Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: A Frontier Mystery
Author: Mitford, Bertram, 1855-1914
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Frontier Mystery" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A Frontier Mystery, by Bertram Mitford.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
A FRONTIER MYSTERY, BY BERTRAM MITFORD.



CHAPTER ONE.

"WHERE I COME IN."

"White dogs!"

"Ha!  Calves of Matyana, the least of the Great One's cattle."

"Pups of Tyingoza, the white man's dog!  _Au_!"

"Sweepings of the Abe Sutu!"

"Amakafula!"  [Kafirs.]

Such were but few of the opprobrious phrases, rolled forth alternately,
in the clear sonorous Zulu, from alternate sides of the river, which
flowed laughing and bubbling on in the sunlight, between its high banks
of tree-shaded rocks.  Yet in spite of the imputation of "whiteness"
made by the one, they of the other party were in no shade of bronze
duskiness removed from those who made it.  Each party numbered about a
dozen: young men all, with the same lithe straight forms destitute of
all clothing but a skin _mutya_; armed with the same two or three
assegais and a knobstick apiece, eke small hide shields.  There was no
outward visible difference between them, as how indeed, should there be,
since both were sprung from absolutely the same stock?  But the
difference was essential for all that, for whereas one party dwelt upon
the Natal side of the river, the other was composed of warriors of the
king, the limits of whose territory they dared not overstep.

"Come over and fight!" challenged the latter, waving their shields.

"Ha!  Come over to us," was the answer.

Here was an _impasse_.  Brimming over with fight as they were, the first
hesitated to embark on what would amount to nothing less than a raid
upon English territory; for did the news of it reach the ears of the
King--as it almost certainly would--why death to the whole lot of them
was the least they could expect.  On the other hand if the Natal party
could be induced to cross why they would make such an example of these
Amakafula--as they contemptuously called them--that the latter, for very
shame's sake, would be only too careful to say nothing at all of the
affair.

"We leave not our land," came the answer to this after a hesitating
pause.  "Cross ye hither, cowards.  Ye are more than us by two."

"Ah--ah!  But we shall be less by more than two when we reach the bank.
You will strike us in the water."

"We will not," called out the spokesman on the Zulu side.  "You shall
even have time to recover breath.  Is it not so, brothers?"

"_Eh-he_!" chorussed his followers in loud assent.

"Swear it."

"U' Tshaka!"

The awful name rolled forth sonorously from every throat.  An oath
ratified on the name of the greatest king their world had ever known was
ratified indeed.  Hardly had it sounded than a joyful whoop rent the
air.  A dozen bronze bodies flashed in the sunlight and amid a mighty
splash a dozen dark heads bobbed up above the surface of the long deeply
flowing reach.  A moment later, and their owners had ploughed their way
to the other side, and emerged streaming from the river, their shields
and weapons still held aloft in the left hand, as they had been during
the crossing in order to keep them dry.

"We will drop our weapons, and fight only with sticks, brothers,"
proposed the Zulu leader.  "Is that to be?"

"As you will," returned the Natal party, and immediately all assegais
were cast to the ground.

The place was an open glade which sloped down to the water, between
high, tree-fringed rocks.  Both sides stood looking at each other, every
chest panting somewhat with suppressed excitement.  Then a quick, shrill
whistle from the Zulu leader, and they met in full shock.

It was something of a Homeric strife, as these young heroes came
together.  There was no sound but the slap of shield meeting shield; the
clash and quiver of hard wood; the quick, throaty panting of the
combatants.  Then the heavy crunch of skull or joint, and half a dozen
are down quivering or motionless, while their conquerors continue to
batter them without mercy.

Leaping, whirling--gradually drawing away from the rest, two of the
combatants are striving; each devoting every nerve, every energy, to the
overthrow of the other.  But each feint is met by counter feint, each
terrible swinging stroke by the crash of equally hard wood or the dull
slap of tough hide shield opposed in parry.  Already more are down,
still about even numbers on each side, and still these two combatants
strive on.  Both are tall, supple youths, perfect models of proportion
and sinewy grace and strength.  Then a sudden crunching sound, and the
blood is pouring from the head of one of them.

"One to thee, son of Tyingoza!" cries the wielder of the successful
stroke, nimbly swerving to avoid the return one.

"It was `white dog' but now," snarls the other, savagely, and with a
deft underswing of his knobstick delivering a numbing blow on the side
of his adversary's leg.  It is a good blow, yet he is beginning to
stagger, half stunned, and blinded with his own blood.

"Ha!  Give up, and run to the river, while there is time," jeers his
opponent, who is the leader of the Zulu party.

For answer, he who is apostrophised as the son of Tyingoza, rushes upon
the speaker with such a sudden access of apparently resistless ferocity,
that the latter is forced backward somewhat by the very fury of the
onslaught; but--such are the fortunes of war.  Already the bulk of those
who have crossed from the Natal side are down, two of them stone dead--
and the rest, demoralised already, are plunging into the river and
striking out for their own shore.  They cannot get to the aid of their
leader because of the foes who are pressing them hard, and barring their
way.  The said foes, now victors, thus freed, turn to spring to the aid
of their own leader, and the whole group, uttering a loud bloodthirsty
shout hurls itself upon the son of Tyingoza.  He, though he has given up
all hope, still battles valorously, when a stick, deftly hurled, strikes
him hard and full upon one shin, snapping the bone, and vanquished he
sinks to the earth, still instinctively holding up his shield to avert
the rain of blows showered upon him, and which, in a moment or so will
batter his skull to a pulp; for they see red now, those blood-frenzied
combatants, and no considerations of mercy will avail to stay their
murderous arms.

But that moment or so is destined to bring forth weighty results.  There
has been a spectator of the whole affray unseen by the combatants, and
now he steps forth.

"Stand back!" he shouts, coming right between the slayers and their
prey.  "Back, I say!  He is down and ye are many.  Let him live."

"No, he shall die.  Out of our way, white man!"

None but a white man--or their own chief--could have restrained these
hot bloods at such a moment, yet this one was determined to do it,
although the process was not much safer than that of attempting to
snatch a bone from a hungry mastiff.

"You are boys, therefore foolish," he cried.  "If you slay the son of a
chief how long will it be before the English carry the word to the Great
Great One's ears?  Then--good-night!"

This told--as no other argument would have told.  They held their hands,
though some muttered that both should be slain to make things all the
safer.  And the white man so far had displayed no weapon.  In fact he
had none.

"Get up, son of Tyingoza," he said, "and get back to thine own side of
the river, which it was foolish to leave."

The wounded youth managed to stagger to his feet, the white man aiding
him.  Several of those who had fallen did likewise, the conquerors
sullenly drawing off, to help their own stricken comrades.  And what a
scene the place presented.  Broken knobkerries and broken heads,
battered shields and twisted limbs, and red, nauseous, sticky pools
glittering among the grass.  Three of those fallen would never rise
again.  And what was it all about?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

"_Au_! it is Iqalaqala," muttered the young Zulus, as the white man
assisted the chief's son to cross the river.  "Fare thee well,
Iqalaqala.  We have but played at a fight.  _Au_!  It was only play."

And that is how I come into the story.



CHAPTER TWO.

GODFREY GLANTON--TRADER.

It was hot.  Away on the skyline the jagged peaks of Kahlamba rose in a
shimmer of haze.  In front and below, the same shimmer was upon the
great sweep of green and gold bush.  The far winding of the Tugela shone
here and there through the billowy undulations of the same, and above, a
gleam of silver where Umzinyati's waters babbled on to join it.  So,
too, over the far expanse of warrior Zululand--peaceful enough now to
outward aspect in all conscience--the slumbrous yet far from enervating
heat of mid-afternoon still brooded.

Yes, it was hot, decidedly hot, and I remarked thereupon to Tyingoza,
who agreed with me of course.  Every well-bred native agrees with you--
that is to say pretty well every native--and Tyingoza was a well-bred
native, being of Umtetwa breed--the royal clan what time Tshaka the
Usurper, Tshaka the Great, Tshaka the Genius, Tshaka the Terrible, shook
up the dry bones and made the nation of Zulu to live.  Incidentally
Tyingoza was the chief of a very large native location situated right on
the border--and in this connection I have often wondered how it is that
with the fear of that awful and bloodthirsty tyrant Cetywayo (see the
Blue Books) before their eyes, such a congested native population could
have been found to plant itself, of its own free will, right bang within
assegai throw of his "manslaying machine" (see again the Blue Books),
that is to say, with only the division afforded by an easily fordable
river between it and them.  Tyingoza's father had migrated from Zululand
what time the Dutch and Mpande fought Dingane, and Dingane fought both;
for, like a wise man, he held that he could not _konza_ to three kings,
and now Tyingoza would have returned to his fatherland, with which all
his sympathies--sentimental--lay, but for the material fact that he--and
incidentally, his followers--were exceedingly comfortable where they
were.

"M-m!" hummed Tyingoza.  "In truth it is hot here, but--not over there,
Iqalaqala."

There was a quizzical twinkle in Tyingoza's eyes, as he pointed down
into the valley beneath--and I understood him.  The above, by the way,
was my native name, meaning one who is wide awake at a deal; bestowed
presumably because when I had bought out the former owner of the trading
store at Isipanga the guileless native had discovered rather a more
difficult subject to get round than that worthy dealer; who was all too
frequently in his cups, and easy to "best" while in that halcyonic
condition.  I did not resent the use of the sobriquet on this or any
other occasion: in the first place because it was not an unflattering
one; in the next because I liked Tyingoza, who was a gentleman every
inch of him, and--shrug not in horror, oh ye noble white brethren--in my
heart of hearts I could not but recognise that this aristocratic scion
of a splendid race was, taking him all round, every whit as good a man,
albeit dusky, as a certain happy-go-lucky inconsequent and knockabout
trader in the Zulu.

I understood his meaning.  "Over there"--_la pa_--referred to the abode
of my nearest neighbour, a retired British officer, who had lived to no
better experience than to imagine himself expressly cut out for a second
and farming career, entered on late in life--and, I suspected, on little
beyond a commuted pension, here on the Natal border.  He owned a
comfortable homestead, and a grown-up family, including a brace of
exceedingly good-looking daughters.  Here then was a bright and
wholesome British home circle to which I, a lonely, knockabout sort of
semi-barbarian, had found a welcome; and indeed, while not outwearing
this, I believe I did not underrate it; for the bush path between my
trading store and Major Sewin's farm had become far more worn and easier
to be found by the unskilled stranger since its former occupant, a
bankrupt and stertorous Dutchman, had been obliged to evacuate it in
favour of its present owner.

Now, as Tyingoza spoke, I looked longingly down into the valley on the
other side.  Away, where it wound beneath a towering cone, I could make
out a film of smoke, and was wondering whether it was too soon after my
last visit to send my horse down along the ten miles of rugged bush path
between it and where we sat--in something over the hour.  I could get
back at midnight, or soon after, and time was no object to me in those
days.  I had spent enough of it among savages to have acquired something
of their indifference to it.  It mattered nothing what time I slept or
woke.  If I felt sleepy I slept, if I felt hungry I ate--if I felt
neither I did neither--and that about summed up my rule of life, as, in
those days, it did that of many another circumstanced like myself.  But
of making a point of turning in or turning out at a given time--no.  I
had long parted with anything of the kind; indeed the fact that there
was such a thing as a watch or a clock on the place was the merest
accident.

Tyingoza produced his snuff-box--his Zulu conservatism had restrained
him from learning to smoke--and handed it to me.  Then he helped
himself.

"They will not be here long," he said presently.

"No?  Why not?"  I answered, knowing to whom he referred.

"Their feet are planted on strange ground.  They have built a house
where it cannot stand.  _Au_!  They are even as children these
Amangisi."

I did not resent the mild suggestion--"Amangisi" meaning English--
because I knew that the speaker did not include myself, practically a
son of the land, using the word as applicable to the newly imported
emigrant.

"They do not understand the people," he went on, "nor do they try to.
They treat the people as though they were soldiers under them.  Now,
Iqalaqala, will that do?"

I agreed that it would not; in fact I had more than once ventured to
hint as much to Major Sewin--but that veteran, though a dear old man,
was likewise a stiff-necked one, and had not taken my well-meant advice
in good part.

"A nigger, sir," he had answered with heat, "is created to work.  If he
won't work he must be made to--and, damme, sir, I'm the man to make
him."

I had ventured to remind him that there were about four hundred thousand
of the said "niggers" in the colony of Natal, and that we stood in a
precious deal more need of them than they did of us.  But, as the last
thing in the world I wished was to quarrel with him, I fear I did so
half-heartedly.

"So," now continued Tyingoza, "they will have to herd their own sheep
and milk their own cows themselves, for none will do it for them.  Will
they not soon become tired of this, and go elsewhere?"

This I thought more than likely, but I did not wish it.  The chief's
words had pretty well summed up the situation.  The Natal native,
especially there on the Zulu border, is a difficult animal to lead and
nearly impossible to drive, and the hot-headed old soldier was of the
sort which prefers driving.

"All you say is true," I answered.  "Yet--We are friends, Tyingoza,
wherefore for my sake, use your influence with your people not to join
in driving out these.  I do not want them to leave.  See, I am lonely
here, and if I had no neighbours I might leave too."

"_Au_! it is difficult," was the answer.  "They are like children.
Still for your sake, I will do what I can."

We were interrupted by the appearance of two young men.  Their bronze
figures, straight and tall, moved with easy, supple grace as they
advanced to where we were seated, and, having saluted the chief with
infinite respect, they squatted down at a becoming distance; for they
would not interrupt our conversation.  However I wanted to get rid of
them, so allowing sufficient time for the requirements of etiquette, I
asked them what they had come for.

They answered that they were in need of a few articles such as I kept in
the store, and so I took them within.  I reached down from the shelves
the things they required, a matter of trifles whose aggregate value
hardly amounted to a shilling, and I thought as I moved thus, clad in an
old shirt, and ditto pair of trousers, among green blankets and pots and
kettles, and sheepskins and goatskins, with strings of beads and brass
buttons festooned from the beams, and the shelves loaded with roll Boer
tobacco and sugar pockets and coffee canisters and butcher knives, and
all sorts of minor "notions" in demand for native trade--I wondered, I
say, what sort of figure I should cut in the eyes of Major Sewin's
highbred looking daughters should they happen suddenly to ride up and
thus discover me; then I wondered why the deuce I should have thought
about it at all.

The boys were soon satisfied, and I gave them a bit of tobacco apiece by
way of clenching the deal, for it is bad policy to earn a name for
stinginess among natives.  But instead of going away they squatted
themselves down outside.  I did not immediately follow them.

"What was I saying, Iqalaqala?" began Tyingoza, as soon as I did.  "The
Ingisi down there is clearly anxious to herd his own sheep himself.
These children he has sent away, saying they were of no use.  But, you
may hear from themselves.  Speak."

Thus ordered, the two, squatting there, told their tale over again, and
it did not take long in telling.  They had been employed to herd sheep,
and that morning the Major's "son"--as they described him--had ridden up
to them in the veldt, and had become very angry about something; what it
was they had no notion for they could not understand one word he said,
which seemed to anger him still more, for he had cuffed one of them over
the head and kicked him.  One thing he was able to make them understand
and this was that they should clear off the place.  They had done so,
but neither of them were pleased, as was natural; indeed there was that
in the face of the cuffed and kicked one, which savoured of
vindictiveness, and was a clear indication that sooner or later, and in
some shape or form, the ill-advised settler would have to pay somewhat
dearly for that act of violence.

I smoothed matters down as far as I was able: pointing out, I hoped with
some tact, that they were young, and a little roughness now and then
must be expected to come their way--it was not as if they had attained
the dignity of head-ringed men--and so forth.  They appeared to accept
it, but I'm afraid they did not.

"What is thy name?"  I said to the aggrieved youth.

"Atyisayo."

"Ha!  Atyisayo!  Meaning hot.  Hot water," I rejoined.  "Well you have
got into hot water, as the proverb runs among us whites--as we all do
sooner or later especially when we are young.  But we get out of it
again, and so have you, and you must think no more about it," I
concluded.

"M-m!  But he has not paid us anything.  The Ingisi has sent us away
without our hire."

"He will give it you.  He is hot tempered but not a cheat.  You will
have it.  I myself will see to that.  _Hambani gahle_."

"Iqalaqala is our father," they murmured, rising to leave.  "_Amakosi_!
_Hlalani gahle_!"

I watched their receding forms, and shook my head.  Then I looked at
Tyingoza.

"It is a pity," I said.  "Yes, a great pity.  These people down there
are good people--yes, even of the best of the land.  It is only that
they lack understanding, yet even that will come--with experience.  I
will go and talk again with them--yes--this very evening.  Come with me,
Tyingoza.  Your words as a chief will carry much weight, and these
people will treat you with consideration."

He answered something about having to go home and see about some new
cattle that were being sent in to him.  Then with a waggish expression
of countenance he said:

"_Au_!  Iqalaqala.  When are you going to build a new hut?"

The joke was obvious.  I did not live in the trading store but in a
large, well-built native hut adjoining; as being cooler, and free from
the mingled odours of the varying commodities in which I dealt.  When a
native sends _lobola_ for a new wife he has a new and additional hut
built for her accommodation.  Tyingoza was chaffing me.

I called out an order to my native boy, whose quarters were at the back
of the store.  Presently he came trotting up, bearing a steaming kettle,
and cups, and sugar.  Tyingoza's face lit up at the sight.  He had a
weakness for strong black coffee, abundantly sweetened, and when he came
to see me always got it, and plenty of it.  So for another half-hour he
sat imbibing the stuff, completely happy.  Then he got up to go.

I bade him farewell, reminding him again of our conversation and his
influence with his people; the while, he smiled quizzically, and I knew
that his mind was still running upon his joke as to the new hut.  Then I
went into the old one, and carefully, and for me, somewhat elaborately,
changed my attire, what time my boy was saddling up my best horse.  I
went to no pains in locking up, for was not Tyingoza my friend, and his
people dusky savages, who wore no trousers--only _mutyas_; in short the
very people to whom we are most anxious to send missionaries.



CHAPTER THREE.

OF AN EVENING VISIT.

As I rode down the rugged bush path I began to undergo a very unwonted
and withal uneasy frame of mind.  For instance what on earth had
possessed me to take such an interest in the well-being or ill-being of
Major Sewin and his family?  They would never get on as they were.  The
best thing they could do was to throw it up and clear, and, for
themselves, the sooner the better.  And for me?  Well, exactly.  It was
there that the uneasiness came in.

The sun was dipping to the great bush-clad ridge up the side of the
Tugela valley, and the wide sweep of forest beneath was alight with a
golden glow from the still ardent horizontal shafts.  Innumerable doves
fluttered and cooed around, balancing themselves on mimosa sprays, or
the spiky heads of the plumed euphorbia; or dashing off to wing an
arrow-like flight somewhere else, alarmed by the tread of horse-hoofs or
the snort and champ at a jingling bit.  Here and there a spiral of blue
smoke, where a native kraal in its neat circle stood pinnacled upon the
jut of some mighty spur, and the faint far voices of its inhabitants
raised in musical cattle calls, came, softened by distance, a pleasing
and not unmelodious harmony with the evening calm.  Downward and
downward wound the path, and lo, as the sun kissed the far ridge, ere
diving beyond it, a final and parting beam shot full upon the face of a
great krantz, causing it to flush in red flame beneath the gold and
green glow of its forest fringed crest.  All those evenings!  I think it
must be something in their sensuous and magic calm that permeates the
soul of those whose lot has once been cast in these lands, riveting it
in an unconscious bondage from which it can never quite free itself;
binding it for all time to the land of its birth or adoption.  I, for
one, Godfrey Glanton, rough and ready prosaic trader in the Zulu, with
no claim to sentiment or poetry in my composition, can fully recognise
that the bond is there.  And yet, and yet--is there a man living, with
twenty years' experience of a wandering life, now in this, now in that,
section of this wonderful half continent, who can honestly say he has no
poetry in him?  I doubt it.

The wild guinea fowl were cackling away to their roosts and the shrill
crow of francolins miauw-ed forth from the surrounding brake as I
dismounted to open a gate in the bush fence which surrounded what the
Major called his "compound."  As I led my horse on--it was not worth
while remounting--a sound of voices--something of a tumult of voices,
rather--caught my ear.

"Good Heavens!  Another row!"  I said to myself.  "What impossible
people these are!"

For I had recognised an altercation, and I had recognised the voices.
One was that of the Major's nephew, and it was raised in fine old
British imprecation.  The other was that of a native, and was volubly
expostulative--in its own tongue.  Then I came in view of their owners,
and heard at the same time another sound--that of a hard smack, followed
by another.  For background to the scene the fence and gate of a
sheep-kraal.

The native was a youth, similar to those who had called at my store that
afternoon.  Unarmed he was no sort of match for the powerful and
scientific onslaught of his chastiser.  He had nimbly skipped out of
harm's way and was volubly pouring forth abuse and threats of vengeance.

"What on earth--Are you at it again, Sewin?"  I sung out.  "Great Scott,
man, you'll never keep a boy on the place at this rate!  What's the row
this time?"

"Hallo Glanton!  That you?  Row?  Only that when I tell this cheeky
silly idiot to do anything he stands and grins and doesn't do it.  So I
went for him."

The tailing off of the remark was not quite suitable for publication, so
I omit it.

"That all he did?"  I said, rather shortly, for I was out of patience
with this young fool.

"All?  Isn't that enough?  Damn his cheek!  What business has he to grin
at me?"

"Well you wouldn't have had him scowl, would you?"

"I'd have hammered him to pulp if he had."

"Just so.  You may as well give up all idea of farming here at this
rate, Sewin, if you intend to keep on on that tack.  The fellow didn't
do it, because in all probability he hadn't the ghost of a notion what
you were telling him to do.  Here.  I'll put it to him."

I did so.  It was even as I had expected.  The boy didn't understand a
word of English, and young Sewin couldn't speak a word of Zulu--or at
any rate a sentence.  I talked to him, but it was not much use.  He
would leave, he declared.  He was not going to stand being punched.  If
he had had an assegai or a stick perhaps the other would not have had
things all his own way, he added meaningly.

In secret I sympathised with him, but did not choose to say so.  What I
did say was:

"And you would spend some years--in chains--mending the roads and
quarrying stones for the Government?  That would be a poor sort of
satisfaction, would it not?"

"_Au_!  I am not a dog," he answered sullenly.  "Tyingoza is my chief.
But if the Government says I am to stand being beaten I shall cross
Umzinyati this very night, and go and _konza_ to Cetywayo.  Now, this
very night."

I advised him to do nothing in a hurry, because anything done in a hurry
was sure to be badly done.  I even talked him over to the extent of
making him promise that he would not leave at all, at any rate until he
had some fresh grievance--which I hoped to be able to ensure against.

"Come on in, Glanton," sung out young Sewin, impatiently.  "Or are you
going to spend the whole evening jawing with that infernal young sweep.
I suppose you're taking his part."

This was pretty rough considering the pains I had been at to smooth the
way for these people in the teeth of their own pig-headed obstinacy.
But I was not going to quarrel with this cub.

"On the contrary," I said, "I was taking yours, in that I persuaded the
boy not to clear out, as he was on the point of doing."

"Did you?  Well then, Glanton, you won't mind my saying that it's a pity
you did.  D'you think we're going to keep any blasted nigger here as a
favour on his part?"

"Answer me this," I said.  "Are you prepared to herd your own
sheep--_slaag_ them, too--milk your own cows, and, in short, do every
darn thing there is to be done on the farm yourselves?"

"Of course not.  But I don't see your point.  The country is just
swarming with niggers.  If we kick one off the place, we can easily get
another.  Just as good fish in the sea, eh?"

"Are there?  This colony contains about four hundred thousand natives--
rather more than less--and if you go on as you're doing, Sewin, you'll
mighty soon find that not one of those four hundred thousand will stay
on your place for love or money.  Not only that, but those around
here'll start in to make things most unpleasantly lively for you.
They'll _slaag_ your sheep and steal your cattle--and you'll find it too
hot altogether to stay.  Now you take my advice and go on a new tack
altogether."

"Mr Glanton's quite right, Falkner," said a clear voice from the
verandah above us--for we had reached the house now, only in the
earnestness of our discussion we had not noticed the presence of
anybody.  "He has told us the same thing before, and I hope he will go
on doing so until it makes some impression."

"Oh, as to that, Miss Sewin," I said, idiotically deprecatory, as the
Major's eldest daughter came forward to welcome me, "I am only trying to
make my experience of service to you."

"I don't know what we should have done without it," she answered, in
that sweet and gracious way of hers that always made me feel more or
less a fool.  In outward aspect she was rather tall, with an exceeding
gracefulness of carriage.  Her face, if it lacked colour perhaps, was
very regular and refined; and would light up in the sweetest possible of
smiles.  She had grey eyes, large and well-lashed, and her abundant hair
was arranged in some wonderful manner, which, while free from plaits and
coils, always looked far more becoming than any amount of dressing by a
fashionable hairdresser could have rendered it.  But there you are.
What do I, a prosaic trader in the Zulu, for all my experience of border
and up-country matters, know about such things?  So you must take my
plain impressions as I give them.

It seemed to me that Falkner Sewin's face had taken on an unpleasant,
not to say scowling expression, at his cousin's remarks, and he had
turned away to hide it.  He was a personable young fellow enough, tall
and well set-up, and muscular; handsome too, with a square, determined
chin.  He had been a few years in the Army, where he had much better
have remained, for he seemed to have qualified for civil life by a
superlative arrogance, and an overweening sense of his own importance;
both doubtless valuable to the accompaniment of jingling spurs and the
clank of scabbards, but worse than useless for farming purposes on the
Natal border.  Towards myself he had begun by adopting a patronising
attitude, which, however, he had soon dropped.

The house was a single storied one, surrounded on three sides by a
verandah.  A large and newly made garden reached round two sides of it,
and away, at the further end of this, I could see the residue of the
family, occupied with watering-pots, and other implements of the kind.
It was a bright and pleasant spot was this garden, and its colour and
sweet odours always conveyed a soothing effect, to my mind, at any rate;
for little time or inclination had I for the cultivation of mere
flowers.  A patch or two of mealies or _amabele_, in a roughly
schoffeled-up "land" was about the extent of any "gardening" I allowed
myself; wherefore this amazing blend of colour and scent appealed to me
all the more.

"Take that chair, Mr Glanton," Miss Sewin went on, pointing to a large
cane chair on the verandah.  "You must have had a hot ride.  Falkner,
you might see that Mr Glanton's horse is looked after.  Call one of the
boys and have him taken round and fed.  The others are somewhere down in
the garden, Mr Glanton.  You know, my father is just wild on getting up
a garden here.  It occupies his time nearly the whole day long."

"And very well he has done with it hitherto, Miss Sewin," I answered
heartily.  "It is a pleasure to see it.  You know, we rough knockabouts
haven't much time for that sort of thing.  But we appreciate it, or its
results, all the more when we see them."

"But don't you ever feel inclined to make things bright and pretty about
your place?" she went on.  "I should have thought you could have managed
to find an hour or two a day.  Or are you always so very busy up there?"

I felt guilty, as I remembered how I was prevented, not by lack of time
but inclination: my spare time being occupied mainly by taking it easy,
and smoking pipes and chatting with any chance natives who happened
along; or it might be, sneaking about in the thick bushy kloofs to get a
shot at a buck.  But I answered, somewhat lamely:

"Oh, as to that, it isn't exactly a matter of time.  The fact is, Miss
Sewin, we get into certain habits of life, and can't get out of them in
a hurry.  I suppose a knockabout like myself gets all the taste for the
fine arts knocked out of him.  And the art of laying out gardens is one
of the fine arts."

She looked at me, I thought, with something of interest in her wide
eyes.  Then she said:

"Ah, but, you knockabouts--your own word remember, Mr Glanton--" she
interjected, with a smile, "are, or ought to be, among the most useful
men a country like this can produce.  You are constantly in touch with
the savages by whom we are surrounded.  You know their ways and their
thoughts and all about them, and your knowledge cannot but be invaluable
to your fellow-countrymen."

I felt pleased.  She had a way of what I will call for want of a better
expression--smoothing you down the right way.  I said:

"But these savages, Miss Sewin.  Believe me, they are not half bad
fellows at bottom if you take them the right way.  You haven't got to go
very far down to find them so, either."

"And we take them the wrong way, isn't that what you mean?" she
answered, with another of her somewhat disturbing smiles.  "I believe
you are quite right--in fact I know you are--and I am always saying so.
But, here are the others.  I hope you will keep on telling them the same
thing, over and over again until they see it themselves, if it isn't too
late."

"I will.  But you?  You yourself.  Don't you find this rough country and
rough life a sadly different thing to what you had expected?"  I said.

"Not `sadly' different.  On the contrary, it is full of interest.  To
begin with, these same savages interest me immensely.  I should like to
learn their language.  Is it easy?"

"To tell the truth I don't know whether it is or not.  I didn't _learn_
it, myself.  I sort of absorbed it.  But I can tell you it makes all the
difference in the world if you can talk with them and understand them or
not.  If you can I can't imagine any people more easy to get on with."

"Then I will begin to learn it at once.  You will help me, won't you,
Mr Glanton?"

Great Heavens!  What was this?  I began to see all over the world, as if
my head was screwed on all ways at once.  Would I help her?  Oh,
wouldn't I!  Here was a bond of union set up between us--one that would
afford me ample pretext for riding over here very often: that would
bring us together often and constantly.  It seemed as if a new and very
bright world had opened in front of me--and yet and yet--what an utter
fool I was--I, Godfrey Glanton, prosaic knockabout trader in the Zulu,
and not a particularly young one at that!



CHAPTER FOUR.

MY NEIGHBOUR'S HOUSEHOLD.

"Ha, Glanton!  Glad to see you!" cried the Major, shaking me heartily by
the hand.  "Why, I was beginning to wonder when we should see you again.
Was afraid you had started again on some up-country trip, and by Jove,
there are one or two things I want your opinion about.  We'll talk of
them bye and bye."

"All right, Major.  Only too glad to be of use."

He was a fine specimen of the best type of old soldier--tall, straight,
handsome, hearty and straightforward in manner--in short a gentleman
every inch of him.  I had a great liking for him, and for his own sake
alone would have gone far towards smoothing his difficulties and
straightening things out for him no matter how crooked they might be,
thanks to his own wrongheadedness.  His wife was a good counterpart of
him--without his wrongheadedness--and quite free from the fads and
fussiness apparently inseparable from most elderly ladies, which render
their presence and company a matter for resigned toleration rather than
any sort of pleasure or advantage.  To such Mrs Sewin was a rare and
remarkable exception.  The youngest daughter, Edith, was outwardly a
complete contrast to her stately sister, being shorter, and plump and
fair-haired, but very pretty--and sunny-natured to a degree.  In fact I
believe that to most men she would have proved the more attractive of
the two.

"Have a glass of grog, Glanton, after your ride," said the Major.
"Well, and how's trade?"

"So so.  Much as usual.  I'm thinking of a couple of months' trip to the
north of Zululand soon.  I might pick up some good cattle in Hamu's and
Majendwa's part, and Zulu oxen always find a good sale."

"Into Zululand?" repeated Falkner, who had just entered.  "By Jove,
Glanton, I'd like to go with you.  Wouldn't I just."

I hope I didn't show that I wouldn't like anything of the sort.  I may
have, for I was never a good actor, except in dealing with savages.

"That wouldn't be impossible," I answered.  "But what about the farm?"

I read "Hang the farm!" as plain as possible in his face, though he
hadn't said it.  What he did say was:

"Oh well.  We might think out some plan so as to work it."

"You must have had some very exciting adventures among the savages in
your time, Mr Glanton," said Mrs Sewin.

"The liveliest adventures I have ever had were among white men, and not
among savages at all," I answered.  "But there, you must excuse me
filling the role of the up-country yarner."

"Mr Glanton is most provokingly and proverbially impossible to `draw,'
you know, mother," said Miss Sewin, with a laugh and a shake of the
head.

"That's more than most fellows in his line are," guffawed Falkner, in a
way that was rather unpleasant, and, I thought, intentionally so, as he
helped himself to a glass of grog.

"Come and have a look round the garden, Glanton," said the Major.  "We
sha'n't get dinner for nearly an hour, and it'll help fill up the time.
You girls coming?"

"Aida, you go," said the youngest.  "Mother and I will see about getting
dinner ready."

Dusk was already beginning to fall, and there isn't much dusk in that
latitude.  The scents of evening were in the air, the myriad distilling
perfumes from the surrounding bush no less fragrant to my nostrils than
those of the sweet-scented flowers which represented the Major's
favourite hobby; but this, you may be sure, I did not tell him.  But to
me it was an enchanted hour and an enchanted scene, as I furtively
watched the tall graceful figure at my side, noting each changing
attitude, from the poise of the well-set-on head to the delicate
tapering fingers put forth to handle, or here and there pluck some
blossom.  The while I was listening to the old man's enthusiastic
dissertations, trying not to agree in the wrong place; trying, in short,
to look as if I knew something about it all, yet not altogether
succeeding, I fear, as I became aware when I caught the glance of Miss
Sewin's eyes, and the smile upon her sweet, half-averted face.  Then the
stars came out with a rush, and the jackals began to bay along the
hillside in the gloom of the bush.

"Confound it!" grumbled the Major, looking upward.  "It's dark already;
pitch dark, by Jove! and Glanton hasn't seen half what I've been doing
yet, since he was here last.  You get no twilight at all in this
infernal country.  Well, I suppose we must go in."

Nothing could be more pleasant and home-like than that cheerful, lighted
room, as we sat at table.  We talked about the country and surroundings,
the life and its drawbacks, and the Major waxed reminiscent on byegone
sport in India, and his anecdotes thereon interested me though I fear
the others had heard them more than once before.  Falkner was inclined
to be extra friendly and had discarded his usual offhand and
supercilious manner, which I own was wont to try my patience sorely, and
questioned me repeatedly as to my projected trip into Zululand, to which
I had incidentally referred.  Afterwards the two girls played and sang--
uncommonly well.  Falkner too, sang a very good song or two, and
altogether I found I was thoroughly enjoying myself, the said enjoyment
being doubtless enhanced by an obtruding recollection of my lonely hut,
away up the mountain, and evenings spent in my own company until such
time as I should smoke myself to sleep.

"Mr Glanton, we would so much like to see your trading store," said
Edith, the youngest girl, when the music was ended.

I answered that there was little on earth to see there, that it was a
greasy, dusty place, hardly fit for ladies, and so on, but that such as
it was they would be more than welcome.

"And you will show us some Zulus for the occasion?" added her sister,
with one of those glances which made me resolve to assemble half
Tyingoza's location if she set her heart upon it.

"Well, yes," I said.  "Only you mustn't take me by surprise.  It's a
rough and tumble place, and I might be taken just at the very moment
when I couldn't offer you a decent lunch."

But they declared that this was just what they wanted--to take me by
surprise, and see exactly how I lived, and so on.  The while a desperate
idea had come into my head, but, would it bear carrying out?

"Look here," I said.  "If you would really like to ride up there, it
occurs to me I might show you something that would interest you--nothing
to do with the store particularly.  But I could collect a lot of
Tyingoza's people and scare up a regular native dance.  They do it well,
and it's worth seeing, I can tell you."

"Why that would be charming," cried the youngest girl.  "Aida, we must
go.  Do you hear?  Father, what do you think?  Let's all go, and make a
day of it."

"I was going to venture yet further, Major," I said.  "I was going to
suggest that you make a night of it.  There's my hut--it's very cool and
comfortable--and I have a capital tent waggon.  If the ladies could make
shift with such by way of sleeping quarters, why we could turn in under
a blanket in the store.  It isn't a luxurious bedroom, but I daresay,
for one night, a couple of soldiers like yourselves could manage."

"Rather," cried Falkner enthusiastically.  "That's a ripping idea of
yours, Glanton.  What d'you think, uncle?  Shall we fix up a day?  No
time like the present."

"Well, I think the idea isn't a bad one, if we are not putting you out,
Glanton.  But--what about the farm?  We can't leave it entirely to
itself."

This certainly was a difficulty.  I thought for a moment; then I said:

"I might be able to straighten that for you, Major.  I will send you
down a man--a native, one of Tyingoza's people, but as trustworthy as
steel.  You know, most of them are that way if put in a position of
trust.  Well you needn't be afraid of anything going wrong--stocklifting
and that--while he's in charge.  How's that?"

"Capital!" went up from the girls.

"You seem to `straighten' everything for us, Mr Glanton," said the
eldest, gratefully.

"Well this is a very small thing after all," I protested.  "I'm only
afraid you will find the quarters a bit rough."

But this they declared was nothing.  It only remained to fix the day.
They would enjoy it above all things, they repeated.

"You'll have the same room as last time, Mr Glanton," said Mrs Sewin,
as she bade me good-night.

"Why, I was just thinking of going home," I protested.

But this was over-ruled, and that unanimously.  The Major wanted to have
a talk with me, and couldn't do it comfortably if I was in a hurry to be
off all the time.  Besides--what did it matter?  Nobody would be wanting
to do a deal during the night, so I might just as well remain where I
was, and so on.  Well, I didn't want much pressing, and it was obvious
my welcome hadn't worn thin just yet.

"Let's take the grog out on to the stoep, uncle," said Falkner.  "It's
cooler there."

"What d'you think, Glanton?" said the Major, when we were comfortably
seated outside, each with a glass of grog before him and a pipe of good
Magaliesberg--than which there is no better tobacco in the world--in
full blast.  "Why is it I can't do anything with these damned fellows of
yours?  Now in India I could make any sort of native do anything I
wanted, and no bother about it.  He had to, don't you know."

"Exactly, Major, he had to and these haven't.  Wherein lies all the
difference."

"I believe I was a damned fool to come and squat here at all," he
growled.

"I don't agree with you, Major," I said.  "You've only got to try and
understand them, and they're all right.  I don't mean to say they're
perfect, no one is, but make the best of them.  To begin with, learn the
language."

"Good Lord, I'm too old to begin learning languages."

"Not a bit of it," I said.  "I knew a man once--he must have been about
your age, Major, an old Indian, too, only he had been a civilian--who
had gone stone blind late in life.  But he had a hobby for languages,
and I'm blest if he hadn't taken up this one among others.  He had got
hold of the Bible in Zulu, done up by missionaries of course, and began
putting all sorts of grammar cases to me.  I own he fairly stumped me.
I told him I didn't know anything of Biblical Zulu--had always found
that in use at the kraals good enough.  Then he had the crow over me.
But you ought to have a try at it, certainly your nephew ought."

"By Jove, I believe I will," growled Falkner.  "Only it'd be an infernal
grind."

"Not much more grind than punching a boy's head because he can't
understand you," I said, "especially when the weather's hot; and far
more profitable.  Still I can rather enter into your feelings.  The
feeling of helplessness when we can't make out what the other fellow is
talking about is prone to engender irritability.  I was not guiltless
myself in that line when I first went up-country.  You set to work.
Miss Sewin was saying this evening that she intended to."

"Oh was she?" growled Falkner again, with renewed interest, and the
glance he gave me was not at all friendly, I thought.

"Well, you take my tip, Major, and then I don't think you'll at all
regret coming here.  No, by Jove, I don't."

"You don't, eh?  Well I'm getting up a first-rate garden certainly.  And
the shooting around here isn't bad of its kind."

I hugged myself, metaphorically.  Less than ever, by the experiences of
a few hours, did I wish these people to give up in disgust.



CHAPTER FIVE.

A DISAPPEARANCE AND A REVEL.

"What is this about Nyakami?"

"U' Nyakami?  Is he dead?" answered Tyingoza, pausing with his
snuff-spoon in mid air.

"That is what some would like to know," I went on.  "But they have not
found him yet."

I had named, by his native name, a neighbour of mine, who farmed some
way down the river.  Though in actual fact he was rather too far off to
be termed exactly a neighbour.  His real and British name was Hensley,
and he had disappeared.

Sounds strange, doesn't it, and it certainly was.  People don't
disappear in Natal like they do in London, or any other large and
civilised city, least of all highly respectable and fairly substantial
colonists, of which Hensley was one.  But this man had, and the
strangest part of it was that he had not only disappeared but had done
so leaving no trace.  Not only that, but no one could be found who could
swear to having been the last to see him.

He lived alone, and was an ordinary type of the frontier stock farmer.
He was fairly prosperous and there was no reason on earth why he should
have taken himself out of the way.  No reason on earth was there either
why he should have been put out of the way.  He was on good terms with
the natives, could always get plenty of servants, and so on.  No, there
was no reason in the world for his disappearance, yet he had
disappeared--how and when nobody seemed to have the faintest idea.

The news had reached me through native sources, as a large portion of my
news did.  Indeed it is hardly credible the quantity I used to learn
about my neighbours in this way; some of whom would have been mightily
disconcerted could they have guessed that I, or anybody else, had an
inkling of anything of the sort.  The Natal Mounted Police had been
investigating, but neither they nor their native detectives had been
able to lay hand on the slightest clue.  The man might have been caught
up to heaven at midnight for all there was to show what had become of
him.

"Not found him yet?" echoed Tyingoza, when he had absorbed his snuff.
"_Au_! he will find himself.  Men are strange, Iqalaqala, especially
white men.  And this one--if he wants to disappear why should he not?"

"Wants to disappear?  But this one has no reason to want anything of the
kind.  Some men might, but this one not.  You know him, Tyingoza, as
well as I.  What do you think?"

There was a comical twinkle in the chief's eyes.  He merely answered:

"Who can think in such a case?"

Obviously there was nothing to be got out of Tyingoza--as yet--so I left
the subject.  In fact I had a far more interesting subject on my mind
just then, for this was the day the Sewins had fixed upon for their
visit to me, and so I fell to discussing with the chief the arrangements
which were to be made for their entertainment.  He had promised that a
goodly number of his people should muster, and I had promised them
cattle to kill in proportion to the number that would require feasting.
This ought to ensure a very good roll up indeed.  The disappearance of
Hensley was to me a very secondary matter to-day.

By the way, I was in a state of fidget absolutely unwonted with me; and
my "boy" Tom simply gaped with astonishment at the thorough turn-out I
made him give my hut; and when I fetched a roll of Salampore cloth to
hang around the walls so as to conceal the grass thatching I could see
that he was entertaining considerable doubts as to his master's sanity.

He would have entertained even graver doubts could he have witnessed a
still further stage of imbecility into which I lapsed.  I found myself
looking in the glass--not for ordinary purposes of toilet, be it noted,
and I have set out upon this narrative determined to spare none of my
own weaknesses, but because I was anxious to see what sort of fellow I
looked--and I don't know that I felt particularly flattered by the
result; for, confound it, I was no longer in my first youth, and a face
bronzed and roughened by twenty years of knocking about, struck me as
nothing particularly attractive to the other sex.  Yet it was only the
roughness of weather and more or less hard times that had told upon it,
for I had always been rather abstemious and had set my face like a flint
against the wild roaring sprees that some of my friends in the same line
were prone to indulge in.  If I had not the "clean run" look of Falkner
Sewin, my eye was every whit as clear and I had a trifle the advantage
of him in height, and held myself quite as straight.  No, it was absurd
to try and start comparisons with Sewin, who was quite ten years
younger, and had never known any hardening experiences, so I turned from
the looking-glass imprecating one Godfrey Glanton as a silly ass, who
had much better trek away right up-country and stay there altogether.
And this idea was the first intimation that I had returned to sanity
again.

My guests arrived earlier than I had expected, somewhere in the middle
of the afternoon to wit, and the first thing they did was to reproach me
for having put myself out for them so as they called it.

"I warned you there was nothing particular to see, didn't I?"  I said,
as I showed them the inside of the store.

