
thousand feet in height, presented a dull cloudy mass, formless and
indistinct.  But as the afternoon wore on, the steep cliffs scored with
lava became visible, and the serrated crests of Anaga grew slowly upon
the eye.  Then, headland after headland revealed itself, the heavy dark
grey masses separating themselves into hues of brown and red and
saffron.  Now appeared the terraced gardens which clothe the cultivated
sides, and above them the picturesque outlines of the rocks intermingled
with the foliage of the euphorbia and the myrtle, and here and there
opening into wild mountain glens which the wing of the bird alone could
traverse.  Lastly, the iron-bound coast became visible on which the surf
was breaking in foaming masses, and above the rocky shelf the long low
line of spires and houses which distinguish the town of Santa Cruz.  For
a long time the red sunset light was strong enough to make clearly
distinguishable the dazzling white frontages, the flat roofs, and
unglazed windows, standing out against the perpendicular walls of
basaltic rock.  Then a dark mist, rising upwards from the sea, like the
curtain in the ancient Greek theatre, began to hide the shipping in the
port, the quays, and the batteries, till the whole town was lost in the
darkness.  Higher it spread, obscuring the masses of oleander, and
arbutus, and poinsettia in the gardens, and the sepia tints of the rocks
above.  Then the white lava fissures were lost to the eye, and the Peak
alone stood against the darkening sky, its masses of snow bathed in the
rich rosy light of the expiring sun.  A few minutes more and that too
was swallowed up in darkness, and the spell which had enchained the four
spectators of the scene was suddenly dissolved.



CHAPTER TWO.

THE CAPE VERDES--DIONYSIUS'S EAR--UNWELCOME NEWS--FRENCH LEAVE--THE
SKIPPER'S WRATH--A SCRAPE.

Three or four days had passed, the weather appearing each day more
delicious than the last.  The _Hooghly_ sped smoothly and rapidly before
the wind, and at daybreak on the fifth morning notice was given that the
Cape Verde Islands were in sight.  The sky, however, grew thick and
misty as they neared land; and it was late in the forenoon before they
had approached near enough to obtain a clear view of it.

"I wonder why they call these islands _Verdes_?" observed Gilbert, as
the vessel ran along the coast of one of the largest of the group, which
was low and sandy and apparently barren; "there doesn't seem to be much
_green_ about them, that I can see."

"No, certainly," said Warley; "a green patch here and there is all there
is to be seen, so far as the sea-coast is concerned But the interior
seems a mass of mountains.  There may be plenty of verdure among them,
for all we know."

"No," said Mr Lavie, who was standing near them.  "Their name has
nothing to do with forests or grass-fields.  There is a mass of weed on
the other side of the group, extending for a long distance over the sea,
which is something like a green meadow to look at--that's the meaning of
the name.  There are very few woods on any of the islands, and this one
in particular produces hardly anything but salt."

"They belong to the Portuguese, don't they?" asked Frank.

"Yes; the Portuguese discovered them three centuries and a half ago, and
have had possession of them ever since.  Portuguese is the only language
spoken there, but there are very few whites there, nevertheless."

"Why, there must be a lot of inhabitants," remarked Ernest, his eye
resting on the villages with which the shores were studded.

"Yes, from forty to fifty thousand, I believe.  But they are almost all
of them half-breeds between the negroes and the Portuguese."

"Well, I suppose there's some fun to be had there, isn't there?"
inquired Frank.

"And something to be seen?" added Warley.

"And first-chop grub?" wound up Gilbert.  "There's plenty to see at
Porto Prayo," returned Mr Lavie.  "The town, Ribeira Grande they call
it, is curious, and there are some fine mountain passes and grand views
in the interior.  As for grub, Master Nick" (for this sobriquet had
already become young Gilbert's usual appellative), "there are pretty
well all the fruits that took your fancy so much at Madeira--figs,
guavas, bananas, oranges, melons, grapes, pine-apples, and mangos--and
there's plenty of turtle too, though I'm not sure you'll find it made
into soup.  But as to fun, Frank, it depends on what you call fun, I
expect--"

"Let us go ashore," interrupted Nick, "and we shall be safe to find out
lots of fun for ourselves.  It would be jolly fun, in itself, to be
walking on hard ground again, instead of these everlasting planks.  I
suppose, as these islands belong to the Portuguese, and we've no quarrel
with them, the skipper will go ashore, and allow the passengers to do so
too?"

"He'll go ashore, no doubt," said a voice close at hand; "but he won't
let you go, I'll answer for that."

The boys turned quickly round, and were not particularly pleased to see
the first lieutenant, Mr Grey, who had come aft, to give some orders,
and had overheard the last part of their conversation.  Mr Grey was no
favourite of theirs.  He was not downright uncivil to the boys, but he
was fond of snubbing them whenever an occasion offered itself.  It was
generally believed also that a good deal of the captain's harshness was
due to the first lieutenant's suggestions.

"You'd better leave the captain to answer for himself," remarked Frank,
his cheek flushing with anger.  "I don't see how you can know what he
means to do."

"Perhaps you mayn't see it, and yet I may," returned Mr Grey calmly.

"Why shouldn't he let us go ashore, as he did at Madeira?" asked Warley.
"Nothing went wrong there."

"I beg your pardon," replied the lieutenant; "things did go wrong there,
and he was very much displeased."

"Displeased," repeated Warley, "displeased with us?  What do you mean,
Mr Grey?"

"I mean that you are not to go ashore," returned the other curtly, and
walking forward as he spoke.

Ernest's cheek grew almost as crimson as Frank's had done.  The apparent
insinuation that he had misconducted himself while on his parole of good
behaviour, was one of the things he could least endure.  Mr Lavie laid
his hand on the boy's arm.

"Hush, Ernest!" he said, checking an angry exclamation to which he was
about to give vent.  "Most likely Mr Grey is not serious.  Anyway, if
the captain does forbid your going ashore, you may be assured he has
good reasons--"

"What reasons can he have?" interposed Gilbert; "we are no more likely
to get into trouble here than at Madeira, and who has a right to say we
did anything wrong there?"

"The first lieutenant _didn't_ say so," observed the surgeon.  "I think
there is some mistake.  I'll make inquiries about the matter before we
enter the harbour."

He moved away, and the boys resolved to retreat to their den, where they
might hold an indignation meeting without molestation.  This den, to
which its occupants had given the classical name of "Dionysius's ear,"
or more briefly, "Dionysius," was an empty space on the lower deck,
about six foot square, where various stores had been stowed away.  By
some oversight of the men a dozen chests or so had been left ashore, and
a vacant place in a corner was reserved for them.  When, however, they
were brought aboard, they could not conveniently be lowered, and were
secured on deck.  Master Nick, in the course of his restless wandering,
had lighted on this void space, and it occurred to him that it would
make a snug place of retreat, when he wished to be alone, as he not
unfrequently did, in order to escape the consequences of some piece of
mischief.  When his friendship with his companions had been sufficiently
cemented, he had communicated the secret to them, and Frank at once
appreciated its value.  Advantage had been already taken of it on one or
two occasions, to evade an unwelcome summons from the skipper, or smoke
a pipe at interdicted hours.

To be sure it was not a very desirable retiring room, and most persons
would have considered a Russian or Neapolitan dungeon greatly preferable
to it.  As the reader has heard, it was about six foot square.  It was
lighted by a dead light in the deck above, which had fortunately been
inserted just in that spot.  Whatever air there was, came through the
barrels, or along the ship's sides.  But it is needless to say it was at
all times suffocatingly close, and nothing but a boy or a salamander
could have long continued to breathe such an atmosphere.  Entrance was
obtained by pulling aside a small keg; the removal of which allowed just
enough room for any one to work his way in, like an earthworm, on his
stomach.  Then the keg was drawn by the rope attached to it into its
place again, and firmly secured to a staple in the ship's side.
Whatever might be its other defects, it was certainly almost impossible
of detection.

Arrived here, our three heroes lay down at their leisure on some sacks
with which they had garnished their domicile, and proceeded to discuss
the matter in hand, lowering their voices as much as possible, as they
had discovered that conversation might be heard through the barrels by
any one on the other side, which fact, indeed, was the explanation of
the name bestowed on their retreat.  They were not at first agreed as to
the steps to be adopted.  Nick was for going ashore under any
circumstances--the difficulty of accomplishing his purpose, and the fact
of his having been forbidden to essay it, being, in his eyes, only
additional incentives.  Frank was not disposed to make the attempt, if
his uncle really had interdicted it; but he professed himself certain
that no such order had been given by anybody but the first lieutenant,
and he was not, he said, going to be under his orders.  Warley for once
was inclined to go beyond Frank, and declared that though he would obey
the captain's order if any reasonable ground for it was assigned, he
would not be debarred from what he considered his right as a passenger,
by any man's mere caprice.  He added, however, that he thought it would
be better to hear what Lavie had found out, before coming to any
resolution.

"Well, it is time we should see the doctor, if we mean to do so,"
remarked Frank, after an hour or so had passed in conversation.  "We
must be entering Porto Prayo by this time, or be near it at all events;
and he must have had lots of time to find out everything."

"Very good; one of us had better see Mr Lavie at once," said Ernest.
"I'll go, if you like, and come back to `Dionysius' here, as soon as I
have anything to tell."

He departed accordingly, and returned in about half an hour, looking
very cool, but very much annoyed.

"Hallo, Ernest, what's up now?" exclaimed Nick, as he caught sight of
his face.  "What does the doctor say?"

"I haven't seen the doctor," answered Warley.  "One of the crew has been
taken dangerously ill, and the doctor has been with him ever since he
left us."

"What have you learned, then?" asked Frank.  "Are we in the harbour?"

"We're in the harbour, and the skipper's gone ashore.  I saw his boat
half-way to the beach.  Captain Renton, Mr May, and Mr De Koech have
gone with him.  They are the only passengers who wanted to go."

"Well, but I suppose there are some shore boats that would take
passengers to and fro."

"The captain has given orders that no shore boat is to be allowed
alongside.  He won't even allow the fresh provisions, or the water, to
be brought aboard by any but the ship's boats.  I saw the largest cutter
with the empty water-casks in her, lying ready to go ashore presently."

"Who told you this?" inquired Wilmore, half incredulous.

"Old Jennings, the quartermaster.  He has charge of the boat.  He said
the captain's resolved we shan't leave the ship."

"It's an infamous shame," said Frank.  "I declare I've half a mind to
swim ashore.  It can't be very far."

"No," said Nick, "but it wouldn't be pleasant to land soaking wet, to
say nothing of the chance of ground sharks.  Even Lion had better not
try that dodge.  But I'll tell you what--if the boat is lying off the
ship's side, with a lot of ankers in her, why shouldn't we creep in
among them, and go ashore unbeknown to the first lieutenant?"

"We should be seen getting aboard," said Frank.

"No, we shouldn't.  The men are at dinner just now, and we can slip in
when the backs of the fellows on deck are turned."

"I forgot that," said Frank; "but we should be certain to be seen when
we landed."

"Ay, no doubt.  But that will be too late, won't it?  Once ashore, I
guess they must be pretty nimble to catch us; and besides, old Jennings
is too good-natured to do anything against us, which he isn't obliged to
do."

"Well, that's true, certainly," returned Wilmore.  "What do you say,
Warley?  Are you game to make the trial?"

"Yes, I am," returned Ernest.  "I think it is regular tyranny to oblige
us to stay in the ship, when there is no reason for it, except the
captain's caprice.  But if we mean to try this, we must make haste."

The three lads hurried on deck; and a glance showed them they were just
in time.  There were only two or three men to be seen, and they were at
the other end of the ship.  They skimmed nimbly down the ladder, and
found no difficulty in concealing themselves at the bow end of the boat,
which was completely hidden from sight by the empty casks.  They had not
been in their hiding-place very long, before the old quartermaster and
his men were heard coming down the side.  The shore was soon reached,
and the keel had no sooner grated on the sand, than the boys sprang out
and ran up the beach, saluting old Jennings with a parting cheer as they
went.

"Well, I never," muttered the old man.  "The cap'en 'ull be in a nice
taking when he hears of this!  And there ain't no chance but what he
_will_ hear of it.  We've Andy Duncan in the boat, and he carries
everything to the first lieutenant, as sure as it happens.  Well, I
ain't bound to peach, anyhow--that's one comfort!"

Meanwhile the captain had gone on shore, his temper not improved by the
report of the doctor which had been brought to him as he was leaving the
vessel, that another of his best hands was rendered useless--for several
weeks to come at all events--by a bad attack of fever, which might very
possibly spread through the ship.  He returned on board after nightfall,
still more provoked and vexed.  He had met with the greatest difficulty
in his attempts to fill the places of his missing men.  There were, as
the reader has been told, very few whites on the island, and none of
them were sailors.  The blacks were very unwilling to engage, except
upon exorbitant terms, and hardly one of those with whom he spoke
appeared good for anything.  He had at one time all but given up the
matter in despair.  But late in the afternoon he was accosted by a
dark-complexioned man, lean and sinewy as a bloodhound, who informed him
that the vessel in which he traded between the South African ports and
the West Indian Islands, had been driven on the Cape Verdes and totally
wrecked.  But the crew had escaped, he said, and were willing to engage
with Captain Wilmore for the voyage to Calcutta.

The captain hesitated.  He had little doubt that the lost vessel had
been a slaver, and he had an instinctive abhorrence of all engaged in
that horrible traffic.  Still there seemed no other hope of successfully
prosecuting the voyage, and after all it would be a companionship of
only a few months.  He resolved to make one effort more to obtain less
questionable help, and if that should fail, to accept the offer.
Desiring the stranger to bring his men to the quay in an hour's time, he
once more entered the town, and made inquiries at all the houses to
which sailors were likely to resort.  His success was no better than it
had been before, and he was obliged to close with the proposal of the
foreign captain.  He liked the looks of the crew even less than those of
their captain.  There were eighteen of them, however, and all strong
serviceable fellows, if they chose to work.  He must hope for the best;
but even the best did not appear very promising; and if the Yankee
captain, who had been the prime cause of the mischief, had been
delivered into his hands at that moment, it is to be feared he would
have met with small mercy.

In this frame of mind he regained the _Hooghly_, and shortly after his
arrival was informed by the first lieutenant of the escapade of the
three boys, with the gratuitous addition that he had himself delivered
them the captain's message--that no one was to be permitted to leave the
ship, except those who had gone ashore with the captain.

The skipper's wrath fairly boiled over.  He vowed he would straightway
give his nephew a smart taste of the cat-o'-nine-tails, and put the
other two into irons, to teach them obedience.  The boatswain
accordingly was summoned, and the delinquents ordered into custody, but
after a delay of half an hour, during which the captain's wrath seemed
to be every moment growing hotter, it was announced that the boys could
not be found, and the boat's crew sent ashore with the water-casks
positively declared that they did not return with them.  As no other
boats but theirs and the captain's had held any communication with the
land, it appeared certain that the young gentlemen were still on shore,
intending probably to return by a shore boat later in the evening.

"Do they?" exclaimed Captain Wilmore fiercely, when this likelihood was
suggested to him by Mr Grey.  "They'll find themselves mistaken, then.
Up with the anchor, Crossman, and hoist the mainsail.  Before their boat
has left the quay, we shall be twenty miles from land.  Not a word, Mr
Lavie.  A month or two's stay in these islands will be a lesson they'll
keep by them all their lives."

No one ventured to remonstrate.  The anchor was lifted, the great sails
were set, and in half an hour they were moving southward at a pace which
soon left the lights of Porto Prayo a mere speck in the distance.

But the boys had not been left behind, though no one but themselves and
old Jennings was aware of the fact.  He had kept the boat from putting
off on her return to the ship, on one pretext or another, as long as he
could venture to do so, in the hope that the lads would make their
appearance.  But he was aware that Andy Duncan's eye was upon him, and
could not venture to delay longer.  It happened, however, that soon
after his return, Mr Lavie had found it necessary to send on shore to
the hospital for some ice, of which they had none on board, and old
Jennings had volunteered to go.  He took the smallest boat and no one
with him but his nephew, Joe Cobbes, who was completely under his
orders.  He landed at a different place from that at which the boat had
been moored in the morning, and sent his nephew with the message to the
hospital.  He then made search after the boys, whom he soon discovered
at the regular landing-place, waiting anxiously for some means of
regaining the _Hooghly_.

"Hallo, Jennings," exclaimed Frank, as he caught sight of the old man's
figure through the fast gathering darkness; "that's all right, then.  I
was afraid we were going to stay ashore all night?"

"I hope it is all right, sir," answered Jennings, "but if the captain
finds out that you've been breaking his orders--"

"I don't believe he has given any order--" interrupted Frank.  "And it
would be monstrous if he had," exclaimed Ernest in the same breath.

"I don't know what you believe, Mr Frank, but it's sartain he has
ordered that no one shall leave the ship; and I don't know as it's so
unreasonable, Mr Warley, after the desertion of the hands at Madeira."

"We never heard of their deserting," cried Warley.

"I dare say not, sir.  It was kep' snug.  But that's why the cap'en
would allow no boats to go ashore, except what couldn't be helped.  You
see, sir, if more of the men were to make off, there mightn't be enough
left to work the ship, and if there came a gale--"

"Yes, yes; I understand that," again broke in Frank, "but we didn't know
anything about their deserting."

"Well, sir, it was giv' out this morning as that was the reason, and
every one, I thought, knew it.  But anyways, sir, you'd best come and
get aboard my boat, and keep out of the skipper's way.  He'll be sure to
find out about your doings.  Andy 'ull tell the first lieutenant, and
he'll tell the skipper--"

"I am sure I don't care if he does," exclaimed Warley.

"Ah, you don't know him, sir.  He's not a man as it's wise to defy.
Wait a bit; let him cool down and he's as pleasant a man as any one.
But when he's put up, old Nick himself can't match him.  I don't mind a
gale of wind off the Cape, or boarding a Frenchman, or a tussle with a
pirate, but I durstn't face the cap'en, when he's in one of his takings.
Come along, and get into the boat."

The lads obeyed, somewhat subdued by Jennings' representations, which
were evidently given in good faith.  They allowed the old man to cover
them with a tarpaulin, which he had brought for the purpose, and in
accordance with his directions lay perfectly still.

Presently Cobbes returned with the ice, and the boat was rowed back to
the ship.  It was pitch dark before she came alongside, and her approach
was hardly noticed.  Jennings made for the gangway, and having
ascertained that Captain Wilmore was still on shore, sent his nephew
with the ice to the doctor's cabin.  He then suffered the boat to float
noiselessly to the stern, where he had purposely left one of the cabin
windows open; through this the boys contrived, with his help, to
scramble.

"You'd better hide somewhere in the hold, Mr Frank," he whispered, as
young Wilmore, who was the last, prepared to follow his companions.

"No, on the lower deck, Jennings; we've a hiding-place there, no one
will find out.  When you think it's safe for us to show ourselves, come
down, and whistle a bar or two of one of your tunes, and I'll creep out
to you.  But I hope we shan't be kept very long, or we shall run a risk
of being starved, though we have got some grub in our pockets.  Good
night, Jennings, and thank you.  You're a good fellow, any way, whatever
the captain may be."

"Good night, Mr Frank; mind you keep close till I come to let you out.
I won't keep you waiting no longer than I can help, you may be sure of
that."

Wilmore followed his friends; and the three boys, creeping cautiously
along in the darkness, gained the lower deck unperceived, and were soon
safely ensconced in "Dionysius."  Tired out with their day's work, they
all three fell sound asleep.



CHAPTER THREE.

STRANGE TIDINGS--PIRATES ON BOARD--A REVEL--A NARROW ESCAPE--DEATH OF
JENNINGS.

The boys were awakened next morning by the pitching and tossing of the
ship.  A storm had come on during the night, which increased in violence
as the morning advanced.  It was well for the _Hooghly_ that the fresh
hands had been taken on board, or she would have become wholly
unmanageable.  Frank and his friends, in their place of retreat, could
hear the shouts and cries on deck, the rolling of the barrels which had
broken loose from their fastenings, and the washing of the heavy seas
which poured over the gunwales.  They made their breakfasts on some of
the fruit and sausages with which they had filled their pockets on the
previous evening, and waited anxiously for old Jennings' arrival.  It
was late in the afternoon before he came, and when he did appear, he
would not hear of their venturing to show themselves for the present.

"The cap'en wasn't altogether in a pleasant state of mind yesterday," he
remarked, "but he's in a wuss to-day.  He's found out that the most part
of his crew ain't worth a tobacco stopper.  I must say the Yankee made a
good pick of it.  He got away pretty nigh every smart hand we had
aboard.  These new chaps is the best we has now."

"New chaps?" asked Frank.  "Has my uncle got any fresh hands?"

"Picked up nineteen new 'uns at Port Prayo," replied Jennings.  "Stout
nimble fellows they are, no doubt.  But I don't greatly conceit them
neither.  They keep together, and hardly speak to any one aboard, except
Andy Duncan and Joel White and Bob O'Hara and that lot.  They're no good
either, to my mind.  Well, young gents, you must stay here till the gale
breaks, as I guess it will to-morrow, or the next day, and then the
skipper will be in good-humour again.  I've brought you a heap of
biscuits and some fruit and a keg of water.  But I mustn't be coming
down here often, or we shall be found out I've tied the dog up in the
fo'castle, or he'd be sniffing about after Mr Frank here, and most
likely find him out."

"Very well, Tom," said Frank, "then we'll wait here.  But it's terribly
dull work.  Nothing to do but to sleep and smoke."

"I think the skipper would let us off, if he knew what we'd gone through
during the last twenty-four hours," observed Nick, yawning.  "Well, I
suppose one must grin and bear it."  So saying, he rolled himself into
his corner and endeavoured to lose the recollection of his
_desagrements_ in sleep.

The evening wore on heavily enough.  It was past midnight before the
gale began to lull, and the lads at length fell sound asleep.  But they
were roused soon afterwards by a loud commotion on deck.  Voices were
heard shouting and cursing; one or two shots were fired, and Frank
fancied he could once or twice distinguish the clash of cutlasses.  But
presently the tumult died away, and the ship apparently resumed her
customary discipline.  Daylight came at last, glimmering faintly through
the crevices of their prison, and the boys lay every minute expecting
the advent of the old quartermaster.  But the morning passed, and the
afternoon began to slip away, and still there was no sign of Jennings's
approach.  The matter was more than once debated whether they should
issue from their hiding-place, which was now becoming intolerable to
them, altogether disregarding his advice; or at any rate send out one of
the party to reconnoitre.  But Ernest urged strongly the wisdom of
keeping to their original resolution, and Frank after awhile sided with
him.  It was agreed, however, that if Jennings did not appear on the
following morning, Warley should betake himself to the doctor's cabin
and ask his advice.

Accordingly they once more lay down to sleep, and were again awoke in
the middle of the night, but this time by a voice calling to them in a
subdued tone through the barrels.

Wilmore, who was the lightest sleeper, started up.  "Who is that?" he
asked.

"It is I--Tom Jennings," was the answer.  "Don't speak again, but push
out the barrel that stops the way into your crib there.  I'll manage to
crawl in, I dare say, though I am a bit lame."

Wilmore saw there was something wrong.  He complied literally with Tom's
request, and pushed the keg out in silence.  Presently he heard the old
man making his way, stopping every now and then as if in pain.  At last
there came the whisper again: "Pull the barrel back into its place, I've
got a lantern under my coat which I'll bring out when you've made all
fast."

Frank again obeyed his directions, having first enjoined silence on his
two companions, who were by this time wide awake.  Then Jennings drew
out his lantern, and lighted it by the help of a flint and steel.  As
the light fell on his face and figure, the boys could hardly suppress a
cry of alarm.  His cheeks were as white as ashes, and in several places
streaked with clotted blood.  His leg too was rudely bandaged from the
knee to the ankle, and it was only by a painful effort that he could
draw it after him.

"What's the matter, Tom?" exclaimed Frank.  "How have you hurt your leg
in that manner?"

"Hush!  Mr Frank.  We mustn't speak above a whisper.  There's pirates
on board.  They've got possession of the ship."

"Pirates!" repeated Wilmore.  "What, have we been attacked, and my
uncle--"

"He's safe, Mr Frank--at least I hope so.  Look here.  You remember
them foreign chaps as he brought aboard at Porto Prayo?  It was all a
lie they told the cap'en, about their ship having been lost.  They were
part of a crew of pirates--that's my belief, any way--as had heard
Captain Wilmore was short-handed, and wanted to get possession of his
ship.  They was no sooner aboard than they made friends with some of the
worst of our hands--Andy and White and O'Hara and the rest on 'em--and I
make no doubt persuaded them to join 'em.  About ten o'clock last night,
when the men were nearly all in their berths, worn out with their work
during the gale, these foreigners crept up on deck, cut down and pitched
overboard half a dozen of our chaps as were on deck, and then clapped
down the hatches."

"That was what we heard, then," remarked Gilbert.  "Were you on deck,
Tom?"

"Yes, sir, I was, and got these two cuts over the head and leg.  By good
luck I fell close to the companion-ladder and was able at once to crawl
to my berth, or I should have been pitched overboard.  Well, as soon as
it was daylight, the captain and the officers laid their heads together
to contrive some means of regaining the ship; but, before they could
settle anything, a vessel came in sight, and the fellows on deck hove to
and let her come up--"

"The pirate ship, I suppose, hey?" cried Frank.

"Yes, sir, no other.  She'd followed us beyond a doubt from Porto Prayo,
and would have come up before, if it hadn't been for the gale.  There
wasn't nothing to be done, of course.  The pirates threatened the
captain, if he didn't surrender at once, that they'd fire down the
hatchways and afterwards pitch every mother's son overboard.  And they'd
have done it too."

"Not a doubt," assented Frank.  "So my uncle surrendered?"

"Yes, sir, he did, but he didn't like it.  I must say, from what I've
heard of these fellows, I judged that they'd have thrown us all in to
the sea without mercy.  But it seems White and O'Hara and the rest
wouldn't allow that, and insisted on it that every one, who chose it,
should be allowed to leave the ship.  I did 'em injustice, I must say."

"What did they go in?" inquired Wilmore, a good deal surprised.

"In the two biggest of the ship's boats, sir.  You see we've been driven
a long way south by that gale, and are not more than a few hundred miles
from Ascension.  They'll make for that, and with this wind they've a
good chance of getting there in three or four days."

"Are all the officers and passengers gone?" asked Warley.

"Well, no, sir.  Mr Lavie ain't gone.  The men stopped him as he was
stepping into the boat, and declared he shouldn't leave the ship.  But
all the rest is gone--no one's left except those who've joined the
mutineers, unless it's poor old Lion, who's still tied up in the
fo'castle."

"Why, _you_ haven't joined them, Jennings, to be sure?"

"I! no, sir; but with my leg I couldn't have gone aboard the boats; and
to be sure, I hadn't the chance, for I fainted dead off as soon as I'd
reached my berth, and didn't come to till after they was gone.  And
there's my nevvy too--he wouldn't go, but chose to stay behind and nurse
me.  I hadn't the heart to scold the lad for it."

"Scold him!  I should think not," observed Warley.

"Well, sir, it may get him into trouble if he's caught aboard this ship,
and I expect he'll get into troubles with these pirates too.  But
there's no use fretting about what can't be helped.  I'm thinking about
you young gents.  You see if I'd been in my right senses when they went
away, I should have told the cap'en about you, and he'd have taken you
away with him.  But I wasn't sensible like, and no one else then knew as
you was aboard."

"No one knew it _then_?" repeated Warley.  "No one knows it now, I
suppose."

"Yes, sir, Mr Lavie knows it, and Joe too; I told them an hour ago, and
we had a long talk about it.  The doctor's resolved he won't stay in the
ship, and I suppose you don't want to stay neither?"

"We stay, Tom!" replied Frank.  "No, I should think not indeed, if we
can help it.  But how are we to get away?"

"This way, sir.  These pirates have been choosing their officers to-day,
and they've made O'Hara captain.  They say he's the only man who's up to
navigating the ship.  Anyhow, they've made him captain, and one of the
foreign chaps, first mate.  They're to have a great supper to-morrow
night in honour of 'em, and most of the crew--pretty nigh all I should
say--will be drunk.  Well, then, we claps a lot of things, that Mr
Lavie has got together, aboard one of the boats--there are enough of us
to lower her easy enough--and long before daylight you'll be out of
sight."

"_You'll_ be out of sight.  Don't you mean to go yourself, Jennings?"
asked Frank.

"My leg won't let me, Mr Frank.  I couldn't get down the ship's side;
and besides, I ain't in no danger.  My old messmates won't let me be
hurt, nor Joe Cobbes neither.  I'd best stay here till my leg's right.
Mr Lavie says it wants nothing but rest, and a little washing now and
then.  No, sir; Joe and I would rather stay on board here and take the
first opportunity of leaving the ship that offers.  Mr Lavie and you
all 'ull bear witness how it happened."

"That we will, Tom," said Warley.  "Well, then, if I understand you,
we've nothing to do but to remain quiet until to-morrow night, and you
and Mr Lavie will make all the preparations?"

"Yes, sir, that's right.  Stay quietly here till you've notice that
everything's ready."

"But I don't like you having all the risk and trouble, Tom," said
Wilmore.

"You'd do as much for me, sir, and more too, I dare say, if you had the
chance.  Besides, I am anxious you should get away safe, because you're
my witnesses that I and Joe had no hand in this.  I shall get well all
the sooner, when you're gone."

"All right, Jennings," said Warley.  "And now I suppose you want to get
out of this again?"

"Yes, sir; you must help me.  Getting out will be worse than getting in,
I am afraid."

The lantern was extinguished, the keg removed, and with much pain and
difficulty the old man was helped out.  The next twenty-four hours were
passed in the utmost anxiety by the three lads, who would hardly allow
themselves even to whisper to one another, for fear of being overheard
by the pirates.  All the morning they could hear the preparations for
the feast going on.  Some casks in the lower deck, which, as they knew,
contained some unusually fine wine, were broken open, and the bottles
carried on deck.  Planks also were handed up to make tables and benches.
From the conversation of the men employed in the work, they learned
that the feast was to take place in the forecastle, none of the cabins
being large enough to hold the entire party.  Once they caught a mention
of Mr Lavie's name, and learned that he had been all night in
attendance on Amos Wood, the sailor who had been attacked by fever at
Porto Prayo, and that the man had died that morning, and been thrown
overboard.  The doctor, it was said, had now turned in for a long sleep.
The boys guessed that his day would be differently employed.  About six
o'clock in the evening, everything seemed to be in readiness.  The tramp
of feet above was heard as the men took their places at table, and was
followed by the rattling of plates and knives and forks, and the oaths
and noisy laughter of the revellers.  These grew more vociferous as the
evening passed on, and after an hour or two the uproar was heightened by
the crash of glass, and the frequent outbreak of quarrels among the
guests, which were with difficulty suppressed by their more sober
comrades.  Then benches were overturned, and the noise of bodies falling
on the deck was heard, as man after man became stupidly intoxicated.
The uproar gradually died out, until nothing was audible, but drunken
snores, or the unsteady steps of some few of the sailors, who were
supposed to be keeping watch.

It was about two hours after midnight when the expected summons came.
Frank crept out first, followed by Nick and Ernest.  They found Mr
Lavie and Joe Cobbes waiting for them.

"Everything is ready, Ernest," whispered the doctor.  "We've put as many
provisions and arms into the jolly-boat as we can safely carry; but you
had better take a brace of pistols apiece.  There are some one or two of
the men who are the worse for drink, but still sober enough to know what
they are doing, and we may have a tussle.  Put on these caps and
jackets, and come as quick as you can.  The jolly-boat is on the
starboard side, near the stern.  She's not in the water yet, but
everything is ready for lowering her.  Quiet's the word."

The boys obeyed.  They crept cautiously on deck, pulling the caps over
their foreheads, and imitating as well as they could the movements of
drunken men.  They soon reached the jolly-boat, where old Jennings was
waiting for them.  The helm had been lashed, but every ten minutes or so
one of the watch came aft to see that all was right.  Jennings had
unfastened the lashings and taken the rudder, telling the first man who
came up that he would see to it for the rest of the watch.  The man
willingly enough accepted his services, and this skilful manoeuvre saved
them for the time from further interruption.

"Lower quickly, Mr Lavie," he whispered in the doctor's ear.  "Andy
Duncan has had liquor enough to make half a dozen men drunk, but he
knows what he's doing for all that.  He's keeping an eye on the ship,
and may be down upon us any minute."

He was obeyed promptly and in silence.  The boat was lowered without
attracting notice.  Warley was the first to slip down the rope, and was
safely followed by Nick.  Frank was just climbing over the bulwark when
a man staggered up, and accused them with a volley of drunken oaths of
intending to desert.

"No, no, Andy," said Jennings quickly, "no one means to desert.  There's
a man overboard, and we're lowering a boat to pick him up.  Make haste,
my lad," he continued, addressing Wilmore, "or he'll be too far astern
for us to help him."

Frank promptly took the cue, and vanished over the side.  For a moment
Duncan was staggered by the old quartermaster's readiness, but the next
he caught a momentary glimpse of Frank's features.

"Hallo, that's young Wilmore, that's the captain's nevvy, as you said
had been left behind," he shouted.  "There's some devilry here!  Help,
my lads, there!"  He drew a pistol as he spoke, and fired at Mr Lavie's
head, who was attempting to seize him.

His nerves were unsteady from drink, and the bullet missed its mark; but
it struck Joe Cobbes on the temple, who fell on the instant stone dead.
Some of the men, startled by the pistol shot, came reeling up from the
forecastle.

The doctor struck Andy a heavy blow with the butt end of his pistol, and
the man dropped insensible on the deck.  He then turned to Jennings.
"You must go with us now, Tom," he said, "or they will certainly murder
you.  Go, I tell you, or I'll stay behind myself."

The old man made a great effort and rolled himself over the bulwarks,
reaching the boat by the help of the rope, and the hands of the boys
below, though he fainted from pain and exhaustion immediately
afterwards.

Mr Lavie fired at the nearest man, who dropped with a broken leg.  The
others hung back alarmed and stupefied.  Lavie skimmed down the rope,
and disengaged her before they had recovered their senses.  Just at this
moment there was a heavy splash close beside them.

"Hallo!" cried Ernest, "one of the fellows has fallen overboard.  We
must take him in.  We can't leave him to drown."

"It isn't any of the crew," said Frank.  "It's old Lion.  I can see his
head above water.  He has broken his fastenings and followed us.  Haul
him aboard, Nick."

The dog was soon got in, and Lavie and Warley, seizing the oars, rowed
away from the ship.  An attempt was made to lower a boat, and one or two
shots were fired.  But the crew were in no condition for work of any
kind, and in a few minutes the _Hooghly_ was lost sight of in the
darkness.  Lavie and Wilmore, who understood the management of a boat,
hoisted the sail and took the rudder.

Meanwhile, Warley and Gilbert were endeavouring to restore the old
quartermaster from his swoon.  They threw water in his face, and poured
some brandy from a flask down his throat, but for a long time without
any result.  At last the boat was in proper trim, and Mr Lavie set at
liberty to attend to his patient.  Alarmed at the low state of the
pulse, and the failure of the efforts to restore consciousness, he
lighted his lantern, and then discovered that the bottom of the boat was
deluged with blood.  The bandages had been loosened in the struggle to
get on board, and the wound had broken out afresh.  The surgeon saw that
there was now little hope of saving the old man's life.  He succeeded,
however, in stanching the flow of blood, and again bound up the wound,
directing that Jennings should be laid in as comfortable a position as
possible on a heap of jackets in the bow.

This had not been long effected, when morning appeared.  Those who have
witnessed daybreak in the tropics, will be aware how strange and
brilliant a contrast it presents to that of northern climates.  The day
does not slowly gather in the East, changing by imperceptible degrees
from the depth of gloom to the fulness of light, but springs as it were
with a single effort into brilliant splendour--an image of the great
Creator's power when He created the earth and skies--not toiling through
long ages of successive processes and formations, as some would have us
believe, but starting at one bound from shapeless chaos into life and
harmony.

The doctor cast an anxious look at the horizon, and was relieved to find
that the _Hooghly_ was nowhere visible.  "Well out of that," he
muttered.  "If we could only bring poor Jennings round, I shouldn't so
much regret what has happened.  But I am afraid that can't be."  He
again felt the old man's pulse, and found that he was now conscious
again, though very feeble.

"Is that Mr Lavie?" he said, opening his eyes.  "I'm glad to see you've
come off safe, sir.  I hope the young gentlemen are safe too."

"All three of them, Jennings, thank you," was the answer; "not one of
them has so much as a scratch on him."

"That's hearty, sir.  I am afraid poor Joe--it's all over with him,
isn't it?"

"I am afraid so, Tom.  But he didn't suffer.  The ball struck him right
on the temple, and he was gone in a moment."

"Yes, sir, and he was killed doing his duty.  Perhaps if he'd remained
among them villains, he'd have been led astray by them.  It's best as it
is, sir.  I only hope you may all get safe to land."

"And you too, Tom," added Frank, who with his two companions had joined
them unperceived.

"No, Mr Frank, I shall never see land--never see the sun set again, I
expect.  But I don't know that I'm sorry for that I'm an old man, sir,
and my nevvy was the last of my family, and I couldn't have lived very
long any way."

"No," said Mr Lavie, "and you too have met your death in the discharge
of your duty.  When my time comes, I hope I may be able to say the
same."

"Ah, doctor, it's little good any on us can do in this world.  It's well
that there's some one better able to bear the load of our sins than we
are!  But I want to say a word or two, sir, while I can.  I advised you,
you'll remember, to run straight for the nearest point of the coast,
which I judge is about eight hundred miles off.  But I didn't know then
where them pirates meant to take the _Hooghly_ to.  Their officers only
let it out last night over their drink.  They were to make the mouth of
the Congo river, where they've one of their settlements, or whatever
they call them.  Now, that happens to be just the point you'd be running
for, and they'd be pretty sure to overhaul you before you reached it.
You'd better now try to reach the Cape, sir.  It is a long way off--a
good fortnight's sail, I dare say, even with this wind.  But there's
food and water enough to last more than that time; and besides, you may
fall in with an Indiaman."

"We'll take your advice, you may be sure, Jennings."

"I'm glad to hear that, sir.  It makes my mind more easy.  Make for the
coast, Dr Lavie, but don't try for it north of Cape Frio--that's my
advice, sir; and I know these latitudes pretty well by this time."

"We'll take care, Jennings," said Warley.  "And now, isn't there
anything we can do for you?"

"You can say a prayer or two with me, Mr Ernest," replied the old man
feebly.  "You can't do anything else, that I knows of."

Warley complied, and all kneeling down, he repeated the Lord's Prayer,
and one or two simple petitions for pardon and support, in which old
Jennings feebly joined.  Before the sun had risen high in the heavens
his spirit had passed away.  His body was then reverently committed to
the deep, and the survivors, in silence and sorrow, sailed away from the
spot.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A FOG--WRECKED--A CONSULTATION--SURVEY OF THE SHORE--A STRANGE
SPECTACLE--THE FIRST NIGHT ON SHORE.

It was early morning.  Lavie and Warley were sitting at the helm
conversing anxiously, but in subdued tones, unwilling to break the
slumbers of their two companions, who were lying asleep at their feet,
with Lion curled up beside them.  It was now sixteen days since they had
left the ship; and so far as they could ascertain, Table Bay was still
seven or eight hundred miles distant.  They had been unfortunate in
their weather.  For the first few days indeed the wind had been
favourable, and they had made rapid progress.  But on the fifth morning
there had come a change.  The wind lulled, and for eight and forty hours
there fell a dead calm.  This was followed by a succession of light
baffling breezes, during the prevalence of which they could hardly make
any way.  On the twelfth day the wind was again fair; but their
provisions, and especially their supply of water, had now run so low,
that there was little hope of its holding out, even if no further
_contretemps_ should occur.  Under these circumstances, they had thought
it better to steer for the nearest point of the African coast.  They
were now too far to the southward to run any great risk of falling in
with the pirates, and at whatever point they might make the land, there
would be a reasonable prospect of obtaining fresh supplies.  The course
of the boat had accordingly been altered, and for the last three days
they had been sailing due east.

According to the doctor's calculations they were not more than sixty or
seventy miles from shore, when the sun set on the previous evening; and
as they had been running steadily before the wind all night, he fully
expected to catch sight of it as soon as the morning dawned.  But the
sky was thick and cloudy, and there was a mist over the sea, rendering
objects at the distance of a few hundred yards quite undistinguishable.

"We cannot be far from shore," said the doctor.  "My observations, I
dare say, are not very accurate; but I think I cannot be more than
twenty or thirty miles wrong, and according to me we ought to have
sighted land, or rather have been near enough to sight it, three or four
hours ago."

"I think I can hear the noise of breakers," said Warley, "I have fancied
so for the last ten minutes.  But there is such a fog, that it is
impossible to make out anything."

"You are right," said Mr Lavie, setting himself to listen.  "That is
the beating of surf; we must be close to the shore, but it will be
dangerous to approach until we can see it more clearly.  We must go
about."

Ernest obeyed; but the alarm had been taken too late.  Almost at the
same moment that he turned the rudder, the boat struck upon a reef,
though not with any great force.  Lavie sprang out and succeeded in
pushing her off into deep water again, but the blow had damaged her
bottom, and the water began to come in.

"Bale her out," shouted Lavie to Frank and Nick as he sprang on board
again.  "I can see the land now.  It's not a quarter of a mile off, and
she'll keep afloat for that distance.  Take the other oar, Ernest; while
they bale we must row for that point yonder."

The fog had partially cleared away, and a low sandy shore became here
and there visible, running out into a long projecting spit on their left
hand.  This was the spot which Lavie had resolved to make for.  It was
not more than two or three hundred yards distant, and there was no
appearance of surf near it.  They rowed with all their strength, the
other two baling with their hats, in lieu of any more suitable vessels.
But the water continued to gain on them, nevertheless, though slowly,
and they had approached within thirty yards of the beach, when she
struck a second time on a sunk rock, and began to fill rapidly.  They
all simultaneously leaped out into four-foot water, and by their united
strength contrived to drag the boat on until her keel rested on the
sand.  Lavie then seized the longest rope, and running up the low,
shelving shore, secured the end to a huge mass of drift-wood which lay
just above high-water mark.  Fortunately the tide was now upon the turn,
so that in three-quarters of an hour or so she would be left high and
dry on the beach.

The first impulse of all four was to fall on their knees and return
thanks for their deliverance, even the thoughtless Nick being, for the
time, deeply impressed by his narrow escape from death.  Then they
looked about them.  The fog had now almost disappeared, and a long
monotonous line of sand hills presented itself in the foreground.
Behind this appeared a dreary stretch of sand, unenlivened by tree,
grass, or shrub, for two or three miles at least, when it terminated in
a range of hills, covered apparently with scrub.  Immediately beyond the
narrow strip of beach lay a lagoon, extending inland for about a mile.
This was evidently connected with the sea at high-water; for a great
many fish had been left stranded in the mud, where they were obliged to
remain, until the return of the tide again set them at liberty.
Presently a low growl from Lion startled them, and they noticed an
animal creeping up round a neighbouring sand hill, which on nearer
approach they perceived to be a hyena.  It was followed by several
others of the same kind, which forthwith began devouring the stranded
fish, while the latter flapped their tails in vain attempts to escape
from the approach of their enemy.  Availing themselves of the hint thus
offered them, the boys, who had not yet breakfasted, pulled off their
shoes and stockings, and followed by Lion, waded into the mud.  The
hyenas skulked off as they approached, and they soon possessed
themselves of several large eels and barbel Mr Lavie, whose appetite
also reminded him that he had eaten nothing that morning, gathered a
heap of dry weed and drift-wood, and drawing out his burning-glass, soon
set them ablaze.  Frank undertook to clean and broil the fish, which was
soon afterwards served up, and pronounced excellent.

By the time they had finished their meal, all the water had run out of
the boat, and the sand was sufficiently dry to enable them to convey
their stores on shore.  Having completed this, and covered them with
tarpaulin to prevent damage from the broiling sun, their next task was
to turn her over and examine her bottom.  It took the united strength of
the four to accomplish this; but it had no sooner been done, than it
became evident that it would be useless to bestow further trouble upon
her.  The first concussion had merely loosened her timbers, but the
second had broken a large hole in the bottom; which it was beyond their
powers of carpentry to repair, even had they possessed all the necessary
tools.

"Thank God she didn't strike on that sharp rock the first time,"
exclaimed Lavie, as he saw the fracture; "we should not be standing
here, if she had."

"Why, we can all swim, Mr Lavie, and it was not more than a quarter of
a mile from land," observed Gilbert, surprised.

The doctor made no reply, but he pointed out to sea where the black fins
of more than one shark were visible above the surface.

Nick shuddered and turned pale, and all present again offered an inward
thanksgiving.

"Well," resumed Frank, after a few moments' silence, "what is to be
done, then?  I suppose it is pretty certain that she will never float
again."

"Well, not certain, Frank," suggested Warley.  "There may be some
fishermen--settlers, or natives--living about here, and they of course
would have boats, and would therefore be able to repair ours.  The best
thing will be to make search in all directions, and see if we can
discover anywhere a fisherman's hut."

"I am afraid there's not much chance of that, Ernest," said Wilmore.
"If there were any fishermen about here, we should see their boats, or
any way their nets, not to say their cottages; for they would be
tolerably sure to live somewhere near the beach."

"The boats might be out to sea, and the nets on board them," suggested
Gilbert, "and the huts may be anywhere--hidden behind those hillocks of
sand, perhaps."

"So they may, Nick," observed Mr Lavie, "though I fear there is no very
great chance of it.  It is worth trying for, at all events.  Look here,
one of us had better go along the shore to the right, and another to the
left, until they get to the end of the bay.  From thence they will, in
all likelihood, be able to see a long way along the coast, and if no
villages or single dwellings are visible, it will be of no use making
further search for them.  It will take several hours to reach the end to
the left there, and that to the right is probably about as far off; but
it is still so hidden by the fog that, at this distance, it can't be
made out."

"And what are the other two to do?" asked Frank.

"They had better stay here and make preparations for supper and passing
the night," said Mr Lavie.  "It is still tolerably early, but whoever
goes out to explore won't be back till late in the afternoon, and will
be too tired, I guess, to be willing to set out on a fresh expedition
then.  Besides, the night falls so rapidly in these latitudes that it
wouldn't be safe.  Now, I have some skill in hut making, and I think you
had better leave that part of the job to me."

"By all means, Charles," said Warley; "and Frank here showed himself
such a capital cook this morning, that I suppose he'll want to undertake
that office again.  Well, I'm quite ready.  I should like to take the
left side of the bay, Nick, if you've no objection."

"It's all the same to me," said Nick; "anything for a quiet life--and it
seems quiet enough out there anyway.  Well, then, I suppose we had
better be off at once, as I don't want to have to walk very fast.  I
should like to have Lion, but I suppose he wouldn't follow me."

"No, he's safe to stay with Frank, but you two had better take your guns
with you," said Mr Lavie.  "I don't suppose you are likely to meet any
wild animals on these sand flats--nothing worse than a hyena, at any
rate."

"Thank you kindly, Mr Lavie, I don't particularly want to meet even a
hyena," said Nick.

"Pooh, Nick, he wouldn't attack you, if he did meet you.  But you may
want our help for some reason or other, which we can't foresee, and we
shall be sure to hear you, if you fire.  Here, Nick, you shall have my
rifle for the nonce.  It is an old favourite of mine, and has seen many
a day's sport.  And here's Captain Renton's rifle for you, Ernest.  By
good luck he had asked me to take care of it, so it was safe in my cabin
the day we got away.  I've never seen it perform; but if it is only one
half as good an article as he declares, you'll have no cause to complain
of it."

"How was it that the captain didn't take it with him?" asked Gilbert.

"Because they wouldn't let him," said the surgeon.  "He asked to be
allowed to fetch it, and looked as savage as he dared to look, when they
swore they'd allow no firearms to be taken."

"I don't wonder at their not permitting it," observed Wilmore.

"Nor I, Frank.  The wonder to me has always been that they let the
officers and passengers go at all.  But it seems that such of our men as
agreed to join these Congo pirates would not do so, except on the
express condition that the lives of all on board were to be spared; and
the pirates daren't cross them.  But we mustn't dawdle here talking.
There's plenty to be done by all of us, and more than we can do, too."

Warley and Nick accordingly set off in opposite directions, and Lavie
and Frank began their work.  They first took an axe from their stores,
and choosing from among the drift-wood three of the longest spars,
resolved to fix two of them in the ground, and lash the third to their
upper ends.  They selected for this purpose a hollow between two high
sand hills, about a hundred yards above high-water mark.  Then they were
to cut six more poles, and lay them on either side against the ridge
piece, burying the other ends in the sand.  Over this frame-work the
tarpaulin was to be stretched, and kept in its place by laying some
heavy pieces of wood on the lower ends.  Thus a small tent would be
formed, at the bottom of which the boat's sail was to be spread, forming
a convenient place on which to lay their stores, and make up their beds.

Plainly it would occupy a considerable time to complete these
arrangements, but they had not advanced half-way, when Nick came
hurrying back in a state of the greatest excitement, declaring that he
had seen, at a short distance, the roofs of what was evidently a town of
considerable size; and on a flat piece of ground adjoining it, a number
of men--soldiers they seemed to be--in red and white uniforms, drawn out
in long lines, as if on parade.

"A large town, Nick! soldiers in uniform!" repeated Wilmore in great
astonishment.  "You must be dreaming."

"I assure you I am not," replied Gilbert, whose demeanour showed that he
was thoroughly in earnest.  "I could see, quite distinctly above the
fog, the towers of a church, apparently, and a long row of battlements,
evidently part of a line of fortifications; and, through openings in the
mist, the red caps and jackets of the soldiers were as plain as anything
I ever beheld in my life."

"But it can't be, doctor, can it?" asked Frank.  "I am sure I should be
glad enough to think we were near any inhabited spot, let alone a large
city.  But you're pretty certain of our whereabouts, ain't you?"

"Yes; I don't think I can be mistaken very much, and I must be out of
all reckoning wrong, if this is true.  There is no town, that I know of,
on this coast, between the Portuguese settlements, which are something
like eight hundred miles to the north of where I suppose we now are, and
Cape Town, which is almost as far to the south."

"Well, just come and look for yourself, doctor," said Nick.  "It won't
take you long.  The place is not above two or three miles off at the
outside."

"Of course I will go--we'll all go, Nick--Lion and all I am sure I hope
with all my heart that you may be right.  It will save us a very long
and dangerous journey if you are."

He caught up a fowling-piece which had belonged to his friend the
purser, and handed Frank the fourth gun, an ordinary seaman's carbine.
"Now then, Nick, lead the way."

Gilbert complied, and the whole party stepped out briskly, their
curiosity, as well as their interest, being strongly awakened.  They
toiled through the heavy sand, which was only varied by heaps of
drift-wood flung up by the sea, and the rotten carcasses of mud fish,
which had been carried too far inland by the tide to be able to recover
their native element.  The stench, under the burning sun, was almost
insupportable, and the three adventurers were greatly relieved, when,
after a walk of three-quarters of an hour, the desert of sand was
passed, and they ascended a rocky plateau, where some crags, twelve or
fifteen feet in height, afforded at least some shelter from the rapidly
increasing heat.  "We are getting near the place now," observed Nick, as
they reached the last of a long chain of rocks, and came upon a wide and
apparently level plain, but so much enveloped in mist as to be very
imperfectly discerned.

"There it is, I declare," exclaimed Frank, who was the first of the
party to turn the corner of the limestone shelf.  "There it all is--
houses, fortifications, and soldiers, just as Nick said!"

There, indeed, it was.  At the distance, as it seemed, of scarcely more
than three hundred feet, were seen distinctly the battlemented walls of
a city of great size and strength.  There were the gateways, the
flanking towers, and the embrasures; while behind them rose domes and
cupolas, and the sharp-peaked roofs of numberless houses, intermingled
with lofty trees.  Under the walls ran a broad river, the waters of
which rippled brightly in the sunshine, and upon its banks long lines of
infantry were drawn up, or what appeared to be infantry, all standing
silent and motionless as so many statues.

The two boys gazed in the utmost bewilderment at this spectacle, while
Lion bounded forward, evidently meditating a plunge into the cool and
sparkling waters.  The astonishment of the party was in no way
diminished, when the doctor, raising his gun to his shoulder, fired
directly at the nearest platoon of soldiers, one of whom was seen to
fall.  The next moment the whole of his companions rose with loud
screams into the air, and dispersed themselves in all directions.
Almost at the same moment the walls and battlements of the fortress and
ridges of roof behind them wavered and shook, and finally vanished from
the scene, as the smoke of a wood fire is lost in the surrounding
atmosphere.  In their place appeared a low serrated ridge of rock, on
which a few stunted shrubs were growing, while in front and behind alike
extended the interminable waste of sand.

"Here is your soldier, Nick," said the doctor, as he picked up the
carcass of a large flamingo, which his shot had brought down.  "Here's
his red cap and jacket--his beak and wings, that is to say--and here are
his white facings--his neck and chest.  You are not the first by a good
many that has made that mistake!"

"This is what is called a mirage, then?" said Frank.  "I've often heard
of it, and longed to see it; and it is a more extraordinary delusion
than I could have supposed possible.  Why that low line of rock there,
and those dwarf shrubs looked as if they were at least sixty feet high.
How in the world do you account for it, Mr Lavie?  Why even Lion was
taken in!"

"I am afraid I cannot give you an explanation, which you will understand
very clearly, Frank.  It is caused by the inequality of the temperature
in the lower strata of the air; which again is the result of the
reflected heat of the sun's rays on the barren, sandy plain.  While the
strata are unequally heated, these curious reflections, which are like
those seen in broken mirrors, continue to deceive the eye.  Objects
appear to be raised high into the air, which in reality are to be found
on the surface of the earth, often too they are immensely magnified, as
indeed you saw just now; a single stone will seem the size of a house,
and an insignificant shrub look as big as a forest tree.  But when the
sun gains sufficient power to raise all the strata to a uniform heat,
the mirage melts away."

"But your shot seemed to disperse it just now."

"So it did.  But my shot only disturbed the strata; and if the mirage
had not been nearly on the point of vanishing, from the increasing solar
heat, I doubt whether the same effect would have followed.  But it is
time for us to go back to our hut and finish our work.  Nick, I suppose
you will join us?  We may see pretty plainly for ourselves that there
are no fishermen's huts in this quarter."

Nick assented, and the three, after a short rest under the shade of the
rocks, returned to the spot whence they had set out, and resumed their
work.  By two o'clock the two uprights were fixed in the sand, and in
two hours afterwards the tent was complete.  All the stores were then
carefully conveyed inside, the keg of gunpowder being buried in the sand
to prevent the possibility of accident.  Then the two lads set about
preparations for supper, which was to consist, like that of the morning,
of fish broiled on the embers.

"And a very good supper too," observed Nick; "I don't think I ever ate a
finer fish than this cod here."

"It's first-rate, there's no doubt of that," returned Frank; "but I must
own I should like something besides.  I suppose your flamingo there
wouldn't be very good eating?"