"But I think there is," declared Miss Sewin, gazing around at the
various "notions" disposed along the shelves or hanging about from the
beams.  "And how tidy you keep it all.  Ah--" as an idea struck her, "I
believe you have had it all put ship-shape for the occasion.  Confess
now, Mr Glanton, haven't you?"

"Well, you know, it's a sort of general holiday, so of course things are
a little more ship-shape than usual," I answered.

"Ah, but the fun would have been to have taken you by surprise, when you
were in the thick of it.  How is it there are no natives here to-day?"

"They'll roll up directly for the fun this evening.  I expect quite a
lot of them."

"Are they hard at a deal?" she went on, still gazing with interest at
the trade goods.  "Do they haggle much?"

"Haggle?  Rather!  Haggle like any Italian.  Only they're much more
difficult to bring down.  But, won't you come round now and have tea?
I've had a waggon sail rigged up for shade because I thought you'd
prefer it outside."

The ladies were delighted, and I will own in candour that there didn't
seem to be anything wanting, if about four kinds of biscuits; and rolls,
white and fresh, done on a gridiron; some very excellent tinned jam;
butter and potted meats; tea and coffee, and for us men a decanter of
first-rate Boer brandy--contributed a sufficient afternoon tea.

"So this is the `roughing it' you warned us against, Mr Glanton?"
laughed Mrs Sewin, who was pouring out.  "Why, it is luxury, positive
luxury."

"But it's a great occasion," I answered.  "Major, have a glass of grog
after your ride."

"Well, that's no bad idea.  Capital stuff this," holding up his glass.

"So it is," pronounced Falkner, tossing off his.  "Here's luck, Glanton.
By Jove, you've got an uncommonly snug crib up here.  Hanged if it
don't feel like turning Zulu trader myself."

"And if Tyingoza came here rather often, and stuck here a little longer
than you wanted, how long would it be before you started to kick him off
the place?"

"Oh, not long, I expect," answered Falkner equably, amid the general
laugh at his expense.

"Quite so.  Then from that, moment you might as well shut up shop."

"Isn't this Tyingoza the chief of the location?" asked Miss Sewin.

"Yes.  He was here this morning."

"Oh, I should like to see him."

"You shall," I answered.  "He's sure to be here to-night.  If not I'll
send over for him the first thing in the morning.  He's a great friend
of mine."

Falkner guffawed.  "Friend of yours!  Oh, I say now, Glanton.  A
nigger!"

"All serene, Sewin.  I've known quite as fine fellows in their way among
`niggers' as you call them--as among white men.  Strange, isn't it?
But, fact, for all that."

"Now I come to think of it," said the Major, "I've noticed that the men
I've met over here, who have large experience of natives, invariably
speak well of them."

I rejoiced that the old man was coming to his senses on that point,
because there was less likelihood of him getting disgusted with and
leaving the neighbourhood.

"You have a perfectly lovely view from here, at any rate," said Miss
Sewin, when he had debated the oft-threshed-out question a little
further.  "How black and jagged the Drakensberg peaks look over there.
And so that is Zululand?" turning to the expanse beyond the Tugela.

"By Jove!" said the Major.  "It strikes me we are pretty much at
Cetywayo's mercy, right on the border as we are."

"If you're never at the mercy of anybody worse, you won't have cause for
uneasiness, Major," I said.  "As long as he's let alone he'll let us
alone.  There isn't a native chief in the whole of Africa who is less
likely to molest us in any way."

"And are these people round you Zulus, Mr Glanton?" went on Miss Sewin,
her beautiful eyes wide open as she gazed forth upon the country that
had awakened her interest.

"Yes.  Those on the immediate border here, Tyingoza's people, and two or
three more of the large locations along the river.  Further in they are
made up of all sorts of the tribes originally inhabiting what is now
Natal.  Ah!  Do you hear that?  Here come some of them at any rate."

"Yes.  They are singing, and quite well too."

I looked at her as she stood listening; her beautiful face lit up with
animation, and, I must admit, I was enjoying the position of host and
entertainer to her.

"But now, if there was a war with Cetywayo," struck in the Major, "would
these people go over to him or stand by us?"

"Well that would depend on how our forces behaved at first.
Sentimentally their sympathies would be with him, but then a savage is
pre-eminently a practical animal, Major, with a hard keen eye to the
side on which his bread is buttered, and that would tell.  Look now,
here they come."

All eyes were turned with interest, as a body of natives emerged from
the bush about a quarter of a mile from my store.  They were a good bit
got up, and wore feather adornments and tufts of cow-tails round leg and
arm.  They carried the _isihlangu_, or large war shield, instead of the
small _irau_, or dancing shield, they usually moved about with, and the
quiver of assegai hafts kept time with the tread of feet and the deep
sonorous thunder of their marching song.  In number they were about a
hundred.

"That's all right," I said gleefully.  "I told Tyingoza to turn them out
in good form, and he has."

"Why, they're splendid," pronounced Miss Sewin, as they drew near,
making a brave show with their multi-coloured shields, and the gleam of
assegais in the afternoon sun, and I delighted to watch her animated
face and kindling eyes, as the whole body marched up to where we stood,
and halting suddenly with weapons lowered and right hand uplifted,
chorussed forth one deep-voiced word of salute:

"_Amakosi_!"  [Chiefs.]

I went forward and spoke to them.  Most of them I knew personally or by
sight.  They were all young men and unringed, and in high glee at the
prospect of an abundant beef feast.  And it would be an abundant one,
for were it to run to half my herd, I was determined to stint nothing to
render the entertainment complete on this occasion.

Hardly had they withdrawn to the place I had pointed out and squatted
themselves upon the ground than a sound of singing was heard from
another quarter and soon a second company came in sight likewise bravely
got up, and then another, till I reckoned there must be something over
three hundred of them.  The ladies were delighted, and pronounced it
well worth coming to see: so was I, because they were.

"I say though," said Falkner, "to be serious, isn't this rather--well,
injudicious, Glanton?  These fellows are all fully armed you know, and
we--"

I laughed.

"Look here, Sewin," I said.  "Supposing you were taken to a review, in
France or Germany say--would you feel any misgivings because the troops
were fully armed?"

"That's all very well, but these are savages you know.  And the
ladies--"

"--Have no misgiving at all, Falkner," struck in Miss Sewin serenely.
"If all the savages in Zululand were here, I, for one, would feel
perfectly safe with Mr Glanton."

"Hullo, Glanton.  Bow your acknowledgments," cried Falkner, in a tone
whose would-be geniality could not disguise a sneer.  "Well, I was not
speaking on my own account."

"Of course you weren't, Sewin," I answered, anxious to avert any
unpleasant feeling.  "And now, if the ladies will excuse me for a little
I must go and look out some cows for these fellows to kill.  For the
next hour they will exchange their picturesqueness for the decidedly
reverse of the slaughter yard.  By the way you might like to come along,
Sewin."

He jumped at the suggestion, but the Major preferred to remain where he
was.  Mrs Sewin said they would get through the time getting out their
things and arranging their quarters for the night.

"I should think it'll make a hole in your cattle kraal," he said as we
strolled over.

"Not a big one.  I sha'n't give them the pick of the herd of course."

We strolled round to the kraal.  My cattle herd was there and we
proceeded to turn out the half dozen beasts I had selected for
slaughter.  A number of my guests had crowded up.  They had discarded
their shields, but were handling assegais in a manner that was highly
anticipatory.

"Stand back," I cried noting a desire to crowd up.  "A few will be
sufficient."

But all were anxious to make one of that few, and by the time the doomed
animals had reached the appointed place, chosen for being well out of
sight--and scent--of the house, a rush was made upon them.  Half the
number were down at once, deftly assegaied; the remaining three however
careered away, two wounded, and streaming with blood--the other
untouched.  Then ensued something akin to a buffalo hunt.  With yells
and whoops the excited savages bounded in pursuit, but even their speed
and agility was not enough to turn the terrified and maddened animals,
and had not a fresh crowd raced forward to head them they would have got
away into the bush.  Now two were promptly transfixed with half a dozen
deftly hurled assegais in each, but the last, hardly touched, charged
like lightning through its encompassing destroyers, and came straight
back to the kraal, and, incidentally, for Falkner Sewin, who had left me
to follow on and see the racket.

"Look out!"  I roared.  "Look out, Sewin!  Run, man, for your life!"

If he had taken my warning in time, all would have been well; but for
some reason or other--I suspect cussedness--he did not.  The cow, a red
one, with sharp needle-like horns, now thoroughly maddened by the riot
and the blood, and the sharp dig of more than one badly aimed spear, put
down her head, and charged straight for Falkner.  I snatched an assegai
from a young Zulu who was standing by me watching the fun, and rushed
forward, and none too soon, for now Falkner was in full flight; the
savage animal, head lowered, and throwing the foam from her mouth, and
"twilling" hideously, was gaining upon him at the rate of two steps to
one.  It was now or never.  As she shot past me I let go the assegai.
It was a tense moment that--between when the long shaft left my hand and
half buried itself in the side of the cow.  But the throw was a right
true one.  The keen, tapering blade had bitten right into the heart, and
the maddened beast plunged heavily forward to lie in a moment, dead and
still, and at the sight a great roar of applause went up from the
excited savages, who while trooping back from their unsuccessful chase
had been delightedly watching this its termination.



CHAPTER SIX.

FURTHER FESTIVITY.

"Near thing that," I said.

"Near thing?  By Jove, I believe you!" echoed Falkner, who had halted,
considerably out of wind and temper; the latter not improved by certain
scarcely smothered and half-averted laughs which escaped some of the
spectators.  "Why I do believe the infernal sweeps are having the grin
of me," he added, scowling at them.

"We'll enter into the joke yourself, just as you would have done if it
had been some other fellow.  That would have struck you as funny, eh?
and this strikes them.  They don't mean anything by it."

"Oh well, I suppose not," he growled, and I felt relieved, for he was
quite capable of kicking up some silly row then and there, which would
have been unpleasant, if not worse.

"Let's go back," I suggested.  "The noble savage engaged in the most
congenial occupation of his heart, that of butchery, is not seen at his
best."

"I should think not.  Look at those fellows over there.  Why they're
beginning on the stuff raw.  Nasty beggars!"

"There are certain tit-bits they like that way, just as we do our snipe
and woodcock and teal--or say we do."

In truth the groups engaged upon each carcase were not pleasant to the
eye--although thoroughly enjoying themselves--and we left them.

"I say, Glanton, though," he went on, "I believe I came devilish near
getting badly mauled by that beastly cow.  The nigger who ripped in that
assegai did so in the nick of time.  I'd like to give him half-a-crown."

"Hand over then, Sewin.  Here's the nigger."

"What?  You?"

"Me."

"But the beast was going full bat."

"Well, a cow's a good big target even at twenty yards," I said.

He whistled.  "By Jove!  _I_ couldn't have done it."

For once I was able to agree with him.

We had dinner in the open, under the waggon sail which I had rigged up
as shelter from the sun, and which now did duty to give shelter from the
dew.

"I'm afraid it's all game fare to-night, Mrs Sewin," I said.  "This is
roast bush-buck haunch, and that unsightly looking pot there beside the
Major contains a regular up-country game stew.  I rather pride myself on
it, and it holds five different kinds of birds, besides bacon, and odd
notions in the way of pepper, etc."

"And that's what you call roughing it," was the answer.  "Why, it looks
simply delicious."

"By Jove, Glanton, we must get the recipe from you," said the Major when
he had sampled it.  "I never ate anything so good in my life."

Tom and another boy in the background, were deft when help was required,
and I know that if anybody ever enjoyed their dinner my guests did on
that occasion.  And upon my word they might well have done so, for trust
an old up-country man for knowing how to make the best of the products
of the veldt; and the best is very good indeed.  And as we partook of
this, by the light of a couple of waggon lanterns, slung from the poles
of our improvised tent, the surroundings were in keeping.  On the open
side lay a panorama rapidly growing more and more dim as the stars began
to twinkle forth, a sweep of darkening country of something like fifty
or sixty miles, reaching away in the far distance beyond the Blood
River, on the left, and immediately in front, beyond the Tugela, the
wooded river bank and open plains and rocky hills of Zululand.  Then,
suffusing the far horizon like the glow of some mighty grass fire, the
great disc of a broad full moon soared redly upward, putting out the
stars.

"Now this is what I call uncommonly jolly," pronounced the Major,
leaning back in his chair, and blowing out the first puffs of his after
dinner pipe.

"Hear--hear!" sung out Falkner.  And then, warmed up into a glow of
generosity by a good dinner and plenty of grog, I'm blest if the fellow
didn't trot out quite a yarn about the cow chevying him and my timely
assegai throw; whereupon there was a disposition to make a hero of me on
the spot.

"Pooh!  The thing was nothing at all," I objected.  "An everyday affair,
if you're working with unbroken cattle."

Yet there was one face which expressed more than the others, expressed
in fact unbounded approval, as it was turned full on me with that
straight frank gaze, and I exulted inwardly, but then came a thought
that dashed everything and was as a judgment upon my quite unwarrantable
conceit.  This was it.  What if they are engaged, and that full, frank
look of approval is one of gratitude that I should have saved--if not
the life of the other--at any rate the certainty of him being badly
injured?  It is singular that no such idea had ever occurred to me
before, but it did now, and seemed to lend significance to certain signs
of resentment and ill-will which I had noticed on Falkner's part on
occasions where his cousin was concerned.  And the thought was a
thoroughly disquieting one, I admit.

"Listen!  Here they come," I said, holding up a hand.  "The
entertainment is about to begin."

The distant and deep-toned hum of conversation had reached us from where
our dusky entertainers were enjoying their feast, and an occasional
outburst of laughter.  Now, instead, came the regular rhythm of a savage
song, drawing nearer and nearer.

"I think we can't do better than let them perform just in front here," I
went on.  "The ground's open, and the moon almost as bright as day."

This was agreed to enthusiastically, and soon the singing grew louder
and louder, and the whole body in their picturesque gear, came marching
up, beating time upon their shields with sticks and assegai hafts.  They
halted in half moon formation and one man stepping out from the rest,
gave the sign for silence.  Then having saluted us with much _sibongo_,
he led off, in a sort of chant, loud and clear at first, then rising
higher and higher.  The others took it up at a given point in response,
and although the song did not run to many notes, it was soon thundered
aloud in a harmonious wave of sound.  When it had attained its highest
pitch, at a sign from the _choragus_ it ceased--ceased with such
suddenness as to impart an impression that was positively uneasy.

"Dashed effective, by Jove!" pronounced the Major, breaking the spell.

"Why, it is beautiful--positively beautiful," declared Miss Sewin.  "The
harmony and the rhythmic waves of sound are perfect.  Tell me, Mr
Glanton, what was it all about?"

"Oh, it was merely a song of welcome, improvised over yonder while they
were scoffing my cows."

"Really?  Do you mean to say it was all impromptu?"

"Of course.  That's the way these people do things."

"Won't they go over it again?"

"Oh, there's plenty more to come.  Rather too soon for an encore yet."

While I spoke they were forming up again.  This time they broke up into
a hunting song.  When it seemed to have gained its height, it suddenly
ceased, and all darted away across the veldt till nearly out of sight in
the moonlight.

"What the deuce are they up to now?" said Falkner, filling his pipe.

"You'll see.  Listen.  Now they are returning with the game."

Again the voices broke forth, now returning as I had said, and swelling
higher and higher, in a long recitative uttered by some dozen, and
replied to in rolling chorus by the whole body.

"They are recounting their exploits now--what game they have got, and
how they got it," I explained, as the singing ceased.

"By Jove, are they?" cried Falkner.  "Look here, Glanton, I've got an
idea.  How would it be to scare up a hunt to-morrow, and get a lot of
these chaps to help?  I'd like to see how they go to work in their own
way.  That would be worth seeing."

"Well, it might be managed.  What d'you think, Major?"

"A capital idea.  But--hang it, we haven't got our guns."

"Oh, as to that," I said, "you could use mine.  There's a shot gun and a
rifle, and a rifle and smooth-bore combined.  That'll arm all hands."

"Well done, Glanton.  You're a jewel of a chap!" cried Falkner,
boisterously.  "The very thing.  But, I say.  How about arranging it
with them now.  No time like the present, eh?"

The idea appealed to me exceedingly, not for its own sake, I fear, but
because it would afford an opportunity of detaining my guests--or shall
we say one of them--yet longer, perhaps even another night, for it would
be hard if I could not manage to prolong the hunt until too late for
them to return.  Really Falkner Sewin was not without his uses in the
world.

"I think it would be simply delightful!" interjected that "one of them."
"We will be able to see some of it too, won't we, Mr Glanton?"

"Why of course, Miss Sewin.  I'll send the boys up to some convenient
spot with lunch and we'll make a regular picnic of it."

The idea was received with enthusiasm.  Only Mrs Sewin somewhat faintly
objected that they had a long way to go to get home afterwards.  But
this I over-ruled by hoping they would not find my poor accommodation so
very trying that the prospect of another night of it--if the worst came
to the worst--should prove entirely out of the question.

Just then a group of men detached themselves from the rest, and came
over to us, to salute and ask how we liked the performance.

"This is Wabisa, the next biggest chief under Tyingoza," I said,
introducing the foremost, a tall, dignified head-ringed man.  "Now, Miss
Sewin, here is a real chief.  Tyingoza could not come to-night, but will
to-morrow morning."

"I'm so glad," she answered, looking at Wabisa with interest.

I gave them some roll tobacco which I had ready for them, and told my
boys to make them some coffee.  The while I arranged for to-morrow's
bush-buck hunt.  There was no difficulty about it at all, even as I had
expected.  I could have as many boys as I wanted.

"They must hunt too, Wabisa," I said.  "The white _amakosi_ want to see
if the assegai is a better weapon than the gun."

"_Ou_!  That they shall see," laughed the chief.

"Is there going to be any more dancing, Mr Glanton?" said the youngest
girl.

"Yes.  The best part.  They're going to give us the war dance now," and
I suggested to Wabisa that it was getting late, and the white ladies
might be growing tired.

Of all native dances a war dance is the most catching, and this had not
long started before even the old Major found himself beating time with
his feet, while as for Falkner, it was all I could do to prevent him
from rushing in among them to take his part.  The chant now rose quickly
to a ferocious roar, and as the dancers swayed and crouched, turning
half round, then leaping erect, while going through the pantomime of
striking an enemy, to the accompaniment of a strident death hiss, the
whole scene was vivid and realistic enough to have rendered some people
decidedly nervous.  Then the thunderous stamping of six hundred feet,
the beating of sticks on shields, and the shrilling rattle of assegai
hafts--a sound not quite like any other I ever heard, and I've heard it
often--add to this the rolling of fierce eyeballs, and the waving of
tufted shields in the moonlight and you have a picture unrivalled for
thrilling and at the same time exhilarating terror.  A gasp as of
involuntary relief went up from my guests as the thunder and racket
ceased with a suddenness of silence that was almost appalling in
contrast Miss Sewin was the first to speak.

"It is perfectly magnificent," she declared.  "I for one don't know how
to thank you, Mr Glanton, for giving us such a splendid entertainment."

I was rarely pleased at this, and mumbled something--probably idiotic.

"I suppose it isn't much to you," she went on.  "You must have seen it
often, and the real thing too."

"Well yes.  I have, and done by more thousands than there are hundreds
here.  By the way, I'm giving them a little more beef for to-morrow
morning so they'll be in high trim and good humour for our hunt."

"Oh, I'm afraid you are going to a great deal of trouble on our
account," she said.

"Isn't it worth it--at least--I mean--er--it isn't often one can afford
anyone a new kind of pleasure in this worn-out world," I added lamely.
But I believe she read my original meaning for I could see a soft look
come into the beautiful clear eyes in the moonlight, and there was a
half smile curving her lips.  We were talking a little apart from the
others who had embarked on a voluble discussion of their own.  And then
it was voted time for bed, and the natives having dispersed, after a
sonorously uttered farewell salute, the Major and Falkner and I had a
final glass of grog, or so, and adjourned to our quarters in the store.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

TYINGOZA'S HEAD-RING.

There was no sign of life on the part of my guests, as I rolled out at
early dawn and went down to the waterhole in the kloof for a splash.
When I returned the Major and his nephew were sitting up on their
blankets rubbing their eyes.

"Any chance of a tub, Glanton?" said the latter.

"There's a waterhole down in the kloof, if it's not too cold for you.
Take the path that leads by Tom's hut.  You can't miss it."

"Right, I'll chance the cold.  Got a towel?  Ah, thanks."

"That fellow's a great subject of anxiety to me, Glanton," said the
Major, after Falkner had gone out.  "I feel in a sort of way responsible
for him.  He was in the Service for a few years, then chucked it
suddenly, for no other reason than to go tea-planting in Ceylon with
some infernal swindler who persuaded him to invest what he'd got, in a
partnership, and then skinned him of the whole lot.  His father was
simply frantic with him."

"I can imagine he would be."

"So can I, after the expense and trouble he had been put to in getting
this young fool into the Service at all, then to have him chuck it all
up!  He wouldn't do anything more for him; shut the door in his face and
told him to go to the devil.  He didn't go to the devil; he came to me."

"I'm sure he chose the right alternative, Major," I said, when I had
recovered from the roar into which this way of putting it had sent me.

"Well, you see it's a grave responsibility, and if he throws up this I
don't know what'll become of him.  He's got nothing in the world but
what he has invested in a little stock on my place, and as for getting
him a bunk, why I haven't influence enough to get him one as boot-black
to a club."

"Well, he mustn't throw it up, that's all," I said.

"That's what I tell him.  But he's so restless, swears the life's slow
here.  Bad-tempered too, and always kicking up rows with the niggers.
Yes, he's a great anxiety to me."

As to the last I thought as coming from Major Sewin it was a good deal
of the pot calling the kettle black.  For the rest his revelations as to
Falkner's prospects, or the lack of them, were not unpleasing to me, if
only that the uncomfortable thought which had beset me last night could
have had no foundation.  This was mean but I suppose it was natural,
and, as a set off, may be accepted the fact that I would willingly have
done the youngster any good turn within my power.  I felt flattered too
that the old gentleman should discuss with me what was, after all, a
family matter.

"I can readily imagine it," I answered.  "But he'll have too much sense,
I should think, to do anything so foolish.  And then, too, Major, I
should think the ladies' influence would--"

"Ah, now, it's just that which--"

But what "that" was I was not fated to know, for I heard my name called
in Mrs Sewin's voice, and had to hurry away, to find out what was
wanted.  Also, I thought the speaker had checked himself as though about
to say too much.

"We never slept more comfortably in our lives than in that waggon of
yours, Mr Glanton," said the youngest girl, as we all met for an early
breakfast.  "Did we, Aida?"

"No, indeed.  The kartel--isn't that what you call it--has all the
elasticity of a spring mattress.  Really, I shall never believe again in
you up-country men's stories of roughing it."

"They're true, all the same," I answered, with a laugh.  "For that
reason we make ourselves comfortable when we can."

"By Jove, Glanton, that waterhole of yours is dashed cold," said
Falkner, who came up, looking a fresh and healthy specimen of young
England after his bath.

"Yes, but go and get dressed, Falkner," said his aunt.  "We're just
going to breakfast."

The table was laid as before, under the waggon sail, upon which the not
long risen sun was fast drying up the heavy dew.  Away below, over the
Zulu country, a thick white mist, in billowy masses of cloud, was
rolling back, revealing distant rock and dark forest belt shimmering in
sheeny patches of dew beneath the unbroken blue.  All were in high
spirits, especially Falkner, who had soon joined us, over the prospect
of the coming hunt.  With his faults, such as they were, he had the
redeeming virtue in my eyes of being a keen sportsman.

We had done breakfast, and I was pointing out to Miss Sewin various
points of interest in the landscape near and far, when we descried a
tall figure coming towards us.

"Who is this?" she said, as the newcomer saluted.  He was a fine,
straight, warrior-like young fellow, and carried a small shield and a
bundle of hunting assegais which he deposited on the ground.

"Ivuzamanzi, the son of Tyingoza--Ah, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed
Miss Sewin," after a few words with him.  "The chief sends word that he
will not be able to come this morning, but his son will direct the
hunting party instead.  He will come up this evening if he can."

"Well, I suppose I ought to be more anxious than ever to see him," she
said, "as he is so unapproachable."

"Well, don't prepare for any display of royalty," I warned.  "Tyingoza
is just like any other highbred Zulu, in fact you wouldn't know him from
another unless you were told."

Soon groups of natives began to straggle up, not in regular formation
this time.  They had discarded their adornments and carried only small
shields, knobsticks and light, casting assegais.  At their heels trotted
a number of dogs, from the slinking mongrel, to the well-bred tawny or
brindled greyhound; and indeed the snarling and fighting that presently
arose among these, soon took up enough of their owners' time to keep
them apart.  The process was simple by the way.  If two or more dogs got
fighting their owners simply whacked them with kerries until they
desisted.

"Ah--ah, Ivuzamanzi," I went on, chaffing him.  "I had thought of fixing
our mid-day resting place on the river bank below where Umzinyati flows
in.  Or, are the horns of Matyana's calves long enough to reach across?
What thinkest thou, son of Tyingoza?"

"_Ou_!" laughed the youth, bringing his hand to his mouth.  "You are my
father, Iqalaqala.  But that day is yet to be paid for."

His broken leg was very completely mended, and he showed no trace of a
limp, even.  I explained the joke to my companion.

"I didn't know they fought like that among themselves," she said.  "Tell
me, Mr Glanton.  They are not likely to do anything of that sort
to-day, are they?  I mean, they might get excited."

"No--no.  Don't be in the least alarmed about that.  By the way, how are
you getting on in your studies?  Say something to Ivuzamanzi now--even
if only two or three words."

"No, I'm shy to.  You'll only laugh at me, or he will."

"Not a bit of it.  Now--go ahead."

"Hallo!  What nigger's this?" bellowed Falkner, swaggering up.  "He
wasn't here last night, was he?"

"No," I answered rather shortly, disgusted at the interruption of this
blundering ass upon our little understanding.  "He's the chief's son,
and he's going to boss up the arrangements, so don't be uncivil to him
if you can help it, eh?"

"I'll try not.  But I say, Glanton, come and arrange about these guns
you were speaking of, there's a good fellow.  It must be nearly time to
start."

Already, you see, he was beginning to take over the whole scheme.  It
was a little way he had--I have observed it too, in others of his
kidney.

"Oh, there's time enough," I said, still shortly, for I don't like to be
hustled, and just then, and by Falkner Sewin, I liked it still less.
And something of this must have imparted itself to his understanding for
he answered unpleasantly:

"Oh well of course, if you're so much better employed," and he moved off
in dudgeon.  My companion coloured slightly and looked displeased.

"Isn't your relative rather a queer tempered sort of fellow?"  I asked,
with a smile.

"Well yes, he is rather, but we are all so sorry for him that--I'm
afraid he was rather rude to you, Mr Glanton, I must apologise for
him."

"No--no--no," I said.  "Not a bit of it.  Don't you think anything about
that.  I don't."

She changed the subject to something else, and I went on talking longer
than I would otherwise have done.  The interruption and its manner had
annoyed me, and a good deal as a protest against being hurried I made up
my mind not to hurry.  Afterwards I had reason to regret my delay.

We strolled back to join the others, and the prospect of this
companionship more or less throughout the day, to end in an evening
similar to that of last night--with the native revels left out--soon
restored my accustomed good humour.  The natives were squatting about
round the store in groups, conversing in their deep-toned voices.  Then
suddenly they all sprang to their feet as one man, uttering respectful
salutations; and there, to my surprise, advancing leisurely towards us,
came Tyingoza himself.

"It is the chief," I explained for the benefit of my companion,
"Tyingoza.  He has changed his mind."

"Oh, I am so glad," she said, looking at him with interest.  "I shall
see him before we start I like the look of him.  Why if we had started
when Falkner wanted us to we should have missed him."

Afterwards, I repeat, I had good reason to wish we had.

I have omitted to describe Tyingoza's outward appearance.  He was a man
of between fifty and sixty, rather inclining to stoutness, which
detracted somewhat from his stature, but his walk was straight and
dignified, and he carried his shaven head, crowned by the shiny ring,
well held back, as became a Zulu of birth and standing.  His strong
face, terminating in a short, crisp, grizzled beard, was a very pleasant
one, and the expression of his eyes good-humoured and genial to a
degree.

"Welcome, Tyingoza," I said, going forward to meet him.  "Here are they
who would see thy young men hunt."

The chief ran his eyes over the group.

"I see them, Iqalaqala," he said, in the native idiom.  "_Whau_! the
game is rather scarce, but I hope they will be pleased."

His eyes rested for a moment on Miss Sewin, and then on me, and I
remembered his joke about the new hut.  Then he sat down in his
accustomed place against the front of the store, while the others sank
back into their former attitudes at a respectful distance.

"What rum things those head-rings are, Glanton," commented Falkner, who
had been staring at Tyingoza as if he were some wild animal.  "Looks for
all the world like a thick stick of Spanish liquorice coiled round his
head.  What the deuce are they made of?"

"The dark gum of the mimosa, and other things," I said, going on, in the
Major's interest, to translate all sorts of complimentary things which
that fine old soldier had never dreamed of originating.

"Well, now we've seen him," grumbled Falkner, "can't you give him a
gentle hint to move on, or, at any rate, that we want to.  It's high
time we started, and he's delaying us like blazes."

"Can't do anything of the sort," I flung back in a quick aside.  "It
wouldn't be etiquette to hurry him."

"Etiquette!  With a nigger!" jeered Falkner, going into the store to
light his pipe.

Now the place of Tyingoza's accustomed seat was right under a window,
which was open.  Seated as he was, with his back to the wall, his head
came about a foot and a half below the sill of this.  I talked with him
a little longer and he was just expressing the opinion that it was high
time for us to start, when I saw the head and shoulders of Falkner Sewin
lounging through this window.  He was puffing away at his pipe, looking
somewhat intently down upon the chief's head, and then, to my horror,
and of course before I could prevent it, down went his hand.  With an
agility surprising in a man of his years and build Tyingoza sprang to
his feet, and stood with head erect, gazing sternly and indignantly at
Falkner, who, still half through the window, was examining minutely a
piece which he had dug out of the chief's head-ring, and still held in
his thumb nail, grinning like the stark, record idiot he was.

There was a second or two of tension, then the four score or so of
natives who were squatting around, sprang to their feet as one man, and
a deep gasp of horror and resentment escaped from every chest.

"Why what's the row?" cried the offending fool.  "The old boy seems a
bit cross."

"A bit cross," I repeated grimly.  "Why you've insulted him about as
completely as if you'd hit him in the face."

"Oh bosh!  Here, I haven't hurt his old bit of stick liquorice.  Tell
him to stick his head down and I'll plaster the bit back in its place
again, and give him a shilling into the bargain."

The expression of Tyingoza's face had undergone a complete change, and
the indignant look had given way to one of the most withering contempt,
as with a wave of the hand towards Falkner, in which there was a
suggestion of pity, he said softly:

"_Hau!  Sengaloku igcwane_."  ["It seems an idiot."]  Then, turning, he
walked away.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE SPOILING OF THE HUNT.

There was a tense, and, under the circumstances to anyone who knew,
rather an awesome silence.

"This won't do," I said.  "I must go after him and explain."

"Don't go.  It doesn't look safe."

The protest came from Miss Sewin, for now an angry muttering had arisen
among the young men, and the rattle of assegai hafts--this time in
ominous earnest--mingled with the hoarse growl of deepening indignation.
A very different face was upon things now to that of formerly.  The
head-ring of their father and chief had been insulted.

"It might not be for everybody, but it is for me," I answered, quickly,
as I hurried after the chief.

It was no easy task to placate Tyingoza.  I pointed out to him that what
had been done was the silly childish act of a foolish boy who had no
sort of idea of what he was doing, and how sorry I was that such a thing
should have happened, especially on my place, where he, Tyingoza, had
always been so thoroughly welcome, and so forth.  And now, would not he
return with me and receive a present from me, and an apology from the
boy, to show his people that there was no remnant of a cloud between us?

But it was all of no use.  He relaxed as far as I was concerned.  It was
a pity that I had been obliged to have an idiot on my place, he said,
but he could see that what had happened was no fault of mine.  But he
would not come back.

"There are my `dogs,' Iqalaqala," pointing to the groups of young men,
now some distance behind us.  "I sent them to hunt with your friends--
they will do so.  I am going home."

I could not shake his determination, and he strode away.  Our talk, as I
said, had taken up some little time, and now as I neared the store I saw
that I had returned none too soon.

For, seeing that their chief had not returned the angry mutterings of
his incensed followers had risen to a threatening hubbub.  All the
savage was now aroused within them, and they crowded up to the store,
clamouring for the man who had insulted their father's head-ring.
Assegais were flourished, dogs were adding their howls and yaps to the
general racket, and altogether matters were taking a decidedly serious
turn.

"What is this, children of Tyingoza?"  I said, as I came up behind
them--incidentally kicking away a large cur which had come for me
open-mouthed.  "The last words of the chief as he left me were--`I have
sent them to hunt with your friends--they will do so.'  But now I find
you ready to spring upon them instead.  What does it mean?"

"This, Iqalaqala.  We want the `idiot'."

The speaker was Ivuzamanzi.  He had been out of the way during the
incident, which was uncommonly lucky for Falkner Sewin.  Now he was
foremost in the agitation.

"But you cannot hold an `idiot' responsible," I urged, catching at a
straw.

"Ah--ah!  But this is not a real one," answered the young warrior.  "He
must be beaten."

"Not so.  The chief is satisfied.  He bade me tell you to go on with the
hunt.  Who are ye to shut your ears to his `word'?"

This told, for the clamour dropped into sullen mutterings as they
consulted together.  The while I walked through them and gained the
store.

The Major was standing in the doorway, and I could see the faces of the
two girls at the window light up with relief as I approached.  They had
thought I should be murdered in the midst of the excited and
gesticulating group, but as a matter of fact I ran not the slightest
danger, and this I hastened to assure them.  I was glad to notice that
Falkner had had the sense to keep himself out of sight, or, what was
more likely, somebody else had had it for him.

"Ah, now we shall be all right," said Mrs Sewin, who was seated on a
pile of goods for want of a chair.  "I must say these savages are rather
alarming."

"They'll go home directly, Mrs Sewin.  I've talked them into a better
frame of mind."

"Go home?" echoed Falkner.  "But, confound it all--what about our hunt?"

"You won't get one of them to stir in that now," I said, "and if they
did you wouldn't be well advised to go with them."

"Well, I think there's considerable overweight of fuss being made
because a silly old nigger puts his back up and walks off in a huff,"
answered Falkner, sullenly.

"Look here, Sewin," I said, fast beginning to lose my temper.  "That
`silly old nigger' is one of the most influential chiefs in Natal.
Added to which he's a Zulu of high breeding, that is to say one of the
proudest of men--and you've put upon him the biggest insult you could
have thought out, and that in the presence of a number of his people--
who moreover were sent up here by his orders to help your day's
amusement I say nothing of it having been done on my place--but,
incidentally, your monkeyish and schoolboy prank has been the means of
frightening the ladies somewhat."

"Here, I say, Glanton.  I don't take that sort of talk, you know," he
answered, colouring up.

"Glanton's quite right," struck in the Major decisively, and with some
sternness.  "You've made an ass of yourself, and got us into a nice
mess--which we don't seem out of yet," he added, as again the voices
outside rose high.

I went out again.  Ivuzamanzi came forward.

"We will not hunt with your friends, Iqalaqala.  We are going home.  As
for the _igcwane_--let him look well on all sides of him."

"For the first I think you are right son of Tyingoza," I answered.  "For
the second--_gahle_!  It is not wise to threaten men on the Queen's side
of the river--for such might lead to visits from the _Amapolise_."

But he replied that he cared nothing for the police, and the others
laughed sneeringly and agreed.

"See now," said Ivuzamanzi, shaking his stick.  "Will he, the _igcwane_,
come out and fight?  He looks big enough, and strong enough, for all
that he is a fool."

I found myself wishing the matter might be cleared up in this rough and
ready manner; but for one thing the ladies were with us, for another I
didn't see how the two could fight on anything like even terms.  Falkner
couldn't fight with native weapons, and Ivuzamanzi, like any other Zulu,
of course had not the remotest idea how to use his fists.  So it
wouldn't do.

"How can that be?"  I put it.  "He does not understand fighting in your
way, and you do not understand fighting in his.  You would both be
ridiculous.  Go home, son of Tyingoza, and talk with your father.  You
will find he has forgotten all about the affair and so must you.  A
mistake has been made and we all regret it."

"_Ou_!" he grunted, and turned away.  I thought enough had been said, to
these young ones at any rate, so forbore to give them anything more in
the way of entertainment lest they should think we were afraid of them.
And soon, somewhat to my relief, and very much to the relief of my
guests, they picked up their weapons, and with their curs at their heels
moved away in groups as they had come.

"Well, we seem to have put you to no end of bother, Glanton, for which I
can't tell you how sorry we are," said the Major.  "And now we mustn't
put you to any more--so, as there is to be no hunt I propose that we
saddle up, and go home."

"Not until after lunch at any rate, Major," I said.  "I can't allow that
for a moment.  As for bother it has been nothing but a pleasure to me,
except this last tiresome business."

I thought Miss Sewin's face expressed unmistakable approval as I caught
her glance.

"How well you seem to manage these people, Mr Glanton," she said.  "I--
we--were beginning to feel rather nervous until you came up.  Then we
were sure it would all come right.  And it has."

Inwardly I thought it had done anything but that, but under the
circumstances my confounded conceit was considerably tickled by her
approval, and I felt disposed to purr.  However I answered that talking
over natives was an everyday affair with me, in fact part of my trade,
and by the time we sat down to lunch--which was not long, for the
morning was well on by then--good humour seemed generally restored.
Even Falkner had got over his sulks.

"I say, Sewin," I said to him as I passed him the bottle.  "You were
talking about going on a trading trip with me.  It wouldn't do to get
chipping bits out of the chiefs' head-rings on the other side of the
river, you know.  They take that sort of thing much more seriously over
there."

"Oh hang it, Glanton, let a fellow alone, can't you," he answered,
grinning rather foolishly.

"By the way, Major, has anything more been heard about Hensley?"  I
said.

"Hensley?  Who's he?  Ah, I remember.  He's been over at our place a
couple of times.  Why?  Is he ill?"

"Nobody knows--or where he is.  He has disappeared."

"Disappeared?"

"Yes.  Nobody seems to have the slightest clue as to what has become of
him.  He went to bed as usual, and in the morning--well, he wasn't
there.  He couldn't have gone away anywhere, for his horses were all on
the place, and his boys say they had never heard him express any
intention of leaving home."

"Good gracious, no.  We hadn't heard of it," said Mrs Sewin.  "But--
when was it?"

"About a fortnight ago.  I didn't hear of it till the other day--and
then through native sources."

"Oh, some nigger yarn I suppose," said Falkner in his superior manner,
which always ruffled me.

"Would you be surprised to hear that I obtain a good deal of
astonishingly accurate information through the same source, Sewin?"  I
answered.  "In fact there is more than one person to whom it relates,
who would be more than a little uncomfortable did they guess how much I
knew about them."

"Oh, then you run a nigger gossip shop as well as a nigger trading
shop," he retorted, nastily.

"But what a very unpleasant thing," hastily struck in his aunt, anxious
to cover his rudeness.  "Does that sort of thing happen here often?"

"I never heard of a case before."

"Probably the niggers murdered him and stowed him away somewhere,"
pronounced the irrepressible Falkner.

"Even `niggers' don't do that sort of thing without a motive, and here
there was none.  Less by a long way than had it been your case," I was
tempted to add, but didn't.  "No, I own it puzzles me.  I shall take a
ride over there in a day or two, and make a few enquiries on the spot,
just as a matter of curiosity."

"All the same it looks dashed fishy," said the Major.  "D'you know,
Glanton, I'm inclined to think Falkner may have hit it."

"Nothing's absolutely impossible," I answered.  "Still, I don't think
that's the solution."

"But the police--what do they think of it?"

"So far they are stumped utterly and completely--nor can their native
detectives rout out anything."

"How very dreadful," said Mrs Sewin.  "Really it makes one feel quite
uncomfortable."

"He lived alone, remember, Mrs Sewin, and there are plenty of you," I
laughed, meaning to be reassuring.  But I could see that a decidedly
uncomfortable feeling had taken hold upon her mind, and tried to turn
the conversation, blaming myself for a fool in having started such a
subject at all on the top of the alarm the ladies had already been
subjected to that morning.  But they say there are compensations for
everything, and mine came when just as they were preparing to start Mrs
Sewin said to me:

"I have a very great favour to ask you, Mr Glanton, and I hardly like
doing so after all your kindness to us since yesterday and what has come
of it.  But--would you mind riding home with us this afternoon.  After
what has just happened we should feel so much safer if you would."

I tried to put all the sincerity I could into my reassurances that no
one would interfere with them, but apart from my own inclinations a
certain anxious look on Aida Sewin's face as they waited for my answer
decided me.

"Why of course I will if it will be any help to you, Mrs Sewin," I
said, and then again a quick grateful look from the same quarter caused
me to tread on air, as I went round to see to the saddling up of the
horses--my own among them.

As we took our way down the well worn bush path I could see that the
incident of the morning had not been entirely cleared off from the minds
of the party.  The ladies were inclined to be nervous, and if a horse
started and shied at a tortoise or a white snail shell beside the path I
believe they more than half expected a crowd of revengeful savages to
rush out and massacre them on the spot.  However, of course, nothing
happened, and we got to the Major's farm by sundown.

Then I had my reward.

"Will you come and help me water some of the flowers, Mr Glanton?" said
Miss Sewin, after we had offsaddled and generally settled ourselves.
"No--don't say you are going back.  Mother is very nervous to-night, and
I know you are going to add to your kindness to us by sleeping here."

Again I trod on air--and yet--and yet--I felt that I was acting like a
fool.  What on earth could come of it--at any rate to my advantage?
Yet, again--why not?

"I want you to promise me something, Mr Glanton, will you?"  Miss Sewin
said, when dusk and the lateness of the hour had put an end to what was
to me one of the most delightful half hours I ever remember spending,
for we had spent it alone, she chatting in that free and natural manner
of hers, I agreeing with everything, as the entrancement of listening to
her voice and watching her grace of movement wound itself more and more
around me.

"I think I may safely promise you anything, Miss Sewin," I answered.
"Well?  What is it?"

"I want you to promise me not to quarrel with my cousin--no matter how
rude and provoking he may be."

"Is that all?  Why of course I will."

"Ah but--you may not find it so easy," she went on, speaking earnestly,
and her wide open glance full on my face.  "I have been noticing his
behaviour towards you of late, and admiring your forbearance.  But as a
personal favour to myself, don't quarrel with him."

"Oh, I still think that'll be an easy promise to keep," I said; and yet,
the very fact that she was so anxious on the subject seemed to make the
other way.  Why was she?

She shook her head slightly and smiled, as though reading my thoughts.

"You see, we are all so friendly together, are we not?" she said.  "And
a man of your experience and good sense can afford to put up with a good
deal from a mere boy who hasn't much of either."

"Why of course," I answered easily, and reassured by her tactful
explanation.  Yet--was Falkner such "a mere boy" after all?



CHAPTER NINE.

HENSLEY'S NEXT-OF-KIN.

It is a strange, and I suppose a wholesomely-humiliating thing that we
are appointed to go through life learning how little we know ourselves.
Here was I, a man no longer young, with considerable experience of the
ways of the world, rough and smooth, and under the fixed impression that
if there was one man in the said wide and wicked world whom I knew
thoroughly, in and out, from the crown of his hat to the soles of his
boots--or _velschoenen_, as the case might be--that man was Godfrey
Glanton, trader in the Zulu.  And yet I had lived to learn that I didn't
know him at all.

For instance the happy-go-lucky, free-and-easy, semi-lonely life that
had satisfied me for so many years seemed no longer satisfying; yet why
not, seeing that all its conditions prevailed as before?  I had enough
for my needs, and if I didn't make a fortune out of my trade, whether
stationary or from time to time peripatetic, I had always made a steady
profit.  Now, however, it came home to me that this was a state of
things hardly the best for a man to live and die in.

Again why not?  I had seen contemporaries of my own--men circumstanced
like myself who had come to the same conclusion.  They had left it--only
to come to grief in unfamiliar undertakings.  Or they had married; only
to find that they had better have elected to go through the rest of life
with a chain and ball hung round their necks, than strapped to some
nagging woman full of affectations and ailments--and raising a brood of
progeny far more likely to prove a curse to them than anything else;
thanks to the holy and gentle maternal influence aforesaid.  All this I
had seen, and yet, here I was, feeling restless and unsatisfied because
for several days the recollection of a certain sweet and refined face,
lit up by a pair of large, appealing eyes, had haunted my solitary
hours.

It was that time since I had seen my neighbours.  I had heard of them
through my usual sources of information, and they seemed to me to be
getting along all right; wherefore I had forborne to pay another visit
lest it might have the appearance of "hanging around."  And by way of
combating an inclination to do so now, I made up my mind to carry out a
deferred intention, viz., pay a visit to Hensley's place.

Tyingoza had been over to see me a couple of times, but made no allusion
whatever to Falkner Sewin's act of boyish idiocy: presumably rating it
at its proper standard.  But, I noticed that he wore a new head-ring.
However, I hoped that was an incident forgotten; and as I heard nothing
to the contrary, and my trade ran on as usual, I made no further
reference to it either to Tyingoza or anybody else.

I arrived at the scene of Hensley's disappearance about mid-day.  The
homestead stood in a long, narrow valley, thickly bushed.  Behind, and
almost overhanging it, was a great krantz whose smooth ironstone wall
glowed like a vast slab of red-hot metal.  The place was wild and
picturesque to a degree, but--oh so hot!

Two men in shirts and trousers were playing quoits as I came up.  I
didn't know either of them by sight.

"Good day," said one of them, knocking off his play, and coming up.
"Off-saddle won't you?  Dashed hot, isn't it?"

"Thanks.  I'm Glanton, from Isipanga," I said in answer to his look of
enquiry.

"Oh.  Glad to know you, Glanton.  I'm Kendrew, from nowhere in
particular, at least not just now, price of transport being too _sleg_
for anything."

"Oh, you ride transport then?  How many waggons?"

"Three in good times--one in bad; none in worse--as in the present case.
This is Sergeant Simcox, of the N.M.P.," introducing the other man,
whom I noticed wore uniform trousers and boots.  "He's been helping me
to look for my poor old uncle, you know."

"Oh, Hensley was your uncle, was he?"

"Rather.  But I'm next-of-kin--so if he's not found I take.  See?" with
a comprehensive wink and jerk of the head which took in the
surroundings.

I couldn't help laughing at his coolness.  He was a tall, rather
good-looking young fellow, all wire and whipcord, with a chronically
whimsical expression.  The police sergeant was a hard bitten looking
customer, typical of his line in life.

"Now what do you think of the affair?"  I said.  "Did you know Hensley
well?"

"Hanged if I did.  He didn't like me.  Did you?"

"Not very.  I used to ride over and look him up now and again.  But I
can't imagine him doing anything mysterious.  In fact I should say he'd
be the last man in the world to do it."

"_Ja_.  I don't know what to think of it.  I've been running the place
since I heard of the affair--luckily I wasn't on the road just then so
was able to.  You'll stop and have some scoff of course--you too,
sergeant?"

"Wish I could," said the latter, "but it's against rules.  Must get back
to my camp."

"Hang rules.  Who's to know?  Glanton here won't split."

He was right, wherefore I forbear to say whether Sergeant Simcox made
the third at that festive board or not.

We talked of trade and transport-riding and frontier matters generally,
but surprisingly little of the matter that had brought me there.  In
fact Kendrew rather seemed to shirk the subject; not in any sort of
suspicious manner let me explain, but rather as if he thought the whole
thing a bore, and a very great one at that.

"You see, Glanton," he explained, presumably detecting a surprised look
on my face, called there by the exceedingly light way in which he was
taking things.  "You see it isn't as if we had had a lot to do with each
other.  Of course I don't for a moment hope that the poor old boy has
come to grief, in fact I can't help feeling that he may turn up any
moment and want to know what the devil I've taken up my quarters at his
place for, in this free and easy way."

After a good dinner, washed down with a glass or so of grog, we went to
look at the place where the missing man had slept.  This didn't help
towards any theory.  If there had been foul play, whoever had been
concerned in it had removed all traces long ago.

"A good hound, requisitioned at first, would have done something towards
clearing up the mystery," I said.

"Yes, but you might as well have requisitioned a good elephant, for all
you'd get either round here," laughed Kendrew.  "Well, I shall just give
it up as a bad job and leave it to Simcox.  That's what he draws his pay
for.  I'll just sit tight and boss up things so long.  That's my job."

"I'd like to have a word or two with the boy who saw him last," I said.
"Alone I mean."

"Think you can get him to talk, eh?  Well perhaps you may--I've heard of
you, Glanton, and what a chap you are for managing Kafirs.  All right,
stop on till this evening, the boy's out herding now.  Then you can
_indaba_ him to your heart's content after supper.  You'll stay the
night of course."

But I urged that such was not in my programme, and in fact I had some
business to attend to next day irrespective of mere retail trade in the
store.  So we compromised by my consenting to remain till evening.
There was sufficient moon for me to ride home by even if it rose
somewhat late.  I suggested that we should ride out into the veldt in
the afternoon and I could interview the boy there.  He would talk more
freely that way, and Kendrew agreed.

The boy was a quiet, decent looking youngster, and was herding his flock
in most exemplary fashion.  I asked him his name.

"Pecamane, 'Nkose!"

"Have I seen you before?"

"More than once, _Nkose_.  At Isipanga, at the store.  Then again, when
we danced and ate beef."

"Ah.  You were there then?  Who is your chief?"

"Tyingoza, _Nkose_."

Kendrew had ridden on, leaving me alone with the boy.

"Well then," I said, "if Tyingoza is your chief you will be safe in
telling _me_ the story of your master's `who is no longer here.'"

"_Ou_!  _Nkose_.  The only story I have to tell is what I told to the
_Amapolise_, and he who now sits here"--meaning Kendrew.  "But it is no
story."

He was right there, in that like the tale of the empty bottle there was
nothing in it.  His master had given him some final orders after supper,
and he had gone over to the huts for the night.  He was employed in the
stable then.

And no one had opened the stable?

No, it was locked, and his master had the key.  They had been obliged to
break open the door in the morning to get at the horses.

There you see, there was nothing in this story, but then I had never
expected there would be.  What I wanted was to watch the face and note
the manner of its narrator.  This I had done, and keenly, with the
result that I felt convinced that the boy knew no more about Hensley's
disappearance than I did myself.  Upon this the police sergeant
subsequently waxed somewhat superior.  He resented the idea that what
had baffled the wit of the police and native detectives combined might
stand the slightest chance of being cleared up by me.  However I didn't
take offence, although my opinion of the abilities of his force was but
medium, and that of the native detectives nowhere, though this applied
more to their morality than ingenuity.  It happened that I was in a
position to know something of the methods of the latter in "getting up"
cases.

"Well good-bye, Glanton," said Kendrew, as we shook hands.  "Devilish
glad you came over in a friendly way.  And, I say--mind you repeat the
operation and that often.  I like a jolly, good sort of neighbourly
neighbour."

I promised him I would, as I climbed into the saddle--and the great
krantz seemed to echo back our cheery good-bye in ghostly refrain.

I liked Kendrew, I decided as I rode along.  He struck me as a lively,
cheery sort of fellow with lots of fun in him, and not an atom of harm.
Decidedly as a neighbour he would be an improvement on his poor old
relative, who although a good chap enough had always been a bit of a
fossil.  That's one of the advantages of the up-country or frontier
life, you take a man as you find him and no make believe, or stiffness
or ceremony.  If he's a good fellow he is, and all the better.  If he
isn't why then he isn't, and you needn't have any more to do with him
than you want, or make any pretence about it.

In the solitude as I took my way through the thorns the recollection of
Hensley came upon me again, and I confess, as I thought upon it there,
under the midnight moon--for I had started back rather later than I had
intended--a sort of creepy feeling came over me.  What the deuce had
become of the man?  If he had got a fit of mental aberration, and taken
himself off, he would have left some spoor, yet no sign of any had been
lighted upon by those who had again and again made diligent search.  I
looked around.  The bush sprays seemed to take on all manner of weird
shapes; and once my horse, shying and snorting at a big hare, squatting
up on its haunches like a big idiot, bang in the middle of the path,
gave me quite an unpleasant start.  The black brow of the krantz cut the
misty, star-speckled skyline now receding on my left behind--and then--
my horse gave forth another snort and at the same time shied so
violently as to have unseated me, but that my nerves were--again I
confess it--at something of an abnormal tension.

A figure was stealing along in the not very distinct moonlight; a human
figure or--was it?  Suddenly it stopped, half in shadow.

"Hi!  Hallo!  Who's that," I sung out.

There was no answer.  Then I remembered that with my mind running upon
Hensley I had used English.  Yet the figure was that of a native.  It
wanted not the blackness of it in the uncertain light; the stealthy,
sinuous movement of it was enough to show that.  Yet, this certainty
only enhanced the mystery.  Natives are not wont to prowl about after
dark with no apparent object, especially alone.  In the first place they
have a very whole-hearted dread of the night side of Nature--in the next
such a proceeding is apt to gain for them more than a suspicion of
practising the arts of witchcraft--a fatal reputation to set up yonder
beyond the river, and, I hesitate not to assert, a very dangerous one to
gain even here on the Queen's side.

The figure straightened up, causing my fool of a horse to snort and
describe further antics.  Then a voice:

"Inkose!  Iqalaqala.  Be not afraid.  It is only Ukozi, who watches over
the world while the world sleeps--ah--ah! while the world sleeps."

I must own to feeling something of a thrill at the name.  This Ukozi was
a diviner, or witch doctor, whose reputation was second to none among
the Natal border tribes--ay and a great deal wider--and that is saying a
good deal.  Now of course the very mention of a witch doctor should
arouse nothing but contemptuous merriment; yet the pretentions of the
class are not all humbug by any means, indeed I have known a good few
white men--hard bitten, up-country going men with no nonsense or
superstition about them--who never fail to treat a genuine native witch
doctor with very real consideration indeed.

"Greeting, father of mystery," I answered, with some vague idea that the
meeting all so unexpected and somewhat weird, might yet be not without
its bearings on the fate of Hensley.  "You are bent upon _muti_ indeed,
when the world is half through its dark time and the moon is low."

"M-m!" he hummed.  "The moon is low.  Just so, Iqalaqala.  You will not
go home to-night."

"Not go home!"  I echoed, meaning to humour him, and yet, in my
innermost self, conscious that there was a very real note of curiosity
that could only come of whole, or partial, belief in the question.  "And
why should I not go home to-night?"

He shrugged his shoulders impressively.  Then he said:

"Who may tell?  But--you will not."

I tried to laugh good-humouredly, but it was not genuine.  Yet was not
the thing absurd?  Here was I, letting myself be humbugged--almost
scared--by an old charlatan of a witch doctor, a fellow who made a
comfortable living out of his credulous countrymen by fooling them with
charms and spells and omens, and all sorts of similar quackery--I, a
white man, with--I haven't mentioned it before--an English public school
education.

"Here, my father," I said, producing a goodly twist of roll tobacco.
"This is good--always good--whether by a comfortable fire, or searching
for _muti_ materials under the moon."

He received it, in the hollow of both hands, as the native way is.  I
saw before me in the moonlight what was not at all the popular
conception of the witch doctor--a little shrivelled being with furtive,
cunning looks, and snaky eyes.  No.  This was a middle-aged man of fine
stature, and broadly and strongly built: destitute too of charms or
amulets in the way of adornments.  His head-ring glistened in the
moonlight, and for all clothing he wore the usual _mutya_.  In fact the
only peculiarity about him was that he had but one eye.

"What has become of Nyamaki?"  I said, filling and lighting my pipe.

"U' Nyamaki?  Has he gone then?" was the answer which, of course, was a
bit of assumed ignorance.

"Now how can the father of wisdom ask such a question?"  I said.  "He--
to whom nothing is dark!"

Ukozi's face was as a mask.  He uttered a single grunt--that was all.

"The whites will offer large reward to the man who finds him," I went
on.

"Will he who sits yonder"--meaning my recent entertainer--"offer large
reward?" was the answer, a sudden whimsical flash illuminating the dark,
impassive face.

"That I cannot say.  But I should think it probable.  And now you are
seeking midnight _muti_ so as to obtain such reward.  Take care," I went
on, chaffing him.  "To wander at midnight would not be safe _la pa_,"
pointing in the direction of the Zulu country.  "But here we are under
the Queen."

"The Queen!  _Au_!  Even the Queen cannot do everything."

"She just about can though," I answered decisively.

"Can she find Nyamaki?" he said, putting his head on one side.

This was a facer.  I didn't know what the deuce to answer.  While I was
hesitating he went on:

"_Au_!  Well, Iqalaqala, turn back and make your bed with him yonder,
for you will not go home to-night _Hamba gahle_."

"_Hlala gahle_, father of mystery," I answered lightly touching my horse
with the spur.

You will think it strange I should make so light of his warning, yet as
I resumed my way up the valley, no thought of material danger came into
my mind as I pondered over it.  I would show him that wise as he was,
and great his reputation, yet he did not know everything.  I would have
the crow of him next time we met, when--

My horse had suddenly cocked his ears, then uttering a loud snort he
stopped dead--so suddenly indeed that I as nearly as possible pitched
over his head.  Yet, there was nothing in sight.

The path, here rather steep, narrowed between high thick bush, just over
which on either hand, rose two straight but entirely insignificant
krantzes.

"He has seen a snake, a big mamba perhaps," I decided.  "Well, let the
brute crawl away, as he's sure to do if alarmed.  Then we'll get on
again."

But we didn't.  I shouted a little, and swished at the bushes with my
whip.  Then I spurred my horse forward again.  The confounded animal
wouldn't budge.

"Here, this won't do," I said to myself feeling angry.  Then I got off.
If the fool wouldn't go in the ordinary way perhaps he would lead.
Would he?  Not a bit of it; on the contrary he rucked back at his bridle
so violently as nearly to tear it out of my hand.  I got into the saddle
again.

"Now you've got to go, damn it!"  I growled, letting him have both
rowels till I thought I could hear the bones squeak.

In response he first plunged violently, then kicked, then reared,
finally slewing round so quickly as nearly to unseat me.  And now I
became aware of a strange sickly scent, almost like that of a drug--yet
how could it be?  Then, as it grew stronger, it took on a vile effluvium
as of something dead.  Yet; I had passed over that very spot but a few
hours back, and nothing of the kind had been there then.  The horse was
now standing quite still, his head towards the way we had come, all in a
sweat and trembling violently.

And now I own that some of his scare began to take hold of me.  What did
it mean--what the very deuce did it mean?  What infernal witchcraft was
this that could hold me up here on a path I had ridden several times
before, on this identical horse too?  Yet, here in the still ghostly
midnight hour alone, the affair began to grow dashed creepy.  I made one
more attempt, and that a half-hearted one--then giving the horse the
rein let him take his own way, and that way was straight back to
Kendrew's.

Some thought of making a _detour_, and passing the bewitched point by
taking a wide sweep, came into my mind, but that would have involved
some infernally rough travelling, besides the moon wouldn't last much
longer, and who could say whether the result might not turn out the
same, for by now the witch doctor's declaration had carried its full
weight.  So I was soon knocking Kendrew out of his first sleep, with
literally a lame excuse to the effect that my steed had gone lame, and
it was no use trying to get over two hours of rough road with him that
night.

"All right, old chap," sung out Kendrew, in a jolly voice, as he let me
in.  "Have a glass of grog first, and then we'll take him round to the
stable.  You can turn in in any room you like."

I hoped he wouldn't notice that neither then nor on the following
morning did my horse show the slightest sign of lameness.  But I had
made up my mind to say no word to him of what had occurred--and didn't.



CHAPTER TEN.

FALKNER PUGNACIOUS.

"Well but--who are you?  What's your name?  Ain't ashamed of it, are
you?"

"Ashamed of it?  I'll darned soon let you know if I am or not, and teach
you to keep a civil tongue in your head into the bargain."

Such was the dialogue that came to my ears very early on the morning
following the events just recorded.  The voices were right in front of
my window and I chuckled, for I knew them both--knew one for that of my
present host, the other for that of no less a personage than Falkner
Sewin.

I repeat, I chuckled, for there was a side of the situation which
appealed to my sense of humour.  Falkner Sewin's temper and dignity
alike were ruffled.  There was going to be a row.  Falkner had long
wanted taking down a peg.  It was highly probable that the said lowering
process would now be effected.

In about a moment I was at the window.  The contending parties, by
neither of whom was I observed, were drawn up in battle array.  Falkner,
who had apparently just arrived on horseback, had dismounted, and was
advancing upon Kendrew in a sort of prize ring attitude.  The latter for
his part, simply stood and waited, his face wearing an expression of
indifference that might be extremely provoking.  No, I was not going to
interfere--not yet.  A little bloodletting would do Falkner no harm--or,
for the matter of that, either of them.

"Come on," sung out the latter.  "Come on, can't you.  Not afraid, are
you?"

"Not much.  I'm waiting for you."

Then they went at it--hammer and tongs.  Falkner had science--I could
see that--but Kendrew was as hard as nails, and a precious tough
customer to handle, and made up for his lack of science by consummate
coolness; and with an eye keen as a hawk's whenever he saw his chance,
he confined himself so far to standing his ground, the while Falkner
waltzed round him, for all the world like a dog on the seashore when
yapping round some big crab which he doesn't feel quite equal to closing
in upon.  For a little while I watched these manoeuvres in a state of
semi-choke for stifled laughter, till they got to work in earnest, and
then, by Jingo, it was no child's play.

"Time!"  I sung out stentoriously.  "Haven't you two fellows pummelled
each other enough?"  I went on, appearing before the combatants.
"What's it all about, any way?"

"Glanton--by the Lord!" ejaculated Falkner, startled, and, I fancied,
looking a trifle ashamed of himself.

"What's it all about?" repeated Kendrew.  "Well, you see, Glanton, I
ain't naturally a quarrelsome chap, but when a man comes onto my place,
and begins upon me in a God Almighty `haw-haw' sort of tone as `my good
fellow' and doesn't even condescend to tell me who he is when asked, why
it's enough to get my back up, isn't it?"

I thought it was, but I wasn't going to say so, and his allusion to "my
place" made me smile.

"Look here," I said decisively.  "This is all a misunderstanding.  You
didn't know each other, now I'll introduce you.  Sewin, this is Kendrew,
a very good fellow when you get to know him--Kendrew, this is Sewin, a
very good fellow when you get to know _him_.  Now shake hands."

And they did, but the expression upon each face was so comical that I
could hardly keep from roaring, which would have upset the whole
understanding; in that each would have felt more savage at being made
ridiculous.

"Well, if I've been uncivil I'll not be above owning it," said Kendrew.
"So come inside Mr--Sewin, and we'll have a drink and think no more
about it."

"So we will," growled Falkner, partly through his handkerchief, for he
had undergone the bloodletting which I had told myself would be salutary
in his case.  However there was no harm done, and having roared for a
boy to off-saddle, Kendrew led the way inside, on conviviality intent.

"You're early here, Sewin," I said.  "Where did you sleep?"

"Sleep.  In the blessed veldt.  I called in at your place, but as far as
I could make out your nigger said you'd gone to Helpmakaar.  So I
thought I'd go down to the river bank and try that place you pointed out
to us for a buck, then call back later and have a shakedown with you
when you come back."

Here Kendrew interrupted us by bellowing to his boy to put on a great
deal of beefsteak to fry, and to hurry up with it.  "After a night in
the veldt you'll be ready for breakfast, I should think," he explained
heartily.

While we were at breakfast Falkner gave us a further outline of his
doings.  A mist had come up along the river bank, and in the result he
had completely lost his bearings.  Instead of taking his way back to my
place he had wandered on in the opposite direction, tiring his horse and
exasperating himself, as every high ridge surmounted only revealed a
further one with a deep, rugged, bushy valley intervening.  At last his
horse had refused to go any further, and he had to make up his mind to
lie by in the veldt and wait till morning.

"The rum part of it was," he went on, "I couldn't have been very far
from here--and you'd think a horse would have known by instinct there
was a stable in front of him.  Well, I, for one, am choked off belief in
the marvellous instinct of horses, and all that sort of rot.  This brute
wasn't tired either--he simply and flatly refused to go on."

"Where was that?"  I said, now roused to considerable interest.  "At
least, I mean--was it far from here?"

"No.  I just said it wasn't," he answered, a little testily.  "It was
just where the path dives through a pile of red rocks--you would know
it, Glanton.  It's like a sort of natural gateway.  Well nothing on
earth would induce that silly beast to go through there, and, d'you
know, upon my soul I began to feel a bit creepy--remembering how the
niggers have likely got a sort of grudge against me.  So I thought after
all, I'd better stay where I was and wait till morning--and--here I am."

"Well, it wouldn't have been anybody laying for you, Sewin.  You may
make your mind easy on that point," I said.  "Possibly though, there may
have been a snake, a big mamba perhaps, lying in the path just at that
point--and your horse knew it.  That'd be sufficient to hold him back."

"By Jove!  I shouldn't wonder," he said.  "Wish I could have glimpsed
him though.  A full charge of treble A would have rid this country of
one snake at any rate."

Falkner's experience had so exactly corresponded with my own as to
impress me.  While I had been held up in this eerie and mysterious
manner on one side of the pile of rocks, the same thing had happened to
him on the other, and, so far as I could make out, at just about the
same time.  Well, we would see if anything of the sort should befall us
presently when we passed the spot in the broad light of day.  The while
the two late combatants had been discussing the disappearance of
Hensley.

"Rum thing to happen," commented Falkner.  "Ain't you rather--well,
uncomfortable, at times, here, all alone?"

"Not me.  You see my theory is that the poor old boy went off his nut
and quietly wandered away somewhere and got into some hole, if not into
the river.  Now I've no idea of going off my nut, so I don't feel in the
least uncomfortable.  In fact decidedly the reverse."

"Well but--what of the niggers?"

Kendrew let go a jolly laugh.

"They're all right," he said.  "Let's go and look at your gee, Glanton.
Hope he's still lame, so you can't get on, then we'll all three have a
jolly day of it."

I, for one, knew we were destined to have nothing of the kind--not in
the sense intended by Kendrew, that is--and I wanted to get home.
Needless to say when my steed was led forth he walked with his usual
elasticity, manifesting not the smallest sign of lameness.

"That's dashed odd," commented Kendrew, after carefully examining the
inside of every hoof and feeling each pastern.  "Oh, well, he's sure to
begin limping directly you start, so you'd better give him another day
to make sure."

But this I resisted, having my own reasons for making a start Falkner
apparently had his too, for he was proof against the other's pressing
invitation to remain and make a day of it.

"Well after all, you might get to punching each other's heads again, and
I not there to prevent it," I said, jocularly.  "Good-bye, Kendrew."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Not half a bad chap that, after all," said Falkner, as we rode along
together.

"No.  And if you'd wait to find that out before going for people you'd
get along much better in these parts," I answered.  And then I improved
upon the occasion to read him a considerable lecture.  To do him justice
he took it very well.

"Look," he broke in.  "It must have been just the other side of this
that I got stuck last night."

I had not needed my attention to be drawn to the spot, for already, as
we were approaching it I had been noting the behaviour of my horse.  It
was normal.  Beyond a slight cocking of the ears we might as well have
been traversing any other section of our path; indeed it was as though
the strange interruption of last night had been a matter of sheer
imagination, but for one consideration.  Of the extraordinary and
overwhelming effluvium which had poisoned the air then, there was now no
longer a trace, and this disposed of the theory that anything dead had
been lying thereabouts.  Had such a cause been responsible for it, the
air would not have cleared so quickly.  No--Ukozi had played some trick
upon me for some reason of his own, but--what was that reason?  Even a
witch doctor does not play the fool without some motive.

"I believe your theory is the correct one, after all, Glanton,"
interrupted my companion.  "Depend upon it some big black beast of a
mamba was stopping the way.  Look.  Here's where I gave up."

"So I see," I answered, for we had now got through to the other side of
the ridge of rocks.

"See?  How?"

"Spoor.  Look.  The dust is all disturbed and kicked about.  Here's
where your gee refused."

"So it is.  I see it now myself.  What a cute chap you are, Glanton.
Oh, and I say, Glanton--" after a momentary hesitation, "don't let on to
them at home about that little breeze I had with Kendrew down there,
that's a good chap."

I promised.  This was his motive, then, in resolving to return with me?
But it was not.

"When are you going on that trading trip--into the Zulu country?" he
went on.

"In two or three weeks' time," I answered.

"By Jove, but I would like to go with you.  I'd like to make a little
for myself.  I want it all, I can tell you.  But even that's not the
first consideration.  I'd like to see those parts and gain some
experience.  You wouldn't find me in the way, I promise you.  I'd do
every mortal thing you said--and keep out of ructions, if that's what
you're afraid of."

"What about the farm?"  I answered.  "Your uncle isn't equal to looking
after it single handed."

"Oh, that might be arranged.  That chap you sent us--Ivondwe--is worth
his weight in gold--in fact I never would have believed such a thing as
a trustworthy nigger existed, before he came."

Now I have already put on record that the last thing on earth I desired
was Falkner's company on the expedition I was planning--and the same
still held good--and yet--and yet--he was Aida Sewin's relative and she
seemed to take a great interest in him.  Perhaps it was with an idea of
pleasing her--or I wonder if it was a certain anxiety as to leaving this
young man at her side while I was away myself, goodness knows, but the
fact remains that before we reached my place he had extracted from me
what was more than half a promise that I would entertain the idea.

And this I knew, even then, was tantamount to an entire promise.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

A FAREWELL VISIT.

"Nyamaki has not returned?" queried Tyingoza, who, seated, in his
accustomed place under the window of the store, had been taking snuff
and chatting about things in general.

"Not that I have heard of," I answered.  "I was at his place but a day
or two back.  Will he return, Tyingoza?"

"And the young one--he who sits in Nyamaki's place--does he think he
will return?"

What was the object of this answer turned into another question?  What
was in Tyingoza's mind?  However I replied:

"He is inclined to think not.  He thinks his relation has wandered away
somewhere--perhaps into the river, and will never be heard of again."

"Ah!  Into the river!  Well, that might be, Iqalaqala.  Into the river!
The ways of you white people are strange, _impela_!"

Tyingoza, you see, was enigmatical, but then he often was, especially if
he thought I was trying to get behind his mind--as he put it.  Clearly
he was not going to commit himself to any definite opinion regarding the
disappearing Hensley.

"Ukozi is in these parts," I went on.

"Ukozi?  Ha!  I have not seen him.  Did he visit you here?"

"Not here," I answered, with intent to be as enigmatical as himself.

"Ukozi is a very lion among _izanusi_.  Why do not the white people get
him to find Nyamaki?"

"And the practice of an _isanusi_ is not allowed by the white people.
How then can they make use of such?"  I said.

The chief shrugged his shoulders slightly, and there was a humorous
twinkle in his eyes.

"It is as you say, Iqalaqala.  Yet their _Amapolise_ cannot find him.
You white people know a great deal, but you do not know everything."

"Now, Tyingoza, I would ask: What people does?"

Then he laughed and so did I, and this was all I got out of my attempt
at "pumping" Tyingoza.  Yet, not quite all.  That suggestion of his as
to employing the witch doctor was destined to stick.  Afterwards it was
destined to come back to me with very great force indeed.

Now I began to shut up the store, early in the day as it was, for I
meant to go over to the Sewins.  It would be almost my last visit: for
the preparations for my trip were nearly complete and in two or three
days I proposed to start.  Moreover I had received a note from the old
Major, couched in a reproachful vein on behalf of his family, to the
effect that I was becoming quite a stranger of late, and so forth; all
of which went to show that my plan of not giving them more of my company
than I thought they could do with--had answered.

"So you are going _kwa Zulu_ directly?" said Tyingoza, as he took his
leave.  "And not alone.  That is a pity."

He had never referred to Falkner's practical joke.  Now, of course, I
thought he was referring to it.

"Well, the boy is only a boy," I answered.  "I will keep him in order
once over there, that I promise."

Again his eyes twinkled, as he bade me farewell with all his usual
cordiality.

Not much of this remark did I think, as I took my way down the now well
worn bush path, but I own that the idea of employing Ukozi to throw
light on the disappearance of Hensley, gave me something to think of--
for as I have said before, I had reason to respect the powers claimed--
and undoubtedly possessed--by many of his craft.  I would put it to
Kendrew.  It was his affair not mine, and if anyone moved in the matter
it should be he.

There was an ominous stillness about the Sewins' homestead as I
approached, and I own to a feeling of considerable disappointment as the
thought crossed my mind that the family was away, but reassurance
succeeded in the shape of a large white dog, which came rushing
furiously down the path, barking in right threatening fashion--only to
change into little whines of delight and greeting as it recognised me.
This was a factor in the Sewin household which I have hitherto omitted
to introduce.  He was one of the Campagna breed of sheep herding dogs,
and was Aida's especial property, she having discovered him as a puppy
during a tour in Italy.  He was a remarkably handsome beast, pure white,
and was of the size and strength of a wolf, to which he bore a strong
family likeness.  He had honoured me with his friendship from the very
first--a mark of favour which he was by no means wont to bestow upon
everybody, as his mistress was careful to point out.

"Well, Arlo, old chap.  Where are they all?"  I said, as the dog trotted
before my horse, turning to look back with an occasional friendly whine.
As I drew rein in front of the stoep Falkner came forth, looking very
handsome and athletic in his snowy linen suit, for it was hot.

"Hallo Glanton, glad to see you," he said, quite cordially, but in
rather a subdued tone for him.  "Come round and off-saddle.  They'll be
out in a minute, they're having prayers, you know.  I slipped out when I
heard your horse."

It was Sunday, and the Major, I remembered, made a point of reading the
church service on that day: in the middle of which I had arrived.

"Tell you what, old chap," he went on.  "I'm rather glad of the excuse.
Beastly bore that sort of thing, don't you know, but the old people
wouldn't like it if I were to cut."

"Only the old people?"  I said.

"No, the whole bilin' of 'em.  Life wouldn't be worth living for the
rest of the day if I didn't cut in.  So I do--just to please them all.
See?  Well, we'll go and smoke a pipe till they come out."

Falkner had pulled out quite a genial stop to play upon for my benefit--
but then, I had agreed to take him with me on the trip.  On the subject
of which he now waxed eloquent.  Would we certainly be on the road by
Wednesday, and was there anything he could do, and so forth?  I was able
to reassure him abundantly on these points, and his exuberant delight
was like that of a schoolboy on the eve of the holidays, causing me to
think to myself rather sadly, that were I in his shoes, with a home like
this, and the society of sweet, refined English ladies for my daily
portion, I would not be in the least eager to exchange it for the
roughness and ups and downs of a trading trip and the kraals of savages.
But then after all, there was a considerable difference in our years,
and my experience was a good deal behind me, whereas his was not.

Soon the family came out, and I was received with all the accustomed
cordiality, and rather more.  Why had I not been near them for so long,
especially as I was about to go away for quite a considerable time, and
so forth?  I began to feel self-reproachful, as I thought of my motive,
but it was not easy to find an excuse, the usual "rather busy," and when
I tried I could see Aida Sewin's clear eyes reading my face, and there
was the faintest glimmer of a smile about her lips that seemed to say
plainly: "I don't believe a word of it."

"So you're going to take this fellow with you after all, Glanton," said
the Major as we sat down to lunch.  "Well, you'll have a handful, by
Jove you will!  I hope you'll keep him in order, that's all."

"Oh he'll be all right, Major," I said.  "And the experience won't do
him any harm either."

"Don't you go trying any more experiments at the expense of the chiefs'
head-rings up there, Falkner," said Edith, the younger girl.

"Oh shut up," growled Falkner.  "That joke's a precious stale one.  I
seem to be getting `jam and judicious advice' all round, by Jove!"

"Well, and you want it--at any rate the advice--only you never take it,"
was the retort.

"Nobody ever does, Miss Edith," I said, coming to his rescue.  "Advice
is one of those commodities people estimate at its own cost--nothing to
wit; and set the same value upon it."

"Now you're cynical, Mr Glanton," she answered, "and I don't like
cynical people."

"That's a calamity, but believe me, I'm not naturally so.  Why I rather
set up for being a philanthropist," I said.

"You certainly are one, as we have every reason to know," interposed her
sister.

I felt grateful but foolish, having no mind to be taken seriously.  But
before I could stutter forth any reply, which was bound to have been an
idiotic one, she went on, tactfully:

"For instance that boy you sent us--Ivondwe.  Why he's a treasure.
Everything has gone right since he came.  He can talk English, for one
thing."

"Can he?  That's an accomplishment I should never have given him credit
for, and I don't know that it's altogether a recommendation.  You know,
we don't care for English-speaking natives.  But you mustn't talk it to
him, Miss Sewin.  You must talk to him in the vernacular.  How are you
getting on, by the way?"

"Oh, indifferently.  You might have given me a little more help, you
know."

The reproach carried its own sting.  Of course I might.  What an ass I
was to have thrown away such an opportunity.

"Yes, he's a first-rate boy, Glanton," said the Major.  "I don't know
what we should do without him now."

"You haven't started in to punch his head yet, eh Falkner?"  I said,
banteringly, rather with the object of turning attention from my share
in this acquisition.

"The curious part of it is that Arlo won't take to him," went on Miss
Sewin.  "He's on perfectly good terms with the other boys but he seems
to hate this one.  Not that Ivondwe isn't kind to him.  He tries all he
can to make friends with him but it's no good.  Arlo won't even take
food from him.  Now why is this?"

"I'm afraid that's beyond me," I answered, "unless it is that the
instinct of a dog, like that of a horse, isn't quite so supernaturally
accurate as we accustom ourselves to think."

This was a subject that was bound to start discussion, and animated at
that--and soon I found myself in somewhat of a corner, the ladies,
especially, waxing warm over the heretical insinuation I had made.  Then
the Major, drawing on his experiences as a cavalry officer, took my side
on the subject of equine intelligence, or lack of it, and Falkner took
up the impartial advocate line, and we were all very jolly and merry
through it all, and certainly conversation did not lag.

Lunch over, the Major announced his intention of having forty winks, and
the rest of us adjourned to the stoep, and roomy cane chairs.

"One thing I like about this country," pronounced Falkner, when he had
got a cigar in full blast, and was lounging luxuriously in a hammock--a
form of recumbency I detest--"and that is that provided you're in the
shade you can always sit out of doors.  Now in India you can't.  It's a
case of shaded rooms, and _chiks_, and a black beast swinging a punkah--
whom you have to get up and kick every half-hour when he forgets to go
on--till about sundown.  Here it's glorious."

I was inclined to share his opinion, and said so.  At the same time
there came into my mind the full consciousness that the glorification
here lay in the peculiar circumstances of the case--to wit the presence
and companionship of these two sweet and refined girls.  The elder was
in creamy white, relieved by a flower or two, which set off her soft
dark beauty to perfection; the other was garbed in some light blue
gossamer sort of arrangement which matched her eyes and went wonderfully
with her golden hair, and ladies, if you want anything more definitely
descriptive I'm afraid you'll be disappointed, for what do I, Godfrey
Glanton, trader in the Zulu, know about such awesome and wondrous
mysteries?  I only know--and that I do know--when anything appeals to me
as perfect and not to be improved upon--and the picture which these two
presented certainly did so appeal.

Outside, the blaze of sunlight--rich, full, and golden, without being
oppressive or overpowering--lay slumbrous upon the sheeny roll of
foliage.  Here and there the red face of a krantz gleamed like bronze,
and away on a distant spur the dark ring of a native kraal sent upward
its spiral of blue smoke.  Bright winged little sugar birds flitted
familiarly in and out among the passion flower creeper which helped to
shade the stoep, quite unaffected by our presence and conversation--
though half scared temporarily as a laugh would escape Falkner or
myself.  Striped butterflies hovered among the sunflowers in front, and
the booming hum of large bees mingled with the shriller whizz of
long-waisted hornets sailing in and out of their paper-like nests under
the roof--and at these if they ventured too low, Arlo, whose graceful
white form lay curled up beside his mistress' chair, would now and again
fling up his head with a vicious snap.  The scene, the hour, was one of
the most perfect and restful peace: little did we think, we who sat
there, enjoying it to the full, what of horror and dread lay before us
ere we should look upon such another.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

THE MYSTERY OF THE WATERHOLE.

Suddenly Arlo sprang up, barking furiously.

"Shut up, you brute," growled Falkner, for this sudden interruption had,
as he put it, made him jump.  But the dog heeded him not, as he sprang
up and rushed down the steps still giving vehement tongue.

"Be quiet, Arlo, do you hear!" ordered his mistress.  "It's only
Ivondwe."

The calm clear voice commanded obedience where Falkner's bluster did
not.  To the furious barking succeeded a series of threatening growls,
not loud but deep.  In the midst of which the innocent cause of the
disturbance appeared, smiling, and as little perturbed by this sudden
and rather formidable onslaught, as though it were a matter of an
ordinary kraal cur.

To the physiognomist this Ivondwe was a remarkably prepossessing
native--rather handsome in the good-looking style of his race.  He had a
pleasant, open countenance, good-humoured withal, and when he smiled it
would be hard to equal his display of magnificent white teeth.  Though
somewhat past his first youth and the owner of a couple of wives he did
not wear the head-ring; for he was fond of earning money in doing spells
of work for white men, such as waggon driving, or the sort of job on
which he was now engaged: and this being so he held, and perhaps
rightly, that the ring would not be exactly in keeping.  I had known him
well for some time and had always had a high opinion of him.

Now he saluted, and addressing himself to Falkner, in very fair English,
asked leave to go over to a neighbouring kraal after the cattle were in.
There was a merrymaking there, on the strength of the wedding of
someone or other of his numerous kinsfolk.

"So, Ivondwe," I said, in the vernacular, when he had got his answer.
"So you speak with the tongue of the Amangisi, and I knew it not?"

He laughed.

"That is so, Iqalaqala," he answered.  "Yet it is well for Umsindo, who
is long since tired of talking to deaf ones.  _Au_!  How shall he talk
yonder--_kwa_ Majendwa?"

Umsindo, meaning a man who is given to swagger, was Falkner's native
name, though he didn't know it.

"That we shall see," I said.  "It may be that by then his tongue will
have become loosened.  But now, while he is away you must do well by
these here.  They treat you well, and their hands are very open--so open
that soon you will be for building a new hut."

He laughed, and owned that such might indeed be the case.  All the while
the great white dog was walking up and down behind him, eyeing his
calves and snarling malevolently.

"The dog," I went on.  "He is very unfriendly towards you.  Why?"

"Who may say?  The dogs of the white people are seldom friendly to us,
and our dogs are seldom friendly to the whites.  And this dog is very
white."

I got out a large native snuff tube I always carried, and gave him some.

"Come up to Isipanga before we start," I said.  "I have a present there
for him who should serve these faithfully."

"You are my father, Iqalaqala," and with this formula of thanks, he once
more saluted and went his way.

"What have you been talking about all this time?" said Edith Sewin.  "By
the way isn't it extraordinary that Arlo won't take to Ivondwe?  Such a
good boy as he is, too."

"Perhaps he's a thundering great scoundrel at bottom," said Falkner,
"and Arlo's instinct gets below the surface."

"Who's a thundering great scoundrel at bottom, Falkner?" said Mrs
Sewin's voice in the doorway.

"Eh.  Oh come now, aunt.  You mustn't use these slang terms you know.
Look, you're shocking Glanton like anything."

"You'll shock him more for an abominably rude boy who pokes fun at his
elders," laughed the old lady.  "But come in now and have tea.  What a
lovely afternoon it is--but a trifle drowsy."

"Meaning that somebody's been asleep," rejoined Falkner mischievously,
climbing out of his hammock.  "Oh well.  So it is.  Let's go for a
stroll presently or we shall all be going to sleep.  Might take the
fishing lines and see what we can get out of the waterhole."

"Fishing lines?  And it's Sunday," said Mrs Sewin, who was old
fashioned.

"Oh I forgot.  Never mind the lines.  We can souse Arlo in and teach him
to dive."

"We can do nothing of the kind," said Arlo's owner, decisively.  "He
came within an ace of splitting his poor dear head the last time you
threw him in, and from such a height too.  What do you think of that,
Mr Glanton?" turning to me.  And then she gave me the story of how
Falkner had taken advantage of the too obedient and confiding Arlo--and
of course I sympathised.

When we got fairly under way for our stroll--I had some difficulty by
the bye in out-manoeuvring the Major's efforts to keep me pottering
about listening to his schemes as to his hobby--the garden to wit--the
heat of the day had given place to the most perfect part of the same,
the glow of the waning afternoon, when the sun is but one hour or so off
his disappearance.  We sauntered along a winding bush path, perforce in
single file, and soon, when this widened, I don't know how, but I found
myself walking beside Miss Sewin.

I believe I was rather silent.  The fact is, reason myself out of it as
I would, I was not in the least anxious to leave home, and now that it
had come to the point would have welcomed any excuse to have thrown up
the trip.  Yet I was not a millionaire--very far from it--consequently
money had to be made somehow, and here was a chance of making quite a
tidy bit--making it too, in a way that to myself was easy, and
absolutely congenial.  Yet I would have shirked it.  Why?

"What is preoccupying your thoughts to such an alarming extent," said my
companion, flashing at me a smile in which lurked a spice of mischief.
"Is it the cares and perils of your expedition--or what?"

"By Jove--I must apologise.  You must find me very dull, Miss Sewin," I
answered, throwing off my preoccupation as with an effort.  "The fact is
I believe I was thinking of something of the kind--ruling out the
`perils.'  Do you know, I believe you've all been rather spoiling me
here--spoiling me, I mean, for--well, for my ordinary life.  But--
anyhow, the memory of the times I have known lately--of days like this
for instance--will be something to have with one, wherever one is."

I was stopped by a surprised look in her face.  Her eyes had opened
somewhat, as I had delivered myself of the above rather lame
declamation.  Yet I had spoken with quite an unwonted degree of warmth,
when contrasted with my ordinary laconic way of expressing myself.
"Good Lord!"  I thought, "I seem to be getting sentimental.  No wonder
she thinks I've got softening of the brain."

But if she thought so she gave no sign of anything of the sort.  On the
contrary her tone was kind and sympathetic, as she said:

"Strange how little we can enter into the lives of others.  Now yours, I
suppose, is lonely enough at times."

"Oh, I've nothing to complain of," I answered with a laugh, anxious to
dispel any impression of sentimentality which my former words and tone
might have set up.  "I started on this sort of life young, and have been
at it in one way or another ever since.  It hasn't used me badly,
either."

She looked at me, with that straight, clear glance, and again a little
smile that was rather enigmatical, hovered around her lips.  But before
she could say anything, even if she had intended to, Falkner's voice was
raised in front.

"Wake up, Aida, and come along.  I'm just going to heave Arlo in."

"No.  You're not to," she cried hurrying forward.

The others had already reached the waterhole, and there was Falkner, on
the rock brink, holding on to Arlo, grinning mischievously.  The dog was
licking his hands, and whining softly, his tail agitating in deprecatory
wags.  He wasn't in the least anxious for the plunge--and speaking
personally I should have been uncommonly sorry to have undertaken to
make him take it against his will, but then Falkner was one of the
family.  Now there was a half playful scrimmage between him and his
cousin, in the result of which Arlo was rescued from taking what really
was rather a high leap, and frisked and gambolled around us in delight.