"I expect not," replied Lavie.  "The flamingo is too gross a feeder to
make very good food itself.  One might eat it, I dare say, if there was
nothing else to be had.  I have eaten lion steaks once in my life, but I
have no ambition to repeat the experiment.  No, I don't propose to make
any further use of my flamingo than to cut off one of his beautiful red
wings to make a fan of, and hand the rest of the bird over to Lion.
What a splendid-looking bird he was; it really seems almost a shame to
kill him!"

They all gathered round to admire him.  The colours in which nature had
dressed him, showed that he was one of her favourite children.  The long
thin legs--they were two feet and some inches in length--were of the
most delicate shade of pink, and shaped with wonderful grace.  The short
thigh, chest, and neck were covered with down, the softest and whitest
that can be imagined.  But the great beauty of the creature lay in its
wings, in which the brilliant scarlet and pure white hues were
intermingled with wonderful delicacy and grace, both colours being
bordered and thrown out by the deep black of the under feathers.

"I wish I could stuff that specimen," said the doctor, as he
contemplated the dead bird.  "It would be the making of a collection.
It can't stand less than four foot four, or perhaps four foot six high.
However, I'm afraid it's rather out of place to be thinking of
collections.  It will be a good job," he muttered to himself, "if we are
not put into a collection ourselves by some Hottentot or Damara chief
But it won't do to hint that to the boys."

He seated himself on one of the casks in the shelter of the tent, and
appeared to be watching the preparations for supper, lost, in reality,
in a reverie of mingled pain and pleasure.  He was roused at last by the
information that Warley was returning; and presently the youth himself
appeared on the scene, throwing down, to Frank's great satisfaction, a
brace of wild ducks which he had been fortunate enough to shoot.  His
report, however, was not encouraging.  He had reached the extremity of
the bay, and had ascended an eminence, perhaps two or three hundred feet
high; but nothing was to be discerned from it but long wastes of mingled
rock and sand, varied here and there by thickets of euphorbia, or
monotonous scrub.  In the distance indeed were lofty mountains; but it
was impossible to say, in that transparent atmosphere, how distant they
might be.  As regards the more immediate object of his expedition--the
discovery of some trace of man--it had been an entire failure.

While Warley was delivering his report to the doctor, the other two were
busied in plucking and roasting the ducks.  Presently it was announced
that all was ready, and the four sat down to their repast with an
appetite sharpened by a long day of exertion.  It was no sooner over
than fatigue began to assert itself in place of hunger.  It was agreed
that the fire should be kept up all night, and that each should watch
for two hours by it.  It was now nearly nine o'clock, and the last watch
would thus bring them to five in the morning, when it would be desirable
that all four should be awakened to the heavy day's work, which (as none
of them doubted) lay before them.



CHAPTER FIVE.

PLANS--THE BOYS SET OUT--A DISAPPOINTMENT--THE FIRST BOK--WATER!
WATER!--A MIDNIGHT VISITOR.

The whole party slept soundly, and by six o'clock were sitting under
their tent over the remains of their breakfast.  Frank and Nick were on
the point of issuing forth to collect some more fish for the mid-day
meal, when the doctor called to them to stop.

"It is time," he said, "that we hold a consultation, and come to some
resolution respecting our future movements.  Sit down here in the shade,
and we'll talk the matter over."

The boys obeyed, and took their places; Lion, as usual, seating himself
at Frank's side, and occasionally bestowing a broad lick of affection on
his face and hands.

"I have made a fresh examination of the boat this morning," began Lavie,
"and am quite satisfied that it is impossible for us to repair her.  She
is an old boat, and wouldn't anyway have lasted much longer, and now she
is so much hurt, that no one but a regular boat-builder could make her
float again.  It is impossible therefore to carry out our original
intention of going on to Cape Town by sea.  Well, then, we must hit on
some other plan."

"Wouldn't it be the simplest way to travel along the line of coast the
whole way?" suggested Ernest.  "As far as I remember my geography, there
are no bays running far inland, or very wide rivers to interfere with
us."

"You're right, Ernest," rejoined Lavie.  "There are nothing but small
bays all the way, and until we reached the mouth of the Gariep, there
would be no rivers to interfere with us."

"And when we did reach the Gariep, said Frank, we should be pretty safe
to fall in with some settlers or, any way, natives, who, `for a
consideration,' would help us through the rest of our journey.  I think
Ernest's advice very good."

"I should think it so also, Frank," said the surgeon, "if I didn't
happen to know something of the line of country proposed.  I have never
been along it myself, but I have met people who know it well.  It is one
long sandy waste the entire way--no trees, no grass, scarcely even a
rock; and if there are any water-springs, they are so few and scanty,
that it is almost the same thing as if there were none at all.  There
would be no food to be obtained, no shade from the sun, and no
resting-place at night, as it would be impossible to carry our tent with
us.  And, to wind up, we should certainly not meet with a human being
from the beginning of our journey to its end."

"Well, that is pretty nearly enough, I think," observed Nick, "I have no
fancy to be broiled like a fish on a gridiron, or have a leg of nothing
and no turnips for dinner, like the clown in a pantomime.  Let us hear
what you propose."

"I advise that we should travel towards the east, until we come to the
banks of one of the rivers which run southward into the Gariep.  I know
there are several at no very great distance from the coast: we can
follow any one of these to its junction with the great river.  When we
have once got there, I have no doubt what Frank suggested is true
enough.  We shall come to the farmhouse of a Dutch boor, or a Hottentot
village, or fall in with a hunting party, and so find the means of
reaching Cape Town."

"That sounds feasible," said Frank.  "We shall be sure of water, at all
events, by going that way, and water's the first thing to be thought
of."

"And there'll be plenty of game, most likely," added Lavie, "and, any
way, fish."

"And shade from the heat of the sun, and resting-places at night," said
Warley.

"But how about the wild beasts and the snakes?" struck in Nick.
"Wouldn't it be better to make a canoe, or a raft, and sail down the
river itself?"

"That is not a bad idea, Nick," said Frank.  "What do you say to that,
Charles?"

"That it would be a very good idea on some rivers, but not on these,"
answered Lavie.  "Nick has never seen one of these South African rivers,
or he'd never suggest it.  At times, the channels here are reduced to
mere threads, along which no boat that was ever made could pass; at
others, they are swollen to raging torrents, which would shatter them to
fragments.  A boat journey to the Gariep is out of the question."

"Very well, then, we must make the journey along the banks," said
Warley.  "Of course we must follow your advice, Charles.  You know a
good deal about the country between this and Table Bay, while we know
absolutely nothing.  I suppose you would recommend that we should set
off, as soon as possible, for the nearest river that runs southward?"

"Yes," said Lavie, "there is no kind of object in delaying here.  There
is neither food nor shelter to be had here, neither shade nor water; and
the stench from the mud and the dead fish is very far from fragrant.  I
counsel that we move off with as little delay as possible."

"Hear, hear," said Frank; "I am quite of the same mind.  Well, then,
Charles, the next thing is, what are we to take with us?  The boat would
have held as much as we were likely to want; but our backs and pouches
are different things."

"Quite so, Frank--that was the next thing I was going to speak about.
We must, of course, leave by far the greater part of our cargo behind.
In fact, we must cumber ourselves with as little baggage as possible.
But some things will be absolutely necessary.  There are the guns and
powder-flasks and bullets.  We cannot do without them."

"That is voted, _nem. con._," said Warley; "and there is the flint and
steel and tinder-box.  The doctor's burning-glass will be no good when
the sun doesn't shine."

"And we shall want the gridiron, and the knife and spoon and cup, and
the iron pot for cooking and holding water," struck in Nick.

"Each of us ought to carry a change of linen," said Mr Lavie, "and a
second pair of shoes; but no more, I think.  I suppose one brush and
comb must serve all four."

"I hope you'll take your lancets, Charles, and some physic, in case of
any of us being taken ill," suggested Warley.

"I am not likely to forget that, Ernest," returned the surgeon.  "Very
well, then, that will be all.  We had better each provide ourselves with
the articles agreed on, make a hearty meal off some of the salt meat and
biscuit, and then set off at once, leaving everything else in the boat,
for the benefit of any one who may be thrown up, like ourselves, on
these barren flats."

No one urging farther objection, this programme was forthwith carried
out.  Belts and knapsacks were adjusted, the various articles required
for the general use were divided between the four, a hasty meal was
eaten, and then each man took his gun, and the party bade farewell to
the old boat and low sandy shore, and set forth on their travels.

They soon surmounted the rocky shelf which they had visited on the
previous day, and, passing through an opening in the barren hills,
entered a valley, which seemed even more dreary than the scene they had
just quitted.  On either side were rocks of a dull grey colour, broken
into all kinds of fantastic shapes, and full of holes and winding
caverns, which suggested the possible neighbourhood of venomous snakes.
Nick, in particular, cast many a suspicious glance at these orifices;
which seemed to his imagination the lurking-places, whence at any moment
the hideous head of a cobra or python might rear itself, preparatory to
a deadly spring on its victim.  He was greatly relieved when, after an
hour or two of walking, the valley gradually opened into a wide plain,
and patches of vegetation began to show themselves.  The euphorbia was
the first to appear, with its tall stiff bunches of foliage, each of
which bore a curious resemblance to a chandelier with its cluster of
candles.  Then the kameel-doorn, the dwarf acacia, and the wild
pomegranate began to vary the landscape with their contrast of colours;
and presently there appeared the aloe and the mimosa, the bright yellow
of the last-named reminding Ernest of the gorse and broom among which
his walks had so often lain.

But though there was a great improvement in respect of the scenery, its
most important accessory, water, was nowhere to be found.  Lavie looked
anxiously on all sides for some indication of the vicinity of the river;
which, if his information was correct, lay only a few miles eastward of
the spot where they had landed.  They could hardly have mistaken the
way, for no other opening in the rocks had been visible in any
direction, except that which they had pursued; and the gradual downward
slope of the glen could hardly end in anything but water.  But they had
now been travelling since mid-day, only sitting down to rest for a few
minutes, at intervals of two hours or so; and now the sunset was near at
hand.  He was greatly rejoiced when, on turning the corner of a dense
clump of euphorbias, they came in sight of what was evidently the course
of the river, though the dense bushes on either side hid the stream from
view.

"Hurrah! my lads," shouted the doctor; "now for a good drink, and a cool
bath too, if the water is only deep enough."

He broke into a run as he spoke, and was joined by the other three, who
forgot their weariness and anxiety in the excitement of the moment Lion
bounded along at Frank's side, as eager apparently as his master.  They
were the first to reach the fringe of shrubs, into which they plunged
with headlong haste.  But the next moment there came a loud cry of
disappointment; the others hurried up, but only to catch sight of Frank
and Lion standing over a dry bed of sand, which had evidently once been
the channel of the river.  There was now not the slightest trace of
water to be seen.  The sand was not even moist.  Lavie now felt
extremely anxious.  There were rivers he knew lying to the eastward, and
that at no very great distance, twenty or thirty miles at the outside,
and probably they were not so far off as even twenty miles: and if so,
the strength of the whole party might hold out until the nearest was
attained.  But then the lads were not used to roughing it in the desert;
and they might miss the track and become too exhausted to travel
further.  He had fully reckoned on finding water at the spot which they
had now reached, or he would have brought a supply with him from the
water-cask in the boat, which had still contained several gallons.  But
it was too late now to think of returning that night to the seashore,
and besides, such a step would naturally alarm and depress his
companions.  The best chance would be to proceed on their way as long as
daylight lasted, and take the chance of falling in with some of the
springs or pools, which are scattered about, though at rare intervals,
in this inhospitable land.

"Well, that's a nuisance," he exclaimed aloud, as he gazed into the
blank faces, and marked the dry parched lips of the boys.  "That's a
nuisance, but it can't be helped.  Better luck next time.  We had better
step out as fast as we can while daylight lasts.  We are safe to come to
water, sooner or later, even in this country."

"All right, Charles," said Frank; "the sooner we reach it the better.
We must step out, best pace."

The other two made no remark, but they also quickened their walk.
Emerging from the bushes, Mr Lavie pursued his route due eastward,
though the path he followed did not seem very likely to fulfil his
hopes.  It lay along a bare hillside, over which huge boulders of rock
were scattered; while the vegetation growing more and more scarce every
mile of the way, at last ended in a waste as barren as that which they
had traversed at the outset of their journey.  It was, indeed, very much
the same character of scenery as before, only that they were no longer
shut in by a hollow defile in the hill.  On either sides there rose high
shelves of stone pierced by what seemed to be caverns running far
inward.  Between these masses of rock, long vistas of bare stony plains
presented themselves, seeming to the belated travellers the very picture
of desolation.

The sun was now fast setting; there remained scarcely an hour of
daylight, and for all they could see, Lavie and his party would have to
continue their journey by starlight, or bivouac on the sand.  Suddenly
at this moment, Lion, who had been tramping along for the last hour or
two, as much depressed apparently as any of the party, stood still,
sniffed the air for a moment or two, and then sprang forward with a
joyous bark, turning round, when he had proceeded a few yards, as if
inviting Frank to follow him.

"Don't call him back, Frank," said Mr Lavie as Wilmore shouted after
him.  "His instinct is much keener than ours.  Either there is some
animal near at hand, which you may shoot for supper; or, as I earnestly
hope may be the case, he scents water.  Cock your gun, and go after
him."

"I am afraid there is but little chance of his finding water here," said
Ernest, as Wilmore hastened forward.  "There is nothing to be seen
anywhere but hard crag-stone and dry sand.  But he may put up some game
among the rocks there which he is scrambling up.  Ha! and so he has," he
added the moment after, as a steinbok came bounding down the cliff.
"Now, then, to test Captain Renton's rifle."

He drew the trigger as he spoke, and the animal dropped on its knees,
but rose the next minute and was making off, when a shot from Lavie
again brought it down.  They ran up and found that the steinbok was
already dead.  Ernest's bullet had struck it in the side, and inflicted
what would probably have proved a mortal wound, though it would, for the
time, have succeeded in effecting its escape.  But Lavie had aimed
directly at the heart, and his shot having gone true, death was
instantaneous.

"Hurrah!" shouted Frank, at this moment, waving his cap on the shelf of
rock above.  "Three cheers for old Lion.  It is all right now."

"All right as regards the meat, Frank," said Nick, "but how about the
drink?  A fellow in this wicked world requires to drink as well as to
eat--at all events, I do."

"Meat," repeated Frank, peering over the edge of the precipice, which
might perhaps be a dozen feet in height.  "Have you got any meat?  Did
you kill anything when you fired just now?"

"To be sure we did, Frank," said Warley.  "We're not given to miss in
our part of the world.  We've brought down as nice a young steinbok as
you'd wish to eat.  If you'd only find us some water to match, we should
be quite set up."

"Water! why, that is just what we _have_ found.  Here has old Lion
lighted on a well of water, the most delicious that any fellow ever
drank of."

"Water! what, up there?  You don't say so.  Hurrah! here goes."  Laying
down their guns, the three thirsty travellers speedily climbed the stony
heights, and stood by their companion's side, when their eyes were
gratified by a very strange as well as a very welcome spectacle.

In the very middle of the plateau of rock surmounting the precipitous
ascent appeared a circular hole, some three or four feet in diameter,
and so deep, that its bottom could not be discerned.  The cavity was
evidently natural; nor indeed did either the Hottentots or the Bushmen--
the only tribes by whom the spot was ever visited--possess either the
tools or the patience necessary for so laborious a work.  It was
doubtless what is sometimes called, though most erroneously, a freak of
nature--one of those beneficent provisions, more than one of which we
shall have to notice in the course of this story, by which the
providence of God supplies the wants of His creatures in the desolate
wastes; without which help they must inevitably perish.  The hole had
retained the rain, with which it had been filled a week or two
previously, and the water being sheltered by the surrounding rocks from
the burning rays of the sun, was sweet, clear, and deliciously cool to
the taste.  The cup was passed round and round again, before the thirsty
travellers were satisfied, and even then they were half disposed to envy
Lion's simpler mode of satisfying his drought, viz., by plunging head
over ears into the well, and imbibing at every pore the refreshing
moisture.

At length thirst was satisfied, and gave way to hunger.  Descending from
the rocky platform, they set themselves to prepare their supper.  Nick
collected the grey leafless shrubs, which grew in abundance among the
rocks; and which, though anything but picturesque in appearance, made
capital firewood.  Frank cut up the carcass, broiling some parts of it
on the gridiron, and boiling as much more as the pot would hold.  It was
dark long before their preparations were completed, and they had to eat
their dinner by the light of their fire, assisted by the stars, for the
moon had not yet risen.  But the road to the mouth is very easy to find,
especially when men are hungry.  They all four soon finished a most
excellent meal.  Then the fragments of the repast were handed over to
Lion--Frank declared he ought to have been called to the chair, and his
health drunk with all the honours--and arrangements were made for the
night.  Some of the shrubs which Nick had collected, and which had not
been used for the fire, made very comfortable beds.  These were spread
inside one of the largest caverns, though not before Nick had carefully
examined its recesses by the help of a blazing log, to make sure that
they contained no venomous reptiles.  Lion stretched himself out to
sleep at the entrance of the cave; and it was considered that his
instinct might be trusted to warn them against the approach of danger,
without additional precautions.  In a few minutes they were all sound
asleep.

They might have slept for perhaps three hours, when Frank, whose
slumbers were unusually light, was roused by a low growl close to him.
Looking round, he saw Lion standing in the entrance of the cave over the
remains of the steinbok, only a part of which had been eaten.  Frank
remembered that the carcass had been left at some little distance from
their sleeping-place; and the dog, therefore, must have dragged it to
its present place.  Something unusual must have occurred to make him do
this; and besides, the attitude of the animal, his hair bristling, his
chest advanced, his muscles stretched to their full tension, and the
fierce glare in his eye showed plainly enough that he beheld some
formidable enemy.

"A hyena has scented the carcass, I have no doubt," thought Frank, "but
I can hardly afford to throw away a shot upon him.  He must be driven
away, though, or we shall get no rest."

He stepped noiselessly up to the entrance, but recoiled instantly at the
sight he beheld, and it was with difficulty that he stifled a cry of
alarm.  At a distance of about four yards, the outline of its
magnificent figure clearly revealed in the bright moonlight, a lion of
the largest size was crouching, evidently preparing itself to spring!
Frank had never seen one of these animals, except in captivity.  About a
twelvemonth before, during his stay in London, Captain Wilmore had taken
him to Exeter 'Change, where one or two lions were exhibited.  But these
were small of their kind, and enfeebled by age and long captivity.  They
bore no more resemblance to the glorious and terrible creature with
which Frank was now confronted, than the trickling stream which glides
lazily over the ledge of the rocks bears to the foaming cataract,
swollen by snows and rains.

He perceived in a moment what had taken place.  The lion had come to the
water to drink; and the dog, scenting the approach of some beast of
prey, had possessed itself of the remains of the steinbok, which would
otherwise fall a prey to the marauder.  The lion in its turn had
discovered the vicinity of food, and had leaped down from the rock to
seize it.  All this passed through Frank's mind in a moment.  It could
hardly be called thinking, but was rather like a sudden revelation.  He
felt, too, the necessity of killing the monster without a moment's loss
of time, or all their lives would be imperilled.  He stooped
noiselessly, and picked up the nearest gun, which chanced by good
fortune to be Captain Renton's rifle.  Frank was a steady shot, as the
reader has already been told; but he had never fired at a mark like
this.  He recalled, on the instant, what he had heard Mr Lavie say that
the only spots in a wild animal's body in which a bullet could be lodged
with the certainty of causing instant death, were the ear, the eye, and
immediately behind the shoulder, where there was a direct passage to the
heart.  It was impossible to aim at either ear or shoulder in the
present instance, as the animal was standing directly facing him.  The
eye, therefore, which flashed large and yellow upon him in the broad
glare of the moonlight--the eye must be his mark.  He raised the rifle
and brought it down to the level of his eye, drawing trigger the moment
he had done so.  It was well for him that his aim was true, and his hand
steady.  As the barrel dropped to its place, the metal flashed in the
moonbeam, and its glitter seemed to rouse the creature from its
momentary torpor.  It rose into the air at the very moment at which the
bullet struck it, and if the latter had not been aimed with the most
perfect accuracy, there would have been an end of the mastiff, and
probably of his master also.  But the shot passed directly through the
eyeball, and lodged in the brain, causing instantaneous death.  The
muscular power communicated to the limbs failed even before the leap was
accomplished.  A furious roar burst from the king of the forest as he
felt the wound, but it died off abruptly, and the vast carcass fell, a
lifeless mass, within two feet of the entrance of the cavern.



CHAPTER SIX.

A SECOND VISITOR--NICK'S CLUB--A HALT--A MYSTERIOUS CRY--A NEW MODE OF
IMPRISONMENT.

The noise of the gun, and the dying roar of the lion, roused the whole
party from their slumbers; and in another minute they were standing
round the fallen monster, eagerly asking for information.

"You did that well, Frank," said the surgeon, after carefully examining
the wound; "just in the right place, and at the right moment.  Half an
inch either way, or ten seconds later, and there would have been a very
different story to tell.  You'll be a mighty hunter one of these days, I
expect.  It's very few who have made their _debut_ with a shot like
this.  But we must make sure that there are no more of them about.  It's
strange that I should have forgotten the likelihood of beasts coming
down at night to drink, or the risk there would be of an encounter
between them and Lion.  Get in, you old rogue," he continued, giving the
dog a playful kick in the ribs, and driving him inside the cave, where
he secured him to a large fragment of rock.  "You don't know what an
escape you've had.  You are ready enough to fight, I don't doubt, but
`cave cui incurras,' as the Latin grammar says, Master Lion; a single
single blow of that brute's paw would have been enough to break a
horse's back, let alone a dog's.  There, stand in the entrance with your
gun, Nick, and keep a sharp look out, while we go to examine the well."

The lads took their guns, and the three making a considerable _detour_
to the left, cautiously ascended the rocks, until they gained a higher
shelf than that in which the well was situated, and then looked over.
The moon had by this time begun to set, and the steep summit of the
crags behind them intercepted its light, throwing the shelf into deep
shadow.  A dark mass was indistinctly visible, lying immediately on the
edge of the well, partly indeed protruding over it.  "That's the lioness
drinking," whispered Frank.  "She has most likely followed her lord to
the water, and has only just arrived here."

"Most likely," answered the doctor in the same cautious tone, "but don't
fire.  You can't see her plain enough to take a sure aim at her, and a
mere wound would only enrage her.  Leave her to me.  As soon as she has
done drinking, she'll get up, and then we shall have a clear sight of
her."

They waited patiently for several minutes.  It became evident that the
animal was not, as they had supposed, drinking, but was either asleep or
refreshing herself with the cool air, which the close proximity of the
water produced.  In either case it was impossible to conjecture how long
she might retain her present attitude.  "Let drop a stone upon her,
Ernest," whispered the doctor.  "That will put her up.  I have my rifle
all ready."

Warley looked round him.  There was no stone near at hand, but he
detached his shot-flask from his belt and threw it with a skilful aim,
striking the lioness on the flank.  She instantly sprang to her feet;
but just as Ernest discharged his missile there came a dense cloud over
the moon, and the figure of the animal was lost to sight.  Before the
cloud could quite pass away again, the lioness gave vent to a low savage
roar.  She had caught sight, notwithstanding the darkness, of the
carcass below, and sprang down to examine it.  "I wonder how Nick will
get on with her?" exclaimed Frank.  "He's no great shot.  I think we had
better go down to the rescue.  Just hold my gun, Ernest, while I slip
down."

Handing his rifle to his companion, he slid down the projecting face of
the precipice, feet first, and then called to Warley to lower his weapon
after him.  Mr Lavie reached the shelf almost at the same moment, and
both pressed forward with some anxiety to see what was passing below.
The spectacle they beheld would have been extremely ludicrous, if it had
not been still more alarming.

Forgetting or disregarding Lavie's directions, Gilbert had laid aside
his gun as soon as his companions left him, and had gone to make an
examination of the lion--an animal which he had never before seen.  He
was greatly struck by the enormous size and vast strength of creature,
and stood for a few moments considering whether he might not be able to
carry away some souvenir of the adventure.  A lock of his shaggy mane,
or one of his huge teeth, were the first mementos which suggested
themselves to him.  It would be difficult, however, to obtain one of the
last-named articles--that is without the help of certain tools which
they had not in their possession.  No, it must be a lock of the
gentleman's hair, which could be easily enough to procure, and equally
easy to preserve, though the keepsake would be somewhat cumbrous.  He
picked up the knife, which Frank had left on a slab of stone near the
entrance of the cave, and proceeded to choose the place whence the
ringlet was to be cut.  Suddenly it occurred to him that the tuft at the
extremity of the tail would be extremely suitable for the purpose; or
why, by the way, should he not retain the entire tail?  Mr Lavie had
been telling them, only that evening, of the practice adopted by the
Bushmen of wearing a belt round the waist, by which the pangs of hunger
were considerably mitigated.  To judge by what happened yesterday, such
a belt might be extremely serviceable, and the skin of the lion's tail
would make a famous belt.  At all events there could be no harm in
cutting the tail off; and this he effected easily enough by the aid of
Mr Lavie's hatchet.  He was still engaged in examining his treasure by
the imperfect light, when a whirling noise was heard over head, and a
large object of some kind dropped within a few feet of him.

A good deal startled, Nick let fall the hatchet and grasping the upper
end of the tail with both hands, whirled it, like a flail round his
head.  At the same moment the moon again broke out, and he perceived
that his new companion was a large lioness, whose fierce growls were
evidently the preliminary to a still fiercer assault.  Nick gave himself
up for dead; and if the attention of the animal had in the first
instance been directed to him, there would indeed have been but small
hope of escape for him.  But the lioness had scented the dead body, and
she proceeded to examine it all over, sniffing the tainted air, and
uttering every now and then a low howl, like a mourning cry.  Nick would
have retreated to the cover of the cavern, but a feeling of fascination
held him to the spot; and he continued to swing the tail right and left,
apparently hardly conscious of what he was doing.  Presently, the mood
of the lioness seemed to change, and the notion to occur to her of
taking vengeance for the ruthless slaughter of her mate.  She glared
fiercely at Nick, and gave vent to a low roar.  She would, in fact, have
instantly sprung upon him, but that the whirl of the tail immediately in
front of her nose, dazed and bewildered her for the moment, and kept her
at bay.  This could not, however, have lasted, and Nick's career would
soon have been run, if rescue had not been at hand.  But at this moment
the crack of the doctor's rifle was heard, and the brute, shot through
the heart, rolled over in the death struggle.

"Bravo, Nick," exclaimed Lavie, as he leaped down from the rock.
"Hercules himself never wielded his club more valiantly, than you did
the lion's tail.  I was sorry to keep you so long in suspense, but the
beast persistently kept her back towards me, till just the moment when I
fired.  If I had only wounded her, she would have sprung on you all the
same."

"All right, doctor," said Nick; "you couldn't do more than bring me off
with a whole skin.  And it's more than I deserve, too, for I didn't obey
orders."

"Well, now I suppose we may go back to bed?" suggested Frank.  "It's not
much past midnight, and I feel as if I wanted plenty more sleep before
morning.  I don't fancy we shall have many more visitors to-night."

"No," said the doctor, "we may sleep soundly now.  Animals don't often
go near a fountain where they have seen lions drinking.  Indeed, the
shots which have been fired would probably be enough to keep them away.
Let us turn in again, by all means."

His prognostications were fulfilled.  There was no further disturbance
that night, and when the travellers awoke on the following morning, they
were in high health and spirits.

"Do you intend to take the same track which we were following up
yesterday, Charles?" asked Warley, as they sat at breakfast, "or have
you altered your mind about it?"

"I see no reason for changing it," replied the surgeon.  "I am sure the
river, which Vangelt told me of, cannot be above fifteen miles off at
the outside, and when we are once there, it is all, comparatively
speaking, plain sailing.  I don't know how far this kind of country may
last, but I feel sure it cannot be for any great distance.
Notwithstanding yesterday's experience, I don't advise our taking water
with us, or anything but a few slices of meat I am persuaded that we
shall not suffer a second time, as we did yesterday; and carrying water
always hampers travellers terribly."

All readily gave their assent to his suggestions, and before six o'clock
the travellers were again in motion.  They journeyed on for several
miles, the bare rocks and sand still continuing the main features of the
landscape: but about twelve o'clock their eyes were relieved by the
appearance of wooded slopes in the distance.  Presently they came to a
small pool, surrounded by a grove of oomahaamas and acacias, among the
branches of which they noticed a quantity of grey-crested parrots, which
kept up an incessant screaming, from the moment the travellers came in
sight to that of their departure.

"Here's a good place for a halt," suggested Ernest.  "This shade is most
refreshing, and the water seems clear and cool."

"I am quite of your mind, Ernest," said Nick, flinging himself at full
length on the grass at the edge of the pool.  "Exhausted nature can't go
further without a respite.  Now, if any one would be so good as to shoot
two or three of those parrots, that are actually crying out to be shot,
they would make a famous--What are you up to now, man?" he added
sharply, as he felt a sudden blow on his shin.  "You would do well to
take care what you are doing."

"_You_ would do well to take care," retorted Warley.  "Do you see what
was crawling up your leg?"  He held up, as he spoke, a dead snake about
eighteen inches long, with a curious-looking horn on either side of its
head.  "If I hadn't hit him on the neck the moment I saw him, he'd have
bitten your hand to a certainty.  He was making straight for it."

"A snake!" cried Nick, starting up in horror.  "So there is, I declare.
The nasty brute!  I don't know whether it is venomous or not, but I'm
much obliged, even if it isn't.  They are not nice things up a fellow's
leg!"

"Hand him over here," said Charles Lavie.  "Oh ay, I know this fellow.
He is called the cerastes, and is venomous, I believe, though not one of
the worst kinds of poisonous snakes.  You are well out of it, Nick, I
can tell you, and must look more carefully about you in this country
before you sit down in a place like this.  Some of the reptiles are so
nearly the colour of the ground, or the trees, that even an old stager
may be taken in."

"Are there any large pythons in these parts?" asked Warley.  "I've heard
two quite different accounts.  One says that they are never found so far
south as this; the other, that they are to be met with thirty or forty
feet long, and as thick round as a stout man.  What is the truth of the
matter?"

"Well, the truth is something between the two, I believe, as is
generally the case," said the surgeon.  "They are certainly not common
in Southern Africa, since people who have lived here all their lives
have never seen one.  But now and then they are to be met with.  I know
persons who have seen serpents' skins thirty feet long in the possession
of natives; and one case I heard of, in which a skin was exhibited fully
ten feet longer than that."

"Are they difficult to kill?" asked Frank.

"Not if you bide your time," said Lavie.  "If you come upon them when
they are hungry, they--the larger ones, that is--are more than a match
for even the strongest men: and unless they are approached unawares, and
wounded, so as to destroy their muscular power, a struggle with them
would be most dangerous.  But after they have gorged their prey, they
are killed as easily as so many sheep--more easily in fact, for they are
quite torpid."

"What are the worst snakes found in these parts?" inquired Gilbert.
"The cobra and the puff adder, I should say," returned the surgeon.
"The first will spring at you as if it was discharged out of some
engine, and with such force, that if it fails to strike its mark it will
overshoot the spot by several feet.  The natives call it the
hair-serpent, and are in great terror of it.  If no sufficient remedy is
applied, its bite will cause death in less than an hour."

"_Is_ there any sufficient remedy?" rejoined Nick.  "I thought there was
no cure."

"It's not so bad as that, Nick.  There are remedies for most bites--the
cobra's for instance.  There is a root which the mangoust always eats,
when it feels itself bitten by a cobra, and which is, so far as is
known, a complete cure.  Eau de luce and sweet milk are generally given
in this country for a snake's bite, and the natives have beans and
serpent stones, which, it is said, effect a cure.  But the best thing to
do--what I should have done in your case, Nick, if you had been bitten--
is, first to fasten a ligature as tight as possible above the wounded
part, and then cauterise or cut away the injured flesh.  Snakes' bites
are nasty things in these hot countries, and one can't be too careful.
But come, it is time we move on again.  We ought to reach the river
banks early in the afternoon."

They recommenced their march accordingly, and had proceeded half a mile
or so further, when Frank suddenly called upon them to stop.

"What can that noise be?" he said.  "I have heard it two or three times
in the course of the last few minutes.  It doesn't sound like the cry of
a bird, or beast either.  And yet I suppose it must be."

"I didn't hear anything," said Gilbert.  "Nor I," added Warley.  "But my
hearing is not nearly as good as Frank's.  I've often noticed that."

"Let us stop and listen," suggested Charles.

They all stood still, intently listening.  Presently a faint sound was
wafted to them, apparently from a great distance--from the edge of the
sandy desert, they fancied, which was still visible beyond the wooded
tracts.

"No," said Charles, when the sound had been twice repeated, "that is not
the cry of any animal, with which I am acquainted.  It sounds more like
a human voice than anything else.  If it was at all likely that there
was any other party of travellers in these parts, I should think they
were hailing us.  But nothing can be more improbable than that."

"Still it is possible," urged Warley, "and they may be in want of our
help.  Ought we not to go and find out the truth?"

"I think you are right, Ernest," said Frank.

"Well, I don't know," urged Gilbert, nervously.  "I've heard all sorts
of stories of voices being heard in the deserts, enticing people to
their destruction, and it may be some ruse of the savages about here,
who want to get us into their hands, to possess themselves of our guns.
What do you say, doctor?"

"Why, as for the voices, Nick, I've heard the stories you speak of,
which have been told chiefly by persons who had lost their way and were
nearly dead from cold and hunger.  Under such circumstances, when
people's nerves and senses begin to fail them, they fancy all sorts of
strange things.  No doubt, too, there are all sorts of acoustic
deceptions in these wild regions, as there are optical delusions; but I
don't think we four--all of us in sound health--are likely to be so
deceived--"

"But how about the savages, doctor?" interposed Nick, anxiously.

"Well, if these were the backwoods of America, and we had the Red
Indians to deal with, there would be a good deal in your suggestion.
But neither the Hottentots nor the Bushmen are given to stratagems of
this kind.  However, we'll move warily, and if any treachery is
designed, we shall be pretty sure to baffle it."

They turned off in the direction whence the cry had come, keeping to the
open ground, and giving a wide berth to any clump of trees or underwood
which might harbour an enemy.  Every now and then they paused to listen
for the sound, which was regularly repeated, at intervals apparently of
two or three minutes, and grew more distinct as they advanced.  It was
now certain that the cry was human, and sounded like that of a
full-grown man.

"We are getting a good deal nearer," observed Warley, as they passed the
last patch of trees, and entered once more the sandy wilderness.  "I
should say we must be almost close, only I don't see any place where the
person who is crying out in this manner can be hidden."

"It comes from that heap of stones there," exclaimed Frank, "that heap
to the left, I mean--about two hundred yards further on."

"I see the stones, Frank, plain enough," said Mr Lavie, "but a man
couldn't be hidden among them.  You call it a heap of stones, but there
is no heap.  There is not so much as one lying upon another."

"Nevertheless the cry comes from there," said Warley; "I heard it the
last time quite plainly.  Let us go up and see."

They cautiously approached the spot in question, where there were about
thirty or forty moderate-sized stones scattered on the plain.  As they
advanced the mysterious call was again heard.

"I see who it is that's making it," shouted Wilmore.  "It's a fellow
whose head is just above ground.  I took his head for a black stone,
with a lot of moss growing on it.  But now I can see that it is a head,
though the features are turned away from us."

They hurried up, and found that Frank was right.  The stones were lying
round what seemed to have been a dry well.  In this a man had been
buried up to his neck, the chin being just above the level of the
ground.  It did not appear that he was conscious of their approach; for
at the interval of every two or three minutes he continued to give vent
to the shrill monotonous cry, which had attracted their attention.

"What in the world can this mean!" exclaimed Nick.  "The fellow can't
have tumbled into the well, and the stones have fallen in after him, I
suppose?"

"Is it some penance, do you think, that he is undergoing?" suggested
Warley.

"Or a punishment for a crime he has committed?" said Wilmore.

"It may be a punishment for some offence," said Mr Lavie, "though I
never heard of the Hottentots punishing their people in that way, and
the man is plainly a Hottentot.  As for anything else, of course it is
quite impossible that he can have got jammed up in this way by accident;
and the Hottentots know nothing of penances.  Such a thing has never
been heard of among them.  But the first thing is to get the poor fellow
out and give him something to restore him; for he is half dead with
thirst and exposure to the sun, and does not seem conscious of what is
passing."

They fell to with a will, and had soon so far released the captive, that
he was able to draw his breath freely and swallow a little brandy, which
Mr Lavie poured on his tongue.  He then opened his eyes for a moment,
gazing with the utmost bewilderment and wonder on the dress and
appearance of the figures round him; and then closed them again with a
low groan.

"They meant this--the beggars that holed him in after this fashion,"
observed Frank.  "The stones are fitted round him as carefully as though
they had been building a wall.  And, look! the poor wretch's arms are
fastened by a thong to his sides.  What brutes!  Hand us the knife,
Nick, and I'll cut them.  How tough they are!"

It needed a strong hand and a sharp blade to sever the stout thongs,
which on subsequent examination were found to consist of rhinoceros
hide.  But when his arms were at length free, the man made no effort to
use them.  It was evident that they were so benumbed by the forced
restraint in which they had so long been kept, that he had lost all
power over them.  They were obliged to continue to remove the stones,
until his feet were completely released, before he could be extricated
from the hole; and when this was effected, it was only by the joint
strength of the four Englishmen, the Hottentot himself being unable to
render any assistance.

He was now carried to the shade of the nearest trees; Nick ran back to
their recent resting-place, and returned with the iron pot full of
water, while Warley and Wilmore, under the surgeon's direction, chafed
his limbs.  By the time of Gilbert's return their efforts had been
successful.  The sufferer once more opened his eyes, and making signs
that the water should be handed to him, drank a long and refreshing
draught.  "He'll do now," observed Nick, as he witnessed this feat.
"There's no more fear for his health after that.  But I should like to
know who he is, and how he came there.  I say, blacky, what may your
name happen to be, and how did you come to be boxed up after that
fashion, like a chimney-sweep stuck in a narrow flue?"

To the astonishment of the whole party, Nick's question was answered.

"Omatoko my name.  Tank Englishman much for pull him out.  Omatoko soon
die, if they not come.  Bushmen bury Omatoko one, two day ago.  Good
men, give Omatoko food, or he die now."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

A GOOD ACTION REWARDED--A RAID ON THE PARROTS--OMATOKO'S STORY--PROPOSED
CHANGE OF ROUTE--BIVOUAC FOR THE NIGHT.

Nick started back at the unexpected reply.  "Who'd have thought that?"
he exclaimed.  "I should just as soon have expected to have heard Lion
talk English."

"Well, it wasn't very good English," remarked Warley, "but it was as
much to the purpose as if he had been Lindley Murray himself.  I suppose
the first thing is to comply with his request.  I have got a biscuit in
my pocket, which I brought away from the boat I dare say he can eat
that."

"Not a doubt of it," said Nick; "and I guess he'll soon dispose of this
slice of steinbok too.  The worst of it is, that I had meant it for my
own supper.  But one can't let the poor wretch starve."

"We'll all contribute something," said the doctor, "and make him out a
sufficient supper, I have no doubt.  He mustn't eat very much at a time.
But the first thing is to carry him to some sheltered place, where we
can make him up a comfortable bed.  He must have a long rest before he
will be good for anything."

"Carry him, hey!" cried Nick doubtfully, as he contemplated the
prostrate figure of the Hottentot; who, for one of his race, was
unusually tall and large of frame.  "How are we to do that, I wonder?
He weighs twelve stone, I'll go bail for it, if he weighs an ounce, and
we don't happen to have a horse and cart convenient."

"We can manage it easily enough," was the answer; "our guns and these
thongs will make a very tolerable stretcher.  Draw the charges first,
though.  It wouldn't be safe to carry the guns loaded."

Ernest complied, and then the doctor set about the construction of his
litter.  He first fastened a rifle and a gun together, reversing the
direction of the barrels, so as to form a kind of staff out of them,
about six feet long, with the stocks at the two ends.  The other rifle
and gun were then secured after the same manner, and thus the poles of
the stretcher were formed.  They were then tied together, about two feet
apart from one another, by half a dozen thongs.  The machine was now
placed on the ground, and the Hottentot laid on the thongs.  Then the
stocks at one end were raised, and laid on the doctor's shoulders, who
bent on one knee and stooped as near to the ground as he could.  The
other two ends were next placed in like fashion on the shoulders of
Ernest who had put himself into the like attitude.  Frank and Nick now
took their stations in the middle of the litter, each placing one
shoulder under the pole.  Then Lavie gave the word and they all rose
together.

"Capitally managed!" exclaimed the doctor approvingly.  "Now step all
together, and we'll have him under the shelter of the trees in less than
a quarter of an hour."

They moved off, walking quickly and steadily, and in less than the time
named by Lavie, approached the friendly cover of the thicket.  As they
came near, a steinbok which had been feeding apparently under a tree,
bounded out of the covert, passing within twenty yards of them.

"Alas! alas!" exclaimed Nick, "there goes our supper that should have
been!  That is the worst of doing a good action!  One is sure to be
punished for it!"

"Well, Nick, I don't know about that," said Warley.  "If we hadn't gone
to look after the Hottentot, I don't think we should have seen anything
of the steinbok.  He wouldn't have come anywhere near us, I expect."

"No, you may be sure of that," observed the doctor, as they lowered
their burden to the ground, and laid him on some soft grass under the
shade of a large mimosa.  "And what is more, I doubt whether our good
action will not be rewarded in this instance.  Look here, the steinbok
was feeding on this melon, when we startled him.  See the marks of his
teeth, and here are the stalks of one or two others which he has eaten.
I noticed these melons as I went by, but I was afraid to meddle with
them, as I had never seen any exactly like them, and some melons in this
country are more or less poisonous.  But the steinbok wouldn't have
eaten them if they hadn't been wholesome food, and so we may venture on
them too.  I have no doubt we shall find them very refreshing."

Frank and Nick accordingly began pulling them up, while the surgeon
applied himself to the restoration of his patient, who was still lying
in a half-conscious state.  But the cool air and soft bed, together with
the restoratives, which from time to time were applied, presently
brought him round, and he was able to eat as much food as was judged
good for him.  After partaking of this and another draught of cold
water, he fell into a sound sleep, which seemed likely to last for
several hours.

"It is still early in the afternoon," remarked the doctor, as they sat
down to their dinner of steinbok and melons, the latter of which proved
most delicious; "it is still quite early, and I don't suppose we can
have gone more than a dozen miles since breakfast.  Nevertheless, I
think we must remain here.  This poor fellow isn't well enough to be
left yet, though he may be to-morrow morning."

"No, we can't leave the poor wretch," said Warley, "particularly after
what he told us about the Bushmen.  They may be lurking about somewhere
in the neighbourhood, and may pounce upon him again, and he wouldn't be
able to escape them in his present weak state."

"Eh, what!" exclaimed Gilbert, jumping up in great alarm at this
suggestion.  "The Bushmen lurking about!  The bloodthirsty savages!
They'll be seizing us and burying us up to the chin perhaps, and then
making a cockshy of our heads!  Are the guns loaded again, Frank?"

"Long ago, Nick," was the answer.  "Ernest loaded them, while you and I
were gathering melons.  I saw him doing it, and I don't think the
Bushmen are very likely to trouble us.  They have a most wholesome
terror of European weapons, and more particularly of firearms, if all
that I have heard is true.  I think we had better try if we can't kill
one or two of these grey parrots, as you yourself, if I don't mistake,
were suggesting, just before the snake showed itself."

"I have no objection, Frank," returned Nick, somewhat reassured.  "To be
sure these Bushmen can't very well be as bad as the snakes; and if one
makes up one's mind not to trouble one's self about the one, one need
not trouble one's self about the other."

"All right, Nick," said Wilmore.  "Now then, about these parrots.
They're very shy chaps, and will keep out of shot, if they can; and we
mustn't throw away powder by firing, unless with a pretty safe prospect
of bringing one down.  I think I'll creep round, and hide behind that
big trunk yonder.  Then you shy a stone up into the tree in which they
are sitting, and they'll most probably fly out into the open, and give
me a good shot."

Wilmore and Gilbert conducted their joint manoeuvres with so much skill,
that before supper-time, half a dozen good-sized parrots had been
bagged, and their flesh when boiled was pronounced by all to be
excellent.  After supper the doctor informed the party that Omatoko, as
he called himself, had now quite recovered his senses, and had held a
long conversation with him; the particulars of which he was ready to
communicate, if they wished to hear it.  "Hear it? to be sure we do,"
said Nick.  "I've been longing to learn all about it, and if I had had
any idea that he would have been able to talk, I shouldn't have gone out
parrot shooting."

"You wouldn't have understood what he said," observed Lavie.  "He told
his story in Dutch.  His knowledge of English was very small when he
came to try it.  He says he belonged to a tribe that formerly lived a
good way to the south of this--not far from the mouth of the Gariep, I
fancy, from his description.  There were a good many farms belonging to
Dutch owners in the neighbourhood; but Omatoko's was a powerful tribe,
and they seem for a good many years to have lived unmolested by their
European neighbours.  But about fourteen or fifteen years ago, some
Englishmen--traders probably sent by some commercial house--landed near
their village, and offered them more liberal terms for their skins and
ivory than the Dutch had allowed.  Finding the trade profitable, the
English returned in the following year, and by-and-by ran up a few huts,
where they carried on what promised to be a very lucrative business.  It
was from them that Omatoko picked up the few words of English which he
knows, and he appears to have contracted a great liking for them."

"Of course he did," said Frank, "old England against the world!"

"With all my heart, Frank," rejoined the doctor, "only the English are
not always remarkable for making themselves popular.  Well, the trade
went on increasing, until it roused the jealousy of the Dutch.  They
didn't fancy not being able to buy hides and tusks at the old prices,
and besides, were jealous of the English attempting to settle in the
country."

"Ay, to be sure," said Warley, "the time you speak of must have been a
year or two before the conquest of the colony by our troops."

"Just so, Ernest, and for some years previously to that there had been a
feeling of uneasiness in the colony, that the English were meditating
some attempt upon them.  That is one of the things that induces me to
believe the Hottentot's story.  Well, the Dutch in the fourth year after
the appearance of the strangers, got together what they call a commando
in these parts--"

"I know what that is," interposed Wilmore.  "I heard my uncle talking
about it with some of the passengers.  They get all the Dutchmen in the
neighbourhood together, as well as some troops from the government, and
make a raid on some unlucky Hottentot village--kill all the men, make
slaves of the women and children, seize the cattle and goods of the
natives, and burn the houses."

"That's what you call a clean sweep," observed Nick.

"Yes, no doubt.  But it's shockingly cruel and wicked," exclaimed
Warley.  "I should think you must be overstating the matter, Frank."

"I am afraid he is not," said Lavie.  "That is very much what they were
wont to do at commandos, as I had good grounds for knowing while I was
living at Cape Town.  They had a great deal of provocation, no doubt.
The boors' cattle was continually being stolen, and could very seldom be
recovered.  And it was next to impossible to prove the theft against any
tribe in particular--"

"But that would not justify them in burning and shooting right and left,
without any inquiry," rejoined Warley.  "I could not have believed that
any Christian people--"

"Well, Ernest, I am inclined to go a long way with you on this subject,
though I differ somewhat," said the doctor, "but we have no time to
discuss it now.  Well, the Dutch commando attacked Omatoko's village by
night and burnt it, as Frank says, to the ground.  Probably all the
other results of which he spoke would have ensued, if the English had
not heard the firing, and come up to the rescue."

"I hope they peppered the Dutchmen properly," cried Nick.

"Well, they seem to have made a good fight of it; but the Dutchmen were
ten to one, and the Hottentots very little good.  The upshot was that a
large part of the tribe escaped, and the rest, together with the
survivors of the English, surrendered themselves at discretion.  Omatoko
was one of those made prisoners, and he was for eight years in the
service of a boor.  He was pretty well treated; for the colony was all
that time in the hands of the English, and they wouldn't allow any
cruelties to be exercised against the slaves.  But two years ago the
Cape was given back to the Dutch, and they began the old system again as
soon as they were in possession.  Omatoko and one or two others made
their escape some twelve months ago; and he went back to his tribe, who
are living, he says, at no great distance from this.  The Dutch, he
declares, have been trying to seize or kill him ever since--"

"Whew!" exclaimed Nick.  "What, did those Dutch beggars bury him in the
well after that fashion, then?  Well, I always thought the Dutch to be
brutes, but I never could have believed--"

"Stop that, Nick," interposed Frank.  "Have you forgotten that the
Hottentot himself told us that it was the Bushmen who buried him?"

"Oh, ay, to be sure, I had forgotten that," said Gilbert.  "Go on,
doctor.  Did the Dutch send a commando after him?"

"Omatoko says that the Dutch had given up their system of commandos for
several years, and could not easily organise them again, but they
employed the Bushmen to seize any of the fugitives, and paid a large
price for every one brought in."

"But if that is true, what made the Bushmen bury Omatoko in that way,
instead of carrying him to the Dutch to claim the reward?" asked Warley.
"I must say, Charles, that sounds very suspicious."

"So it did to me, Ernest," said Charles; "but the Hottentot answered me,
readily enough, that the Dutch would have paid the same sum for a
runaway's head, as they would if he had been brought to them alive.  He
declared that the Bushmen hated him, for having repeatedly escaped them,
and for having several times requited their outrages in kind.  He said
they meant to have left him in the well, to die of cold and hunger;
after which they would have cut off his head and carried it to the
nearest Dutch village."

"Well, that might be true, I suppose," said Wilmore.

"Yes, I think so.  The story hung well together.  I could detect no flaw
in it."

"Did you ask him whether he would act as our guide to Cape Town?"
inquired Ernest.

"Yes, and he said he would; but we could not go the way I had proposed,
along the course of the Great Fish or Koanquip rivers.  He knew them
both perfectly, so he affirmed; but neither route would be safe.  We
must go still further eastward--into the Kalahari in fact--he told me."

"What is the Kalahari?" asked Frank.

"A vast sea of sand," said Lavie, "extending for more than four hundred
miles, from the borders of Namaqua-land to the country of the Bechuanas.
There is not, so far as I know, a single river, lake, or even fountain,
to be found in the whole region."

"What on earth are we to go there for?" cried Gilbert.  "We should soon
die of hunger or thirst, or heat!"

"Well no, not that," said the surgeon.  "A great part of the sand is
covered with dense scrub, which affords something like shade, and though
there is neither river nor pool, yet if you dig down a few feet you will
generally find a supply of water.  Life may be sustained there; indeed,
tribes of Bushmen and Bechuanas are to be found in most parts of it.
But I should think it was the most miserable dwelling-place to be found
on the face of the earth."

"Well, then, why are we to go there?" repeated Nick, irritably.

"Omatoko says it will not be safe, for the present at all events, to
journey southward.  It seems that the Dutch are expecting a new attempt
of our countrymen to seize the colony, and their fear and anger are so
greatly roused, that they would certainly imprison, and probably kill,
any Englishman who at the present juncture fell into their hands.  I
really think he is likely to be right in what he says.  When I left
England two months ago, there was a good deal of talk about taking
possession of the Cape Colony again."

"But granting that we must not venture south, why need we bury ourselves
in a sandy desert?" persisted Gilbert.  "Omatoko proposes to take us
some distance into Kalahari, because his tribe is at present living
there.  When they were driven by the Dutch from their own homes, they
retired some few miles into the desert and built a new village, where
they have been living ever since.  He promises us a friendly welcome
from his tribe, and advises us to remain with them until we can learn
what is the precise state of things between the English and Dutch.  If
no attack is made by our government, the hostile feeling will gradually
subside, and we may safely pursue our way as at first proposed.  If an
attack _is_ made, and the colony again taken possession of by the
British arms, we can travel to Cape Town, though it would be wise to
follow a different route.  That is the substance of what Omatoko
advises."

"And you are inclined to trust him, Charles?" said Warley,
interrogatively.

"I am in two minds about it," replied Charles.  "Part of what he says I
know to be true, and everything is consistent with truth.  Still his
anxiety to get back to his own tribe is suspicious.  He has let fall,
unconsciously, some hints of his burning desire to be avenged forthwith
on the enemies who had so nearly put him to a cruel death; and if he
were to conduct us to Cape Town, he would have to put off the
gratification of his revenge for many months at the least; and perhaps
before his return, the tribe he longs to punish will have moved hundreds
of miles away."

"And what do you advise that we should do?"

"I am inclined to follow his suggestions.  If his tale is true, we
should be running into the face of the most imminent peril by following
the route I had marked out.  And even if it is false, we shall probably
not be delayed very long at the Hottentot village.  His measures will be
taken, I doubt not, promptly enough, and then he will be at liberty to
attend to our affairs."

"You think, in fact, that he really means friendly by us, though he may
care more for his revenge than our convenience."

"Just so, Ernest.  His gratitude is, I believe, quite sincere."

"Then I agree with you that we had better do as you advise.  What do you
two say?"

"I am of your opinion," said Wilmore.

"And I don't see what else is to be done," added Gilbert.

"That's agreed, then," said Lavie.  "And now, there is another thing.
He says it won't be safe for us to sleep under these trees, even though
we light a fire, and keep it up all night.  It seems that the
neighbourhood abounds with beast of prey.  Indeed, if Omatoko is to be
believed there would be a considerable risk of our being devoured by a
lion or tiger--"

"Tiger!" repeated Warley.  "There are no tigers in this country surely."

"Not the animal strictly called the tiger," returned the surgeon; "that
is not found in South Africa at all, or indeed anywhere, I believe,
except in Bengal.  The beast they name the tiger here, is the leopard;
but he is quite fierce and savage enough.  I should observe that the
leopard is not the only animal miscalled in this country.  They talk of
the wild horse, the camel, and the wolf, as abounding here.  But none of
these are to be found.  What they mean are properly the zebra, the
giraffe, and the hyena.  But to go on, Omatoko says we must either keep
watch, all of us, with our guns all night--"

"I say, bother that," broke in Nick; "a fellow can't do without sleep."

"Or else," resumed Charles; "we must climb into trees and sleep there."

"Well, we can do that," said Frank; "that is, we four can.  But how
about this Hottentot?  He is in no case to climb a tree, I judge, much
less to stick in one all night."

"And how about Lion?" added Gilbert.  "He is a worse climber still, I
expect."

"Omatoko advised us to cut down a lot of young pines that are growing in
a thicket close by, and lay them across two of the lower branches of the
largest tree we can find.  There are several acacias of immense size
about here.  A sort of floor will thus be formed, where we can all sleep
safely.  The branches would probably be not more than six feet from the
ground, so that both the Hottentot and Lion might easily be handed up."

"But these leopards can climb, can't they?" suggested Frank.  "We should
be safe from lions or rhinoceroses no doubt, but not from leopards, or
bears either, if there are any about here."

"I don't think any bears are to be found hereabouts.  No doubt panthers
and leopards can climb trees, but remember, they could only get at us by
walking along the bough on the end of which our platform rests, or by
dropping down from a higher limb.  Lion would be sure to rouse us before
they could accomplish either feat, and they would be easy victims to our
rifles."

"That's true," said Wilmore.  "Well, then, do you three fall to work on
the job, while I roast some parrots for to-morrow's breakfast."