This waterhole or pool, was rather a curious one.  It filled a cup-like
basin about twenty-five yards across, surrounded by precipitous rocks
save at the lower end, and here, overflowing, it trickled down to join
the Tugela, about half a mile distant.  It was fed from a spring from
above, which flowed down a gully thickly festooned with maidenhair fern.
Where we now stood, viz. at the highest point, there was a sheer drop
of about twenty feet to the surface of the water--a high leap for a dog,
though this one had done it two or three times and had come to no harm.
The hole was of considerable depth, and right in the centre rose a
flat-headed rock.  It was a curious waterhole, as I said, and quite
unique, and I more than suspected, though I could never get anything
definite out of them, that the natives honoured it with some sort of
superstitious regard.  Incidentally it held plenty of coarse fish, of no
great size, likewise stupendous eels--item of course mud-turtles galore.

"Hie in, old dog!  Hie in!" cried Falkner.

But Arlo had no intention whatever of "hie-ing in," being in that sense
very much of an "old dog."  He barked in response and frisked and wagged
his tail, the while keeping well beyond reach of Falkners treacherous
grasp.

"Rum place this, Glanton," said the latter.  "I wonder there ain't any
crocs in it."

"How do you know there are not?"  I said.

"Oh hang it, what d'you mean?  Why we've swum here often enough, haven't
we?"

"Not very.  Still--it's jolly deep you know.  There may be underground
tunnels, connecting it with anywhere?"

"Oh hang it.  I never thought of that.  What a chap you are for putting
one off a thing, Glanton."

"I never said there were, mind.  I only suggested the possibility."

He raised himself on one elbow, and his then occupation--shying stones
at every mud-turtle that showed an unwary head--was suspended.

"By Jove!  Are there any holes like this round Hensley's place?" he said
earnestly.

"Not any," I answered.  "This one is unique; hence its curiosity."

"Because, if there were, that might account for where the old chap's got
to.  Underground tunnels!  I never thought of that, by Jove.  What d'you
think of that, Edith?  Supposing you were having a quiet swim here, and
some jolly croc grabbed you by the leg and lugged you into one of those
underground tunnels Glanton says there are.  Eh?" grinned Falkner, who
was fond of teasing his cousins.

"I wouldn't be having a quiet swim in it, for one thing.  I think it's a
horrid place," answered the girl, while I for my part, mildly disclaimed
having made any such statement as that which he had attributed to me.

"Bosh!" he declared.  "Why you can take splendid headers from the middle
rock there.  Oh--good Lord!"

The exclamation was forcible, and to it was appended a sort of amazed
gasp from all who saw.  And in truth I was not the least amazed of the
lot.  For there was a disturbance in the depths of the pool.  One
glimpse of something smooth, and sinuous, and shiny--something huge, and
certainly horrible--was all we obtained, as not even breaking the
surface to which it rose, the thing, whatever it might be--sank away
from sight.

"What was it?"

"Can't say for certain," I said, replying to the general query.  "It
didn't come up high enough to take any shape at all.  It might have been
a big python lying at the bottom of the hole, and concluding it had lain
there long enough came up, when the sight of us scared it down again.
I'm pretty sure it wasn't a crocodile."

"Tell you what, Glanton.  You don't catch me taking any more headers in
there again in a hurry," said Falkner.  "Ugh!  If we'd only known!"

"There is prestige in the unknown," I said.  "It may be something quite
harmless--some big lizard, or a harmless snake."

"Well it's dashed odd we should just have been talking of that very sort
of thing," said the Major.  "Let's keep quiet now and watch, and see if
it comes up again."

We did, but nothing came of it.  Indeed if I alone had seen the thing I
should have distrusted my senses, should have thought my imagination was
playing me false.  But they had all seen it.

"I shall come down here again with the rifle and watch for an hour or
two a day," said Falkner.  "Or how would it be to try bait for the
beast, whatever it is--eh, Glanton?"

"Well you might try to-morrow.  Otherwise there isn't much time," I
answered.  "We trek on Wednesday, remember."

Now all hands having grown tired of sitting there, on the watch for what
didn't appear, a homeward move was suggested, and duly carried out.  We
had covered a good part of the distance when Miss Sewin made a
discovery, and an unpleasant one.  A gold coin which was wont to hang on
her watch chain had disappeared.

"I must go back," she said.  "I wouldn't lose that coin for anything.
You know, Mr Glanton, I have a superstition about it."

She went on to explain that she had it at the time we had seen the
disturbance in the waterhole so that it must have come off on the way
down, even if not actually while we were on the rocks up there.  Of
course I offered to go back and find it for her, but she would not hear
of it.  She must go herself, and equally of course I couldn't let her go
alone.  Would I if I could?  Well, my only fear was that Falkner would
offer his escort.  But he did not, only suggesting that as it was late
it was not worth while bothering about the thing to-night.  He would be
sure to find it in the morning when he came up with a rifle to try and
investigate the mystery of the pool.  But she would not hear of this.
She insisted on going back, and--I was jubilant.

I knew the coin well by sight.  It was of heavy unalloyed gold, thickly
stamped with an inscription in Arabic characters.  But, as we took our
way along the bush path, expecting every moment to catch the gleam of it
amid the dust and stones, nothing of the sort rewarded our search, and
finally we came to the rocks at the head of the pool.

"This is extraordinary and more than disappointing," she said, as a
hurried glance around showed no sign of the missing coin.  "I know I had
it on here because I was fingering it while we were looking at the
water.  I wouldn't have lost it for anything.  What can have become of
it, Mr Glanton?  Do you think it can have fallen into the water?"

"That, of course, isn't impossible," I said.  "But--let's have another
search."

I was bending down with a view to commencing this, when a cry from Aida
arrested me.

"Oh, there it is.  Look."

She was standing on the brink of the rocks where they were at their
highest above water, peering over.  Quickly I was at her side, and
following her glance could make out something that glittered.  It was in
a crevice about five feet below, but as for being able to make it out
for certain, why we could not.  The crevice was narrow and dark.

"I think I can get at that," I said, having taken in the potentialities
of hand and foothold.

"No--no," she answered.  "I won't have it.  What if you were to fall
into the water--after what we have just seen?  No.  Leave it till
to-morrow, and bring a rope."

This was absolutely sound sense, but I'll own to a sort of swagger,
show-off, inclination coming into my mind.  The climb down was
undoubtedly risky, but it would be on her account.

"As to that," I answered with a laugh, "even if I were to tumble in, I
should make such an almighty splash as to scare the father of all
crocodiles, or whatever it is down there.  By the time he'd recovered I
should be out again on the other side."

"Don't risk it," she repeated earnestly.  "Leave it till to-morrow.
With a long _reim_ you can easily get down."

But I was already partly over the rock.  In another moment I should have
been completely so, with the almost certain result, as I now began to
realise, of tumbling headlong into the pool below, when a diversion
occurred.  Arlo, who had been lying at his mistress' feet, now sprang
up, and charged furiously at the nearest line of bush, barking and
growling like mad.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE INCIDENT OF THE LOST COIN.

The dog stopped short, hackles erect, and fangs bared, emitting a series
of deep-toned growls which to the object of his hostility should have
been disconcerting, to put it mildly.  But, somehow, he seemed
disinclined to pursue his investigations to the bitter end.  This was
strange.

"What can it be?" was the thought in my own mind simultaneous with the
voiced query of my companion.

Natives--Ivondwe excepted--were wont to hold Arlo in respect, not to say
awe, upon first acquaintance.  The one who now made his appearance,
betrayed no sign of any such feeling, as he came towards us.  Yet he was
armed with nothing more reliable than a slender redwood stick.  He came
forward, deliberately, with firm step, as though no aroused and
formidable beast were threatening him with a very sharp and gleaming
pair of jaws, the sun glinting upon his head-ring and shining bronze
frame, came forward and saluted.  Then I noticed--we both noticed--that
he had only one eye.

"Ha--Ukozi.  I see you--see you again," I observed, in greeting.

"_Inkosikazi_!" he uttered, saluting my companion.

What struck me at that moment was the behaviour of the dog.  Instead of
rushing in upon the new arrival, and putting him vigorously on the
defensive until called off, as was his way, he seemed concerned to keep
his distance, and while still growling and snarling in deep-toned mutter
I could detect in his tone an unmistakable note of fear.  This too was
strange.

"Who is he?" said Miss Sewin, as the newcomer placidly squatted himself.
"Is he a chief?"

"Something bigger perhaps," I answered.  "He's a witch doctor."

"What?  A witch doctor?" her eyes brightening with interest.  "I thought
witch doctors were horrid shrivelled old creatures who wore all sorts of
disgusting things as charms and amulets."

"Most of them do, and so would this one when he's plying his trade in
earnest.  Yet he's about the biggest witch doctor along this border, and
his fame extends to Zululand as well."

"Ah!" as an idea struck her.  "Now here's a chance for him to keep up
his reputation.  I wonder if he could find my coin."

As we both knew where it was--or indeed in any case--the opportunity
seemed not a bad one.  But I said:

"You must remember, Miss Sewin, that native doctors, like white ones,
don't practice for nothing, and often on the same terms.  What if this
one should ask as the price of his services--no--professional
attendance, shouldn't it be?--a great deal more than the lost article's
worth?"

"Don't let him.  But in any case I don't believe he has the ghost of a
chance of finding it."

"Don't you be too sure," I said.  And then, before I could open upon him
on the subject Ukozi opened on me on another.

"Nyamaki is not home again, Iqalaqala?"

I was beginning to get sick of the disappearing Hensley by that time, so
I answered shortly:

"Not yet."

"Ha!  The Queen cannot do everything, then.  You did not go home that
night, Iqalaqala?"

"I did not.  Your _muti_ is great, Ukozi--great enough to stop a horse."

"_Muti_!  Who talks of _muti_?  I did but foresee.  And Umsindo?  He,
too, did not reach Nyamaki's house that night?"

"No."

"What is in the water yonder?" he went on, bending over to look into the
pool, for he had squatted himself very near its brink.  "It moves."

Both of us followed his gaze, instinctively, eagerly.  And by Jove! as
we looked, there arose the same disturbance, the same unwinding of what
seemed like a shining sinuous coil, yet taking no definite shape.  Again
it sank, as it had risen, and a hiss of seething bubbles, and the
circling rings radiating to the sides, alone bore witness to what had
happened.

"I declare it's rather uncanny," said my companion.  "Does he know what
it is?  Ask him."

I put it to Ukozi.  We had swum there several times, dived deep down
too, nearly to the bottom, deep as it was, yet we had never been
disturbed by anything.  Only to-day, before his arrival, had we seen
this thing for the first time--and that only once.  He echoed my words,
or part of them.

"Nearly to the bottom!  But this place has no bottom."

"Now you forget, father of mystery," I said, knowingly.  "It has, for we
have sounded it, with a piece of lead at the end of a line."

He looked amused, shaking his head softly.

"Yet, it is as I say," he answered.  "It has no bottom."

Rapidly I gave Miss Sewin the burden of our conversation, and she looked
puzzled.  The while, Arlo, crouching a few yards off, was eyeing the
witch doctor strangely, uttering low growls which deepened every time he
made a movement, and still, beneath the sound I could always detect that
same note of fear.

"What is in the water down there, Ukozi?"  I said.  "Not a crocodile.
What then?"

He was in no hurry to reply.  He took snuff.

"Who may tell?" he answered, having completed that important operation.
"Yet, Iqalaqala, are you still inclined--you and Umsindo--to continue
swimming there, and diving nearly to the bottom--ah-ah! nearly to the
bottom?"

He had put his head on one side and was gazing at me with that
expression of good-humoured mockery which a native knows so well how to
assume.  I, for my part, was owning to myself that it would take a very
strong motive indeed to induce me to adventure my carcase again within
the alluring depths of that confounded _tagati_ pool, for so it now
seemed.  Moreover I knew I should get no definite enlightenment from
him--at any rate that day--so thought I might just as well try him on
the subject of Miss Sewin's loss.  But as I was about to put it to him
he began:

"That which you seek is not down there."

"Not down there?"  I echoed.  "But, what do we seek, father of the
wise?"

"It shines."

The thing was simple.  He had found it and planted it somewhere, with a
view to acquiring additional repute, and--incidentally--remuneration.

"I think we shall recover your coin, Miss Sewin," I said.

"Ah.  He can find it for us then?  If he does I shall become quite a
convert to witch doctorism, for want of a better word."

"You will see.  Now, Ukozi.  Where is that which we seek?"

"_Au_!  It shines--like the sun.  To find it something else that shines
will be necessary.  Something that shines--like the moon."

I laughed to myself over this "dark" saying, and produced a half-crown--
a new one.

"Here is what shines like the moon at full," I said.

He held out both hands, looked at it for a moment as it lay in the
hollow thus formed, then said:

"Halfway between this and where you left the other white people is a
redwood tree--of which two sticks point over the path.  From the path on
the other side, a slope of smooth rock falls away.  Just below this--
resting upright between two stones--one pointed, the other round--is
that which you seek."

Briefly I translated this to my companion.  Her reception of it showed a
practical mind.

"What if he wants to send us off on a fool's errand while he climbs down
to the crevice there and gets hold of the real coin?" she said.

"Well, of course, nothing's impossible.  But, do you know, I believe
him.  I would in fact risk a considerable bet on it."

"Well, I am in your hands, Mr Glanton," she said.  "You know these
people thoroughly.  I, not at all."

To tell the truth, I believed Ukozi's statement completely, so much so
as not to think it worth while bothering about any thought of the
responsibility I might be incurring.  Otherwise I might have foreseen a
reproachful manner, and a sinking in her estimation, if we found
nothing.  So I poured the contents of my snuff tube into Ukozi's hands
and bade him farewell.

"I declare I feel quite excited over this," Aida Sewin said, as we
rapidly retraced our steps.  "Look.  Here is where we left the others--
and--there's the slab of rock."

"Yes.  It won't be a difficult scramble.  Now Miss Sewin, you shall have
the opportunity of verifying Ukozi's dictum yourself.  So--you go
first."

In a moment we were below the rock--a matter of ten yards' descent--and,
in a small dry watercourse beneath we descried the glint of something.
A cry of delight escaped her.

"Why, here it is.  Just exactly as he described.  Come and look, Mr
Glanton."

Sure enough at our feet, leaning almost upright between the two stones--
the pointed one and the round--was the lost coin.

"But what was it we saw in the crevice?" she said, when the first
astonishment was over.  "That seemed to shine, too."

"Probably a point of rock worn smooth.  Well, Ukozi has again borne out
his reputation."

"Again?  Why?  Have you tried him before?"

Her eyes seemed to search my face.  There was--or seemed to be--no
prevaricating.

"Well, perhaps.  Once.  Or rather, he tried me.  I'll tell you about it
some day.  By Jingo, it's getting dark, and I don't like the look of the
sky.  The sooner we're in the better."

Great solid masses of cloud were banking up beyond the further ridge of
the Tugela valley, and a low boom of thunder shivered the still air.  A
storm was coming up; probably a heavy one.

"How do you account for this kind of thing?" she said as we regained the
path.  "Could he have been passing here at the time I dropped the coin,
and deliberately planned a sort of _coup de theatre_?"

"In that case Arlo would have warned us of his presence.  Yet he gave no
sign."

"Of course.  And talking about Arlo, wasn't it strange how he seemed not
to mind that man's presence?  Why he can hardly be held in when a
strange native comes about."

"Yes.  I noticed it.  I suppose his instinct must have told him Ukozi
was about to do us a good turn."

She turned towards me, then shook her head.

"You are turning it off, Mr Glanton, I can see that.  Yet there is
something rather weird and inexplicable about the whole thing.  You
know, I was watching the witch doctor when the reptile or whatever it
was came up in the pool, and it looked just as if he had raised it by
some incantation.  It is interesting very--but--rather eerie."

"Oh they have their tricks of the trade, which they don't divulge, you
may be sure.  The coin finding was really cleverly worked, however it
was done; for, mind you, he came from quite the contrary direction, and,
as a sheer matter of time, could have been nowhere near the place we
found it in when we turned back."

"It's wonderful certainly, and I'm very glad indeed to have found my
coin again.  You must have seen some strange things in the course of
your experience among these people, Mr Glanton?  Tell me--what is the
strangest of them?"

"If I were to tell you you wouldn't believe me.  Hallo!  We'd better
quicken our pace.  I suppose you don't want to arrive home wet through."

The thundercloud had spread with amazing speed and blackness.  The soft
evening air had become hot and oppressive.  Some self-denial was
involved on my part in thus hurrying her, for I would fain have drawn
out this walk alone with her, having now become, as you will say,
Godfrey Glanton complete fool.  Yet not such a fool as not to be blessed
with a glimmer of common-sense, and this told me that, woman-like, she
would not thank me for bringing her home in a state of draggled skirt
and dripping, streaming hair, which would inevitably be the case did we
fail to reach the house before the downpour should burst.

We did however so reach it, and there a surprise awaited, to me, I may
as well own, not altogether a pleasant one, for it took the shape of
Kendrew.  Now Kendrew, as I have said, was a good fellow enough, yet
this was the last evening I should spend here for some time.  Kendrew
was all very well at his own place or at mine--but somehow I didn't want
him here, at any rate not to-day, added to which he was a good-looking
chap, and lively--a novelty too.  There, you see--I am not above owning
to my own small meannesses.  It transpired moreover that I was the
indirect agency through which he was there, for the first thing he said
on seeing me was:

"There you are, Glanton.  Thought I'd ride up and see how you were
getting on, and when I got to your place they told me you had come down
here.  So I thought I'd come on and find you, and take the opportunity
of making Major Sewin's acquaintance at the same time.  Nothing like
getting to know one's neighbours, and there ain't so many of them, eh?"

"Glad you did," I answered, shaking hands with him as heartily as ever.
Yet at bottom, that "neighbour" idea struck unpleasantly.  Kendrew as a
neighbour was all very well, and I nailed him as such--for myself, but
confound it, I didn't want him getting too "neighbourly" here; and that,
too, just as I was going away myself for a time.  And then I realised,
more fully than ever, what it meant to me to be fulfilling the role of a
sort of little Providence to these people.  Now Kendrew would lay
himself out to do that during my absence, and in short, on my return I
might find, to use a vulgar syllogism, that my own nose had been most
effectually put out of joint.

They had taken to him already, and were on the best of terms--I could
see that.  Kendrew was one of those jolly, happy-go-lucky souls that
people do take to on sight, and he had youth on his side.  Moreover my
misgivings were in no wise dispelled by the look of surprised
whole-hearted admiration which came into his face at sight of Aida
Sewin.  There was no mistaking this, for if there is one thing I pride
myself on it is a faculty for reading every expression of the human
countenance no matter how swift and fleeting such may be.  Perhaps it is
that constant intercourse with savages has endowed me with one of their
most unfailing characteristics, but, at any rate, there it is.

"We're going to have a storm," said the Major, looking upward.  "Aida--
Glanton--you're only just in time.  You too, Mr Kendrew.  You'll stay
the night of course?"

Kendrew answered that he'd be delighted, and forthwith began to make
himself at home in his free and easy fashion.  He was not in the least
afflicted with shyness, and had no objection whatever to being drawn on
the subject of his experiences.  He had plenty of stories to tell, and
told them well too, only perhaps it was rather mean of me to think that
he need not so uniformly have made himself the hero of each and all of
them.  I don't know that I can plead in extenuation that when we sat
down to table the fellow by some means or other contrived to manoeuvre
himself into the chair next to Miss Sewin, a seat I had especially
marked out for myself, and in fact usually filled.  Added to which, once
there, he must needs fill up the intervals between blowing his own
trumpet by talking to her in a confoundedly confidential, appropriating
sort of style; which I entirely though secretly resented.  And I was on
the eve of an absence!  Decidedly events tended to sour me that
evening--and it was the last.

"What's the matter?  Did the old witch doctor tell you something
momentous that you forgot to pass on to me?  You are very silent
to-night."

It was her voice.  We had risen from table and I had gone out on to the
stoep, "to see if the storm was passing off," as I put it carelessly.
There was a chorus of voices and laughter within, Kendrew having turned
the tables on Falkner in the course of some idiotic chaff.

"Am I?"  I answered.  "I get that way sometimes.  Result of living
alone, I suppose.  No, Ukozi did not tell me anything stupendous.
Amusing chap, Kendrew, isn't he?" as another chorus of laughter went up
from within.

"He seems a nice sort of boy.  And now--you start on Wednesday?  Shall
we see you again between this and then?"

"I'm afraid not, Miss Sewin.  Tyingoza's nephew has disappointed me over
the span of oxen he was going to hire me, and I shall have to spend
to-morrow and the day after riding Heaven knows where in search of
another span.  Oxen--at any rate reliable ones--are precious scarce just
now everywhere."

"I'm sorry.  I--we--shall miss you so much, Mr Glanton--and you have
been so kind to us--"

"That all?"  I thought to myself bitterly.  "Sort of `make myself
generally useful' blank that will create."  Her next words made me feel
ashamed of myself.

"But you will come and see us directly you return, won't you?  I shall
look forward to it, mind--and--I hate being disappointed."

Good Heavens!  The voice, the gleam of white teeth in the little smile,
the softening of eyes in the starlight!  Had we been alone I believe I
should have lost my head, and uttered I don't know what.  But you can't
say anything of that sort with a lot of people jabbering and laughing,
and nothing between you and them but an open door and ditto window.

"You shall not be disappointed in that very unimportant particular at
any rate," I answered.  "And you are good enough to say you will look
forward to it.  Why I shall look forward to it every day until it
comes."

This was pretty plain-speaking and no mistake, but I had been surprised
out of myself.  What she might have answered I can't even conjecture,
for at that moment through a lull in the racket within, was raised a
voice.

"Glanton?  Yes.  He's a good old buffer, Glanton.  Why, what's become of
him?"

Aida Sewin's eyes met mine and I could see that she was bubbling over
with the humour of the situation.  We broke into a hearty laugh, yet not
loud enough to reach those within.

"There.  Now I hope you're duly flattered," she said.  "A fresh
unconsidered outburst like that must be genuine.  We don't often hear so
much good of ourselves even without being listeners."

"But consider the qualifying adjective.  That, you know, is rather
rough."

"Not necessarily.  Only a term of good fellowship, I expect.  No.  You
ought to feel brotherly towards him after that."

Somehow the whimsicality of it did avail to restore my good humour, or
the words and tone of her utterances that went before may have had
something to do with it.  Had she been reading my thoughts as I sat
silent among the rest?  Well, what if she had?

The storm had passed us by and a haze of continuous lightning in the
loom of a receding cloud together with an occasional mutter away over
the further ridge of the Tugela valley was all that remained of it.  She
had moved towards the end of the stoep as though to obtain a nearer view
of this.

"I have something on my mind, Miss Sewin," I began, "and it is this.
You are good enough to say I have been of use to you all, needless to
say how delighted I am to have been able to be.  Well now, I shall be
right out of the way for a time, and I am trying to puzzle out a plan of
letting me know in case you might urgently want me."

I don't know what on earth moved me to say this.  Why should they want
me--urgently or otherwise?  To my surprise she answered:

"It would be a great relief to my mind if you could.  I don't know what
you'll think of me, Mr Glanton, but there are times when our isolation
frightens me, and then I think we never ought to have come here.  And
now you are going away, and Falkner, too.  And--do you know, I have an
uneasy feeling that I couldn't account for to save my life, but it's
there, unfortunately.  I believe it has something to do with the witch
doctor, and that eerie affair down at the pool."

"As to that don't let it affect you.  Ukozi is a clever specimen of a
witch doctor but not a malevolent one.  For the rest you are as safe
here as you would be in any country part of England, and a good deal
safer than in some."

The words "we never ought to have come here" alarmed me.  What if when I
returned I should find them gone?  Oh, but--that wouldn't bear thinking
of.  So I did my best to reassure her, and to all appearances succeeded.
Yet if I had known then--or had the faintest inkling of--what I
afterwards knew--Well when I did it was too late.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

A BAD BEGINNING.

We crossed Umzinyati above where the Blood River joins it.  This was
something of a round but I didn't want to pass through Sirayo's section
of the country; for it so happened I had had a bit of a breeze with him
on a former occasion, and he would remember it; moreover his clan were a
troublesome lot, and likely enough wouldn't stick at trifles--not the
salt of Zululand by any means.  So I elected to make a few days of easy
trek outside the border, and then cross over into Zululand a good deal
further north.

Old transport-riders will tell you there is no life so fascinating as
that of the road.  With all its hardships and drawbacks--drought, wet,
waterless out-spans, mudholes into which wheels sink axle deep, bad and
flooded drifts, involving hours of labour, and perhaps the borrowing of
a brother trekker's friendly span--heat, cold--everything--yet the sense
of being on the move, the constant change of scene, even of climate--has
a charm all its own.  This I can quite believe--because the waggon life
off the road is even more fascinating still, in that the drawbacks are
fewer, and you are more independent.  You trek or outspan at your own
sweet will, undeterred by any misgivings as to goods being delayed an
inordinate time in delivery and the potential loss of future commissions
in consequence.  And you have time and opportunity to indulge in sport
if there is any to be had, and there generally is when you are right off
the roads, unless the country carries too thick a population.

These advantages held good of our then trek.  I had a first-rate tent
waggon of which mention has already been made.  This, besides its load
of the lighter kinds of trade goods was fitted up with a _kartel_ and
mattress, for bad weather accommodation--in fine weather we preferred
sleeping on the ground.  For the heavier kind, blankets and Salampore
cloth, pots and kettles and so forth, I had loaded up a buckwaggon,
constructed to carry anything up to twelve or fourteen thousand pounds
weight.  Thus we travelled--carrying our home along with us.

A surprise had come upon me almost at the last moment, and that was that
by no possibility could I get any natives in our neighbourhood to cross
the Zulu border.  Those who had at first engaged to cried off.  If I had
been trekking with only one waggon I could have cut the knot of the
difficulty by driving it myself, and making my body servant Tom--who
would have gone to the ends of the earth with me, and to the devil after
that--act as leader, but I had two.  Ivondwe I knew would have gone, but
I could not think of taking him away from the Sewins.  The thing became
seriously annoying.  I appealed to Tyingoza.  What was the matter with
all the people?  Were they afraid, and, if so, what of?

He was rather mysterious.  There were rumours around that the Zulus were
not well disposed towards white people, he hinted, especially those away
on the northern border, where the King's authority was least strong.
That being so those in the position of white men's servants would
undergo risk--grave risk.  But he would see what he could do, and in the
result he found me one man who understood driving.  This man, whose name
was Mfutela, came from a kraal not far from Maritzburg.  He was a ringed
man, and brought with him his son, a youngster of about fifteen, to do
leader.  That would do.  Things were brightening so far.  I could drive
one of the waggons myself, until such time as I had taught Falkner Sewin
enough of the art to enable him to relieve me, and having thus decided I
was all ready to start when--another turned up.

This fellow was something of a mystery, and was not keen on answering
questions, but I gathered that his name was Jan Boom, at least that was
the only name he would own to, and that he was a Xosa from the Cape
frontier--far enough away in all conscience--who had drifted up to these
parts.  I suspected he had "drifted" out of gaol, and that before the
time appointed to him for compulsorily serving the Government had
expired; but with this I didn't concern myself at all.  He was
first-rate at working with oxen and that was all I cared about.

Falkner Sewin, contrary to my expectations, had given no trouble to
speak of.  He would grumble outrageously at first when I turned him out
before it was light so as to be ready for the earliest possible trek,
and on one occasion turned nasty.  He hadn't come along as my servant,
he fumed, and wasn't going to take orders from me.  So I reminded him
that it was no question of taking orders, but he had even gone so far as
to promise to do all he was told.  I pointed out further that I hadn't
asked him to help me in any way, but that if he was going to do anything
to hinder me why there was nothing to prevent him changing his mind and
finding his way home again: we had not come so far that he would meet
with any great difficulty in the way of this.  He saw I meant what I
said, and after sulking for half a day he climbed down, which was as
well, for if there was one thing I intended it was to be skipper of my
own ship.  All the same he was destined to prove a mighty handful before
I'd done with him.

We trekked easy the first few days, for the grass was not so green as it
might have been, and I wanted to avoid pushing my oxen while the waggons
were loaded at their heaviest, and so far had met with no adventures.
The first was to come, and it came in this wise.

We had crossed the Blood River, and after an extra long morning's trek
had outspanned on one of the small tributaries of that stream.  We had
not seen many people hitherto, and the demeanour of such as we had seen
was strange; not exactly hostile, but sullen, and as different as
possible to the light-hearted, good-humoured cordiality I had always
found on previous trips into the Zulu country.

Perhaps this had something to do with the extra caution I laid upon
Falkner, when having resolved to take advantage of our halt to ride over
and visit a neighbouring chief with whom I had former acquaintance I
saddled up with that intent.  I took my boy Tom along, more because it
enhances your prestige to move about attended than for any use I had for
him, but Falkner couldn't come to any harm.  Jan Boom the Xosa, spoke
fair English, in case any of the natives should visit the outspan, and
their speech require interpreting, and the other driver Mfutela, seemed
a reliable man.  Surely, one would think, there was no room for Falkner
to get into any mischief here.

I was away about three hours.  When I came in sight of the camp again,
Tom, who was trotting by the side of my horse, said something that made
me start.

I spurred forward.  The outspan was hidden again by another rise in the
ground.  Topping this here is what I saw.

Standing forth, in an attitude of the noble art of self-defence, was
Falkner Sewin.  His fists were clenched, and his rolled up sleeves
showed a really magnificent display of brown and corded muscle.
Confronting him was a big Zulu, equally muscular, and armed with a
formidable knobkerrie and a small shield.  For "gallery" but with their
backs to me, squatted in a semi-circle about thirty more Zulus.

Annoyed as I was, for the life of me I could not but feel interested.
Both the contending parties were watching each other intently and it was
clear that so novel a mode of fighting had appealed to this warlike
people to the extent of their allowing their adversary fair play instead
of rushing him by weight of numbers.  I had seen the same kind of thing
among them before, notably on that occasion when Tyingoza's son had
accepted the invitation to head a sort of flying invasion of the
opposite side.  But now, as then, they were destined to forget the
strict rules of fair play when blood was up.

The Zulu was waltzing round Falkner, but the latter beyond turning to
face him never moved, and his adversary seemed in no hurry to come
within reach of those formidable fists.  Then, goaded perhaps by the
jeers of his comrades, who were tiring of a fight wherein no blows were
struck, he feinted at his adversary's head, then quick as thought threw
up his shield and made a terrific sweep at Falkner's leg beneath it.

But the latter was up to this stale dodge--indeed, I myself had put him
up to it.  Springing lightly aside, in time to avoid by a hair's-breadth
a blow that would have shattered his kneecap and set him up with a
highly respectable limp that would have lasted him for the term of his
natural life, he shot out his right fist in such wise as to catch his
assailant smack full on the side of the jaw.  The big Zulu went down
like a shot buck hit in full course.

"He's out!" cried Falkner.  "John, tell 'em to put up their next man."

But before Jan Boom could render this injunction or not render it, the
whole lot had sprung to their feet and a mighty hubbub ensued.  They had
seized their weapons, and were gesticulating and pointing at Falkner: in
fact, working themselves up to a state of wild and dangerous excitement.
It was as well, perhaps, that unseen by them I was near enough to
interpose.

"Hold!"  I roared.  "Hold!  What means this?  And who are ye that rush
into my camp with weapons in your hands?"

As I said, I had approached unseen, and now the very suddenness of my
appearance availed to stay the tumult, for a moment.  But only for a
moment.  "Who are we?  _Au_!  _Mlungu_! that is no matter.  Your oxen
have eaten up our corn and now you must make it good.  You must make it
good we say."

"_Umlungu_" meaning simply "white man" was impudent, especially as I was
sure some, if not all, of these knew me.  At that moment I took in that
they were all young men, of any age not much overtopping twenty,
consequently at the most reckless and mischievous stage of human
existence.

"Go--go," I answered.  "Send your fathers here.  I talk not with
children."

The hubbub grew deafening and they drew in closer--growling, chattering
in their fine deep voices, pointing viciously at us with their blades.
My taunt had exasperated them to a dangerous degree.  One fellow went so
far as to dance out from among the rest and _gwaza_ at me with his
assegai, and all were brandishing theirs and closing in upon us nearer
and nearer.  I have always made a point of never being afraid of
savages, but really when you get an irresponsible young ruffian lunging
an eighteen-inch assegai blade within half that distance of your nose,
and he backed up by thirty others, the situation begins to have its
skeery side.

"Keep 'em steady a minute, Glanton, while I get out our `barkers'," said
Falkner.  "That'll start 'em to the rightabout double quick."

"No.  Better leave that.  They're only blowing off steam."

But I wasn't easy: more, I realised that the situation was a
confoundedly ticklish one.  They were working each other up into a state
of ungovernable excitement, and simply howling down whatever I was
trying to say.  If I had had my pistol on I believe I should have drawn
it, but it was at that moment reposing in one of the waggon pockets,
some twenty-five yards behind us.  The same held good of Falkner's.  He,
characteristically, now brought matters to a crisis.

"Shut that silly jaw," he growled, seizing the wrist of a fellow who was
doing _gwaza_ with a big assegai close to his face, and, with the other
hand hitting him a terrific blow right between the eyes, felling him.

Then I thought my last hour had come, but no--they fell back as though
scared.  Falkner's fighting powers had done us yeoman's service after
all, was the thought that flashed through my mind--and then I saw that
it was not so; that our respite was due to another cause.

Unseen by either party to the turmoil two Zulus had come up--and one of
them I knew, and knowing him, felt devoutly thankful that he was a
pretty considerable chief.

"Now I see men," I said, "men with rings on.  Now I can talk.  Greeting,
Nonguza."

He answered me with scant cordiality.  He was a tall, fine man, but his
face was heavy and sullen, more than that, it was a cruel face.  The
glance he shot at Falkner especially was not benevolent.

"I see you, Iqalaqala," he said.  "What is this, for my dogs seem to be
barking over loud!"

I told him what I knew, which was little enough, and calling the waggon
drivers we got at the rest of it.  They had gone to look after the oxen,
which were turned loose to graze, and had arrived in time to find a
crowd of armed Zulus driving them off.  Some had come for themselves,
driving them up to the waggons, threatening them.  It was then that
Falkner Sewin had come out, and singling out the spokesman had
challenged him to fight.

Nonguza called to two of the rioters, and ordered them to tell their
story.  It was soon told.  They had found our oxen eating and trampling
the corn of their father, Magebe, and had driven them off until their
owners should pay for the damage.

Now Magebe proved to be the man who accompanied Nonguza, and on hearing
this he became excited, and must needs rush off to ascertain what damage
had been done.  This Jan Boom pronounced to be next to nothing.

"They were hardly in the field at all, Baas," he said in an undertone,
and excellent English.  "Zulu nigger one damn great big liar."

The speaker being some shades darker in colour than any Zulu there
present I could hardly restrain a laugh.  Falkner couldn't.  He guffawed
outright.  The chief looked angry.

"Steady, Sewin," I warned.  "You're spoiling everything."  Then to
Magebe.  "We had better all go and look what has been done.  Then we can
settle it."

The mealie crop was only just over the rise, so we were there very soon.
I had told Falkner to come too, fearing he might get into more mischief
if left behind: and yet it was almost as bad having him, for he eyed the
two Zulus with a sort of resentful contempt, more than once expressing a
desire to knock their qualified heads together.

Even as Jan Boom had said, the damage proved to be very slight; but
Magebe, an old man and avaricious, set to work to make the most of it.
Half his crop was ruined and so forth.  I must pay him two oxen.

Of course I had no intention of doing anything of the sort, so we
adjourned to the waggons again to talk it over.  There the discussion
became long and heated, notwithstanding the fact that I opened it by
filling them up with a great deal of black coffee and sugar.  Nonguza,
who did most of the talking, and I felt sure would claim the lion's
share of the spoil whatever it might be, was especially curt and
offensive.  I got sick of it at last.

"Here," I said, spreading a new green blanket on the ground, and piling
upon it a couple of big butcher knives--which Zulus dearly love--some
strings of black and white beads, a few brass buttons and a goodly
length of roll tobacco.  "This is more than twice the damage my oxen
have done.  So now, Magebe, take it, and I will send one of my drivers
with these two," pointing to the two young Zulus who had explained
matters, "and he will bring back the oxen."

But Magebe objected that this was not enough, no, not nearly enough.

"There it is.  Take it or leave it.  If you leave it, then we leave the
Zulu country--walk out of it, for we cannot drag our waggons.  Then,
when the Great Great One--he who sits at Undini--is called upon to make
good the loss of two spans of oxen, two waggons and the whole of their
contents--to the Englishmen whose oxen were taken--were taken by
Nonguza, the induna whom he sent to keep order here on the boundary,
what will he say, that Lion--what will he do?  Tell me that.  What will
he do?"

"I know nothing of your oxen, Umlungu," said Nonguza, sullenly.  "It is
not I who have taken them."

"Not you?  Ha!  When an induna of the King is present, is he greater
than only the head of a kraal--a large kraal certainly--or is he less?
Tell me that, Nonguza?"

It was a good game of bluff to play, and I was about at the end of my
patience.  I held trumps and I knew my hand, for I knew perfectly on
what errand this chief was there.  Now he turned and gave an order to
those who had lately been threatening us, and I knew that the game was
won.  Yet even then, as I noted the look of sullen vindictiveness that
fled swiftly across the chief's face, I was not inclined to exult, for I
was well aware that he would go a good way to be even with me yet, and
in the then unsettled state of the border it would be strange if some
opportunity of making himself disagreeable did not afford itself.

"Well, I'm sick of all this jaw with a couple of snuffy niggers,
Glanton," growled Falkner.  "What's going to be done?"

"Oh shut your silly head," I said, irritably, for of course an
unconciliatory tone tells its own tale even though no word is
understood.  "I suspect your readiness to bash all and everybody is at
the bottom of the whole bother."

"Well, if a brute comes at me brandishing a stick with a knob like a
cricket ball I've got to do something, haven't I?" he answered, lighting
his pipe and slouching away in the sulks.

I was in no better humour, to tell the truth, but laid myself out to do
the civil to Nonguza, by way of smoothing his ruffled feathers.  Then,
as time went by, and I was beginning to feel a little anxious once more,
to my intense relief my ears caught a well-known sound, the trampling of
hoofs to wit, and lo--coming over the rise were my oxen, driven at a run
by those who had taken them.  I gave orders at once to inspan, returning
a curt negative to Magebe's inquiries as to whether I would not stop and
trade.  I was going _kwa_ Majendwa, I answered.  There no mistake would
be made as to who I was.

So we marched forth with all the honours of war, but as the whips
cracked, and the spans tugged out in response I noticed that the cloud
of armed Zulus watching us was increased by others coming over the
ridge--part of Nonguza's impi--and thought we should be lucky if we
escaped further trouble at the hands of these.  It was a bad beginning
to our trip--in the temper the people were evidently then in--yes, a bad
beginning.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

TWO OF A TRADE.

When Dolf Norbury learned that another white man was coming to
Majendwa's country on trading intent, his first remark was that he was
damned if he should.  This statement he followed up with the use of
absolutely unprintable language for the space of many minutes.  His
first act was to shy a bottle at the head of his informant, who ducked
in time to avoid disastrous contact with the same, and then to make him
exceedingly drunk with the contents of another bottle, not yet reduced
to its last use--as a missile to wit.  This by way of compensation.

The process had another effect, that of making the injured man talk.  He
for his part was a young Zulu of no particular account, and what he
stated was perfectly true, he went on to declare.  The white man was a
trader known as Iqalaqala, and with him was another white man, a great
fighter, who could knock men senseless with his fists even as one might
do with a large and heavy stick.  He who spoke knew, for he had seen it
done--not once only, either.  At this Dolf Norbury's language grew
vehement and sultry again, and was interlarded by many aspirations after
just one glimpse of the man who could knock _him_ senseless or knock him
anything else.  Only just one glimpse, that was all.  The next thing he
did, by way of relieving his feelings was to start in and thrash the
nearest of his native wives--of which he had several--she, unfortunately
for her, being the one of least family standing, and therefore the least
likely to raise resentment on the part of the relatives--or others, a
thing which is bad for trade.  Then he opened a bottle of "square face,"
took a very big drink, and putting the bottle in a pocket or his leather
coat went round to the chief's hut.

"I have news, Mawendhlela," he began, when he found himself inside.
"But"--with a look at some others who were seated there--"it will keep."

Not long was it before these took the hint, and stole out, one by one.
The chief's eyes twinkled as he noted the familiar bulge in the pocket
of his visitor.

"_Au_! it is cold," he said, pretending to shiver, "and I am getting on
in years and need warmth."

"This will give it you," said the white man, producing the bottle.

The chief's eyes sparkled as he watched the gurgling rush of the potent
liquid into the calabash drinking vessel.  Then he tossed off half of it
with a gasp of contentment.

"That is indeed warm--yes, warm," he said.

"And good.  But there will soon be no more."

"No more?  Now why, Udolfu?"

"Because I am going--going away."

"Going away?  Now that cannot be."

"It can and it is.  There is no longer room for me here.  There is a cow
at hand who will give you more milk than I can, but not such milk as
this--oh no!"

"Ha!"

"It is Iqalaqala who is the cow that lows at the gate.  Iqalaqala does
not trade in strong drink--neither will he bring you any guns or
cartridges or powder and lead.  His trade is the trade for women--beads,
coloured cloth, and such."

"M-m!  Why then, Udolfu, there is still room for you here, for Iqalaqala
can do the women's trade and you can still do that for men--guns and
cartridges--and drink like this--like this--which warms--ah, ah, which
warms," added the chief finishing his allowance of "square face" and
pushing his calabash meaningly towards the other.

"But I will not.  There is no room for two here.  I will have all the
trade or none."

Mawendhlela's face fell.  He was a man who liked his comfort and the
enjoyment of a daily modicum of "square face" gin, or Natal rum had
become essential to this.  As a chief he was not unmindful of certain
plain hints on the part of those very high up indeed in the councils of
the nation, to the effect that those under them were required to obtain
the weapons of the white man as far as this could possibly be done.  Yet
here was the man who supplied him with both, threatening to withdraw.
He saw the loss of his beloved drink with dismay, and with even greater
dismay he contemplated the disfavour into which he would fall with those
in high quarters, if his people showed but a poor muster in the way of
firearms.  The while Dolf Norbury was reading his thoughts, and could
gauge their drift exactly.  He knew, too, that personally Mawendhlela
and many of his people would gladly see the last of him--but, the above
considerations were potent.

"We cannot both trade here," he repeated.  "Iqalaqala must not be
allowed to come.  That's all."

"What can I do, Udolfu?" answered the chief helplessly.  "Majendwa is a
bull that roars louder than I, and he has the ear of the Great Great One
himself.  It is to Majendwa you must talk."

"Majendwa?" repeated the white man, with a scowl as though the very name
was unpalatable to him--and, indeed, it was--"Majendwa?  _Au_! his kraal
is far enough away.  But here, you are chief, you, Mawendhlela.  And for
some days the people have been talking of the coming of Iqalaqala!
Well, he must not come."

They looked at each other for a little while in silence.  Then the chief
spoke.

"I can do nothing, Udolfu," he repeated.  "But you--_au_! you white
people can do everything.  And I do not want a white man who only brings
trade for women."

"Then you leave it to me?" said the trader, reaching over the square
bottle and replenishing the calabash.

"It is nothing to me," said Mawendhlela, carefully extracting a
cockroach which had fallen from the thatch into his liquor, and throwing
it into the fire.  "No more than that--" as the insect crackled up.

Dolf Norbury chuckled, and took a big drink himself.  The life of
another man, a fellow countryman--or, it might be of two men--was no
more to him than that of the burnt insect.  They understood each other.

It may be asked how I am able to reproduce a dialogue between two
persons sitting together alone in a hut--alone mind--and I many miles
away at the time.  Well, passing over the question as to whether anyone
ever really is alone--especially in a Zulu kraal--rather than that the
veracity of this my narrative be in any wise impugned, I would remind
the reader that at an earlier stage thereof I took him into confidence
so far as to explain that I was wont to derive a considerable amount of
information from native sources, and that such information was
surprisingly accurate.  So--there it is, you see!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The while we were trekking by slow and easy stages.  There was a
restlessness among the people as to which there could be no mistake.
They were moving about in bands of ten or twenty instead of singly or in
pairs, and fully armed, and now and then two or three men would come up
hurriedly to the waggon, and hardly troubling to drop their weapons as
required by etiquette, would start on again after a few words of inquiry
as to our destination.  In short the country seemed about as settled as
an ant's nest the top of which has just been kicked off; and more than
one rumour had it that armed collisions had occurred with the grazing
Boers beyond the Luneburg and Utrecht borders.  Towards ourselves the
behaviour of the people was rather offhand and independent, the young
men especially being inclined to treat us to quite an unnecessary
display of swagger.  This was a source of anxiety to me, in that it
involved a continuous strain upon my moral influence to keep Falkner
Sewin from his favourite pastime of head punching, and this was
difficult.

So far too, trade prospects seemed but poor.  Formerly from each group
of kraals we passed, people would have come eagerly forth to do a deal--
now for ordinary trade goods they seemed to have no hankering.  More
than one head-man would ask, talking "dark," if I carried _what they
wanted_, and on assuring themselves that I did not, soon showed no
further desire to trade.  Now "what they wanted," done into plain
English, meant firearms and ammunition, and this was a form of illicit
trade from which I had always kept my hands clean.  Not that the
temptation was not great at that.  The profits were ditto and the risk
to one with my facilities, hardly worth considering, and the same held
good of liquor selling, though as to this latter perhaps considerations
of self interest lay behind my scruples, for it was in no wise to my
interest to bear part in ruining this fine race among whom I lived, and
from whom I drew a living.

For the rest, life was pleasant enough as we moved along easily--
outspanning during the heat of the day for several hours--and then
trekking on until dark.  Then the night camp under the stars, when the
savoury game stew--or if we couldn't get any game, the fried rashers of
bacon, had been discussed, and pipes were in full blast--this
constituted not the least pleasant moment of the day, as we sat and
swapped yarns, to the accompaniment of the monotonous crunch-crunch of
ruminating oxen tied to the yokes; or the occasional howl of a hyena, or
the cry of some mysterious night bird coming up out of the surrounding
blackness.  All this my companion enjoyed immensely, as well he might.
He did not so much enjoy the reverse side of the medal though, when a
sudden thunderburst and a night of chilly, pelting downpour--which
precluded all thoughts of a fire, or anything hot--drove us to huddle
within the tent waggon, and browse upon biscuit and tinned stuff.
However I had broken him in fairly well by that time, and he was
disposed to take things as they came.  Now and again he would try my
patience by some outbreak of mulish cussedness, but I remembered his
character and training, and had no difficulty in keeping myself in hand.
Added to which I believe I entertained a sneaking softness towards the
fellow if only that he constituted a connecting link with those I had
left behind.  Those?  Well, to be candid, but--never mind.

We were approaching the mountainous regions of the north, and the bushy
valleys and slopes of the lower country had been left behind.  The air
grew clear and sharp, and the nights had become downright chilly.
Around, the hills rose in abrupt slopes, their sweep broken up into
great terraces as it were, by tiers of smooth grey cliffs.  To all
appearance the country might have been uninhabited, but I knew better:
knew that the great clefts which fell abruptly from the track contained
teeming kraals, whose presence might easily remain unsuspected by the
casual wayfarer: knew, too, that not a mile of our advance but was
carefully watched and duly reported.  In the Zululand of those days the
passage of a white man's waggons was an event, and that from more than
one point of view.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

TO BLOWS.

"Here come men, _Nkose_, and I think that they come to cause us
trouble," said Mfutela, shading his eyes to look up the road.

I followed his glance.  A dark crowd was swarming over the ridge half a
mile in front, and in the then rising sun I could make out the glint of
assegai blades.  That was nothing, since every man in Zululand at that
time seemed to make a point of moving about with as many assegais as he
could conveniently carry.  But it was significant that at sight of us
they should have halted for a moment, and then come forward at a run,
shouting like mad.

"Is there to be no end to all these mischievous idiots and their larks?"
I said, sourly and in English.  And yet at the time I felt not
altogether happy--things happen suddenly among savages.  What if the
tension on the Transvaal border had already brought on an outbreak.

"Hallo!  What's the row?" sang out Falkner, from the tent waggon, into
which he had dived to fetch something or other.  "Any more fellows whose
heads want punching--eh, Glanton?"

"No," I answered more sourly still.  "Keep those itching knuckles of
yours quiet for once--for Heaven's sake."

It was early morning as I have said, and we were in the act of
inspanning.  We had camped in an open valley, and in front lay a long
acclivity of miry red track mapped out by ancient wheel ruts and
rendered diabolical by a heavy rainfall during the night.  It was at the
head of this that the crowd had appeared, and looking at both I was all
the less disposed to meet opposition with the good humour which is
always advisable.

"Zulu nigga troublesome debbil," said Jan Boom, the Xosa, who was fond
of airing his English, and his contempt for those of his own colour who
"had none."

The new arrivals left us in no sort of doubt as to their intentions, for
they charged straight for us, and waving their weapons roared out to us
to stop.

"Tre-ek!"  I yelled, seizing the whip from Mfutela, and letting out the
long lash in a couple of resounding cracks which had the effect of
making one fellow who was brandishing a war-axe within an ace of Tom's
nose--who was leading--skip aside with some alacrity.  Jan Boom, who was
driving the other waggon, was quick to follow my example, and to the
accompaniment of a cannonade of whip cracking and ear-splitting yells,
the two spans tugged out laboriously over the heavy miry road.

So far as our disturbers were concerned, I kept silence, by way of
showing that I considered them beneath my notice, until I saw that their
mouthings and gesticulations as they kept pace with us on either side,
were likely to _schrik_ our two horses, leading on behind, to the point
of nearly causing them to break their reims and rush away the devil knew
where.

"Who are ye?"  I shouted.  "Who are ye that come bellowing down upon me
like a pack of kraal curs?  You are not children either, for I see among
you men with rings.  Go away."

But the ringed men, to my surprise, were among the most boisterous.

"Turn back, Umlungu," cried one of them.  "Turn back.  It is the word of
our father, Mawendhlela."

Mawendhlela!  The name set my misgivings at rest in a moment.
Mawendhlela a chief by virtue of birth and possessions, a man who was no
warrior but one of the few Zulus at that time who was addicted to gin,
and disliked me because I had always steadfastly refused either to trade
or give him any.

"Mawendhlela!"  I echoed.  "_Hau_!  I go to a bull that roars louder
than he.  I go to Majendwa--to Majendwa I say.  Now--go away."

But this, to my surprise, they showed no inclination to do.  On the
contrary they closed up in such wise as to bring the front waggon to a
standstill.  Short of cutting a way through them there was no method of
proceeding, and there were about a hundred of them, all bristling with
assegais.  I had my revolver on though it was not visible, and for all
their numbers I made up my mind to shoot the first who should lay a hand
upon my people or my oxen: for there are times when forbearance may be
stretched to a dangerous limit.  What would have happened next I won't
pretend to guess, but some sort of diversion must have occurred, for
heads were turned, looking back over the way they had come.  Then the
crowd parted, precipitately too, some tumbling over each other's heels
in their alacrity to get out of the way, and through the lane thus
opened there rode up at a furious pace, a man--a white man.

"Here, get out of this!" he bellowed, firing off a very blast of
profanity.  "Turn your blanked oxen round, and trek back--d'you hear?
trek back a sight quicker than you came.  D'you hear?"

"May I be permitted to ask why?"  I said, sarcastically.

"No, you mayn't and be damned to you.  But I'll tell you.  Because I say
so.  That's why.  Because _I_ say so.  You've heard of me."

"Don't know that I have.  Who might you be when you're at home?"

"I'm Dolf Norbury.  That's who I might be.  Dolf Norbury, d'you hear?
I've got the trade up here, and I'm damned if I'm going to have any
dirty winkler from Natal coming up here to make holes in it.  Now--d'you
hear?"

"Winkler" meaning a small shopkeeper, was meant to be offensive.

"Oh, so you're Dolf Norbury, are you?"  I said, pretending to be
impressed.

"That's right.  I'm Dolf Norbury, and no man ever got the blind side of
me and kept it.  Now--clear."

"Ah!"  I said.  "I'm Godfrey Glanton, and no man ever got the blind side
of me and kept it.  Now--clear."

I thought he would there and then have tumbled down in a fit.  It
happened that I had heard a good deal about this Dolf Norbury, but had
only seen him once, at Krantz Kop, and that some years before; on which
occasion, however, he had been far too drunk to remember me now.  He was
a big, roaring, buffalo bull of a fellow of about fifty, who would be
sure to gain ascendency among savages if he laid himself out to do so.
He had Mawendhlela completely under his thumb, and that for a further
reason than those which have just appeared, which was as well for
himself, for the more respectable chiefs of Zululand would have nothing
to do with him by this time.  He would have been turned out of the
country, or would have died suddenly, before this but that he had his
uses; for he was a most daring and successful gunrunner among other
accomplishments.  With all his bounce he was not wanting in pluck, and
could hold his own anywhere, and always had held it as some had found to
their cost--he would add, darkly boastful.  His record was uncertain,
but he had an intimate acquaintance with the Transkein border and
Pondoland: and talked the native dialects faultlessly; in short he was
just the type that would drift into the position of "chief's white man,"
with all the advantages of self-enrichment which it affords--and these
are not small if the thing is properly worked.  The only thing certain
about him was that for some time past he dared not show his face upon
any square yard of ground under British jurisdiction--on pain of death
in mid air, it was not obscurely hinted.  In aspect he was heavy and
powerful of build.  His face, tanned to a red bronze, was half hidden in
a thick and flowing beard just turning grey, but the jet black of his
shaggy eyebrows had not begun to turn.  Under them his eyes, black and
piercing, glittered like those of a snake.  Now they began to roll till
you could see scarcely anything but the whites.  He seemed on the verge
of a fit.

"Don't put yourself in a passion," I said, for I had become cool in
proportion to the other's rage.  "There's no occasion for it, you know.
Only I may as well tell you that I don't take any man's bounce, and the
idea of you, or any other man coming along here to give me orders
strikes me as a joke.  See?"

"Joke does it?" he gasped.  "You'll find it a mighty dear joke."  Then
followed more talk which it is impossible to reproduce on paper.  "A
joke does it?  D'you know I've killed men for less than this--yes,
killed more men than you've even fought.  A joke eh?  Now--you'll see."

He was just turning to the noisy crowd, who however had sunk into
silence, and, with eyeballs strained, were watching developments, when
Falkner, whose restraint had come to an end on seeing a white man, and
therefore as he afterwards put it one who could stand up to him, instead
of a lot of miserable niggers who couldn't--lounged forward.

"Here, I say.  You'll hurt yourself directly, old man," he drawled--I
suspected purposely putting on his most offensive manner.

"Hurt myself will I--aw haw?" returned the other, imitating Falkner's
drawl.  "Hurt myself will I, my blanked popinjay?  But first of all I'm
going to hurt you--I'm going to hammer you within an inch of your life,
and I won't promise to leave you that."

He jumped off his horse, and Falkner winked at me, for this was just
what he wanted.

"I say, you know, I can't hit you.  You're too old," he said, in a tone
calculated to exasperate the other, and it had just that effect, for
literally bellowing with rage Dolf came straight at him.  At first
Falkner undertook to play with him, but soon found that he had got his
hands full, for the other had weight and was enormously strong, and
although he was inferior in science his mad rushes were nearly as
irresistible as those of a buffalo bull, which was just what he reminded
me of, with his eyes swollen and glaring, and his beard red and shaggy
with blood.  But he was uncommonly quick on his pins, and did not fight
blindly by any means--indeed for some time I should have been sorry to
have risked a large sum on either of them.  It was a battle of giants.

I confess to watching the contest with a very keen interest.  The Zulus
standing around, were still as bronze as they craned eagerly forward to
watch this, to them, absolutely novel form of battle.  My people
standing exactly where they had been, were no less interested
spectators.  At last I thought to detect a sign of weakening on the part
of the enemy.  Youth and science was beginning to tell against sheer
strength.  Norbury must have realised this, for shaking his head like a
bull about to charge, he hurled himself forward for a final effort,
striking out with terrific force.  Falkner got it full on the forehead,
but managed to keep up.  The other staggered back, and then as he was
about to make another rush I saw his right hand go behind him.

"Drop that!"  I said sharply bringing round the butt end of my whipstick
upon the wrist.  With a howl of rage he complied literally, as the
sheath knife which he had just drawn leapt from his hand.  I put my foot
on it just as Falkner, rushing in, knocked him fairly and squarely out.

"Two to one, you blanked cowards," he snarled, in between curses, as he
picked himself unsteadily up, half stunned as he was.  "That your idea
of fair play, is it?"

"And this is your idea of fair play?"  I said, holding up the knife.  It
had a good eight-inch blade and was ground like a razor.  "Why you
infernal murderer, did you think I was going to stand by and see you use
it?"

"You're a liar," he answered.  "I never pulled it.  You knocked it out
of its sheath yourself, just for an excuse to pack on to me two to one."

"Liar yourself," I said.  "You'd pulled it all right.  Now clear out,
and by the Lord, if you try any dog tricks on us by way of being even
we'll shoot, you understand.  This is outside British jurisdiction, you
know.  So look out."

He gave me a look that was positively devilish, and which his battered
and blood-smeared countenance did not soften, you may be sure.

"Look out yourself," he retorted furiously.  "What sort of a man are you
to come in and try to sneak another man's trade?  I was here first, I
tell you."

"That's all right.  But you might as well have made sure I was trying to
sneak your trade first.  Instead of that you come charging up to me at
the head of about a hundred armed scoundrels and start a game of bounce.
Did you think I was going to turn my waggons, and trek back at your
bidding, or at any man's bidding, because if so you got hold of the
wrong pig by the ear, that's all.  I hadn't intended to go near your old
soaker's place--but now I shall please myself about it."

"Will you?  All right.  You were saying something just now about being
outside British jurisdiction.  Well, remember that.  You're not out of
this country yet remember, and while you're in it you'd better keep a
bright look out.  Dolf Norbury ain't the man to be bested all along the
line--and I shouldn't wonder if he didn't begin now.  So keep a bright
look out, that's my advice."

"Oh all right.  I'm not afraid," I sung out after him, for he had jumped
on his horse and was now riding away without another word.  "Tre-ek!"

The whips cracked, and the waggons rolled forward, now without
opposition.  The turbulent crowd had completely quieted down, and
although they still kept pace with us it was with a subdued sort of air.
The reason was easy to read.  We had come off best in the affair--
wherefore it was obvious to them that we must be greater than Dolf
Norbury.  Of their first annoyance I took no notice whatever, treating
it as a matter of such small account as not even to be worth
remembering; and soon they began to drop off by twos and threes, till at
last there was only a handful left--to whom I administered a suitable
lecture.

"Think that skunk'll give us any more trouble, eh, Glanton?" said
Falkner, presently.

"Shouldn't wonder.  Anyway we'll take his advice and keep a bright look
out.  He's more than capable of trying a long shot at us from behind, if
he sees his chance."

"By Jove, but that's a tough customer.  If he'd only had science I
should have been nowhere with him.  It's science that does it," he added
complacently.  "Ever learn boxing, Glanton?"

"No.  Yet I've held my own in a scrap on an occasion or two."

"Well learn it.  I can tell you it's worth while.  You get the science
that way.  We used to go in strong for it in the regiment, but there's
every chance of forgetting it here.  These silly niggers can't use their
hands at all."

"No, but they can use other things, and if you'll take my advice you'll
keep yours off them.  Keep them for fellows of the Dolf Norbury stamp."

It must not be supposed that friend Falkner had come off light in the
scrimmage; for in truth a goodly share of punishment had fallen his way.
Both his eyes were badly bunged up, and he had a knob like a walnut
over one temple.  He further owned to the loosening of a couple of
teeth.  In short his countenance presented an aspect that would not have
endeared him to those of the opposite sex on sight, say his cousins whom
he had left behind.  But he had held his own like a man, and of his
pluck there could be no question at all; and I own that he had gone up
very considerably in my estimation since the time of our earlier
acquaintance.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

MAJENDWA'S KRAAL.

A large, well-built Zulu kraal is to my mind a picturesque and
symmetrical object with its perfect double circle of ring fences
enclosing the yellow domes of the grass huts, and the large open space
in the centre, dappled with many coloured cattle, or alive with the dark
forms of its inhabitants.  Such a kraal was that of the chief, Majendwa.
It lay deep down in a large basin-like hollow; an amphitheatre, as it
were, sparsely bushed and surrounded by high, terrace-like cliffs.  On
one side these rose up to a tall cone of considerable height.

The valley bottom and the slopes of the hills were covered with grazing
herds, all sleek and round and shining, for the grass was abundant, and
rains had been plentiful in these highlands.

"That looks promising," I remarked to Falkner, as we gazed around upon
this land of plenty.  "I hope to take back a good few of these with us."

"By Jove, yes," he said.  "I say, I wonder if there's anything to shoot
among those cliffs over there."

"Not very much.  An odd reebok or klipspringer is about all you'd get.
However, we can try later on.  Hallo!  That looks uncommonly like
Majendwa himself."

Two tall Zulus were stalking along a path which should converge with
ours a little way ahead.  We had ridden on, leaving the waggons to
follow, and the sound of their creaking and jolting was even now borne
to our ears behind, as they wound down the rocky track which led into
the hollow from that side, together with an occasional driving shout.

"Is it?" said Falkner, looking up with some curiosity.  "By Jingo, he's
a fine-looking chap for a nigger, anyway."

"Thought you'd worn through that `nigger' string of yours, Falkner," I
said.  "Don't play on it for the benefit of Majendwa, that's all."

I may have seen as fine, but I never saw a finer specimen of a Zulu than
Majendwa.  Tall and straight, and for his age marvellously free from
that corpulence which seems to come upon nearly all Zulus of rank or
birth in middle life, every movement of his limbs showing great muscular
strength the man's frame was a model.  His countenance even from a
European standpoint was singularly handsome, the broad, lofty forehead
and clear eyes conveying the idea of intellectuality and high breeding,
in short he looked what he was, an aristocrat of his race.  His greeting
was dignified yet cordial.

"I see you, Iqalaqala," he said, having waited for us to come up--"and
am glad.  It is long since you brought trade our way."

I answered that my wandering days were over for the present, yet I could
not altogether sit still, so had come straight up to the Abaqulusi to
trade with them first.  Then following their inquiring glance at my
companion, I told them he was a neighbour of mine who had been an
officer in the English army, causing them to look at him with redoubled
interest.

"What's it all about, Glanton?" struck in Falkner who was always
impatient when I was talking and bound to cut in at the wrong time.
"Who's the other chap?"

"Muntisi, the chief's second son.  He's got seven, but this and the
eldest are the only two who wear the ring."

"Well, I like their looks.  Here, have some 'bacca, old chap," pulling
out his pouch.

Majendwa, who of course didn't understand the familiarity of the
address, received the tobacco, in his dignified way, with a slight smile
and a glance of furtive curiosity at Falkner's parti-coloured
countenance, which had by no means shed all traces of his bout of
fisticuffs with Dolf Norbury.  Then he said:

"Come within, Iqalaqala.  I will send men to show your people where to
outspan."

We walked on with them, leading our horses, for we had dismounted to
greet them.  As we drew near, the kraal, which had seemed deserted,
sprang into life.  Heads appeared above the thorn fence, watching the
approach of the waggons in the distance, and from where the red topknots
of women were grouped, a buzz and chatter of expectation went up.

"Hallo, Glanton.  You're never going to leave that there?" said Falkner,
as I deliberately put down my rifle outside the gate before entering.
"I'm hanged if I'll leave mine."

"But you must.  It's etiquette."

"Oh blazes, but I don't like it," he grumbled, as he complied
reluctantly.  However Majendwa, whose ready tact had seen through his
reluctance, told me we need not disarm there, and in fact we had better
bring in our weapons, for there was nothing he enjoyed so much as
inspecting firearms.

As we passed among the huts, I greeted several men whom I knew
personally.  Falkner the while staring curiously about him.

"I tell you what, Glanton.  Some of these are devilish fine-looking
girls," he remarked.  "Quite light coloured too, by Jove."

I rendered this for the benefit of the chief that my companion observed
that the women of the Abaqulusi were far better looking than any he had
ever seen in Zululand, which evoked a laugh from those men who heard,
and a delighted squeal from those of the sex thus eulogised.  Then
Falkner committed his first blunder.

We had gained the chief's hut, and stooping down, I had entered the low
door first, Falkner following.  When halfway through he drew back.

"Dash it all!" he exclaimed, "I've dropped my matchbox."

"Never mind.  Come right through," I warned.  "Don't stop on any
account."

But it was too late.  He had already crawled back, and picked up the
lost article.

"Why what's the row?" he said, startled at my peremptory tone.

"Only that it's awful bad manners with them to stop halfway through a
door and back out again.  It's worse, it makes a sort of bad _muti_.
It's a pity you did it."

"Oh blazes, how was I to know?  Sort of ill luck, eh--evil eye and all
that kind of business?  Well, you can put that right with them."

I tried to do this, incidentally explaining that he was a new arrival in
the country and could not talk with their tongue yet, and of coarse was
not familiar with their ways, that I hoped they would bear this in mind
during the time we should spend at the kraal.  But although the chief
and his son took the incident in good part I could see they would much
rather it had not happened.  As regarded the offender himself one thing
struck me as significant.  Time was, and not so long ago either, when he
would have pooh-poohed it, as a silly nigger superstition.  Now he
showed some little concern, which was a sign of grace.

_Tywala_, which is beer brewed from _amabele_, or native grown millet,
if fresh and cleanly made, is an excellent thirst quencher on a hot day,
and you never get it so well and cleanly made as in the hut of a Zulu
chief.  Of this a great calabash was brought in, and poured out into
black bowls made of soft and porous clay.

"By Jove, Glanton," cut in Falkner, during an interval in our talk.
"This is something like.  Why this jolly hut," looking round upon the
clean and cool interior with its hard polished floor, and domed thatch
rising high overhead--"is as different as possible to the poky smoky
affairs our niggers run up.  And as for this tipple--oh good Lord!"

There was a squashing sound and a mighty splash.  He had been raising
the bowl to his lips, and that by the process of hooking one finger over
the rim thereof.  The vessel being, as I have said, of soft clay was
unable to stand that sort of leverage, and had incontinently split in
half, and the contents, liberal in quantity, went souse all over his
trousers as he sat there, splashing in milky squirts the legs of
Majendwa and three or four other men of rank who had come in to join the
_indaba_.  These moved not a muscle, but I could catch a lurking twinkle
in the eyes of the chief's son.

"Here, I say.  Tell them I'm devilish sorry," cried Falkner shaking off
the stuff as best he could.  "I'm not accustomed to these things, you
know."

I put it to them.  They looked at Falkner, then at the shattered bowl,
and as a Zulu is nothing if not humorous, one and all went off into a
roar of laughter.

"Hallo!  That's better," grinned Falkner looking up, as he tried to wipe
off the liquid with his handkerchief.  "Why these are jolly sort of
fellows after all.  I was afraid they were going to look beastly glum
over it.  Tell them I'll get into their ways soon, Glanton.  Meanwhile
here's their jolly good health," taking a big drink out of a fresh bowl
that was placed before him, only this time taking care to hold it with
both hands.

Soon the cracking of whips and an increased buzz of voices without
announced the arrival of the waggons, and we all went out to the place
of outspan.  The sun was sinking behind the high ridge which bordered
the great basin, and the plain in front of the kraal was dappled with
homing herds, and on these I looked with the eye of a connoisseur and
especially on the little fat, black Zulu oxen, which always fetch a good
price for trek purposes.  The shrill shout and whistle of the boy herds,
blended with the trample and mooing of the cows brought in for the
evening milking--but the chief interest on the part of the denizens of
the great kraal was centred around the waggons.  However it was too late
to unload for trade purposes that evening, so beyond getting out a few
things for gifts to Majendwa and some of the principal men of the place,
I left everything undisturbed.

"Here's our hut, Falkner," I said, presently, as we returned within the
kraal.  "We're going to sleep here."

"Sleep here?" he echoed.  "Don't know.  I'd much rather sleep at the
waggons.  How about crawlers," surveying doubtfully the interior,
wherein Tom was depositing the few things we should require for the
night.

"Oh, that won't trouble us.  Beyond a few cockroaches of the smaller
sort a new hut like this is clean enough.  You see Majendwa's an old
friend of mine, and he wouldn't take it in good part if we didn't sleep
in his kraal, at any rate for a night or two.  Now we're going to dine
with him.  Look they've just killed a young beast in honour of our
arrival."

And dine with him we did, and Falkner himself was fain to own that the
great slabs of grilled beef, cut from the choicest part, down the back
to wit, which were presently brought in, flanked by roasted mealies, and
washed down by unlimited _tywala_ constituted a banquet by no means to
be sneezed at.  What though a clean grass mat did duty for a plate, and
a skewer of wood for a fork, even he admitted that we might have fared
much worse.

I did not talk much as to the state of the country with our entertainers
that night--that I could get at better by degrees, and later.  But they
chuckled mightily as I described the scrap with Dolf Norbury.

"Udolfu!"  Oh yes, they knew him well, used to trade with him at one
time, but they didn't want such whites as him in the Zulu country, they
said.  I could understand this the more readily, for I knew that he had
tried on his bounce even to the verge of attempted blows with Ngavuma,
Majendwa's eldest son, who was from home just now, and for his pains had
got a broad assegai into his ribs which had kept him quiet on the flat
of his back for a matter of three or four months or so.  So chatting--
and translating for the benefit of Falkner--even he agreed we had got
through an uncommonly jolly evening, and that the real Zulu was a real
brick, by Jove!  Then we turned in.

I have a knack of shutting my eyes and going sound off about thirty
seconds after my head touches the pillow, or whatever does duty for one,
and that night made no exception to my general practice.  I heard
Falkner fumbling about and cussing because he couldn't get his blankets
fixed up just as he wanted them, and so on; then I recollect my
half-smoked pipe dropping from my mouth just as usual, and then I
recollect no more, till--

I woke--not at all as usual when there was nothing to wake me.  The
moonlight was streaming in through the interstices of the wicker slab
that constituted the door, throwing a fine silver network upon the floor
of the hut.  Striking a match I looked at my watch.  It was just after
one.  But as the light flickered and went out I became aware of
something else.  I was alone in the hut.  What the deuce had become of
Falkner?

Raising myself on one elbow I called his name.  No answer.  I waited a
little, then got up and crawled through the low doorway.

The moon was nearly at full, and I stood looking over the screen of
woven grass which was erected in front of the door, leaving just room on
each side for a man to pass.  The scene was of wonderful beauty.  The
great circle of domed huts lying between their dark ring fences, the
shimmering solitude of the moonlit plain, and beyond, the far
amphitheatre of terraced cliffs rising to the twinkling stars.  The calm
beauty of it all riveted me, accustomed as I was to night in the open--
do we ever get accustomed to such nights as this I wonder?--and I stood
thinking, or rather beginning to think--when--

Such a clamour broke forth upon the sweet stillness of the night as
though all the dogs in the kraal--no, in the world--had suddenly gone
stark, staring, raving mad, and then in the light of the broad moon I
saw Falkner Sewin clad in nothing but a short light shirt, sprinting as
I feel sure he never sprinted before or since.  Behind him poured
forward a complete mass of curs, gaunt leggy brutes and as savage as
they make them, given the conditions of night and a fleeing unwonted
object.  The ground was open in front of Majendwa's huts, so he had some
start.

"This way!"  I yelled, lest he should mistake the hut, then quick as
lightning I was inside.  So was he, in about a moment, and was on his
back with both heels jammed hard against the slammed-to wicker slab that
constituted the door, while the whole snarling mouthing pack was hurling
itself against the same, snapping and growling, till finding they
couldn't get in, the ill-conditioned brutes started to fight with each
other.  Then a man came out of an adjacent hut and shied knobsticks into
the lot, dispersing them with many a pained yell.  The while I lay there
and laughed till I cried.

"If you could only have seen yourself, Falkner, covering distance in the
moonlight and a short shirt," I managed to gasp at length.  "Man, what
the deuce took you wandering about at night?  They don't like that here,
you know."

"Oh damn what they like or what they don't like!" he growled pantingly.
"I couldn't sleep--some infernal leggy thing or other ran over me--so
thought I'd admire the view a little by moonlight.  Then those loathly
brutes came for me all at once.  Here! give us hold of that fat flask we
had the sense to bring along.  I want a drink badly."

"So do I!"  I said starting off to laugh again.  "Well, you mustn't do
any more moonlight patrols.  It's _tagati_, as the Zulus say."



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A GRIM FIND.

Soon trade became brisk.  I had the waggons partly off-loaded, and by
dint of stretching a large sail across both of them formed an impromptu
store in which the goods were piled.  All day long the people crowded
up, those who were not dealing enjoying the fun of witnessing the arts
and dodges of those who were; just as an outdoor sale on the market
square of a town will always attract a number of folks who have nothing
else to do, and also, an equal number perhaps of those who have.

Cattle would be driven up; good ones, for I had given out distinctly
that it was waste of trouble to bring anything but good ones,--and then
the owners, squatting around, would spend an hour or so haggling, to go
away firmly resolved not to deal, but they nearly always came back, and,
meanwhile, others would take their places, and go through in all
probability exactly the same process; for your Zulu at a deal is a born
Jew, and will spend an astonishing amount of time haggling out of sheer
love of haggling.  He would go on for ever but for one consideration--
the amount of goods is limited in quantity, and if one neglects to
secure his share another does not.  So for the first few days I sat
tight, making up "lots" with green blankets and cooking pots, butcher
knives--always in great request--and brass buttons, beads and Salampore
cloth, which by the way, is not cloth at all, but a light gauzy fabric
of dark blue, greatly in favour with the unmarried girls.  All sorts of
"notions" were in request, the veriest trifles as to market value, but
highly prized up there; and as a thing is worth what it will fetch, why
there comes in much of the trader's legitimate profit.  I always held
that no trade was too small to be refused, and I would accept curios,
which were always in demand by down-country dealers in such things.
Assegais however were extremely difficult to obtain, so much so indeed
as to be practically outside articles of barter, and this was
significant.  Another thing not less so was the universal request, open
or covert, for firearms and ammunition.  It was not much use my
explaining to them that they were better off without either, that a man
can do much better with a weapon he understands than with one he does
not.  For some reason or other they were bent on having them.

However, in a short while I found myself in possession of quite a nice
lot of cattle, the sale of which would leave me a very considerable
profit over when expenses were cleared, so I was not dissatisfied.
Then, all of a sudden, trade fell off, then ceased altogether.  There
was no apparent reason for it.  I stood well with Majendwa, indeed I
always erred in the right direction with regard to the principal chiefs
when on trading ventures in their districts, holding that it is far
better policy to be too liberal than too mean.  But there was no
blinking the fact that for some reason or other further trade was "off."
No more were my waggons thronged from morning till night.  Those from
outlying kraals who had been the most eager, stopped away altogether,
but now and then someone from close at hand would drop in for something,
and even then the deal would be so insignificant as to remind me of my
store at Isipanga.

I put the matter squarely to Majendwa, but it didn't seem to help.  He
admitted that for some reason or other my trade had stopped.  What could
he do?  He could not order his people to deal.  I agreed with him there,
still I was puzzled.  I had calculated to have easily cleared out all I
had at his place.  Yet I had done well enough so far, but when I
proposed to move further northward, and get into Uhamu's country,
Majendwa seemed for some reason or other unwilling that I should.

"You will do no better there, Iqalaqala," he said, "and, for the rest,
it is not advisable.  See, we are alone, and are talking beneath the
bullock's skin.  Again I say--do not go there.  Return rather to your
own country, even if you have to carry back some of the goods you have
brought.  Or, there may be those on your way who will relieve you of
them."

I looked at him fixedly and a thought struck me.  The phrase he had used
might well bear two meanings.  Had he intended it as a warning?  Such
might well have been the case.

Falkner the while had been amusing himself as best he could.  He soon
got tired of watching the barter, though at first it had afforded him
some amusement, but I had laid a stern and uncompromising embargo upon
any approach even to practical joking.  So he would roam off with a
rifle or shot gun, and although I was anxious lest he should get into
some mischief or other yet he seemed not to.  Now he welcomed the idea
of clearing out, when we talked things over.  To my surprise he
propounded an idea when I was telling him how our trade had come to a
standstill.

"What if that sweep whose head I punched should be at the bottom of it?"
he said.  "Dolf Norbury, I mean?"

I thought there might be something in it.  However if it were true, he
was bound to have gone to work in some such way that it would be
impossible to prove anything, and even if we did, it was hard to see
what we could do.

"Do?  Why call round and punch his head again, of course," he answered
briskly.

"That wouldn't help us to recover our trade.  Besides Dolf Norbury isn't
the sort to let himself be caught that way twice running.  This time it
would be a case of shooting on sight."

"That's a game two can play at," said Falkner.

"Yes," I answered, "but in this case it's a game in which he holds all
the hand.  It's clear that he has some following, and we have a lot of
cattle to drive.  Well, while we were settling accounts with him his, or
rather Mawendhlela's, rips would have no trouble in clearing these off
to some part of the country where we should never see a hoof of them
again."

"But would they have the cheek to do that?"

"Wouldn't they?  And this is a time when neither the King nor any of the
chiefs would be over-keen to interfere in a quarrel between two white
men.  Let them settle it themselves is what would be said and meanwhile
we should have lost all we came up for."

"Damn!"

"I echo that sentiment most fervently, but it can't be helped," I said.
"As it is I've a notion we shall have to round up our belongings extra
tight till we are clear of the country."

"Oh well.  Let's make the best of it and sit tight here a week or so
longer, Glanton.  I'm beginning to enjoy this shooting among rocks.
These klip-springers are such cute little devils.  It's more fun
shooting them than it used to be markhor, and nothing like the fag."

Falkner was a capital shot with rifle and bird gun alike, and one of his
good points was that he was a keen and thorough sportsman.  That being
the case he had been able to find game up here where one less keen would
have given up in disgust, and it was a good thing, if only that it kept
him out of mischief.

Jan Boom, the Xosa, was the only one who would hint at any reason for
the falling off of our trade, but, as it happened, I was rather
prejudiced against him by reason of his affectation of a certain air of
superiority over those of his own colour, on the strength of his
knowledge of English.  In fact I rather disliked him, and therefore of
course distrusted him.  Subsequently I had reason to alter my opinion
with regard to him: but that will keep.  Out of Mfutela I could get
nothing on the subject.  Either he knew nothing or was too "close" to
say: and when a native is "close" why it is rather less difficult to
make an oyster open by whispering soft nothings to it than to get him to
unfold.

One day Falkner and I started off to have a hunt among the krantzes
beyond those which walled in the hollow.  We took Jan Boom with us, and
a couple of young Zulus to show us the short cut.  It was a grey and
lowering day, gloomy in the extreme, and every now and then a spot of
rain showed what we were likely to expect, but Falkner was keen on
sport, and I was getting hipped, besides, in those days I cared little
enough for weather.  We scrambled about all the morning among the rocks,
with absolutely no luck whatever, and then I got sick of it, wherefore
after we had lunched upon what we had brought with us I proposed to find
my way back to the waggons.  Falkner of course wanted to keep on, but I
pointed out that my defection need cause no drawback to him, for I would
leave him the boys and make my way back alone.  So we separated and
before we had long done so a distant report, some way above, showed that
at any rate he was beginning to find sport.

I struck downward, rapidly making use of half obliterated cattle tracks,
for the Abaqulusi were largely a mountain tribe, and there were outlying
kraals among the heights as well as in the hollows.  Following one of
these paths I came suddenly upon a steep gorge, falling abruptly to the
next slope some distance below.

This gully was in places almost chasm-like in its formation, and was
indescribably wild and gloomy in the utter solitude of the grey
afternoon.  I had just crossed it where the path dipped, when, looking
up, there stood a klipspringer gazing at me.

He was an easy hundred yard shot.  Slipping from the saddle on the
further side from him, I thought to myself that Falkner would not
altogether have the crow over me when we got back.  But--when I looked
again, expecting to take a quick aim, by Jingo! the little beast had
disappeared.

This was annoying, for now a disinclination to return empty handed had
seized me.  Quickly and noiselessly I made my way up to where he had
been.  It was as I had thought.  He had been standing on a sort of
pinnacle; and now, as I peered cautiously over, there stood the little
buck, less than the first distance below.

He was outlined against the black and shadowed bottom of the gorge, and
was gazing away from me.  Now I would have him, I decided.  In a second
my sights were on him full--I didn't take long over aiming in those
days--when I lowered the rifle with some precipitation.  Right bang in a
line with where the klipspringer had been standing--had been, observe,
for the slight additional movement on my part had caused him to
disappear again--was the form of a man.

It gave me a turn, for with lightning rapidity it flashed through my
mind that nothing could have saved him.  Then consternation gave way to
curiosity.  The form though that of a man was not that of a living one.

Down in the shadow of a dark hole, overhung by gloomy rocks, it sprawled
in a constrained half upright posture against one of these.  It was too
far off and the light not good enough to be able to distinguish how it
was secured in this position, but it seemed to be facing upward in a
dreadful attitude of scared supplication.  I would go down and
investigate.  But before I had taken many steps in pursuance of this
resolve I stopped short.

For an idea had occurred to me.  The body was that of a native, and it
was obvious that life had been extinct for some time.  What good purpose
could I serve by investigating it further?  I was in a savage country in
which life was held cheap.  The man whoever he might be, had quite
likely been executed for some offence; the method of his death being in
all probability designed to fit the offence.  Clearly therefore it was
no concern of mine, and accordingly I decided to forego further
investigation.  And then, as though to confirm me in the good policy of
such decision something happened--something that was sufficiently
startling.

A bullet pinged against a stone beside me, sending up a hard splash of
splinters and dust, and, confound it, the thing had hit barely a yard
from where I was standing.

"Hallo, Falkner!"  I hailed, deeming the puff of smoke from among the
rocks above and opposite must be his work.  "Look out I'm here.  D'you
hear, man?"

But no answer came, not immediately that is.  In a minute however, one
did come, and that in the shape of another bullet, which banged up the
dust just about the same distance on the other side of me.  My first
impulse was that Falkner was playing one of his idiotic practical jokes
at my expense, but with the idea I seemed to feel sure that it was not
Falkner--and that, in short, I had better withdraw from this very
uncanny spot.

As I hastened to carry this judicious resolve into practical effect I
won't pretend that I felt otherwise than uncomfortable and very much so.
Whoever it was up there could shoot--confound him! an accomplishment
rare indeed among the natives of Zululand in those days.  Clearly too
the exact nicety with which both distances had been judged seemed to
point to the fact that both shots had been fired by way of warning.
That I had at any rate accepted such I trusted I had made clear to the
giver of it, as I walked--I hoped without undue haste but rapidly--to
where I had left my horse.

Nothing further occurred, although until clear of the heights I kept an
uncommonly sharp look out.  Once clear of them however, the incident
left no great impression on my mind.  I had unwittingly stumbled across
something unusual and had been about to pry into what didn't concern me,
and it had been resented.  The Abaqulusi were an independent and warlike
clan who would be sure to resent such.  I had received a hint, and a
pretty forcible one, to mind my own business, and I concluded that in
future I would mind it, at any rate while in these parts.  That was all.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

CONCERNING A LETTER.

Evening was closing in wet and gloomy.  The lowering clouds swept along
the high ground which shot in the great hollow, causing the cliffs to
seem three times their real height in the ghostly murk.  Added to this
it was raw and cold, which had the effect of causing the inhabitants of
the big kraal to hug their firesides.  Here and there a form swathed in
an ample green blanket might be seen moving from one hut to another,
quickly to dive within the same, for your savage is a practical animal,
and sees no fun in foregoing any of his comforts when no necessity
exists for doing so--and the interior of the huts was warm and dry, and,
without, it was neither.

I was alone at the waggons, Falkner not having yet returned.  For this I
was not sorry, for although Falkner and I had grown accustomed to each
other, yet there were times when I could cheerfully accept a holiday
from his presence.

Darker and darker it grew.  The oxen were driven in and fastened to the
trek chain for the night, and the boys, lying snug under the shelter
they had rigged up by means of a large sail thrown over the buck waggon,
leaving one side between the wheels open, were chatting in their
rhythmical deep-voiced hum, and the fire they had built not far from the
opening glowing more and more redly as the gloom deepened.  Then their
talk suddenly ceased, as out of the darkness appeared a tall figure,
saluting.

"What have you there?"  I said, as the new arrival began fumbling for
something in his skin pouch.

"_Incwadi 'Nkose_," he answered.

I own to a thrill of excited expectation very foreign to my normally
placid way of taking things, for _incwadi_ is the word for a letter or a
token of any kind.  I could hardly restrain my eagerness to open the
packet carefully sewn up in oilskin, which the man now handed me.  Aida
Sewin, then, had availed herself of the means of correspondence which I
had arranged, but--what if this were not addressed to me after all, but
only to Falkner? and at the thought my anticipations fell.  Still it
would be good to hear, anyhow.  The rather startling incident of a few
hours ago was driven clean from my mind now.

I climbed into the tent waggon and lighted the lantern which hung from
the tent, and you may be sure it didn't take me long to unroll the
oilskin wrapping.  Two letters it contained--one for Falkner and one for
myself--the latter in the handwriting I knew, and one that a reader of
character from handwriting would assuredly not have reported upon
unfavourably.  Having once satisfied myself on the point, I believe I
was in no hurry to open it.  The pleasures of anticipation, you see,
counted for something with me still.

Then came another phase in the above.  I drew from the envelope several
sheets rather closely written.  Why, this was too much luck.  I glanced
quickly through them to ascertain that the whole of it was for me, but
resolved not to anticipate the contents in any way.  More than ever was
I glad now that Falkner had not returned.  I could well do without his
somewhat boisterous company for the next half-hour, or even longer.
Then I spread open the sheets before me, and by the somewhat dim light
of the waggon lantern began to read.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Dear Mr Glanton,--I am taking advantage of the arrangement you so
thoughtfully made, and only trust this will not miss you during your
wanderings.  Mother is writing to Falkner at the same time.  I hope you
have been able to make him useful, and that he has behaved himself
generally well.  He is a good sort of boy at bottom, but gets far too
much spoilt among us all, as you must have observed, though I believe I
am the one who spoils him least.  At any rate a little roughing it will
do him no harm.

"Things are very much as usual.  We see a good deal of Mr Kendrew, who
comes over when he can and is a great help."--"Oh, the devil he is!"
said I to myself at this point.  "Just what I foresaw, confound
it!"--"But we miss you very much, and are hoping soon to welcome you
back after a thoroughly successful expedition."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

This was more comforting, I thought to myself, laying down the letter
and conjuring up a recollection of the writer's words, that last
evening.  She would look forward to my return, she had declared--would
be disappointed if I did not go to see them immediately.  Confound it,
what was the matter with me, that I sat dreaming and building castles in
the air?  The rain fell upon the canvas of the waggon tent with
monotonous drip, and a puff of raw air through the flap of the tied-down
sail caused the light of the hanging lantern to flicker--but I was no
longer in the gloomy wilds of Northern Zululand, on a rainy, chilly, and
altogether abominable evening.  I was again in the starlight glow as on
that evening, listening to the sweet tones of the writer's voice, and
gazing at the beautiful, highbred face.