They began the task accordingly.  The doctor took his axe; and in half
an hour had cut down a great number of stout firs about twenty feet
long, and thicker round than his arm.  These were brought up by Warley
and laid across two of the lower branches of one of the giants of the
forest, forming a tolerably flat stage some nine feet square.  No
fastening was required for the firs, their own weight and the shape of
the branches, which bent slightly upwards at the ends, rendering them
quite secure.  Next, armfuls of dry grass and moss were handed up to
form beds for the party; and then came the more difficult task of
hoisting Omatoko to his place.  This engaged the united strength of the
doctor, Warley, and Wilmore below, while Nick, standing on the platform,
received him from their hands.  But the strength of the Hottentot was in
some measure restored, and he was able to render some help himself,
which greatly facilitated the job.  As soon as Omatoko had been
consigned to his bed, Lion was in like manner passed up; but he was by
no means so conformable as his predecessor had been, and if anybody but
Frank had had charge of his head and shoulders, they might have found
their undertaking an unpleasant one.

However, in process of time he was got up, and secured by a thong to one
of the poles in the centre of the platform.  The guns came next, and
lastly their owners.  It was quite dark before their arrangements were
completed, and before ten minutes had elapsed, the whole of the party
were fast asleep.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

DANGEROUS NEIGHBOURS--FREE AND EASY VISITORS--PROPOSED DEPARTURE--
JOURNEY RESUMED--AN AFRICAN STORM--A NECK AND NECK STRUGGLE.

The sun was high in the heavens before any of the party were roused from
their slumbers.  Then the doctor was the first to wake up, and his
thoughts were at once turned to his patient.  He was pleased to find him
in a most satisfactory condition.  His skin was cool, and his pulse,
though still low, was steadily recovering its tone.  As for Frank and
Ernest--they had no sooner opened their eyes, than they hurried off to
the pool, which lay two or three hundred yards off, to enjoy a
refreshing bath.  They were followed shortly afterwards by Lavie and
Omatoko, the latter having contrived to descend from his bedchamber by
the help of the doctor's arm, and to walk, though very slowly, as far as
the waterside.

Having completed their ablutions, the lads set about preparing the
breakfast; which, it was agreed, was to be eaten under the shade of the
acacias.

"I think Omatoko must be mistaken about the wild animals," observed
Frank.  "I slept as sound as a top, and so did Lion; and if there had
been any of his namesakes about, or tigers either, he would have been
pretty sure to give us notice."

"You forget how tired we were, Frank; Lion as well as ourselves," said
the doctor.  "Unless they made a very great uproar we should probably
not hear them."

"What does Omatoko say?" suggested Warley.  "Does he think there were
wild beasts about?"

The Hottentot nodded.  "One, two lion," he said, pointing to some
footprints in the short grass round the pool.  "One, two lion; many
tigers; one rhinoceros."

"Is that the spoor of a lion?" asked Warley with much interest, as he
stooped down and examined the footprints.  "How can you tell it from
that of a large tiger?"

"You may always know the spoor of a lion by the marks of the toe-nails,"
said Lavie; "they turn in, whereas those of other feline animals
project.  Yes, that is a lion's spoor, sure enough, and those broad deep
prints are as plainly those of a rhinoceros, and a pretty large one too.
And there are plenty of others besides, which I am not sure of.
Omatoko was certainly right.  It was quite as well that we did not
bivouac by this pool."

Breakfast was now announced, and the party gathered round the eatables,
when it was for the first time noticed that Nick was not present.

"I suppose he is still asleep," said the surgeon.  "I called to him to
come and help me to get Omatoko down, but I got nothing but an
intelligible growl at first, and then a sleepy assurance that he would
be sure to be in time for breakfast."

"No, he is not the fellow to miss that," remarked Frank.  "He must be
very sleepy indeed, before he'll go without his victuals.  Depend upon
it he will be here in a minute or two."

Half an hour however passed away, and the meal was quite completed, and
still no Nick made his appearance.

"Go, and look after him, Frank," said the doctor, "while I consult with
Omatoko as to what ought to be done next.  We can't afford to lose time,
if it should be thought better for us to move."

Wilmore took up his gun accordingly, and walked off towards the tree
where they had slept.  The dense foliage almost entirely concealed the
staging from sight: but as he drew nearer he was sensible of loud
chattering and gibbering sounds, intermixed occasionally with shrill
screams, which seemed to come from a great number of throats.  Wondering
what this could mean, he made his approach as noiselessly as possible,
and climbing up to the top of one of the roots, which projected a foot
or two upwards, he peered cautiously over the edge of the platform.  A
most extraordinary sight greeted him, and it was with the greatest
difficulty that he restrained himself from bursting into a loud laugh.

Nick was seated in the middle of the stage, bareheaded and without
shoes, and was gazing upward with a look of mingled alarm and annoyance,
which seemed to the spectator of the scene irresistibly ludicrous.  On
the boughs immediately over his head, as far up as Frank could descry, a
great number of baboons were to be seen, leaping from one resting-place
to another, with hideous grimaces, and keeping up incessant and most
discordant screams.  The grotesqueness of their appearance was much
increased by their having taken possession of such of Nick's property as
they had been able to lay their paws on.  One wore the blue cloth cap,
with the leather peak and white edging, which was a souvenir of Dr
Staines's establishment.  Two more had possessed themselves, each of one
of his shoes, which he had laid aside when he went to sleep; and were
turning them over with an air of grave curiosity, as if to discover what
their use might be.  Another party had seized the knapsack, which had
been pulled from under Nick's head before he was fully awake.  The
contents had been divided between several old baboons, who had turned
the various articles to all sort of strange uses.  One was scratching
his ear with Gilbert's pipe; another had thrust its head into a
stocking, and appeared to have some difficulty in getting it out again;
a third was enveloped from head to foot in a cotton shirt, his head
showing itself just above the collar; while a fourth was examining the
contents of the flask, which it had contrived partially to open, and was
making hideous faces over the taste of the gunpowder, of which it had
swallowed a good spoonful.  Nick had fortunately awoke in time to
prevent the baboons from seizing his knife or gun.  He now held the
latter with a strong grip in both hands, and seemed disposed to
discharge its contents at one of his assailants, if he could only make
up his mind which to single out for attack.

"Don't fire, Nick," exclaimed Wilmore, as he noticed Gilbert's
demeanour.  "You'd enrage them greatly, if you were to wound or kill any
of them.  They have been known to tear a fellow to pieces, who shot one
of their number.  They're terribly fierce and strong, if they are
provoked."

"What am I to do, then?" returned Gilbert.  "They've not only carried
off my knapsack and pipe, but my hat and shoes too; and I can't venture
to walk a step in these parts without them."

"The best way will be to scare them away," suggested Wilmore, "if we
could think of any way of doing it."

"I'll tell you," cried Nick, catching a sudden inspiration.  "Do you
climb up into the tree on the other side.  The leaves are so thick that
these brutes won't see you, and the branches are easy enough to climb.
When you're well up over their heads, let fly with your gun.  I'll do
the same the moment afterwards, and between the two reports they'll be
so scared, I expect, that they'll cut for it straightway."

"Very well," said Frank, laughing, "I've no objection.  We can but try,
any way."  He carefully uncocked his gun, and began mounting the
branches as quietly as possible, while Nick distracted the attention of
the monkeys, by shaking his fist at them, and pelting them with
fragments of bark.  Presently there came the double explosion, which
fully answered his expectations.  Uttering a Babel of discordant
screams, they dropped their recently acquired treasures, and made off at
the top of their speed, bounding from tree to tree till they were lost
in the distance.  Nick set himself to collect the various articles thus
restored, and had nearly repossessed himself of all of them, when Frank
descended from his elevation and joined him on the platform.

"You get into scrapes, Nick, more than most," he said, "but you've a
wonderful knack of getting out of them again, that's certain.  Well,
come along, if you've got everything.  The doctor is anxious to start,
if this Hottentot chap will let us, and you've still your breakfast to
get."

"The Hottentot let us start this morning!" repeated Gilbert.  "Not if
he's to go with us himself, to be sure!  To look at him last night, he
wouldn't be fit to walk again this side of Christmas.  Perhaps he
expects us to carry him, as we did yesterday--do you really think that,
Frank?" continued Gilbert, stopping short, and eyeing his companion with
an expression of much dismay.

"No, I don't," returned Wilmore, again bursting into a laugh; "and if he
did expect it, he'd find his expectations deceive him considerably.
That's what _I_ expect, at all events."

"Well, here we are," said Nick, a minute or two afterwards, as they
reached the post.  "Well, doctor, I'm sorry to be late, but Frank will
tell you that I have been in the hands of the swell mob, and have only
just contrived to escape them."

The doctor looked puzzled, but he had no time for explanations.  "Eat
your breakfast, Gilbert," he said, "while we settle what is to be done
to-day.  I suppose we are all agreed that it won't do for us to stop
here longer than we can help.  Now Omatoko is not able to travel very
far, but he could walk a few miles if he went very slowly and had a rest
every now and then.  He thinks so himself, and wishes to start at once."

"We could give him an arm by turns, if that was all; but the question
is, Charles, could we reach any good halting-place?" suggested Warley.

"That's just it, Ernest," returned Charles.  "Omatoko says that about
four or five miles from this there is a place where we could stay two or
three days, if necessary, and find plenty of food and water.  It is a
ruined kraal--destroyed by the Dutch, he says, many years ago, but some
of the cottages are still in sufficient repair to shelter us."

"Why shouldn't we stay here?" asked Nick, with his mouth full of parrot.
"This is a jolly place enough--fresh water, lots of melons and parrots,
and they're both of them capital eating.  And a comfortable
sleeping-place.  If we must make a halt anywhere, why not here?  It's a
capital place, I think, except for the baboons," he muttered in a lower
tone, as the recollection of his recent adventure suddenly occurred to
him.

"Why shouldn't we stay here?" repeated Lavie.  "Well, I'll tell you,
Gilbert.  It isn't so much the wild beasts--though a place which every
night is full of lions, rhinoceroses, and leopards doesn't exactly suit
anybody but a professed hunter--but there is the fear of the Bushmen
returning to cut off Omatoko's head, whom they will expect to find dead.
And if they find him alive, it is most probable that they will do both
him and us some deadly mischief.  And they may be looked for to-day, or
to-morrow, certainly.  Besides--"

"There's no need to say any more, I am sure," broke in Gilbert.  "I
didn't think of the Bushmen.  Let us be off at once, I say.  I'd rather
carry the Hottentot on my shoulders than stay here to be murdered,
probably, by those savages!"

"Well, I own I think the return of the Bushmen quite enough by itself,"
said the surgeon; "but I ought to add that Omatoko thinks the weather is
going to change, and there is likely before long to be a violent storm.
None of you have had much experience of what an African storm is like.
But I have had quite as much as I desire, and do not wish to encounter
it, without a roof of some kind over my head!  Well, then, if we are all
ready, let us set out at once."

The grove and pool were soon left behind.  Omatoko stepped out
valiantly, sometimes leaning on Lavie's or Warley's shoulder, and
sitting down to rest, whenever a thicket of trees afforded a sufficient
close screen to hide the party from sight.  They noticed that before
leaving any of these coverts, he anxiously scrutinised the horizon
towards the north, and once or twice requested the boys to climb the
highest tree they could find, and report whether anything was visible in
the distance.

His strength and confidence alike seemed to improve as the day advanced.
About twelve o'clock they made what was to be their long halt, in a
patch of scrub which sprung apparently out of the barren sand, though
there was neither spring nor pond anywhere to be seen, nor even any
appearance of moisture.  They had progressed about four miles in
something less than five hours, and were now, Omatoko told them, hardly
a mile from their destination.  He pointed it out indeed in the
distance--a rocky eminence, with a patch of trees and grass lying close
to it.  But the party had not been seated for ten minutes, and were
still engaged in devouring the melons they had brought with them, when
their guide again rose and advised their immediately resuming their
journey.

"What, go on at once?" exclaimed Gilbert.  "Why, what is that for?  I am
just beginning to get cool--that is, as cool as ever I expect to be
again.  If we have only a mile to go, we had surely better walk it in
the cool of the evening than under this broiling sun."

"Must not wait," said Omatoko.  "Storm come soon--not able go at all."

"The storm!  Do you see any signs of one, doctor?  I don't."

"Yes, I see signs; but I own I should not have thought it would break
out for some hours.  But the changes of the atmosphere are wonderfully
rapid in this country, and I have no doubt the Hottentot is right.  Will
it be on us in another hour, Omatoko?"

"Perhaps half an hour, perhaps three-quarters," was the answer.

"Half an hour!  We must be off this minute, and move as fast as we can.
Here, Frank, Ernest--hoist Omatoko on to my shoulders; I can carry him
for a quarter of a mile, any way, and that will be ten minutes saved."

"And I'll take him as far as I can, when you've done with him," added
Warley, "and so, I doubt not, will the others.  Lift him up.  There,
that's right.  Now step out as fast as we can."

By the time that the doctor's "quarter of a mile," as it was called--
though it was in reality nearly twice that distance--was completed, the
signs of the approaching hurricane began to gather so fast, that even
the most unobservant must have perceived them.  The clouds came rapidly
up, and gradually hid the rich blue of the sky.  The light breeze which
had stirred the foliage of the few trees which rose above the level of
the scrub, gradually died away, and a dead, ominous calm succeeded.
Warley, to whose back the sick man had now been transferred, hurried on
with all the speed he could command, and rapid way was made.  Every
minute they expected the rain to burst forth.  The black clouds which
hid the horizon, every other minute seemed to be split open, and forked
flashes of fire issued from them.  Presently there came a furious rush
of wind, almost icy cold--the immediate precursor of the outburst.

"We close by now," exclaimed Omatoko, as he was transferred from
Ernest's shoulders to those of Frank.  "Not hundred yards off.  Turn
round tall rock by pool there.  Kraal little further on."

They all ran as fast as their exhausted limbs would allow.  The corner
was attained, and there, sure enough, some forty or fifty yards further,
were the ruins of a number of mud cottages thatched with reed.  They
were, for the most part, mere ruins.  The walls had been broken down,
the thatch scattered to the four winds.  Some one or two, which had
stood in the background, immediately under the shelter of a limestone
precipice, had retained their walls, and some portions of the thatch
unhurt.  But one hut only, which stood in a corner under a sloping
shelf, presented the spectacle of a roof still firm and whole.  Frank
hurried along the narrow defile leading to this cottage, putting out all
strength to reach it.  He was only a few yards from it, when the tempest
at last broke forth in all its fury.  The wind swept down with a force,
which on the open plain no man or horse would have been able to stand
against.  The hail, or rather the large lumps of ice into which the rain
was frozen, rattled against the rocks like cannon balls against the
walls of a besieged fortress, and the sky grew so dark, that it was with
difficulty that the travellers could discern each other's features.  But
they had reached the friendly shelter of the cottage, and that was
everything.  For two hours the fury of the elements beggared all
description.  The rain, which after a quarter of an hour or so had
succeeded the hail, seemed to descend in one great sheet of water,
converting the path along which they had travelled not half an hour
before, into a foaming torrent, bearing trees and stones before it.  One
flash of lightning succeeded another so rapidly that the light inside
the cottage was almost continuous.  Lavie looked several times anxiously
at the thatch overhead, which could not have resisted the deluge
incessantly poured upon it, if it had not been for the shelving rocks
which nearly formed a second roof above it.  As it was, not a drop
penetrated, and when the raging of the wind and the deluge of rain at
last subsided, not one of the party had sustained any injury.

The Hottentot had been laid on a heap of reeds which blocked up one
corner of the hut, having been driven in there apparently at one time or
another by the wind.  He had been at first somewhat exhausted by the
speed at which he had been carried for the last half mile or so, but he
seemed quite restored before the storm had ceased.  He now directed the
boys to go out and gather some wild medlars, which he had noticed
growing on a tree at no great distance from the rocky defile where they
had turned aside from the main path, declaring them to be excellent
eating.  He also requested them to bring him a straight branch, about
three feet long, from a particular tree which he described, and a dozen
stout reeds from the edge of the pool.  Out of these he intended, he
said, to make a bow and arrows, by means of which he would soon provide
the party with all the food they would require.

"Three feet long?" repeated Gilbert.  "You mean six, I suppose."

"No, he doesn't," said the doctor, who had overheard the request.  "The
bows of all these tribes are not more than three feet in length.  I have
seen several of them.  It is wonderful to see with what force and
accuracy they discharge their arrows, considering the material of which
they are made.  I had better go with you, I think.  I know exactly the
tree and the size of the bough required."

Lavie, Wilmore, and Gilbert accordingly set out, leaving Warley to
attend to Omatoko, and make the hut as comfortable as he could for a two
days' halt there.  Lion also remained behind.  As soon as his companions
were gone Ernest set about his task.

"There are no chairs or tables to be had in these parts," he thought.
"We must sit on the ground when we do sit, and take our meals off the
ground, when we take them.  All that can be done is to strew the floor
with rushes and grass, which will do also for beds at night I suppose
everything outside is soaking wet, and won't be dry enough for our
purpose until it has had a good baking sun upon it for several hours.
But the stuff we found in here was quite dry, and perhaps there may be
some like it in the other huts.  If not, I shall have to cut some from
the edge of the pool, I suppose, and lay it out to dry."

He took Lavie's hatchet, and went into the nearest hut, the roof of
which had been broken in in one or two places, but was still tolerably
sound.  He saw, as he stepped through the doorway, that he had not been
mistaken about the reeds.  A large heap had been lodged in one corner by
the wind, and seemed to be quite dry.  He stepped forward, and laying
down his hatchet, gathered up a large armful.  In so doing, he trod upon
what appeared to be the end of a log: but his foot had no sooner touched
it, than it was drawn away from under him, and a sharp hiss warned him
that he had disturbed some enemy.  At the same instant he felt a strong
pressure round his legs and waist, and perceived that he was enveloped
in the coils of a large serpent, which was rapidly winding itself round
his chest.  A moment afterwards, the flat diamond-shaped head came in
sight, the eyes glaring fiercely at him, and the slaver dropping from
the open jaws.  Ernest's arms were happily free, and he availed himself
of the circumstance with the cool promptitude of his character.  He
glanced for a moment at the hatchet lying on the ground a few feet off;
but he felt that it would be impossible for him to stoop to pick it up.
It must be a struggle of muscle against muscle.  Thrusting out his right
hand, he grasped the snake by the neck, at the same time shouting aloud
for help.  The creature no sooner felt its antagonist's grasp, than it
turned its head, endeavouring to bite.  Finding itself unable to seize
Ernest's hand, it drew in its folds, aiming at his face.  The lad in an
instant found that his muscular power was not nearly equal to that of
his enemy.  He seized hold of his right wrist with his other hand,
throwing the whole power of his frame into the effort, but in vain.
Slowly, inch by inch, his sinews were compelled to yield.  Inch by inch
the horrid fangs came nearer and nearer to his face.  With the strength
of despair he contrived to keep the reptile at bay for a few minutes
longer; but his powers were fast failing him, and he expected every
moment to feel the sharp teeth lacerating his flesh.  Suddenly a shock
seemed to be communicated to the monster's frame.  The terrible grip of
the folds relaxed, and the threatening head drooped lax and powerless.
Ernest cast his eyes downwards, and perceived that the mastiff had
seized the tail in his strong jaws, and had almost bitten it in two.
The muscular force of the serpent was paralysed by the wound, and Ernest
had no difficulty in disengaging himself from the folds, and flinging
them--a helpless and writhing mass--on the ground.  Then, catching up
the hatchet, he struck off the head, just as Omatoko hobbled up, leaning
on a stick, from the adjoining hut.

"Very big snake," was his comment, "bad poison too.  Lucky him no bite
white boy, or him dead for certain.  Lucky, too, big dog near at hand.
Never see bigger snake than that.  Him seventeen--eighteen foot long!
Big dog just come in time, and that all!"

Meanwhile Warley, who had partially recovered his senses, after bathing
his face and hands in the fresh water, was returning heartfelt thanks to
Heaven for his narrow and wonderful deliverance from the most dreadful
death which the imagination of man can picture.



CHAPTER NINE.

MEASURING THE ENEMY--POISONED ARROWS--SUBSTITUTES FOR WATER--OSTRICHES--
A SAD CASUALTY--A NEW MODE OF DEERSTALKING--OMATOKO TRIUMPHANT.

Warley was still resting, half sitting, half kneeling, on a large stone
by the side of the pool, when the sound of voices was heard, and Lavie
came up, accompanied by the two boys.  They were all evidently in high
spirits.  The doctor carried over his shoulder the carcass of a goat,
which was large and heavy enough to give him plenty of trouble; and
Wilmore and Nick each led a young kid by an extempore halter of rushes.
The pockets of all three were distended by a goodly heap of wild
medlars, which, in accordance with Omatoko's suggestion, they had
gathered, and which they had found extremely refreshing.

"Hallo, Omatoko!" shouted Gilbert as they approached the pool.  "Just
come here and take charge of this chap, will you?  You are more used to
this kind of thing than I am.  He has done nothing but attempt to bolt
the whole way home.  I suppose we must eat up the old lady first,
otherwise I should suggest that this fellow should be roasted for
supper, if only to make sure that he won't run away again."

The Hottentot came out from the hut as he spoke.  "One, two, three
goat," he said, "dat good, plenty food, all time we stay here."

"Ay, ay," said Nick, "they say it is an ill wind that blows no one good;
and the hurricane we had an hour or two ago, is, I suppose, a case in
point.  Any way, it was obliging enough to blow down a big tree, which
fell upon the goat there, and finished her outright.  She's a trifle old
and tough, I expect; but she'll make first-rate mulligatawney soup
nevertheless; and there will be her two kids, as tender as spring lamb,
into the bargain.  It makes one's mouth water to think of them.  And,
then, there's those medlars--but, hallo!  I say, Ernest, what is the
matter?  Why, you look as pale and weak as if you were just recovering
from a typhus fever.  What's befallen you?"

"I have had a very narrow escape from a most terrible death, Nick,"
returned Warley, gravely, "and my nerves haven't got over it."

"Hallo! what?" again exclaimed Gilbert.  "Escape from death, do you say?
Why, what has happened?"

"Just go in there--into that hut to the right, and you'll see," was the
answer.

Lavie and Wilmore had by this time learned the main outline of what had
occurred, from the Hottentot, and they all went into the cottage to
examine the remains of the great snake.

"A proper brute, that," observed Gilbert, as they stood by the side of
the reptile, which had by this time ceased to wriggle.  "That is the
biggest snake I ever came across.  There's his head gone, and a bit of
his tail; but I don't think what remains can be less than twenty feet.
Lion, old fellow," he continued, caressing the dog while Frank patted
his head, "you did that well, and shall have a first-chop supper."

"We can ascertain its length exactly," said Lavie; "I have got a yard
measure here; and here too is the remainder of the tail.  Stretch the
body straight out, Frank, and I'll soon tell you the measurement."

The serpent was accordingly measured, and was found to be some inches
more than nineteen feet long.

"What kind of snake is it?" asked Frank, when this point had been
determined.

"A python, or boa-constrictor, no doubt," answered the surgeon; "they
give them other names in these parts, but that is the creature.  No
other description of serpents that I ever heard of attempts to crush up
its prey by muscular pressure."

"But serpents which do that are seldom or never venomous, are they?"
inquired Wilmore.

"I believe not," answered Lavie, "but that point has been disputed.
Omatoko calls the reptile an `ondara,' and insists upon it that its bite
is not only poisonous, but causes certain death.  It may be so.  It is
evident that it would have bitten Ernest if it could; and serpents that
are devoid of venom do not often bite.  Well, I suppose now that we have
done measuring the snake, we may throw him away.  The Hottentots, I
believe, eat their flesh.  But I conclude none of us have any great
inclination to make our dinner off him."

"No, thank you, sir," said Frank, "not for me."

"Nor for me either, doctor," cried Nick.  "I think I'd rather go without
food for a week.  Here, Ernest, old fellow--you had better go and lie
down a bit.  You look as if you were having it out with the python
still."

Warley was too unwell to rejoin the party all that day and the next.
The shock he had undergone was a very severe one; and would in all
likelihood have prostrated any one of his companions for a far longer
period.  He lay under the shade of the trees on the soft grass the whole
day, neither speaking himself nor heeding the remarks of others.  Always
inclined to be serious and thoughtful, this incident had had the effect
of turning his mind to subjects for which his light-hearted companions
had little relish, and which Lavie himself could hardly follow.  Even
when he resumed the old round of occupations, as he did in the course of
the third day, Frank and Nick noticed a change in him, which they could
not understand.

Meanwhile Omatoko's bow and arrows proceeded rapidly, and were completed
on the morning of the third day.  Their construction was a great puzzle
to the English lads.  The bow was a little less than three feet long,
and perhaps three-quarters of an inch thick--neatly enough shaped, and
rounded off, but looking little better than a child's toy.  Omatoko had
strung it with some sinew from the carcass of the goat.  He had looped
this over the upper end of the bow, and rolled it round the other in
such a fashion that by merely twisting the string like a tourniquet, it
might be strung to any degree of tension.  The arrows too were wholly
different from any they had ever seen.  The strong reeds brought from
the edge of the water had been cut off in lengths of about two feet.  At
one end the notch was inserted; to the other a movable head, made of
bone, was attached, which stuck fast enough to the shaft during its
flight through the air, but which became detached from it as soon as it
was fixed in the body of any animal.  These bone-heads, Omatoko told
them, were always dipped in some poison, which caused even a slight
puncture made by them to be fatal.  The entrails of the kaa, or poison
grub, were considered the most efficient for this purpose; but this was
not to be met with at all times or in all places, and the juice of the
euphorbia or the venom of serpents was sometimes substituted.  In the
present instance he meant to steep the bone-heads in the poison of the
ondara, which he had carefully preserved.  Omatoko assured them that
when they set out for his village (as they probably would on the
following day), they would soon have an opportunity of testing the
efficiency of his weapons, and laughingly challenged them to a trial of
skill between his bow and arrows and their guns.

On the following morning accordingly they resumed their route.  Each of
them carried some of the flesh of the kids, a dozen medlars, and a
melon.  It was found that the strength of the Hottentot was now so far
restored that he could keep up with the usual pace at which the others
walked, and only required a rest of half an hour or so, every two or
three miles.  They accomplished about a dozen miles that day; and at
nightfall had reached a wide stony plain, covered here and there with
patches of grass, but entirely destitute of shrub or tree.  Omatoko
pointed out a place where a deep projecting slab of rock, resting on two
enormous stones, and bearing a rude resemblance to a giant's
chimney-piece, afforded as convenient a shelter for the night as might
be desired.  It would effectually protect the party from rain and wind,
nor was there the least fear of wild animals, as none were ever known to
come within two or three miles of the spot, there being neither
pasturage nor water.

"No water," repeated Frank, "that's rather a doubtful advantage, isn't
it?  What are we to drink, I wonder?"

The Hottentot only grinned in reply; and disengaging the knife which
always hung at Nick's girdle, began grubbing in the ground among the
stones.  In a few minutes he dug up several round, or rather spherical
roots, two or three feet in circumference.  These he cut open with the
knife, displaying the inside, which had a white appearance, and was soft
and pulpy.  The boys had no sooner applied this to their lips than they
broke out into exclamations of delight.  "That's your sort," exclaimed
Nick; "it's like a delicious melon, only it's twice as refreshing."

"Omatoko, you're a trump," cried Frank.  "You'd make a fortune, if you
could only sell these in Covent Garden market.  Nobody that could get
them would ever drink water again."

"What are they called, Charles," asked Warley.  "Are they to be met with
elsewhere in South Africa, or only here?"

"The root is called the `markwhae,' I believe," answered the doctor,
"and it is to be found in almost every neighbourhood where there is a
want of water.  It is another of those wonderful provisions of Divine
Wisdom for the wants of its creatures, with which this land abounds.  In
some parts, such of the wild animals as are herbivorous, are continually
digging up and devouring these roots.  Vangelt told me that he once came
upon a tribe of Hottentots which subsisted entirely without water, the
succulent plants supplying even the cattle with sufficient liquid."

"Well, that is very wonderful," said Frank.  "I declare I feel more
refreshed by that one root, than if I had drunk a pailful of water.  Are
there any more of these roots on the way to your village, Omatoko?"

"Omatoko's village, one, two days away.  No roots, plenty water,"
returned the Hottentot.  "Well, that will do as well, I suppose.  But
this is a thing worth knowing, if one should find one's self in a place
where there is no water."

The next day at sunrise they resumed their way, and made their mid-day
halt on the skirts of a dense growth of mingled aloes and underwood,
which was scarcely anywhere more than five feet in height.  Here they
sat down by the side of a spring, which gushed forth from a limestone
rock into a small natural basin, whence it spread itself in all
directions, sustaining a rich emerald carpet for a few feet round, but
soon disappearing in the sand.

"Plenty of visitors here at night," remarked Warley, gazing curiously
round him on the numerous footmarks of all shapes and sizes, with which
the borders of the spring were indented.  "It must be a curious sight to
witness such an _omnium gatherum_.  Only I suppose the more timid
animals make sure that the lions and leopards are well out of the way,
before they venture here themselves."

"Of what creature is that the spoor?" asked Frank, pointing to a broad,
deep mark, much larger than the rest.  "That is the track of some beast
which I do not recognise."

"It is not the track of a beast," said the surgeon.  "Unless I am
mistaken, that is the spoor of the ostrich--is it not, Omatoko?"

"Ya, ostrich--plenty 'bout here.  See yonder."  He pointed as he spoke
to a distant part of the bush, where the heads of a troop of ostriches
might be seen as they stalked easily along, browsing as they went.

"Eh, ostriches!  You don't mean it," exclaimed Frank, starting up in
great excitement.  "I never saw an ostrich.  I want to see one beyond
anything!  Couldn't we shoot one, Charles?  Are they quite out of shot?"

"Much too far to make it worth while trying," said Lavie.  "But we might
bring one or two down by a stratagem, perhaps.  If you four spread
yourselves in all directions to the right yonder, and drive them this
way, I could hide behind the rock there and bring one down as they went
past.  Couldn't that be managed, Omatoko?"

"One, two, three, four drive ostrich this way.  Omatoko kill one, two--
with bow and arrow.  Omatoko no miss."

"What, do you think your bow and arrow better than Charles's rifle?"
exclaimed Nick; "well, that is coming it strong, anyhow."

"I tell you what," said Warley, "this will be a famous opportunity for
you to have the match out for which you were so anxious the other day.
You and Charles shall both hide behind the rock there, and Frank, Nick,
and myself will fetch a compass and drive the ostriches past you.  Then
we shall see which will take the longest and truest shot.  What do you
say, Charles?"

"I have no objection, I am sure," said Lavie, laughing; "only I hope the
trial won't go against me.  It would be most ignominious to be beaten by
a bow and arrows.  I should never hear the last of it, I expect!"

"Don't be afraid, Charles, there's no fear of that," returned Warley,
reciprocating the laugh.  "Well, now let us be off.  If you'll take the
right side, Nick, and you, Frank, the left, I'll take the middle, and
we'll come upon them all together.  Lion had better stay here."

The three lads set out accordingly, creeping noiselessly through the
cover of the scrub, at a distance too far for even the quick-eared
ostriches to perceive them, until they had all attained their appointed
places.  Then they advanced on the birds, shouting and hallooing, and
waving sticks over their heads.

The ostriches instantly took to flight after their fashion, skimming
along with expanded wings, and covering twelve or fourteen feet at every
stride.  They passed the rock behind which the two marksmen were
concealed, at a speed which would have far outstripped the swiftest
racehorse at Newmarket.  But as they darted by, there came the crack of
the doctor's rifle, and at the same moment Omatoko's arrow leaped from
his bow.  Both missiles hit their mark, but with a different result.
Charles's bullet struck the bird he aimed at just under the wing; the
shot was mortal, and the ostrich staggering forward a few paces fell
dead to the ground Omatoko's arrow pierced his quarry through the neck,
and the barbed point remained in the wound, rendering death equally
certain, but not so speedy.  Perceiving that the ostrich did not fall,
Lion sprang after it, heedless of the doctor's order to him to return,
and a sharp chase began.  The ostrich would speedily have distanced its
pursuer, if it had not been for the pain and exhaustion of the wound it
had received, and the effect of the poison, which had now begun to work.
The dog soon began to gain ground, and presently came up with the
fugitive; which turned to bay at last in the agony of its rage and fear.
Lion had never been trained for the chase of the ostrich, which can
only be approached with safety from behind.  As he came bounding up, the
bird kicked at him, throwing its leg forward as a man does, and with
such tremendous force that the mastiff fell to the ground on the
instant, bleeding and stunned, if not dead.  Then the wounded bird
staggered away into the scrub, its strength and courage giving way more
and more every moment.

The boys had no time to congratulate their friend on his victory, or
even to examine the fallen ostrich.  Their thoughts were wholly occupied
with the disaster which had befallen Lion.

"Lion, Lion, dear old boy, how could you be so foolish?" exclaimed
Frank, as he picked up the bleeding and insensible body of his
favourite.  "I am afraid he's killed.  That kick would have finished a
horse, let alone a dog.  What fearful strength those creatures must
have!  Oh, Lion, Lion, my poor old fellow!  I'd rather have broken my
leg any day than lost you."

"Let me take a look at him," said Lavie, who had now come up.  "All
depends on where the ostrich's foot struck him.  No, I don't think he's
killed, Frank," he added presently, after feeling the animal all over.
"There are a couple of ribs broken, and a large bruise in the side, but
that seems to be the extent of the casualty.  I'll set the ribs, and he
must keep quiet for some days, and then I expect he'll be right again."

"Oh, I am so glad," said Wilmore.  "Yes, you're right, Charles," he
continued, as the dog opened its eyes again and attempted to get up, but
fell back on the grass with a low moan of pain.  "Never mind, Lion,
we'll nurse you through it, old chap, won't we?"

"Relieve each other in alternate watches, change bandages, and apply
fresh lotion every three hours," suggested Nick.  "But with all possible
respect for Lion, how are we to do that?  Where are the bandages, and
where the lotion?  Nay, where is the hospital bed to which the patient
is to be consigned?"

"Omatoko must put up a hut, and we must stay here until Lion can go with
us," said Wilmore gruffly.  "If we could wait three days for a pagan
Hottentot, we may wait as many, surely, for a Christian dog!"

"I don't think you'll get Omatoko to stay here for all the dogs that
ever were whelped," said Nick.  "He's in too much of a hurry to put salt
on the tails of those Bushmen."

"He must stay, and he shall!" returned Wilmore angrily; "I won't have
the dog thrown over.  We are four, and he is only one.  Stay he shall, I
say."

"Gently, Frank," said the doctor.  "I'm against throwing Lion over as
much as you are, but I don't see how we can stay here.  The dog won't be
fit to walk--no, not a hundred yards--for this fortnight, and it would
probably kill him, if he attempted it."

"What's to be done, then?" rejoined Frank shortly.

"Do as we did with Omatoko.  Make a litter and carry him to the
Hottentot kraal.  It is not more than seven or eight miles, and we can
relieve one another.  Luckily he is not such a weight as Omatoko.  I
suppose that will satisfy you, won't it?"

"Yes, of course, Charles," said Wilmore.  "It is very kind of you.  I am
afraid I was rather cross, wasn't I? but you see--"

"All right, old fellow, I know you're fond of Lion; so we all are,
though perhaps not _so_ fond.  Do you go and cut some of the osiers
there, Omatoko will soon make them into a basket, large enough to hold
the dog, and we'll carry it on a pole slung across our shoulders.
Meanwhile I'll dress the old fellow's wounds."

Omatoko proved to be as skilful a basket-maker as Lavie had predicted;
and the party were making preparations for a start, when the Hottentot,
who had just returned from the osier bed with a last supply of twigs,
announced that there was a herd of noble koodoos about half a mile off,
feeding on a patch of sweet grass.  They were rare in that part of the
country, and the best of eating.  "Suppose we kill two, three, four of
them; my people like them much.  They come fetch them."

"Two, three, or four," exclaimed Frank--"who is going to do that?  Why,
these koodoos, if I have been told rightly, are the shyest of all the
boks, and won't let any one come near them.  We might possibly get one
shot, but certainly not more."

"Me do it," said the Hottentot; "no want help; white boy only sit
still."

There seemed no reason for refusing his request, and the boys, laying
aside the various articles with which they had loaded themselves,
watched his proceedings with a good deal of interest.  He first took the
knife, and going to the spot where the body of the ostrich was lying,
passed it round the creature's throat and under the wings, severing
these parts from the rest of the carcass.  He then slit open the long
neck from top to bottom, removed the bones and flesh, and introduced in
their place a strong stick, over which he neatly sewed up the skin
again.  He then cleared away in like manner the blood and the fat from
the back and wings, and sewed another pad of skin under them.  These
preparations took a considerable time; but Omatoko assured the
lookers-on that there was little fear of the koodoos leaving their
present pasture for several hours to come at the least, unless they
should be molested.

The Hottentot had now nearly done his work; his last act was to gather
up in his hand some light-tinted earth, which was nearly of the same
colour as an ostrich's legs, and dipping it in water, besmeared his own
supporters with it.  Then taking his bow and arrows in one hand, and the
back and neck of the slain bird in the other, he crept down into the
bush.  Presently the boys saw the figure of an ostrich appear above the
shrubs and stalk leisurely along, pecking at the herbage right and left,
as it advanced.

"That can't be Omatoko, to be sure," cried Frank in amazement; "that's a
real ostrich!  Where can he be hiding?"

"He is waiting for the others," said Warley.  "See yonder, the whole
flock are returning.  Omatoko will no doubt slip in among them.  We
shall distinguish him, if we watch narrowly."

It seemed as if Ernest was right.  The ostriches came straggling back
through the bush, and the one they had noticed first lingered about till
they had overtaken him, when he accompanied them as they strayed on
towards the koodoos.

"Do you see Omatoko?" asked Nick, as the ostriches and boks became
mingled together.

"No, I don't," said Frank, "He can't have come out yet.  He is biding
his time, I expect."

At this moment there came a faint sound like the distant twanging of a
bow, and one of the boks was seen to fall.  The herd started and looked
suspiciously round them; and the ostriches seemed to share their
uneasiness.  But there was no enemy in sight, and after a few minutes of
anxious hesitation, they recommenced browsing.  A second twang was
succeeded by a second fall, and the boks again tossed their heads and
snuffed the air, prepared for immediate flight.  They still lingered,
however, until the overthrow of a third of their number effectually
roused them.  They bounded off at their utmost speed, but not before a
fourth shaft had laid one of the fugitives low.  Then the lads, full of
astonishment and admiration, came racing up, and Omatoko, throwing off
his disguise, exclaimed exultingly--

"Two, three, four; Omatoko said `four.'  White boy believe Omatoko now!"

"He has you there, Frank," said Nick, laughing; "but I must own I could
not have believed it possible, if I had not seen it."

"Live and learn," said Lavie.  "I had seen it before, or I might have
been of your mind.  Well, Omatoko, what now?  We have stayed so long
that.  We shan't be able to reach your village to-night, if we carry the
dog."

"Omatoko go alone.  He bring men to-morrow; carry koodoo, dog and all."

"Very good," said the doctor, "and we'll camp here.  That will suit us
all."



CHAPTER TEN.

A HOTTENTOT KRAAL--THE HOTTENTOT CHIEF--UMBOO'S MESSAGE--NEWS FROM CAPE
TOWN--THE HOTTENTOT PROGRAMME--LEARNED SPECULATIONS.

The sun had hardly risen on the following morning when the quarters
where they had bivouacked were surrounded by a bevy of dark skins, whose
curiosity to see the strangers was at least equal to that of the boys to
see them.  The latter were bewildered by the multitude of small
copper-coloured men by whom they were environed, their thin faces, small
sunken eyes wide apart from one another, thick lips, and flat noses,
rendering them objects as hideous in European eyes as could well be
imagined.  Their conversation too--for they talked rapidly and
incessantly among themselves--sounded the strangest Babel that ever was
poured into civilised ears.  It resembled the continued chattering of
teeth, the tongue being continually struck against the jaws or palate;
and for a long time the lads almost believed that the men were simply
gibbering, like monkeys, at one another.  Omatoko, however, who was
either a personage of real authority in his tribe, or felt himself
entitled to assume authority under the circumstances of the case, soon
convinced them that his countrymen understood the orders which he gave
them, and were, moreover, ready to obey him.  At his command two of them
took on their shoulders the basket, in which Lion had been carefully
laid on a heap of dried grass, and trotted nimbly off with it; Frank,
who had witnessed the manoeuvre, running by the side, and steadying the
litter with his hand, whenever any piece of rough ground had to be
traversed.

This part of the work despatched, Omatoko next went down to the place
where the carcasses of the koodoos had been carefully protected from
vultures and hyenas by a heap of logs laid over them.  Committing each
koodoo to the care of three or four, whom he chose out of the throng for
the purpose, he sent them after the others.  Then he himself,
accompanied by his nephew, whom he introduced by the name of "Toboo,"
and the son of the chief, whom he addressed as "Kalambo," prepared to
set out on the journey, as a guard of honour to the Englishmen.

In about two hours' time they arrived at the kraal, where the chief,
Umboo, was expecting them; and the three lads, who had been on the look
out for something entirely different to all that they had ever beheld
before, were, for once, not disappointed.

The village was built in the shape of a perfect oval, each cottage
approaching its next neighbour so nearly as only to allow room for
passing to and fro; and on the outer side of the ellipse were enclosures
for the cattle.  The boys were somewhat surprised at this arrangement,
having been prepared to find the oxen pastured in the space enclosed by
the huts, where they would have been safe from attack until the men had
been overpowered.  But they learned afterwards that the Hottentots
rather desired that the cattle should protect them, than they the
cattle.  In the event of an attack from an enemy, the latter would, it
was reckoned, be unwilling to destroy the sheep and oxen--the latter,
indeed, being in general the booty which had been the inciting cause of
the attack--and thus time was gained, and the enemy taken at a
disadvantage.

The houses themselves were circular, composed of wicker-work overlaid
with matting; this latter being woven out of rushes, and further sewn
with the fibre of the mimosa.  The mats supplied a twofold want.  They
readily admitted the passage of air, and so secured good ventilation;
and they were of a texture so porous that rain only caused them to close
tighter, and so rendered them waterproof.  Our travellers had already
had satisfactory evidence of their efficiency in this respect during
their three days' halt in the rocky defile.  Like all other huts
belonging to savages in these regions, they had only one opening, which
served as door, window, and chimney.

The boys had only time for a very cursory survey of these particulars,
when they were hurried into the dwelling of Umboo the chief of the
tribe, who, they were told, was impatiently expecting them.  Without
waiting therefore to wash or cool themselves, or change any part of
their dress, they passed into the royal hut, as it might be termed;
though, on examination, it was not found to be materially different from
those around it.

It was larger, certainly, and perhaps a foot higher, the ordinary huts
not being more than five feet in height.  The floor was strewn with
karosses, on one of which the great Umboo was sitting when they entered.
In the background several of his wives--he was said to have nearly a
dozen--were sitting; mostly young, well-shaped women, though their
figures were almost concealed from sight by numberless necklaces,
girdles, armlets, and anklets, ornamented after a strange and bizarre
fashion with shells, tigers' teeth, polished stones, and metal spangles
of all shapes and sizes--obtained doubtless from tradings with the
whites.  The chief himself was attired after a fashion so extraordinary,
that the boys, and particularly Nick, could with difficulty restrain a
shout of laughter as their eyes lighted upon him.

He was a tall and very stout man, with features which, for one of his
race, might be accounted handsome; and his dress, however anomalous in
the estimation of Europeans, was doubtless regarded with respect and
even awe by his own subjects.  It consisted of a full-bottomed wig,
which had probably once graced the head of some Dutch official, though
every vestige of powder had long disappeared.  The lower folds of this
headdress fell over the collar of the red coat of an English grenadier--
a souvenir probably of Muizenberg or Blauenberg--the rusty buttons and
tarnished embroidery testifying to the hard service which the garment in
question had seen.  Below the coat, so far as the mid-calf, Umboo's
person remained in its natural state, always excepting the red ochre and
grease with which it was liberally besmeared, the odour from which,
under the broiling sun, was almost unendurable.  The royal costume was
completed by a pair of top-boots with brass spurs attached--suggesting a
curious inquiry as to the number of owners through which the articles
must have passed, before they were transferred from the legs of an
English squire to those of a Namaqua chief.

Umboo had noticed the demeanour of the younger portion of his visitors,
but he had happily no suspicion of its true explanation, being himself
rather inclined to attribute it to the awe which his presence inspired.
He was, however, unacquainted not only with the English language, but
with the Dutch also; and Omatoko was obliged to act as interpreter
between the two parties--an office, apparently, which was greatly to his
taste.

After a long interview, in which the chief manifested the greatest
curiosity as to the previous history of his visitors, the circumstances
which had led to their presence in the country, and the course which
they now proposed to pursue, he was pleased to intimate to them that
their audience was ended, but that he had assigned a hut for their
special accommodation, and one of his people to attend on them and
provide them with food, as long as they remained in the kraal.

Having expressed their thanks and taken leave, the four friends
withdrew, and were ushered to their house by Toboo, the latter being, as
they discovered, the attendant of whom the chief had spoken.  Here they
found Lion, lying in one corner on a heap of reeds, apparently none the
worse for his journey.

"Well," said Nick, as he threw himself on a bed of dried grass covered
with one or two karosses, "this is better than the desert, anyhow!  I
suppose his Majesty, King Umboo, keeps a pretty good table, and a decent
cook.  Are we to have the honour, by the bye, of dining at the royal
board, or is a separate cuisine to be kept up for us?  In the first
instance, will it be necessary to dress for dinner; in the second, who
is to give orders to the cook?"

"And if we are to be his Majesty's guests, will the Queen be present?"
asked Frank; "and if she is, which of us is to have the honour of
handing her in to dinner?"

"You forget, Frank, there is more than one Mrs Umboo.  I believe there
are as many as a dozen, if not more."

"Well, then, they won't all dine, I suppose, at least not on the same
day.  I dare say they'll take it in turns, so as to have the advantage
of improving their manners by European polish," said Wilmore.  "By the
bye, were those his wives or his daughters that were sitting on the
skins at the back of the tent.  There was one of them who was very
nearly being handsome.  If it hadn't been for her hair, which strongly
resembled a black scrubbing brush, I think she would have been!"

"Ay, I noticed her casting glances at you, Frank," said Nick.  "If she
was one of Umboo's wives, it is a good job that the royal eyes couldn't
see through the back of the head to which they belonged, or his Majesty
might have ordered you both to be burned, or impaled, or disposed of
after some pleasant fashion of the like description.  But we will hope
she was a princess, not a queen."

"With all my heart," said Frank, laughing.  "Perhaps she was the
Princess Royal and, in default of issue male, the heiress presumptive of
the crown.  It would be great promotion to become Crown Prince of the
Namaquas.  But here is Charles waiting to speak as soon as he can thrust
a word in edgewise.  Well, Charles, what is it?"

"Why, if you fellows have done chaffing, there is something of
importance which I have to tell you."

"Ay, indeed, and what may that be?" inquired Gilbert.

"Why, you know that I have had some conversations with Omatoko in
Dutch?"

"Yes, we all know that."

"But you, perhaps, did _not_ know that I understand something of the
Hottentot language also."

"Certainly, none of us understood that," observed Frank.  "Why, Charles,
how could you ever learn it?  It seems to me nothing but a series of
chicks, as though they were rattling castanets with their tongues."

"I was laid up once with an accident on a shooting expedition, and was
nursed by the Hottentots.  I picked up enough of their lingo to
understand generally what they say, though I don't think I could talk
it," answered Charles.

"Why didn't you tell Omatoko so?  It would have saved some trouble?"
asked Warley.

"Why, you see, Ernest, I have had my suspicions of Omatoko from the
first--that is, I have never been quite satisfied about his good faith,
though I thought it better to follow his counsel.  But I knew when we
reached the village, that he would speak freely of his real intentions
to his countrymen, not having any suspicion that I understood a word of
what he was saying."

"That was very well thought of," said Warley, "and it was very wise also
to keep your intention to yourself.  I am glad I didn't know it, any
way.  But what did you learn to-day?"

"I learned, among other things, that the force which it was supposed the
English government would send to reconquer the Cape from the Dutch, has
actually sailed, if it has not landed; and, in my opinion, it is large
enough to render any resistance on the part of the Dutch hopeless--that
is, if its strength is correctly reported."

"You don't mean that, Charles!  How could these Hottentots know anything
about the matter?"

"They are much keener, and take a stronger interest in these things than
you fancy.  They have always bitterly regretted the restoration of the
colony to Holland, and the idea of the English again assuming the
government is very acceptable to them.  It appears that an American
frigate brought the news on Christmas Day of the approach of an English
squadron with troops on board, and the news flew like wildfire through
the country.  The Hottentots heard of it nearly a week ago; but I must
do Omatoko the justice to say, that he did not know it."

"Well, go on.  That, I suppose, is one of the circumstances which has
induced Umboo to treat us so civilly?"

"Well, perhaps, in some degree that may be so.  But Umboo is not at all
sure that the English will get the better of the Dutch, and he won't
commit himself to either side, until he sees which is likely to gain the
day."

"Ah, I see.  If the English win, he will make a merit of sending us safe
to Cape Town; and if the Dutch get the upper hand, he'll hand us over as
prisoners to the Governor."

"That's very nearly it, I judge, Ernest.  Well, as soon as Omatoko
learned about the English fleet, he suggested that we should remain in
the kraal, while a messenger was sent southward to ascertain the exact
position of things in the colony; and meanwhile a hut should be assigned
us, and he and his nephew would keep a careful eye on us."

"How kind of them!" said Nick.

"It's the way of the world, Nick," said Lavie; "in England, I am afraid,
as much as in Namaqua-land.  Well, that being settled, the matter about
the Bushmen came up next.  It appears Omatoko knows where they are to be
found.  He overheard them talking of their plans.  They took no trouble
indeed to disguise them, considering him to be as good as dead already."

"What are they going to do?" asked Wilmore.

"Going to attack and exterminate, if possible, the Bushmen.  Spies are
to be sent to make sure of their whereabouts, and then a chosen party of
warriors will go against them."

"They don't expect us to accompany them, I hope," said Warley.

"Well, from what was said, I am afraid they do--that is, they mean to
urge it.  You see, they know the immense advantage our rifles have over
their bows and arrows, and our presence would enable them to effect
their purpose with certainty."

"Well, I suppose you will refuse, Charles, won't you?  You don't want us
to become mercenary cutthroats for the benefit of these savages?"

"That is putting it rather strong," observed Gilbert.  "These fellows
have attempted murder--murder of the most cruel kind, and deserve
punishment--remember that."

"They have done us no wrong, at all events," said Warley; "it cannot be
our business to punish them.  Besides, shooting these unhappy savages
down is not the way to teach them better."

"You are right, Ernest," said Lavie.  "I, for one, will have nothing to
do with any attack upon them.  They may oblige us to accompany them, to
prevent our escape, but I will take no part in the fighting."

"Nor I," said Frank, "I am not going to kill these poor helpless
wretches to please any one."

"Very good," added Nick; "I have no wish to do it, either."

"Well, then," said Lavie, "we are agreed.  We will stay quietly here
until the answer comes from the Cape.  Five to one our fellows have
thrashed these Dutchmen as soundly as they did before, and the colony is
ours again by this time; in which case Umboo will be our humble servant.
If the messenger doesn't return before the party set out to attack the
Bushmen, we will go with them, if required, but only as spectators.  Is
that agreed?"

"Agreed, _nem. con._," said Frank.  "And now, here, I suppose, comes
dinner.  We are not to have the honour of seats at the royal table,
then!"

"No, that will be reserved for us when Umboo has learned of the defeat
of the Dutchmen," said Gilbert.

The food served up to them was better and more palatable than they had
expected.  It consisted chiefly of the flesh of one of the koodoos, and
was partly broiled and partly sodden.

"Not bad this," exclaimed Gilbert, as a third slice was handed to him,
which he disposed of after the same fashion which prevailed in the time
of Adam and Eve, viz., by the help of his fingers and teeth.  "They
haven't so bad an idea of cooking after all."

"And these figs and pomegranates are not to be despised either,"
observed Frank.  "They would go down well at a West End dinner!"

"But whatever are these?" cried Nick, digging his hands into a basket of
what seemed to be burnt almonds, being a heap of oval substances, about
the size of a filbert, and partially roasted.  "Hum! a strange sort of
taste, but rather nice, too.  Have some, Charles, you'll find them
rather good eating."

"Thank you, Nick," returned Lavie, gravely, "I am not fond of insects,
or I would have a few."

"Insects!" repeated Gilbert, in a tone of mingled surprise and disgust.
"You can't mean that, to be sure!"  He dropped the handful to which he
had just helped himself, and looked at the doctor with mouth and eyes
wide open.

"They are locusts, if I don't mistake," said the latter.  "Hand them up
here, Frank, and I'll take a closer look at them.  Yes, they are
locusts.  These Hottentots consider them a great dainty."

"The nasty wretches!" cried Nick, starting up and throwing away the
viands he had been consuming.  "To think I should live to sup on
beetles!  Hand us the bowl of milk there, Ernest.  I suppose _that's_
all right, isn't it?  That comes from a cow, and not a crocodile, or
something of the sort?"

"Yes, that's all right, Nick," said Lavie, laughing; "and, after all,
there are many other people who eat locusts besides these Hottentots."

"Every one to his taste," said Gilbert, setting down the bowl after a
long draught.  "Mine doesn't incline to roasted insects.  However, that
milk has pretty well taken the taste out.  And now, I suppose the next
thing is to go to bed.  I was up very early this morning, and have had a
hard day of it.  What do you say, Frank?"

"I say ditto to you," said Wilmore.  "I shall just roll myself up in one
of these skins to keep off the flies, and shut up for the night.  Good
night, Lion, old boy; I wish you a sound repose."

The two boys accordingly wrapped themselves in the deer-hides which were
scattered on the floor, and lay down, each with a roll of matting for a
pillow.  In two or three minutes their regular breathing announced that
they were fast asleep.  But Ernest and Charles did not follow their
example.  They sat near the entrance of the hut, smoking their pipes,
and conversing on subjects which had but little interest for their
companions.

"These Hottentots are a strange race," observed Warley.  "I suppose
nothing is really known of their origin and history."

"Nothing, I believe, with any certainty," returned the doctor.  "They
seem to have no traditions on the subject, which is a rare circumstance
in the history of any people.  Their very name is uncertain.  Europeans
call them Hottentots, or Namaquas, but they themselves do not
acknowledge either title.  Neither word, in fact, exists in their
language.  They call some of their tribes `Oerlams,' meaning new-comers
in the land, and others `Topnars,' or the ancient aboriginal
inhabitants.  But the early history of these latter is quite unknown."

"And what do you imagine to be their origin, Charles?  They look very
much like Chinese or Tartars.  They have been supposed to be of Chinese
origin, have they not?"

"I believe so; but on no intelligible grounds that I ever heard.  I have
a theory of my own about them; but I don't suppose many would share it."

"What is your theory?"

"Well, I connect them with that strange story in Herodotus, of the
circumnavigation of Africa, nearly 2500 years ago.  You know the story,
I suppose?"