The letter went on, dealing now with everyday matter, in a bright,
natural, chatty style.  The Major was in great form and delighted with
his garden and its development, thanks to some fine rains.  The Scotts
had been over to see them a couple of times--and here followed some
banter at the expense of that worthy and neighbouring family, the head
of which--originally a waggon-maker's journeyman--was, incidentally,
addicted to too much grog, when he could get it--which wasn't often.  At
Major Sewin's he could get it, and became comical, but always harmlessly
so.  Things on the farm were going well, thanks to Ivondwe, who was
worth his weight in gold, and--I could read between the lines--was
practically running the place himself.  Tyingoza had been over to see
them too, and seemed completely to have forgotten Falkner's liberty with
regard to his head-ring, for he had been exceedingly pleasant, and,
through Ivondwe, had said a great many nice things about me--reading
which I felt more than brotherly towards Tyingoza, and made up my mind
then and there to present him with something of large and practical
value when I should get up my next consignment of trade goods.

This had covered some three sheets, closely written, and there were
still quite as many more.  Decidedly Miss Sewin was a good
correspondent.  I had been going through her letter grudgingly, as if
the turning of every leaf should bring the end near.  The sail was
lifted, and Tom's honest black face appeared, to ask some question.  I
curtly told him to go to the devil, and resumed my reading.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"And now," went on the letter, "I am coming to something that I feel I
must tell you, and yet I hardly like to.  It seems so ridiculous somehow
when one comes to put it down on paper, though if you were here, and we
could talk it over, well--it might not.  You remember that last evening,
and what we were talking about when I asked you if some plan could not
be arranged under which I could write to you if I felt that we were in
need of your aid or advice?  The idea rather originated with yourself if
you remember, in your usual kindness and forethought, so that
consideration alone emboldens me to write what might otherwise seem to
you only fanciful and foolish.  You know, too, I am not inclined to
indulge in that sort of thing, so you will, I am sure, bear with me.
But I must begin.

"You remember that witch doctor, Ukozi, who came upon us suddenly at the
waterhole that same last evening, when my coin was lost?  Well, he has
taken to coming here a great deal.  At first my father used to get angry
with him and want to drive him away; you know, quite in the old style,
before you taught him--or tried to teach him--that the natives here were
not to be driven like our people in India used to be.  But Ukozi didn't
seem to mind.  He would go away chuckling, but the next day sure enough,
there he was again.  Then father suddenly swung round and seemed to take
a fancy to him.  He would talk to him by the hour--through Ivondwe
interpreting--and when we wondered, would tell us that he was getting
Ulcozi to teach him some of the native magic.  Of course it seemed to us
absurd, but if we said anything of the sort father would get angry, so
the only thing was to let him go his own way.  But when it came to his
going out at night with the witch doctor and coming back at all hours
thoroughly done up, why it seemed that the thing was going too far.  He
has become very mysterious too.  Once he let drop that Ukozi was going
to tell him all about the waterhole, and the strange thing that we saw
there, and then he became more angry still and vowed that he wouldn't be
interfered with--that here was a chance of learning something quite out
of the common, and he was going to take it whatever happened.  Nothing
we can say or do seems to weigh with him in the least, and really, if it
didn't sound too absurd, I should say that this witch doctor had got him
right under his thumb.  I asked Ivondwe about it quietly, but he was
very nice, and said that the old _Nkose_ was a wise man, yet there were
things that his wisdom had not yet reached, and now he would like to
learn them--that was all.  There was nothing to trouble about.  When he
had learnt what Ukozi could--or would--teach him--and that was not
much--then he would be the same as before.  Now, Mr Glanton, you know
these people, and I ask you what does it all mean?  My father is
altogether a changed man--how changed you would be the first to
recognise if you could see him.  What, too, is the object; for Ukozi,
beyond getting something to eat, and tobacco now and then, does not seem
to ask for anything by way of payment, and I always thought the native
_isanusi_ was nothing if not acquisitive?  But he is always here.  For
want of a better expression he is getting upon my nerves, and not only
upon mine.  It seems as if we were somehow being drawn within an
influence, and an influence the more weird and inexplicable that it is
through an agency that we should traditionally hold as something
inferior, and therefore quite absurd to take seriously.  I mean a native
influence.

"Shall I risk disgracing myself for ever in your eyes by owning that I
am getting just a little bit frightened?  Yes, frightened--I'm afraid
there's no other word for it--and the worst of it is I don't in the
least know what I am frightened of.  It seems as if a something was
hanging over us--a something awful, and from which there is no escape.
You remember it was such a presentiment that made me say what I did the
last time you were here, and you reassured me on the subject of the
witch doctor at any rate.  As to him, there is another strange
circumstance.  Arlo, too, seems to have come under his influence.  Arlo
who never could be got to take to any native, and now he is more
obedient to this Ukozi than to any of us; yet it is the obedience of
fear, for he whines and crouches when the witch doctor speaks to him.
Here, you will allow, is a real mystery.

"There are other things I might say, but I think I have said enough.
Again I hope you won't put me down as a weak-minded idiot frightened at
her own shadow.  This country, you see, is so new and strange to us, and
our position is rather lonely; father, too, is ageing a good deal, so
there is some excuse if we feel a little--well, nervous, at times.  As
it is I have put off writing to you until, as I reckon from what you
said, your time in Zululand must be nearly up, and then only that you
may not delay to come and see us immediately on your return.

"All send kind regards and are looking forward to welcoming you back,
but none more so than--

"Yours very sincerely,

"Aida Sewin.

"P.S.--I would rather you didn't mention anything of this to Falkner."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

This letter was, to say the least of it, puzzling.  Carefully I read it
through again, and then it became obvious that the main drift of it was,
if not exactly an after-thought, at any rate not in the writer's mind to
communicate when she first began.  Her contradictory accounts of her
father pointed to this.  I made an effort to put behind me for the
present the feeling of exultation that I should be the one appealed to--
the rock of refuge, so to say--for I wanted to think out the drift of
the whole thing; and all my experience has gone to teach me that you
can't think, of two things at once without only half thinking of both of
them.  The witch doctor's conduct was inexplicable viewed by the
ordinary light of common-sense motive.  But I had lived long enough
among natives to know that I didn't really know them, which is
paradoxical yet true.  I knew this much, that underlying their ordinary
and known customs there are others, to which no white man ever gains
access except by the purest accident--customs, it may be, to all
appearances utterly inconsequent or even ridiculous, but others again of
darker and more sinister import.  Such are denied by them with laughter,
as too utterly absurd for existence, but they do exist for all that, and
the confiding European is lulled completely, thrown off the scent.  And
now, putting four and four together, I wondered whether it was not
somewhere in this direction that I must search for Ukozi's motive.

As for the Major's craze, that didn't trouble me overmuch, if only that
I remembered that old gentlemen of the retired Anglo-Indian persuasion
were prone to take up fads, from the Lost Ten Tribes craze to Plymouth
Brethrenism.  He had been struck by Ukozi's profession of occultism, and
probably hipped by the isolation of his own surroundings, had thrown
himself into it.  I--and Falkner--would soon put that right, on our
return.

And yet, and yet--as I again took up Aida Sewin's letter in search it
might be of a further sidelight, the very real note of concern, not to
say alarm, which I read into it impressed me.  It was as though I heard
a cry from her to hasten to her assistance.  Well, I would do so.  As I
have said, my trade with Majendwa's people had suddenly and
unaccountably broken down, but I had acquired quite a respectable lot of
cattle, all in excellent condition.  I would have them all brought in on
the morrow and trek the next day for home.  And having come to this
conclusion I heard the tramp of a horse outside, and Falkner's voice
lifted up in a resounding hail, which had the effect of setting all the
curs in the big kraal adjoining, on the stampede in such a fashion as to
remind me of Falkner's sprinting match on the first night of our
arrival.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

FALKNER SHOWS HIS HAND--AND HIS TEETH.

I put the letter into my pocket, flung on a mackintosh and dived outside
again.  The rain was still coming down in a steady pour, and the cloud
of vapour rising from the horse's heaving flanks steamed up redly
against the firelight.  Falkner was in high spirits.  A reebok was tied
behind his saddle and Jan Boom was carrying the carcase of a
klipspringer, and a few unconsidered trifles in the way of partridges.

"You haven't been out for nothing?"  I said, glancing at the spoil.

"Rather not.  I've had a ripping day of it, but--trot out the grog, old
man.  Phew! it's cold.  For the last hour I've hardly been able to feel
my feet in the stirrups."

"Likely.  Here, you'd better tumble into the waggon and get into dry
togs.  Then we'll have scoff.  By the way, the post has come."

"Post?  See here.  Who are you getting at, Glanton?  Post!"

"Not at anybody.  Here's a letter, from your aunt I believe."

"By Jove!  I thought you were humbugging.  Oh well, that'll keep--till
after scoff at any rate, and I'm starving."

I had made up my mind to say nothing to him of Aida Sewin's letter
unless his own communication should contain some reference to it.  Soon
he was in dry clothes, and the klipspringer was sizzling on the fire,
which the boys had managed to shelter ingeniously with the aid of some
stones and a bit of old sail.  Then, in a trice, the grill being ready,
we fell to with a will, seated on the edge of the _kartel_, our metal
plates in our laps, and the rain splashing down upon the waggon tent,
while we were warm and dry, if somewhat cramped, within.

"This is jolly and snug, and no mistake," pronounced Falkner, "and
grilled klipspringer makes right radiant scoff.  Here, put the bottle
across--it's on your side.  And I say, Glanton, I came across a devilish
rum thing to-day--a devilish nasty thing.  It turned me quite sick, 'pon
my word it did.  By the way, what were you blazing at soon after we
parted?  I heard a couple of shots."

"Oh, it was another klipspringer.  But a mere snap, not a fair chance,"
I answered, not intending to let him into my secret experience.  "What
was it you came across?"  I went on, feeling rather curious, for he had
turned quite serious, as though impressed by some very unpleasant
recollection.

"Why! it was about two hours away from here, or might have been rather
more--this afternoon just after I'd boned that reebok--a nice clear shot
he gave me--a longish one too.  Well, away beyond the second line of
krantzes over that side, we stumbled suddenly upon a small kraal, where
they were none too civil--didn't seem the least glad to see us, to put
it mildly.  Well, we didn't stop, but as we moved on they objected to us
going the way we wanted, and in fact the way we eventually came.  I
rather lost my temper, for they became beastly bumptious, you know, and
at one time made as if they'd try to prevent us."

"You didn't get punching any of their heads, I hope," I interrupted,
rather sharply.

"No, no.  But upon my soul I felt inclined to.  First of all they began
lying about there being no road there, and so forth, but I knew they
were lying, so made up my mind to go that way.  Jan Boom didn't want to
either--and those two boys who started with us wouldn't go any further,
said we shouldn't want them any more, and that we could find our own way
back now.  Well, I was of the same opinion, so on we came.  But at one
time I began to think they had been right.  It was awful the scramble we
had over the rocks and boulders.  Jan Boom had turned beastly sulky too,
and kept wanting to go back himself, but I'm an obstinate beggar, you
know, Glanton, and when once I've made up my mind to do a thing I'll do
it--What are you grinning at?"

"Only, if you don't mind me saying so, you ought to have remained in the
service of your country.  You'd have made a model leader of a forlorn
hope, and, in the fulness of time, a model general."

"Here, hang your chaff," he growled, not knowing whether to be pleased
or not.  "I never quite know whether you mean what you say or are only
pulling a fellow's leg."

"Well, go on."

"Jan Boom, I was saying, had got so sulky that I more than threw out a
hint I was likely to hammer him if he didn't think better of it.  We at
last struck a gully which was rather an improvement on our way so far,
but even it was beastly bad.  It was a sort of dry watercourse, although
if the rain kept on at this rate it would soon be a devilish wet one.
Well, there was a path of sorts, though not easy to distinguish; now
over the rocks now between them, a gloomy hole, I tell you, and most
infernally depressing."

"How depressing?"  I interrupted, for I had never given Falkner Sewin
credit for sufficient imagination to feel depressed by such a mere
accident as surroundings.

"Well, it was.  The cliffs seemed to meet overhead as if they were going
to topple down on you, don't you know, and there wasn't a sound, except
the wind howling round the rocks every now and then like a jolly spook.
Then, all of a sudden my horse rucked back at his bridle--we were
leading the horses, you know--so suddenly as nearly to pull me on my
back--as it was I dropped my pipe on the stones and broke it--and before
I had time even to cuss, by George, I saw a sight.

"We had got into a sort of caldron-shaped hollow, something like our
waterhole at home would look like, if it was empty, and--by the Lord,
Glanton, there, against the rock where the water should have fallen over
if there had been any to fall, was the body of a wretched devil of a
nigger--spread-eagled upright, and staring at us; in fact literally
crucified--for we found that the poor beast was triced up to pegs driven
firmly into cracks in the rock.  Good Lord! it gave me a turn.  In some
places the flesh had all fallen away, showing the bones, and what
remained was bleached almost white.  Here, send the bottle along again.
The very recollection turns me sick."

"How long did he seem to have been there?"  I said.  "Could you form any
idea?"

"Not well.  Besides I was in too great a hurry to get away, and so was
Jan Boom, I can tell you.  What d'you think it meant, Glanton?  Mind
you, those devils up in the kraal must have known of it, because it
occurred to me afterwards that that was their reason for not wanting us
to go that way."

"Very likely.  The chap may have been planted there after he was dead,
you know," I answered--not in the least thinking so.  "Some peculiar and
local form of sepulture."

"I don't believe it," rejoined Falkner quickly.  "The expression of the
face was that of some poor devil who had come to a most beastly end and
knew it--and it haunts me."

"Well, why didn't you investigate further, while you were at it?"

"Didn't feel inclined.  But--I'll tell you what, Glanton, we might go
back there to-morrow.  I'm sure I could find the way, and at any rate
Jan Boom could.  Then such an experienced beggar as you could see to the
bottom of it perhaps.  Eh?"

"I've no wish to do anything of the sort, in fact it would have been
just as well if you had missed that little find to-day altogether.  And
I should recommend you to keep your mouth shut about it--to Tom for
instance.  You may rely upon it Jan Boom will.  They have curious
customs in these parts, and some of them they don't in the least like
nosed into and talked over.  By the way, here's Mrs Sewin's letter I
was telling you about."

"By Jove, yes--I forgot.  Well, I'll like to hear something of them at
home, if only to help me to forget that beastly thing.  Let's see what
the old lady says."

He read me out bits of the letter as he went on--just ordinary bits of
home talk, but there was no word bearing upon the mystery set forth in
his cousin's letter.  Suddenly he looked up.

"Hallo Glanton!  So Aida has been favouring you, I find."

"Yes.  A letter from your cousin came at the same time as this."

"I say though, but you kept it devilish dark," he said, nastily.  In
fact, his tone reminded me of the earlier days of our acquaintance.

"I don't know what you mean by `devilish dark,' Sewin, but I'm quite
sure I don't like the expression," I answered shortly.  "Let me remind
you however that you've `had the floor' ever since you came back, with
that yarn of yours.  Could I have got in a word edgeways?"

"Well, what news does she give you?" he jerked out, after an interval of
silence, during which he had been viciously rapping his pipe against the
heel of his boot as he sat.

"Just about the same as what you've been reading out to me."

"That all?"

It was as much as I could do to keep my temper.  Falkner's tone had
become about as offensive as he knew how to make it, and that is saying
a great deal--this too, apart from the fact that I resented being
catechised at all.  But I remembered my promise to his cousin not to
quarrel with him, and just managed to keep it; only then by making no
reply.

There was silence again.  By way of relieving it I sung out to Tom to
come and take away our plates, and the relics of our meal.  Falkner the
while was emitting staccato puffs from his newly lighted pipe, and as I
settled down to fill mine he suddenly broke forth:

"Look here, Glanton, I'm a plain-speaking sort of chap and accustomed to
say what I mean.  So we'd better have it out now, once and for all."

I didn't affect ignorance of his drift.  I merely nodded, and he went
on.  "Well then, I've noticed that you and Ai--my cousin--have been
getting uncommon thick of late.  I didn't think much of it, but now,
when it comes to her writing to you on the quiet, why I think it's time
to have some say in the matter."

"In the first place the only persons entitled to have any `say in the
matter' as you put it are Major and Mrs Sewin," I said.  "In the next,
you should withdraw that expression `on the quiet.'  It's an insult--to
your cousin."

"Oh well, since you put it like that, I withdraw it," he growled.  "But
as for--er--the matter in hand, well, I warn you you are poaching on
someone else's preserves."

"Might I, as a matter of curiosity, ask who the `someone else' may be?"
I said, conscious at the same time of a wholly unaccustomed sinking of
the heart.

"Certainly, and I'll tell you.  It's myself."

"That's straight anyway," I rejoined, feeling relieved.  "Then I am to
understand I must congratulate you--both--on an engagement?"

He started at the word "both."

"Er--no.  Not exactly that.  Hang it, Glanton, don't I put things plain
enough?  I mean I was first in the field, and it isn't fair--in fact I
consider it beastly dishonourable for you, or any other fellow, to come
trying to upset my coach.  Now--do you see?"

"I think I understand," I said, feeling softened towards him.  "But as
regards myself, first of all you had better be sure you are not assuming
too much, in the next place, you are just in the position of anybody
else, and can't set up any such plea as prior rights.  See?"

"No, I'll be hanged if I do," he snarled.  "I've told you how things
stand, so now you're warned."

"I'm not going to quarrel with you," I answered.  "We are all alone
here, with no chance of anybody overhearing us or at any rate
understanding us if they did.  Yet I prefer talking `dark' as the Zulus
say.  Let's start fair, d'you hear?  Let's start fair--and--now you're
warned."

He scowled and made no answer.  In fact, he sulked for the rest of the
evening--and, to anticipate--long after that.

I went outside before turning in, leaving Falkner in the sulks.  The
rain had ceased, and bright patches of stars were shining between the
parting clouds.  The fire had died low, and the conversation of the boys
had dropped too.  I can always think best out in the open, and now I set
myself hard to think over these last developments.  By its date the
letter must have been nearly a week on the road.  Well, there was not
time for much to have happened in between.  Then what Falkner had just
revealed had come to me as something of an eye-opener.  I had at first
rather suspected him of resenting me as an interloper, but subsequently
as I noted the free and easy terms on which he stood with both his
cousins--the one equally with the other--the last thing to enter my mind
was that he should think seriously of either of them, and that one Aida.
Why, she used to keep him in order and treat him very much as a boy--
indeed all her references to him when discussing him with me, even as
lately as in the letter I had just received, bore the same elder
sisterly tone, and I felt sure that while this held good, Falkner, in
entertaining the hopes he had revealed to me, was simply twisting for
himself a rope of sand.  At the same time I felt sorry for him, and my
not unnatural resentment of the very dictatorial tone which he had
chosen to adopt towards myself cooled entirely.  He was young and so
boyish that every allowance must be made.  At the same time I envied him
his youth.  As for me, well I hardly knew, but as my meditations ran on
in the stillness and silence of the starlit night, clustering ever
around one recollection, well I realised, and not for the first time,
that life seemed very much to have been wasted in my case.

The one talent man in the parable recurred to my mind, and I will even
own, I hope not irreverently, to a sneaking sympathy for that same poor
devil.  He might have lost his one talent, or fooled it away, instead of
which, he at any rate kept it--and, after all there is a saying that it
is more difficult to keep money than to make it.  Now it seemed to me
that I was very much in the same boat with him.  I had kept my talent--
so far--and was it even now too late to add to it, but--what the deuce
had this got to do with Aida Sewin, who formed the undercurrent of all
the riotous meditations in which I was indulging?  Well perhaps it had
something.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

DOLF NORBURY AGAIN.

When two people, trekking together beyond the confines of civilisation
fall out, the situation becomes unpleasant.  If each has his own waggon,
well and good, they can part company, but if not, and both are bound to
stick together it spells friction.  For this reason I have always
preferred trekking alone.

Even my worst enemy could hardly accuse me of being a bad-tempered man,
let alone a quarrelsome one.  On the other hand I have never laid claim
to an angelic disposition, and if I had the demeanour of my present
companion would have taxed it to the uttermost, since we had each been
betrayed into showing the other our hand.  For my part I can honestly
say the fact would have made no difference whatever in our mutual
relations, but Falkner Sewin was differently hung.  First of all he
sulked heavily, but finding that this did not answer and that I was
entirely independent of him for companionship, for I would talk to the
Zulus by the hour--he threw that off and grew offensive--so much so that
I felt certain he was trying to pick a quarrel with me.  Had it been any
other man in the world this would have concerned me not one atom, indeed
he needn't have tried overmuch.  But here it was different.  There was
my promise to his cousin, and further, the consideration that Aida Sewin
was his cousin and thus very nearly related indeed.  No, on no account
must we come to blows, and yet the strain upon my temper became hourly
more great.

I had not been able to trek when I had intended, by reason of something
beyond the ordinary native delay in bringing in my cattle; in fact in
one particular quarter I had some difficulty in getting them brought in
at all.  In view of the troubled state of the border this looked
ominous.  In ordinary times Majendwa's people like other Zulus, though
hard men of business at a deal, were reliability itself once that deal
was concluded.  Now they were inclined to be shifty and evasive and not
always over civil; and all this had come about suddenly.  Could it mean
that war had actually broken out?  It might have for all we knew,
dependent as we were upon those among whom we dwelt for every scrap of
information that might reach us from outside.  Otherwise their behaviour
was unaccountable.  But if it had, why then we should be lucky to get
out of the country with unperforated skins, let alone with a wheel or a
hoof to our names.

Even Majendwa's demeanour towards me had undergone a change, and that
was the worst sign of all; for we had always been good friends.  All his
wonted geniality had vanished and he had become curt and morose of
manner.  I resolved now to take the bull by the horns, and put the
question to Majendwa point-blank.  Accordingly I betook myself to his
hut, with that object.  But the answer to my inquiries for him was
prompt.  The chief was in his _isigodhlo_, and could not be disturbed.
This sort of "not at home" was unmistakable.  I returned to the waggons.

Now an idea struck me.  Was there more in that gruesome discovery of
mine--and Falkner's--than met the eye?  Was the fact that we had made
it, first one of us and then the other, at the bottom of the chief's
displeasure?  It might have been so.  At any rate the sooner we took the
road again the better, and so I announced to Falkner that we would
inspan at sunrise.  His reply was, in his then mood, characteristic.

"But we haven't traded off the stuff yet," he objected.  "I say.  You're
not in a funk of anything, are you, Glanton?  I ask because I rather
wanted to stay on here a little longer."

I turned away.  His tone was abominably provoking, moreover I knew that
he would be glad enough to return, and had only said the foregoing out
of sheer cussedness.

"You have your horse," I said.  "If you like to remain I'll leave Jan
Boom with you, and you can easily find your way back."

"Want to get rid of me, do you?" he rapped out.  "Well you won't.  Not
so easily as that.  No--you won't."

To this I made no answer.  At sunrise the waggons were inspanned.  Then
another difficulty cropped up.  The boys who were to have driven the
herd of trade cattle, at any rate as far as the border, did not turn up.
In disgust I was prepared to take them on myself with the help of
Mfutela.  Falkner had learnt to drive a waggon by this time and now he
must do it.  His reply however when I propounded this to him was again
characteristic.  He was damned if he would.

The knot of the difficulty was cut and that unexpectedly, by the
appearance of the chief's son, and with him some boys.

"These will drive your cattle, Iqalaqala," he said.

"That is well, Muntisi," I answered.  "And now son of Majendwa, what has
come between me and the chief that he holds my hand no more?  Is there
now war?"

We were a little apart from the others, and talk in a low slurred tone
that natives use when they don't want to be understood.

"Not war," he answered; "at any rate not yet.  But, Iqalaqala, those who
come into a chief's country should not come into it with too many eyes."

"Ha!"  I said, taking in the quick glance which he shot in Falkner's
direction, and with it the situation.  "Too many eyes there may be, but
a shut mouth more than makes up for that.  A shut mouth, _impela_!"

"A shut mouth?  _Au_!  Is the mouth of Umsindo ever shut?"

This, it will be remembered, was Falkner's native name, meaning noise,
or bounce, and the chief's son was perpetrating a sort of pun in the
vernacular.

"But it will be this time, never fear," I answered.  "Farewell now, son
of Majendwa.  I, who have seen more than men think, know how not to
talk."

I felt really grateful to Muntisi, and made him a final present which he
appreciated.

"You need not mistrust those I have brought you," he said.  "Only for
others you cannot have too many eyes now until you reach Inncome," he
added meaningly.

Nothing of note happened and we trekked on unmolested in any way,
travelling slow, for the trade cattle were fat and in excellent
condition, which of course I didn't want to spoil.  Then befel an
incident which was destined to give us trouble with a vengeance.

We had got into sparsely inhabited country now, and were nearing the
border.  One afternoon Falkner and I had struck off from the track a
little to shoot a few birds for the pot--by the way Falkner had in some
degree condescended to relax his sulks, being presumably tired of his
own company.  We had rejoined the track and had just put our horses into
a canter to overtake the waggons when Falkner threw a glance over his
shoulder and said:

"What sort of beast is that?"

I turned and looked back.  It was a dark afternoon and inclining
moreover to dusk, but I could make out something white glinting through
the bush, rather behind us, but as if running parallel to our way.  The
bush grew in patches, and the thing would be alternately hidden or in
the open again.

"Here goes for a shot, anyway," said Falkner, slipping from his horse.
He carried a rifle and smooth-bore combination gun, and before I could
prevent him or perhaps because I tried to, he had loosed off a bullet at
the strange beast.  A splash of dust, a good deal short of the mark,
leaped up where it struck.

"The line was good but not the distance," he grumbled.  "I'll get him
this time," slipping in a fresh cartridge.

"Much better not," I urged.  "We don't want to get into any more bother
with the people by shooting their dogs."

He made no answer, and I was glad that the bush thickened where the
animal had now disappeared.

"Let's get on," I said.  "It's nearly dark."

He mounted and we had just resumed our way, when not twenty yards
distant, the creature came bounding forth, frightening our horses by the
suddenness of his appearance.  There was nothing hostile, however, in
his attitude.  He was wagging his tail, and squirming and whimpering in
delight, as a dog will do when he has found a long-lost master, or at
best a well-known friend.  I stared, hardly able to believe my own
eyesight.  The large, wolf-like form, the bushy tail--why there could be
no duplicate of this ever whelped at a Zulu kraal, that was certain.

"Arlo," I cried.  "Arlo, old chap.  What are you doing in these parts,
eh?"

The dog whined with delight, squirming up to us, his brush going like a
flail.  In a moment we were both off our horses.

"It's Arlo right enough," said Falkner, patting the dog, who never
ceased whimpering and licking his hands.  "The question is how did he
get here?  Eh?"

"Stolen most likely, but it couldn't have been long ago, for Miss Sewin
made no mention of his loss in her letter to me--and it's hardly likely
she'd have forgotten to mention such an important event if it had
happened then."

Somehow I could not help connecting Ukozi with this, and felt vaguely
uneasy.  What had been happening of late?  Had the dog been stolen with
any deeper motive than his own intrinsic value--to get him out of the
way for instance and clear the road for the carrying out of some
sinister and mysterious scheme on the part of the witch doctor?

"Of course," assented Falkner, "we'll take him home with us now, at all
events.  What a devilish lucky thing I happened to look back and see
him."

"Yes, and what a devilish lucky thing you happened to look wrong and
miss him," I answered, for I own to a feeling of petty jealousy that he
should be in a position to claim the credit of having found the dog.

"Oh-ah!  But a miss is as good as a mile," he said, with a hoarse laugh.
"By Jove, but won't Aida be glad when I bring him back to her.  Won't
she just?"

"I should think so.  Well we'll have to keep a bright look-out on him
till we get home."

"How the deuce they managed to steal him beats me, I own," went on
Falkner.  "Arlo was the very devil where niggers are concerned.  Won't
let one of 'em come within fifty yards of him."

This would have puzzled me too, but for what Aida's letter had told me--
as well as for what I had witnessed myself up at the waterhole.  There
was at any rate one "nigger" of which the above held not good.  More
than ever did I connect Ukozi with the matter.

"Well, we've got him back," I said, "and it'll be our own fault if we
don't keep him."

The dog trotted along contentedly behind our horses, wagging his tail in
recognition if we spoke a word or two to him.  The waggons were
outspanning for the night when we reached them--according to
instructions, but Arlo went straight up to Tom, whom of course he knew
fairly well, wagging his tail, in a sort of "how-d'you-do" manner.  He
condescended likewise to approve of Jan Boom, who being a Xosa was, of
course, a sworn dog fancier, but the others he just tolerated.

We inspanned before daylight, intending to make a long trek, and that
evening to cross the Blood River and outspan for the night on the other
side.  In the then state of the border I should not be sorry to be out
of the Zulu country.  The trip had not been a signal success, and I
began to think of it as possibly the last I should make.  I thought too,
of other possibilities, even as I had thought when taking my midnight up
and down walk beneath the stars--a custom I had before turning in, when
the weather permitted, as it generally did.  The country was sparsely
inhabited, as I have said, and beyond passing three or four small kraals
we saw nobody.

We had started upon our afternoon trek.  In another hour we should
strike the drift and have crossed the border.  Then one of the boys
Muntisi had given me to drive the cattle came up with the pleasant news
that a large body of men, armed too, was coming rapidly on behind, on
our track.

I don't know why this should have caused me uneasiness yet it did.  No
war had broken out as yet--this I had ascertained from such Zulus as we
had fallen in with on the way.  I gave orders to push on the waggons,
and the cattle.  Then getting out a powerful binocular I rode up to a
point whence I knew I could command a considerable sweep.

The ground was open on all sides, a thin thread of mimosa along some
slight depression being the only sort of cover it afforded.  Cresting a
rise about three miles distant I made out a dark mass moving forward
along our track, and that at a rapid rate.

At any other time this would have caused me little if any anxiety, but
now we had had bother enough in all conscience.  I didn't want any more
of it, but that the crowd behind was in pursuit of us there was no room
for doubt.  It was an armed band, for by the aid of the glasses I could
make out the glint of assegais and the war shields that were carried.

I returned to the waggons but saw that the pace was as good as the oxen
could be put to.  The cattle were ahead, going well, but the drift was a
good deal further on than I should have wished it to be.  Of course
there was no physically defensive advantage on the other side over this
one, still a boundary is a great moral force; certainly was then while
the boundary dispute was awaiting the award of the commission.

"We'll get out the rifles and cartridges, Sewin," I said--"and have them
handy, but we won't show them.  Also sling on your revolver, on the same
terms.  There's a crowd coming on fast on our track--what the deuce for
I can't make out.  Still it's as well to be prepared for emergencies."

"Oh rather," he assented, brisking up at the prospect of a row.  "I
think it's about time we read Mr Zulu a lesson."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

A SOLOMON--IN THE ZULU.

Suddenly Arlo, who had been trotting along placidly beside the waggons
stopped short, looking backward, and emitting low growls, which soon
changed to a deep-toned, booming bark.  We followed his glance.  The
Zulus were on the crest of the ridge about half a mile behind.  I at
once gave orders to the drivers to resume their normal pace.  Further
flight--as flight--was useless and impolitic.

"Put the dog into the tent waggon and tie him there," I said to Falkner.
"He knows you better than he does me, and might give me trouble.  We
don't want him damaged at any rate."

Even Falkner found it by no means easy to work his will with the now
infuriated animal, which with hackles erect was facing in the direction
of the impending aggression, making the air resound with his roaring
bark; and only he managed it by his characteristically drastic methods
in the shape of a double _reim_ well laid on.  As it was I thought the
dog would have pinned him.  However he managed to get him into the tent
waggon and securely tied.  Hardly had he rejoined me when the whole
crowd was upon us, shouting and roaring as they surrounded the waggons,
bringing them to a standstill.

"I see you!"  I said, coldly sarcastic.  "Well, and what is it you want
now?"

For I had recognised several who had taken part in the former riot, what
time Dolf Norbury had appeared upon the scene.

"Want?  What we want is the dog--the white dog," came the reply.  "The
dog which you have stolen, Abelungu."

"The white dog.  The dog which we have stolen," I repeated
sarcastically.  "But the dog belongs to our people on the other side--
and we are taking him back.  If he has been stolen it is from them."

"From them.  Ha!  That is a lie, Umlungu.  Give us the dog, or we will
take him and everything you have got besides."

"I think not," I said.  "But as I cannot talk with a number at once, I
must talk with one.  Where is that one?"

The clamour redoubled but of it I took no notice.  I filled my pipe
deliberately, and handed the pouch to Falkner.

"What are they saying?" he asked.  I told him.

"Well, we ain't going to give up the dog," he said.  "I'll see them
damned first," and in his excitement he appended a great deal more that
it is not expedient to reproduce.

"I'm with you there," I said.  "And now," relapsing into the vernacular,
as a ringed man came forward--he was an evil-looking rascal, and I
recognised him as having been among those who had troubled us before.
"And now to begin with--who claims him?"

"Udolfu."

"Udolfu?  Well how long has he had him, and where did he get him?"

"That is nothing to you, Umlungu.  He is Udolfu's dog, and we are come
for him.  So give him to us."

"Do you think you could take him yourselves and alive?"  I said
banteringly, for the savage and frenzied barks of Arlo within the waggon
pretty well drowned our talk.

"We will take him, I say.  Bring him out."

"Bring him out--bring him out," roared the crowd, brandishing assegais
and rapping their shields, in an indescribable clamour.

"_Hau_!  _Umfane_!  I will cut thee into little pieces," cried one
fellow, seizing my boy Tom by the throat and brandishing a big assegai
as though he would rip him up.

"Have done!"  I said pulling my revolver and covering the savage.  "See.
We hold plenty of lives here."

Falkner too had drawn his and was eagerly expecting the word from me to
let go.

"Hold!" roared the spokesman, in such wise as to cause the aggressive
one to fall back.  "Now, Umlungu, give us the dog."

"First of all," I said, "if the dog belongs to Udolfu, why is not Udolfu
here himself to claim him?  Is he afraid?"

"He is not afraid, Umlungu," answered the man, with a wave of the hand.
"For--here he is."

A man on horseback came riding furiously up.  With him were a lot more
armed Zulus running hard to keep pace with him.  In a twinkling I
recognised we were in a hard tight place, for the number around us
already I estimated at a couple of hundred.  He was armed this time, for
he carried a rifle and I could see a business-like six-shooter peeping
out of a side pocket.  It was our old friend, Dolf Norbury.

"Hallo, you two damned slinking dog thieves," he sung out, as the crowd
parted to make way for him.  "Here we are again you see.  Not yet within
British jurisdiction, eh?"

There was a banging report at my ear, and lo, Dolf Norbury and his horse
were mixed up in a kicking struggling heap.

"I don't take that sort of talk from any swine, especially outside
British jurisdiction," growled Falkner, hurriedly jamming in a cartridge
to replace the one he had fired.

There was a rush to extricate the fallen man, and ascertain damages.  It
turned out that he had not been hit but his horse was killed.  He
himself however seemed half stunned as he staggered to his feet.  Then
up went his rifle but the bullet sang high over our heads in the
unsteadiness of his aim.

"Put up your hands!"  I sung out, covering him before he could draw his
pistol.  "Hands up, or you're dead, by God!"

He obeyed.  Clearly he had been under fire enough.

"Go in and take his pistol, Sewin," I said, still covering him steadily.
"If he moves he's dead."

It was a tense moment enough, as Falkner walked coolly between the rows
of armed savages, for to drive half a dozen spears through him, and
massacre the lot of us would have been the work of a moment to them, but
I realised that boldness was the only line to adopt under the
circumstances.  Even then I don't know how the matter would have ended,
but some sort of diversion seemed to be in the air, for heads were
turned, and murmurs went up.  Still no weapon was raised against us.

"I've drawn his teeth now, at any rate, the sweep!" said Falkner with a
grin, as he returned and threw down the discomfited man's weapons.  "I
say Dolf, old sportsman," he sung out banteringly.  "Feel inclined for
another spar?  Because if so, come on.  Or d'you feel too groggy in the
nut?"

But now I had taken in the cause of the diversion.  The opposite ridge--
that between us and the river--was black with Zulus.  On they came, in
regular rapid march, hundreds and hundreds of them.  They carried war
shields and the large _umkonto_ or broad stabbing spear, but had no war
adornments except the _isityoba_, or leglet of flowing cow-hair.

Those of our molesters who had been most uproarious were silent now,
watching the approach of the newcomers.  Dolf Norbury sat stupidly
staring.  The roaring bark of Arlo tied within the waggon rose strangely
weird above the sudden silence.

"I say," broke out Falkner.  "Have we got to fight all these?  Because
if so, the odds ain't fair."

For all that he looked as if he was willing to undertake even this.
Whatever his faults, Falkner Sewin was a good man to have beside one in
a tight place.

"No," I said.  "There's no more fight here, unless I'm much mistaken.
This is a King's impi."

It was a fine sight to see them approach, that great dark phalanx.  Soon
they halted just before the waggons, and a shout of _sibongo_ went up
from the turbulent crowd who had been mobbing and threatening us but a
little while since.

The two chiefs in command I knew well, Untuswa, a splendid old warrior
and very friendly to the whites, and Mundula, both indunas of the King.

"Who are these?" said the first, sternly, when we had exchanged
greetings.  "Are they here to trade, Iqalaqala?"

"Not so, Right Hand of the Great Great One," I answered.  "They are here
to threaten and molest us--and it is not the first time some of them
have visited us on the same errand.  We are peaceful traders in the land
of Zulu, and assuredly there are many here who know that this is not the
first time I have come into the land as such."

A hum of assent here went up from the warriors in the background.  Those
I had thus denounced looked uncommonly foolish.  Still I would not spare
them.  It is necessary to keep up one's prestige and if those who are
instrumental in trying to lower it suffer, why that is their lookout,
not mine.

"He is a liar, chief," interrupted Dolf Norbury, savagely.  "These two
have stolen my dog and I and my people have come to recover him.  Before
they came in to try and steal my trade.  That is where we quarrelled
before."

Untuswa heard him but coldly.  As I have said, Dolf Norbury was not in
favour with the more respectable chiefs of Zululand at that time.
Quickly I put our side of the case before this one.

"This I will look into," he said.  "It is not often we have to settle
differences between white people, especially Amangisi [English].  But
the Great Great One, that Elephant who treads the same path as the
Queen, will have order in the land--wherefore are we here," with a wave
of his hand towards his armed warriors; from whom deep-toned utterances
of _sibongo_ went up at the naming of the royal titles.  "With the
matter of the trade, I have nothing to do.  But, Iqalaqala, Udolfu says
you have stolen his dog, though had it been his lion he had said, I
think he would have uttered no lie, for in truth we could hear his roars
while yet far away," added the old induna with a comical laugh all over
his fine face.  "Now bring forth this wonderful beast, for we would fain
see him."

"Get out the dog, Sewin," I said.  "The chief wants to see him."

"Yes, but what the devil has all the jaw been about?  It's all jolly
fine for you, but I'm not in the fun," he growled.

"Never mind.  I'll tell you presently.  Leave it all to me now.  You've
got to, in fact."

Falkner climbed into the waggon, and in a moment reappeared with Arlo,
still holding him in his improvised leash.  At sight of him the warriors
in the impi set up a murmur of admiration.

"Loose him," said Untuswa.

I translated this to Falkner, and he complied.  The dog walked up and
down, growling and suspicious.

"See now, Udolfu," said Untuswa, who had been watching the splendid
beast with some admiration.  "This is your dog.  Now call him, and take
him away with you."

"Arno!" called Norbury.  "Here, Arno, old chap.  Come along home.  Good
dog."

But the "good dog" merely looked sideways at him and growled the harder.

"_Arno_.  D'you hear?  Come here, sir.  Damn you.  D'you hear!"

The growls increased to a sort of thunder roll.

"_Whau_!" said Mundula.  "That is a strange sort of dog to own--a dog
that will not come, but growls at his master when he calls him instead."

"I have not had him long enough to know me thoroughly," said Dolf.
"Those two, who stole him from me, have taught him better."

"Call him in the other direction, Falkner," I said.

This he did, and the dog went frisking after him as he ran a little way
out over the veldt, and back again, both on the best understanding with
each other in the world.

"_Au_! the matter is clear enough," pronounced Untuswa.  "The dog
himself has decided it.  He is not yours, Udolfu.  Yet, Iqalaqala, may
it not be that those with whom you last saw the dog may have sold him?"

"That is quite impossible, leader of the valiant," I answered.  "From
those who own him no price would buy him.  No, not all the cattle in the
kraals of the Great Great One.  Further, he has not even got the sound
of the dog's name right," and I made clear the difference between the
"l" and the "n" which the other had substituted for it.

"_Au_!  That is a long price to pay for one dog, fine though he is,"
said Untuswa with the same comical twinkle in his eyes.  "Well, it is
clear to whom the dog belongs.  You," with a commanding sweep of the
hand towards the riotous crowd who had first molested us, "go home."

There was no disputing the word of an induna of the King.  The former
rioters saluted submissively and melted away.  Dolf Norbury, however,
remained.

"Will the chief ask them," he said, cunningly, "why they had to leave
Majendwa's country in a hurry, and why they are bringing back about half
their trade goods?"

"We did not leave in a hurry," I answered, "and as for trade goods, the
people seemed not willing to trade.  For the rest, we have plenty of
cattle, which are even now crossing Inncome, driven by boys whom Muntisi
the son of Majendwa sent with us."

"That is a lie," responded Norbury.  "They had too many eyes, and looked
too closely into what did not concern them.  They had to fly, and now
they will carry strange stories to the English about the doings on the
Zulu side."

This, I could see, made some impression upon the warriors.  However, I
confined myself simply to contradicting it.  Then Norbury asked the
chief to order the return of his weapons.

"I need no such order," I said.  "I am willing to return them, but--I
must have all the cartridges in exchange."

He was obliged to agree, which he did sullenly.  As he threw down the
bandolier and emptied his pockets of his pistol cartridges he said:

"Glanton, my good friend--if you value your life I warn you not to come
to this section of the Zulu country any more.  If it hadn't been for
this crowd happening up, you'd both have been dead meat by now.  You can
take my word for that."

"Oh no, I don't," I answered.  "I've always been able to take care of
myself, and I fancy I'll go on doing it.  So don't you bother about
that.  Here are your shooting-irons."

"What about my horse?  You've shot my horse you know.  What are you
going to stand for him?"

"Oh blazes take you and your impudence," struck in Falkner.  "I'm only
sorry it wasn't you I pinked instead of the gee.  Outside British
jurisdiction, you know," he added with an aggravating grin.  "Stand?
Stand you another hammering if you like to stand up and take it.  You
won't?  All right.  Good-bye.  We've no time to waste jawing with any
blighted dog-stealer like you."

The expression of the other's face was such that I felt uncommonly glad
I had insisted on taking his cartridges; and at the same time only
trusted he had not an odd one left about him.  But the only weapon
available was a string of the direst threats of future vengeance,
interspersed with the choicest blasphemies, at which Falkner laughed.

"You came along like a lion, old cock," he said, "and it strikes me
you're going back like a lamb.  Ta-ta."

I talked a little further with the two chiefs, and then we resumed our
way, they walking with us as far as the drift.  As to the state of the
border Untuswa shook his head.

"See now, Iqalaqala," he said.  "One thing you can tell your people, and
that is that any trouble you may have met with in the land where the
Great Great One rules has not been at the hands of his people but at
those of your own."

This was in reference to all sorts of reports that were being circulated
with regard to the so-called enormities of Cetywayo, and the hostility
of his people; and the point of it I, of course, fully recognised.

I made the chiefs a liberal present, out of the remnant of the things we
were taking back with us.  We took leave of them at the drift, and the
whole impi, gathered on the rising ground, watched us cross and raised a
sonorous shout of farewell.  Under all the circumstances I was not sorry
to be back over the border, but I decided to trek on a good bit before
outspanning lest Dolf Norbury should yet find means to play us some bad
trick.

And then--for home!



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

"WELCOME HOME!"

I envied Falkner as he parted company with me, for he wanted to go
straight home, and my store was all out of his way in the other
direction.  We had returned by the same route as that by which we had
gone, skirting the border and re-crossing by Rorke's Drift; and no
further incident worthy of note had befallen us.

"See here, Falkner," I said, as he would have left me in cool offhand
fashion.  "We've made this trip and taken its ups and downs together,
and more than once I've had reason to be glad that you were along.  But
if we haven't got on as well as we might during the last part of it,
really I can't see that it is altogether my fault.  Nor need we bear
each other any ill-will," and I put out my hand.

He stared, then shook it, but not cordially, mumbling something in a
heavy, sullen sort of way.  Then he rode off.

It had been a temptation to accompany him, and he had even suggested it,
but I saw through his ill-concealed relief when I declined.  I had
plenty to attend to on first arriving home again, and it struck me that
neglect of one's business was hardly a recommendation in the eyes of
anybody.

Yes, I had plenty to attend to.  The waggons had to be off-loaded and
kraals knocked into repair for holding the trade cattle, and a host of
other things.  I paid off Mfutela and his son, and sent them back well
contented, and with something over.  But Jan Boom, when it came to his
turn, seemed not eager to go.

Then he put things plainly.  Would I not keep him?  He would like to
remain with me, and I should find him useful.  There were the trade
cattle to be looked after, to begin with, and then, there was nothing he
could not turn his hand to.  He would not ask for high wages, and was
sure I should find him worth them--yes, well worth them, he added.  Had
he not been worth his pay so far?

I admitted readily that this was so, and the while I was wondering why
he should be so anxious to remain?  There seemed some meaning underlying
the manner in which he almost begged me to keep him, and this set me
wondering.  Going back over our trip I could not but remember that he
had proved an exceedingly willing, handy and good-tempered man, and my
earlier prejudice against him melted away.

"I will keep you then, Jan Boom," I said, after thinking the matter out
for a few minutes.

"_Nkose_!  There is only one thing I would ask," he said, "and that is
that you will tell me when three moons are dead whether you regret
having kept me on or not."

I thought the request strange, and laughed as I willingly gave him that
promise.  I still held to my theory that he had broken gaol somewhere or
other, and had decided that he had now found a tolerably secure
hiding-place; and if such were so, why from my point of interest that
was all the better, if only that it would keep him on his best
behaviour.

All the morning of the day following on my return I was busy enough, but
by the early afternoon felt justified in starting to pay my first visit
to the Sewins.

As I took my way down the bush path I had plenty of time for thought,
and gave myself up to the pleasures of anticipation.  Those last words:
"You will come and see us directly you return.  I shall look forward to
it," were ringing in a kind of melody in my mind, as my horse stepped
briskly along.  And now, what would my reception be?  It must not be
supposed that I had not thought, and thought a great deal, as to the
future during the couple of months our trip had lasted.  Hour after hour
under the stars, I had lain awake thinking out everything.  If all was
as I hardly dared to hope, I would give up my present knockabout life,
and take a good farm somewhere and settle down.  If not--well I hardly
cared to dwell upon that.  Of Falkner in the light of any obstacle,
strange to say I thought not at all.

From one point of the path where it rounded a spur the homestead became
momentarily visible.  Reining in I strained my eyes upon it, but it
showed no sign of life--no flutter of light dresses about the stoep or
garden.  Well, it was early afternoon, hot and glowing.  Likely enough
no one would be willingly astir.  Then a thought came that filled my
mind with blank--if speculative--dismay.  What if the family were away
from home?  The stillness about the place now took on a new aspect.
Well, that sort of doubt could soon be set at rest one way or another,
and I gave my horse a touch of the spur that sent him floundering down
the steep and stony path with a snort of surprised indignation.

We had got on to the level now and the ground was soft and sandy.  As we
dived down into a dry drift something rushed at us from the other side
with open-mouthed and threatening growl, which however subsided at once
into a delighted whine.  It was Arlo--and there on the bank above sat
Arlo's mistress.

She had a drawing block in her hand and a colour box beside her.
Quickly she rose, and I could have sworn I saw a flush of pleasure steal
over the beautiful face.  I was off my horse in a twinkling.  The tall,
graceful form came easily forward to meet me.

"Welcome home," she said, as our hands clasped.  "I am so glad to see
you again.  And you have kept your promise indeed.  Why we hardly
expected you before to-morrow or the day after."

"It was a great temptation to me to come over with Falkner yesterday," I
answered.  "But, a man must not neglect his business."

"Of course not.  It is so good of you to have come now."

"Good of me!  I seem to remember that you would look forward to it--that
last night I was here," I answered, a bit thrown off my balance by the
manner of her greeting.  That "welcome home," and the spontaneous
heartiness of it, well it would be something to think about.

"Well, and that is just what I have been doing," she answered gaily.
"There!  Now I hope you feel duly flattered."

"I do indeed," I answered gravely.

"And I am so glad we have met like this," she continued, "because now we
shall be able to have a good long talk.  The others are all more or less
asleep, but I didn't feel lazy, so came down here to reduce that row of
stiff euphorbia to paper.  I have taken up my drawing again, and there
are delightful little bits for water-colour all round here."

The spot was as secluded and delightful as one could wish.  The high
bank and overhanging bushes gave ample shade, and opposite, with the
scarlet blossoms of a Kafir bean for foreground, rose a small cliff, its
brow fringed with the organ pipe stems of a line of euphorbia.

"Lie down, Arlo," she enjoined.  "What a fortunate thing it was you were
able to recover him.  I don't know how to thank you."

"Of course you don't, because no question of thanking me comes in," I
said.  "I would sooner have found him as we did, than make anything at
all out of the trip, believe me."

"And your trip was not a great success after all, Falkner tells us?"

"Oh we did well enough, though I have done better.  But to return to
Arlo.  The mystery to me--to both of us--was how on earth he ever
managed to let himself be stolen."

"Ah.  That dreadful witch doctor must have been at the bottom of it.  I
only know that one morning he--Arlo not Ukozi--had disappeared, and no
inquiry of ours could get at the faintest trace of him.  His
disappearance, in fact, was as complete as that of that poor Mr
Hensley."

"Old Hensley hasn't turned up again, then?"  I said.

"No.  Mr Kendrew is getting more and more easy in his mind.  He's a
shocking boy, you know, and says he's too honest to pretend to be sorry
if he comes into a fine farm to end his days on," she said, with a
little smile, that somehow seemed to cast something of a damper on the
delight of the present situation.

"Confound Kendrew," I thought to myself.  "Who the deuce wants to talk
of Kendrew now?"

"Tell me, Mr Glanton," she went on, after a slight pause.  "You got my
letter I know, because Falkner has told us how he got the one mother
wrote him.  Did you think me very weak and foolish for allowing myself
to get frightened as I did?"

"You know I did not," I answered, with quite unnecessary vehemence.
"Why I was only too proud and flattered that you should have consulted
me at all.  But, of course it was all somewhat mysterious.  Is Ukozi
about here now?"

"We haven't seen him for some days.  Do you know, I can't help
connecting his non-appearance with your return in some way.  He must
have known you would soon be here.  Father is quite irritable and angry
about it.  He says the witch doctor promised to let him into all sorts
of things.  Now he pronounces him an arrant humbug."

"That's the best sign of all," I said, "and I hope he'll continue of
that opinion.  When elderly gentlemen take up fads bearing upon the
occult especially, why, it isn't good for them.  You don't mind my
saying this?"

"Mind?  Of course I don't mind.  Why should I have bothered you with my
silly fears and misgivings--at a time too when you had so much else to
think about--if I were to take offence at what you said?  And it seems
so safe now that you are near us again."

What was this?  Again a sort of shadow seemed to come over our talk.
Was it only on account of some imaginary protection my presence might
afford that she had been so cordially and unfeignedly glad to welcome
me?

"I think you may make your mind quite easy now," I said.  "This Ukozi
had some end of his own to serve, possibly that of stealing the dog,
which he knew he could trade for a good price in Zululand, and probably
did.  I suppose Falkner gave you a full, true and particular account of
how we bested the precious specimen who claimed him."

She laughed.

"Oh, he's been bragging about that, and all your adventures--or rather
his--up there, in quite his own style."

"Well, there was nothing for either of us to brag about in the way we
recovered Arlo," I said.  "If the King's impi hadn't happened along in
the nick of time I own frankly we might never have been able to recover
him at all.  It was a hundred to one, you understand."

Again she laughed, significantly, and I read into the laugh the fact
that she did not quite accept Falkner's narratives at precisely
Falkner's own valuation.

"How did Falkner behave himself?" she went on.

"Oh, he was all right.  He was always spoiling for a fight and on one
occasion he got it.  I daresay he has told you about that."

"Yes," she said, with the same significant laugh.  "He gave us a graphic
account of it."

"Well he has plenty of pluck and readiness, and a man might have many a
worse companion in an emergency."

"It's nice of you to say that.  I don't believe he was a bit nice to
you."

"Oh, only a boy's sulks," I said airily.  "Nothing to bother oneself
about in that."

"But was that all?" she rejoined, lifting her clear eyes to my face.

"Perhaps not," I answered, then something in her glance moved me to add:
"May I tell you then, what it was that caused our differences, who it
was, rather?"  And I put forth my hand.

"Yes," she said, taking it.  "Tell me."

"It was yourself."

"Myself?"

"Yes.  Do you remember what you said that last evening I was here?  I
do.  I've treasured every word of it since.  You said I was to come and
see you directly I returned, and that you would look forward to it."

She nodded, smiling softly.

"Yes.  And I have.  And--what did you answer?"

"I answered that I would look forward to it every day until it came.
And I have."

"And is the result disappointing?"

"You know it is not."

I have stated elsewhere that I seldom err in my reading of the human
countenance, and now it seemed that all Paradise was opening before my
eyes as I noticed a slight accession of colour to the beautiful face, a
deepening of the tender smile which curved the beautiful lips.  Then
words poured forth in a torrent.  What was I saying?  For the life of me
I could not tell, but one thing was certain.  I was saying what I meant.
Then again her hand reached forth to mine, and its pressure, while
maddening me, told that whatever I was saying, it at any rate was not
unacceptable when--

Arlo, who had been lying at our feet, sprang up and growled, then
subsided immediately, wagging his tail and whining as he snuffed in the
direction of the sound of approaching footsteps.

"Hallo, Glanton," sung out a gruff voice.  "You taking lessons in high
art?  They're wondering where you've got to, Aida.  They're going to
have tea."

"Well, tell them not to wait.  I'll be in directly when I'm ready."

"Oh no.  No hurry about that," answered Falkner with an evil grin,
flinging himself on the ground beside us, and proceeding leisurely to
fill his pipe.  "We'll all stroll back together--eh, Glanton?"

I am ashamed to remember how I hated Falkner Sewin at that moment.  Had
he heard what I had been saying, or any part of it?  But he had thrust
his obnoxious presence between it and the answer, and that sort of
opportunity does not readily recur, and if it does, why the repetition
is apt to fall flat.

He lay there, maliciously watching me--watching us--and the expression
of his face was not benevolent, although he grinned.  He noted his
cousin's slight confusion, and delighted to add to it by keeping his
glance fixed meaningly upon her face.  Then he would look from the one
to the other of us, and his grin would expand.  There was a redeeming
side to his disgust at the situation from his point of view.  He was
annoying us both--annoying us thoroughly--and he knew it.

She, for her part, showed no sign of it as she continued her painting
serenely.  Further exasperated, Falkner began teasing Arlo, and this had
the effect of wearying Aida of the situation.  She got up and announced
her intention of returning to the house.

And Falkner, walking on the other side of her, solaced himself with
making objectionable remarks, in an objectionable tone, knowing well
that the same stopped just short of anything one could by any
possibility take up.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

"THE ANSWER IS--YES."

Nothing could exceed the warmth and cordiality of the reception I
experienced at the hands of the rest of the family.  I might have been
one of themselves so rejoiced they all seemed at having me in their
midst again--all of course save Falkner.  But among the feminine side of
the house I thought to detect positive relief, as though my return had
dispelled some shadowy and haunting apprehension.  There was something
about the old Major, however, that convinced me he was cherishing an
idea in the back ground, an idea upon which he would invite my opinion
at the earliest opportunity.  And that opportunity came.

"Let's stroll down and look at the garden, Glanton," he began,
presently.  "I want to show you what I've been doing while you were
away."

And without giving anyone an opportunity of joining us, even if they had
wanted to, he led the way forth.

I listened as he expatiated upon the improvements he had been making,
even as I had listened many a time before, but it struck me his
explanations were a little incoherent, a little flurried, like the
speech of a man who is not talking of that which lies uppermost in his
mind.  He continued thus until we had reached the furthest limit of the
cultivated ground, where a high bush fence shut this off from possible
depredations on the part of bucks or other nocturnal marauders.  It was
a secluded spot, and there was no sign of any of the others intending to
join us.

"Try one of these cigars, Glanton," he began, tendering his case.  Then,
after one final look round to make sure we were not only alone, but
likely to remain so, he went on: "Let's sit down here and have a quiet
smoke.  There's something I want to get your opinion about.  You know
this witch doctor chap, Ukozi?"

"Of course I do.  What has he been up to?"

"Up to?  Oh, nothing.  But the fact is I have taken a liking to the
fellow.  He interests me.  He's been showing me some queer things of
late--yes, devilish queer things.  And he's promised to show me some
more."

"What sort of queer things, Major?"  I struck in.

"All sorts.  Well, the finding of Aida's lost coin was a queer enough
thing in itself.  Now wasn't it?"

"Yes.  But--it's mere conjuring.  You'd probably be surprised to know
how the trick was done."

"No doubt.  But--do you know?"  This somewhat eagerly.

"No, I don't.  I doubt though, whether it's worth knowing.  Well, Major,
you've got bitten with a sort of inclination towards occultism, and
Ukozi comes in handy as a means of showing you a thing or two.  Isn't
that it?"

"Well yes.  But--Glanton, I seem to have heard you admit that these
fellows can do a good deal.  Yet, now you make light of this one?"

"To speak frankly, Major, I think the less you have to do with him, or
any of his kidney, the better.  By the way, how the dickens do you
manage to talk to him?  Have you learnt?"

"Oh, I work that through Ivondwe.  That's a treasure you've found for
us, Glanton.  Yes sir, a real treasure.  He takes all the bother and
anxiety of the place clean off my hands."

"That's good," I said.  But at the same time I was not at all sure that
it was.  I recalled to mind what Aida had said in her letter with regard
to "an influence" under which they seemed to be drawn, this old man
especially.  No, it was not good that he should be on such terms with
natives, and one of them his own servant.  For the first time I began to
distrust Ivondwe, though as yet I was groping entirely in the dark.  For
one thing, I could see no adequate motive.  Motive is everything,
bearing in mind what an essentially practical animal your savage
invariably is; and here there was none.

"Well?" said the Major expectantly, impatient under my silence.  The
truth was I found myself in something of a quandary.  Old gentlemen--
notably those of the Anglo-Indian persuasion--were, I knew, prone to
exceeding impatience under criticism of their latest fad, and for
reasons which scarcely need guessing never was there a time when I felt
less inclined to incur the resentment of this one.

"I can only repeat what I said before, Major?"  I answered.  "Candidly I
think you'd better leave Ukozi, and his occultism, alone."

"But it interests me, man.  I tell you it interests me.  Why shouldn't I
be allowed to make interesting investigations if I have a mind to?
Answer me that."

"Look here," I said.  "I know these people, Major, and you don't.  I
have a good many `eyes and ears'--as they would put it--scattered about
among them, and I'll try and find out what Ukozi's game is.  He hasn't
started in to fleece you any, you say?"

"No.  That he certainly hasn't."

"All the more reason why he needs looking after.  Well now don't you
have anything more to say to him, at any rate until you hear from me
again."

"He won't give me the chance.  I haven't seen him for quite a long time.
He's never been away for so long a time before."

In my own mind I could not but connect Ukozi's sudden absenteeism in
some way with my return.

"Here come the others," went on the Major.  "And Glanton," he added
hurriedly, "don't let on to the women about what I've been telling you,
there's a good fellow."

I was rather glad to be spared the necessity of making or avoiding any
promise.  It was near sundown, and as they joined us for a stroll in the
cool of the evening I thought to catch a significant flash in Aida's
eyes, as though she were fully aware of the burden of her father's
conversation with me.  Falkner was away at the kraals, for it was
counting in time, and I for one did not regret his absence.

Yes, it was a ray of Paradise that sunset glow, as we walked among the
flowers in the dew of the evening, for although we two were not alone
together yet there was a sweet subtle understanding between us which was
infinitely restful.  Falkner's interruption, however unwelcome, had not
been altogether inopportune, for it had occurred too late; too late,
that is, to prevent a very real understanding, though precluding
anything more definite.  That would come with the next opportunity.

"The usual storm," remarked Mrs Sewin, looking up, as a low, heavy boom
sounded from a black pile of cloud beyond the river valley.  "We get one
nearly every day now, and, oh dear, I never can get used to them,
especially at night."

"Pooh!" said the Major.  "There's no harm in them, and we've got two new
conductors on the house.  We're right as trivets, eh, Glanton?"

"Absolutely, I should say," I answered.  We had completed our stroll and
had just returned to the house.  It would soon be dinner time and
already was almost dark.

We were very merry that evening I remember.  The Major, glad of someone
else to talk to, was full of jokes and reminiscences, while I, happy in
the consciousness of the presence beside me, joined heartily in the old
man's mirth, and we were all talking and laughing round the table as we
had never talked and laughed before.  Only Falkner was sulky, and said
nothing; which was rather an advantage, for his remarks would certainly
have been objectionable had he made any.  Then suddenly in the middle of
some comic anecdote, came a crash which seemed to shake the house to its
very foundations, setting all the glasses and crockery on the table
rattling.  Mrs Sewin uttered a little scream.

"Mercy!  We're struck!" she gasped.

"Not we," returned the Major.  "But that was a blazer, by Jingo!"

"Pretty near," growled Falkner.

"Oh, it's horrid," said Mrs Sewin, "and there's no getting away from
it."

"No, there isn't," I said.  "If you were in London now you might get
away from it by burrowing underground.  I knew a man there whose wife
was so mortally scared of thunder and lightning that whenever a storm
became imminent she used to make him take her all round the Inner
Circle.  She could neither see nor hear anything of it in the
Underground train."

"That was ingenious.  Did you invent that story, Mr Glanton?" said
Edith Sewin, mischievously.

Another crash drowned the laugh that followed, and upon the ensuing
silence, a strange hollow roar was audible.

"The river's down, by Jove!" growled Falkner.

"No.  It isn't the river.  It's a tremendously heavy rain shower," I
said, listening.

"Let's go outside and see what it looks like," he went on pushing back
his chair.

We had done dinner, and this proposal seemed to find favour, for a move
was made accordingly.  We went out we four, for Mrs Sewin was afraid to
stir and the Major remained in with her.  Nearer and nearer the roar of
the rain cloud approached, though as yet not a drop had fallen over us.
Again the blue lightning leaped forth, simultaneously with another
appalling crash, cutting short a wrangle which had got up between
Falkner and Edith Sewin, and ending it in a little squeal on the part of
the latter.  But already I had seized my opportunity, under cover of the
racket.

"That question I was asking you to-day when we were interrupted," I
whispered to my companion.  "It was not answered."

Then came the flash.  In the blue gleam, bright as noon-day, I could see
the beautiful, clear cut face turned upwards, as though watching the
effect, with calm serenity.  Through the thunder roar that followed I
could still catch the words.

"The answer is--Yes.  Will that satisfy you?"

And a hand found mine in a momentary pressure.

Thus amid black darkness and lightning and storm our troth was plighted.
An ill omen?  I thought not.  On the contrary, it seemed appropriate to
my case; for in it much of a hard but healthy life had been passed amid
rude exposure to the elements, and that I should have secured the
happiness--the great happiness--of my life amid the battling forces of
the said elements seemed not unfitting.

The vast rain cloud went whooping along the river-bed, gleaming in
starry sparkle as the lightning beams stabbed it, but not a drop fell
upon us.  The storm had passed us by.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

THE WITCH DOCTOR AGAIN.

From the moment that Aida Sewin and I had become engaged life was, to
me, almost too good to live.  As I have said, I was no longer young, and
now it seemed to me that my life up till now had been wasted, and yet
not, for I could not but feel intensely thankful that I had kept it for
her.  I might have been "caught young," and have made the utter mess of
life in consequence that I had seen in the case of many of my
contemporaries, but I had not, and so was free to drink to the full of
this new found cup of happiness.  And full it was, and running over.

Of course I didn't intend to remain on at Isipanga.  The trading and
knockabout days were over now.  I would buy a good farm and settle down,
and this resolve met with Aida's entire approval.  She had no more taste
for a town life than I had myself.  The only thing she hoped was that I
should find such a place not too far from her people.

"The fact is I don't know how they'll ever get on without you," she said
one day when we were talking things over.  "They are getting old, you
see, and Falkner isn't of much use, between ourselves.  I doubt if he
ever will be."

This made me laugh, remembering Falkner's aspirations and the cocksure
way in which he had "warned me off" that night in Majendwa's country.
But I was as willing to consider her wishes in this matter, as I was in
every other.

Falkner had accepted the situation, well--much as I should have expected
him to, in that he had sulked, and made himself intensely disagreeable
for quite a long time.  I was sorry for him, but not so much as I might
have been, for I felt sure that it was his conceit which had received
the wound rather than his feelings.  Which sounds ill natured.

Tyingoza was not particularly elated when I broke the news of my
intended departure.

"So you are going to build a new hut at last, Iqalaqala," he said, with
a chuckle.

"I am, but not here."

"Not here?"

"No.  I am going to leave trading, and raise cattle instead."

"The people will be sorry, Iqalaqala, for we have been friends.  _Au_!
is it not ever so in life?  You hold a man by the hand, and lo, a woman
takes hold of his other hand, and--he holds yours no more."

"But in this case we still hold each other by the hand, Tyingoza," I
said.  "For I am not going into another country nor does the whole world
lie between Isipanga and where I shall be."

"The people will be sorry," he repeated.

It was not long before Kendrew found his way over.

"Heard you were back, Glanton," he said.  "Well and how did you get on
with Sewin up-country?"

"Middling.  He has his uses, and--he hasn't."

"Well, I shouldn't find any use for him for long.  It's all I can do to
stand that dashed commandeering way of his, and `haw-haw' swagger, as it
is.  Been down there since you got back?  But of course you have," he
added with a knowing laugh.  "I say though, but doesn't it seem a sin to
bury two splendid looking girls in an out-of-the-way place like this?"

"Don't know about that.  At any rate I propose to bury one of them in
just such an out-of-the-way place," I answered.  "I believe it's the
thing to offer congratulations on these occasions, so congratulate away,
Kendrew.  I'll try and take it calmly."

"Eh--what the dev--Oh I say, Glanton--You don't mean--?"

"Yes, I do mean.  Compose yourself, Kendrew.  You look kind of
startled."

"Which of them is it?"

"Guess," I said, on mischief intent, for I detected a note of eagerness
in his tone and drew my own conclusions.

"The eldest of course?"

"Right," I answered after a moment of hesitation intended to tease him a
little longer.

"Why then, I do congratulate you, old chap," he said with a heartiness
in which I thought his own relief found vent.  "I say though.  You
haven't lost much time about it."

"No?  Well you must allow for the hastiness of youth."

And then he fired off a lot more good wishes, and soon suggested we
should ride over to the Sewins together as he was so near.  And reading
his motive I sympathised with him and agreed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Two months had gone by since my engagement to Aida Sewin and they had
gone by without a cloud.  If I were to say that a larger proportion of
them was spent by me at her father's place than at my own, decidedly I
should not be exaggerating.  But we learnt to know each other very
thoroughly in that time, and the more I learnt to know her the more did
I marvel what I had done to deserve one hundredth part of the happiness
that henceforth was to irradiate my life.  Truly our sky was without a
cloud.

I had found a farm that seemed likely to suit me.  It was now only a
question of price, and the owner was more than likely to come down to
mine.  The place was distant by only a few hours' easy ride, and that
was a consideration.

"Everything seems to favour us," Aida said.  "You know, dear, it is such
a relief to me to know that we need not be far away from the old people
after all.  I would of course go to the other ends of the earth with you
if necessity required it, but at the same time I am deeply thankful it
does not.  And then, you know, you needn't be afraid of any of the
`relations-in-law' bugbear; because they look up to you so.  In fact we
have come to look upon you as a sort of Providence.  While you were
away, if anything went wrong, father would fume a bit and always end by
saying: `I wish to Heaven Glanton was back.  It would be all right if
Glanton were here!' mother, too, would say much the same.  So you see
you will have very amenable relations-in-law after all."

"Oh, I'm not afraid of that in the least," I answered.  "As a matter of
fact, as you know, I don't think your father was at all well advised in
coming out here to set up farming at his age and with his temperament.
But now he is here we must pull him through, and we'll do it all right,
never fear.  But Aida, if it was a wrong move on his part think what it
has resulted in for me."

"And for me," she said softly.

I have set out in this narrative deliberately to spare the reader
detailed accounts of love passages between myself and this beautiful and
peerless woman whose love I had so strangely won; for I hold that such
are very far too sacred to be imparted to a third person, or put down in
black and white for the benefit of the world at large.  Suffice it that
the most exacting under the circumstances could have had no reason to
complain of any lack of tenderness on her part--ah, no indeed!

This conversation took place during a long walk which we had been
taking.  Aida was fond of walking, and, except for long distances,
preferred it to riding; wherein again our tastes coincided.  She was
observant too and keenly fond of Nature; plants, insects, birds,
everything interested her; and if she saw anything she wanted to look at
she could do it far better, she said, on foot than on horseback.  So we
had taken to walking a good deal.  This afternoon we had been to a
certain point on the river which she had wanted to sketch, and now were
returning leisurely through the bush, picking our way along cattle or
game paths.  Arlo, for once, was not with us.  Falkner had taken him in
the other direction.  He wanted to train him as a hunting dog, he said,
and now he had gone after a bush-buck.

The glory of the slanting sun rays swept wide and golden over the broad
river valley as the sinking disc touched the green gold line of the
further ridge, then sank beneath it, leaving the sweep of bush-clad
mound and lower lying level first lividly clear, then indistinct in the
purple afterglow.  Birds had ceased to pipe farewell to the last light
of falling day, and here and there along the river bank a jackal was
shrilly baying.  But if the light of day had failed, with it another
lamp had been lighted in the shape of a broad moon approaching its full,
its globe reddening into an increasing glow with the twilight darkening
of the sky.

"We shall pass by the waterhole," I said.  "You are not afraid."

"Afraid?  With you?  But it is an uncanny place.  We have rather avoided
it since that time we first saw that weird thing in it.  But we have
been there since in the daytime with Falkner, and father, and whatever
the thing may have been we have never seen it since."

"Well, we'll have a look at it in this grand moonlight.  Perhaps the
bogey may condescend to appear again."

"Hark!" exclaimed Aida suddenly.  "What is that?"  Then listening--"Why,
it's a lamb or a kid that must have strayed or been left out."

A shrill bleat came to our ears--came from the bush on the further side
of the hole to us, but still a little way beyond it.

"Couldn't we manage to catch it?" she went on.  "It'll be eaten by the
jackals, poor little thing."

"Instead of by us," I laughed.  "Well, it doesn't make much difference
to it though it does to its owner.  Wait--Don't speak," I added in a
whisper, for my ears had caught a sound which hers had missed.

We stood motionless.  We were on high ground not much more than twenty
yards above the pool, every part of which we could see as it lay, its
placid surface showing like a dull, lack-lustre eye in the moonlight.
In the gloom of the bush we were completely hidden, but through the
sprays we could see everything that might take place.

Again the bleat went forth shrilly, this time much nearer.  But--it
ceased suddenly, as if it had been choked off in the middle.

A dark figure stood beside the pool, on the very brink, the figure of a
man--a native--and in his hands he held something white--something that
struggled.  It was a half-bred Angora kid--the little animal whose bleat
we had heard.  I could see the glint of the man's head-ring in the
moonlight; then for a moment, as he turned it upward, I could see his
face, and it was that of Ukozi, the one-eyed witch doctor.  An increased
pressure on my arm told that my companion had seen it too.  I dared not
speak, for I was curious to see what he was about to do.  I could only
motion her to preserve the strictest silence.

The witch doctor stood waving the kid--held in both hands by the fore
and hind feet--high over his head, and chanting a deep-toned
incantation; yet in such "dark" phraseology was this couched that even I
couldn't make head or tail of it.  It seemed to call upon some "Spirit
of the Dew" whatever that might be, and was so wrapped up in "dark" talk
as to be unintelligible failing a key.  Then, as we looked, there arose
a splashing sound.  The surface of the pool was disturbed.  A sinuous
undulation ran through it in a wavy line, right across the pool, and
then--and then--a mighty length rose glistening from the water,
culminating in a hideous head whose grisly snout and sunken eye were
those of the python species.  This horror glided straight across to
where the witch doctor stood, and as it reached him its widely-opened
jaws seemed to champ down upon his head.  Not upon it, however, did they
close, but upon the body of the white kid which he had deftly placed
there, quickly springing back at the same time.  Then it turned, and as
it glided back, the wretched little animal kicking and bleating
frantically in its jaws, it seemed as if the hideous brute were rushing
straight for us.  Aida's face was white as death, and I had to repress
in her a panic longing to turn and fly.  My firm touch however sufficed
to calm her, and we crouched motionless, watching Ukozi on the further
side.  The serpent had disappeared from our view.

The whole thing was horrible and eerie to a degree.  The witch doctor
now was in a species of frenzy, walking up and down, with a half-dancing
movement, as he called out, thick and fast, the _sibongo_ of the
serpent.  It was a nasty, uncanny, heathenish performance, and revolted
me; although through it there shone one redeeming--even humorous--side.
We had sat and watched it while Ukozi was blissfully ignorant of our
presence.  He, the great witch doctor, had no inspiration or inkling
that he was being watched!  One day I would twit him with it.

Not long, however, did he stay there, and on Aida's account I was glad
to see the last of him.  Had I been alone I might have gone after him
and asked the meaning of the performance.  As it was, she had better
forget it.  For a time we sat there in the dead silence of the
moonlight.

"What does it mean?" she whispered, when we had allowed Ukozi sufficient
time to make himself scarce.

"Oh, some Mumbo Jumbo arrangement all his own," I answered.  "Well that
certainly is a whacking big python--the very biggest I've ever seen.  If
I had anything in the shape of a gun I'd be inclined to try and sneak
the brute wherever he's lying."

"Wouldn't it be in the water then?"

"No.  Lying up somewhere under the banks.  In hot weather they're fond
of lying in a waterhole, but on a cool night like this--not.  I must
come and stalk the brute another night though; and yet, do you know, it
seems strange, but I don't like interfering with anything that bears a
sort of religious significance to anybody.  And the snake does come in
that way with Zulus."

She thought a moment.  Then:

"You remember, dear, how I told you that one of the things this man was
going to show father was the mystery of the waterhole.  Now supposing
that horror had suddenly seized him?"

An uncomfortable wave swept through me.  The fact is that no white man,
however well he is known to natives, ever gets really to the bottom of
the darker mysteries of their superstitions, which indeed remain utterly
unsuspected in most cases, so well are they concealed.  Who could say
what might underlie this one!  However I answered:

"I don't think there would have been danger of that sort.  Ukozi would
have shown him the performance we have witnessed, as something very
wonderful.  As a matter of fact it isn't wonderful at all, in that it
resolves itself into a mere question of snake charming.  Ukozi has half
trained this brute by feeding it periodically as we have seen.  That's
all.  Hallo!"

Well might I feel amazement, but the exclamation had escaped me
involuntarily.  We had come round the pool now, and here, very near the
spot whereon Ukozi had gone through his strange performance--
instinctively we had kept a little back from the water--an odour struck
upon my nostrils, and it was the same sickly overpowering effluvium that
had filled the air when my horse had refused to proceed on that
memorable night I had intended to ride back from Kendrew's.

"What is it?" exclaimed Aida, with a start.

"Nothing.  Nothing at all.  I've frightened you, and you are a little
wound up already by that uncanny performance," I answered.

"Frightened?  No.  I don't believe I could be that when I'm with you.  I
always feel so safe.  Otherwise it would seem strange that this witch
doctor whom we have not seen for so long, and in fact whom we thought
had left this part of the country, should have been here right in our
midst all the time."

"He may not have been.  He may only just have returned," I said.
"Worthies of his profession are inclined to be somewhat sporadic in
their movements.  Meanwhile if I were you, I wouldn't say anything about
what we've just seen until I've had time to make a few inquiries."

She promised, of course, and as we took our way homeward in the
splendour of the clear African night we thought no more of the uncanny
episode we had just witnessed, except as something out of the common
which had lent an element of unexpected excitement to our walk.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

INTO EMPTY AIR.

I had completed my purchase of the farm, and was well satisfied with my
bargain.  It was a nice place, and the homestead was in good repair and
very picturesquely situated, commanding a beautiful view.  Aida would
revel in it.  The veldt was good, and so were the faculties for stocking
water.  Game too was plentiful, though the dark bushy kloofs
intersecting a high _rand_ on one side of the place gave promise of the
more undesirable kind from the stock-raiser's point of view--such as
leopards and wild dogs and baboons.  However it would be hard if I
couldn't manage to keep the numbers of these down, and if they took toll
of a calf or two now and then, why one could take toll of them in the
way of sport--so that the thing was as broad as it was long.

Yes, I was well satisfied, and as I rode homeward I fell castle
building.  The place would be a Paradise when I should take Aida there.
It was too marvellous.  How could such a wealth of happiness come my
way?  There was no cloud to mar it.  Even as the vivid, unbroken blue of
the sky overhead so was this marvel of bliss which had come in upon my
life.  There was no cloud to mar it.

I was not rich but I had enough.  I had done myself exceedingly well in
the course of my ventures, and was beyond any anxiety or care for the
future from a pecuniary point of view.  I had always lived simply and
had no expensive tastes.  Now I was beginning to reap the benefit of
that fortunate condition of things.  I could afford the luxury of castle
building as I cantered along mile after mile in the glorious sunlight.

I had not seen Aida for three whole days, it was that time since the
uncanny episode of the waterhole.  Now I was treasuring up the
anticipation of our meeting, the light of glad welcome that would come
into her eyes, only a few hours hence, for I would call in at my own
place to see that things were all right, and get a bit of dinner, and
ride on immediately afterwards.  So, mile upon mile went by and at last
shortly after mid-day I walked my horse up the long acclivity that led
to my trading store.

As I gained the latter I descried a horseman approaching from the other
direction, and he was riding too--riding as if he didn't want to use his
horse again for at least a week.  By Jove! it was Kendrew, I made out as
he came nearer, but--what the devil was Kendrew in such a cast-iron,
splitting hurry about?

My boy Tom came out as I dismounted.  I hardly noticed that he hadn't
got on the usual broad grin of welcome.

"Where is Jan Boom?"  I asked.

"He is out after the cattle, _Nkose_," answered Tom, rather glumly I
thought.  But I paid no attention to this, because Tom had taken it into
his head to be rather jealous of Jan Boom of late, as a newcomer and an
alien who seemed to be rather more in his master's confidence than he
had any right to be--from Tom's point of view.

"Well, wait a bit," I said.  "Here comes another _Nkose_, Nyamaki's
nephew.  You can take his horse at the same time."

Kendrew came racing up as if he were riding for his life.

"You back, Glanton?" he cried, as he flung himself off his panting,
dripping steed.  "Well, that's a devilish good job.  I say.  What does
this mean?"

"What does what mean?"

"Man!  Haven't you heard?  They sent for me post-haste this morning.
Knew you were away."

"Quit jaw, Kendrew, and tell me what the devil's the row," I said
roughly, for some horrible fear had suddenly beset me.

"Miss Sewin.  She's disappeared," he jerked forth.

"What?"

I have an idea that I articulated the word, though speech stuck in my
throat I felt myself go white and cold, and strong healthy man that I
was, the surroundings danced before my eyes as though I were about to
swoon.  I remember too, that Kendrew ground his teeth with pain under
the grip that I had fastened upon his shoulder.

"What do you say?  Disappeared?"  I gasped forth again.  "How?  When?"

I heard him as through a mist as he told me how the afternoon before she
had gone for a walk alone with her dog.  It was towards sundown.  She
had not returned, and a search had been instituted, with the result that
her dog had been found dead not very far from the waterhole, but of her
no trace remained.  "My God, Glanton," he ended up.  "Buck up, man.
Pull yourself together or you'll go clean off your chump.  Buck up,
d'you hear!"

I daresay I had a look that way, for I noticed Tom staring at me as if
he contemplated taking to his heels.

"I'm on my way down there now," said Kendrew.

I nodded.  I couldn't speak just then somehow.  I went into the house,
slung on a heavy revolver, and crammed a handful of cartridges into my
pocket.  Then I remounted, Kendrew doing likewise, and so we took our
way down that rocky bush path at a pace that was neither wise nor safe.

"Is that all they have to go upon?"  I said presently, as soon as I had
recovered my voice.

"That's all--I gather from the old man's note.  I say, Glanton, what can
be behind it all?  It seems on all fours with my old uncle taking
himself off.  I'm beginning to think now there's some infernal foul play
going on among the niggers round us."

I was thinking the same.  At first a thought of Dolf Norbury had crossed
my mind, but I dismissed it.  Ukozi was behind this, somewhere.  The
proximity to the waterhole associated him in my mind with the outrage.
His beastly performance with the snake!--was he training it to seize
human beings, in the furtherance of some devilish form of native
superstition?  Oh, good Heavens no!  That wouldn't bear thinking about.
But Aida--my love--had disappeared--had disappeared even as Hensley had.
He had never been found; the mystery of his disappearance had never
been solved.  And she!  Had she been hideously and secretly done to
death?  Oh God!  I shall go mad!

When we arrived, the Major and Falkner had just returned, and their
horses were simply reeking.  They had scoured the whole farm, but
utterly without result.  As for Mrs Sewin and Edith their grief was
pitiable--would have been only it was nothing by the side of mine.

"How was the dog killed?" was my first question, ignoring all greeting.
I had resolved to waste no time in grief.  I had now pulled myself
together, and was going to do all that man was capable of to find my
loved one again.

"That's the strange part of it," said Falkner gruffly.  "There's no
wound of any kind about the beast, and he hasn't even been hit on the
head, for his skull is quite smooth and unbroken.  But, there he is--as
dead as the traditional herring."

"You didn't move him, did you?"

"No.  He's there still."

"Well let's go there.  I may light on a clue."

"You'd better not come, uncle," said Falkner.  "You're played out, for
one thing, and there ought to be one man on the place with all this
devilish mystery going about."

"Played out be damned, sir," retorted the Major fiercely.  "I'd tire you
any day.  I'm going."

The dead dog was lying right in the path, just beyond where we had found
the lost coin on that memorable day.  The first thing I looked for were
traces of a struggle, but if there had been any they were now completely
obliterated by hoof marks and footmarks made by Falkner and the Major
when they first made the discovery.

"The dog died before sundown," I said, after a momentary examination.

"How do you know that?" asked Falkner.

"Because the ground underneath him is perfectly dry.  If he had been
killed or died later it wouldn't have been.  It would have been damp
with dew.  Look--Ah!"

The last exclamation was evoked by a curious circumstance as I moved the
body of the dead animal.  A strange odour greeted my nostrils.  It was
as the odour of death, and yet not altogether, and--it was the same that
poisoned the air on the occasion of my horse refusing to go forward on
that night at Kendrew's, and again here, almost on this very spot three
nights ago when we had come away from witnessing Ukozi's uncanny
performance at the pool.  Some dark villainy underlay this, and that the
witch doctor was connected with it was borne in upon my mind without a
doubt.

I examined the dead dog long and carefully, but could read no clue as to
the manner of his death, unless he had been poisoned, but this I thought
unlikely.  One thing was certain.  Never in life would he have allowed
harm or violence to reach his mistress.  Poor Arlo!  At any other time I
should have been moved to genuine grief for his loss; now that loss was
not even felt.

Quickly, eagerly, I cast around for spoor, beyond the radius of the
disturbed part of the ground.  All in vain.  No trace.  No trampled
grass or broken twig, or displaced leaf, absolutely nothing to afford a
clue.  The thing was incomprehensible.  It was as if she had been caught
up bodily into the air.

The ground here was a gentle declivity, moderately studded with bush.
It was not rocky nor rugged, and was entirely devoid of holes or caves
into which anyone might fall.

Suddenly every drop of blood within me was set tingling.  I had found a
trace.  Where the ground was stony, just above the path I discovered an
abrasion, as though a boot, with nail heads in the soles, had scraped
it.

It was very faint, but still--there was no mistaking it.  It was a
genuine spoor.  And it led on and on, utterly undiscernible to the Major
or Falkner, hardly visible to Kendrew at times, but plain enough to me.
And now hope beat high.  We would find her.  We had only to follow on
this spoor which we had struck, and we would find her.  Heaven knew how,
but still! we would find her.  She might have met with an accident and
be sorely in need of help, but--still we would find her, and this--even
this--after the blank, awful realisation of her loss, akin, as it was,
to the disappearance of Hensley--contained relative comfort.

The others were watching me with mingled anxiety and curiosity as, bent
low over the ground, I followed these faint indications.  The latter
were tolerably perceptible now to a practised eye, though to no other,
and I kept upon them steadily.  Then a ghastly fear smote me again upon
the heart.  The spoor was leading straight for the waterhole.

What did it mean?  She would not have gone there--voluntarily.  After
the spectacle we had witnessed that night nothing on earth would have
induced her to revisit the uncanny place alone, even by daylight.  Yet
the dreadful thought had already forced itself upon my mind, that there,
if anywhere, would the mystery be solved.

In silence, eager, intensified, we pursued our way; for the others would
not speak lest they should distract my mind from its concentration.
Thus we came out upon the waterhole.

The spoor had led us straight to the high brow of cliff overhanging the
pool--the spot upon which we had all stood that afternoon when we had
first seen the mysterious monster which had disturbed the water.  And--
what was this?

All the soil here, where it was not solid rock, had been swept with
branches.  There was the pattern in the dust, even if stray leaves and
twigs scattered about had not gone towards showing that, beyond a doubt.
The object was manifest--to efface all traces of a struggle.

Heavens! my brain seemed to be turning to mud with the drear despair of
each fresh discovery.  The witch doctor's promise to show the old man
the mystery of the waterhole came back to my mind.  I put together the
words of _sibongo_ to the snake I had heard him chanting.  Ukozi had
been preparing a way towards a sacrifice to his demon.  He had
accustomed the great python to seizing its victim as he brought it--and
he had always brought it, so small, so insufficient, in the shape of the
kid we had seen him give it, as to excite the appetite of the monster
rather than to gratify it.  He had been practising on Major Sewin's
curiosity, so that when the time should be ripe he would bring him to
the edge of the pool, where all unsuspecting he would be seized by the
monster and never be seen or heard of again.  And now, and now--this
unspeakably horrible and revolting fate, instead of overtaking the old
man, had overtaken Aida, my love, the sun and Paradise of my life,
instead.  She had been substituted for him, as the easier, possibly the
more acceptable victim.