"I remember reading it.  I think Herodotus says that Necos, or Pharaoh
Necho, sent some Phoenicians to circumnavigate Africa.  They set out
from the Red Sea, I suppose, and sailed through the Straits of
Babel-Mandeb.  In the third year of their voyage, they returned through
the Pillars of Hercules, along the northern coast of Africa to Memphis."

"Yes, that is right.  They reported, if you remember as a circumstance
accounted by Herodotus as incredible, that when they had sailed some
distance along the eastern shore of Africa, they had the sun on their
right hand."

"Just so.  And I have always regarded that statement as an unanswerable
proof that they really did make the voyage as they asserted."

"I quite agree with you.  Well, their story was that in the autumn of
_their_ year, but the spring in South Africa, they went on shore, sowed
some land with corn, and waited till the crop was gathered in, when they
stored it on board, and resumed their voyage.  They did this twice, but
in the third year reached home."

"That was their report, exactly, I believe.  But what then?"

"Why, I think the Hottentots must be the descendants of some of the
Egyptians who went on that voyage; for though the ships were navigated
by Phoenicians, the crews were in all likelihood Egyptian.  If you
divide the coast-line from the Red Sea to Gibraltar into three equal
parts, the spots which make one-third and two-thirds of the distance,
are the mouth of the Zambesi river, and the coast of great Namaqua-land.
Now, the Phoenicians and Egyptians, who made up the expedition, must
have remained several months at each place.  What more likely that they
would intermarry with any native women they might find there; nay, is it
improbable that some one or two remained behind, and became the
progenitors of the Hottentots and Bushmen?"

"It is what often happens in such expeditions, no doubt.  But is there
any resemblance between the old Egyptians and these Hottentots?"

"Yes, several very curious resemblances.  Their personal appearance is
exactly like that of the ancient Copts, who still inhabit some parts of
Egypt; and there is one very remarkable peculiarity, which anatomists
say is to be found only in these two races.  The Coptic nearly resembles
the Hottentot language, a good many roots and some words being the same
in both.  They have several customs in common; as for instance, they
will not eat swine's flesh, and they worship a kind of beetle, which I
believe no other nations do.  Lastly, the Bushmen, who are believed to
be a more degraded branch of the same race, ornament walls and flat
slabs of rock with mural paintings, in which travellers have recognised
a likeness to those of ancient Egypt."

"Well, that is curious, certainly.  I should like to see those
paintings.  But, supposing your theory as to the Hottentots being of
Coptic descent to be true, they might have made their way southwards in
successive ages through Central Africa, might they not?"

"Of course, and so might the Kaffirs, who also are like the old
Egyptians in many things.  But if that were so, surely some traces of
them would be found somewhere in Central Africa.  They would hardly have
passed through a vast tract of country in the slow succession of
generations, and left no mark of their residence behind."



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

A CHALLENGE--A STRATAGEM DETECTED--ASSEGAI VERSUS RIFLE--THE FEAST--THE
DANCE--A FORAY--THE BOYS ESCAPE.

Two or three weeks now passed during which nothing of any importance
occurred.  Lion continued to mend, though very slowly, and was unable to
walk any distance.  A messenger had been despatched southward, and his
return was impatiently looked for.  Spies also had gone out to track the
Bushmen, but they too were still absent.  Meanwhile the Englishmen were
treated with all civility; Toboo every day supplying their table with
Hottentot luxuries, and the chief, attended by Omatoko as interpreter,
paying them continual visits.  It was very amusing to the boys to watch
the asides between their two visitors, which the latter supposed to be
quite unintelligible to their guests, but which were always explained to
them by the doctor, as soon as the Hottentots had departed.

They learned in this way that Umboo was very anxious to possess one, at
least, of the guns which the travellers carried, and was disappointed
that an offer to that effect had not been made to him by one of the
party.  They were, therefore, in no way surprised, when one day Toboo
made his appearance, ushering in Omatoko and two of the principal
personages of the village, who announced that they came with a message
from the chief.  The latter had heard of their skill with the
"fire-tube," as they styled it, and was desirous of measuring his own
skill as a marksman against theirs.  He proposed that a mark should be
set up at the distance of a hundred yards, which the doctor should
endeavour to hit with a bullet from his rifle, and Umboo with his
assegai.  Whichever made the more successful shot was to be accounted
the victor, and the weapons employed in the contest were to become his
exclusive property.

"The cunning old rogue," exclaimed Nick, _sotto voce_, to his neighbour,
Frank.  "He is determined to get hold of Charles's rifle, if he can.
But I suppose Charles can hardly decline the contest."

"No," said Frank, "and there is no reason why he should.  He is
tolerably sure to beat this nigger hollow.  But let us hear what he
says."

As soon as Omatoko had delivered the challenge, the doctor replied that
he was quite ready for the trial proposed, and accepted the conditions.
A day was then named, and an invitation given to all the party to dine
with the chief after the settlement of the contest.  All preliminaries
having been arranged, the ambassadors withdrew, followed by Omatoko,--
all three apparently greatly pleased at the result of the interview.

"What a flat that Umboo must be," exclaimed Nick, when they had
departed, "to believe that he could throw a spear with a better aim than
Charles can take with his rifle!  Why, even Omatoko, with his bow and
arrow, was no match for Charles and his gun; and it is much easier to
hit with a bow and arrow than with a spear, or assegai, as they call
it."

"Well, I don't know that Umboo is so very far wrong," said Lavie.  "Some
of these Hottentots can throw the assegai with wonderful skill.  If
Umboo is a good performer, as I suppose he is by his challenging me,
he'll surprise you with his skill, I expect, though I hardly think he
will outshoot me."

"Outshoot you!  Well, as a fellow is said to take a _shot_ with a spear,
I suppose it may be called shooting, though it is shooting after a very
funny sort," said Warley.  "What is the day appointed for this match,
Charles?"

"Wednesday--the day after to-morrow.  I suppose two days are allowed for
preparing the banquet with which he means to celebrate the victory he
makes so sure of."

"Probably.  But it really is odd that he should feel so confident.
Omatoko must have told him of the affair of the ostriches, and that
would hardly encourage him."

"They're up to some scheme," said Nick, "I have felt sure of that from
the first.  They are going to give you something that will make your
hand unsteady, or play some trick with your rifle.  If I were you,
doctor, I'd hide my rifle away in some safe place till Wednesday."

"Well, I'll tell you what happened the night before last," said Warley.
"I thought little of it at the time, but it looks different now.  You
were all asleep, and I was just going off too, when I fancied I saw
something moving near the door.  It might be a snake, I thought--I'm
always fancying snakes are about now--so I lifted my head and looked.
Presently a black head came in at the door, and lay motionless for two
or three minutes.  The eyes seemed to be taking stock of everything in
the hut, but particularly of Charles's figure, and his rifle, which was
lying by his side.  After a little while the head disappeared as
cautiously as it had come.  I thought it was one of the Hottentots,
whose curiosity had been roused by what he had been told, and wanted to
see everything with his own eyes.  But it looks now as though there was
something more in it."

"You're about right, Ernest," said Nick.  "There's a good deal more in
it.  Well, doctor, the first thing I advise is, that you and I change
guns till Wednesday.  I don't imagine they know the difference between
one gun and another, and if your belt is fastened to my weapon, and you
carry it about, they'll think you've got your own, and any tricks they
may attempt will be tried on the wrong article.  And in the second
place, we'd better take it in turns to keep watch at night till
Wednesday, and so find out what they're up to."

"I think you're right, Nick," said Lavie.  "You're such a dodger
yourself, that these fellows can't hold a candle to you.  Well, here's
my rifle, and I'll take yours, and put it into my belt.  We'd better
watch from about ten o'clock to six in the morning--the same time as
when we were on the journey.  What time will you have, Nick?"

"Oh, between twelve and two, if you like," said Nick, "that is the time
I prefer."

The others making no objection, this was agreed to.  No disturbance took
place that night or the night following it; but on the Wednesday
morning--the morning of the match--Nick announced to his companions that
the same fellow, no doubt, whom Ernest had watched a few days
previously, had entered the hut last night and carried off, as he
supposed, Lavie's rifle.

"You didn't let him take it away, did you?" exclaimed Frank in surprise.

"I did, though," said Nick, "and let him bring it back again half an
hour afterwards.  We had better overhaul it, and see what he has done to
it."

"Hand it here, and I'll examine it," said the doctor.

The gun was passed to him, and he made a careful examination.  At first
he could not perceive that there was anything amiss; but on thrusting
down the ramrod it was found that there was something about a half-crown
in thickness at the bottom of the barrel.  Probably some thick glutinous
matter had been poured down the gun, and had hardened almost
immediately.  This would of course prevent the spark from reaching the
powder, and so render the gun useless.

"We must take this to pieces by-and-by, and clean it," said the surgeon.
"Meanwhile, let us change rifles again.  How nicely they will be taken
in, to be sure!"

About an hour afterwards notice was given them by Toboo, that all was
prepared for the match.  They stepped out of their hut, and found the
whole kraal present, and in the greatest state of excitement.  The large
oval space inside the ring of houses had been chosen as the most
suitable ground.  At one end a square piece of dark-coloured wood had
been fastened to a post, and in the middle of the wood, secured by a
peg, was a round piece of white leather, some four inches in diameter.
At the other end was a smaller post, at which the marksmen were to stand
when discharging their weapons.  Near this spot one or two lads were
holding bundles of assegais intended for the use of Umboo, who was
leaning against the wall of a cottage a short way off.  He was now
divested of all his finery, and looked in consequence a far more
imposing figure.  He was a tall and finely formed man, though somewhat
too stout; and the great muscles of his arms and legs might have served
a sculptor for a model.  On a row of mats about ten yards distant from
the mark, were seated his wives, fully a dozen in number, all clad in
their most sumptuous apparel in honour of the triumph which their lord
and master was about to achieve.  Each of them wore half a dozen heavy
necklaces round her throat, on which were strung beads and shells and
studs; fish bones and birds' eggs; teeth of fishes and wild beasts;
small bells and thimbles, and wooden reels on which thread had been
wound, purchased of European traders and converted to these strange
uses.  It was not round their necks only that they wore these
encumbrances; wrists and ankles and waists were similarly loaded, until
it became almost impossible to distinguish any part of their persons,
and they were absolutely unable to stand upright under the heavy burden
of their garniture.  The rest of the women and the men formed two long
lines on either side of the scene of the contest, and it was evident
from their looks, that they took the keenest interest in the issue of
the struggle.

"Now you look here," began Omatoko as soon as the chief and the
Englishmen had saluted one another; "you each take weapon you mean to
use--no allowed to change it.  Chief throw three assegais, white
medicine-man fire three shots; whoever hit nearest middle white leather,
he win.  If white man win, he have three assegais.  If chief win, he
have white man's fire-tube.  Is it good?"

"All right.  I make no objection," said Lavie, with a nod of
intelligence to his companions; and the chief also signifying his
assent, the trial began.

Umboo was the first to step forward.  He motioned to one of the
attendants to bring him the bundle of assegais which he carried, and
made a careful examination of them.  The lads had never before had a
good sight of this weapon.  It was nearly seven feet in length, the iron
head being some eight inches long and two broad.  As the spears in
question had been designed for the chief's own use, the best workmen had
been employed upon them, and Lavie was really astonished at the skill
and taste displayed in the manufacture, which could hardly have been
outdone by the best English workman.  Having chosen his missiles, Umboo
now prepared to throw them.  Brandishing the first of them in the air,
and moving his hand to and fro, until it was exactly poised, he bent
backwards and hurled it with all the force of his herculean frame.  It
flew straight to the mark, and buried itself in the dark wood a few
inches from the white leather circle.  Some applause was bestowed; but
it was plain, from the faces of the bystanders, that this was not
accounted one of his most skilful efforts.  He hastened to mend his
fortune with the second spear, but with no better result than before,
the assegai being fixed in the board, nearly about the same distance
from the centre as the first.  With an impatient exclamation he caught
up the third missile, resolved that this time he would not fail His
exertions were successful.  A burst of admiration broke forth as the
weapon was seen sticking in the leather itself, though not within an
inch and a half of the actual centre.

It was now Lavie's turn, and as he advanced to the spot which Umboo had
just quitted, he was regarded with the utmost curiosity by the
Hottentots, many of whom had never witnessed the discharge of firearms.
The doctor's rifle was already loaded.  He raised it to his shoulder,
slowly lowering it again, until the bead exactly covered the centre of
the leather.  Then, instantly drawing the trigger, the crack of the
report was heard, and the bullet passed so exactly through the middle of
the mark, that the wooden pin was driven out, and the leather dropped to
the ground.

The three lads vociferously applauded, and the greater part of the
bystanders could not help lending their voices to swell the shout,
albeit aware that they might incur the wrath of the chief by such a
display of feeling.  Umboo was, it was plain, equally astonished and
annoyed.  He threw a fierce glance at a man of slight supple figure who
was standing near, and muttered something which the Englishmen did not
understand.  For a minute he seemed inclined to resent Lavie's victory
as a personal injury; but he changed his purpose, and observing that, as
the medicine-man's first shot had beaten all three of his, there was no
need for him to shoot again, he withdrew to his hut, followed by the
Hottentot of whom mention has been made; nor did he reappear until the
feast was ready.

This did not take place for some two hours afterwards, by which time his
equanimity appeared to be restored.  He placed the four white visitors
on his right hand, each seated on a separate mat, while on his left were
two of his sons, Kalambo and Patoo, Omatoko, and the attendant of the
morning, whose name they had now discovered to be Leshoo.  He was an old
favourite of the chief, it appeared, and was disliked and dreaded by his
countrymen generally.  He did not seem to bear the Englishmen any
particular goodwill, frequently scowling at them as they sat at the
feast, and whispering remarks into Umboo's ear, which were evidently
disparaging, if not actually hostile.

"I say, Frank," whispered Nick, "that chap there, on the chief's left,
is the one who tried to damage the rifle."

"Is he?" answered Frank.  "What makes you think so?"

"I know him by that bald patch on the scalp.  He has had a wound there,
I suppose; I noticed that as he crawled out of the door of the hut into
the moonlight.  We'd better keep an eye on him."

The feast lasted a long time, the quantity devoured by the Hottentots
being only equalled by the gross greediness with which they seized what
they considered the chief delicacies; and it was a great relief to the
English guests when it was announced that a dance was going to take
place outside the hut in their honour.

"A dance?" repeated Nick; "does any one expect a fellow to dance after a
feed like this?"

"They don't expect you to dance," said Lavie who overheard him.  "You've
only to sit by and see them dance."

"That's lucky, at all events," said Nick, "but I should think his
Majesty here and his wives were still less in dancing trim than
ourselves.  Why, a boa-constrictor, after gorging an ox, would be as fit
to dance a hornpipe as he."

"Hush, Nick," said Lavie, "somebody may understand you enough to report
your words, and I don't consider our position here over safe as it is.
If it hadn't been that we could not spare the rifle, I would have let
the chief beat me to-day.  But there is no need to provoke them more
than can be helped."

Nick promised compliance, and followed the doctor out of the hut into an
open space near the village, under the shade of some large acacias,
which had been selected as the fittest place for the dance.  It seemed
that this was to be performed by the Hottentot girls, no men being
visible among them.  They were gathered in a circle divested of all
ornaments, indeed of all attire, excepting a linen cincture round the
waist, and a headdress of the same material.  Several of them held
melons in their hands, not the large water-melons, with which the party
had been regaled, but a smaller size, about as big as a large cocoa-nut.
The moon, which had risen about an hour before, and was nearly at the
full, poured down a bright light, which rendered every object clearly
distinguishable.

When all had taken their places, Umboo gave the signal, and the dance
began.  The spectators clapped their hands, keeping a kind of rude time,
and accompanying the performance with a low monotonous chant, which
swelled louder and louder, as the excitement grew greater.  The girls,
whirling their arms and throwing out their legs right and left, flew
about, following each other in a circle, tossing the melons from one to
another, under their thighs, and catching them with wonderful dexterity.
As the dance went on, the rapidity of the movements increased.  Their
light figures and animated faces, as they flashed out into the
moonlight, and back into the shade of the acacias, the dark forms seated
round, the wild and somewhat melancholy refrain of the voices, combined
to make up a scene, which was alike strange and striking.  At length the
chief threw up his hand; the girls, panting and exhausted, threw
themselves on the ground to recover their breath; and soon afterwards
Umboo retired to his hut, and the others followed his example.

On the following morning, our travellers were no sooner up and dressed,
than they became aware that a great commotion was going on in the
village.  Assegais, bows, and quivers full of arrows had been brought
out of the cottages, and several men were employed in rubbing the barbs
with fresh poison.  About ten of the stoutest men were smearing their
bodies with fat, over which they spread a yellowish red powder; the two
between them covering their persons as with a second skin.  The stench
from this ointment was scarcely bearable; but the boys, on inquiry, were
told that its purpose was to render them supple and active, as well as
to guard them from the stings of insects.

Lavie soon ascertained that the spies had returned, reporting that the
Bushmen were encamped at a distance of not more than twenty miles, and
that it was Umboo's purpose to set out almost immediately, before the
heat of the day came on, intending to attack the Bushmen an hour or so
before sunset.  These tidings were soon afterwards confirmed by a
message from the chief, conveyed through Omatoko, desiring their company
in the course of another half-hour.  The manner of their quondam guide,
who was now fully armed and equipped for the march, had undergone
considerable change.  It was no longer deferential and submissive, but
imperious and threatening.  He seemed to expect a refusal, and to be
prepared to take measures for punishing the contumacy of the Englishmen.
But Lavie was too wary to permit this.  He returned a civil answer,
informing Umboo that they would be ready at the time named.  Then,
calling to the others to follow him, he went into the hut to get ready.

As soon as they were safe inside, and free from the jealous scrutiny of
the Hottentots, the doctor addressed his companions.

"It won't do for us to stay any longer among these fellows," he said;
"our lives won't be safe if we do.  I have learned that they mean to use
our help in picking off such of the Bushmen as may be able to escape
them at close quarters.  But as soon as we have done their work, they
will strip us of our arms, and knock us on the head, if we resist I
heard that scoundrel Omatoko, and the fellow they call Leshoo, talking
over it.  The chief is to have my rifle, and Omatoko Ernest's, while
Leshoo _is_ to have his choice of Frank's or Nick's."

"I'll make him a present of a bullet out of mine," cried Frank, "if I
only have the chance."

"Hush, Frank!" said Ernest, "they'll hear you.  But, Charles, how comes
it that their manner towards us is so strangely altered all of a
sudden?"

"Well, in the first place, it appears to be owing to Leshoo's secret
machinations.  He is afraid, it seems, of our favour with Umboo.  In the
next, the delay in the return, of the messenger sent southward is
interpreted unfavourably to the English, at least Leshoo represents it
so.  He says the Dutch must have got the better, or the man would have
been back before this.  Umboo has now quite taken up this notion."

"Well, what do you advise, Charles?"

"That we go with them without any apparent reluctance, and accept
whatever service they ask us to undertake.  But as soon as the attack on
the Bushmen begins, we will, all of us, make off as fast as we can
southwards.  There are not very many of the Hottentots going on the
expedition.  They will, almost certainly, be scattered in various
directions, and be too busy to notice our movements; some will probably
be killed or wounded.  But even if that be not so, and if at the end of
the fighting we have not got too far to be followed, still they will
hardly dare to attack us.  They are notoriously afraid of Europeans, and
have seen what we can do with our guns."

"And if they do attack us?" asked Nick.

"Then their blood be on their own heads.  It is our lives or theirs, and
they wantonly provoke the contest."

"We can't do better than follow your advice," said Frank; "I'm your man,
at all events.  Poor old Lion! we must leave him behind; but that can't
be helped."

"No," said Warley, "men must be thought of before dogs, however much one
may like them.  Well, I agree, Charles, and so I can see does Nick."

"That's right, then," said Charles; "now we had better join them.  Don't
let us give the notion that we are hanging back."

They went out accordingly, and found the party just preparing to start.
They were greeted by Umboo with feigned civility, which they returned
with similar politeness, and were requested to take their places in the
march next to him--Lavie and Frank on his right hand, and Warley and
Nick on his left, with Omatoko walking next to Frank and Leshoo to Nick.
In this order they proceeded at a rapid pace for several hours, until
the heat of the sun became overpoweringly oppressive; then they halted
in a place shaded by some trees, and provisions were served out, the
Hottentots digging roots to supply the place of water.  Umboo seated
himself on the grass, and motioned to the Englishmen to do the same,
their two attendants, or jailers, as they might more properly be called,
taking the same positions as in the march.

They remained in their resting-place for three or four hours until the
great heat of the day was past, and then resumed their route.  About
five o'clock a second halt was made, and Omatoko having spoken a few
words apart with the chief, addressed Lavie.  He informed him that Umboo
intended to post them at various places of ambush, in the neighbourhood
of the Bushmen's camp, and their duty would be to pick off any fugitives
who might endeavour to make their escape--adding that Umboo would give a
large reward for every Bushman so killed.  Lavie and the others accepted
the commission without the smallest hesitation--again apparently to the
surprise of Omatoko, and the evident disappointment of Leshoo.  But
there was nothing more to be said on the subject.  It only remained to
conduct the four whites to their several stations.  They had now arrived
within a mile of their enemies; who it appeared had just succeeded in
killing two buffaloes, and were about to make a feast on the carcasses.

Just as they were on the point of setting out, Lavie purposely dropped
the case which contained his rifle bullets, which were scattered in all
directions on the ground.  His companions ran to pick them up, and as
their heads met, he said in a subdued but perfectly clear tone, "The
large motjeeri to the south, in a quarter of an hour from the present
time."

The boys made no answer except a nod of intelligence, as each moved off
with the guide assigned him.  Then the rest of the Hottentots began
creeping through the scrub, as stealthily as serpents, towards a large
rock, under shelter of which a number of the doomed Bushmen might be
seen, seated in a circle and engaged in devouring huge lumps of meat,
which they had roasted at a large fire still smouldering close by.

Lavie watched their dusky figures as they disappeared among the foliage,
and remained motionless at his post for the prescribed number of
minutes.  Then hurrying as fast as he could go towards the motjeeri, he
found all three of his companions awaiting him.

"All right!" he exclaimed; "they are just on the point of making their
attack, and won't have eyes or ears for anything else.  We must put on
best speed, and not stop till we are five or six miles away at the
least."

A loud yell broke forth from the rock, as they commenced their flight,
and was followed by another and another in quick succession.  But they
grew fainter as the boys hurried on, and soon ceased altogether.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

THE FLIGHT--THE BOYS RECAPTURED--A COUNCIL--THE SHADOW OF DEATH--A
STRANGE DELIVERANCE.

"Not bad that," said Nick, as he threw himself on the ground, panting
and footsore, after a run of more than an hour.  "We've not gone less
than eight miles, I'll take my 'davy, and this gun isn't the lightest
thing in the world to carry!  Well, Charles, do you mean to make a halt
of it here to-night, or are we to hoof it again?"

"We must rest here," said Lavie, "an hour or two to recover ourselves a
little, but no longer.  I don't suppose the Hottentots have done much
more than discover our absence yet.  They have had plenty to do for the
present without thinking where we are, and then they will have to make
out in which direction we have gone.  They will find that out, no doubt,
notwithstanding all our precautions, but it will take them some time.
And my hope is, that we shall now baffle them altogether."

"How do you mean?" asked Ernest.

"I mean that we should all take off our shoes, and step into the brook
here.  We can walk along it, treading only on the stones till we reach
that long patch of scrub there.  Then I propose that we shall turn
eastward, and go for a day's journey in that direction before again
travelling south.  I think that will throw these Hottentots completely
out, and they will give up the pursuit."

"Well, I have no objection," said Nick, "and I don't suppose the others
have.  Anything to get out of the hands of those dingy brutes.  How sold
they will be!  If they could only get hold of one of us, how they would
pay it off on him!"

"I am afraid they will pay it off on my poor Lion," said Frank.
"Whatever will become of him, poor fellow!"

"Oh, they'll use him kindly enough," said Lavie, soothingly.  "He is too
valuable and useful an animal for them to hurt.  As soon as we get to
Cape Town we'll send a fellow to ransom him.  A dozen large beads or
brass buttons will soon induce them to give him up."

"Well, at all events we'll hope so," said Warley.  "Well, now, Charles,
I am rested if the others are--enough, that is, to go on."

"All right," said the doctor.  "Now, the first thing is to take off our
shoes and stockings."

This was soon done, and the party stepping down into the bed of the
rivulet, walked in Indian file one after another, taking particular care
to leave no footprints in the soft earth.  Presently they came to a
place where the short scrub, with which the slopes were covered,
descended to the water's edge.  They stepped out upon this, and
proceeded eastward for a considerable distance, taking the greatest
pains to leave no trace behind.  After half a mile or so of this
cautious walking, Lavie considered the danger to be at an end.  Again
resuming the sharp trot at which they had previously proceeded, in
another hour they reached some caves in a high range of limestone
cliffs, where they resolved to rest for the night.  They were too much
wearied to keep watch.  In five minutes all four were sound asleep.

The next morning they awoke tolerably refreshed, and resuming their
journey, proceeded still eastward for some seven or eight miles, when
they halted for their mid-day rest.  There was no lack of food, for soon
after setting out, they had come upon a grove of bananas, of which each
of the party had gathered a large bunch.  They could also perceive a
small streamlet making its way through the brushwood.  Doubtless it
issued from a mass of limestone rock about a hundred yards distant.  "We
had better go and drink there," said Lavie.  "We have no drinking-cup
now, remember, and must use the hollows of our hands, I suppose, or a
large leaf.  But we shall manage it more easily at the spring head."

He moved off and the others followed, but they were still some yards
from the fountain, when they were startled by a low deep growl, which
came apparently from the other side of the rock.

The boys instantly unslung their rifles.  "That's the growl of a lion,"
said Lavie.  "He is couching by the spring, I expect.  It won't do to
approach him from the front."

"Hadn't one of us better go round to the clump of trees yonder?" said
Frank.  "We can get there under cover, and there will be a good sight of
him from thence."

"I was just going to suggest it," said Lavie.  "And another can climb to
the top of the cliff here.  It seems quite perpendicular by the spring,
and if so it will be fifteen or twenty feet over the lion's head.  I'll
undertake that, if you like, and Frank can cross over to the clump.  The
other two had better mount this tree.  If the brute springs out,
there'll be a chance of a good shot at him from this place."

Lavie and Frank accordingly proceeded to put their designs into
execution.  Ernest and Nick watched them, until Wilmore was hidden in
the wood, and Lavie half up the rock, when suddenly there came a shout
of alarm and surprise.  At the same moment their weapons were torn from
their grasp, and they found themselves in the clutches of Omatoko and
half a dozen others.

They were unable to make any resistance; the suddenness of the surprise,
and the overwhelming numbers of the Hottentots rendering it impossible.
They were soon bound with leather thongs, and hurried off to the
fountain, where they encountered Lavie and Frank in the same plight as
themselves.

"How like lion?" asked Omatoko, jeeringly.  "Omatoko lion.  He roar
well.  White boys go catch lion, get caught themselves!"

"I wish I had known it was you," muttered Nick.  "I'd have put a leaden
bullet through your carcass as sure as my name's Gilbert!  Well,
blackie, what next?  Are you going to skin and eat us, now you've got
us, or what?"

"White boy go back Umboo," said the Hottentot.  "Umboo do as he please."

"And what pleases him won't please us, I guess," muttered Gilbert.
"Well, there's no help for it.  We must grin and bear it, as the saying
is.  You may as well untie these thongs, any way.  You may see for
yourself that we can't possibly escape."

"Omatoko no untie till get back to kraal--then untie quick."

He chuckled as he spoke.  There was some sinister meaning in his words,
which the prisoners could not fathom, but which it was not pleasant to
hear.  But they had little time for reflection.  The thongs had no
sooner been securely fastened, and the guns distributed among the
leaders of the Hottentots, than they set out on their way home.  It
appeared that the Englishmen must have followed a very circuitous path,
for less than four hours' journey brought them to the spot where the
encounter with the Bushmen had taken place; and there the party rested
for a couple of hours before proceeding further.

It was a horrid and revolting spectacle which met the eyes of the
captives as the halt was made.  The bodies of the Bushmen, as well as
those of their women and children, were scattered about in all
directions, the corpses having already begun to decompose in the
scorching sun.  Most of the men had been shot down by arrows from a
distance, or pierced by assegais.  But the weaker portion of the enemy
(if they could be so called), had been killed by blows from clubs, or
stabs delivered at close quarters; and the lads gazed with sickening
disgust at the helpless and mangled figures, with which the plain for a
long way round was overspread.  But the slayers did not appear to feel
the smallest compunction, and Lavie gathered from their conversation,
that a considerable proportion of the men had effected their escape--a
circumstance which had greatly provoked Umboo's anger.

Travelling early and late, the kraal was reached about nightfall on the
following day; when the prisoners were consigned to the custody of
Omatoko and Leshoo; who took effectual measures to prevent their escape.
Their arms and legs were secured by thongs, and a belt was passed round
the waist of each, to which was attached a chain riveted to a strong
post Omatoko could not be induced to answer any questions, not even the
eager inquiries made after Lion.  But Toboo, who was of a gentler
disposition than his uncle, told them that the dog had greatly improved
during the two or three days of their absence, and could now walk about
tolerably well.

On the following morning a debate was held in the chief's apartment, to
which Lavie and the boys were, of course, not admitted; but the
substance of which they learned afterwards.  There was a considerable
difference of opinion among the counsellors.  Kalambo and some others
were for requiring the white men to take an oath that they would make no
attempt to recover their property, or punish those who had deprived them
of it; and then to let them depart.  Others, Omatoko among them, were
for keeping them in close custody, until their friends at the Cape
agreed to ransom them for a quantity of valuable goods, which were to be
specified; while one or two were for allowing them to go altogether
free, and take their guns with them; urging that the goodwill of the
English was of more value to them than any number of guns.

This last argument was especially urged by Maroro, an old warrior, held
in much esteem in the village; and his opinion might have prevailed with
Umboo, if it had not been for Leshoo.  The latter craftily urged that
the white men would never forgive the injury already done them; and
though they might take the oath proposed, they would disregard it, as
soon as they were in safety.  There was nothing to be hoped, he said,
from the favour of the English, and nothing to be feared from their
enmity.  Even if they were again to become the owners of the Cape
Colony, they would know nothing about these English travellers.  As for
ransom, they would never get anything better, they might rest assured,
than the four guns, the watches, and clothes of the prisoners, which
might be regarded as already their own, and which they must be fools
indeed to give up.

His speech was well calculated to work on the pride and the avarice of
Umboo, as well as on the fears of the others.  It was resolved, by a
large majority, that the strangers should not be set at liberty, either
with, or without, conditions; but the danger that might arise from them
should be averted by their immediate death.  This point having been
disposed of, the manner of their execution was the next considered, and
Leshoo's counsel was again adopted.  He proposed that the white man's
presumption, in entering on a contest of skill with the chief, should be
properly punished by each one of them affording, in their several
persons, an evidence of the chiefs unrivalled skill in the use of arms.
One of the four, he suggested, should be shot to death by an arrow, a
second brained by a club, a third pierced by an assegai, while the
fourth--the white medicine-man himself--should die by his own weapon;
Umboo, in every instance, being the executioner.

The suggestion was too nattering to the chief's vanity, and too well
adapted to efface the mortification of his recent defeat, to be
rejected.  All concurred in it; and it was resolved that it should be
carried out that very day.  The posts had not yet been removed from the
places where they had been fixed on the day of the trial of skill, and
it was agreed that no fitter scene could be chosen for the execution.
Omatoko, accompanied by Leshoo, was sent to announce to the prisoners
their approaching doom--an office which the latter, at least, undertook
_con amore_.

It was a terrible shock, even to Lavie, whose forebodings had been of
the darkest ever since their capture.  But he had not anticipated
anything so barbarous, or so sudden.  The tidings were communicated to
him in Dutch by Omatoko, and it was his office to break it to his
younger friends.

"Lads," he said, after a few moments of inward prayer for support and
counsel; "lads, I have something very grave and trying to announce to
you.  We have all known that our peril, ever since we left the
_Hooghly_, has been imminent, and that we might be called upon at any
moment to yield up our lives--"

"And we are called upon to yield them now, Charles?" said Ernest, as the
doctor paused.  "That is what you want to tell us, is it not?"

"I am sorry to say it is, Ernest.  The Hottentots have resolved on
putting us all four to death this morning--in an hour from the present
time--"

"Oh, not in an hour, surely," broke in Gilbert; "they will give us more
time than that.  They cannot do it."

"They are heathens, Nick, and have never been taught better.  We ought
to forgive them on that account, even if our religion did not teach us
to forgive all who wrong us."

"But can nothing be done?" urged Frank passionately.  "Will they not
listen to our assurances that we are not their enemies; that we mean
them no harm; that we will ransom our lives by giving them a dozen
rifles, if they want them; that our friends will avenge our deaths;
that--oh! there's a hundred things that might be urged."  He thrust
aside Lion's head, which was resting caressingly on his knee.  "Oh,
Charles I let us at least try."

"I would, Frank, if it would be of the least use.  But I learn from
Omatoko, that the matter was most carefully considered, and everything
we could urge has already been advanced and rejected.  It would but
waste the time still left us for preparation, and that is short enough.
Let us pray for strength and resignation; that is all now left us to
do."

All complied, and knelt on the floor of the hut, while Lion sat silent
and motionless at their side, gazing from face to face with a wistful
look, as though he would fain comprehend what was amiss.  Then Warley,
to whom all seemed instinctively to look, offered up a simple, but
fervent petition, that God would be pleased to succour them, if He saw
fit, in their present strait; but if it was His pleasure to take them
from the world, He would pardon the sins of their past lives, strengthen
them to meet their doom bravely, and receive them to Himself.  He
concluded with the Lord's Prayer, in which they all joined fervently,
and then relapsed into silence; which was not broken until Leshoo
returned to warn them that all was in readiness.

"You, boy," he said, turning to Frank, "you die first.  Umboo shoot you
through the heart with arrow.  Then you he kill with club," addressing
Warley.  "You he throw assegai at," nodding to Nick.  "Medicine-man, he
come last.  Umboo shoot him dead with own gun!  Medicine-man never shoot
better himself.  Come now; chief ready."

The prisoners obeyed in silence.  A sharper thrill shot through Frank's
bosom as he heard he was to be the first to suffer, but the next instant
it was succeeded by a feeling of thankfulness that he would not witness
the murder of his friends.

"Good-bye, dear old Lion," he said, stooping over the dog, and stroking
the smooth head which looked up with such sad wonder into his face; "I
hope they'll treat you kindly.  Charles," he added, "let us say good-bye
to one another here.  I shouldn't like to do it before all these
fellows."

"Good-bye, Frank," said Lavie, throwing his arms round the lad's neck,
and kissing him on the forehead.  "Good-bye, and God bless you.  We will
pray for each other to the last."

"I will follow you now," said Wilmore, when he had taken leave in like
fashion of the other two.  "The sooner this is over the better."

He passed out of the hut with a firm step, looking without flinching on
the cruel preparations without.  Whatever sinkings of heart he might
have felt when his doom was first made known to him, they had all
vanished now.  He was a noble English boy, reared in all manly ways, and
instructed by a thousand brave examples.  His life, if not faultless,
had been pure; his conscience void of any deep offence; and for the rest
he trusted in the God who had bade him trust in Him.  The same heroism
which the striplings of our race showed on the deck of the _Birkenhead_,
and in the wild scenes of the Indian mutiny, which upbore young Herbert,
the high-born and gently nurtured, in his dread ordeal among the Greek
brigands, was now burning in Frank's bosom.  Let them do what they would
to him, he would endure it without flinching.

Lavie and the other two lads followed closely after him, and were placed
by Omatoko on the right hand of the post, to which Wilmore was about to
be fastened, at a distance of some twelve feet from it.  "Do not let us
see his death," said Gilbert in a low tone; "it will be too dreadful!"

"No," said Lavie, "it will do none of us good, though I know he will
meet it bravely.  We will kneel down here, and pray in silence till each
in his turn is summoned."

He knelt as he spoke, and the others followed his example.

"It is not good," exclaimed old Maroro, as he noticed the action.  "The
white man is praying to the white man's God.  He will be angry with us,
for the white man has done no wrong."

He spoke loud enough to be heard even by the chief, who cast a wrathful
look at him in reply.  If his reputation for wisdom and goodness had not
stood so high with his countrymen, his boldness might have entailed
serious consequences upon him.  As it was, he was listened to in angry
and impatient silence.

Frank had now been led to his station, and Omatoko and Leshoo were
busied in binding him.  Three cinctures were passed round him, one
securing the neck, a second the waist, and the third the legs, to the
strong upright post.  They had just completed their task, and were about
to retire--Umboo had already fitted the arrow to the string, and was on
the point of bending it--when a loud cry of mingled surprise and alarm
was raised by the spectators nearest to the prisoner, and was presently
echoed by nearly all present Lavie and the two boys started up, looking
hurriedly round them, half expecting to see a band of armed Englishmen,
who had come up at that critical moment to their rescue.  But the eyes
of the Hottentots were not turned in the direction they had expected,
but into the air a few feet above them.  A small beetle, of the size,
perhaps, of a child's little finger, was hovering over their heads, its
green back and speckled belly glittering bright in the beams of the sun.
All present held their breath, and watched its motions with anxiety and
awe.  It gyrated awhile immediately above the post, as though seeking
for some spot on which to settle.  Suddenly it folded its wings, and,
shooting downwards, alighted on Frank Wilmore's head.  There was a
second and still louder cry, rising, in the instance of the women, into
a shriek of terror at this spectacle.  "The god! the god!" they cried.
"The white boy is the favourite of the god.  He has come to save him.
Cut the thongs, set him free!  Pray him to forgive us, or we shall all
die.  He will send drought and murrain!  He will kill our flocks and
herds!  He will strike us dead with his lightnings!  Not one will
escape!"

A dozen Hottentots rushed up with their knives, and severed the bonds
which held the prisoner.  Then lifting him on to their shoulders they
bore him in triumph through the village, the women singing and dancing
round him, until the hut of the chief was reached.  There Frank was
placed by his supporters in the seat of honour, while all present
prostrated themselves at his feet, entreating mercy.

The lad was at first too much startled and bewildered to understand what
had happened.  He had closed his eyes, expecting every moment to feel
the fatal point, and even when he heard the shouts of the bystanders,
believed it had been raised only because the arrow was on its way.  But
Lavie, who knew enough of Hottentot superstitions to understand what had
occurred, hurried up to him, and informing him in a few words what was
the true explanation of this extraordinary change, desired him to take
the beetle from his forehead, where it was still resting, and retain it
in his grasp, but to be extremely careful not to hurt it.

"It is the mantes, Frank," he said, "about which I was telling Ernest
the other day.  They believe that it is a god, that it will do them the
most terrible injuries if they offend it, and whomsoever they imagine to
be its favourite, he may issue any commands he pleases, and is sure to
be obeyed.  Of course this wonderful deliverance is of God's sending,
and we will thank Him heartily for it; but at present you must go with
them and take the mantes with you."

"What shall I have to do, Charles?" said Frank, who, between
astonishment and joy, could hardly even now understand what was passing.
"What are they going to do with me?"

"They'll want to make you chief very likely; perhaps offer sacrifices in
your honour, and all sorts of extravagances of that kind.  Of course you
will refuse to allow any impiety of that description, and will decline
to be made chief; but you had better demand that all our property should
be at once restored to us, and that we should be suffered to depart
without molestation."

"How am I to make them understand?"

"Omatoko will make them understand you well enough.  He is as much
frightened as the rest.  You can also, if you like it, require that a
guide be sent with us for the first part of the journey.  You may be
quite sure, that whatever you ask they will agree to."

"Won't you stay with me?"

"I think I had better not.  Their feeling of awe and reverence is
personal to yourself.  They don't regard us as favourites of the god;
and but for your protection of us, would be ready to put us to death
this minute.  We are going back to our hut.  I need not tell you to
offer up our thanks for this great mercy.  We will wait there till you
join us."

"Well, Charles, I will do as you advise.  But I wish this was over.  I
can hardly realise to myself what has happened.  It is all like a dream!
I only feel as if I could think of nothing till I had joined with you
in your thanksgiving for this wonderful deliverance."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

FRANK, LORD-PARAMOUNT--AN ANT VILLAGE--AMIABLE BEES--A HASTY DRAUGHT--
SEARCH FOR WATER--A STRANGER.

It was the second day after the narrow escape of our travellers as
related in the last chapter.  The boys, attended by Lion, who seemed
quite strong again, were sitting under the shade of some gum trees, in
the immediate neighbourhood of what appeared to be a deserted village,
only that the houses were much larger and more solidly built than those
described in a previous chapter.  They were awaiting the arrival of the
doctor, who had loitered behind to take leave of Omatoko, and make sure
that he had set off on his return to the Hottentot kraal.  Frank had had
very great difficulty in parrying the importunity of the Hottentots, who
were fully convinced that the prosperity of the tribe would be secured
for ever, if he would but consent to take upon himself the chiefship,
from which they were prepared to eject Umboo without further ceremony.
When they found that his determination on the subject could not be
overcome, their chagrin was so great, that nothing but their
superstitious fears of Frank's influence with their deity restrained
them from using force to compel him to conform to their wishes.  But he
had, by Lavie's advice, adopted a very curt and lofty demeanour with
them, refusing to listen to any argument, and peremptorily insisting
that all the arms belonging to the party should be restored, on pain of
his heavy displeasure.  This demand was no sooner made known, through
Omatoko, than it was complied with.  All the Hottentots who had
possessed themselves of the guns, shot-belts, powder-flasks, watches,
etc, bringing them back, and laying them at his feet with the humblest
expressions of contrition.  Umboo was among the suppliants, his cowering
figure presenting a curious contrast to the haughty and merciless aspect
he had exhibited only a few hours previously.  Frank raised him up, and
gravely assured him of his forgiveness; but added that all the strangers
would depart on the following day, with provisions for one day's
journey, and Omatoko, as their guide, for the same space of time.  But
after that, he said, the tribe must make no further inquiry respecting
them, under penalty, once more, of his displeasure!  Umboo (who in his
heart, perhaps, was not unwilling to be rid of Frank, notwithstanding
the overwhelming advantages that would have attended his rule), answered
submissively, that the pleasure of the "favoured one" should be fully
executed; and accordingly, on the next day, the travellers had all left
the village and journeyed northwards, towards the spot known as the
Elephant's Fountain.  Omatoko, who had been as much terrified as his
countrymen, waited on them during the journey with abject servility.
His time was now up, and he had been despatched on his return
homewards--Lavie (as the reader has heard) accompanying him some way, to
make sure that, after all, he did not intend to follow them.

"Well, Frank, you did it well, I must say," observed Nick, "and kept
your countenance a deal better than I should have done, when you talked
to them of the danger there was of your being displeased, if they failed
to perform any particular of your sovereign pleasure.  I wonder what
they thought _would_ have happened, if you had been angry with them!"

"Oh, they thought that there would come a murrain, and cut off the
cattle; and a blight, and destroy the fruit; and a pestilence, and kill
themselves.  I had only to order, and I might pitch it into them any way
I liked!  Omatoko told me so."

"Did he, the rascal!  Well, upon my honour, Frank, if I had been you,
I'd have ordered them to give him six dozen, and Umboo nine dozen, and
Leshoo twelve.  It is not one bit more than they deserved, and it would
have been a sight to see!  The Hottentots would have laid it on, and
with a will too!"

"You don't mean what you are saying, Nick, I am sure," struck in Warley.
"I wonder you don't feel that this is not a thing to be made a joke
of."

"You're right, Ernest," said Frank; "we ought not to take it in that
way.  Indeed, I am sure I am thankful enough for the mercy shown us, and
should be sorry if you thought otherwise.  And so does Nick, too, I'll
answer for it."

"Of course I'm thankful," said Gilbert.  "And I dare say I am too apt to
turn things into jest.  Well, we'll drop the matter now, at all events.
And by the same token, here comes the doctor.  Now, I suppose, we shall
hear whether this place will do for our halt for the night or not.
Well, doctor, is the rascal really gone?"

"Yes, I am satisfied he is.  I doubted, at first, whether Omatoko really
believed in the beetle.  He has lived so long among the Dutch, that I
thought he might have learned better.  But he hasn't, I am persuaded.
Yes, he has really gone back.  He daren't follow us."

"That is well, at all events.  Well, what do you think of this as a
halting-place?  It's an abandoned kraal, I suppose, only it must have
belonged to some tribe of savages, who took more pains with their
house-building than those Namaquas."

"Kraal, Nick?  Do you suppose these houses, for such they may certainly
be called; do you suppose these houses to be the handiwork of men?"

"To be sure I do," returned Nick; "who but men could have built them?"

"They are nests of white ants," said Lavie, "and if we were to stay here
all night, our clothes, our knapsacks, our belts, and everything that
could be devoured by them, would be gnawed to pieces!"

"Ants, doctor!  You are joking, surely.  What--that hut there, or
whatever it is, is a good twenty feet high, and thirty, I'll go bail for
it, in diameter?  Ants make that!  It isn't possible."

"It's true, anyhow," said Lavie.  "I know they have been found more than
a hundred feet in circumference.  It is the enormous number of the ants
that enables them to construct such huge dwellings.  And, after all,
their work is nothing compared with that of the coral insect of the
Pacific."

"Don't they sometimes build in the trunks of trees?" asked Warley.

"Very frequently," answered the surgeon.  "Their mode of going to work,
when they do, is very much like their house-building.  In the latter
case, they heap together an immense mass of earth, which they form into
innumerable galleries, all leading, inwards, to the central chamber of
the structure.  When they choose a tree, and they generally pitch upon
one of the largest trees they can find--a baobab, perhaps, or a giant
fig--they simply eat these galleries out of the wood, taking care never
to disturb the outer bark.  In this manner they will sometimes destroy
the whole inside of a vast fruit tree so completely, that it crumbles to
dust as soon as touched."

"Well, it is very wonderful," said Frank, "I wonder how it happens that
we have seen nothing of them during the two hours or so that we have
been here."

"That is because they work only by night.  It is supposed, I believe,
that they are torpid by day."

"Well, then, I suppose we must shift our quarters," remarked Nick.  "It
would not be pleasant to have the clothes eaten off one's back,
certainly.  We had better start, hadn't we, or it will be late?"

"Stop a moment," said Lavie, who had been carefully noting one
particular ant-hill for some minutes.  "Ay, I thought so," he added
presently, "there is a bees' nest in yonder mound, and most likely a
large accumulation of honey.  If you are fond of honey, you may sup off
it without difficulty."

"I am very particularly fond of honey," answered Nick, "but I don't know
about there being no difficulty.  The last time I assisted at the taking
of a hive, there was a very considerable `difficulty.'  I was stung, in
fact, so badly, that I vowed never to go near bees again.  However, if
_you_ don't mind--"

"None of us need mind," said the surgeon; "these bees are different from
our English bees.  They never sting people.  There isn't even any
necessity to smoke them."

"Really!" returned Nick.  "Now that I call the height of amiability.
But are you sure, doctor?  It seems too good to be possible."

"You'll soon see," said Lavie, walking up to the mound he had marked.
"Ay, there is the hole where the bee went in.  Just hand me the knife,
Ernest."  He cleared away the earth, avoiding, as much as possible, any
injury to the work of the bees, and presently laid bare a great mass of
comb, full of honey and pollen; of this he cut off several large pieces,
as much as they could conveniently carry; the bees, in complete
justification of his assurances, offering no kind of interference--a
fact which drew forth a second eulogium from Nick, who only deplored, he
said, that they couldn't be conveyed to England, to instruct their
brethren there.

They now resumed their journey, resolving to camp for the night at the
first spot where shade and water were to be found.  But their quest was
not fortunate.  The afternoon was unusually scorching and dry; and
though they came to several patches of trees and shrubs, they could find
neither fount nor pool.  At length the sun had declined so low in the
horizon, that it was plain that scarcely more than an hour of daylight
remained; and they would have to pass the night without having quenched
their thirst, unless water should very speedily be discovered.

Under these circumstances they were greatly rejoiced to see Lion, who
had been trotting along soberly by Frank's side ever since they left the
ant-hills, suddenly throw up his head and snuff the air, which were his
modes of indicating that there was a spring at no great distance.

"Hurrah! old fellow," shouted Frank; "off then, and find it.  We'll have
a race, Nick, which shall reach it first."

They started off, the other two following at a somewhat slower pace.
Lion soon went ahead, directing the course of the boys towards a small
kloof, visible about a mile off, containing a grove of palms and date
trees, with a thick belt of underwood surrounding it.  Heedless of the
heat, which by this time, however, was a little tempered by the cool
breeze that had sprung up at sunset, they bounded gaily along, and
presently reached the kloof.  It appeared to Frank--who, closely
following Lion, was the first of the four to enter it--quite a little
Paradise.  Under the shade of the palms, surrounded by delicious
verdure, was a large spring bubbling up from the ground, and stealing
away in a brook, which ran babbling through the thicket, until lost to
sight.

"Hurrah!" he shouted.  "Now for a jolly drink!  What is the matter, old
boy?" he added a moment afterwards, as Lion instead of plunging into the
cool water, as was his ordinary habit, stood still on the brink, looking
up into Frank's face, with a perplexed and wistful look.  "What's the
matter, Lion, why don't you drink?  I suppose, poor beast," he added,
"he hasn't quite recovered even yet.  Get out of the way, Lion; what are
you about?  If you are not thirsty, at all events I am!"

He pushed the mastiff out of the way as he spoke, and throwing himself
on his hands and knees, took a long and delicious draught.  "You don't
know what is good, Lion," he said.  "It's a rum colour, and there is an
odd sort of taste about the water; but it is beautifully cool and
refreshing.  Come, drink, old chap; it will do you a heap of good."

The dog, however, persistently refused to touch the water; and Nick, who
by this time had reached the grove, was so struck by the animal's
demeanour, that he paused before stooping to the waterside, and eyed it
with mingled doubt and curiosity.  The next minute Lavie's voice was
heard--

"Don't any of you touch the water till I come."

"I am afraid that warning comes rather late in the day for me," said
Frank, laughing, though he felt, nevertheless, a little uneasy.  "I've
had a delicious draught already.  Why isn't one to touch it, Charles?"
he continued, as the doctor approached.

"I came upon a gnu, a minute or two ago, lying dead in the thicket.  It
had no wound, and I suspected it had been poisoned.  I know it is very
often the practice of the Bushmen to mix poisons of one kind or another
with the wells, and so kill the animals that drink at them.  But very
likely the water is all right; only I had better examine it before--
stay, what is this?  Won't Lion drink it?"

"No, he won't," said Frank; "and, Charles, I am sorry to say, I have
drunk a good deal of it before you called out I am afraid there is
something wrong.  I feel very queer, anyhow."

"How do you feel?" asked Lavie, taking his pulse.

"I feel a giddiness in my head, and a singing in the ears, and am very
shaky on my legs.  I had better lie down.  I dare say it will go off
presently."  He sank, as he spoke, rather than lay down, on the bank.

"Put your fingers down your throat, and try if you can't bring the water
off again," said the doctor.  "Unluckily, I have no emetic in my
knapsacks.  The Hottentots emptied out all the drugs, while they had
possession of our things."

Frank obeyed his directions, but with very little effect.  He became
presently very drowsy, and Lavie, making a bed for him under a mimosa,
covered him up with all the spare garments of the rest of the party, and
some heaps of long dry grass.  In a few minutes Frank seemed to be
asleep.

"Do you think he is very bad?" inquired Warley earnestly.

"I don't like the look of things, I must say," was the answer; "we don't
know what the poison is which the Bushmen have mixed with the water, and
therefore it would be difficult to apply the antidote, even if it could
be found here.  Generally these poisons work very slow in the instance
of men, whatever they may do in animals.  The best chance, I think,
would be to give him large draughts of fresh wholesome water, if we
could find it.  It would probably dilute the poison and carry it off,
and it would anyway be good for him, as his pulse shows him to be very
feverish."

"We'll go and hunt for water," said Warley, "Nick and I; you stay with
Frank."

They took their guns, and went off in different directions.  Warley
directed his steps towards another kloof, about two miles off, between
two high and stony hills.  Trees and grass seemed to be growing in it
almost as abundantly as in that which he had just left, and if so, there
was probably either a brook, or water underground, which might be
obtained by digging.  He hurried on as fast as he could, for the
darkness was fast coming on, and was within a hundred yards of the
kloof, when a fine gemsbok, with its tall upright horns, came bounding
down the narrow path at its utmost speed.  The creature checked itself
the moment it saw Ernest.  The hills on either side were too steep to be
mounted, unless at a foot-pace, and the gemsbok's instinct taught it
that this would place it at the mercy of an enemy.  As soon therefore as
it could stop itself, it turned short round and galloped back into the
kloof.  Warley fired after it, but his nerves were discomposed, and the
light was so bad that he could hardly have hoped to hit.  He could hear
the bok rushing along with unabated speed, the sound of its feet dying
off in the gorge of the mountain; but two minutes afterwards there came
another sound, which seemed like the crack of a ride, though at a
considerable distance.

If this was so, there must be some person, beside their own party,
somewhere about; for the shot could not have been fired by either Lavie
or Nick.  At another time, Warley would have hesitated before going in
search of a stranger in so wild a region as that of the Kalahari.  The
shot might have come from a party of Bushmen or Bechuanas; some few of
whom, he knew, had possessed themselves of European firearms.  In that
case, himself and his whole party would run a very imminent risk of
being seized and murdered for the sake of their rifles.  And even if the
person should prove to be a European, it was as likely as not, that he
was an escaped convict from the Cape prisons, who might be even more
dangerous to encounter than the savages of the desert.  But Frank's
situation forbade any considerations of this kind.  To secure even the
chance of obtaining help for him, was enough to overpower all other
calculations.

He hurried on accordingly in the direction whence the sound had come as
fast as possible, and after half an hour's exertion, was rewarded by
seeing a long way off the figure of a man carrying a gun over his
shoulder.  Even at that distance, and in spite of the uncertain light,
Ernest could perceive that he was a European.  Somewhat assured by this,
he shouted at the top of his voice, and presently saw the stranger stop,
and look behind him.  The sight of Ernest seemed to surprise him, for
after looking fixedly at him for a few moments, he walked rapidly down
the glen to meet him.  As they approached nearer, Warley could
distinguish that the new comer was a man advanced in life, but of a
hardy frame, and his features showed traces of long exposure to the
extremes of cold and heat His dress was peculiar.  It consisted of a
hunting-coat of some dark woollen material, with breeches and gaiters to
match, and a broad leather belt, in which were stuck a variety of
articles, which might be needed in crossing the desert:--a drinking-cup
of horn, a flint and steel, a case containing apparently small articles
of value, together with a powder-flask and shot-case.  His long gun he
carried slung over his shoulder; and a large broad brimmed hat, the roof
of which was thick enough to resist the fiery rays of even an African
sun, completed his attire.  He was not a hunter, that was plain.  He
could hardly be a farmer or an itinerant trader, and tourists in those
days were persons very rarely to be met with.  Moreover, his first
address showed him to be a man of superior education to any of these.

"I wish you good day, sir," he said in correct English, though with
something of a foreign accent.  "I did not know that there was any other
traveller in this neighbourhood, or I should have sought his society.
May I ask your name, and whether you are alone, or one of a party?"

"There are four of us," answered Warley, "we are Englishmen, who have
been wrecked on the western coast, and are now trying to make our way to
Cape Town."

"Indeed," returned the stranger, "but you are aware, I presume, that
this is not the nearest way from the west coast to the town you name.
You have come a long distance out of your way and chosen a very
undesirable route."

"No doubt," said Ernest, "but we could not help ourselves.  We fell in
with a Hottentot tribe, and have had a narrow escape from their hands.
But we are in a great strait now.  One of our party has incautiously
drunk a quantity of water at a fountain near here, which we have since
discovered to be poisoned; and none of us--"

"What the spring in the kloof, about two miles back, I suppose,"
interrupted the stranger.  "I passed it two or three hours ago.  I
noticed that it had been poisoned--poisoned by euphorbia juice.  Your
friend cannot have had much experience of the Kalahari, or he would have
detected it at once.  You may always know water poisoned in that manner
by its clay-like appearance.  How much did he drink?"

"A long draught, I am afraid," said Ernest.  "I was not present, but he
said so."

"How long ago?"

"I should think two hours."

"There is no time to be lost, if his life is to be saved," observed the
unknown.  "Happily, the antidote is easily found in these parts.  When,
indeed, are God's mercies ever wanting in the hour of need!"

He spoke the last sentence to himself, rather than to his companion.
Drawing forth his flint and steel, he struck a light, by which he
kindled a small lantern, which was one of the articles appended to his
belt.  By the help of these, he began searching among the herbage which
grew thickly on either side of the path.  Presently he lighted on the
plant of which he was in quest.  It was shaped something like an egg,
which it also nearly resembled in size.  He pulled up two or three
specimens of this, and shook the dirt from the roots.  Then he again
addressed Warley.

"Where is your friend?" he said.  "At the kloof, where he drank the
water, I suppose?  You had better take me to him as quickly as
possible."

Warley complied in silence.  Lost in wonder at the strangeness of the
adventure, he led the way down the glen, up which he had mounted an hour
or so before.

The elder man seemed as little inclined for conversation as himself.
They proceeded in almost unbroken silence until they had arrived within
a quarter of a mile of their destination.  Warley stepped on a little in
advance as they approached the kloof, and Charles came out to meet him.

"How is Frank?" asked Warley in a low tone.

Lavie shook his head.  "Nick has found water, but we cannot get any
quantity down his throat I have tried everything I can think of, but in
vain."

"I have fallen in with a man who seems to understand the matter, and
thinks he can save him."

"A man--what, here in the Kalahari?  What do you mean?"

Warley hurriedly related what had occurred.  "Of course, Charles," he
said, "I can't answer for his knowledge and skill But hadn't we better
let him try what he can do?"

"Yes, I suppose we had," said Lavie, after a pause.  "I can do nothing
for him; and though it is true that the poison is slow in its action,
yet it is fatal unless its effects are checked.  I'll go and speak to
the man."

He stepped up to the stranger, and in a few hurried words described the
condition of his patient.  The newcomer nodded his head.

"Euphorbia poison," he said; "but I trust we shall be in time.  Have you
any means of heating water?"

"I have some water nearly boiling in the iron pot here."

"That is well.  Be so good as to put some into this cup; rather more
than half full, if you please."

He took one of the egg-shaped fruits, and pounded it in the hot water.
When it had been reduced to a fluid state, he signed to Lavie to lift
Frank's head, and then poured the mixture down the lad's throat.  Then
covering him up as warmly as he could, he sat down by his side, and took
his hand.

He sat there, without speaking, for nearly three-quarters of an hour;
then he looked up and said--

"Let us give thanks to God.  The boy's life will be spared.  He is
beginning to sweat profusely.  We have now only to keep him warmly
covered up, and the effects of the poison will pass off."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE STRANGER'S STORY--GEORGE SCHMIDT--IMPORTANT NEWS--THE COMMANDO
SYSTEM--THE ROOT OF THE MATTER--A BAND OF MARAUDERS.

"Have you practised your profession in this country for very long?"
asked Nick of their visitor, as they sat over their supper an hour or
two later in the evening.

The latter smiled.  "Yes," he answered, "for nearly fifteen years.  But
are you sure you know what my profession is?"

"Are you not a doctor?" rejoined his questioner.

"Well, I suppose I may call myself a doctor," was the reply, "but a
physician of the soul, not of the body--though, as you have seen, I have
picked up a little knowledge of body-curing too, in the course of my
travels."

"A missionary!" exclaimed Warley.  "I am so glad.  I have been so hoping
that we might fall in with one.  But we were told that there had never
been more than a very few in Southern Africa, and even they had now left
it."

"I am sorry to say you heard no more than the truth," said the stranger.
"But I trust there is a better prospect now."

"I am glad to hear it," observed Lavie.  "I guessed what your employment
was, and was afraid you might be in trouble, if not in danger.  When I
left Cape Town two years ago--"

"Ah, you have resided in Cape Town.  Then you will know something of
what our trials and discouragements have been.  But no one but the
missionaries themselves can really enter into them."

"I wish you would give us your experiences," said Lavie.  "As you say,
in the colony there is a very confused and imperfect knowledge of your
proceedings: and there is, besides, so large an amount of prejudice on
the subject, that even those most favourably inclined towards you, have
heard, I doubt not, a most unfair version of it."

Warley eagerly seconded this proposal, and the stranger, who seemed
willing enough to comply with their wishes, began his recital.

"I should tell you first," he said, "what perhaps you have guessed--that
I am, by descent, half English and half Dutch.  Our family name was
Blandford, and we were owners of large property in one of the southern
counties; but it was forfeited in consequence of our determined
adherence to the house of Stuart.  After the unfortunate issue of the
attempt in 1745, we were obliged to leave England, and took up our
residence in Holland; where my father married the daughter of a Dutch
merchant, named De Walden, whose name he thenceforth adopted.

"As the hopes of the restoration of the exiled family grew ever less and
less, my father entered with more interest into his father-in-law's
business.  The latter carried on a brisk trade with the Cape of Good
Hope, and thither I was sent, when barely twenty-one, as one of the
junior partners in the house.  I resided for many years at Stellenbosch,
occasionally passing months together at Klyberg, a large farm in the
north of the colony, not far from the Gariep, or the Orange river, as it
has since been named."

"Not very far from where we are now, in fact," observed Lavie.

"It was nearer to the west coast than this," said De Walden, "by some
hundreds of miles, and the country was very fertile.  Both at
Stellenbosch and Klyberg we employed a great number of Hottentots as
slaves.  Our treatment of them I shall remember with shame and grief to
the last day of my life!"  He paused from emotion.  And Lavie said--

"You were not different, I suppose, in your treatment of them from your
neighbours?"

"Unhappily, no.  But that is small comfort.  It seems wonderful to me
now, with my present feelings, how I could have accepted without
questioning, as I did, the opinions of those about me on the subject.
We entertained the notion that the natives were an inferior race to
ourselves, intended by Providence to be kept in a condition of
servitude, as the sheep and oxen were; to be kindly treated if they were
docile and industrious; to be subdued and punished if refractory."

"That is, of course, a perverted view," said the doctor, "but still no
one, who has seen much of these races, can doubt their inferiority, or
the necessity of their being instructed and kept in control by the
whites."

"Granted," said the missionary.  "The whites had, in fact, a mission of
love and mercy entrusted to them.  They ought to have taught the
natives, and raised them gradually to a level with themselves.  But we
never taught or raised them.  On the contrary, our persistent
determination was to keep them down.  We dreaded their acquiring
knowledge; and looked with jealousy and dislike upon some earnest and
devoted men, who had come from Europe for the purpose of enlightening
them."

"Did you come across George Schmidt, sir?" inquired Warley, with an
eagerness of manner which attracted De Walden's attention.  "I have read
about him, and have been anxious to meet some one who knew him."

"Yes," said De Walden, "to my shame, I did.  One of the first things I
remember, after my arrival at Klyberg, was an outburst of anger because
the good and holy man you name had baptised one of his converts.  You
may well look surprised, but so it was.  By the law of the Cape, no
baptised person could be a slave; so that the baptism of a Hottentot had
the effect of manumitting him.  Of course the law was a mistake, and
ought to have been altered.  A slave, as Saint Paul has emphatically
taught us, may be as true a Christian as his master.  But the Dutch had
no thought of altering the law, and were resolved rather to keep their
slaves in heathen darkness than lose their services."

"That is much what I read," said Warley; "and Schmidt was obliged to
leave the colony, was he not?"

"He was, and never returned to it, though he earnestly longed and prayed
that he might.  His prayer was heard after his death, and his spirit
returned in the faithful band of servants, who were raised up to carry
on his work.  I never saw _George_ Schmidt while in Africa.  I had no
wish to do so.  His name was a by-word of reproach on my lips.  But
afterwards, while I was in Holland, during a three years' absence from
the colony, I did encounter him."

The speaker paused for a few minutes, and then resumed.  "I shall never
forget our meeting.  I was passing through one of the towns on the
Rhine, when I saw a notice that George Schmidt would deliver a discourse
about South African Missions, and endeavour to raise funds for carrying
them on.  I determined to go to the meeting, expose the falsehood and
calumnies which I should be sure to hear, and raise such a tumult as
would put a stop to him and his doings.  I went and I heard him.  What
we read in the Bible of men forsaking all and following Christ--which
had always seemed so difficult to be believed--came home to me in all
its vividness.  I was carried away by his simple eloquence.  I was
humbled, conscience-stricken, filled suddenly and for ever with a new
purpose in life.  I went to him as soon as the meeting was over, told
him who I was, and asked his forgiveness for what I and mine had done to
thwart and grieve him."

"And he welcomed you kindly, doubtless?" said Lavie.

"Yes, like himself I remained in Holland, and used every means in my
power to obtain the leave to renew his mission, which he was seeking
from the Government.  My family remonstrated against the course I was
pursuing, and finding that I was not to be moved, renounced all
connection with me.  I cared little for that; but the failure of my
applications to the authorities distressed me much more than it did
Schmidt; who closed his eyes, in extreme old age, fully assured that the
prayer of his life would soon be granted."

"And it was, was it not?" asked Warley.

"Yes.  In 1792 we obtained the long-desired permission.  I was one of
those who accompanied Marsveld and his colleagues to South Africa.  I
well remember the day when we visited Bavian's kloof, which had been the
scene of George Schmidt's labours, broken off nearly fifty years before.
There were the remains of the school he had built, and the cottage in
which he had dwelt--all in ruins, but sacred in our eyes as the homes in
which we had been born.  There was the pear tree which he had planted,
now a strong and lofty tree.  Above all, there were the remains of the
flock he brought into the Redeemer's fold--one or two aged servants of
Christ whom he had instructed in the faith, and who had retained the
memory of his lessons through fifty years of darkness!"

"The Dutch did not interfere with you any further, did they, sir?" asked
Ernest.

"Not as they had done before, but they discouraged us indirectly in
every possible way.  They would never suffer us to build a church, in
which to carry on our worship; and it was not until the English took
possession of the Cape that we were able to do so."

"You were not interfered with during the time of the English occupation,
I believe," said Lavie.

"No, if anything, helped and encouraged.  When the colony was restored
to the Dutch three years ago, another attempt was made to turn us out of
the colony.  But English rule had produced its effect on public opinion,
and nothing open was attempted.  The system pursued by the Dutch farmers
was, nevertheless, so obstructive, that I thought it better to give up
my mission to the Hottentots, and betake myself to a different part of
the colony, where I have been living for the last two years."

"And where are you going now?" asked Warley.

"Back to the Hottentots.  The English Government will protect me,
doubtless, as it did before, and I shall have every reasonable hope of
succeeding."

"The English Government!" repeated Nick, hastily.  "Have the English
retaken the colony!"

De Walden looked at him with surprise.  "Do you not know," he said,
"that on the 10th of January last, Cape Town was surrendered to the
English?  By this time, I should imagine, the whole of the Dutch troops
have left the colony."

"No," said Lavie, "we did not know it, though we are not much surprised
to hear it.  When we left England, there was some talk of sending out an
expedition to recover the Cape.  But the Government kept their
intentions very secret.  The Hottentots, among whom we have been living
for several weeks, had heard of the approach of a British fleet, but
knew nothing as to the issue of the expedition.  So the Dutch have lost
the colony again, have they?"

"Yes," said the missionary; "and they will never regain it.  The trust
has been reposed in their hands for many generations, and they have
betrayed it, and the colony is handed over to another people.  For their
own sakes, may they fulfil it better!"

"You are right," said Lavie; "as the New World was given to Spain, and
when Spain abused the gift, it was taken from her; so have the Dutch
received, and so have they forfeited, their South African dominions."

"You speak well," said De Walden.  "The parallel you suggest is very
much to the purpose.  One's blood boils when one reads of the
barbarities practised on the defenceless Indians by Cortez and his
fellows; on the monstrous violations of justice, mercy, and good faith
which Pizarro displayed in his dealings with the simple-hearted
Peruvians.  But neither Cortez nor Pizarro ever perpetrated more unjust
or inhuman deeds, than have the Dutch boors during the century and a
half of their possession."

The doctor shook his head as he heard this assertion.  "That is strong
language, Mr De Walden," he said.  "I go along with you in nearly all
that you have said, but not that.  You refer, I suppose, to the commando
system?"

"Mainly to that, but not entirely."

"Very well.  I speak under correction, but I understand the commando
system to be this.  When property is continually and persistently stolen
by the Hottentots and Bushmen, and no peaceable measures can secure its
restoration, the whites in the neighbourhood are summoned to assist at
an armed attempt at its recovery.  They march into the domains of the
robbers, seize the cattle or other property which has been plundered, or
an equivalent, punish the robbers, according to the amount of the
offence, and then return home.  Is that a correct statement?"

"Theoretically, very fairly correct."

"Well, where is the injustice?  Those who will recognise no law but
force, must take their first lesson under that law.  A savage has to
learn that he must respect the rights and feelings of others.  That is
the foundation of all social order.  Until he has learned it, you cannot
civilise him."

"Granted.  But the means you take are not the right ones.  In the first
place, who gave the Dutch settlers the right to the land or the cattle?
They found the Hottentot and Bushman in possession.  What equivalent did
they give them for their land?  They were savages, you will say, and
could not appreciate its value.  True, but the Dutchmen could.  Did they
not take advantage of the ignorance of the aboriginals to gain
possession, on ridiculously cheap terms, of their property.  If so, the
rights of which you speak are founded on fraud and extortion, and are,
in fact, no rights at all, but simply wrongs."

"Do you mean that there can be no dealings at all between civilised
races and savages?"

"By no means.  If the civilised trader is an honest man, he will
appraise the land at its true value, and hold it in trust for the
vendor."

"How hold it in trust?"

"He will remember that he cannot pay the fair purchase-money down, and
therefore hold it for the seller, till he can pay it.  He will remember,
that the seller was supported off the land previously to its sale, and
ought to be supported still by it, or its proceeds, or the bargain
cannot have been a fair one.  He will therefore supply the natives with
food, if in need; will help them to live; will feel bound to furnish the
means of instructing them; will show infinite forbearance, until they
are instructed.  He will be sensible that he cannot wash his hands clear
of them as he might, in a civilised country, of men, who had sold him
land at market price."

"And what, if such forbearance produced no other result than increased
lawlessness and treachery?"

"You have, first, to show that it would produce it.  And you would have
some difficulty in doing that.  When that mode of dealing with
aboriginals has been fairly tried and has failed, then you may ask your
question.  But when has it ever been tried?  I have striven to impress
the truths of the Gospel on the Hottentots and the Bushmen, and I have
failed; but why?  Not because they could not understand the Gospel, or
because they hated it; but because those who professed it did not
themselves act up to it--did not, in fact, themselves really believe it.
Look you here.  A tribe of Bushmen have been in the habit of ranging
over a large tract of country, and killing game, wherever they could,
for their support.  They regarded that as their natural right; and who
shall say it was not?  Well, some persons, of whom they have never
heard, make some bargain with some of their neighbours or
fellow-countrymen, and they find themselves suddenly deprived of the
rights which they and their fathers have enjoyed from immemorial time.
They traverse their old hunting-grounds and kill the first cattle they
fall in with, as they have been ever wont to do; and for so doing, their
villages are attacked by night, their huts burnt, their property
destroyed, themselves, their wives and children, enslaved or murdered!
Whatever sense of natural justice they may possess, must be outraged by
such acts."

"I think I see.  The natives have a right to be taught and cared for, in
return for their possessions."

"Yes.  And if this is not done, the settlers have no justification for
possessing themselves of their land at all.  By settling in the country,
they make themselves the fellow-citizens of the aboriginals, and are
bound to treat them as such.  If they cannot fulfil the duties of
citizens towards them, rather let them give up their lands and quit the
country, than provoke God by high-handed violence and injustice.  The
policy of continually driving the heathen further and further away, is
only one degree less detestable than exterminating them at once."

"And you think the natives could be converted to Christianity, if your
programme were followed?  I have heard men doubt it, whose reputation
for wisdom stands high."

"I dare say.  But what is man's opinion worth in such a matter?  Has not
God made mankind all of one blood?  Did not Christ die for all?  Are we
to believe that He did not understand His own work?  We must do so, if
we believe that there is any nation on the face of the earth, which
could not accept the Gospel But it is growing late.  I will visit my
patient once more before lying down to rest.  He may want another dose,
but I hardly think it."

They repaired accordingly to Wilmore's bed, and were glad to find him in
a calm deep sleep, which they did not disturb.  The fire was then
replenished, and Warley having undertaken to keep watch during the first
part of the night, the others lay down under the shadow of the palm
trees and were soon sound asleep.

Ernest sat over the fire, with his rifle in his hand, buried in deep
thought.  Always of a grave turn of mind, the events of the last few
weeks had made him a man before his time.  His life during that time had
been one of continual peril, and three times at least he had had the
narrowest possible escape from a dreadful death.  He felt--as all men of
any strength of character always do feel under such circumstances--that
his life had been preserved for some high and worthy purpose, and the
conversation of the stranger missionary had impressed the same truth
more forcibly upon him.  He had always had an inclination for the life
of a clergyman; its only objection in his eyes being the dull routine of
commonplace duties; which, however worthy in themselves, did not satisfy
his longing for enterprise and action But in Mr De Walden's career, all
that he thirsted after seemed to be realised.  He felt that if the
latter would consent to take him as a helper in the work he had now in
hand, he should prefer it to any other lot that life could offer him.
But then there was the difficulty about money.  He must have some means
of living, and the life of a missionary in Africa would not supply any,
not even the barest necessaries.  Mr De Walden, it was evident, did
possess some private income; but it might not be enough to support two;
and even if it should be, he could hardly ask him, a total stranger, to
bestow it on him.  There was his brother, who might allow him just
enough to start him in business.  So at least he had intimated.  But it
was unlikely that he would give him a farthing if he turned missionary--
a calling especially odious in the eyes of the residents at Cape Town at
that time.  Besides, Ernest had always felt the greatest repugnance to
taking Hubert's money.  No, he feared he must give it up--for the
present at all events.  He must take the Indian clerkship, which Lavie
had told him he thought he could get for him.  He might save money, and
then later in life perhaps--

As he sat brooding over these thoughts with his arm resting on some pine
boughs which he had gathered, he was startled by seeing a dark object
crawling out of a bush at no great distance.  It passed across the
pathway, and was hidden in the scrub on the other side before he had
time to look fixedly at it.  It occurred to him at once, that it might
be one of the large black snakes which infest that country, and whose
bite was said to be extremely dangerous.  He paused a moment in doubt.
He could still distinguish the black mass in the shrub though very
imperfectly.  Should he fire at it and take the chance of killing or
crippling it.  Well, he might miss, and if so, there would be a shot
thrown away; Frank would certainly be woke up, and it was most important
for him to get a sound night's rest.  At all events he would see the
object, whatever it might be, by a clearer light before firing.  He
cocked his gun and rested it against his knee.  Then taking a handful of
dry fir leaves, he threw them on the fire which had sunk somewhat low.
A bright blaze sprung up, and showed in strong relief the stems of the
palms and the thickets of scrub around them.  But the black mass on
which his eye was fixed was hidden by the shadow of a large tree, and he
could not determine with any certainty its outline, before the blaze had
sank again.  Presently he felt something creep stealthily past him, and
Lion stirred uneasily in his sleep.  He seized another and a larger heap
of pine leaves; but before he could throw it on the fire, he felt his
gun seized in a gentle, but firm, grasp by the muzzle, and gradually
drawn away from him.  Before he could recover from his surprise, the
lock caught against a tuft of weed and exploded.  The report was
followed by a yell of rage and pain, and at the same moment Lion sprang
forward.  All the party, except Frank, were instantly on their legs, and
De Walden, with ready presence of mind, caught up a pine bough and
thrust it among the embers.  It soon burst out into a flame and showed a
dark-skinned savage extended on the ground, a second struggling in the
grip of Lion, while several more were hurrying away in all directions.

"Those Kaffirs have tracked me, after all," he muttered.  "I thought I
had got rid of them, but it is next to impossible to do so.  Well, let
us see whether they are much hurt."

Lavie and Warley had by this time obliged Lion to relax his hold, and it
was found that the man he had seized had only sustained a few slight
injuries from the dog's teeth.  The other was bleeding from a gun-shot
wound, but that too was not dangerous.

"They are neither of them really hurt," said Lavie; "but we must
question them to-morrow, and meanwhile take care they don't escape."  He
took some strong leathern thongs, which De Walden handed him from his
wallet, and with these dexterously tied their hands and legs.  Then
desiring Lion to watch them, he lay down again and was soon fast asleep.
Warley followed his example, but the other two kept watch till sunrise.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

KAFFIR INCREDULITY--THE GREAT KALAHARI--A PRIZE--AN EXCITING CHASE--THE
KAFFIR GAME-TRAP--A NATURAL BRIDGE--AN AFRICAN FLOOD.

Daylight broke at last, and the two watchers were rejoiced to perceive
that their prisoners, though evidently recovered from any injuries which
they might have sustained, still remained in the same place, indeed in
the same attitude as on the previous night.  This, however, appeared to
be mainly due to Lion's vigilance, the latter still keeping the most
jealous watch over them, breaking out into an angry growl, and showing a
formidable broadside of teeth, whenever either of them moved hand or
foot.  As soon as the morning meal was over, De Walden untied the thongs
by which they had been secured, and taking them apart, addressed a long
and seemingly an angry remonstrance to them.  They replied submissively,
and appeared to be entreating pardon, which he was reluctant to grant.
At length the conference came to an end.  With a low inflection of their
bodies, they turned away, and pursued the path up the kloof, never
turning their heads to look back, till they had vanished from sight.

Mr De Walden now rejoined his companions.  "In what direction is it
your purpose to proceed?" he inquired.

"We were about to ask your advice," said Lavie.  "We have turned out of
our direct way to avoid being followed by the Hottentots among whom we
have been living for several weeks, and now want to make our way as
quickly as we can to Cape Town."

"I will accompany you there," said the missionary, "if it be agreeable
to you.  Until last night it was my intention to travel into the country
you have just quitted, and resume my old mission work, which I left
three years ago.  But, singularly enough, I am now in the same strait as
yourself.  I have been living for the last year or two in the Bechuana
country; and the idea has latterly taken possession of one of the Kaffir
chiefs, named Chuma, that I have the power of controlling the elements,
and driving away disease at pleasure."

"It is not an uncommon one, is it?" asked Lavie.

"It is common enough for impostors among the Kaffirs themselves, to
pretend to such power, and they gain a certain amount of credence from
their countrymen," answered De Walden; "but they do not often fancy that
Europeans are so gifted.  The fame of a very simple cure of a Bechuana
child, which was suffering from croup, and the circumstance that a
seasonable rain, after long drought fell, while I was residing in the
Bechuana village, are, I believe, the only grounds for the notion.  But
Chuma was so possessed with it, that he has repeatedly made me the most
splendid offers, if I will take up my abode in his kraal."

"I wonder you did not accept it," remarked Lavie.

"You think it would have been an opening for teaching them better
things, I suppose.  But that would not have been so.  I could only have
gone as a professed wizard or prophet--under false colours, in fact.
And the moment I threw any doubt on the reality of my pretensions, they
would have turned on me as an impostor, and justly too.  No, I told
Chuma that I would come to him as the servant of the God who sent the
rain and the sunshine, if he would have me.  But that He alone could
command these, and I had no power over them, any more than Chuma himself
had."

"And he?" pursued Lavie.

"He did not believe me, and once or twice tried to seize me, and compel
me to comply with his wishes.  I was very glad when the news of the
reoccupation of the Cape by the British, offered an opening for my
return to Namaqua-land.  I thought I had managed my departure so well,
that they would not discover it for many days.  But I was mistaken.
Chuma sent those men yesterday with peremptory orders to seize and
convey me to his village."

"And you are going to change your route, in consequence?" said Lavie.

"Yes; I do not believe Chuma will abandon his purpose even now.  I shall
proceed to Cape Town and thence obtain a passage to Walfisch Bay.  In
that way I shall baffle the chief, but probably in no other.  If you
think Frank--that is his name, I believe--if you think him fit to
travel, we had better set off for the Gariep as soon as possible.  Chuma
will be sure to send out a fresh company, as soon as these have returned
to him."

"Frank is nearly well in my opinion," said Lavie.  "The poison seems to
have been driven out by the profuse perspiration.  He is a little weak;
but with an occasional rest, and an arm to lean on, he can go a
tolerable day's journey, I have no doubt."

"Let us set off, then, as soon as possible.  We have a long and very
dreary tract to traverse before we reach the Gariep--three hundred miles
and more, I should think.  It will probably take us at least three weeks
to accomplish it, even if your young friend quite recovers his
strength."

"But you are well acquainted with the way?"

"Yes, indeed.  I have traversed it often enough."

"We are fortunate to have fallen in with you.  I will go and arrange
everything for starting."

They were soon on their way, Frank stepping bravely along, and declaring
that the motion and the morning air had driven out whatever megrims the
euphorbia water might have left behind.  They soon came into a different
character of country from that which they had recently been traversing.
Hitherto they had been moving to and fro on the skirts of the great
Kalahari; they were now about to pass through its central solitudes.  As
they advanced, the groups of trees and shrubs grew scantier, and at
length almost wholly disappeared.  Interminable flats of sand, varied
only by heaps of stone scattered about in the wildest disorder,
succeeded each other as far as the eye could reach.  For miles together
there was no sign of animal or vegetable life--not the cry of an insect,
not the track of a beast, not the pinion of a bird.  The red light of
daybreak, the hot and loaded vapours of noontide, the gorgeous hues of
sunset, the moon and stars hanging like globes of fire in the dark
purple of the sky, succeeded each other with wearying monotony.  There
was no difference between day and day.  They depended for their
subsistence almost entirely on the roots, which De Walden knew where to
search for, and which relieved the parched lips and burning throat as
nothing else could have done.  Their resting-place at mid-day, and at
night alike, was either the shadow cast by some huge stone, or a natural
hollow in its side, or more rarely a patch of scrub and grass, growing
round some spring, either visible or underground.  The cool sunset
breeze every evening restored something of vigour to their exhausted
frames, and enabled them to toil onward for another, and yet another,
day.

After nearly three weeks of this travel, they found the landscape begin
once more to change.  The kameel-doorn and the euphorbia again made
their appearance, at first in a few comparatively shaded spots; then the
aloe and the mimosa began to mingle with them; and in the course of a
day's journey afterwards, birds chirped among the boughs, the secretary
was seen stalking over the plain, and the frequent spoor of wild animals
showed that they had again reached the world of living beings.

Their guide now told them that they were within two days' journey or so
of the Gariep; which he proposed to pass at some point immediately below
one of the great cataracts.  The river at this spot ran always, he said,
with a rapidity which rendered it almost impossible to ford; but at the
times when it was at the lowest, after long drought, as was the case
now, it might be crossed by climbing along trunks of trees which had
been lodged among the rocks and left there by the subsiding waters of a
flood.  This required nothing of the traveller beyond a steady foot and
a cool head.  Where there were several to help one another, the risk was
reduced almost to zero.

The party woke up gladly enough on the morning of the last day of their
desert travel.  The country was now thickly covered with wood.
Immediately before them was a plain very curiously dotted with patches
of thorns, growing at regular intervals about fifty paces apart from one
another, enclosing a large tract of ground with a kind of rude fence.
Nick was so struck with its singular appearance, that he stopped behind
his companions to examine it more closely.  While thus engaged, his
attention was attracted by a grunting noise in the bush near him, and
peering cautiously through the bushes, saw what he supposed to be a
large black hog, unwieldy from its fat, lying in a bed of thick grass.
Here was a discovery!  The party had not tasted the flesh of animals for
weeks past, and had not tasted pork since they left the _Hooghly_.  He
shouted as loud as he could, to attract the attention of Lavie and the
others.  Failing to do this, he discharged his gun at the hog, intending
at once to kill the animal and induce his fellow-travellers to return.
He waited for some minutes, but without hearing anything but a distant
halloo.  Resolving not to lose so valuable a booty, he took the
creature, heavy as it was, on his shoulders and set out, as fast as he
could walk, under the burden, in the direction which they had gone.

He staggered along until he had cleared the thicket, and was moving on
towards the thorn patches, when he heard a voice at some distance
shouting to him.  He looked up and saw Lavie running towards him at his
utmost speed.  Presently the voice came again.

"Drop that, and run for your life.  There's a rhinoceros chasing you."

Nick did drop his load, as if it had been red hot iron, and glanced
instinctively round.  On the edge of the thicket which he had quitted, a
large black rhinoceros was just breaking cover, snorting with fury, and
evidently making straight for him.  Nick's gun was empty, and even if it
had been loaded, he would hardly have ventured to risk his life on the
accuracy of his aim.  He threw the gun away, and took to his heels, as
he had never done since he left Dr Staines's school.  He was swift of
foot, and had perhaps a hundred yards start.  But the rhinoceros is one
of the fleetest quadrupeds in existence.  Notwithstanding the lad's most
desperate exertions, it continued to gain rapidly on him.  Nick felt
that his only chance was to get within gun-shot of his companions, when
a fortunate bullet might arrest the course of his enemy.  He tore
blindly along, until he found himself within twenty yards of the thorn
bushes, which had so excited his curiosity shortly before.  The next
minute he felt himself passing between two of the bushes, the rhinoceros
scarcely thrice its own length behind him, its head bent down, and its
long horn ready to impale him.

He gave himself over for lost, and only continued to dash along from the
instinct of deadly terror.  As he rushed between the bushes, he suddenly
felt the earth shake and give way under him.  Staggering forward a few
paces, he fell flat on his face, tearing up the ground from the force of
the fall.  At the same moment a tremendous crash was heard behind him,
followed a minute afterwards by a dull heavy shock.  Nick sprung up
again, notwithstanding the cuts and bruises he had received, and glanced
hastily round him, expecting to see his terrible antagonist close on his
flank.  But, to his amazement, the creature had disappeared!  There was
the open space between the thorn bushes, through which he had just
passed, and there was the long grass through which he had rushed, but
where was the fierce pursuer, who was scarcely four yards behind him?

While he was gazing round him in a maze of alarm and wonder, he heard
Lavie's voice close to him.  "You may be thankful for the narrowest
escape I ever remember to have witnessed!" he said.

"Where, where is the rhinoceros?" stammered Nick.

"Down at the bottom of that pit, into which you would have tumbled
yourself, if you hadn't been running like a lamplighter.  I'll just see
if the poor brute is alive or not, and if he is, put a charge through
his brain."

He peered cautiously down the hole, but all was still there.  The animal
had been impaled on the strong stake always placed at the bottoms of
such traps, and it had probably penetrated the vitals.  Satisfied on
this point, he returned to Gilbert, who had now somewhat recovered his
self-possession.

"Why didn't you run when we first called to you?"

"I didn't know you were calling to me.  What made the brute attack me?"

"I don't know.  The black rhinoceroses very often attack men without any
apparent reason, though the white seldom do so.  But what were you
carrying on your back?"

"A black hog, which I had shot--famous eating, you know.  We had better
go and fetch it now.  It will last us--"

"A hog!" exclaimed De Walden, who with Warley and Wilmore had now joined
them.  "I don't fancy there are any wild hogs about here; I never heard
of any.  Is this what you call a hog?" he continued, a minute or two
afterwards, when they had reached the place where Nick had thrown his
load down.  "Why this is a young rhinoceros--about a week old, I should
say!  There is very little mystery now in the mother having charged
after you.  Well, you may indeed thank God for your escape!  I would not
have given a penny for your life under such circumstances.  However, as
we have the animal, we had better take as much of its flesh as we can
carry.  It is very excellent eating."

"I should like to examine the pitfall, sir, if you have no objection,"
said Warley.  "I have never seen one, though I have often heard of
them."

"I'll cut up the carcass, Mr De Walden," said Lavie, "if you like to go
with the lads."

The missionary consented, and taking the three boys with him, pointed
out to them the ingenious construction of the trap, which had been the
means of preserving Nick's life.  He showed them, that the whole
enclosure which had excited Gilbert's wonder, was one network of pits.
The thorn bushes were everywhere trained to grow so thick and close,
that it was impossible to penetrate them; and in the centre of each of
the open spaces between them a deep excavation was made, the top of
which was skilfully concealed by slight boughs laid over it, and covered
with tufts of long grass and reeds.  At times, he said, the hunters
would assemble in a large body, and drive the game in from every side,
towards the enclosure.  The frightened animals made for the entrances,
and great numbers were thus captured in the pits.  Even those which had
passed safely through the openings, became easy victims to the arrows
and assegais of the pursuers, being, in fact, too much alarmed to
attempt to escape from their prison.

Before they had completed their examination of the ground, Lavie was
ready to accompany them.  Setting out without further delay, they
reached an hour before sunset the banks of the Gariep.  Wearied as they
were with one of the longest day's journeys which they had accomplished,
neither Lavie nor Warley could rest till they had taken a full view of
the magnificent scene which broke upon them, when, after threading the
dense thickets and tortuous watercourses which border the great river,
they came at last on the main stream itself.  The vast mass of water--
which had been narrowed in, for a considerable distance by lofty cliffs
on either side, to a channel hardly more than thirty yards in width--
shot downwards over a rocky shelf in an abrupt descent of fully four
hundred feet in height.  On either side, the crags, partly bare and
rugged, partly clothed with overhanging woods of the richest green;
above, the tall mountains rising into broken peaks; and below, the
boiling abyss--formed a frame, which was worthy of this splendid
picture.  The beams of the setting sun pouring full on the cascade, and
producing a brilliant rainbow which spanned the entire width from side
to side, together with the ceaseless thunder of the falling waters,
seemed alike to entrance and overpower the senses of the beholder.  It
was not until they had stood for more than an hour gazing at this
glorious spectacle, that either of the travellers could tear themselves
from the spot, to seek the rest which overwearied nature demanded.

On the following morning they were awakened by De Walden at an earlier
hour than usual.  "We must lose no time," he said, "in crossing the
river.  It is not so high as I expected to find it, and at the point for
which we must make, we can get over without much difficulty.  But it is
on one of the channels which just now are almost dry, that I fear we may
encounter difficulty.  The sky looked threatening last night, and if it
had not been too late I should have attempted the passage.  It looks
worse this morning.  I am half afraid there must be rain further up the
country; and if such be the case, the river may suddenly rise so
rapidly, that it will be next to impossible to escape it.  We have not a
moment to lose."

They hurried on under his directions, Lion following, and in an hour's
time had reached a narrow part of the stream, which was there further
diminished by an island in mid-channel.  The latter was steep and
narrow, having evidently been worn away by the action of successive
ages, until scarcely more than ten feet of it remained.  Against the
craggy peaks into which it rose, several massive trees had lodged during
some former flood, and had been left by the subsiding waters at a height
of eight or ten feet above their present level.  They formed a kind of
rude bridge, which might be safely traversed by any one whose nerves
were firm enough to attempt the feat.

Calling to Lavie to follow him, De Walden laid down his rifle and
climbed up the mossy roots of one of the largest of these wrecks of the
forest, till he had reached the first fork of the branches.  Here he
stopped, and waited till Lavie was within six feet or so of him, when he
signed him to stop also.  Warley followed, and then Frank, and lastly
Nick; each taking up his station a few feet off from his nearest
companion.  Nick then passed along the various articles from hand to
hand, until they reached De Walden, who secured them by thongs to the
upper branch of the fork, and then climbed on till he had reached the
island, when the same process was repeated.

In this manner, in about an hour's time, they passed safely over the
central stream, and began descending the bank on the other side, passing
without difficulty two or three of the narrower channels.  But their
progress through the tangled underwood, which in some places had to be
cut with the axe before it would yield a passage, was necessarily slow,
and it was past noon before they came to the edge of the last and
broadest of the tributary channels--a stream too wide and deep to be
forded, even if there had not been fear that the overhanging banks
contained holes in which crocodiles might lurk.  "We must fell a tree,"
said the missionary.  "We shan't get across in any other way.  One of
the longest of these pines will answer our purpose, if it is dropped in
the right place; but we must go to work without delay, for I fear before
nightfall there will be rain.  It seldom gives long notice of its coming
in this country, and when it does fall, it falls in a perfect deluge.
It is lucky we have the axe, or we must have gone back to the other bank
again.  Hand it to me, Ernest.  I think I can contrive to drop this fir
exactly into the fork of that large projecting yellow-wood there."

He took the axe as he spoke, and went to work with a will, the others
relieving him at intervals, and labouring under his directions.  But the
edge of the instrument had unfortunately become blunt from use, and made
its way but slowly into the tough wood.  It was nearly three hours
before the task was accomplished, and the long trunk dropped skilfully
into the hollow of the tree opposite.

"Now then, we must not lose a minute," said De Walden.  "We are
fortunate that the rain has held off so long, but it must come soon."
He mounted the trunk as he spoke and crawled along it, observing the
same precautions as before.  They had just reached the further end, when
suddenly there came--from a considerable distance it seemed--a dull
hollow roar, accompanied by a rush of chilling wind.

"Quick, quick," he cried; "the flood is close at hand.  If it catches us
here, we are lost.  Climb the tree.  It is our only hope."  He sprang on
the nearest branch as he spoke, and mounted up from bough to bough,
until he had reached an elevation of twenty or thirty feet above the
surface of the stream.  The others followed his example, as well as they
were able, catching at the limbs of the great yellow-wood tree which
chanced to be nearest to them, and scrambling from point to point with
the agility which deadly peril inspires.  Nick, who was the hindmost of
the party, had not mounted more than fifteen or twenty feet, before they
all beheld, not a hundred yards off, a vast cataract of water rolling
down the river gorge, sweeping from side to side, as it advanced, and
converting the whole valley into a roaring torrent.  Their temporary
bridge was swept away and snapped in pieces like a reed, and for a
moment De Walden feared that even the great yellow-wood in which they
had found refuge, might experience a like fate.  It stood firm, however,
and the missionary was able to assure his companions that, as the flood
was not likely to rise higher, they were in comparative safety.  But
they would have to pass the night, and possibly the next day, in their
present position, as it would be madness to attempt breasting the flood,
until its fury had spent itself.  They had fortunately taken their
morning meal on the further bank, and each had some remains of it in his
wallet But it was a dreary prospect at best, and if the rain should
again fall there would be the greatest danger lest the cold and
weariness should so benumb their limbs, that they would be unable to
retain their hold on the branches.

"What has become of Lion?"  Nick managed to ask of Wilmore, who was
niched near him, in a hollow formed by the junction of three boughs in
one of the largest limbs of the yellow-wood.  "I haven't seen him since
we got on the tree."

"Poor old boy," returned Frank, "he was swept down the stream, when the
fir was carried away.  I tried to catch him by the collar, but couldn't.
The last thing I saw of him was his black head in the midst of the
boiling waters.  I think I would sooner have been drowned myself!"



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

STRANGE COMPANY--CAPTURED AGAIN--THE KAFFIR VILLAGE--CHUMA OBDURATE--
LAVIE'S MISSION--THE WIZARD--A BOND OF FELLOWSHIP.

It was a long and terrible night.  The heaven was covered with vast
masses of inky clouds, which the gale drove rapidly before it; and
occasionally there were sharp bursts of rain, from which even the dense
foliage of the tree in which they were lodged but imperfectly screened
them.  The howling of the wind round them, and the roaring of the
torrent below, rendered all attempts to converse with one another
impossible.  They could only cling to their place of refuge, and count
the weary minutes as they passed, gazing anxiously on the eastern sky in
the hope of seeing there the first faint streaks of dawn.

A little after midnight the fury of the elements seemed to have reached
its height, and now a new danger threatened them.  The huge tree rocked
to and fro under the gusts of wind, as though it had been a bulrush, and
every now and then a loud crack from below, intimated that one of the
strong roots had yielded to its violence.  At length, after one blast,
more fierce than any which had preceded it, the last fibre gave way.  De
Walden felt the great trunk bend slowly forward, and settle down in the
water; and almost immediately afterwards it was carried down the
current, whirling and crashing against other trees as it went, with a
force which nearly shook its occupants from their hold.  Fortunately
they had taken their stations on a branch which still remained above the
water when the tree was uprooted; but it was nevertheless only by the
most desperate exertion of the little strength which still remained to
them, that they could save themselves from dropping, exhausted and
benumbed, into the watery abyss beneath.

At length the dawn began to glimmer, and showed that the tree, which had
become entangled with a number of others, had reached a point in the
river where it could proceed no further.  The vast floating _debris_ had
lodged against lofty rocks, which projected some distance into the
stream, and thus an insuperable obstacle was offered to its farther
progress.  As the light grew stronger, it revealed a spectacle so
extraordinary, and at the same time so frightful, that De Walden, with
all his long and varied experience, could not recall the like of it.
Numberless animals had taken refuge, as he and his party had done, in
the boughs of trees, or had been carried against them by the torrent.
The confused mass of trunks and branches was now crowded with the most
strangely assorted occupants that had ever been brought together since
the day of the great deluge; their natural instincts being, for the
time, completely overpowered by terror.  The lion and the eland crouched
close beside one another; the steinbok and the ocelot clung to the same
limb; the hyena and the sheep, the tiger and zebra, jostled each other,
all alike apparently unaware of the presence of their neighbours.  More
deadly enemies still were close at hand unheeded.  Huge pythons, puff
adders, cobras, ondaras, black snakes, were twisted round every
projecting bough, darting their heads to and fro, and protruding their
tongues in the extremity of alarm.  Even the huge bulk of the rhinoceros
might be discerned here and there, lodged on the bole of some giant
acacia or baobab; while above, the smaller boughs were tenanted by
multitudes of monkeys, for once omitting their customary scream and
chatter in the presence of mortal peril.

De Walden perceived that it would be possible for the party now to make
their way from tree to tree, until the right hand bank should be
reached.  That to the left, which was the one along which their journey
now lay, being cut off from them by impassable obstacles.  But they must
get on shore first, and again attempt the passage of the river
afterwards.  He shouted to the others, and at length succeeded in
rousing them from the torpor, which for some time had been creeping over
them.  Guided by him, they crawled stiffly and wearily from their
resting-places, along one trunk after another, often almost pushing
aside beasts of prey, which it would have been death to approach at
other times, but which now shrank away from them in deadly fear--until
at last the river's bank was attained.  Here they struggled on for a
short distance, through the dense underwood of thorn and reed, until
they had reached a patch of long grass; when all, with one consent as it
were, threw themselves on the soft couch, and were soon locked in the
profoundest sleep.

How long they might have slept it is impossible to say.  They were
awakened about the middle of the day by finding themselves in the hands
of a number of black men, who had already despoiled them of their
accoutrements, and were engaged in tying their arms behind their backs
with rheims of rhinoceros hide.  They sat up and stared about them,
hardly realising at first what had happened.

"Hallo, blacky," exclaimed Nick, when he had at length taken in the
situation, "what may you happen to be about?  Do you know, these legs
and arms, that you are handling after that free-and-easy fashion, belong
to me?  Why, I declare," he continued, as he caught a clearer view of
the man who was employed in tying him, "I declare that is one of the
fellows whom you let off one fine morning about three weeks ago, Mr De
Walden!  One blacky is generally as like another as an egg is to an egg,
but I think I could swear to that fellow's nose and eyebrows.  Ain't I
right, sir?"

"Quite right, I am sorry to say, Nick," replied De Walden.  "I am more
vexed than surprised at this.  I knew these fellows would not return to
Chuma without us if they could help it, and half feared they might be
following us.  But if we had got safe across the Gariep, they would have
come no further.  It can't be helped, Lavie," addressing the surgeon,
who seemed inclined to remonstrate.  "I would ask them to let you go,
and take me only with them, and it is possible, though not likely, that
they would consent But they would certainly seize your guns and
ammunition, and without these, and without a guide, you would hardly
reach Cape Town.  No, we must go to Chuma's kraal now, and try what may
be done with him.  I don't think he will venture to hurt us--anyhow, he
won't hurt you.  There is the annoyance of the detention, but that will
be all."

"I have no doubt you are right," said Lavie.  "They have taken us by
surprise; and without arms we could do nothing against their superior
numbers.  The less we say or do the better, until we reach their
village.  Is it far off, do you suppose?"

"I can't quite tell where we are.  But I should think five or six days'
journey.  Well, since you agree with me in the matter, I will tell them
we are ready to start."

The Kaffir, who seemed the chief of the party, received this intimation
with evident satisfaction.  It was plain that, although he was
determined, if he could, to take the missionary with him, and considered
that the presence of the rest of the party would be acceptable to the
chief, he was more than half afraid of the Englishmen, and would have
been very unwilling to employ force.  He gave orders to his companions
to set out without loss of time, and in another quarter of an hour they
were on their way.  Kamo, as the leader was called, walked first, and
carried De Walden's rifle, the prisoners, all five together, following,
and the rest of the blacks, seven in number, occupying their flank and
rear.

De Walden's calculations proved to be very nearly correct.  On the
evening of the sixth day, the travellers could perceive from the
demeanour of their conductors, that they were approaching their
destination.  A halt was made about an hour before sunset, and two of
the Kaffirs set forward, carrying the rifles and other articles taken
from the English.  In rather more than half an hour afterwards they
returned, accompanied by a considerable number of their countrymen,
carrying clubs, bows, and assegais, and evidently designed as a guard of
honour.  They formed themselves into a sort of procession, five Kaffirs
in front with clubs and shields; then the whites in Indian file, with
two blacks on either side of each one of them, and the remainder of the
savages bringing up the rear.

In this order, about a quarter of an hour subsequently, they entered the
Kaffir kraal; which was in some respects very like, but in others
different from, that of the Hottentots.  The huts were not built in the
same regular order, as in the instance of the latter, and they were
entirely composed of wicker-work besmeared with clay.  Small too as had
been the amount of cleanliness and order observable among the
Hottentots, there was even less here.  On the other hand, there were
tokens of superior civilisation to be discerned on every side.  There
were large fields of Indian corn (or mealies as they were called), which
were carefully fenced in, and now nearly ripe for harvest.  There were
gardens, too, in which pumpkins and sugar-canes grew.  Before almost
every door stood wicker baskets, earthenware pans, and iron or copper
bowls and pails--all evidently of domestic manufacture.  One of the
largest huts seemed to be that of the village smith, and he and his
assistant were at work, engaged in hammering an axe head.

The men were much darker, as well as of a taller and more powerful
build, than the Namaquas.  The weather being warm, they wore scarcely
any clothing, and the stalwart muscular frames and well-formed features
of many among them, might have served a sculptor as models of the Lybian
Hercules.  The women were not equal, either in symmetry of form or
regularity of feature, to the males--the consequence, probably, of the
severe and incessant toil required of them.  They wore, for the most
part, a skin petticoat descending half-way down the thigh, to which in
colder weather they added a mantle of hide, secured by a collar round
the throat.  It was growing dusk when the party entered the kraal; but
the chief, Chuma, came forth to greet De Walden, for whom it was plain
that he entertained a strange mixture of fear, admiration, and dislike.
He began by reproaching the missionary for his thanklessness in
rejecting his repeated invitations.  Anxious as he was to bestow all
manner of honours and good gifts on the prophet of the white men, it was
ungrateful of him to withhold his good offices in return.  "See," he
said, "the best house the kraal contains is yours, if you choose to
occupy it; or if that suits you not, we will build you a house after
your own fancy.  As many cows and sheep as you may desire, as many
fields of corn, as many fruit trees as you name, shall be given you.  We
will be your servants, and you may choose what wives you will.  They
will be sent to your house without payment.  Only, in return, do not
suffer our cattle to die of murrain, or our crops wither up for lack of
rain.  What injury have we done you, that you refuse us your aid in our
necessity?"

"It is in vain that I tell you I cannot do what you ask of me," returned
De Walden.  "Again and again I have assured you, that I am as unable to
prevent the visitations of disease and drought as you yourselves are.
The God, of whom I have spoken to you, and about whom you will not hear,
He, and He only, can accomplish the things you ask.  If you wish to
obtain the blessings of which you speak, bow down before Him, and ask
Him for them."

"If I so bow down, will the prophet of the white men assure me, that I
shall receive what I entreat for?"

"No," replied the missionary, "I can give you no such assurance.  God
hears prayer always, and is well pleased with those who offer it with a
true heart; but He does not always grant what men ask for.  It may not
be good for them to receive it."

"What good, then, to pray, if there be no favourable answer?" rejoined
the chief, a cloud gathering on his brow.  "You ask me to commit folly.
You trifle with me.  You have brought down rain for others, and driven
away the disease that slew the cattle for others.  Look, you shall live
here in the village, and we will kill you, if you attempt to escape.  If
the rain does not come in its season, you shall bring it.  If the cattle
die of pestilence you shall cause it to depart, or you shall yourself
suffer pain and hunger and death.  As for these others, are they
prophets and wizards too?"

"They are simply English travellers, on their way to Cape Town," said De
Walden, "and their friends are persons of importance there.  You have
heard of the English?"

"The English," said Chuma.  "Ah, the English.  Yes, I have heard of
them.  They came over the great salt water, years ago, and fought with
the Dutch--did they not?"

"They did.  They fought with the Dutch and conquered them.  You know
well that the Dutch are dangerous enemies to meet in battle.  None of
the races whose skins are dark--the Bechuanas, the Basutos, the Zulus,
the Namaquas--none of them can stand before the Dutch--"

"They have the fire-tubes," interposed the chief angrily,--"the
fire-tubes which strike men dead from a great distance like the
lightning, and no one can avoid it.  They wear iron coats, and caps,
which turn aside the arrows and the assegais.  They ride on horses too,
which are taught to fight like themselves.  It is not equal.  Let them
lay aside their coats and their tubes, and fight on foot like our
warriors, with clubs and assegais, and see who will conquer then."

"You know they are not likely to do that," returned the missionary; "but
that is nothing to the present matter.  I wish to show you that if you
cannot stand before the Dutch, much less would you be able to face the
English, who are braver warriors, and better acquainted with war, than
even the Dutch."

"Ah, but the English have gone away," rejoined Chuma.  "You try to
deceive me, but you cannot.  The Dutch rule over the country again now.
The White Queen, who is a great magician, sent messengers to the English
chief not many months ago.  But they came back and told her he was gone.
I know that, for Kama was in the Basuto kraal when they returned, and
heard their tale.  She, I say, was a great magician, and they could not
have deceived her, even if they dared speak falsely."

"They did not speak falsely," said De Walden.  "The English went away
three or four years ago, and have stayed in their own land until now.
But not many weeks ago they came back over the salt water, and have
again conquered the Dutch, and are masters of the land."

"Ah, the English again masters!  We will not quarrel with the English.
We have seen them fight.  But how do I know that they have come back?
How do I know that these persons are English, or that they have great
friends there?"

"You have my word," returned the other.

"Ah, but you deceive me in some matters, and may in others.  I must have
proof of what you tell me before I let them go.  But see here.  Will
they give me their fire-tubes and their black powder as their ransom?
Then they may depart."

"They cannot do so," said the missionary.  "If you deprive them of their
guide and their weapons, how can they find their way so many hundred
miles, and how provide themselves with food by the way?  You must let
them take their guns; and, if you are resolved on compelling me to
remain here, you must furnish them with a guide.  By him they will send
you back any ransom you may agree on."

"And when they get near the dwelling of their friends, they will send
their guide away empty-handed, or it may be they will kill him, and I
shall hear no more of him or them either.  It is not good.  No, I will
not quarrel with the English.  But they live far off.  They will know
nothing of these men where they are, or what may have become of them.
If I keep them prisoners, or if I put them to death"--the eyes of the
savage emitted a fierce light as he spoke--"if I put them to death," he
repeated slowly, "who will tell the English of it?"

"It will certainly be discovered," said De Walden.  "It is known that
they have landed on the sea-coast at no great distance from here, and
that they are wandering about in these regions.  One of them is the son
of a great sea warrior; the others are his friends and companions.  The
great Chief of the English will send out soldiers to search for them.
He will learn from many whither they have been taken; and if harm has
been done them, he will exact heavy punishment."

Chuma shook his head, but he evidently was much moved by the
missionary's words.  He conferred apart with some of his counsellors,
and an animated debate, to all appearance, ensued.  At length he turned
away from them, and again addressed De Walden.

"See," he said, "this is the way of it.  One of the whites, whomsoever
they may choose, goes alone to the great village of the whites, and Kama
goes with him as guide; but the white man leaves the fire-tube here
behind him, which he will not need, for Kama finds food on the way.  The
others--they too stay behind here in the village till Kama returns, and
tells me what he has seen and heard--does this please you?"

"I will report to them what you have said," returned De Walden, "and
bring you their answer."

He stepped up to the place where the four travellers were resting
themselves on a heap of skins, and reported to them Chuma's proposal.
"On the whole," he added, "I should advise you to accept it.  I know how
suspicious these Bechuanas are.  Never practising anything like truthful
and fair dealing themselves, they are incapable of believing that any
one else can do so.  If you refuse, your refusal will be imputed to some
sinister designs which you are secretly cherishing; and Chuma is fully
capable of relieving himself from all immediate anxiety by putting the
whole party to death."

"I quite see that," said Lavie.  "The only alternative is attempting to
escape, and the chances are greatly against our succeeding in that.  In
any case," he mentally added, "such a step would bring ruin and death on
you.  No," he resumed, "we must certainly close with Chuma's offer.  The
only question is, which of us is to be the one to go."

"You must not choose me," said Gilbert.  "I should only make a mess of
it."

"I would go," said Frank, "but I do not think I am strong enough yet to
attempt such a journey."

"And I would rather not leave Mr De Walden," added Warley.  "You had
better go yourself, Charles.  You are in every way better fitted to
manage the business."

"I should not object," said Lavie, "but I do not like to leave you in
the hands of these treacherous savages."

"You leave us under Mr De Walden's care," rejoined Warley, "and I, for
one, can fully trust to that."

After some further discussion, it was so arranged.  Chuma was informed
that his terms were accepted; and on the following day the doctor,
having taken an affectionate farewell of his young companions, set out
for Cape Town with Kama and another Bechuana for his guides; while the
others prepared themselves to endure, as patiently as they could, the
long weeks of waiting which must inevitably ensue.

"Are these Kaffirs utterly without the idea of God, as people say they
are?" asked Ernest one day of Mr De Walden, about a week after their
friends, departure.  "I was talking one day to a gentleman on board the
_Hooghly_, who seemed to be well acquainted with them, and he declared
that they had positively no religion at all.  But another gentleman
differed from him, and was going on, I believe, to produce some proofs
to the contrary, but the conversation was broken off.  I should like to
know what you would say on the subject."

"They have no _religion_ in the proper sense of the word," answered the
elder man.  "No sense of connection, that is to say, with a Being
infinitely powerful and good, who made and sustains them, and to whom
they are accountable.  It is this that constitutes a religion, and of
this they know nothing.  But they are extremely _superstitious_.  They
believe in the existence of Evil Spirits, who have alike the power and
the will to afflict and torment them.  To these they attribute every
disaster or suffering which may befall them."

"A creed of fear, in fact, without love," suggested Ernest.

"Precisely.  They have no idea of pleasing the Unseen Powers by duty and
affection, but are keenly alive to the necessity of propitiating them by
continual sacrifices.  They believe also, that it is possible to obtain
from their Evil Spirits the power of benefiting or afflicting others;
and those who are presumed to be in possession of these powers are held
in as great--practically in greater--reverence than the Spirits
themselves."

"These persons are, of course, impostors."

"In the main, yes.  But there are some who are half impostors and half
fanatics--really thinking they possess some of the gifts attributed to
them, though how much, they themselves hardly know.  This is the common
case with false prophets.  Their heaviest punishment ever is, that they
partially credit their own lie."

"And this chief, Chuma, supposes you to be one of these prophets?"

"He does, and nothing I can say will disabuse his mind of the idea.  It
is not uncommon with these pretenders, to appear to deny the possession
of supernatural powers, until they have obtained their price from the
chiefs!  Chuma will not be persuaded that my disclaimers have no deeper
meaning than this.  And I have given up the point in despair."

"Are there any of these pretended prophets among the tribe?"

"There is one--a man named Maomo.  He was once in great favour with
Chuma; but a long drought, some two years ago, which he failed to
relieve, forfeited his prestige in the chief's eyes.  He has been
labouring for a long time past to regain his power; and he regards me, I
know, with especial dislike, because he views me as the chief obstacle
to the attainment of his wishes."

"He is not likely, I suppose, to succeed in his design.  The chief seems
to regard you with the deepest awe, if not affection."

"Ernest," said the missionary, "that is all delusive.  His awe of me is
founded on an unreal basis, which _will_ some day, and _may_ any day,
crumble into nothing.  And the moment Chuma ceases to fear me, his hate
will burst out in all its deadly fury.  Maomo has already (as I know
quite well) so far worked upon the chief's prejudices, that he views me
as an enemy, though one whom it is not safe to attack.  He has persuaded
him that the Spirits are angry at my attempts to draw away his people
from their ancient belief, and the consequence, he has assured him, will
be some heavy visitation of disease, or famine, or drought.  Chuma has,
in consequence, positively forbidden me to attempt to make any converts,
or even offer prayers to our God, under penalty of his heaviest
displeasure.  This very day he has told me so."

"And you, sir?" asked Ernest, anxiously.

"I, Ernest," answered the missionary, somewhat reproachfully, "I told
him, of course, that I should obey God rather than him, and strive to
bring any soul among his people to the knowledge of Christ.  I left him
somewhat subdued, as determined language always subdues him; but the
moment any trouble befalls him, I know well what what will follow."

"Let me help you," said Ernest, deeply moved.

"Give me some of your work to do.  I will do it to the best of my
power."

"Notwithstanding the consequences?" asked De Walden.

"Notwithstanding the consequences," answered Warley resolutely.  And the
two shook hands with a warmth neither had before felt towards the other.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

MISSION TALK--IMPENDING DANGERS--AN UNEXPECTED FRIEND--KOBO'S STORY--
MAOMO'S DESIGNS--DE WALDEN'S RESOLVE--A NIGHT EXPEDITION.

Time passed on: the summer heats gradually gave way to the cooler
temperature of autumn, and that too began to pass into winter, and
nothing had been heard of Lavie or his guide.  It had been calculated
that it would take them fully two months to reach Cape Town; but there
they would be able to obtain horses, which would so greatly shorten the
return journey, that ten or eleven weeks might be regarded as the
probable period of their entire absence.  But March was exchanged for
April, April for May; June succeeded May, and July, June; and still
there came no tidings of the travellers.  The boys grew anxious, and
might have become seriously alarmed, if it had not been that they found
so much to interest and employ them, that they had no time for indulging
morbid fancies.

All the four whites occupied one large hut, some five and twenty feet in
circumference, and provided with mats, karosses, and all the other
furniture of a Kaffir dwelling-house, so as to render it a very
comfortable residence.  They also took all their meals together, which
were provided at the cost of the whole tribe, and prepared for them by
Kobo and Gaike, the two attendants chosen for them by Chuma.  But before
many weeks had passed, they had separated, by common consent, into two
pairs; De Walden and Ernest being almost continually together, and Frank
and Nick Gilbert taking up with one another, as a matter of necessity.

Warley was deeply impressed by the character of the new friend he had
found.  De Walden's devoted self-surrender, his resolute and
uncomplaining spirit under the most trying hardships, his cheerfulness,
and even joyousness, while enduring what would have broken most men's
spirits altogether, were the very ideal of which Ernest had dreamed, but
never expected to realise.

"Did you make many converts among the Hottentots?" he asked one day.  "I
remember hearing you say your mission, as a whole, had not succeeded;
but I suppose you made converts here and there?"

"I cannot say I ever made one."

"Not one!  And yet you were going back to them again!"

"Certainly.  Why not?"

"Rather, `Why?'  I should have been inclined to ask."

"Why? because God has commanded that the Gospel should be preached to
all nations, and that command stands good, whether they will hear, or
whether they forbear.  It is our business to do His work, and His to
look after the result."

"And you would not consider that a man's life was wasted, if he passed
his whole life as a missionary, without making one convert?"

"No more wasted than if he had made ten thousand.  Look here, Ernest.
You have never seen a coral island, I suppose?"

"No," said Warley; "I have read about them, but I have never seen one."

"You have read about them?  Then you know that the coral insects labour
on, generation after generation, under the water, raising the reef
always higher and higher, till it reaches the high-tide level at last."

"Yes, that is what I have read, certainly."

"For generations, then, upon generations, the work of the insect was
wholly out of human sight.  Ernest, was their work in vain?  Did not
they help to build up the island as much as those whose labours could be
clearly discerned?"

"You are right," said Warley.  "One soweth, and another reapeth."

"Yes, and both will rejoice hereafter together; claiming, under God, the
work between them.  The work of the missionary--of the early
missionary--may seem to man's eyes as nothing, but it is merely out of
man's sight.  He is building up Christ's kingdom, as the coral insect,
far down below, builds up the reef; and will, unknown though he be now,
have equal honour hereafter with those whom the world now accounts its
greatest benefactors."

Many such conversations as these were held between the two friends--as,
notwithstanding the disparity of their years, De Walden and Ernest might
be called--and every day the bond between them grew stronger.  Together
they visited the Kaffir huts, and held long talks with the occupants;
who were never unwilling to discourse on the subject nearest to De
Walden's heart, little as they might be inclined to hearken to his
teaching.  He was, however, not without hope that he had succeeded in
making some impression.  More than one man resorted secretly to him to
ask explanations of difficulties, which, it was plain, had been weighing
on their minds; more than one woman attended the prayers, which were
daily offered to the God of the Christians in the white man's hut, in
spite of Chuma's interdict Maomo heard of it, and it roused still more
fiercely his jealousy and alarm.  He was, as has already been intimated,
partly a deceiver, and partly a dupe.  He knew that many of his
pretensions were simply impostures; but he did believe in the existence
of Evil Spirits, and their power to injure men.  Such doctrines as those
propounded by De Walden, must needs, he thought, be in the highest
degree distasteful to them; and they would visit the land with the most
terrible plagues, if the people fell away from the faith of their
fathers.

He continually beset Chuma, therefore, with entreaties to put down the
evil, before it reached any greater height.  He reminded the chief that
he had already forbidden De Walden, or the "White Lie-maker," as he was
wont to call him, to teach the people his new and dangerous creed.  His
commands had been openly disobeyed, and he must now enforce severe
penalties against him, or suffer the most terrible consequences himself.
Chuma listened, but made evasive replies.  His own mind was in a state
of doubt on the subject.  He was incensed by the Englishman's obstinate
refusals to comply with his orders, and had begun to doubt whether he
really did possess the presumed supernatural powers.  If that should
indeed be the case, he would make short work with him.  At present,
however, he was not convinced that this was the case, and he had
resolved to defer any action until his mind was made up.

Meanwhile Frank and Nick went out almost every day with their guns,
under the tutelage of Kobo, a middle-aged, strongly built Bechuana, into
whose charge Chuma had consigned them.  The missionary was jealously
watched, not only by the chief's servants, but by those of Maomo also.
He was never allowed to leave his hut, unless accompanied by at least
one man, and never to leave the village at all, except by the chief's
express permission, and under the escort of three armed men.  But the
boys were not so carefully looked after.  Chuma contented himself with
warning Kobo, that if at any time they were not forthcoming, he would
have to pay the penalty with his own life.  The boys knew this as well
as Kobo, and promised him that they would make no attempt at escape,
even if a favourable opportunity should offer; and the Bechuana, strange
to say, seemed quite contented with their assurance.  He went out with
them into the bush, sometimes to a considerable distance, allowing them
to take their firearms, and carrying no weapon himself, but a light
hatchet, which would have been of no service to him at all, in event of
any hostile movement on their part, nor did he ever seem to entertain a
suspicion that could mean treachery towards him.

"He's a good fellow, this blacky," remarked Nick one day, as they halted
under the shade of a large oomahaama, to rest an hour or two before
returning home from one of their shooting excursions.  "He's a good
fellow, not suspicious of every word one says, or of the meaning of
every act one does.  He really has some notion of honesty.  More's the
wonder!"

"Yes," answered Frank; "I should like to ask him where he got it from,
only I suppose he wouldn't understand one."

"Oh yes, Kobo would--understand very well," said Kobo, joining in the
lads' conversation, in broken, but very intelligible English.

"Hallo, hey, what!" exclaimed both the boys, half starting up with
surprise.  "What! you understand English, Kobo?" added Frank.  "How in
the world did you learn it?"

"And why in the world didn't you tell us long ago that you understood
it?" subjoined Gilbert.

"Kobo keep it secret--chief not know--prophet not know," answered Kobo.
"Kobo tell white boys, not black man."

"Do tell us, then, Kobo," said Nick, whose interest had been keenly
awakened.  "You may trust us to keep whatever we may hear to ourselves,
if you desire it."

Kobo assented readily enough.  It was plain that he was anxious, for
some reason of his own, that they should learn his history, and had been
awaiting his opportunity of telling it.  We shall not follow the broken
English of his narrative, but relate it in our own words.

Kobo had been born and reared in the Bechuana village where he was still
living; but when a lad of twelve or thirteen years old, had incurred the
chief's displeasure for some boyish offence, and to escape the
punishment incurred by it, fled from the kraal and took refuge in a
village lying at a considerable distance from his own people.  He had
not been there many months, when the village in which he was living was
attacked by a commando, and with the usual consequences.  All the males
who had reached puberty and the elder women, were shot or cut down; the
girls and children carried off into bondage.

Kobo's fate had at first been very doubtful.  He was just on the very
verge of what was considered manhood, and the sword of more than one
Dutchman was raised to cut him down.  But he was, luckily for himself,
rather short of stature, and it was ultimately resolved that he should
be spared.  He was taken to the southern part of the colony, and became
the slave of a Dutch farmer residing near Oudtshoorn.  Here he remained
for several years, until he had quite grown to manhood.  According to
his own statement, which it would be reasonable to receive with some
degree of caution, he was treated with the utmost injustice and cruelty
by his masters--ill-fed, overworked, and kicked and cuffed without any
reason, whenever his employers chanced to be out of temper.

But there was no remedy for his wrongs.  It was in vain to appeal to the
law, which would hardly entertain his complaint at all, and would have
done nothing to protect him, even if he could have made out his case.
To have offered resistance would have been the extremity of folly, as it
would only have brought down increased suffering upon him; and to have
attempted escape, would have been almost certain death.  It was a long
distance to the border of the Bechuana country; and the fierce
bloodhounds kept by the whites would have overtaken and torn him to
pieces, before he could have gone the twentieth part of the way.  There
was nothing for it but to bear it patiently.

It chanced that there was a man residing in Oudtshoorn, who was of
European, but not Dutch, descent.  He was believed to be an Englishman,
who for some unknown reason had chosen to leave his own country.  He
took some notice of Kobo, whose appearance and manner pleased him; and
gradually the Bechuana confided to him his history, the cruel hardships
he endured, and the anxious longing which possessed him to regain his
freedom.  Andrews, as the Englishman was called, listened attentively to
his story, and then advised him to wait patiently for a few weeks more,
when an opportunity he desired might present itself.  Andrews was a
secret agent of the English Government, and knew that an army and fleet
were soon going to be sent out to attempt the seizure of the Dutch
colony.  If this should prove successful, he would be able to help Kobo
effectually.  The Bechuana followed his advice; and one evening, towards
the end of December, received an unexpected visit from his English
friend, who was mounted on a strong Cape horse, and led another by the
bridle.

"Mount, Kobo," he said, "and ride with me.  Your master is too much
frightened by the news he has just received to think about you; and even
if he did try to catch you, he couldn't."

Kobo obeyed willingly enough.  They rode through the whole of that
night, and next morning arrived at a place where fresh horses had been
provided.  Continuing their ride with hardly an hour's delay, they
reached Simon's Bay, where an English fleet had just come to anchor.
Andrew's first step was to have Kobo regularly rated as his servant.
When the campaign was ended by the cession of the colony, they returned
to Oudtshoorn; where Kobo's former master was still residing, but he
stood too much in awe of Andrews to claim his fugitive slave again.
Kobo, who had become greatly attached to his English master, continued
for several years in his service, until in 1803 the colony was handed
back to the Dutch.  When it became certain that the English Government
would take this step, Andrews advised Kobo to leave Oudtshoorn before
the departure of the English troops.  Van Ryk, his former master, had
always looked upon him as his lawful property, of which he had been
violently despoiled, and would inevitably claim him as soon as the Dutch
power was again established.  Kobo's affection for Andrews would have
induced him to remain and brave the hazard of this; but the Englishman
pointed out that he would not have the power of protecting him against
Van Ryk's claim, or against any cruel usage to which he would probably
subject him, and this would be worse pain to both than their separation.
Kobo accordingly was conveyed by Andrews as far as the Gariep, where
they took leave of one another, the Englishman returning to Oudtshoorn,
and Kobo rejoining his tribe.

The latter, however, had kept the true history of his past life a
profound secret from his countrymen, passing off a plausible tale of
life among the Bushmen in its place.  He was afraid that Van Ryk would
offer the Bechuana chief a large sum for his tradition, and he knew
Chuma's avaricious spirit too well to believe that he would refuse it.
When he heard from De Walden of the reoccupation of the Cape by the
English, he was instantly seized with an anxious desire to return to
Oudtshoorn, and would have offered himself to Lavie as his guide, if it
had not been that he dared not betray his knowledge of the English
language.  He would, however, in all likelihood, soon have left the
Bechuana village alone, if he had not conceived a liking for the English
prisoners, and a desire to serve them in the danger which, as he could
plainly see, was threatening them.  He was well acquainted with Maomo's
cruel and vindictive nature.  Several persons, towards whom the wizard
had conceived a hatred, had suffered the most terrible tortures and
death through his machinations, and towards no one had he ever felt such
bitter enmity as towards De Walden.

This feeling had been increased by the failure of his schemes, thus far,
to work the missionary's ruin.  He had been hoping that the drought,
which often visited the country during the summer months, would give him
the desired opportunity of either obliging De Walden to comply with
Chuma's entreaties to bring down rain by his incantations, or of
provoking the chief's wrath to the uttermost by his refusal.  But the
summer, to his infinite vexation, had been extraordinarily cool and
genial, showers falling at short intervals of one another; and causing
abundance of grass and water.  What was worse, he could see that Chuma
attributed this exceptional season to De Walden's residence in the
village.  He was farther than ever therefore from accomplishing his
object.

But he was not a man to be balked of his purpose; and Kobo, who had
watched him narrowly, felt certain that he had some scheme on foot which
would achieve the object on which his heart was set.  He had been absent
for two or three days in the previous week, and when he returned there
was a look of triumphant malice in his face, which he tried in vain to
hide.  The only well-grounded hope they could have of escaping his
malicious designs lay in immediate flight.  Chuma, as yet, was
favourably disposed, and had taken no steps which would render flight
impossible.  But this would not last long; and De Walden must take time
by the forelock, or it would certainly be too late.

Such was the substance of what Kobo imparted to the boys, and which they
made a point of laying before Mr De Walden immediately after his return
to their village.

The missionary listened attentively, and asked several questions as to
Kobo's sources of information, and the details of the plan of escape he
had suggested; but when these had been answered he refused to avail
himself of the offer.

"I have little doubt," he said, "that Kobo in the main is right, if not
in every particular, but it is my duty to remain here, and remain I
must, whatever may ensue.  For the first time since my arrival in
Africa, I have a real, well-grounded hope of gaining a considerable body
of converts to our faith.  What will these think of me?  What hope can I
have of their remaining true to the creed they have half adopted, if I
myself am wanting to it?  I am in God's hands, and I trust all to Him.
But you, my dear lads--it is not _your_ duty to stay here, and encounter
this danger.  You, indeed, Ernest--"

"Do you think _I_ could leave you?" interposed Warley reproachfully.

"I will not ask you to do so," answered the missionary, clasping
Ernest's hands as he spoke; "but you two--"

"We too will not leave you," broke in Frank.  "I know I speak for Nick
as well as myself.  We will all stay and endure whatever may chance
together.  I will tell Kobo so forthwith."

He sought out the Bechuana accordingly, and acquainted him with the
resolution to which all the party had come, adding however, that they
would all keep Kobo's secret most inviolably, and if any occasion should
arrive when his services might be required for an attempt of the kind
suggested by him, they would at once apply to him to help them.

"Meanwhile," he said, "Kobo, let us have plenty to employ our time and
thoughts.  It will never do for us to sit down and brood over our
troubles; we should go mad, I expect.  Look here, didn't you tell us
that the spoor of some elephants had been seen yesterday or this
morning, at a short distance from this?"

"Great many elephant in bush," said Kobo; "six, seven, big bulls, twenty
cows, not three miles away.  Not go away to-day, perhaps not to-morrow."

"Do you hear that, Nick?" said Wilmore.  "We had better set out the
first thing in the morning, hadn't we, and try to get a shot at one?"

"White boys see them to-night, if they like," said Kobo.  "See here.
Kobo love white boys because they English.  He wait here till they ready
to run away.  Then he run with them.  Meanwhile they shoot, hunt, fish.
Chuma not suspect they mean to run."

"All right, Kobo," said Nick.  "You're a brick, if you know what that
means, though you have been baked pretty black in the kiln.  Well, let
us set off at once.  Where do you propose that we should pass the
night?"

"Bavian's Pool, Master Nick; three miles from here--beautiful pool,
sweet water, steep rock overhang it, too steep for beasts to climb, not
too steep for us.  There we sleep among bushes; animals come down to
drink by moonlight; buffalo, gnu, zebra, giraffe, lion, rhinoceros, all
sorts of beasts--elephant come too--"

"And we can shoot at them from the rock, hey?" interposed Nick.

"No, not shoot from rock.  Elephant not come near enough, and light bad;
but we track them when they leave waterside, and get good shot in
morning."

"All right, Kobo.  How soon ought we to set out?"

"Three hours past noon, now.  Get to pool at five.  We start in an hour,
say."

"In an hour; very good.  Let us go and say good-bye to Mr De Walden and
Ernest, Frank, and get the guns."

"Done with you," said Frank.  "Shall we ask Ernest to come with us?  We
have had very little of his company for a long time past, and I think he
would enjoy this.  You know how anxious he always was to come upon a
herd of elephants, all the time when we were travelling through the
country where they are said sometimes to be found.  He is a good fellow,
and I don't like to lose sight of him so entirely."

"I agree with you, that he is a good fellow," said Nick,--"a deal better
fellow, for the matter of that, than I am.  But I am afraid there is not
much chance of his making one of our party.  There has been a change in
him ever since that escape of his from the big snake; and since he has
fallen in with Mr De Walden, he has been so taken up with him that he
can think of nothing else.  But we can ask him, certainly."

But on reaching the hut they perceived at once that it would be no use
to make any such suggestion--for the present, at all events.  The two
friends were on the point of repairing to the house of one of their
converts, who had sent to them a message, entreating their immediate
presence.  One of the calamities, which the Bechuanas dreaded beyond all
others, had just befallen him.  It had been known for some time past,
that a disease, nearly resembling that which has visited European
countries of late years, was raging among the herds belonging to
neighbouring tribes, and more particularly the Basutos.  It was regarded
with the utmost terror by all the races inhabiting Southern Africa, whom
it deprived not only of all their wealth, but of their very means of
subsistence.  They were wholly unacquainted with any means of dealing
effectually with it; indeed, for the most part, they attributed it
entirely to the agency of malignant Spirits; and its appearance
generally threw them entirely into the hands of the pretended prophets.
In the present instance they had felt tolerably secure that it would not
visit the Bechuana village, the summer having been exceptionally
healthy.  But that morning, two oxen had suddenly been seized with the
symptoms which were only too well-known.  The owner, who had unbounded
faith in the missionary's powers, had sent at once to him entreating his
help; and he and Warley were just setting out to render what assistance
it might be possible to give.

"Poor beggars!" exclaimed Nick.  "It will be a bad job for them if they
do lose their cattle, seeing that is pretty well all they have.  Shall
you be able to do anything for them, sir?"

"I am afraid very little," said the elder man.  "I have fallen in with
the disease more than once during my residence in this country, and have
hardly ever known a case of cure, when it has once fairly taken hold of
an animal But we will do our best.  Good night, lads I hope you may have
a pleasant day's sport.  If it hadn't been for this, I should have liked
Ernest to have gone with you.  As it is, I shall want his help."



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

BAVIAN'S POOL--PLACE AUX ROI--GIANT BATHERS--AN ELEPHANT HUNT--THE
"NICK" OF TIME--NICK'S OVATION--DE WALDEN ARRESTED.

It took Kobo and the two lads a good hour to reach Bavian's Pool.  It
lay in a different direction from any which they had yet pursued,
through dense bush, in which they would soon have lost themselves, if it
had not been for Kobo's attendance.  Occasionally they came on the spoor
of the elephants, a large herd of which had evidently passed that way
not many hours previously.  The gigantic footprints were traced sharp
and clear in the sandy soil; the young trees, that had been broken off
or trodden down by their bulky frames, exhibited fresh white fractures;
those which had only been bent by the weight of the animals in passing,
seemed hardly yet to have regained their former positions.  Kobo, who
spoke under his breath in awe, as it seemed, of these forest kings, told
them that the herd, in all likelihood, were reposing at the distance of
not more than a quarter of a mile from the path they were now
traversing.  This intelligence appearing to excite the lads a good deal.
He added, that they must not attempt to get a sight of them now, or
they would certainly spoil their pleasure that evening, and probably
prevent the elephant hunt, which was to take place the next day.  The
whole tribe, he said, was going out in the morning, and it was hoped
that a good many animals would be killed; and as there were several very
fine males among them, a large prize in the way of ivory was
anticipated.  But if the herd should be disturbed, and especially if it
should be fired upon, they would probably retreat northwards towards the
great lake, and the Bechuanas would see nothing of them but their spoor
and dung.

The boys yielded to his representations; and, turning in a different
direction from that followed by the elephants, they arrived in another
quarter of an hour at Bavian's Pool, which lay in the very heart of the
bush, with a clear space overgrown with grass and short rushes of about
twenty yards all round.  On the west side appeared the rocks of which
Kobo had told them, and which presented a most picturesque appearance.
They rose abruptly from the bank of the tarn, to the height of perhaps
twenty feet, and sank down with a sharp descent to the level ground
everywhere, except in one place where a series of crags, piled one on
another, presented a kind of rude and very steep staircase, by which the
top might be attained.  Up this the party climbed, and ensconced
themselves snugly under a shelf of rock from which they could see the
whole of the pool and the surrounding banks.

It was still broad daylight when they reached their place of ambush, and
the spot was as vacant and still as though the whole landscape had been
a part of the great Kalahari itself But they had not been there a
quarter of an hour, when the sun disappeared behind the belt of woodland
which bounded the sight, and the night of the tropics succeeded with its
startling rapidity.  The green waste of thorns and shrubs grew first
dusky brown, and then deep black; the bright sparkling water a dull
gleamy mirror, faintly rendering back the pale opal of the sky.  But
presently there came a further change.  The moon rose higher in the
heavens, and the stars came forth in all the unimaginable glories of a
southern night--not mere specks of light as seen in the more cloudy
skies of the north, but hung like cressets in the glowing air, the moon
itself a bright globe of liquid fire.  A clear soft radiancy diffused
itself over the whole scene, tipping every tree top and distant eminence
with silver, and causing the surface of the tarn, as it rippled lazily
under the evening breeze, to flash in circlets of light.  Presently
there came a pattering of feet, as a crowd of small animals came down
from different points of the compass to quench their thirst--antelopes
with their slender legs and liquid eyes, glancing timidly round them;
elands and koodoos tossing their stately heads; gnus and buffaloes in
large herds consorting together for mutual protection; hyenas, jackals,
and zebras, plunging to the mid-leg in the cool dancing waters, and
bounding lightly away when their drought was satisfied.  It was a
beautiful sight to watch them come and go, like the scenes in a
magic-lantern.

By and by, as the night deepened, the larger beasts of the forest made
their appearance.  The tall graceful heads of giraffes were seen over
the tops of the bushes; tigers made their approach, singly or in pairs,
with their stealthy and noiseless step; lions stalked proudly down, as
though they felt that the sovereignty of the woods belonged by natural
right to them; occasionally the ponderous bulk of the rhinoceros might
be discerned, as he sucked in the refreshing water with his huge
misshapen snout, and retreated with a grunt of satisfaction when his
appetite had been appeased.  Frank and Nick looked on with
ever-increasing interest, though it needed Kobo's oft-repeated
remonstrances to keep them from discharging their rifles at some of the
larger specimens, which came within tempting distance of their fire.

It was nearly midnight, and the shores of the pool were beset by a crowd
of animals, consisting mostly of the larger beasts of prey, when a
sudden sensation of alarm seemed to agitate the whole of the
miscellaneous group.  The giraffes lifted their stately heads, snuffed
the air for a moment, and then bounded silently away; the panthers and
nylghaus moved more slowly off; the lions uttered low growls, apparently
of dissatisfaction, but nevertheless followed the retreat of the others.
Even the sullen black rhinoceros, after bending his head awhile to
listen, beat a leisurely retreat, viciously snorting as he retired.  In
a few minutes the shores of the pool were as still and vacant as they
had been when the boys arrived, five or six hours before.

"What does this mean?" asked Nick in a whisper.  "What have these brutes
seen or heard, to alarm them so?  Are your countrymen on their way to
attack them?"

"No, it not that," answered Kobo, in the same subdued accents.  "Beasts
hear elephant coming down to drink.  All get out of elephant's way.  He
king among them.  Listen, you hear them."

"Do you really mean it, Kobo?" asked Nick, astonished at this
information.  "The lions and rhinoceroses can't really be so much afraid
of the elephants as that comes to?"

"I believe it's true," said Frank; "I know I've been told so before.  A
lion or a rhinoceros wouldn't mind a single elephant much, I dare say;
but it's the whole troop of 'em together that they're afraid of.  They'd
run right over a lion, or a rhinoceros either, and trample the life out
of them, before they knew where they were.  Yes, Kobo's right.  Here
they come over that low bit of hill there.  What a lot! and what
thundering big beasts!"

As he spoke, a dull heavy sound, like the roll of loaded waggons along a
hard road was heard; and the figure of an enormous elephant emerged from
the cover of the thicket, its broad flat head, huge misshapen ears, and
white tusks glistening in the broad moonlight.  It was followed by
another, and another, each seeming to loom larger than the last, until
ten of the monsters had reached the banks of the tarn, all of them
males, and of the largest size.

"All bull," whispered Kobo; "bull drink first, females wait till they
done."

While he was speaking, the elephants had advanced up to their mid-legs
in the water, and dipping their trunks in, sucked up the cooling stream
with a loud gurgling noise.  Frank's fingers insensibly stole to the
lock of his rifle.  One of the largest of the giants was now scarcely
more than four or five yards from him, its figure as plainly visible in
the clear cold light, as though it had been noonday.  Kobo had again to
lay his hand on the boy's shoulder, and whisper in his ear, "No shoot,
spoil hunt to-morrow," or he might not have been able to resist the
temptation.

Presently, however, the males had satisfied their thirst, and moving off
slowly in a different direction from that by which they had approached
the pond, re-entered the thicket.  The cow elephants now took their
places, some twenty or thirty in number, many of them with calves of
various ages at their sides.  There was scarcely room in the tarn for
the whole herd, and before they retired, the bright and sparkling waters
had become a turbid and discoloured flood.  At length, however, they did
retire, and before the moon had set, the last of the bulky figures had
disappeared among the foliage.

"Now lie down and sleep;" said Kobo, "no more animals to-night."

The boys complied, and lying down among the bushes which grew here and
there between the masses of rocks, were soon buried in slumber.  They
were awakened by Kobo at daybreak; and having eaten their breakfast, and
taken a dip in the tarn, which by this time had recovered its
translucent clearness, announced to Kobo that they were ready to take
the field.

They accompanied the Bechuana accordingly, as he proceeded cautiously to
follow the track left by the herd on the previous evening, for half a
mile or so through the bush.  Then desiring them to climb two trees of
some size, which stood on either side of the path in the heart of the
woodland--an acacia and a motjeerie--he crept on alone through the
shrubs, making his way as secretly and noiselessly as a snake, and soon
vanished from their view.

Presently he reappeared, with the information that the herd were
browsing at the distance of a few hundred yards only, and seemed to have
no apprehension of danger.  Chuma, however, and the other hunters would
now soon make their appearance from the opposite side, and would
doubtless attack the bull elephants with their assegais, their tusks
being a valuable prize.  Kobo told them that they could not do better
than remain where they were.  The elephants would almost certainly be
driven past the tree in which they lodged, and so give them the
opportunity they desired of trying their skill as marksmen.  There were
other trees, he said, at no great distance which were larger, and
therefore safer, but the elephants might never come near them at all;
whereas, in their present position, they were almost sure to see what
passed.

"All right, Kobo," said Frank, "we'll stay here and take our chance.
After all, it must be a jolly big elephant that would bowl this tree
over."

Kobo again vanished, and the boys sat on the tiptoe of expectation for
the next hour or so, but without hearing any sound at all except the
song of the birds and the buzzing of the insects.  Suddenly, however,
there broke forth a Babel of discordant sounds.  The yells of the
Kaffirs--as advancing at the same time from different quarters, they
assailed the elephants with their assegais and arrows--were overpowered
by the trumpeting of the huge brutes, and the crash of the thorn and
seringa bushes, which gave way on every side before them, offering no
more serious obstacle to their career, than long grass would to that of
a man.  Presently the whole herd broke from the cover of the jungle,
hurrying on in a transport of mingled rage and terror--the solid earth
seeming to tremble under their tread.  The Bechuanas followed, darting
their assegais from a distance, or thrusting them into the most
vulnerable parts of the animals, according as opportunities presented
themselves.  They had broken up into two or three parties, each of which
chose out one of the largest of the male elephants as the point of
attack.  Some of these were already so severely wounded, that it was
with difficulty that they could continue their flight.  It was a strange
spectacle to witness.  The great bulls, pierced with a perfect grove of
spears, and dripping with the blood which poured from innumerable
wounds, staggered along, screaming with pain and fury; while the Kaffirs
continued to overwhelm them with more darts--mingling their blows with
entreaties to the huge beasts not to gore or trample on them, but to
have mercy and spare their lives, at the very moment when they were
inflicting torture and death on the creatures, whose forbearance they
implored!

Several huge animals passed in this manner in front of the trees, where
the two lads were seated; but none of them offered the desired
opportunity of a fair shot.  Sometimes a tree intervened; sometimes the
animal's head was hidden by a bush at the moment when they levelled
their rifles; sometimes the Bechuanas engaged in the attack approached
the line of their aim too nearly to render it safe for them to fire.  At
length, however, the opportunity did come.  One of the largest of the
males, fully twelve foot high, had escaped the notice of the assailants;
and forcing his way through the haak-doorns and young motjikaaras as
though they had been so much paper, bid fair to accomplish his escape
without a wound.  Both lads fired as he passed.  Nick, who had levelled
at the shoulder, missed his mark by several inches; and his bullet
striking the creature's side, inflicted only a slight wound, which the
elephant hardly heeded.  But Frank's aim was more successful.  The
bullet struck the eye, though not precisely at the spot where it would
have been instantly fatal; and the pain was so acute, as to arrest the
monster in his panic-stricken flight.  He stopped short and glared round
him, seeking for the author of the outrage.  Catching sight of the
barrel of Frank's rifle as it glanced in the morning sun, he charged
directly at the tree in which he was seated.  It was an acacia of
tolerable size, and the branch which bore him was above the reach of the
animal's trunk.  But so terrific was the force of his rush, that the
trunk snapped like a rotten bough, and Frank, gun and all, was hurled to
the ground.  He sprang up, having been fortunately only bruised by the
fall, and leaving his rifle to take care of itself, took to his heels as
hard as he could.

"Come here, come here!" shouted Nick; "this tree will hold us both, and
it's too big for him to break.  Besides, I'm ready for him again now."
Frank cast a rapid glance round him, and saw that Nick was right.  The
seringas and oomahaamas near him were thinly scattered, and afforded no
cover at all; and the brute which had now recovered itself from the
effect of the stunning blow it had received, was preparing to charge him
again.  Frank flew, rather than ran, to the tree, and springing lightly
up, caught the lowest bough and swung himself on to it.  From this he
mounted to those above it with the agility of a squirrel.  But the
elephant was upon him, before he could reach the spot where his
companion was seated.  On it came, with its trunk stretched to the full
length, and just caught Frank by the toe of the left foot, as he drew
the other out of its reach.  Frank thought it was all over with him.
The tip of the trunk had caught firm hold of the shoe; and though it was
only the tip, so that the animal could not exert its full strength, he
felt himself drawn downwards with a force which he could not long
resist.  He had thrown both his arms and the other leg round the branch,
so that the elephant had not merely the resistance of the boy's muscles
to encounter, but the solid and massive limb of the great motjeerie.
Nevertheless, all would speedily have given way, if Nick, leaning
forward and resting his rifle on the bough beneath him, had not fired
directly into the monster's eye, as it glared--not two feet below--upon
him.  Frank felt the deadly grip relax, as the elephant sank downwards
and rolled over on its side, in its death agony, ploughing up the earth
with its tusks, and presenting to the eye a vast quivering mass of dull
grey hide, that gradually settled down into stillness.

Before Nick could fairly realise to himself his own success, the
Bechuanas had surrounded the carcass, and were greeting the two boys
with shouts of admiration and approval.  They had not witnessed the
manner in which the elephant had come by his death, a belt of shrubs
having cut them off from the tree, in which Nick had been seated.  They
concluded that the animal had simply been brought down, as it was
rushing by, by a successful shot from the lad's rifle; which must indeed
have been fired with extraordinary skill to be so instantaneously fatal.
The elephant slain was the great leader of the herd, fully twelve feet
in height, and with tusks that projected at least two feet beyond the
lip.  It was by far the most valuable prize of the day, and its ivory
would fetch a considerable sum in the market.  They overwhelmed the
successful sportsman with applause; and mounting Nick on their
shoulders, carried him back in triumph to the village, which lay at the
distance of not more than a couple of miles.  Nick, who did not
particularly relish the honours bestowed upon him, nor the close
contiguity to the persons of the natives into which he was brought, did
his best to explain the occurrence to his bearers, and request them to
desist from rendering compliments which were altogether unmerited.

"I say, darky," he cried, "drop that, will you?  I can walk home quite
well without your help, thank you all the same.  I'm not much of a shot
with a rifle, and shouldn't have killed the chap, I expect, if he hadn't
come and obligingly put his eye within half a yard of me!  Bother it
man, put me down.  How their skins do stink--to be sure!  Here, Kobo,
Kobo"--he had just caught sight of his attendant, as he spoke--"just
explain to these fellows, will you, that I prefer my own legs to their
arms, if they have no objection; and the flavour of grease and red ochre
isn't agreeable to everybody.  I prefer a different style of perfume
myself!"

"Bechuanas carry white boy, 'cause he great hunter, kill big elephant,
pay him great honour," returned Kobo.

"I understand that plain enough," said Nick, "but I wish they'd honour
me according to my own notions, instead of theirs."

"Take it easy, Nick," said Frank, laughing.  "We shall soon enter the
kraal now.  I hope that brute, Maomo, will be in the way to see our
entry.  It will do him good."

As they ran on in this way, they approached the Bechuana kraal, where
indeed, in accordance, as it seemed, with Wilmore's wish, nearly the
whole population, that had remained behind from the elephant hunt, were
assembled.  Maomo was in the middle of them, apparently engaged in
making some address of a warning or threatening character to his
hearers, which had the effect of exciting and terrifying them.  As the
lads approached nearer, they saw that the people were gathered round
some object stretched on the ground; to which the prophet continually
pointed during the pauses of his speech.  Presently they perceived that
the object was an ox, dying in great suffering from some malady.  The
poor brute's limbs were swollen to a huge size, froth was issuing from
its mouth and nostrils, the eyes rolled dim and bloodshot, and every now
and then its whole frame was shaken by violent convulsions.  As the
chief, who was only a few paces behind the two boys, came on the scene,
Maomo burst forth into a torrent of declamation, having reserved his
energies, it appeared, for Chuma's more especial hearing.

"See you here," he exclaimed; "the pestilence has smitten the oxen, this
poor beast will die, and no one can heal it; what has happened to one
will happen to all.  There will not be an ox left alive in the village
in two or three days more.  And who has caused it?  The White Prophet.
He prays to the wicked Spirits, and they hear him and send the
pestilence!  Every day, for many weeks past, he and the young prophet
have been praying to the Spirits to punish the Bechuanas, because they
will not worship his bad gods.  Why does not Chuma forbid him?  Why does
he not punish him?  Does not Chuma care that our cattle die?  Chuma's
own cattle will die also."

The Bechuana chief had halted, as he reached the spot where the ox was
lying, and was now standing over it with a face of evident perplexity
and dismay.  There was no mistaking the symptoms of the malady, which,
some years previously, had nearly caused a famine in the village, by the
number of horned cattle which it had swept off.  Nor was there any known
remedy for the disease.  Its appearance in the village might well cause
the utmost alarm.  It was almost impossible to account for the
visitation.  It had been generally attributed in former years to drought
and deficient pasturage; but those causes could not be assigned now, as
there had been abundance both of water and sweet grass for many weeks
past.  He did not suspect the truth--that Maomo had paid a secret visit
to a distant tribe where the disease was raging, and brought back with
him some of the virus, with which he had inoculated some two or three
isolated cows.  All Chuma's former suspicions of De Walden rushed back
upon the chief with accumulated force.

"How do you know that the White Prophet has caused this?" he asked,
taking advantage of the first pause in Maomo's oration.

"My Spirits have told me so," replied Maomo.  "They have sent good rains
and healthy seasons to the Bechuanas, and now the White Falsehood-man
has come among them and taught them to worship false and wicked Spirits,
and many of the Bechuanas are beginning to pray to them, and the wicked
Spirits hear them, and answer their evil prayers."

"This is not true," exclaimed Chuma, angrily.  "I have forbidden the
White Prophet to offer prayers to his Spirits.  I have forbidden any of
my people to hearken to his words.  Who is there that would dare to
disobey me."

"The White Prophet treats your words as if they had been the idle
winds," returned the rainmaker, "and he has persuaded many of the people
to disregard them too.  He thinks his Spirits are strong enough to
protect him against your anger; and so they would be if it were not that
my Spirits are stronger still; but he does not know that, and presumes
to set you at open defiance."

"Is this true?" cried the chief, whose passion was now strongly excited.
"Does this white man pray, as the rainmaker says?  Do any presume to
join in his prayers, if he so offers them?"

His eye was fixed sternly upon Kobo, whom he regarded in a general way
as answerable for De Walden's movements.

Frank and Nick glanced anxiously at their friend, hoping that he would
say something which might allay Chuma's anger; but to their surprise and
dismay Kobo answered--

"It is true, chief I have not ventured to speak for fear that the White
Prophet should do me some hurt; but Maomo will protect me.  It is true.
He prays every day in the big hut to his Spirits, and many of the
Bechuanas pray with him, but not Kobo.  It is not their fault.  The
White Prophet has bewitched them."

"Let some one fetch him hither," said Chuma.  "If his prayers have done
this harm, his prayers shall undo it, and that without delay, or it
shall be the worse for him."

"I will go to fetch him," said Kobo.  "I know where he is to be met
with, and how to take him when he is off his guard.  Let the rainmaker
come with me, and we will bind and bring him hither."

With a smile of gratified malice the wizard accepted the invitation, and
hurried off to De Walden's hut, accompanied by half a dozen stout
Bechuanas.  The chief stood in gloomy silence awaiting his return, while
Frank and Nick looked on in an agony of doubt and apprehension.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

DE WALDEN BROUGHT TO TRIAL--HIS DEFENCE--IMMINENT DANGER--DE WALDEN'S
DOOM--THE ESCAPE--A RAPID JOURNEY--KOODOO'S KLOOF.

Maomo and his myrmidons were not long in accomplishing their errand.  De
Walden and Warley had returned, about an hour previously, from their
visit to the hut of old Dalili, whose oxen had been stricken with the
pestilence early that morning.  The missionary had from the first
entertained little hope of saving any of the animals.  He had several
times encountered the disease during his residence in various parts of
Kaffir land, and had very rarely known any treatment of it to have any
effect.  It was too late to try inoculation with the cattie already
attacked, but he had helped the old man to apply the remedy in question,
or rather the preventive in such of his oxen as were still healthy.  In
the others, though he had done all that was possible for their relief,
he had warned him that he must not expect them to recover, and several
of them had died before he left the village.

He was a good deal disturbed at the old Bechuana's demeanour.  He was
one of the most satisfactory of his converts, and De Walden had resolved
that in a few weeks more he might be admitted to baptism.  But Dalili's
whole nature seemed changed.  He did not, indeed, say anything to imply
that a change in his religious opinions had taken place, but he seemed
overwhelmed with terror, and to expect some terrible punishment to fall
upon himself.  The missionary and Ernest had done their best to quiet
him, and had returned home to take some necessary food and rest before
again seeking Dalili's hut, when Chuma's emissaries, headed by Maomo and
Kobo, broke in upon them.

De Walden received them with the calmness of a man who had long carried
his life in his hand, and knew that at any moment he might be required
to surrender it.  He quietly rose, and telling his captors there was no
need to bind him, or use violence of any kind, as he was quite ready to
go with them, took his hat and walked out of the hut.  The others
however insisted on tying his hands with strong leathern thongs,
apprehensive that he might work some spell if they were left at liberty.

Escorted by Maomo on one side, and Kobo on the other, he advanced to the
spot where Chuma was still standing with a large crowd of Bechuanas
round him; the whole population of the village having by this time
gathered together.  It was a strange and striking scene.  The chief,
attired for the chase, carrying his weapons, occupied the central
place--a large and martial figure.  He was surrounded by a crowd of
warriors armed and arrayed like himself, many of the party bearing in
their dress and persons marks of the recent encounter with the
elephants, which gave them a ghastly and bizarre appearance.  The women
and children filled up the background, looking with awful anticipation
on what would probably ensue.

The missionary stepped calmly forward into the centre of the ring,
meeting the stern glance of the Kaffir chief with a firm look, under
which Chuma's eye at length was compelled to falter.  This, perhaps,
rendered his first words more bitter than they might otherwise have
been.

"Disease hath smitten the cattle of the Bechuanas," he said; "whence
comes this, and who has caused it?"

"It comes, like all visitations, from the hand of God; and the reason
why He sends them is sometimes to teach mankind His power, and sometimes
to punish their sins."

"What is the reason why He has sent this?"

"It is impossible for any man to say.  He only knows Himself His own
purposes."

"But you have yourself told me you have power with God.  You have said
that He always hears His servants?"

"I have, and I repeat it."

"Then ask Him to take away this disease, and if He complies, then we
will be His servants.  Will you do this?"

"I will pray to God that He will be pleased to remove it.  Whether He
will do so or not, rests with Him."

Chuma hesitated.  His belief in De Walden was shaken by what had
happened, but not wholly overthrown.  Maomo saw his embarrassment, and
hastened to interfere.

"Chief," he said, "it is not by prayers, which are but words, that the
White Falsehood--man has prevailed on the Evil Spirits to send this
curse upon our people.  Nor will it be by prayers that he can prevail on
them to take it off again.  There are sacrifices that he offers to his
gods.  I know that he was seen to pour water on Gaike's forehead, and
utter some charm while he did so.  I know that there are sacrifices
which he renders, when he will suffer no one but his white companions to
be present.  Ask him, and he cannot deny this?"

"How is this?" said Chuma, turning again to De Walden; "you hear what
the rainmaker says.  Is it true?"

"It is true that we have rites at which none but believers are allowed
to be present," returned De Walden.

"Will you offer these to your gods, that the plague may be removed from
the cattle of the Bechuanas?"

"It is not enough that you make him promise that," interposed Maomo
again, dreading that De Walden would comply with this request, and so
avert, for the time at all events, the chief's anger.  "He must do so in
public, so that you and all our people may be sure that he really
sacrifices to his god."

"You hear, white man," said Chuma, sternly; "do you consent?"

"I cannot profane holy mysteries in such a manner," was the answer.  "I
will pray, and offer what you call sacrifices in secret, but not before
you."

"You hear him, chief," exclaimed the wizard.  "He seeks to put you off
with empty words.  Now hear me; I will take away this woe.  The cattle
of the Bechuanas shall not die.  But I cannot do this until the White
Lie-man has been put to silence.  The Spirits will not hearken to me
while he lives.  Choose, therefore, whether this impostor shall live to
work his evil pleasure, and your cattle perish, or whether he shall
receive his due punishment, and your cattle shall be saved."

His words were drowned in a cry which burst simultaneously from a
hundred lips, "Slay the White Wizard; preserve our cattie."

"Once more, you hear," exclaimed Chuma; "offer sacrifice or you die;
which do you choose?  Will you sacrifice?"

"My honoured friend and father," said Ernest, addressing De Walden in a
low voice apart, as he saw that he was about to offer a final refusal,
"need this be?  Wherefore not comply with their demand?  Did not Elijah
so challenge the priests of Baal, and God upheld him in the trial.  And
are you not as truly God's servant as he was; and God is the same
yesterday, to-day, and for ever?  Why should he not answer you, by
healing their diseased oxen, even as he answered Elijah, by consuming
the sacrifice?"

"It had been revealed to Elijah that he was to act as he did," returned
the missionary in the same tone.  "I have received no such intimations,
and must not so take upon myself.  Our God is indeed the same, and it
may please Him to interpose and save me, or leave me to glorify Him by
my death; but I must leave that in His hands."  He proceeded aloud, "No,
chief, I will not offer the sacrifice you require.  I cannot explain my
reasons now, but I refuse."

"Then you shall die, and that speedily.  Take him to his hut, until the
preparations are made; and be careful that he does not escape, or your
own lives shall be the penalty.  Take the other whites, and keep them in
safe custody also.  We will determine in the council what is to be done
with them presently."

The four Englishmen were dragged off under Kobo's charge, the latter
heaping every possible insult upon them during their conveyance to the
hut, and ordering the men under his charge to bind them with rhinoceros
thongs, which cut them so severely, that even the attendants seemed
inclined to remonstrate at such needless severity.  But Kobo silenced
them by threatening to report their lukewarmness to the chief.  Then
desiring that the guns and everything belonging to them should be
removed, and placed for security in his hut, he withdrew with a parting
menace, to take his place at the council about to be held in the chief's
residence.

The lads were too deeply moved at the approaching execution of their
friend, and the danger impending over themselves, to feel the disgust
and indignation at Kobo's double-faced treachery, which at another time
it would have provoked.  They listened reverently to the words addressed
to them by De Walden; who warned them that their position was one of the
greatest peril, and though he earnestly hoped that their lives might be
spared, they would do wisely to be prepared for the worst.  "God's
providential care for you," he said, "has been shown so often and so
signally of late, that I need not bid you to trust wholly in Him.  But
it would be no kindness in me not to warn you that your present peril is
very great--as great perhaps as it was in the Hottentot village, though
at first sight it might not seem to be so."

"Not all of us are in imminent danger, I hope," said Warley.  "I know
they are angry with me, almost as much as they are with you, but they
have no grounds of quarrel with Frank or Gilbert."

"I thought you might suppose so," returned the missionary, "and that was
the reason why I spoke.  It is plain that they mean to put me to a
speedy death--"

"Surely they dare not," interposed Frank.  "They know that Charles will
be returning, before long, with messengers from the English governor at
Cape Town.  He is not likely to endure the murder of a British subject
without a shadow of justice or reason.  And when he hears--"

"Ay, Frank, that is just it," said De Walden.  "They will take care that
he shall never hear it.  They will probably say that I have died of some
disease, or have taken my departure from their kraal of my own accord.
But your evidence would disprove their story, and they will have no
scruples in securing your silence by the surest of all methods--that is,
by putting you to death."

"Then they would have to account for all four of us," observed Gilbert,
"and some one in the kraal--Dalili or Gaike, or Mololo perhaps--might
tell Charles the truth, and then very signal punishment would probably
be exacted."

"You do not know these people," said De Walden.  "The influence of this
pretended prophet would be greater than ever after his supposed victory
over me.  They will be too much terrified to venture even on a word.  If
Kobo had remained faithful to us indeed--"

"The treacherous wretch!" exclaimed Frank, passionately.  "I feel more
indignant with him than with Chuma, or even Maomo himself."

"This is no time for anger, Frank," said the elder man, gravely.  "I
should not speak of him at all, if it had not been necessary to explain
to you your true position.  If Kobo had remained faithful, I say,
something might have been done.  We might have sent him off from the
village, and Chuma would have been afraid that he had gone to report
what had happened to the English.  But that hope does not exist, and
there is nothing for it but for us all to prepare ourselves for the
worst."

"They may do what they will," said Warley.  "If they take your life, I
have no wish to keep mine."

"You must not say that, Ernest.  God may have a great work for you to
do; and if your life is preserved, I shall feel assured it is for that
purpose.  But we have probably but a short time to pass together; let us
make the best use of that."

They all knelt down while the missionary offered up a fervent prayer in
behalf of each one of them, in which all heartily joined; and they were
still engaged in their prayers, when Kobo re-entered, accompanied by his
satellites, to announce to them their sentence, or rather that of De
Walden.

This, he gave them to understand, with diabolical exultation, was to be
the most painful form of death that imagination could conceive--one
which was resorted to only in the instance of enemies captured in war,
upon whom they wished to inflict the worst possible sufferings.  De
Walden was to be eaten alive by ants!  He was to be pegged down on his
back over one of the large ant-hills, some three feet in height--great
numbers of which were to be found at the distance of a mile or two from
the village--his neck, wrists, and ankles firmly secured by thongs of
rhinoceros hide, so that it would be impossible to move even an inch to
the right or left.  He was to be left in this position half an hour or
so after nightfall, about which time the ants, which had remained in a
state of torpor all day, were wont to come out of their nests in such
multitudes as to blacken the whole of the ground round one of their
hills.  They would be sure to fasten at once on any animal substance
near them, and so great was their voracity, that in the course of three
or four hours, the largest carcasses would be stripped of every particle
of skin or flesh, and be left a bare and whitened skeleton.

This, Kobo informed them, was to be the form of death chosen for the
missionary.  Some of the councillors had suggested death by poison, or a
blow from a heavy club; but Maomo, he gave them to understand--Maomo,
supported by himself--had insisted that the Bad Spirits would not be
appeased, unless the White Enemy died by a death of the greatest agony.
As for the others, they would probably be pricked with a lance-head,
steeped in the juice of the euphorbia, or the venom of the poison grub.
But that would not be finally decided until the following day; only,
anyhow, they were quite sure to undergo death in some painful and
lingering shape.

The only drawback to these tidings, he further apprised them, was, that
the execution of the missionary's sentence would necessarily be deferred
to the following day.  A great feast was to take place at sundown on the
flesh of the elephants killed that morning, and the chief could not be
induced to put that off, even to gratify the anger he had conceived
against the White Prophet.  Maomo had made the attempt, but in vain.
Nor would he leave the execution of the sentence to the rainmaker, so
that the missionary's death was to be put off till sunset on the
following day: but, then, Kobo added, most probably the fate of the
others would be determined, and all four would be executed together.

Having delivered himself of this outpouring of malice, and once more
carefully examined the rhinoceros thongs, to make assurance doubly sure,
Kobo relieved them of his presence; and soon afterwards the whole party,
overcome by the intense weariness which anxiety and suffering of mind
occasion, sank into a heavy and dreamless sleep.

It might have been four or five hours afterwards, when Frank was roused
by a pricking feeling as though some one had stabbed him slightly with a
knife.  He started up.  The hut was quite dark, though the stars outside
were faintly glimmering.  He was about to cry out when a hand was placed
on his mouth, and a voice whispered in his ear.

"It me--Kobo.  No make noise.  I come help you get away."  At the same
instant he again felt the prick of the knife, and the leather thong drop
from his arm.  In a moment the explanation of Kobo's altered demeanour
occurred to him.  The man had affected the bitter hatred he had
expressed, in order that they might be handed over to his custody
instead of that of Maomo, as they would have been, had he been suspected
of being their friend.

"All right, Kobo," he said softly; "shall I strike a light?"

"No, no.  That spoil all.  If you have knife, cut the fastenings of your
legs.  I set prophet free."

The others were roused with the same caution which Frank had received,
and in a few minutes they were all at liberty.  Then Kobo addressed
them, still speaking under his breath.

"Chief and all much drunk.  Only rainmaker sober.  He suspect me.  He
watch me while feast go on.  I see him, though he not guess it.  I seem
to drink twice as much as any, but throw it all away on ground.  When
feast half over, I tumble flat Rainmaker think Kobo drunk, but I creep
away in dark.  Now all follow me; creep like snake among hedge and bush;
lucky no moon to-night."

Following his direction, the whole party emerged one after another from
the hut, and crawled on their hands and knees among the dwarf shrubs
which lay scattered over the ground, until they had reached Kobo's
cottage, which was on the outskirts of the village.  Here they found
their guns, belts, and flasks, carefully hidden away under a heap of
weeds.  Having possessed themselves of these, they again hurried on,
keeping within the cover of the wood, until they were at least half a
mile from the Bechuana village; when the wooded covert gave place to an
open plain overspread with large stones, and now and then patches of
thorn.

"Get on as fast as we can," was Kobo's direction now.  "Too far from
kraal for Bechuanas to follow to-night."

"And to-morrow they will none of them be in a condition to undertake any
long journey, I expect," observed Nick.

"Rainmaker not drunk.  He keep sober," said Kobo.  "Very likely he gone
to hut to see all safe, and find all gone!" added the savage with a
chuckle.  "But he no know which way to follow in dark.  Not follow till
to-morrow."

"You have managed very cleverly, Kobo," said Wilmore; "but I must say I
wonder this wizard, or rainmaker, or whatever you call him, consented to
leave us in your charge."

"He not do that," answered Kobo, "only he could not help it.  I know how
plague broke out among Dalili's cows.  I see rainmaker putting bad stuff
into their sides with a little knife.  He know that I saw him, and he
'fraid to speak against Kobo, for fear Kobo speak against him.
Rainmaker bad man.  Look, you see that big ant-hill there close by?"

"Yes, we see it plain enough," answered Warley, with a shudder.

"That where rainmaker fasten Patoto 'bout six months ago.  Patoto strong
brave man, favourite with Chuma.  Maomo jealous.  He pretend Patoto
bewitch people.  Nyzee, Chuma's young wife, very sick, Maomo say Patoto
bewitched her, and Nyzee believe it and persuade Chuma.  Patoto say it
no true, but no one believe him.  He sentenced to same death as White
Prophet.  Kobo saw him fastened to ant-hill.  Six strong posts driven
into ground.  Patoto's feet tied with rheims to two; his hands to two
more; broad rhinoceros straps fastened to other two over Patoto's belly.
They strip him naked first, for why--no good to leave clothes on him,
ants eat--"

"I understand, Kobo," exclaimed Warley, interrupting the horrible
narrative, which he could not endure to hear.  "But why did not you set
him at liberty, as you have set us?"

"Eh!  Patoto only black man--not like White Prophet," answered Kobo,
coolly; "besides, chief set men to watch, for fear Patoto himself get
away when ant begin to eat--"

"Be silent, for Heaven's sake," exclaimed De Walden, who had hitherto
repressed his emotion, but could now bear no more.  "Blessed be His holy
name, who has delivered His servant from torments, which are unendurable
even in thought.  Let us speak no further of them.  How far, and in what
direction, do you propose that we should proceed to-night?"

"We fly towards Basuto country.  Basutos and Bechuanas not friends, or
Chuma send message for White Prophet to be given back to him."

"The Basutos!  Very good.  I can speak their language, and they will
very likely shelter us until we are rested sufficiently to travel to
Cape Town.  But the Basuto country lies at some distance, does it not?"

"Yes, several days' journey.  But when we have passed Koodoo's kloof,
all safe."

"Koodoo's kloof?  What, on the Vaal river?  The river is not passable
there."

"Ah, you not know.  We pass all safe, so they not catch us."

The missionary said no more.  Kobo evidently knew what he was about, and
there was very little chance of their escaping from their pursuers
except through his help.  By his skilful management they had probably
secured several hours' start, but that was all.  The Bechuanas would be
sure to be on their track on the following day, and their swiftness of
foot was proverbial even among the Kaffir tribes.  He resolved to attend
implicitly to Kobo's instructions, and a few words from him prevailed on
the lads to do the same.

They hurried on till the forenoon of the next day, and then rested only
a few hours during the meridian heat, resuming their journey with a
speed which taxed the boys' powers to the utmost, and against which they
would have rebelled, if they had not been plainly told by their guide
that their lives depended on the speed with which that and the following
day's travel could be accomplished.  Kobo allowed another halt shortly
before midnight, and the lads were further refreshed by a bathe in a
deep cavity in the rock where the rain water had collected, before
setting out on the following morning.  The character of the country they
were traversing now became more pleasing, and seemed to promise abundant
shade and plenty as they advanced.  The landscape was varied by groves
of palms and sycamores; and not unfrequently date trees and figs offered
to the travellers their ripe and tempting fruit.  The dark-foliaged
moshoma was relieved by the yellow of the mimosa, and the lilac of the
plumbago.  Herds of antelopes, and occasionally graceful koodoos and
elands, bounded by them, and little rivulets, evidently on their way to
mingle with some large river, covered the ground with a carpet of
verdure.

"Vaal river near now," remarked Kobo, when they paused a little before
moonrise on the evening of the second day.  "White boys travel fast--
travel like men.  Bechuanas not catch them."

"That is good hearing at all events," remarked Nick.  "A fellow never
knows what he can do till he's tried.  I didn't believe I could have
gone such a distance in three days, as I really have gone in less than
two--no, not to save my life."

"Well, it has been to save your life," remarked Warley; "you forget
that."

"No, I don't," retorted the other.  "It's about the only thing I'm safe
not to forget!  Well, Kobo, when shall we get to this kloof of yours--
to-night, or to-morrow morning?"

"To-morrow," said the Bechuana, "'bout ten o'clock, if all well."

They resumed their journey before daybreak, in no way abating their
speed, though the stamina of the three younger travellers seemed now on
the point of giving way.  They struggled on, however, hour after hour,
until the sun began to mount high in the heavens, and the heat to grow
every moment more intolerable.  Then, suddenly, Kobo pointed with his
finger to a narrow ravine, richly wooded with trees of every variety of
leaf, running between two lofty mountain ridges, and exclaimed--

"That Koodoo's kloof.  We safe now!"

Another quarter of an hour brought them within the shelter of the noble
trees, which extended their network of delicious shade overhead.  Kobo
led them on by a path, which gradually sloped downwards for nearly half
a mile, till the sound of running water broke upon their ears, and they
found themselves on the margin of a broad and rapid river.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

A RAFT--FATE OF MAOMO--THE ISLAND--A STRANGE APPARITION--A HIPPOPOTAMUS
HUNT--THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGER--NICK AGAIN--THE HIPPOPOTAMUS TRAP.

"Well, we are here," said Frank, an hour or so afterwards as they still
lay on the grassy bank of the stream, enjoying alike the rest to their
limbs, and the delicious coolness of the river breeze.  "We are here,
thanks to you, Kobo, for the same.  But how we are to get across beats
me altogether.  This is not a narrow channel over which you could drop a
tree; and if it had been, the cliffs opposite are two or three hundred
feet high, and go down straight into the water.  It is too deep to ford,
and too rapid to swim, even if there was a landing-place on the other
side, which there is not."

"No want to cross river," answered the Bechuana, briefly.

"Not want to cross it, Kobo?" asked Warley, "why I thought you said this
was the point to which Chuma might pursue us, but he dare not go beyond
it."

"So I did.  See now; give me the axe."

He got up as he spoke, and began lopping off the boughs of a large
willow, which grew at no great distance from the spot where they had
been resting, choosing those which were about six inches in diameter.
When he had collected a sufficient number of them, he reduced them all
to an uniform length of some ten feet, and laid them on the ground side
by side.  He then tore down a number of parasitical creepers, which were
almost as tough and pliant as so many cords, and began binding the logs
together by their means.

"What are you making, Kobo?" inquired Nick, after contemplating his
proceeding for some minutes with much interest.  "Make raft, cover it
with reeds, and launch it on river.  It carry us to island yonder."  He
pointed as he spoke to a group of trees, growing apparently in the
middle of the river's channel, at the distance of perhaps a mile.
"There we rest, find plenty of food, fruit, and fish too.  Then I go to
look for Basuto people, and tell them 'bout white men."

"Cover the raft with reeds?  Hadn't we better go and cut some, then?"
suggested Warley; "or, rather, hadn't.  Nick and Frank better go and
gather them, while I help you to tie the logs."

"Very good.  They two take axe, one cut reeds, other bring them in
armfuls."

Mr De Walden did not awake from the sleep into which he had fallen
immediately on reaching the bank, until the raft was nearly completed.
He understood at once the purpose for which it was constructed.  "It
will bear us safely enough, no doubt," he said, "and we shall find
abundance of food on the island; but will not the Bechuanas suspect the
place of our retreat, and follow us?"

"Bechuanas not venture on Yellow River," said Kobo; "besides, if they
make raft, we shoot them from island, as easy as so many sheep.  Kobo
kill them all with bow and arrow--say nothing of guns."

"That is true," said De Walden; "and besides we could use our own raft
to escape to the opposite shore before they came up.  Well, we had
better push the raft into the stream, hadn't we?  It seems to be
finished; and there is no wisdom in staying here longer than can be
helped."

Kobo assented, and Frank coming up at that moment with his last heap of
reeds, the four, by their united exertions, launched their handiwork,
which was found to float very well.  The guns, with the rest of the
baggage, were then put on board; some long poles selected to serve as
paddles, or puntpoles, as occasion might require; and the adventurers
prepared to commence their voyage as soon as Nick joined them.

This he did almost immediately afterwards, but in breathless haste and
alarm.

"Get on to the raft and push off," he cried, as soon as he was able to
command his voice.  "The Bechuanas are after us, with that scoundrel
Maomo at their head."

He was obeyed with the utmost promptitude.  In two minutes they had
pushed from the shore and were beginning to catch the current, when the
truth of Gilbert's words was proved by a headlong rush of Bechuanas to
the riverside, made in the hope of arresting the progress of the raft.
They darted their assegais after the travellers, and cast long lassoes
of leather; some of them even rushed into the water, trying to seize the
logs with their hands.

"Stoop down!" shouted Kobo; "they shoot arrows."  All five threw
themselves on their faces among the reeds, just in time to allow a
flight of arrows to pass over them and bespatter the surface of the
river beyond.

"Ah, you catch that," cried Kobo, as he drew his bowstring in answer,
and saw his arrow quivering in the neck of the rainmaker.  "You no cure
that, Maomo--you clever doctor, but no cure that!  Him dead," he
continued, complacently addressing his companions, "him dead in half an
hour.  Poison quite fresh and good!"

"Unhappy wretch!" exclaimed the missionary, as he watched the Bechuanas
gather in dismay round their fallen prophet.  "I have no doubt you speak
the truth, Kobo; and the impostor drew his fate upon himself.  But it is
a fearful ending!  When will the light of God's truth shine in this
benighted land?"

"Yes, Kobo speak truth," said the guide, answering the only part of De
Walden's speech which he understood.  "Kobo speak truth--Maomo dead for
certain--he suffer bad pain too.  Ah, they carry him away.  No trouble
us more."

The raft was by this time in the central channel of the river, sweeping
rapidly down towards the island.  In about half an hour this was
reached; and Kobo steering it towards a spot where several willows
stretched out into the stream, contrived to lodge it securely between
two of them.  The party then landed, and carried all their goods on
shore; after which Kobo directed them to haul the raft also on to the
bank, and hide it carefully among the long grass and rushes.

"People no come that way," he said, pointing down the river; "large deep
falls, and no come from that bank--rocks too steep and high.  But may
come from other bank, or same way as we, from further down.  Sometimes
Basutos hunt `'potmus,' as white man call him."

"Hippopotamuses!" exclaimed Frank.  "Are there any of them hereabouts?"

"Plenty 'potmus.  All along that bank--wonder we not see them.  All
among canes there--feed at night mostly--come out by and by."

The raft was by this time hidden away, and the boys, under Kobo's
guidance, proceeded to explore the island, which was perhaps two hundred
feet in length, by thirty in width.  It was covered with a rich growth
of mossy grass, interspersed with flowers of every variety of colour,
and of the rarest fragrance.  Wild geraniums, jessamines, arums, lilies
scarlet and blue and purple, spread like a gorgeous carpet underfoot.
Overhead pear trees, pomegranates, and wild plums, figs, quinces, and
bananas, were intermingled with the foliage of the cypress, the gum, the
willow, and a hundred others.  Kobo might well say there was plenty of
food to be obtained in the island, which seemed to them to be like an
enchanted garden.  They were delighted with the prospect of remaining
there some days to rest and refresh themselves, while Kobo went on his
errand.  They soon chose the spot where they meant to fix their
headquarters.  Just about the middle of the islet, three large fig trees
and a date grew so near to one another, that their interlacing boughs
formed a roof impenetrable alike to sun or storm.  The undergrowth of
shrubs between the boles was soon cleared away by the help of the axe,
and left a sort of bower about twelve feet square, open only on one
side, and tapestried, as it were, with the loveliest flowers.  Here they
piled together the heaps of reed from the raft, which the sun had
already dried, to make their beds, and here they sat down, an hour or
two after their arrival, to enjoy the luxury of an abundant repast, and
a long night of unbroken rest after it.

On the following morning, Kobo, having constructed for himself a much
smaller raft, consisting simply of bundles of reed laid crosswise over
one another, took himself off to the opposite bank, which, as he had
told them, belonged to the Basutos.  Here, having drawn the reeds
ashore, he waved his hand to the English travellers, and then vanished
among the shrubs.  Left to their own devices, De Walden and Ernest
withdrew to their arbour, to continue a conversation deeply interesting
to them both, which they had begun on the previous evening; while Frank
and Nick, having contrived to manufacture some extempore fishing-lines,
betook themselves to a point where a shelf of stone, immediately on the
water's edge, offered them a pleasant seat, and began fishing.

They had better success than they had expected, considering the rudeness
of their tackle, and their utter ignorance as to the proper bait to be
used.  Half a dozen tolerable-sized fish, mostly eels and barbel, soon
lay lifeless on the turf at their side, and they were still pursuing
their sport with unabated eagerness, when they were startled by a loud
splashing and snorting at no great distance from them.  They leaped up,
for a moment apprehending that the Bechuanas were in pursuit of them,
notwithstanding Kobo's assurances that there was no fear of such a
_contretemps_, and hurried to the southern extremity of the islet, where
the noise was audible.  Several dark shapeless objects, ten or twelve
feet long, were to be seen floating apparently on the water; but whether
they were fragments of wood, or the carcasses of drowned oxen, or living
animals, it was impossible at first to determine.  Presently, however,
one of the floating masses disappeared beneath the waters, and anon rose
again, with a loud grunting noise which could not be mistaken.

"They are the hippopotamuses Kobo told us of," said Nick.  "It is very
odd, but I had forgotten all about them."

"Hush!" answered Frank, "they are coming this way, I think; and if so,
we shall get a clear view of them.  I want to see one above all things.
I've seen a picture of one, but that gives no real idea."

"Yes, they are coming this way, certainly," remarked Gilbert, a few
minutes afterwards; "but how slowly and leisurely they move.  I should
think we might get a shot at one presently, if we keep quite quiet.
Luckily, it is plain that they have not seen us, or they wouldn't come
this way."

As he spoke, Frank laid his hand on his arm, and pointed silently
towards a projecting point of the river bank, about two hundred yards
off.  The head of a canoe, formed out of the trunk of a tree apparently,
and holding two persons, had just come in sight.  It was followed
closely by another of the same description, a good deal larger, and at
some distance by several reed rafts, nearly as big as that which had
conveyed them to the island on the previous day.  The boys drew
instantly back into the leafy covert, again fancying that the Bechuanas
were on their track.  A very short examination of the new-comers,
however, satisfied them that this was not the case.  Not only was their
dress different in several particulars from that of the Kaffirs, but the
weapons with which they were armed showed plainly that they had not come
out for the purpose of apprehending runaways, but of hunting some
animals--no doubt, indeed, the hippopotamus; for the weapons they
carried were not used in the chase of any other animal But what rendered
it absolutely certain that they could not belong to their late pursuers,
was the presence, in the stern of the largest canoe, of a woman--
evidently a personage of rank and importance.  The boys looked at her,
as the boats slowly approached the islet, with great surprise and
curiosity.  Her costume showed that she belonged to the same nation as
the others, and her whole bearing and demeanour was that of a person
familiarised by long habit with the scene and employment in which she
was engaged But if it had not been for these circumstances, the boys
would certainly have supposed that she was not a native of South Africa
at all.  Her complexion, though somewhat darker than that of an
Englishwoman, was many shades lighter than that of her companions; her
hair and eyes were totally unlike theirs.  Her movements, easy and
graceful as those of savages generally are, nevertheless exhibited an
indefinable refinement, which was most perplexing to the spectators.

Their attention, however, was soon directed to other matters.  All
unconscious of the vicinity of strangers, the occupants of the boats and
rafts glided noiselessly by the island, until they had reached the
hippopotamuses, which were still lazily floating in the yellow waters;
for the river, it may be observed in passing, well deserved its name.
The huge animals scarcely seemed to notice the presence of the voyagers,
whom they allowed to come close to them, without manifesting any
symptoms of alarm.

By and by the canoe, in which the female already described was seated,
had reached the spot where the largest of the bulky herd--fully twelve
feet in length, and the same in girth--was reclining!  She rose from her
seat, lifting her figure to its full height, and then dexterously darted
the barbed lance she carried into the body of the monster.  The instant
she had done so, she resumed her seat, and the rowers nimbly plying
their oars, shot off from the vortex caused by the writhings of the
wounded beast, and made for the shore.  The girl bounded lightly on to
the bank as the canoe approached it, holding in her hand the line, which
was attached to the handle of the harpoon.  She was followed instantly
by the rest of the crew, who, seizing the cord, held it fast with their
united strength to prevent the escape of the hippopotamus.

The latter had no sooner felt the wound than he dived, and commenced
swimming under water, in the hope of ridding himself in that manner of
his pursuers.  But the barbed point held fast, and his struggles only
increased the acuteness of his sufferings.  He was soon obliged to rise
again to the surface for air, and his reappearance was the signal of a
recommencement of the attack.  Fresh harpoons were continually lodged in
the quivering flesh; the yellow waters grew every moment redder with the
blood, which poured from countless wounds; until, at last, even his huge
strength was exhausted, and the hunters were able to draw the lifeless
carcass to the shore.

All this time the remainder of the herd had continued to paddle about,
or lie basking in the sun within a short distance of the spot where the
chase had been going on, wholly unconcerned, to all appearance, at what
was passing.  The rowers now resumed their places, and the woman her
seat in the stern, and the same scene was enacted again; but this time
not with the same success.  The harpoon was thrown with equal skill, and
firmly fixed in the animal's side; but before the boat could reach the
shore, which at this point of the river lay at a considerable distance,
it was attacked by the infuriated beast, which seemed more inclined to
revenge the wound he had received, than make his escape from further
injury.  He swam straight towards the canoe, which he overtook before it
had gone many yards, and with a single blow from his formidable tusk,
completely shattered its bottom.  It sank instantly, leaving its five
occupants to escape to the land as they best might.  The monster glared
round him as if seeking for the easiest victim, and perceiving that the
female, who had been stationed in the bow, was the nearest to him, he
made straight at her with his huge jaws expanded to their full width,
and his deadly rows of teeth displayed.  Observing his approach, she
dived, reappearing at the distance of a few yards, and swam swiftly for
the island, which was the nearest point of land.  But the animal had
been on the look out for her, and made a second rush, as soon as her
head emerged from the water.  She dived a second time, and rose nearer
to the islet; but her strength was evidently failing her, and the weight
of her clothes dragged her down.  She struggled bravely, but could not
get away from her pursuer.  In another minute the horrid jaws would, in
all likelihood, have cut her in twain, if a shot, fired opportunely at
this moment from the central clump of the eyot, had not pierced the
unwieldy brute behind the shoulder, and passed directly into the vitals.
With a loud snort of agony he turned over on his side, vomiting a
torrent of blood, which stained the dull yellow stream a still duller
crimson, and then floated helplessly down the current.

Warley, from whose rifle this unexpected deliverance had come, now
hurried down the bank to complete her rescue.  His attention, and that
of De Walden, had been attracted to the noise on the river some time
previously, and, catching his rifle, which he had taken the precaution
of loading, Ernest hurried out to learn what was passing.  When he first
caught sight of the scene, he was indisposed to interfere, thinking the
hunters able to effect their own escape, and unwilling to betray the
place where he and his friends had taken refuge; but as soon as the
peril of the female voyager became evident to him, he hesitated no
longer.  The other two lads now came hastening up, and between them they
raised the woman, who was almost exhausted, from the water, and laid her
on the bank.  The natives, who were astonished beyond measure at the
apparition of the white men, stood motionless on the further bank, or on
their rafts, not knowing what was about to happen next.

The Englishmen on their sides were scarcely less astonished.  The reader
has already heard the surprise with which Frank and Gilbert had noticed
their female visitor; but they had only beheld her from a distance, and
had had a very cursory view of her face and figure.  Now, however, they
had leisure to take a closer survey.  She was apparently about eighteen
years old, tall and beautifully formed, and with a natural dignity of
demeanour which would have become a princess.  Her skin was somewhat
darker than that of English ladies in ordinary, but, nevertheless, a
very becoming colour mantled in her cheeks.  Her features were formed
after the finest type of Greek beauty--the shape of the face oval, the
nose straight and slightly _retrousse_, the forehead broad and low, the
eyebrows beautifully arched over orbs of the darkest hazel.  Her hair,
to complete the picture, bore no likeness at all to that of her
attendants, but was glossy, long, and of a rich brown.

Her dress was almost as great an enigma as her face.  It consisted of a
kind of petticoat, or rather short gown, made of antelope skin, and
edged with white fur, descending from her neck almost to her knees, and
covering the arms about half-way to the wrist.  Her feet were protected
by sandals, the thongs of which were wound crosswise up her legs, and
secured by a leathern garter at the knees.  Round her waist she wore a
girdle set with crimson beads and glittering stones.  Her head had no
ornament, with the exception of some eagle's feathers fixed in the
coronet of dark brown hair which surmounted her forehead.  Her
appearance, in fact, was neither that belonging to civilised nor to
savage life, but rather that of some high-born European lady, who had
assumed, for some masquerading purpose, the costume of the desert.

After resting for a few minutes on the sloping patch of turf where her
rescuers had placed her, she appeared to recover her strength and
self-possession, and to be anxious to bestow her thanks on the strangers
who had come so opportunely to her rescue, but was at a loss how to
express herself.  Warley and the others felt equally embarrassed.  At
last, after a long pause, the former called to the missionary, who had
remained behind in the arbour, too much occupied with the anxieties
which were pressing on him to take heed of what was passing outside.

"Will you be so good as to come here, Mr De Walden?" he cried.  "Here
are some natives whom we cannot make understand us, but very likely they
may understand you."

A flash of intelligence passed over the girl's face as he spoke.

"I understand you myself," she said.  "You are speaking English.  Are
you Englishmen?"

Her accent and words were those of an English lady.  Still more
bewildered, Warley answered--

"We are Englishmen, madam; and I need not say rejoiced to recognise a
countrywoman, as we cannot doubt you are.  By what strange chance you
have been conveyed hither--"

"No," she interposed, "I am not an Englishwoman.  I was born in this
land; but I am deeply interested in everything English.  If it pleases
you to accompany me to our village, which is not very far distant from
this, my mother will be greatly pleased to welcome you as her guests."

The boys glanced at De Walden, who was standing by, regarding her
attentively.  He now addressed her with much respect.  "You are the
daughter, I presume," he said, "of the famous White Queen of the
Basutos, of whom I have heard so much.  But I thought her dwelling was
considerably further to the east."

"Yes, I am the daughter of Queen Laura, or Lau-au, as our people call
her.  My own name is Ella.  You are right as to our ordinary place of
residence; but the cattle disease, which is raging in the east, has
obliged us for awhile to shift our dwelling.  You, I conclude, are one
of the white teachers whom my mother ever holds in honour.  She would
gladly have received you, even if I had not owed my life to your friend.
We will set out at once, if you please, as the evening is now
advancing."

She summoned her attendants, who had been watching this interview with
looks of much curiosity, and the party were soon conveyed to the
opposite shore.  Then desiring them to cut off as much of the flesh of
the two slain hippopotamuses as could be conveniently carried with them,
she set off, with two of her visitors walking on either hand, at a brisk
pace, which an English lady would have found it difficult to maintain,
but which did not appear at all to inconvenience their fair conductress.

But the day's adventures were not yet concluded.  After walking for a
mile or two, still along the banks of the river, Nick's restless spirit
seemed to grow weary of the monotony of the journey.  He began to linger
by the wayside; now to pick a flower that attracted his fancy; now to
gather some of the fruit, of which there was plenty to be seen--figs and
bananas, and ripe dates--now to examine some brilliant insect, or to
chase some gorgeous butterfly.  On these occasions he allowed the party
to get further and further in advance of him, until once or twice he was
in danger of being left alone in the bush, to find, as best he might,
the track pursued by his companions.

On one of these occasions, after he had succeeded with considerable
difficulty in plucking a delicious watermelon, which grew in a deep
hollow, surrounded on all sides by thorn bushes, he discovered to his
chagrin and alarm, that the rest of the party were by this time fairly
out of sight and hearing; and the dense mass of tangled shrubs and
creepers in front of him rendered it impossible to distinguish anything
at the distance of a hundred yards.  He hurried on as fast as he could,
in the direction which he supposed them to have taken, looking carefully
round him for the marks of footsteps.  But these were nowhere to be
distinguished.  Indeed all trace of a path seemed to have disappeared.
A good deal alarmed, he stood still and shouted.  Presently he heard a
halloo in answer, but in a direction different from that which he had
been pursuing.  It evidently came from a considerable distance.  Nick
felt there was no time to be lost, and hurried along with all the speed
he could command, though the long grass much impeded his progress.  As
he turned the corner of a thick mass of shrubs, he saw a figure which he
recognised as that of De Walden advancing towards him, and holding up
his hand, urging him, as he supposed, to rejoin the party as quickly as
he could.  He started accordingly at a run, but had not advanced many
yards when his foot caught against some obstacle which threw him forward
on his face.  At the same moment there was a whirring noise, followed by
a loud crash, and some heavy object struck the ground within a yard of
him.  Almost immediately afterwards he heard De Walden's voice.

"Another escape, Master Nick.  I wonder how many more you mean to have
before you rejoin your friends.  If you had as many lives as a cat, you
would lose them all at this rate."

Nick got up, rubbing the green mud from his elbows and knees, and
staring in wonder at the object the fall of which had so astonished him.
An examination of it did not tend to remove his perplexity.  It was a
large heavy piece of wood, shaped evidently by the axe, so as to
resemble a rude arrow, but as thick as the mast of a large cutter.  To
the end of this was attached an iron head of a corresponding size.  It
had penetrated deep into the ground, and would have been sufficient to
shatter Nick's skull like an icicle if it had come in contact with it.
"Whatever can that be?" he exclaimed; "and how came it up there?"

"A hippopotamus trap," said the missionary; "and it is a good job that
it has not proved a man trap too.  You must not leave your companions in
this wild country, Nick, or even your good luck won't keep you out of
trouble.  I noticed the trap as we passed, and then perceived a minute
or two afterwards that you were not with us.  It is fortunate I turned
back and called you.  If you hadn't been running fast it might have
caught your head, or at all events your leg."

By this time they were rejoined by the rest of the party, and De Walden
proceeded to explain to the boys the curious construction of the machine
from which Nick had had so narrow an escape.  It was common enough, he
told them, in the neighbourhood of the haunts of the hippopotamus.  The
stem of a young tree, a foot or so in diameter, was cut off at the
length of about four feet.  A strong and sharp iron head was fixed at
one end, and at the other an eye, to which a string was attached.  This
rude shaft was then hung up to the branch of a large tree immediately
over the path by which the hippopotamuses were wont to go down to the
river.  The string was passed over the branch, round a projecting root
at the bottom of the tree, and straight across the path, being
ultimately secured to a peg driven into the earth.  This string came
into contact with the feet of the hippopotamus, which, in walking,
shambles along, scarcely raising its legs from the ground.  The string
being in this manner broken, the heavy beam instantly falls, usually
striking the hippopotamus in the back, and penetrating the vitals.  The
blow is almost always mortal.  Even if the animal is not killed on the
spot, it is so badly wounded that it dies shortly afterwards.
Sometimes, to make assurance doubly sure, Mr De Walden told them, the
iron is steeped in poison.

"There didn't need that," said Nick, as he contemplated the barbed
point, as big as the fluke of an anchor, and sharp as an arrow.  "The
iron head would have finished me off very handsomely, without troubling
the poison-makers.  Well, I'll take care another time, as the children
say, and I can't do more.  Let's be off now.  I want to get to our
quarters for the night."



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

THE BASUTO KRAAL--QUEEN LAURA--THE QUEEN'S NARRATIVE--THE WRECK OF THE
GROSVENOR--SUFFERINGS OF THE SURVIVORS--THE BASUTO CHIEF--DE WALDEN'S
JOY.

Nightfall was near at hand, when the party approached the Basuto kraal;
and the boys looked eagerly round them to see if they could discover any
marked differences between it and the other native villages which they
had visited.  Ella, as she had called herself, had hardly spoken a word
during the whole journey.  A sudden shyness apparently having seized
her, which was a curious contrast to the self-possession of her
demeanour when she first encountered them.  To the questions addressed
to her by Frank and Nick, she made very brief and seemingly reluctant
replies, and they soon discontinued their inquiries.  But their
curiosity was only heightened by the lady's unwillingness to satisfy it.
It appeared that De Walden had heard something of a white Basuto Queen;
but whence she came, or how she had attained to her kingdom, was a
sealed mystery.  Perhaps she might be one of an English colony, which
had established itself in these parts, and assumed a sovereignty over
all the inhabitants round about But if so, it was strange that none of
them should have heard from the Bechuanas, and especially from Kobo,
anything about such a colony.  Well, at all events, a very short stay in
the village would suffice to explain the mystery; probably, indeed, the
first sight of it would be sufficient.

But this did not prove to be the case.  The kraal was not very unlike
those of the Bechuanas, and other neighbouring tribes.  The houses were
constructed of wicker-work plaited with reed, and had the usual arched
entrance, which served as door, window, and chimney.  There were the
baskets and pails, the assegais, and bows and arrows, which usually
stood in front of a Kaffir hut, or were hung against the central pole.
The population, too, which had assembled, one and all, to witness the
entry of the strangers, did not materially differ from the other
inhabitants of the district.  The whole kraal, to be sure, had the
appearance of having been constructed in haste, and only partially
finished; but otherwise, our adventurers would hardly have known that
they had entered the country of a new people.  As soon as they had
entered the enclosure, Ella called up one of the natives, to whom she
gave some orders in a tone that was not audible, and then, turning to
her companions with a graceful bend of the head, she vanished into one
of the neighbouring houses.  The Basuto to whom she had spoken, now
stepped up to the Englishmen and invited them, by a gesture of the hand,
to follow him.  They obeyed, and presently found themselves in a room
which showed, for the first time, a real contrast to ordinary savage
life.  It was a _room_, not the inside of a hut--a room perhaps fourteen
feet square, hastily constructed of trees squared by the axe, and planks
nailed horizontally to them, but a room, nevertheless, with ceiling,
unglazed windows and doors, and carpeted with Kaffir matting.  There
were even some rude chairs and a table in the centre.  Their guide
pointed to these first, and then to a door opening into another
apartment of about the same size, where some skins were spread on the
floor.  "Eat here," he said; "sleep there."

The first part of his speech was presently made good by the arrival of
two Basutos, carrying some baskets, which contained rice, Indian corn,
and several varieties of fruit.  These were placed in the middle of the
table, and a wooden platter was assigned to each guest, who sat down to
something like a regular meal for the first day for many months past.
"I don't understand about this Queen," said Frank, as he pushed away his
wooden plate.  "I remember my uncle told me that, beyond the limits of
the Cape Colony, there were nothing but savages for hundreds and
thousands of miles; and that it wasn't safe for white people to venture
among them.  Who in the world can she be?"

"You seemed to know something about her, sir," remarked Warley, turning
to De Walden.  "Perhaps you can explain the mystery."

"I know nothing more," said the missionary, "than that I sometimes
heard, whilst living to the north of the Basuto country, that some
hundreds of miles southwards, there was a tribe under the rule of a
woman, whose race and colour was different from theirs, and who was
generally believed to be an enchantress.  That, of course, was mere
barbarous superstition, but the true facts of the case I never learned.
We shall doubtless, however, soon hear them, as we were to be summoned
to her presence as soon as we had partaken of food.  Ay, here, I
suppose, comes the messenger to give us notice that she is ready to
receive us."

This conjecture proved to be correct, and in a few minutes they were
ushered into the apartment, where the Queen of the Basutos sat in state
to receive them.  It was similar in construction to the one they had
just quitted, but larger, and with more attempt at ornament.  The
ceiling was coloured white, relieved with green, and the walls a dark
yellow; the latter exhibiting something like an attempt at panelling.
At the further end was a kind of dais rising three steps, on the topmost
of which stood a massive chair of ebony wood, and one smaller but of the
same material by its side.  The floor was spread with Kaffir mats of gay
patterns, while several articles belonging only to European
civilisation--books, an inkstand, a writing-desk, and the like--were
arranged on a large heavy table of the same material as the chair.  From
the ceiling there hung a lamp, like those ordinarily used on board
ships, and fed with oil, which diffused a very sufficient light
throughout the apartment.  Behind the royal chair, and on either side
down the room, were several Basutos, wearing dresses made of the skin of
the koodoo, or the leche, and carrying light assegais in their hands.

The Queen herself was a woman apparently between forty and fifty;
bearing a strong resemblance to her daughter, but of a fairer
complexion, her hair and eyes being also of a lighter brown.  She was
picturesquely, even richly, dressed, in a kind of long tunic of scarlet
cloth trimmed with swan's-down, over which she wore a robe of leopard
skin; slippers and buskins of the same material as her gown, but thickly
set with coloured beads and spangles.  A tiara, similarly ornamented and
surmounted by ostrich feathers, completed her attire.

She greeted her visitors as they moved up to her chair with graceful
courtesy.

"You are English, I am told?" she said, interrogatively; "if so, my
countrymen, and the first I have beheld for six and twenty years.  But I
have not forgotten the dear old language, in which, indeed, I and my
daughter always converse, and it will delight us both to hear it from
other lips beside our own."

"Yes, madam," answered De Walden, "we are English--my three younger
companions entirely so; while I am of English descent and English
parentage on the father's side.  We thank you for your kind reception of
us, which, it is needless to say, is most welcome after the toils and
dangers we have undergone."

"Your appearance is that of a missionary," rejoined the Queen.  "May I
ask if that is the case, and if so, what is your name, and where have
you of late been residing?"

"I am a preacher of the Gospel," said De Walden, "and my name is
Theodore De Walden.  I have been for many years in different parts of
South Africa, both to the north and west of this land."

"I have heard of you," said the Queen, "and have long been desirous of
meeting with you, or some other of your calling.  I myself am by birth a
member of the English Church, and still account myself one, though so
long cut off from its ministrations."

"The English Church--indeed!" exclaimed Warley.  "May we presume to ask
how--how--"

"How it comes that an English Churchwoman should be living in this wild
country, so far from her native land, and the ruler of a barbarian
tribe--that is what you would ask," said the Queen, smiling.  "Well, of
course I knew you would wish to learn the particulars of my strange
history, and it is perhaps as agreeable to me to relate, as it is to you
to hear it.  Seat yourselves"--she beckoned to the attendants to bring
forward chairs, as she spoke--"and I will tell you the whole tale."

"I was born in one of the midland counties of England, and am the
daughter of a man of good family, though at the time of my birth reduced
in means.  He was a surgeon in a small country town, skilful and
unwearied in his profession, but unable to realise any considerable
income.  My mother died when I was about twelve years old, and as my
father could not afford to keep any assistant, he was obliged to rely a
good deal on my help, as I grew up, in making up his medicines, and
occasionally attending cases of slight illness under his directions.
When I was about seventeen, my father unexpectedly obtained a valuable
appointment in India, in the Company's service, and thither we
accordingly proceeded in the spring of the year 1778.

"But the climate never agreed with him; and after persisting for two or
three years in the vain hope of becoming habituated to it, his health
altogether broke down, and he died, leaving me with a very slender
provision.  I resolved at once to return to England, and solicit the
help of my relatives there.  Some of them may still be living, and
doubtless believe that I have long been dead.  It would only distress
them if they were to learn the real facts, and I therefore shall not
disclose my true name, or those indeed of any of the party.

"I took my passage homeward by the _Grosvenor_, a fine vessel belonging
to the East India Company's service.  It carried a great many
passengers, mostly officers returning home, and a few civilians.  There
were also several ladies, though none about my own age.  I remember,
particularly, Colonel Harrison--so I will name him--an old friend of my
father's, Major Piers, Captains Gilby and Andrewes, Mr Hickson, Mr
Morgan, and Mr Gregg, as well as his sister, Mrs Gilby, Mrs
Wilkinson, and Miss Hordern.  It is strange how well I can recall all
their faces and persons at this interval of time.

"The voyage was unusually quick and agreeable until we arrived off the
coast of South Africa.  But there we encountered a gale so violent, that
the ship soon became wholly unmanageable.  Everybody concurred in
saying, that it was through no fault either of the captain or of the
crew that the vessel was lost.  The wind drove her directly ashore, the
anchors that were thrown out parted during the height of the storm, and
there are no harbours anywhere along that coast for which vessels can
run.  The end was that she was thrown upon a reef at no great distance
from shore, and entirely broken up.

"By the good management of the officers in command, the whole of the
passengers, and nearly all the crew, were got into the boats and safely
landed on the shore.  We were at first very thankful for our escape; but
if we had known the fate that awaited nearly all of us, I think we
should have preferred being swallowed up by the raging sea to undergoing
it.  The sea-coast at that point consists of long stretches of sandy
beach, overgrown at a short distance from the sea by thick scrub and
underwood, while further inland are dense and almost impassable forests.
Our first step was to provide ourselves with some shelter against the
wind and rain which continued unabated for several days.  By the help of
the carpenter's chest, and the various articles which were thrown ashore
from the wreck, we soon established ourselves comfortably enough.  Huts
were run up in which the whole of the party were lodged, hunting parties
organised, and then a general meeting was summoned to determine what
steps were to be taken to deliver ourselves from the embarrassing
position in which we were placed.

"I remember there was great difference of opinion.  Some proposed to
build a barque out of the remains of the _Grosvenor_, sufficiently large
to convey the whole party round to Table Bay.  The distance, it was
reckoned, was six or seven hundred miles.  We might easily row or sail
on an average forty or fifty miles a day.  And even if Cape Town should
be too far to be so reached, we should be safe to come to some of the
villages scattered here and there along the coast, which kept up some
kind of communication with the interior.  Others urged our continuing in
our present quarters until we succeeded in attracting the attention of
some passing vessel.  Others, again, proposed a plan compounded of
these.  One of the small boats was to be repaired sufficiently to allow
two or three of the most experienced sailors to go in search of help for
the whole party.

"On the whole, I believe the last-named suggestion would have had the
best chance of success.  Any one of the three would certainly have been
preferable to the one adopted, and which had in the first instance been
proposed by the Captain himself, viz., that the whole of the party
should make their way overland to the nearest inhabited district.  This
was strongly opposed by Colonel Harrison and old Mr Hickson; the former
of whom warned us, that the attempt would probably result in the
destruction of all.  But there were among the passengers, as well as
among the junior officers of the ship, a number of hot-headed
adventurous spirits, to whom such a journey, as that designed, had an
irresistible charm.  We all set out; but after a few days of suffering,
all the women and most of the men returned to the coast, while the
others went on.

"I have been told that some at least of this party succeeded after a
long and hazardous journey in reaching the Dutch settlements at Cape
Town.  I suppose that must be so, because I learned, some years
afterwards, that all the particulars of the loss of the _Grosvenor_ were
known to the Dutch authorities, and I do not know how they could have
learned anything on the subject except from my fellow-passengers.  I
have also been told that a party was sent out to search for any
survivors of the ill-fated ship.  If that was so, they never came near
the spot where I was living.

"We saw our companions depart with very mingled feelings.  The
confidence of their leaders had inspired some of us with hope, while
others were very despondent.  This despondency was increased when, a few
days after their departure, Captain Gilby and Mr Gregg, returning from
a shooting expedition, reported that they had seen armed savages in the
neighbourhood of the huts, prowling about, evidently with no friendly
intentions towards us.  It was immediately resolved to protect the
building with a palisade; beyond which the ladies were never to venture
without an armed escort, and to keep two of the men always on guard
inside the stockade with loaded muskets.  But these precautions were of
little avail.  Several of our small party were, from time to time,
captured or wounded by the natives; and all who were thus injured
expired soon afterwards in great agonies from the poison, in which the
weapons of the savages had been steeped.  Two or three of the women also
died, partly of insufficient food, and partly of anxiety and alarm.  At
last the whole party was reduced to four men and five women; and we then
held a consultation to decide what was to be done.

"It was impossible to defend the stockade, with our reduced numbers.  It
was idle to hope for rescue.  It would be still more useless to
surrender to the savages, who would observe no terms, even should they
be induced to agree to any.  The only possible hope lay in flight.  If
we stole out of the palisades by night, and took ourselves off in
different directions through the depths of the forest, it was just
possible that some of us might escape the notice of our enemies.  We
divided into three parties, Captain Gilby, his wife, and Mrs Wilkinson
chose the path by the seashore; Captain Piers, Mr and Miss Gregg,
endeavoured to follow the route taken by the party several weeks before;
while Colonel Harrison took Miss Hordern and myself under his charge.
The Colonel had some knowledge of the colony, and knew that the best
hope of escape lay towards the north, where there were but few tribes
located, and an almost endless screen of forest.

"We took leave of one another only an hour after we had come to this
resolution, as the danger was growing every moment more imminent.  I
never heard with any certainty what became of the rest of the party; but
a report once reached me that Miss Gregg (so I call her, though, as I
have said before, I give none of the real names), after the murder of
her brother and Captain Piers, had to submit to something of the same
fate as myself.  But this was only a rumour.  Of the fate of Captain
Gilby and his wife, I never heard anything.

"As regards ourselves, we were fortunate enough entirely to escape
pursuit, and after three days of intense anxiety and fatigue, had
reached a part of the forest which lay beyond the haunts of the tribes,
by which we had been attacked.  We were now compelled to rest awhile,
and recover our strength.  But though Miss Hordern and myself, who were
both of us of a hardy constitution, soon rallied from the fatigues we
had undergone, the old Colonel could not.  He grew daily weaker in spite
of all our care of him, and at last died, to our inexpressible grief.
We laid his remains in an empty pit which we had found, and filled it in
as well as we could, with clods and stones.  We then set off--two poor
desolate women--to find our way as well as we could to some place of
shelter.

"The toil we underwent, and the perils, which by a miracle we contrived
to avoid, would fill a volume, if I were to relate them.  But it will be
enough to say that, after endless wanderings, we found ourselves at last
somewhere about fifty or sixty miles from the banks of the Gariep--at no
very great distance, in fact, from this present spot.  We had subsisted
chiefly on the fruits that grow in abundance throughout the whole of the
country, and were beginning to hope that, after all, we might reach the
outlying Dutch farms of which Colonel Harrison had spoken, when another
calamity befell us.  Miss Hordern and myself were one day suddenly
surprised by a party of Basutos, who had gone out on a shooting
expedition to the valley of the Vaal.  We instantly took to flight, but
before we had gone fifty yards, Miss Hordern was struck by an arrow, and
the wound proved almost instantly fatal.  I stopped as soon as I saw her
fall, and took her in my arms, too much distressed by this last
misfortune to heed my own danger.

"What the pursuers would have done to me, I do not know.  But when I
recovered from the swoon of grief into which I had fallen over the body
of my dead friend, I saw a tall and noble-looking warrior bending over
me, his fine eyes and manly features expressing a sympathy for my
affliction, which I should have supposed a savage to be incapable of
feeling.  He gave some orders to his men, in a language which I did not
comprehend, and I was immediately carried into a hut, and carefully
waited on by several women.  I was ill a long time, but every day my
warrior came to visit me, and gradually I picked up enough of the Basuto
language to exchange a few sentences with him.  I soon perceived the
light in which he viewed me, and it was not unwelcome--strange as such
an idea would have appeared to me a few weeks before.  But I was worn
out by harsh usage, he alone having shown me kindness; and my utter
helplessness made me inclined to lean on any friendly arm.  He was, too,
one of the noblest and most generous characters I have ever met with,
and his instinctive delicacy of feeling rendered him all the more
attractive in my eyes.  I consented to be his wife, conditionally on his
taking no others, and to this he readily agreed, for, I believe, no
woman but myself ever had any charm for him.

"We were married according to the Basuto forms; but at my desire we also
recited the vow of husband and wife, according to the marriage service
of the English Church, and for ten years lived happily together.  I
should mention that I found the medical knowledge I had acquired in my
girlhood of the greatest benefit to my newly adopted countrymen.
Several times, when epidemic fevers, common to this country, broke out,
I was successful in treating them, and my husband's authority enabled me
to enforce regulations, which otherwise I could not have induced the
people to observe.  When my husband was killed, some fifteen years ago,
by the sudden fall of a tree, the tribe insisted on making me their
Queen; and nothing has ever seriously disturbed the prosperity of my
reign.  Ella, who was born a few years after our marriage, is our only
surviving child.

"Such is my history--a strange one, no doubt.  Probably most persons
would regard me as an object of pity, to say the least.  But I do not
share the opinion.  I have had, in my way, much happiness; and, if I
have been deprived of privileges and blessings, which fall ordinarily to
the lot of Englishwomen, have also escaped many sorrows and trials, to
which in my own country I should have been exposed.

"But there are two points on which I should like to say something before
I conclude.  I dare say you have thought it strange that I did not
communicate with my countrymen at Cape Town, when the colony fell into
their hands.  But news travels so slowly in these wild and distant
regions, that I did not know with any certainty what had taken place
till long after the occurrence.  Then, my husband's death for the time
drove all other thoughts from my mind; and when I had regained my
composure enough to attend once more to the affairs of my kingdom, and I
sent an embassy to the English Governor, I found that the colony had
been given back to the Dutch.

"The other matter is a more important one.  I should be sorry for you,
Mr De Walden, to think that I made no effort to induce my husband to
adopt Christianity as his creed.  It was a subject on which we often
talked, and though he was slow to accept ideas so wholly new, yet they
gradually grew upon him, and before his death he was a convert to
Christ.

"No Christian minister ever came into our neighbourhood during the whole
of our married life, or he would doubtless have gladly welcomed him, and
received baptism at his hands.  As it was, I myself administered the
rite to him, when I saw that he was dying.

"I have done my best to bring up Ella in our faith, and to teach what I
could to others round me; but I hail your coming--the first preacher of
the Gospel I have encountered in this land--with the utmost
thankfulness, and trust you will remain among us as our teacher and
guide, assured that all the help and countenance that I can give shall
be most willingly and gladly bestowed."

She ceased, and De Walden, who had listened to her story with profound
interest, hastened to make answer.

"Be assured, gracious lady, that I will most cheerfully obey your
wishes.  The hand of God is too plainly seen in what has occurred for me
to venture to refuse, even were I so inclined; but earnestly as I have,
for years past, been seeking for an opening like this, and always
hitherto having failed to obtain it, I cannot be thankful enough to the
merciful Providence, which has at last been pleased to hearken to my
prayers."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

LIFE IN THE BASUTO KRAAL--A GIRAFFE HUNT--AN UNEXPECTED INTERFERENCE--
ERNEST AND ELLA--ERNEST'S EMBARRASSMENT.

De Walden soon discovered that Queen Laura had not overstated her
friendly feelings towards him and his companions.  Not only was every
provision made for their comfort, but a large building was set apart for
the special purposes of a missionary school and chapel.  Here such of
the Basuto children as were allowed by their parents to receive
instruction from the English teachers were instructed for two or three
hours every day; while morning and evening prayers were regularly
offered up by the missionary, which all were invited to attend.  The
Queen did not directly order the people to send their children to the
school thus opened, but it was known that she approved of it, and her
popularity with the tribe was so great that very few held back.

The afternoons were usually given up to the more especial education of
Ella; who, though she had been taught by her mother to read and write,
and had studied the few English books which had been saved from the
wreck of the _Grosvenor_, was of course greatly behind English girls of
her age in respect of knowledge.  De Walden undertook her religious
instruction, and gave her besides some general lessons in history and
grammar, but was obliged, by lack of time, to hand over arithmetic and
geography to Warley, who, fresh from a good English school, was well
acquainted with both.  Such an arrangement would have been a somewhat
questionable one in an English family; but here, in the heart of the
African wilderness, its awkwardness was not felt, and Ella's extreme
simplicity of mind prevented any embarrassments which might otherwise
have arisen.

So passed several weeks, with scarcely anything to distinguish one day
from another.  In the morning De Walden and Warley, assisted generally
by Ella, taught the village children to read, write, and cipher; then
came the mid-day meal, when the whole party dined at the Queen's table;
after that there were Ella's lessons, lasting two or three hours; then
some excursion on horseback (for the Queen owned a large stud of
horses), or on the river, when the lads took their rifles with them, and
seldom returned without a goodly supply of game of one kind or another.
During these expeditions, Ella would continually ply her companions with
questions respecting English life, and especially the habits of English
ladies, in which she took a deep and ever-increasing interest; and
Warley, at least, was never tired of satisfying her curiosity.  In the
evenings there was the second meal, and after that De Walden or Warley
read aloud; or the Queen and the missionary would talk over the Europe,
and especially the England, of their young days, of which both
entertained so vivid a remembrance.  It was strange to think that a life
so nearly resembling that of an English home, could be carried out at a
distance of more than seven thousand miles from it, and amid the depths
of an uncultivated wilderness!

Meanwhile nothing could be learned respecting Kobo's movements.  A
messenger had been despatched to the village, in which Queen Laura
usually resided, it being supposed that Kobo had repaired thither in
search of her.  But the Basuto had returned in four or five days, with
the information that nothing had been seen or heard of the missing man.
A party of white men, it was however reported, had been seen travelling
somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Vaal, and it was thought that Kobo
might have joined them.  Further inquiries were set on foot, as soon as
this information was received, as to who these white men were, and
whence they had come; but it was found impossible to obtain any
trustworthy tidings respecting them.  If there ever had been any such
persons in the vicinity of the Gariep, at all events they had long since
departed, and no one knew whither.

It was now again the season of early summer, and the shrubs and flowers
were in their full freshness and beauty.  It was resolved to gratify
Nick and Frank (who were beginning to find life in the Basuto kraal
exceedingly dull and wearisome) with some sport, which they had not yet
witnessed.  In particular, they were anxious to see the giraffe hunted;
and it having been reported that a large herd of these animals had been
seen browsing in a kloof at no great distance, a party was formed for
going in chase of them on the ensuing day.  The Queen had desisted from
the sports of the field for two or three years past, and De Walden could
not afford, at the present juncture, to lose even a day with his
scholars.  But all the others joined the expedition, accompanied by the
Princess Ella, who in the use of the bow and arrow was as skilful as any
warrior of the tribe.  They were all mounted on fleet steeds, especially
trained to the pursuit of the giraffe; for to horses not so broken in,
the scent of the camelopard is so offensive that they cannot be induced
to approach it.

It was a fine fresh morning.  The horsemen, eight in number, were
attended by a much larger company of Basutos on foot, whose business it
was to spread themselves in all directions over the woodland, and drive
the gigantic animals towards the spot where the horsemen were lying in
ambush.  These accordingly dispersed, north, east, and west; while the
riders, in groups of two or three, repaired to their appointed station.

"Were you fond of riding when in your own country, Ernest?" asked the
princess, as they cantered lightly side by side over the mossy turf.

"I seldom had the opportunity," answered Warley.  "Horses are costly,
both to buy and to keep, in England, and I was not rich, you know."

"Not rich!  How strange it seems to me, to hear you say that!  It seems
to me that the very poorest in England must be far richer than my mother
or myself.  All the things that appear to me to be really valuable are
within the reach of every one there, so at least I gather from what you
have told me; while we can obtain none of them, even though we gave all
we had for their possession."

"Viewing things in that light, what you say is true, Ella.  But you have
advantages which few in England possess.  You have influence and power
over others--"

"Ah, I understand, and you will teach us how to use these rightly.  I
rejoice every day more and more that you have come among us."

"And I am not less glad, Ella, believe me."

"You!--you glad to be here, Ernest?  What! far away from your home and
friends, in a wild and strange land like this?  You are jesting,
surely."

"Indeed I am not, Ella.  I would not be back in England, if a wish could
place me there."

Ella would have replied, but they had now reached the spot where they
had agreed to assemble, and the rest of the party joined them.  It was
an open glade, of perhaps an acre in extent, in the heart of a thickly
wooded country.  For the most part, the trees were not more than ten or
twelve feet high, though here and there oomahaamas and baobabs were to
be seen, the former towering to a great height against the sky--the
latter of enormous girth, sixty or eighty feet at the least--their
trunks resembling large columns of granite, in the grey colour and rough
surface they presented.  It was in the midst of a group of these that
the party now assembled; the massy stems and dense foliage effectually
screening them from view, though they could themselves see the whole
country round them.  Presently a distant sound was heard, like that of
trampling hoofs, which grew louder and louder, until the elegant
tapering necks of a dozen giraffes came into sight, as they raced along
with the gallop which appears so graceful until the legs come into
sight, and then so clumsy and confused.  On they sped, balancing their
lengthy bodies anew, as it appeared, every time they laid leg to the
ground, and whisking their tufted tails from side to side, as though to
stimulate themselves to fresh exertions.

As soon as the herd had entered the open glade, the horsemen broke
cover, and galloped after them, hoping to approach them sufficiently
near to be able to strike them with their spears or arrows.  But the
animals caught the flash of the first assegai that issued from under the
baobabs, and wheeling instantly round, continued their career at more
headlong speed than before.  The only chance now lay in riding them
down; and this might be accomplished with the trained horses ridden by
the party, though only after a furious gallop of many miles.  As if
aware of this possibility, and anxious to avoid it as much as possible,
the giraffes now no longer kept together in a single herd, but fled in
different directions, only two or three remaining in company, and
several galloping singly off through the forest paths.  As the natural
consequence of this, the pursuers also broke up in smaller bands; and by
and by, Warley and Ella found themselves separated from the rest, and
riding at full speed in pursuit of one of the largest giraffes, which
was making for a long stretch of open down, lying beyond the woodland.
They were both mounted on strong and spirited horses, and being light
weights, were enabled to keep the animal in sight for the first mile, in
which it usually succeeds in distancing its pursuers.

"Keep on, Ernest," said Ella, encouragingly, "we shall soon begin to
gain upon him.  Can you fire from the saddle?  If so, you will get a
shot before me.  My bow will not carry nearly the distance of your
rifle."

"Yes, I can fire pretty steadily from a horse's back now," returned
Warley, "especially when I am on Sultan, as I call him.  I have had a
good deal of practice lately."

"That is well," said Ella.  "The country will change in a few minutes
now, and we shall be out of the bush.  The giraffe is already abating
his speed.  We shall gain on him every minute now."

Ella's words were soon made good.  As they emerged from the woody cover,
the animal's strength began perceptibly to fail.  They were soon within
two hundred yards of him, and drawing closer with every stride of their
horses.  Ella now bent her bow, and took an arrow from the quiver slung
behind her, while Warley disengaged his rifle and cocked it.  When they
had approached within fifty yards, he thought he might venture to fire.
Even should he fail in mortally wounding the camelopard, he was pretty
sure of hitting it somewhere, and the loss of blood would gradually
diminish the creature's strength.  He levelled accordingly, and drew the
trigger, just as they were nearing a pile of rocks on which a quantity
of bushes were growing.  The moment after the report of his piece had
been heard, the animal suddenly recoiled, and seemed to be on the point
of falling.  Ernest pushed on to finish it with a second shot, but as he
rode up abreast of it, a fierce roar burst from behind an angle of rock,
and a lion of the largest size sprang on the back of the giraffe.
Almost immediately afterwards a second appeared, and seized the
unfortunate animal in the neck and chest.  Under the pressure of their
weight it was unable to continue its flight.  It plunged violently,
making desperate, but wholly ineffectual, efforts to shake off its
tormentors, and tearing up the earth with its hoofs.  But in less time
than it takes to tell it, the giraffe was borne to the ground, feebly
gasping out its life under the merciless claws and teeth of its
assailants.

Meanwhile the horses had been almost as much terrified by the sudden
apparition of the monarchs of the forest, as the camelopard itself.
That which carried Ella rushed frantically off at a speed, which she was
at first unable to check.  Warley's steed sprang on one side, with an
abruptness which dislodged its rider, who had dropped the rein,
preparing for a second shot.  Warley was thrown to the ground, his rifle
falling several yards in advance of him; and the frightened animal
galloped off at its utmost speed.  Ernest was left in a most dangerous
position.  The lions having torn their prey down, did not proceed
immediately to devour it, but glared round them, as though anticipating
the approach of another enemy.  Warley lay at the distance of only a few
yards, his figure fully exposed to the view of the angry monsters, which
stood over the carcass of the giraffe, lashing their flanks with their
tails, and sending up roar after roar, each seeming more savage than the
last.  Ernest dared not move hand or foot; his instinct, rather than his
reason, told him that his only hope lay in the lions believing him to be
really dead, in which case they would not probably trouble themselves
about him.

He lay thus for nearly a quarter of an hour, the sun beating fiercely
down on his unprotected head, for his cap had been dislodged in the
fall, contemplating the huge brutes through his half-shut eyes.  At the
end of that time his ear caught the twang of a bow from the adjoining
thicket, and the nearest lion leapt into the air with an arrow sticking
in his breast, while the second lion bounded off and disappeared behind
the rocks.  Before Ella could discharge a second missile, the wounded
beast had charged her; and her horse, which was snorting with terror,
and had with the greatest difficulty been forced back to the scene of
the encounter, stumbled in its blind haste over the root of a tree,
rolling over its rider.

Ella was in even greater danger than Ernest had been.  She lay at the
distance of a few yards from her fallen steed, bruised and breathless.
The lion paused for a minute, seeming uncertain as to which of his
fallen enemies he meant to spring upon.  That moment of indecision saved
the princess's life.  Ernest recovered his rifle the moment the lion's
attention was withdrawn from him, and now fired his second barrel at the
distance of only a few yards, into the shoulder of the monster, just a
few inches from the place where Ella's arrow was sticking.  It was
levelled at exactly the right spot.  The limbs, which were just
crouching for the spring, suddenly collapsed, and the terrible enemy
fell lifeless in the dust.

Warley now ran up and took the lifeless form of Ella into his arms,
endeavouring, by every means he could think of, to restore its
animation.  He chafed her cold hands, he loosened the clasp which had
confined her dress at the neck; and finding these efforts vain, carried
her in his arms to a small spring, which rose hard by, and threw water
into her face.  This last remedy presently took effect.  The princess
opened her eyes with a long sigh, and looked confusedly round her.

"Where am I?" she exclaimed feebly.  Then, as her glance lighted on the
face of Ernest bending anxiously over her, and the figure of the dead
lion, lying at the distance of a few yards, the whole occurrence seemed
to come back to her memory.

"Oh, Ernest," she exclaimed, "the lion!  You saved me, then.  Are you
not hurt yourself?"

"I have escaped with only a bruise or so," said Warley; "and it is you
who have saved me, not I you.  Are you sure the fall from the horse has
not injured you?"

"No, that was nothing," returned Ella, colouring under the earnestness
of his gaze.  "I threw myself from his back as he fell, and he did not
touch me.  I don't think he is hurt either.  If we can catch the horses,
we had better rejoin the party.  The skins of the giraffe and lion will
be a valuable prize."

Warley soon caught Ella's horse, and then went in search of his own,
which he found grazing quietly at the distance of two or three hundred
yards.  They mounted and galloped off in quest of Wilmore and Gilbert,
encountering them and the Basutos in attendance in about half an hour,
and finding them greatly vexed at their ill success.  The giraffes had
galloped up the side of a long slope of hill, which gave them so great
an advantage, that when the horsemen reached the summit of the range,
the herd were quite out of sight, and after several ineffectual attempts
to regain the scent, they were obliged to abandon the pursuit.  They
heard of Ella's and Ernest's success with equal surprise and
satisfaction, and hurrying off in the direction indicated, were soon
engaged in flaying the hides off both animals, as well as in selecting
the choicest morsels of the camelopard's flesh to supply the Queen's
table.

Late in the evening the party returned to the kraal, where they were
welcomed by the Queen and De Walden, who questioned them as to what had
taken place during the hunt.  But neither Ella nor Warley seemed
inclined to say more than they could help on the subject.  The truth
was, that a feeling of mutual liking had been growing up between the two
since the first day of their meeting; when the princess had owed her
life to Warley's promptitude.  The attachment was little to be wondered
at under the circumstances.  Warley was now in his one-and-twentieth
year--a fine well-grown young man, with a face of rare intelligence.  He
was the first Englishman who had come under Ella's notice; and when
contrasted with the dark-skinned and coarse-visaged Basutos, he seemed
like a being from some higher sphere.  On the other hand, Ella's rare
grace and beauty, her exquisite simplicity and frankness, were the
qualities most likely to captivate a youth of Ernest's imaginative
temperament; and the wild freedom of the life, by which they were
surrounded, only added to the charm.  But though he was conscious of the
fascination, which was daily growing stronger, Warley felt perplexed and
uncomfortable.  He could not turn hunter, and live all his life in these
remote solitudes.  But to take Ella with him, to England or elsewhere,
as his wife, was wholly impracticable, so far as he could see.  How
could he maintain her?  How induce others to receive her?  What would
his friends say to such an alliance? or indeed to his forming any
alliance at all?  The life which had been arranged for him--that of a
clerk in a house at Calcutta--it seemed impossible that Ella could share
that.  The idea of marrying Ella was, in fact, little better than a wild
dream.

On the other hand, if Ella was not to be his wife, he ought not to
remain in the Basuto village.  There could be no doubt that they were
getting to like one another--to speak the plain truth, they were both
already deeply in love Ella did not think it necessary to disguise her
feelings, as an English girl would have done; and though she was modest
and maidenly, showed her preference plainly enough.  Every day of their
mutual intercourse did but deepen the feeling.  If it was to end in
nothing, he ought to go away at once.

But how was he to go away?  It was true that Frank and Nick had long
been anxious to set out on a journey to Cape Town, and he might go with
them.  De Walden, of course, would remain with Queen Laura, and
prosecute his missionary work.  He would be sorry to lose Warley no
doubt, and so probably would Queen Laura; but neither would in all
likelihood interpose any serious obstacle.  There were, however, what
seemed insuperable objections.

In the first place, they were bound to await Lavie's return.  Queen
Laura had despatched a messenger to Chuma, with a friendly message soon
after their arrival in her dominions, and had entreated him to send to
her any tidings that might be received from the white men.  A favourable
answer had been brought back from the Bechuana chief.  The rainmaker had
been killed, and as soon as he was dead, the truth as to the origin of
the cattle disease had been disclosed by the natives, who had been aware
of the facts from the first, but afraid to tell them.  Chuma saw how he
had been deceived as to the white man's truth and honesty, and was
sincerely grieved at having so misused him.  He promised that as soon as
Lavie, or any emissary from him should appear, the tidings should be at
once forwarded to the Basutos.  These might now be looked for every day.
It was strange that they had not arrived long before.  If, then, Warley
and the others were to set out for Cape Town now, they would inevitable
miss the expected messengers, and might not see their friends for
months, instead of for a few days only.  Then there was Kobo.  It was
not at all certain that he was not still on the search for them.  It
would be a breach of faith if they were to leave him in the lurch; and
after all his exertions in their behalf, this was not to be thought of.
And, lastly, if Mr Lavie should not be at Cape Town when they arrived--
and the chances were very greatly against his being there--there was no
one to whom he could appeal for help or maintenance, excepting his
brother.  And the idea of applying to him was so repulsive, that he felt
he would rather do anything than resort to it.  No.  Departure from the
Basuto village was impossible at the present crisis.  He must wait
patiently, for a few weeks more, at all events.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

FRANK AND NICK REBEL--A HAZARDOUS DETERMINATION--A SUDDEN DEPARTURE--A
WOUNDED BUFFALO--OMINOUS SOUNDS--RESCUE AT THE LAST MOMENT.

Of all the party, De Walden was now the only one who was contented to
remain in his present position.  He was, indeed, in a more contented
frame of mind than any he had enjoyed since he first entered the Cape
Colony.  It seemed as if his wishes, so long frustrated, had on a sudden
received their full accomplishment--as though the seed he had been
vainly sowing for so many years, had sprung up to ripeness in an hour.
Not only had he his band of regular worshippers, who every Sunday
publicly attended his ministrations; not only had he his school filled
with boys and girls, learning, with an intelligence which would hardly
have been found among European children of the same age, the rudiments
of Christianity--but there were several adult converts, who were so far
advanced that they were almost ready to receive baptism; and many more,
though they had not openly given in their adhesion to the new doctrines,
were gravely and seriously considering the matter.  If things should
continue to go on as favourably as at present, such an impression would
be made in the course of a few months on the whole tribe, as could
hardly fail to end in their open profession of Christianity.  De Walden
had seen much of life--much in particular of missionary life; and felt
inwardly assured that he would not be permitted to accomplish so great a
work, without strong and determined opposition.  He marvelled at his
success from day to day; but meanwhile it was his duty to go on in
faith, thankful for the mercy shown so far, and prepared to face the
reverse, as soon as it should appear.

Ernest Warley, we have seen, felt perplexed and embarrassed by his
position as regarded Ella; but the Basuto village had, nevertheless, an
attraction for him, which would have made it full of delightful and
absorbing interest, if his conscience had not every day pricked him more
keenly as to the mischief he was unwillingly doing.  But Wilmore and
Gilbert, who had not the same sources of interest as either De Walden or
Warley, began at last find their sojourn so intolerably wearisome, that
they to could no longer endure it.  "I tell you what it is, Frank," said
Gilbert one day, when they had lain down to rest, under the shade of a
large oomahaama overshadowing their hut, after an hour's practice at
throwing the assegai, with which sport they had endeavoured to relieve
the tedium of an idle morning--"I tell you what it is; if I stay here
much longer, I shall go downright melancholy mad.  They can't put me
into an asylum, because, I suppose, there are no articles of that kind
to be met with hereabouts.  But they'll have to appoint keepers, and
extemporise a straight waistcoat of rhinoceros hide, and shave my head,
and all the rest of it."

"I am pretty nearly as bad as you are, Nick," returned Wilmore.
"There's De Walden for ever teaching those niggers, and there's Ernest
for ever dangling about Ella; and very pleasant I dare say, they find
it.  But you and I don't particularly fancy young darkies, and haven't
any girls to talk to, seeing Miss Ella has no ears for any one but
Ernest.  I am tired of trying to learn Basuto, or to throw an assegai,
or shoot with one of their bows and arrows, which are about big enough
for a child of ten years old.  If we could only go out with our guns
every day--"

"We are not to go out again," interrupted Nick.  "The powder's running
so very short, that there are not above a dozen charges left.  So we
must learn assegai throwing and archery, if we mean to have any sport in
future."

"I shall never make a hand at either," said Frank.  "A fellow must be
born to it, to knock things over as these Basutos do.  Well, I agree
with you, I don't think I can stand this much longer, without going
stark crazy."

"Suppose we _don't_ stand it, Frank," suggested Gilbert.  "It quite
rests with ourselves.  No one can compel us."

"I don't quite understand you," said Wilmore.  "How can we help
ourselves?"

"By taking ourselves off," answered the other.

"Look here.  They say we ought to remain until the messengers return
that were sent to Cape Town, and that it would be hard upon Lavie, if he
were to come here and find us gone.  Very good.  But De Walden and
Warley both mean to remain with Queen Laura; so that whenever he may
come (if he _does_ come) he will find them, and that will answer every
purpose.  But you and I may go our way, and leave them to go theirs."

"What! you propose that we two should set off for Cape Town alone, hey?
Could we find our way, think you?"

"I don't see why we shouldn't.  We know the exact position of Cape Town,
and the pocket compass, which Lavie gave me, will enable us to go at all
events in the right direction.  It will take a long time, no doubt--"

"Three or four months, at least," said Wilmore.

"About that, I judge," rejoined Gilbert.  "But then we shall be
tolerably sure to fall in with some Dutch village or farm before we have
got half-way; and the Dutch are hospitable, though not civil to the
English.  They couldn't turn us out into the wilderness, anyhow."

"No, I suppose not," said Frank, "particularly as we have got money to
pay for what we want.  But then, Nick, how are we to subsist till we
reach one of these villages or farms.  The nearest, I believe, are fully
two hundred miles off, if we went ever so straight.  With only six
charges in our guns--"

"We must reserve our fire for great emergencies," interrupted Nick.  "I
have my knife, any way, and we have learned something by this time,
remember, and know where to find the roots and fruits these fellows eat.
Besides, it's the season for birds' eggs now, and there'll be heaps of
them."

"Yes, and we can take a lot of mealeys with us," added Wilmore.  "They
will go into a small compass and last a long time.  Well, Nick, I don't
mind, if I go in for this with you.  So far as I can see, we may wait
here, day after day, for the next twelvemonth; and I'd rather take my
chance of being devoured alive by the wild beasts, or knocked on the
head by the savages, than have to go through that.  When do you propose
that we should make a start?"

"Well, we must first of all lay in a store of mealeys--I always meant to
take them: and I should like to get out of De Walden the nearest way to
the banks of the Gariep.  I've an idea that if we could reach that, we
might make another raft like that on which we made our voyage to the
island, and float on it till we came to the place where we were carried
away by the flood.  We should both know that again."

"That's not a bad idea, Nick.  We should find plenty to eat as we went
along.  We could store up a lot of figs, or dates or bananas on the
raft--enough to last us a week, I dare say; and the current runs pretty
swift, I expect.  Only how about the falls at different parts of the
river?  I've heard there are several places where there are rapids, or
actual cascades."

"I don't think there are between this and the place I was speaking of.
Anyhow we must be on the look out, and if we see any reason to think we
are getting near one, we must run ashore.  Of course there must be some
risk, you know."

"Of course.  Well, I am game to go, and I think we had better make a
start as soon as possible.  Suppose we look up the mealeys to-morrow and
the next day--Tuesday, that is, and Wednesday, and set out on Thursday."

"We had better set out on Wednesday night.  There is a full moon then,
which will light us as well as broad day would.  And it would give us a
start of ten hours or so before we were missed."

"Very good.  I have no objection.  It is the pleasantest time for
travelling during the warm weather."

On the Wednesday evening, accordingly, the two boys set out on their
expedition.  Nick had managed skilfully to extract the information he
desired from the missionary, without exciting his suspicions; and they
had had no difficulty in gathering a heap of ripe mealeys, as large as
they could carry in their knapsacks, unobserved by any one.  They were
careful to take no more than the exact amount of powder, which they
considered to be their share of the remaining stock.  Frank also wrote a
few lines, addressed to Warley, in which he told him, that they had
found their life of late so unendurable that they had resolved to brave
every toil and danger, rather than continue to undergo it.  He begged
that no attempt might be made at pursuit; because in event of their
being overtaken, they were resolved positively to refuse to return to
the Basuto village.  Lastly, he assured Ernest, that if they succeeded
in reaching Cape Town, they would take care that steps were immediately
taken for securing his safe journey thither.

Having left this letter on the table, where it would be sure to be found
on the following morning, the two lads set forth under the bright
moonlight, and travelled in safety some fifteen or sixteen miles through
the night and into the next day, when the burning heat warned them that
it was time to rest.  They started again an hour or two after sunset,
and again pursued their way through almost unbroken solitude, tracking
their way partly by the aid of Gilbert's compass, partly by their
recollection of Mr De Walden's information.  So many days passed on,
until the whole of their store of provisions was exhausted, and they
were fain to supply themselves with anything eatable, which the desert
or forest could furnish.

But here they found, for the first time, their calculations fail them.
The plains they traversed were either wastes of arid sand, or ranges of
forest producing haak-doorns and kamel doorns and mimosas in abundance,
and occasionally sycamores and acacias, but none of the fruit trees they
had reckoned on finding.  At the end of the second day, they were
obliged to expend some of their dearly cherished ammunition in firing at
a gemsbok, which came full upon them in one of the turnings of the
forest, and which they were fortunate enough to wound with the first
shot they fired, and kill with a second.

Collecting a heap of dry grass and wood, they succeeded, by the help of
Lavie's burning-glass, which had been the doctor's parting gift to
Frank, in lighting a fire, at which they roasted a considerable part of
the gemsbok's flesh, and having made a hearty meal upon it, stored the
remains in their knapsacks.  A considerable supply of meat was thus
obtained, and for two or three days they fared well enough, especially
as there was a fall of rain, which gave them plenty of water.

But the line of country through which they passed continued as barren of
the means of supporting existence as ever, and they were presently
reduced to the same straits as before.  They began, indeed, now to be
somewhat alarmed at their situation.  They had reckoned that it would be
a fortnight's journey to the banks of the Gariep; but they had been ten
days on their route, and had not, so far as they could calculate,
accomplished half the distance.  Each of them had only two charges of
powder left, and it was evident that their guns alone could be reckoned
on, as furnishing them with food in the country where they were now
travelling.  Their condition was rendered worse by two unsuccessful
attempts which they made to shoot a buffalo on the day after the last
batch of gemsbok meat had been consumed.  They had come on the track of
a herd of buffaloes, which they had resolved to follow, and after many
hours of careful stalking, they had got so near to the herd at sunset as
to venture a shot.  But, just as in the former instance, though the
animal was hit, and it might be severely wounded, it did not fall, but
was able to make off with the rest of the herd.

"Oh, Frank, what will become of us?" exclaimed Nick, as he witnessed
this mishap.  "If we don't get food somewhere to-night, I feel as if I
should perish of hunger."

"Never say die, Nick," said Frank, cheerily.  "Look here!  This brute is
hit hard, I'm sure of that; and I'm pretty sure, too, that he won't hold
out very long.  Just look what lots of blood he has left behind him.
They'll be quite enough to enable us to track him, even by this light.
We'll follow up the blood-marks until we find him.  Even if another shot
should be necessary, we shall still have a charge apiece left, if we
should be attacked.  If we kill the buffalo it will supply us with food
for a long time to come, and it is very unlikely that the country will
continue as bare of all fruit, as it has been since we left the
village."

"All right, Frank," returned Nick; "that is the best way of viewing it
at all events.  I'll just take a hole up in my belt to stop the
importunities of my stomach, and then we'll be off after the buffalo.
We may as well go that way as any other, at all events."

They set out accordingly, following without difficulty, by the help of
the moon, the course taken by the herd across the open plain and the
intervening patches of scrub for two or three hours.  The marks of blood
were plainly enough visible all the way, sometimes in large patches, as
though the wounded animal had stopped behind the rest through momentary
weakness; and then again only a drop here and there, as if it had again
exerted its remaining strength to overtake the herd.  At last they came
to a spot where a larger puddle than any before stained the adjacent
grass and sand, and then the marks no longer followed the general track,
but turned aside into a deep thicket, through which the two boys had
considerable difficulty in following its course.

They had advanced some distance, when Nick suddenly laid his hand on his
companion's arm.

"Did you hear that?" he said.

"Hear what?" returned Wilmore.

"I fancied I heard a shot fired," said Gilbert, "but I suppose I must
have been mistaken."

"A shot!  Who could there be in these parts to fire one?  It was the
fall of a large stone from the cliffs, most likely.  They are often
dislodged by the wind, and make a noise like the report of a gun.  Come
along, we shall not have much further to go, I expect."

"Hist!" exclaimed Nick, again stopping.  "I am quite sure I hear
something now, though in a different quarter from that in which I
fancied the gun was fired."

"What do you hear?" asked Wilmore, stopping and listening with all his
ears.

"A kind of low growling, or groaning," answered Nick; "or perhaps
grinding of teeth.  It is very indistinct; but I am certain that I hear
it."

"It is the poor brute in his dying agony," said Frank.  "Push on.  We
must be close to him now."

By this time the dawn had begun to break, and the daylight diffused
itself rapidly over the scene.  The beams of the rising sun showed that
they were, as Frank said, close on the buffalo's trail.  The grass was
trampled down, as if by heavy footsteps, and blood, evidently only
recently shed, stained the bushes and long grass in profusion.  And now
the sound heard by Nick became plainly audible to Frank also.

"Cock your gun, Nick!" he said.  "He may have life enough left in him to
give us some trouble yet."

As he spoke he turned the corner of a large mass of prickly pear, which
had been partly forced aside and partly torn away by the passage of some
heavy body, and came upon a sight which was as alarming as it was
unexpected.

The carcass of the buffalo lay on the ground, already partially
devoured.  Standing over it were a male and female panther (or tiger, as
the natives of South Africa are wont to call them), engaged in tearing
the flesh from the ribs with their long white shining teeth.  The
animals were as big as an ordinary English mastiff, and the glare of
their large yellow eyes showed that the ferocity of their nature was
fully awakened.  Frank fell back, as soon as his eye lighted on them,
conscious that his best hope of escape lay in instantly withdrawing from
the spot; but Nick, who had already raised his gun before he had come in
sight of the enemy he was about to encounter, drew his trigger, scarcely
aware of what he was doing, wounding the male panther severely, but not
mortally, in the chest.  With a fierce howl of agony and rage combined,
the tiger sprang straight upon him; and if he had not been
extraordinarily light of limb and quick of eye, the next moment would
have been his last.  But the moment the charge left the barrel, he
perceived the imminence of the danger threatening him, and, dropping his
gun, he sprang lightly on one side.  The brute's claws and teeth just
missed their aim, but the body, in passing, struck him with sufficient
force to prostrate him insensible on the ground.  The wounded panther
had no sooner recovered from its spring, than it turned back to fasten
on its fallen enemy; but Frank, stepping instantly up, with ready
presence of mind, applied the muzzle of his rifle to its ear, as it was
on the very point of bending its neck, and it fell lifeless on the
ground.

But the boys were now left quite helpless.  The last charge had been
fired, and the remaining panther, which had stood motionless since the
discharge of the gun, watching as it were the issue of the struggle, now
gave evident signs that it was about to avenge its mate.  Erecting its
tail, it uttered a low growl, which swelled gradually into a savage
roar.  Another minute and his teeth would have been fastened in the
lad's throat; but before the animal could make its leap, the sound of
pattering feet was heard, and a large dog, bounding through the bushes,
sprang on the tiger and caught it by the throat.  The brute turned
savagely on its new assailant, and a furious combat commenced; the tiger
tearing the ribs of the mastiff with its claws, but unable to shake off
the hold it had fastened on its throat Frank gazed with blank amazement
at the appearance of this unexpected champion, which seemed to have
fallen from the skies for his deliverance; and his astonishment was
increased when he perceived, as he presently did, that the dog was no
other than his long-lost, faithful Lion!  How he could be still living,
and still more, what could have brought him there, he could not
conceive.  But it was no moment for speculation.  His favourite was
matched against an antagonist which, if it did not prove victor in the
struggle, might at all events inflict the most deadly wounds before it
could be overcome.  Frank stooped, and drew the strong clasped knife
which Nick always carried in his belt.  Opening this, he stepped forward
to the spot, where the two animals, now covered with dust and blood,
were savagely rending one another; he waited for the moment when the
panther's breast became exposed, and plunged the knife into it up to the
hilt.  The stab was mortal.  Unfastening the grip of its teeth on Lion's
side, the brute endeavoured to seize this new enemy; but it could not
disengage itself from Lion's hold.  Its jaws collapsed, its savage eyes
grew filmy and dim, and in another minute the mastiff was tearing and
shaking the inanimate carcass of its adversary.

"Lion!  Lion! dear old boy!--are you much hurt," exclaimed Frank,
running up, and throwing his arms round his favourite's neck; "however
did you come here? and where have you been all these weeks and months?
I can hardly believe, even now, that it is really you."

"Yes, it really him--it Lion for sure.  Kobo and he make friends--know
each other ever so long," said a tall Bechuana, who had now joined the
party, and stood with a grin on his black face.  "But, Master Nick--he
not hurt, is he?"

"What, Kobo, you too here!" exclaimed Frank.  "But we'll talk about that
presently.  We must see to Nick here.  I declare I almost forgot him in
the surprise and joy at seeing old Lion again.  But men before dogs.  I
am pretty sure, though, Gilbert isn't hurt.  He's only stunned by the
weight of the leopard's body, when he sprang on him."

They raised the lad between them, and soon had the satisfaction of
seeing him open his eyes, and draw in a long breath; and then, after
once or twice stretching himself, and feeling his chest and ribs,
declare that he wasn't a pin the worse, and would be ready for his
dinner, as soon as ever Kobo could supply him with any!



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

THE LONG-EXPECTED ARRIVAL--CAPTAIN WILMORE'S NARRATIVE--THE TUTELARY
SPIRIT--LION TO THE RESCUE--PLANS FOR THE FUTURE--THE FUTURE CHURCH.

It was not until quite late on the morning after the departure of the
boys, that the fact became known to De Walden and Ernest.  It chanced to
be the day appointed by the missionary for the baptism of two of his
adult converts, for whom Ernest and Ella were to act as sponsors.  In
the interest of the occasion, the absence of the two boys was not
noticed; and it was not until after the conclusion of the rite, that
Ernest, happening to enter Frank's sleeping room, to ask some casual
question of him, saw the note left on the table.  As soon as he had read
it, he repaired to his friend's apartment, and the two held an anxious
consultation as to the course which, under the circumstances, it would
be most expedient for them to pursue.  De Walden knew--what none of the
three lads could surmise--how great was the danger incurred by the
truants, and how slender the hope of their succeeding in carrying out
their projected scheme.  They must be pursued, and overtaken, and warned
of their peril, whatever might be the risk or fatigue incurred by so
doing.  If, after such warning, they persisted in their rash enterprise,
they could not, of course, be prevented from pursuing it; but the blame
would then rest wholly with themselves.

They were still engaged in arranging their plans for immediate pursuit,
when Ella entered the room where they were seated, with tidings which
were even more unexpected than those they had that morning received.

"My father," she said--so she always addressed De Walden--"the visitors
you and Ernest have been so long expecting, have arrived, and are now
with my mother.  Will you come and see them?"

"The visitors, Ella!" exclaimed Warley, starting up.  "Whom can you
mean?--not Lavie surely--"

"Yes, he is one," returned Ella, "and there is a captain, an English
captain.  He is Frank's father or uncle--"

"Captain Wilmore!" cried Warley.  "Has he fallen in with Frank?"

"No, we have told him that he and Gilbert have gone off by themselves,
and that they cannot be very far off, and he means to go in search of
them, I believe.  But he wants to see you first."

De Walden and Ernest hastened to the Queen's apartment, and were soon
exchanging a cordial grasp of the hand with the new-comers.

"God be praised for this!" said the missionary.  "You cannot think how
anxious I have been about you, Charles, though I did not tell the lads
so.  Unwilling as I was to leave this place, I had fully resolved that
if the present month should pass without tidings of you, I would set off
with them for Cape Town.  I wish now I had told them of my intention; it
would no doubt have prevented this foolish escapade of theirs.  I knew I
could trust Ernest to remain quiet, and I thought I could trust the
others."

"You must not blame them, sir," said Warley.  "I have no doubt they had
the same idea which I have entertained myself, though I thought it best
to say nothing about it, that treacherous orders had been given to your
guide to prevent your ever reaching Cape Town."

"I cannot wonder that either you or they thought that," said De Walden,
"after Chuma's treatment of us."

"But," resumed Warley, "if I was doubtful about Charles's safety, I was
much more despondent about Captain Wilmore.  I had little hope, I
confess, of ever seeing him again."

"And you would have had less hope still, my lad," said Captain Wilmore,
"if you had known what befell us when we left the _Hooghly_."

"You must hear the whole history from his own lips," said Lavie; "but
not just now.  We have a good deal to do this morning that must be
attended to."

"I dare say the captain will relate it after supper," said De Walden.
"Now come and hear the report of the scouts."

That evening, accordingly, when the repast in the Queen's apartments was
concluded, Captain Wilmore was called upon for the particulars of his
adventures, which he was no way unwilling to relate.

"You two will remember," he began, "the gale soon after we left the Cape
de Verdes.  The foreigners I had taken on board showed themselves much
smarter hands than I had expected, and worked double tides all the
afternoon.  I didn't suspect their motive for showing so much zeal,
which was no doubt to remove any suspicions I might have entertained,
and make me relax my watch over them.  It quite succeeded.  I turned in
about sundown thoroughly knocked up, but well satisfied with the
behaviour of the ship's company, and intending to have a long sleep.  A
very long sleep it was nearly being--"

"Did they intend to murder you, sir, do you think?" asked Warley.

"I do not think about it," returned the captain.  "I am sure of it.
Half a dozen of them, with their knives drawn, and accompanied by those
villains Duncan and O'Hara, were stealing down the companion to my cabin
when they were challenged by old Jennings, who gave the alarm, and the
pirates were obliged to make the attack openly.  They cut the poor old
man down, but he saved all our lives nevertheless.  I have heard what
became of him from Lavie, and it grieves me much to think that I shall
never have an opportunity in this world of thanking the good old man for
his bravery and self-devotion; but he will not miss his reward."

The captain's voice was husky, and no one spoke for a minute or two;
then Warley broke the silence.

"Well, I should quite have believed that they intended to do it from all
I heard from Jennings and others about Duncan and O'Hara, as well as
from the well-known character of these pirates.  But then, if that was
their intention, why did they allow you to leave the ship unhurt?"

"Ah, why indeed," repeated the captain.  "I can't blame you for
entertaining that notion, my lad; for I, old hand as I am, did not
suspect their infernal treachery and cunning.  You see, when the pirate
ship came up, we were just preparing to blow up the hatches and rush on
deck.  No doubt they would have got the better of us, and killed us to a
man; but before they had managed that they would have suffered
considerably themselves.  That wily villain, Andy Duncan--I have been
told since it was he, and I have no doubt it was--devised a scheme by
which they would be enabled to get rid of us quite as easily as if they
had blown out all our brains, but without incurring any risks
themselves.  We discovered, when we had been an hour or two on board the
boats, that some trick had been played with them, and they were very
slowly but surely filling."

"The merciless wretches!" exclaimed Ernest; "and you were some hundreds
of miles from shore?"

"Yes, quite five hundred from Ascension, which was the nearest land."

"How did you escape, sir?" exclaimed De Walden.

"Only by God's mercy.  The discovery was first made in the launch which
Grey commanded.  The night, you will remember, was very dark, or it
probably would have been made before; but they did not find it out till
it was too late to keep it afloat even for a time.  They shouted to us
for help, but she had sunk before we could reach them, and there was a
strong current just where she went down, which swept them all away--
except one of the mates, who managed to keep afloat until we picked him
up.  On hearing his story, we contrived to strike a light, and examined
our own boat.  There was a leak in her too, but providentially only just
below the waterline.  I suppose whoever did the job, thought the boat
floated deeper than she did; but by lightening her as much as possible,
and throwing all the weight that remained on the other side, we raised
the damaged part out of water, and then baled her out.  When day broke
we were enabled to examine her more carefully.  The injury was beyond
our power to repair effectually.  All we could do was just to keep her
afloat, and if the sea had not been exceptionally calm we could not have
done even that.  Moreover, we had been obliged to throw overboard nearly
all our provisions and water.  In short, we should not only have never
reached Ascension, but must have perished of hunger and thirst very
speedily, if on the morning of the third day, shortly after dawn, a
vessel had not appeared on our lee beam, apparently running before the
light breeze which rippled the sea.

"We tried to attract her attention, but without effect.  She was so near
to us that we thought she must have seen us; but she did not alter her
course, or in any way acknowledge our signals.  Finding that she took no
heed, we resolved, as a last chance, to reach her by rowing, though this
obliged us to right our boat, and the water poured in so fast that
incessant baling would not keep it down.  At last, when we had got quite
close to the ship, the boat was so water-logged that she could not have
been kept afloat ten minutes more.  We hailed again and again, but there
was no answer, nor was any one to be seen on deck.  We came to the
conclusion that she had been deserted by her crew for some reason, or
that they had all died on board, and that she was drifting aimlessly
over the deep.  Fortunately there was a rope hanging over her bows, up
which one of the sailors climbed, and was followed by the others in
succession.  The last of us was hardly out of the cutter when she went
down."

"Had she been deserted?" inquired Ernest.  "Well, yes, by the survivors
of her crew, that is.  She was evidently a Portuguese trader running, I
apprehend, between the West India Islands and Lisbon, and had probably
twenty or twenty-five men on board.  She must have been attacked by one
of the terrible fevers prevalent in the hot climates, the action of
which is sometimes so rapid that all attempts to stay it are useless.
Several, I suppose, must have died, and the rest were so terrified by
the fear of infection, that they had left her.  Any way, there were no
human remains on board, and all the ship's boats were gone."

"I should think the danger into which you ran was worse than the one
from which you had escaped," observed Queen Laura.

"We were of the same opinion, madam," observed Captain Wilmore.  "If we
could have repaired our own boat, or if a single one of the ship's boats
had been left, we should have preferred continuing our own voyage in it.
But as that was impossible, we were obliged to remain in the vessel.
But after consulting with Captain Renton, I resolved to run, not for
Ascension, but for the Cape de Verdes, though they were considerably
further off.  I don't know whether any of you have ever been at
Ascension?"

"We sighted it once, sir," said Lavie; "but I never went ashore there."

"There is not much to see if you do land," said the sailor.  "It is
little better than a great heap of cinders, except just in the interior,
where there is some land capable of cultivation.  It was for a long time
believed that there wasn't a drop of fresh water to be found on it.
That is a mistake.  There are a few springs--enough to support life, and
there are some goats, and plenty of turtle.  But there are no
inhabitants, and I reckoned that if the fever should break out on board
we should find no doctors there, or any means of nursing the sick.  We
shaped our course for the Cape de Verdes, therefore.  We took all
possible precautions, sleeping on deck throughout the voyage, and never
going below unless it was absolutely necessary to bring up food and
water.  Whether it was that these precautions were successful, or
whether it was that I was mistaken in my conjecture as to the reason why
the barque had been deserted, I cannot say.  But we certainly escaped
without any sickness, and reached the Cape de Verdes without the loss of
a man.

"I need not tell you how welcome was the sight of Porto Prayo to us all.
But I had an especial reason for rejoicing at it.  You will remember,
Ernest, the circumstances under which we left Porto Prayo?"

"Yes, sir," said Warley, colouring, "I remember we had behaved very ill.
I have often wished to ask your pardon for it."

"Well, my lad, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other, I
expect," said the captain.  "We may share the blame between us.  I had
often reproached myself for the haste with which I acted; though, at the
same time, I could not help being glad that you were safe, as I
imagined, at Porto Prayo, instead of being exposed to the sufferings and
dangers which had befallen us.  I had no sooner landed than I made
inquiries concerning you; but to my surprise and disappointment I could
learn nothing.  I instituted a most careful search, and offered a large
reward.  But it was all in vain.  Nobody knew anything about you, except
that three foreign-looking lads had been seen about the streets of the
town one day several weeks before.  But no one had fallen in with them,
or had heard anything about them since that date.  I was still
prosecuting my inquiries, when the British fleet, under Sir Home Popham,
on its way, as I learned, to make an attack on the Dutch at the Cape of
Good Hope, sailed into the harbour.

"Fortunately for me, I was an old messmate of the Admiral's, and he was
interested in my story.  Moreover, I knew the Cape well, as was the
case, I found, with very few of the officers of the squadron.  Sir Home
offered me the command of the _Celaeno_, a fine frigate, the captain of
which had died suddenly.  I, of course, gladly accepted it, and was
enabled to render some service."

"Ah, you were present at the taking of the Cape," said Mr De Walden.
"Did the Dutch offer a determined resistance?"

"No," said Captain Wilmore.  "I suppose the experience of the last
campaign disheartened them.  But certainly it was a very hollow affair.
Governor Jansens seemed to me to have given it up as a bad job from the
first.  There was hardly enough resistance to make it any fight at all.
But something did happen to me, nevertheless, in Simon's Bay which was
exciting enough."

"What was that, sir?" asked Ernest.  "You did not encounter the
_Hooghly_, I suppose?"

"Ah, but I did though," said Captain Wilmore, "the _Hooghly_ herself, as
large as life.  The scoundrels had knocked away her figure-head, and
painted her, name and all, anew; but I knew her in a moment, as well as
I know my own face.  We hailed her, and the moment they saw me on the
quarter-deck, they cut their cable, and tried to run for it.  But we
were just entering the harbour, prepared for action, and sent such a
broadside into her as knocked all the mischief out of her in a jiffey.
O'Hara was killed, and White mortally wounded, and as for Andy Duncan,
he was run up to the yardarm and hanged the next morning.  The others
were put into irons, and received various sentences.  Some had seven
dozen.  Others were simply dismissed and sent home."

"Did you learn on board the _Hooghly_ what had befallen us?" asked
Warley.

"Yes, my lad, to my great satisfaction I did.  One of the sailors came
to me on the morning of Duncan's execution, and told me all that had
happened, so far that is, as he knew it.  But he could tell me nothing,
of course, as to what had become of you after your escape from the ship.
All he knew was that you had appeared suddenly on deck two days after
we had left, and it was conjectured by the crew that you had been
concealed somewhere by old Jennings.  Mr Lavie, it also appeared, had
gone off with you, and none of the party appeared to have been hurt.
That comforted me a little, but still I was very anxious and uneasy--the
more so because all inquiries at the Cape for a long time were wholly
fruitless."

"Ah, I was afraid you would be at fault there," said Warley.  "I suppose
you simply heard nothing at all?"

"Very nearly that," said the captain.  "Some of the messengers whom I
sent out did come back with a story that some white men with guns had
been seen in the neighbourhood of Elephant's kloof; but the Hottentots
living near about there denied, one and all, the truth of the rumour."

"The rascals!" exclaimed Ernest.  "When you heard the truth of the
matter, sir, you must have been amused at their denial."

"Yes, afterwards," said Captain Wilmore; "but not at the time.  I was,
in fact, almost in despair when Lavie here arrived all of a moment one
day, looking like a ghost returned from the grave."

"Ay, I am afraid you must have had a trying time of it, Charles," said
De Walden.  "I have sometimes reproached myself for allowing you to go,
considering what the danger and exhaustion must needs be."

"You have no need to do so," said Lavie.  "Whatever I may have undergone
has been more than compensated by our meeting to-day, not to speak of
the appointment which my kind friend has obtained for me.  In fact, if I
had not undertaken the journey, we must have remained in hopeless
captivity."

"Did your Bechuana guide play false?" asked the missionary.

"No, I have no right to say so.  Whether he would have been as faithful
as he was, had matters fallen out differently, may be a matter of doubt.
I half fancy he had received some private instructions from Chuma,
which he did not carry out, for what may seem a very strange reason.  He
was frightened out of his senses by our dog, Lion!"

"Lion!" exclaimed Warley.  "Why, he has been dead for weeks and months,
hasn't he?"

"Not he!  He is as much alive as you or I.  He is at one of the huts
along with Kama and Kobo at this moment."

"I thought I saw him swept away by the flood during that night on the
Gariep."

"So you did, I dare say; but he must have contrived to swim ashore.
Anyhow, we met him two days' journey from the Bechuana village, tracking
us, I fancy, by his instinct, and he would have joined us there before
long, if I had not fallen in with him; but he would not leave me, when
we had once met, and I thought the best thing under the circumstances
would be to take him with me to Cape Town.  But Kama, who had never seen
an animal like him, and who had heard of his having been swept away by
the torrent, believed, I am convinced, that he was a sort of tutelary
spirit, who would be sure to detect any knavery and avenge any false
dealing on his part.  It amused me, I must say, a good deal; but any
way, from the day Lion joined our company to that on which we reached
Cape Town, he never attempted any tricks."

"And then you and Captain Wilmore resolved to go in quest of us," said
De Walden.  "I understand that But how did you find out where we were?
Did you go to the Bechuanas, and hear it from Chuma?"

"No; we were making our way to the village, when we fell in with a man
who was known to Kama, and who, it seemed, knew me too, though I had
quite forgotten him."

"What!  Kobo, I suppose?" exclaimed Warley.

"Yes, that, I believe, is his name.  He told us that you all had escaped
in his company from Chuma, who had quarrelled with you, or with Mr De
Walden.  He said he had left you on an island on the Yellow River
awaiting his return, and we had better accompany him to the place.  So
we did, but there was no trace of you to be found."

"No," said Warley.  "We didn't stay twenty-four hours on the island
after Kobo's departure.  We have been playing at cross purposes with
him.  How did you find out at last where we were?"

"We met your messenger returning from his errand to the Bechuanas, and
learned that the quarrel had been made up.  Nevertheless, all things
considered, it is quite as well that we didn't go there."

"All's well that ends well," said the Queen, who had sat listening to
the discourse of her English guests with the deepest interest,
recalling, as it did, so many varied associations.

"I trust it will end well, madam," observed Captain Wilmore.  "But until
I find my nephew, and young Gilbert, and bring them back safely, I
cannot consider that there is an end to my anxieties."

"We will set off in quest of them to-morrow morning, as soon as you have
had a good rest," said De Walden.  "I have already set some of the best
hunters to follow their track, so as to save us time to-morrow.  I feel
sure that in two or three days, at furthest, we shall come up with
them."

So they probably would have done, had it not been for the length of the
journeys made by the lads on the first two days, and the rains which had
fallen on the third and fourth, which had almost entirely obliterated
all traces of them.  If De Walden had not remembered the questions put
to him by Nick, as to the direction in which the Gariep lay, they would
have been more than once completely at fault.  But this served as a
clue, when everything else failed, and every now and then they came upon
the white embers of a fire, or heaps of dry grass, which had evidently
served for beds, showing that, however slowly they might be progressing,
it was in the right direction.

It was on the afternoon of the ninth day, when Kobo, who, it should be
mentioned, had formed a warm friendship with Lion since leaving the
Basuto village--it was just in the late afternoon, when Kobo, who had
been a little in advance of the rest of the party, came hurrying back
with the news, that there were both hoof marks and large stains of blood
to be seen in the grass and bushes about a hundred yards ahead, as
though some large animal--a gnu, or an eland, or perhaps a buffalo--had
been severely wounded.  If such was the case, most probably they were in
the neighbourhood of the English lads, as there were neither Bechuanas
or Basutos to be found thereabouts.  He added, that it was with the
greatest difficulty that he could restrain Lion, who wanted to rush off,
at the top of his speed, in the direction of the footmarks.

"You had better let him go, Kobo," said De Walden, "and follow him up as
closely as you can.  He'll find Frank, if he is to be found, I'll answer
for it."

"And we'll all come after you," added Lavie.  "Meanwhile, I'll fire my
gun.  They'll hear it if they are anywhere hereabouts."

Lion was accordingly let loose, and immediately galloped off, arriving,
as the reader has heard, just in time to rescue Frank and Nick from
their imminent peril.

It was a joyful meeting, when the whole party assembled on the spot
where the carcasses of the two leopards, and an ugly rent in Lion's
side, bore evidence to how narrow had been the escape of the two boys
from death.  The tears stood in Captain Wilmore's eyes, as he grasped
his nephew warmly by the hand, noticing, even at that moment, how his
figure had improved in strength and manly bearing, and the thoughtful
expression which had taken the place of mere boyish recklessness, on
Gilbert's face.

"My lads," he said, "I was hasty with you.  But for me, you would not
have had to undergo this wandering and danger.  But I have paid the
penalty--"

"Oh, uncle," broke in Frank, "you mustn't say that.  It was all our
fault, mine particularly.  And it hasn't been such bad fun, after all.
I am sure we have most need to ask your forgiveness."

"You mustn't regret what has happened, captain," said De Walden.  "Under
God's good providence, it has been the making of them both.  But now, I
suppose, we must be setting out on our return to the Basuto village."

"I am afraid I cannot go there," said Captain Wilmore.  "I have been
away a good deal longer than I had expected, as it is: and I know my
presence is urgently needed at Cape Town.  I and my guides must set out
homewards without loss of time--as soon, that is, as the lads are
prepared to accompany me."

"I am ready to go this moment," said Frank.

"And so am I," added Gilbert.  "That's well," said the captain.  "Frank,
I haven't told you that I have got a commission for you in a line
regiment now at the Cape.  Sir David Baird signed it the day I came
away.  That's good news, isn't it?"

"The best there could be, thank you, uncle," returned Frank, joyously.

"And you, Nick, what do you say?  Will you be put on the quarter-deck of
the _Atlantic_--that's my new ship;--and rated as a midshipman?"

"I should like nothing better, sir," answered Gilbert, almost as much
pleased as Frank.  "Thank you very much for your kindness!"

"That's well," again said the captain.  "And you too," he continued,
turning to Lavie and Warley.  "Do you mean to return with me to Cape
Town, or with Mr De Walden to the Basutos?  You will not be wanted, you
know, Lavie, for two months yet; so you can stay behind awhile, if you
choose."

"Thank you, captain, I should like to have a good talk with Warley about
his prospects; he does not, as yet, know the change that has taken place
in them.  And besides, I haven't stood the journey as well as you have.
I think I shall remain a week or two with Mr De Walden before following
you."

They shook hands accordingly, and went their several ways.  De Walden,
accompanied by Lavie and Warley, returned to the village; where, after a
few days of rest, they were enabled to arrange their plans for the
future.

"Ernest," said Lavie one morning, after they had just returned in
company with De Walden from an inspection of the native school, "I am
glad I delayed telling you what has happened at Cape Town.  I think the
effect it will have on you may be different from what I had expected."

"What has happened?" asked Warley with interest.  "You have lost your
brother," answered Lavie.  "I know he was never really a brother to you,
but you will be sorry for his sudden death, nevertheless.  When the
rumour of the approach of the British fleet was circulated in Cape Town,
some of the English tried to organise a British force to help their
countrymen.  The Dutch governor heard of it, and sent soldiers to arrest
the ringleaders.  Your brother offered an armed resistance, and was
killed on the spot.  The Dutch authorities declared all your brother's
property to be forfeited by his rebellion; but the new governor, Sir
David Baird, at once rescinded that.  As your brother had made no will,
all his money has become yours."

Warley turned very white, and leaned forward on the table, covering his
face with his hands.

"I have told you, perhaps, too abruptly," said Lavie, "but you must
remember that you have nothing to reproach yourself with, so far as your
brother is concerned.  Is it not so, Mr De Walden?"

"So far as I know," said the missionary affectionately, "nothing at
all."

"I hope not," said Ernest, in a low tone; "but this is very awful."

"Sudden deaths are always awful.  But you have now to consider what you
will do.  I thought, when I first heard it, that you would return to
England and go to one of the Universities.  But I perceive that there is
an attraction that may keep you here."

"Yes, Charles, I cannot but view this strange and unexpected event as a
solution of the difficulty that has been burdening my mind for many
weeks past.  But I should like to have Mr De Walden's advice.  He must
have seen, I think, the attachment between myself and Ella--"

"Yes, Ernest, and I have seen in it the working of God's merciful
providence for the enlightenment of the heathen in this land of darkness
and superstition."

"You think, then, that I ought to stay here and take up your work when
you leave for Namaqua-land, as I know you mean to do some day?"

"Even so.  I mean that you should remain here, and become the husband of
this dear girl, who is worthy to be the bride of a king.  The wilderness
has indeed blossomed as the rose for you.  But I do not advise that your
marriage should take place at once.  Return to England, and prepare
yourself for your office by two or three years of study, such as you can
pursue only there.  Meanwhile, I will remain here till your return, and
complete the education of your future wife.  Then, seek ordination,
which also, unhappily, you cannot obtain in Southern Africa.  Some day,
God will set up His Church in this land, and it will grow like the
mustard seed, and the people will rest under its shadow.  But that time
is still far off.  Let it be your work, as it has been mine, to prepare
the furrows for the seed that will then be cast in.  Will you do this?"

"God being my helper," answered Ernest, "I will."



APPENDIX.

THE HOTTENTOT GOD.

The worship of the beetle by the Hottentots has been disputed.  No doubt
it has not been their practice during the last fifty years.  But that it
existed in more ancient times, is (I think) abundantly proved by the
evidence of trustworthy writers.  Kolben, for example, has the following
explicit statement, made from his own experience.

"The Hottentots adore as a benignant Deity, a certain insect, peculiar
(it is said) to the Hottentot countries.  This animal is of the
dimensions of a child's little finger; the back green, the belly
speckled white and red.  It is provided with two wings and two horns.
To this little winged Deity, whenever they set eyes on it, they render
the highest tokens of veneration.  If it honours their kraal with a
visit, the inhabitants assemble round it with transports of devotion, as
if the Lord of the Universe was come among them.  If the insect happens
to alight on a Hottentot, he is looked upon as a man without guilt, and
distinguished and reverenced as a saint and the delight of the Deity
ever after.  They declared that if this deified insect had been killed,
all their cattle would certainly have been destroyed by wild beasts, and
they themselves, every man, woman, and child of them, brought to a
miserable end."--_Kolben_, vol 1, page 99.

KAFFIR PROPHETS.

The scriptural curse of the "false prophet" has never been more
strikingly fulfilled, than in the instance of the Kaffir nation in the
year 1656.  A false prophet, named Umhlahaza, professed to have received
a revelation from heaven through the visions of a girl, commanding the
Kaffirs to kill the whole of their cattle, and promising that, in the
event of their obedience, all their forefathers, together with their
cattle, should rise to life again, that they should regain their
ascendancy in the land, and live in plenty and prosperity for evermore.
The object of this audacious imposture was to reduce the whole nation on
a sudden to such a state of suffering that, in their desperation, they
would burst in upon the settlements of the white men, and everywhere
exterminate them.  It is strange that in a country where the flocks and
herds constitute the sole wealth of the people, such an attempt should
have succeeded.  But it did so to a considerable extent, at all events.
Those who had contrived it, however, had made one fatal omission.  They
ought to have concentrated the whole people on the English border, and
they forgot that men enfeebled by famine would be unfitted for warfare,
or indeed for any lengthened travel.  An attempt was made to remedy the
blunder by postponing the day of the resurrection of the chiefs and
cattle, but it failed.  The people had discovered the imposture, though
not until they were reduced to the most frightful condition of
starvation.  The English colonists did all that lay in their power to
relieve them, but they were wholly unable to remedy the mischief.  Vast
numbers died everywhere by the most terrible of all deaths, and the
strength of the nation was so completely broken by the disaster, that
they were rendered wholly incapable of continuing the warfare, for which
in former days they had been so renowned.

WRECK OF THE GROSVENOR.

All the particulars of the wreck of this ill-fated vessel have been
given in the narrative.  The whole of the crew and passengers, except
seventeen, escaped safe to land, to the number of one hundred and fifty.
In accordance with the proposal of the captain, they endeavoured to
make their way overland to Cape Town; but after a few days' travel,
during which they were harassed by the Kaffirs with repeated attacks, a
fresh consultation took place.  Forty-three able-bodied men persevered
in the attempt.  Of these, some three or four, after terrible perils and
hardships, succeeded in reaching Cape Town.  What became of those who
were left has never been certainly known.  Rumours, which are mentioned
by Le Vaillant and others, declare that some women at all events
survived, and were compelled to become the wives of native chiefs.  An
expedition was even sent out to search for these, but failed, more
apparently from want of capacity in those conducting it than from
anything else.  Under these circumstances the fate of those who remained
behind may, not unfairly, be made the subject of fiction.



APPENDIX.

THE HOTTENTOT GOD.

The worship of the beetle by the Hottentots has been disputed.  No doubt
it has not been their practice during the last fifty years.  But that it
existed in more ancient times, is (I think) abundantly proved by the
evidence of trustworthy writers.  Kolben, for example, has the following
explicit statement, made from his own experience.

"The Hottentots adore as a benignant Deity, a certain insect, peculiar
(it is said) to the Hottentot countries.  This animal is of the
dimensions of a child's little finger; the back green, the belly
speckled white and red.  It is provided with two wings and two horns.
To this little winged Deity, whenever they set eyes on it, they render
the highest tokens of veneration.  If it honours their kraal with a
visit, the inhabitants assemble round it with transports of devotion, as
if the Lord of the Universe was come among them.  If the insect happens
to alight on a Hottentot, he is looked upon as a man without guilt, and
distinguished and reverenced as a saint and the delight of the Deity
ever after.  They declared to me that if this deified insect had been
killed, all their cattle would certainly have been destroyed by wild
beasts, and they themselves, every man, woman, and child of them,
brought to a miserable end."--_Kolben_, volume one, page 99.

KAFFIR PROPHETS.

The scriptural curse of the "false prophet" has never been more
strikingly fulfilled, than in the instance of the Kaffir nation in the
year 1856.  A false prophet, named Umhlahara, professed to have received
a revelation from heaven through the visions of a girl, commanding the
Kaffirs to kill the whole of their cattle, and promising that, in the
event of their obedience, all their forefathers, together with their
cattle, should rise to life again, that they should regain their
ascendancy in the land, and live in plenty and prosperity for evermore.
The object of this audacious imposture was to reduce the whole nation on
a sudden to such a state of suffering that, in their desperation, they
would burst in upon the settlements of the white men, and everywhere
exterminate them.  It is strange that in a country where the flocks and
herds constitute the sole wealth of the people, such an attempt should
have succeeded.  But it did so to a considerable extent, at all events.
Those who had contrived it, however, had made one fatal omission.  They
ought to have concentrated the whole people on the English border, and
they forgot that men enfeebled by famine would be unfitted for warfare,
or indeed for any lengthened travel.  An attempt was made to remedy the
blunder by postponing the day of the resurrection of the chiefs and
cattle, but it failed.  The people had discovered the imposture, though
not until they were reduced to the most frightful condition of
starvation.  The English colonists did all that lay in their power to
relieve them, but they were wholly unable to remedy the mischief.  Vast
numbers died everywhere by the most terrible of all deaths, and the
strength of the nation was so completely broken by the disaster, that
they were rendered wholly incapable of continuing the warfare, for which
in former days they had been so renowned.

WRECK OF THE GROSVENOR.

All the particulars of the wreck of this ill-fated vessel have been
given in the narrative.  The whole of the crew and passengers, except
seventeen, escaped safe to land, to the number of one hundred and fifty.
In accordance with the proposal of the captain, they endeavoured to
make their way overland to Cape Town; but after a few days' travel,
during which they were harassed by the Kaffirs with repeated attacks, a
fresh consultation took place.  Forty-three able-bodied men persevered
in the attempt.  Of these, some three or four, after terrible perils and
hardships, succeeded in reaching Cape Town.  What became of those who
were left has never been certainly known.  Rumours, which are mentioned
by Le Vaillant and others, declare that some women at all events
survived, and were compelled to become the wives of native chiefs.  An
expedition was even sent out to search for these, but failed, more
apparently from want of capacity in those conducting it than from
anything else.  Under these circumstances the fate of those who remained
behind may, not unfairly, be made the subject of fiction.





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