But, Ukozi!  Whatever might happen to me I would capture and revenge
myself upon him in a manner which should out-do the vengeance of the
most vindictive and cruel of his own countrymen.  I would spend days and
nights gloating over his agony, and afterwards it should be talked about
with fear and shuddering among the whole population of the border--ay,
and beyond it I would do it; how I knew not, but, I would do it.  All
hell was seething in my brain just then--all hell, as I thought of my
love, in her daintiness and grace; the very embodiment of a refinement
and an elevating influence that was almost--no, entirely--divine,
sacrificed horribly to the revolting superstitions of these savages,
whom I had hitherto regarded as equalling in manly virtues those who
could boast of centuries of so-called civilisation at their backs.  And
yet--revenge--could it bring back to me my love--my sweet lost love?



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

THE DIVE OF THE WATER RAT.

We stood there--we four--gazing into each other's livid faces.  Then the
Major broke down.  Sinking to the ground he covered his face with his
hands and sobbed.  I broke fiercely away.  I could not stand for a
moment doing nothing, so I set to work to go right round the pool and
see if I could find any further trace.  But the search was a vain one.

"The next thing is, what are we going to do?" said Falkner when we had
rejoined them.  "We don't propose to spend the rest of the day staring
at each other like stuck pigs, I take it?"

"We ought to drag the hole," I said, "but we haven't got the necessary
appliances, nor even a draw net.  Can any of you think of some
expedient?"

"We might get a long pole, and splice a couple of meat-hooks to the end
somehow," said Falkner, "and probe about with that.  Only, the cursed
hole is about a mile too deep for the longest pole to get anywhere near
the bottom in the middle."

"_Amakosi_!"

We started at the interruption.  So intent had we been that not one of
us had been aware of the approach of a fifth--and he a native.

"Ha, Ivondwe!"  I cried, recognising him.  "What knowest thou of this,
for I think thou couldst not have been far from this place at sundown
yesterday?"

He answered in English.

"Do the _Amakosi_ think the young missis has got into the water?"

"They do," I said, still keeping to the vernacular.  "Now, Water Rat,
prove worthy of thy name.  Dive down, explore yon water to its furthest
depths for her we seek.  Then shall thy reward be great."

"That will I do, Iqalaqala," he answered--greatly to my surprise I own,
for I had been mocking him by reason of his name.

"And the snake?"  I said.  "The snake that dwells in the pool.  Dost
thou not fear it?"

I had been keenly watching his face, and the wonder that came into it
looked genuine.

"Why as to that," he answered, "and if there be a snake yet I fear it
not.  I will go."

He stood looking down upon the water for a moment; he needed to lose no
time in undressing, for save for his _mutya_ he was unclad.  Now he
picked up two large stones and holding one in each hand, he poised
himself at a point about ten feet above the surface.  Then he dived.

Down he went--straight down--and the water closed over him.  We stood
staring at the widening circles, but could see nothing beneath the
surface.  Then it suddenly dawned upon us that he had been under water
an abnormally long time.

"He'll never come up again now," declared Falkner.  "No man living could
stick under water all that time," he went on after a wait that seemed
like an hour to us.  "The beast has either got hold of him, or he's got
stuck somehow and drowned.  Oh good Lord!"

For a black head shot up on the further side of the hole, and a couple
of strokes bringing it and its owner to the brink, he proceeded calmly
to climb out, showing no sign of any undue strain upon his powers of
endurance.

"Thou art indeed well named, Ivondwe," I said.  "We thought the snake
had got thee."

"Snake?  I saw no snake," he answered.  "But I will go down again.
There is still one part which I left unsearched."

He sat for a moment, then picked up two stones as before.  He walked
round to an even higher point above the water, and this time dived
obliquely.

"By Jove, he must have come to grief now," said Falkner.  "Why he's been
a much longer time down."

As we waited and still Ivondwe did not reappear, the rest of us began to
think that Falkner was right.  It seemed incredible that any man could
remain under so long unless artificially supplied with air.  Then just
as we had given him up Ivondwe rose to the surface as before.

This time he was panting somewhat, as well he might.  "There is no one
down there," he began, as soon as he had recovered breath.

"No one?"

"No one.  All round the bottom did I go--and there was no one.  _Au_! it
is fearsome down there in the gloom and the silence, and the great eels
gliding about like snakes.  But she whom you seek must be found
elsewhere.  Not under that water is she."

Was he going on the native principle of telling you what you would most
like to know?  I wondered.  Then Falkner began kicking off his boots.

"Here goes for a search on my own account," he said.  "Coming, Glanton?
If there's nothing to hurt him, there's nothing to hurt us.  We'll try
his dodge of holding a couple of stones.  We'll get down further that
way."

Ivondwe shook his head.

"You will not get down at all," he said, in English.

"I'll have a try at any rate.  Come along, Glanton."

I am at home in the water but not for any time under it.  Half the time
spent by Ivondwe down there would have been enough to drown me several
times over.  However I would make the attempt.

The result was even as I expected.  With all the will in the world I had
not the power, and so far from getting to the bottom, I was forced to
return to the surface almost immediately.  Falkner fared not much
better.

"It must be an awful depth," he said.  "I couldn't even touch bottom,
and I'm no slouch in the diving line."

"Where ought we to search, Ivondwe?"  I said in the vernacular, "for so
far there is no more trace than that left by a bird in the air?  It will
mean large reward to any who should help to find her--yes, many cattle."

"Would that I might win such," he answered.  Then pointing with his
stick, "Lo, the _Amapolise_."

Our horses began to snort and neigh, as the police patrol rode up.  I
recognised my former acquaintance, Sergeant Simcox, but the inspector in
command of the troop was along.

"I've just come from your house, Major Sewin," he said after a few words
of sympathy, "and I left a couple of men there, so you need be under no
apprehension by reason of your ladies being alone.  Now have you lighted
upon any fresh clue?"

"Eh?  What?  Clue?" echoed the old man dazedly.  "No."

So I took up the parable, telling how I had found spoor leading to the
waterhole and that here it had stopped.  I pointed out where the ground
had been smoothed over as though to erase the traces of a struggle.

"Now," I concluded, "if you will come a little apart with me, I'll tell
you something that seems to bolster up my theory with a vengeance."

He looked at me somewhat strangely, I thought.  But he agreed, and I put
him in possession of the facts about Ukozi in his relations with Major
Sewin, and how Aida had consulted me about them during my absence in
Zululand, bringing the story down to that last startling scene here on
this very spot three nights ago.

"Well you ought to know something about native superstitions, Mr
Glanton," he said.  "Yet this seems a strange one, and utterly without
motive to boot."

"I know enough about native superstitions to know that I know nothing,"
I answered.  "I know this, that those exist which are not so much as
suspected by white men, and produce actions which, as you say, seem
utterly without motive."

"If we could only lay claw on this witch doctor," he said, thoughtfully.

"Yes indeed.  But he'll take uncommonly good care that we can't."

"Meanwhile I propose to arrest this boy on suspicion, for I find that he
couldn't have been very far from where Miss Sewin was last seen, at the
time."

"Ivondwe?"

"That's his name.  It may only be a coincidence mind--but you remember
old Hensley's disappearance?"

"Rather."

"Well this Ivondwe was temporarily doing some cattle herding for Hensley
at the time, filling another man's place.  It certainly is a coincidence
that another mysterious disappearance should take place, and he right at
hand again."

"It certainly is," I agreed.  "But Ivondwe has been here for months, and
I've known him for years.  There isn't a native I've a higher opinion
of."

"For all that I'm going to arrest him.  It can do no harm and may do a
great deal of good.  But first I'll ask him a few questions."

Inspector Manvers was colonial born and could speak the native language
fluently.  I warned him of Ivondwe's acquaintance with English in case
he should say anything in an aside to me.

To every question, Ivondwe answered without hesitation.  He had been
looking after the cattle, yonder, over the rise, at the time, much too
far off to have heard or seen anything.  Had he been near, the dog would
have kept him off.  The dog was always unfriendly towards him.

"Where is Ukozi?" asked the inspector.  The question was met by a
deprecatory laugh.

"Where is the bird that flew over our heads a few hours ago?" asked
Ivondwe.  "I would remind the chief of the _Amapolise_ that the one
question is as easy to answer as the other.  A great _isanusi_ such as
Ukozi does not send men before him crying aloud his movements."

"That we shall see," said the inspector.  "Meanwhile Ivondwe, you are
arrested and must go with us."

"Have I not searched the depths of yonder pool?" was Ivondwe's
unconcerned remark.  "Ask these."

"Well, you are a prisoner, and if you make any attempt to escape you
will be shot without challenge."  Then turning to me.  "Now I think we
had better continue our search down to the river bank.  I need hardly
tell you, Mr Glanton, how I sympathise with you, but we must not lose
hope yet.  People do strange and unaccountable things at times--
generally the last people in the world who would be likely to do them.
We shall find Miss Sewin yet."

"Have you found Hensley yet?"  I said bitterly.

He looked grave.  The cases were too startlingly akin.

"The old gentleman had better be persuaded to go home," he said, with a
pitying glance at the Major, who was sitting in a state of utter
collapse.  Kendrew volunteered to effect this.  He could join us
afterwards, he said.

For the remaining hours of daylight we searched, leaving not a square
yard of ground uninvestigated for a radius of miles.  But--we found
nothing--not even the remotest trace or clue.

I suppose, if I lived to be a thousand I should never forget the agony
of that day.  Mile after mile of our patient and exhaustive search, and
still--nothing.  The sickening blank as we returned, obliged to give it
up for that day, only to renew our efforts with the first glimmer of
returning light!

The moon rose, flooding down over the dim veldt.  I recalled that last
time when we two had wandered so happily over this very same ground.  No
presentiment had we then, no warning of mysterious danger hanging over
us.  How happy we had been--how secure in each other's love--and now!
Oh God! it was too much.

"Look here," I burst forth roughly.  "What's the good of you people?
Yes, what the devil's the good of you?  What do you draw your pay for
anyway?  If you had unearthed the secret of Hensley's disappearance this
one would never have come about.  Your whole force isn't worth a
tinker's twopenny damn and the sooner it's disbanded and sent about its
silly business the better."

The police inspector was a thoroughly good fellow, and a gentleman.  He
didn't take any offence at this, for he knew and respected the agony I
was undergoing.  We were riding a little ahead of the patrol, and
therefore were alone together.

"Look here, Glanton," he said.  "Abuse us as much as ever you like and
welcome if only it'll relieve your feelings.  I don't resent it.  You
may be, in a measure, right as to Hensley.  We all thought--and you
thought yourself if you remember--that the old chap had got off the
rails somehow, in an ordinarily natural if mysterious way.  But now I'm
certain there's some devilish foul play going on, and the thing is to
get to the bottom of it.  Now let's keep our heads, above all things,
and get to the bottom of it.  This is my idea.  While we go on with our
search to-morrow, you go and find Tyingoza and enlist his aid.  He's a
very influential chief, and has a good reputation, moreover you're on
first-rate terms with him.  I believe he could help us if anybody could.
What do you think?"

"I have thought of that already," I answered gloomily.  "But an
_isanusi_ of Ukozi's repute is more powerful than the most powerful
chief--at any rate on this side of the river.  Still it's a stone not to
be left unturned.  I'll ride up the first thing in the morning.  No,
I'll go before.  I'll start to-night."

But I was not destined to do so.  On returning to the house I found that
both the Major and his wife were in a state of complete prostration.
They seemed to cling to the idea of my presence.  It was of no use for
me to point out to them that the police patrol was camped, so to say,
right under their very windows, not to mention Falkner and Kendrew in
the house itself.  They would not hear of my leaving that night.  Edith,
too, begged me to fall in with their wishes.  A refusal might be
dangerous to her father, she put it.  Utterly exasperated and amazed at
the selfishness, as I deemed it, of the old people, I seemed to have run
my head against a blank wall.

"Look here, Edith," I said.  "They are simply sacrificing Aida by
throwing obstacles in my way like this.  What am I to do?"

"This," she answered.  "Fall in with their wishes, till they are asleep.
They will sleep, if only through sheer exhaustion, and if they don't
I'll take care that they do, through another agency.  Then, carry out
your own plan and God bless you in it."

"God bless you, for the brave resourceful girl you are," I rejoined.
"Manvers and I have been knocking together a scheme, and nothing on
God's earth is going to interfere with it.  Well, we'll make believe--
but, at midnight I'm off, no matter what happens."

"That's right, Glanton," said Kendrew, who had entered with an
opportuneness that under other and less interested circumstances I
should have regarded as suspicious.  "Edith and I will take care of the
old birds, never fear."

Utterly heartsick, and though unconsciously so, physically weary by
reason of the awful strain of the last twelve hours, I only sought to be
alone.  I went into the room I always occupied and shut myself in.
Sleep?  Yes, I would welcome it, if only as a respite.  I don't know
whether it came or not.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

WHAT JAN BOOM TOLD.

It seemed as though I had slept five minutes when I started wide awake,
listening.  There was a faint sound of scratching upon the window pane.
Then it ceased, to be followed by a succession of gentle taps.

Noiselessly I got out of bed, and drawing my revolver from its holster,
stood listening once more.  There was no mistake about it.  Somebody was
trying to attract my attention.

Even then--in that tense moment, the drear anguish of yesterday surged
like a wave through my mind; but, upon it a gleam of hope.  What was
this fresh mystery, for, of course, it was in some way connected with
the suggestion of tragedy--with the mysterious disappearance of my love?

There were no curtains, only blinds.  Softly, noiselessly, I slipped to
the window and displaced one of these, just sufficiently to leave a
crack to be able to see through.  The moon was shining, bright and
clear, and all in the front of the house was illuminated almost as
though by daylight I made out a dark figure crouching under the window,
and held the revolver clenched and ready as I put up the sash.

"Who?"  I said, in the Zulu.

"_Nkose_!  It is I--Jan Boom."

"Yes.  And what do you want?"

"_Nkose_!  Try and slip out of the house, unseen I want to talk.  But
others may be waking too.  Do it.  It concerns her whom you seek."

I knew the ways of a native in such a matter, wherefore without
hesitation, I put up the window as noiselessly as I could, and was out
in a moment.  Bearing in mind the strange and mysterious times upon
which we had fallen I didn't leave the weapon behind me in the room
either.

"You are alone?"  I said.

"I am alone, _Nkose_.  Come round behind the waggon shed--or, better
still, into the openness of the bush itself.  There can we hold our
_indaba_."

"Good.  Now--lead on."

As I walked behind the Xosa, I was all aglow with eagerness.  What had
he discovered--or, had he discovered anything?  Could I trust him?  I
remembered my first dislike of him, and how it had faded.  What could he
know of this last outrage?  What part had he borne in it, if any?  And
if none, how could he be of any assistance?

"Well, Jan Boom," I said when we were safe from possible interruption.
"You know of course that the man who is the one to enable me to recover
the _Inkosikazi_ unharmed, will find himself in possession of sufficient
cattle to purchase two new wives, with something to spare?"

"I know it, _Nkose_, and you--you also know what I said to you when I
wanted to remain and work for you," he answered significantly.

I did remember it.  His words came back to me, though I had long since
dismissed them from my mind.  The plot was thickening.

The Xosa took a long and careful look round, and if my patience was
strained to bursting point I knew enough of these people to know that
you never get anything out of them by hurrying them.  Then he bent his
head towards me and whispered:

"If you follow my directions exactly you will recover the _Inkosikazi_.
If not you will never see her again."

"Never see her again?"  I echoed with some idea of gaining time in order
to collect myself.

"Has Nyamaki ever been seen again?" said Jan Boom.

"Do you know where she is?"

"I know where she will be to-morrow night."

To-morrow night!  And I had been expecting instant action.

"Look here," I said, seizing him by the shoulder with a grip that must
have hurt.  "Has she been injured in any way?  Tell me.  Has she?"

"Not yet," he answered.  "No--not yet.  But--if you fail to find her,
and take her from where she is, to-morrow night--she will die, and that
not easily."

This time he did wince under my grip.  In my awful agony I seemed hardly
to know what I was doing.  The whole moonlit scene seemed to be whirling
round with me.  My love--in peril! in peril of some frightful and
agonising form of death!  Oh Heaven help me to keep my wits about me!
Some such idea must have communicated itself to the Xosa's mind, for he
said:

"_Nkose_ must keep cool.  No man can do a difficult thing if his head is
not cool."

Even then I noticed that he was looking at me with wonder tinged with
concern.  In ordinary matters--and some out of the ordinary--I was among
the coolest headed of mortals.  Now I seemed quite thrown off my
balance.  Somehow it never occurred to me to doubt the truth of Jan
Boom's statement.

"Where is this place?"  I asked.

"That you will learn to-morrow night, _Nkose_, for I myself will take
you there--if you are cautious.  If not--!"

"Look here, Jan Boom.  You want to earn the cattle which I shall give as
a reward?"

"Cattle are always good to have, _Nkose_!"

"Well what other motive have you in helping me in this matter?  You have
not been very long with me, and I cannot recall any special reason why
you should serve me outside of ordinary things."

"Be not too curious, _Nkose_!" he answered, with a slight smile.  "But,
whether you fail or succeed to-morrow night, my life will be sought, for
it will be known how you came there."

"Have no fear as to that, Jan Boom, for I will supply you with the means
of defending your life six times over--and you, too, come of a warrior
race."

"That is so, _Nkose_.  I am of the Ama Gcaleka.  Now talk we of our
plan.  To-morrow you will return home, starting from here after the sun
is at its highest.  Up to the time of starting you will help in the
search in whatever direction it is made.  But if you show any sign or
give reason to suspect you know it is all being made in vain, it will
mean the failure of our plan, and then--"

"Not on my account shall it fail then," I said.  "Tell me, Jan Boom.  Is
Ukozi at the back of this?"

"His eyes and ears are everywhere," was the reply, accompanied by a
significant glance around.  "When you ride homeward to-morrow, your
horse will be very lame."

"Very lame?"  I echoed in astonishment.

"Very lame.  You yourself will lame it.  So shall Ukozi's eyes be
deceived.  For a man who has just returned home does not ride forth
immediately on a horse that is very lame."

I saw his drift--and it was ingenious.

"You will give out that you are tired of a useless search, that you are
exhausted and intend to sleep for three days, and you will pretend to
have drunk too much of the strong waters.  So shall Ukozi's eyes be
deceived."

"But Jan Boom, you and Tom are the only people on the place," I urged.

"U' Tom?  _Hau_!  Ukozi's eyes and ears are everywhere," was the
enigmatical answer.

"And if my horse is lame how shall I use him?"

"You would not use him in any case," was his answer.  "The sound of a
horse's hoof travels far at night, that of a man's foot, not.  We walk."

"Walk?  Why then the place must be quite near."

"Quite near it is, Iqalaqala," slipping into rather an unwarrantable
familiarity in addressing me by my native name, but this didn't exercise
me you may be sure.  "Quite near, but--nowhere near the snake pool.
Quite the other way.  You will take the nephew of Nyamaki with you."

"Ah!  And--what of Umsindo?"

"Ha!  Umsindo?  He is a good fighting bull--but then he is a blundering
bull.  Yet we will take him, for his strength will be useful.  For, we
will take Ukozi alive."

"That will not be easy, Jan Boom.  And then--just think, how much easier
it will be to kill him."

"Yet we will do it.  We will take him alive.  You were asking but now,
_Nkose_, what other motive I had in helping you," he answered, with a
dash of significance.

"Ah!"

"So we will take Ukozi alive.  Is that to be?"

"Most certainly, if possible.  But will it be possible?  He is sure to
fight.  He will have people with him of course."

"Two, at the most.  We had better take them alive too, if we can.  It
will make things worse for Ukozi.  But to no one living save to the two
we have named will you by word or hint give knowledge of what I have
told you.  To do so will mean certain failure."

I promised.

"Tell me now about this place, Jan Boom, and how you learned of its
existence," I said, for now in my feverish impatience I would rather
talk for the remainder of the night than go in to shut myself up with my
thoughts throughout its hours of silence.

"I will do better, _Nkose_, I will show it you," he answered.  "_Whau_!
if we succeed in what we are to do--and we must if the three of you only
keep strictly to my directions--why then I may tell you; and with it a
tale so strange that you, or other white people, will give it half
belief or perhaps not any.  Now I must go.  There is still some of the
night left, and it is important that none should know we have talked or
even that I have been away from Isipanga.  Return as silently as you
came, and to-morrow, well before the sun goes down ride up to the house
on a very lame horse."

"And with the other two?"

"With the other two.  _Nkose_!"  With which parting salute he was gone.

I waited a little, listening.  No sound disturbed the dead silence save
here and there the ordinary voices of the night.  Then I regained my
room.

Sleep was of course out of the question, and now I set to work
deliberately to marshal my thoughts and bring them to bear on the
situation.  I felt no misgiving as to the Xosa's good faith--the fact
that he had agreed to my being accompanied by two tried and trusted
comrades seemed to prove that.  Though had he stipulated that I should
have gone alone, I should, while prepared for any emergency,
unhesitatingly have accepted the conditions.  Again, the reward was
quite enough to tempt a man of his courage, especially as he came of a
totally different race, added to which the corner of curtain which he
had just lifted was sufficient to show that he bore a grudge against the
witch doctor, not to say a very pretty feud.  How and why this should
be, passed my understanding, but I knew enough of natives and their ways
to know that I didn't know them, as, indeed, I believe no white man ever
really does.

And the motive of this outrage?  Clearly, it was due to some dark
superstition, as I had suspected from the very first.  She had not been
injured up till now, would not be unless we failed to arrive in time.
There was unspeakable comfort in this, for I felt confident the Xosa was
sure of his facts.  But what stages of horror and despair must she not
have passed through since her mysterious capture?  Well the villainous
witch doctor should pay a heavy reckoning and those who had helped him;
and, thinking of it, I, too, was all eagerness he should be taken alive;
for a great many years of hard labour--perhaps with lashes thrown in--
which should be his reward, would be a far worse thing to him than a
mere swift and easy death.

Then followed a reaction.  What if Jan Boom had miscalculated and we
arrived too late after all?  A cold perspiration poured down me at the
thought.  "She will die, and that not easily," had been his words.  That
pointed to torture--oh good God!  My innocent beautiful love! in the
power of these fiends, and sacrificed to their hellish superstitions,
and I helpless here!  I seemed to be going mad.

No.  That wouldn't do.  I was letting my imagination run away with me in
the silence and the darkness, and above all I wanted cool-headedness and
strength.  I must make up my mind to believe the Xosa's word and that
all would yet be well.  By this time the next night she would be with us
again safe and sound.

Then I fell to wondering what sort of hiding-place could be found within
a walk--an easy walk apparently--of my dwelling, and it baffled me.  I
could think of none.  Moreover the surroundings had been scoured in
search of the missing Hensley, and nothing of the kind had come to
light.  And then the first signs of dawn began to show, and I felt
relieved, for now at any rate, one could be up and doing.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

WHAT WE FOUND.

I have seen a good many astonished natives in my time but never a more
astonished one than my boy Tom that evening after supper, when
staggering to my feet and lurching unsteadily I bade him in thick and
indistinct accents to go into the store and fetch some new blankets for
my two guests to sleep on.  When on his return, I cursed him roundly,
and threw an empty bottle at his head, taking good care however that it
shouldn't hit him, then subsided on to the floor to all outward
appearances in the last stage of helpless intoxication, poor Tom must
have thought the end of the world had come.  This, of course, was part
of the programme as drawn up between myself and Jan Boom.

In every other particular I had scrupulously observed it even to the
severe laming of my unfortunate horse.  Poor beast! but then what were
the passing sufferings of a mere animal, when issues such as this were
in the balance!  I had got through the morning joining in the pretended
search, and it was while thus engaged that I found an opportunity of
imparting to the other two our plan of rescue.

"By the Lord!" exclaimed Kendrew, "I never heard such an extraordinary
thing in my life."

"The thing is, can we swallow it?" was Falkner's remark.  "These niggers
are such infernal liars."

"Well.  I'm going to follow it up, even if I go alone," I said.

"Who the devil said you were going alone, Glanton?" he answered gruffly.
"Look here, we rather hate each other, but you can't say that up there
in Zululand, for instance, I ever backed down."

"Certainly I can't, Sewin," I said.  "What I can say is that in any sort
of scrap there's no man I'd rather have alongside than yourself.  And as
for hating each other, it's only natural you should hate me I suppose,
but I've never returned the compliment."

"Well we'll knock hell out of someone to-night anyhow," he said.  "Now
let's have all particulars of the scheme."

I gave them, exactly as I had had them from Jan Boom.

"The thing is to keep it up," I said.  "That'll be the stiffest part of
all--to keep it up.  We mustn't go about looking as if we had found her
already.  Native eyes and ears are sharp, and native deductions are
swiftly drawn."

This was agreed upon, and we continued our mock search more strenuously
than ever.  We dared not even let fall so much as a hint to the old
people.  Pitiable as it was to witness their distress, yet it was better
that this should continue a little longer rather than that our success
should be imperilled, as certainly would have been the case had we let
slip the slightest inkling that there was ground for hope.

"Has Ivondwe made any revelation?"  I asked the police inspector, later
on as we were about to start.  "Not a word.  Would you like to talk to
him, Glanton?  You might get something out of him."

"Not to-day.  To-morrow perhaps.  Only keep him doubly guarded.  He'll
certainly escape if he can."

"He'll be a bigger magician than Ukozi if he does.  He's handcuffed in a
hut, with four of my men guarding him, two inside and two out.  And the
two out are just dead shots with rifle or pistol, although they do
belong to the poor old police," he added meaningly.

"All right.  Now I'm off to try and work the native intelligence
department."

"And I hope to God you may succeed," had been the fervent answer.
"Good-bye."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

So here we were, only awaiting our guide in order to set forth.  The
other two had also simulated inebriation, but only to a slight extent.
We had a business-like revolver apiece and plenty of cartridges, but no
guns.  Another significant item of our outfit comprised several strong,
new _reims_.  At last, after further waiting, which seemed an eternity,
Jan Boom appeared.

There was mirth lurking in his face as he explained that he had come
over at Tom's instance.  Tom should have come to see if anything more
was wanted before he turned in for the night, but he was afraid.  His
master seemed bewitched, he declared.  He and the other two white men
were all drunk, but his master was the most drunk of all--yes, by far.
His master drunk!

At any other time we would have roared over the absurdity of the
situation, and Tom's very justifiable amazement.  Now Jan Boom was
directed to tell him to turn in, and then come back.  He came back, but
took rather long about it.  "Now _Amakosi_!" he said.  "We will start,
but no word must be spoken save in the faintest of whispers, and only
then if it cannot be avoided."

"What if Tom should take into his head to come here again?"  I asked.

"He will not, _Nkose_, I have tied him up so that he can neither move
nor speak."

"Good," I said.

The night seemed very dark as we set forth, for the moon had not yet
risen, and the starlight was insufficient to render our march easy, as
we followed the elastic stride of our silent guide.  Our excitement was
intense, as we threaded the thickness of some bushy kloof by narrow game
paths known to our guide and lit upon in the darkness with the unerring
instinct of the savage.  Every now and then a rustle and patter, as
something scurried away, and once some large animal, alarmed, started
away with a sudden and tremendous crash which it seemed must have been
heard for miles.  Not one of us dared break the Xosa's enjoinment to
strict silence, and thus we proceeded.  How long this lasted we could
only guess, but it seemed that we were hours traversing the interminable
tortuousness of bushy ravines, or scaling the side of a slope with such
care as not to disturb a single stone.  At last Jan Boom came to a halt,
and stood, listening intently.

In the gloom we could make out nothing distinct.  We were facing a dark
mass of thick bush, with a rugged boulder here and there breaking
through, as if it had fallen from a stunted krantz which crowned the
slope not very much higher above.  It took some straining of the eyes to
grasp these details.  When we looked again our guide had disappeared.

"What does it mean, Glanton?" whispered Falkner.  "What if this is
another trap and we are going to be the next to disappear?  Well, we
sha'n't do it so quietly, that's one thing."

Then through the silence came Jan Boom's voice, and--it seemed to come
from right beneath our feet.

"Down here, _Amakosi_.  Iqalaqala first."

"Down here?"  Yes--but where?  Then I saw what was a hole or cavity,
seeming to pierce the blackness of a dense wall of bush.  Without a
moment's hesitation I obeyed, and finding Jan Boom's outstretched hand I
dropped into what was curiously like a sort of deep furrow.  The others
followed, and lo--something closed behind us.  We were in pitch
darkness, and a moist and earthy smell gave out a most uncomfortable
suggestion of being buried alive.

"Now walk," whispered the Xosa.  "Let each keep hold of the one in front
of him.  But--before all--silence!"

In this way we advanced, Jan Boom leading, I keeping a hand on his
shoulder, Kendrew doing ditto as to mine, while Falkner brought up the
rear.  The place was not a cave, for every now and again we could see a
star or two glimmering high above.  It seemed like a deep fissure or
crevasse seaming the ground, but what on earth it was like above I had
no idea.

We walked lightly and on our toes in order to ensure silent progress.  A
few minutes of this and the Xosa halted.  The fissure had widened out,
and now a puff of fresh air bore token that we were getting into the
light of day, or rather of night, once more.  Nor were we sorry, for our
subterranean progress was suggestive of snakes and all kinds of horrors.
I, for one, knew by a certain feel in the air that we were approaching
water.

A little further and again we halted.  A patch of stars overhead, and
against it the black loom of what was probably a krantz or at any rate a
high bluff.  The murmur of running water, also sounding from overhead,
at the same time smote upon our ears.

It was getting lighter.  The moon was rising at last, and as we strained
our gaze through the thick bushy screen behind which we had halted, this
is what we saw.

We were looking down upon a circular pool whose surface reflected the
twinkling of the stars.  On three sides of it ran an amphitheatre of
rock, varying from six to twenty feet in height.  At the upper end where
the water fell into it in a thin stream, the rock dipped to the form of
a letter "V."  All this we could make out in the dim light of the stars,
for as yet the face of the rock was in dark shadow.  And yet, and yet--
as I gazed I could descry a striking resemblance to our own waterhole
except that this was more shut in.

"Remember," whispered the Xosa, impressively.  "There is to be no
shooting.  They are to be taken alive."

We promised, wondering the while where "they" were.  A tension of
excitement, and eagerness for the coming struggle was upon all three of
us.  For me I rebelled against the agreement which should deter me from
battering the life out of the black villains who had brought my darling
to this horrible place.  What terrors must she not have endured?  What
ghastly rites of devil worship were enacted here?

Foot by foot the light crept downwards, revealing the face of the rock
as the moon rose higher and higher.  Then a violent nudge from Falkner,
at my side--but I had already seen.

The water was pouring down upon the head of what had once been a human
being.  Now it was a dreadful, glistening slimy thing, half worn away by
the action of the running water.  It was fixed in a crucified attitude,
facing outwards, bound by the wrists to a thick pole which was stretched
across horizontally from side to side of the pool, the feet resting upon
a rock ledge beneath.  It needed not the agonised stare upon that awful
upturned face--or rather what once had been a face--to tell in what
unspeakable torture this wretched being had died.  To my mind and to
Falkner's came the recollection of our gruesome find that grey afternoon
in the northern wilds of Zululand.

Two more bodies, one little better than a skeleton, were bound similarly
on each side of the central one.  As we gazed, spellbound with horror,
we saw that which pointed to one of these being the body of a white man.

Now a dark figure appeared on the brink above the central victim,
appeared so silently and suddenly as to lend further horror to this
demon haunted spot.  We watched it in curdling horror as it stooped,
then reached down and cut the thongs which held first one wrist then the
other.  The body thus released toppled heavily into the pool with a dull
splash that echoed among the overhanging rocks.  Then it disappeared.

The figure, straightened up now, stood watching the troubled surface for
a moment.  Standing there full in the moonlight I thought to recognise
the face.  It was that of one of Tyingoza's people whom I knew by sight,
but could not fit with a name.  Then he turned to clamber back, crooning
as he did so, a strange weird song.  It was not very intelligible, but
was full of _sibongo_ to the Water Spirit, who should now delight in a
fresh victim, a rare victim, one by the side of which all former
sacrifices were but poor.  Then would the land have rain again--would
drink all the rain it needed.

Now the blood seemed to rush to my brain as though to burst it.  A red
mist came before my eyes, and my heart seemed to hammer within me as
though it would betray our place of concealment without fail.  For I
realised who this new victim--this rare victim--was to be, the victim
who was to take the place of the ghastly shapeless horror which we had
seen disappear beneath that awful surface.  A warning touch from Jan
Boom brought me back to recollection and sanity again.

Through our concealing screen we saw the man who had released the corpse
drop down the rock.  Another had joined him, and now the two crouched
down in the shadow with an air of eager expectancy as though waiting for
something or somebody.  One held in his hand a coiled thong.  Then we
heard voices, one a full, sonorous, male tone talking in the Zulu; and
another, rich, musical, feminine--and it I recognised with a tightening
of the heart.  Both were approaching, in such wise as would bring the
speakers almost within touch of us.

And the two fiends, the one with the coiled thong, and the other,
crouched--waiting.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

THE LATEST VICTIM.

There she stood--Aida, my love.  I could see every line of the sweet
pale face, turned full towards me in the moonlight, but it wore a
half-dazed look as that of one who walks and talks in her sleep.  But it
bore no sign of fear.

"This is the third night, _Inkosikazi_, and it is time to restore you to
your own people," Ukozi was saying.  "You will tell them that we have
not harmed you, but that your presence was necessary for three nights,
to render perfect our _muti_."

She looked as if she but half understood him, and nodded her head.  They
were but a few paces from us, and where they had emerged from we could
not make out.  Their backs were toward the horrid remains, and also
toward the two crouching figures.

"So now we are ready.  Come."

This was clearly a signal, for the two crouching figures sprang up and
forward to seize her.  The first went down like a felled bullock, under
a judiciously planted whack from Jan Boom's knobkerrie as we leapt from
our concealment.  Falkner had grappled with the witch doctor, but Ukozi
was a muscular and powerful savage, and it taxed all his younger
foeman's athletic resources to hold him.  He writhed and struggled, and
the two were rolling over and over on the ground.  Then Jan Boom seizing
his chance, let out again with his formidable knobkerrie, bringing it
down bang in the middle of Ukozi's skull.  He, too, flattened out.  The
third, held at the point of Kendrew's pistol, had already surrendered.

"Better tie them up sharp before they come to," said Falkner.  "Here
goes for Mr Witch Doctor anyhow."

All this had happened in a moment.  In it I had borne no active part, my
first care and attention had been given to Aida.  It was remarkable that
she showed but little surprise at the sight of me.

"Is that you, dear?  And you have come to take me home?  I am rather
relieved, for I was beginning to get a little frightened I believe.
But--what is it all about?  These people have done me no harm."

"No--thank the Lord and we four," said Falkner grimly.  "Not yet, but we
were only in the nick of time.  There--you evil beast.  You can come to
now, as soon as you like."

This to the fellow whom Jan Boom had first stunned and whom he had just
finished tying up in the most masterly manner.  The Xosa had effected
the same process with the third, under cover of Kendrew's pistol.

"Don't look round, Aida," I said.  "There's a sight it'll be as well for
you not to see.  In fact I'll take you away as soon as Jan Boom is ready
to show us the way out."

But Jan Boom was apparently not ready.  He stood glaring down upon the
prostrate and unconscious witch doctor with an expression of vindictive
hatred upon his countenance that was positively devilish.

"Not killed," he muttered in his own tongue.  "No--no--not killed.  That
were too sweet and easy for him."

"Ha-ha, Jan," guffawed Falkner.  "You were so keen on capturing the
brute alive, and now you've killed him yourself."

"He not dead," answered the Xosa in English.  "Zulu nigga's skull damn
hard.  He come to directly."

"Well it wasn't much of a scrap anyway," grumbled Falkner.  "Are there
any more of them?"

"Only two women up there at the huts," said Aida.  "But I don't
understand.  They've done me no harm."

"No, exactly.  You don't understand, but we do," answered Falkner
grimly.  "And, now, by the way, where are the said huts?"

"Up above there.  You go by the way you saw me come in.  Through that
passage."

Now we saw a narrow passage similar to the one we had entered by.  It
seemed to lead upward.

"Quite sure it's all there are?" he said.

"Yes.  There are only a couple of huts there, and I don't think there's
any way out, that side.  Oh--What is that?"

The words came out in a sort of shriek.  As ill luck would have it she
had turned and caught sight of the remains of the other two victims.
She covered her face with her hands.

"Oh take me out of this horrible place.  Now I begin to see," and she
shivered all over.

"Be brave now, darling," I whispered.  "We will go at once.  I didn't
want you to see that, but--it's only a way they have of burying their
dead," I added under a swift inspiration that a lie of that sort was
highly expedient, and even then I don't think she more than half
believed me.

Jan Boom the while, together with Kendrew, had been acting in a
thoroughly practical manner, by way of rendering the situation more
secure.  They had tied the three prisoners together by the leg, in
addition to their other bonds, and this was as well, for the pair who
had been stunned were showing signs of returning consciousness.  Then we
held a council of war.  It was arranged that Jan Boom was to return with
Aida and myself to my place, thence he was to take one of the horses and
ride straight on to Major Sewin's and return with the police.  The while
Kendrew and Falkner would remain, and mount guard over the prisoners.

"Mind you sing out loud enough when you come back, Jan," said Falkner
meaningly.  "Because we are going to blow the head off the very first
nigger that happens to poke his nose in upon us through either of those
holes, and that without warning too."

The Xosa grinned broadly.

"No fear, I'll sing out, sir," he said in English.  "But you look after
Ukozi.  Witch doctor damn smart nigga.  Plaps he get away."

"If he does he's welcome to," rejoined Falkner, poking the muzzle of his
pistol against the shaven head of the principal prisoner, who having now
recovered consciousness was staring stupidly about him.  "Eh, my buck?
But we won't cheat the hangman in your case, no fear."

I was unspeakably glad on Aida's account, to find ourselves through the
horrid tunnel-like way by which we had entered, and out in the wholesome
night air again.  She seemed none the worse for her adventures, and was
wonderfully plucky.  She never could feel anything but safe with me, she
declared.

The way was much easier now in the clear moonlight than when we had
come, under the light of the stars, and as we walked she told me as well
as she was able, what had befallen her on the afternoon of her solitary
walk.  When I chided her for undertaking a solitary walk she answered
that she could not imagine harm overtaking her with so powerful a
protector as Arlo.

"I don't know why," she went on, "but I felt a half unconscious
inclination to go over that way we came together that evening before you
went.  Suddenly I discovered that Arlo was no longer with me.  I called
him but he didn't come.  This was strange, so I turned back, still
calling him.  Then I saw him lying as if he was dead, and bending over
him were two natives.  They started up at the sound of my voice, and I
recognised Ivondwe and the witch doctor."

"Ivondwe?  Ah!"  I interrupted, for a new light had now struck me.
"Yes.  Go on."

"They called to me to come--and I advanced, dreadfully concerned about
poor Arlo, and then I don't know how it was, whether some instinct
warned me, or whether it was a look I saw pass between them, but--I
acted like an idiot.  I turned and ran.  You see, I lost my head
completely."

For answer I pressed the hand that rested on my arm closer to my side.

"Well, and what then?"  I said.

"As soon as I began to run they came after me.  As I say--I had lost my
head completely, and hardly knew where I was going.  Then, suddenly, I
found myself on the brink of the waterhole; in fact I had nearly fallen
into it.  I turned, and the two were right upon me.  `Why had I run
away?' they asked.  `There was surely nothing to be afraid of.  Surely I
knew them both well enough.  My dog was lying there dead and they had
been trying to see what they could do for him.'

"I was unaccountably frightened, and dreadfully out of breath after the
run.  I felt half faint.  Then just as I began to think I had behaved
like a fool something was thrown over my head from behind, something
that seemed saturated with some particularly overpowering and nauseous
drug.  Then I became unconscious, and only recovered when I found myself
at the place we have just come from--or rather in a small kraal in a
hollow just above it."

"And you have been there all the time.  Aida, you are sure they have not
injured you?"

"Oh yes.  On the contrary they were quite deferential, the witch doctor
especially.  He told me my presence was necessary for a certain time on
account of an important rain-making ceremony he was engaged in.  After
that I should be taken home again.  Well I thought it advisable to make
a virtue of necessity, and conciliate them.  I even began to enter into
the adventure of the thing, and supposed I was going to witness some
quaint and rare native superstition.  Another thing.  The drug that at
first overpowered me had left a strange effect--I believe it is a little
upon me still.  It was a sort of half drowsy apathetic feeling, as if it
was too much trouble to think about anything.  The women there took care
of me, great care; they were Ukozi's wives they said.  Well, this
evening he came to me and said the moon was right, and with my help, he
had accomplished all he wanted, and it would soon rain abundantly.  The
time had come to take me home and he would guide me there.  Do you know,
he can talk English quite well?"

"No--by Jove I didn't.  He's kept it remarkably dark hitherto.  Yet he
wasn't talking English when you appeared."

"No he wasn't.  I've got to understand them rather well by this time.
Well, then you all burst out upon us and here I am."

"Thank God for that!"  I said fervently.  "There's another, too, of whom
the same holds good, Jan Boom here."

The Xosa, who was walking a little ahead of us, paused at the sound of
his name and waited for us.

"_Nkose_," he said, speaking in the vernacular.  "Did you promise to
tell me before three moons were dead, whether you were sorry you had
kept me in your service or not?"

"That I did, Jan Boom, and you know the answer.  Nor will you find me
forgetful--_impela_!"

"_Nkose_!" he ejaculated and walked on.

"I have yet to get the whole mystery out of him," I said in a low tone,
"but for that I must wait his own time."

There was another "time" for which I meant to wait.  Not yet would I
reveal to Aida the horrible fate to which the repulsive superstition of
the witch doctor had consigned her.  That she would learn in due course.
At present I wanted her to recover completely from the effects of her
experience.

It was close upon dawn when we reached my place, and as I attended to
the refreshment and comfort of my love, after her trying and perilous
experience, it was as a foretaste of the future.  Her people would be
here as soon as they could possibly arrive, meanwhile she was under my
care.  And she needed sleep.

Tom, now cut loose from his night's bonds, but none the worse, came up
looking very sulky and foolish, and muttering vengeance against the
Xosa, who for his part cared not a straw for such.  A judicious present
however soon altered that mood, and I believe he would have been quite
willing to undergo the same treatment over again on the same terms, and
bustled about making himself generally useful with renewed zest.

Ah, how fair arose that morning's dawn.  All that I held precious--my
whole world as it were--lay peacefully sleeping within that hut, and
while I kept guard outside, half fearing lest again that priceless gem
should be stolen from its casket, an overwhelming rush of intense
thankfulness surged deep through my heart.  What had I done--what could
I ever do--to deserve such a gift, now valued, if possible, a
hundredfold by reason of the awful agony and blank of a temporary loss?

Far down in the river-bed lay waves of fleecy mist, and the rising sun
gilded the heights with his early splendour.  Birds piped and flashed
among the dewy bush sprays, and the low of cattle and bark of a dog from
a distant kraal floated upward.  All was fair and bright and peaceful--
and within--my love still slept on, serene, quiet, secure.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE DEW.

Aida looked none the worse for her adventures as she came forth into the
clear freshness of the morning.  The lethargic effect of the drug seemed
to have left her entirely, and she was quite her old self, bright,
sunny, fascinating as ever.  But scarcely had we begun to talk than we
saw three persons approaching on horseback.

"They haven't lost much time coming for you," I said, as I made out the
rest of the family.  "And I wanted you all to myself a little longer."

"You mustn't say that, dear," she answered, with a return pressure from
the hand I was holding.  "They are perhaps just a little bit fond of me
too."

"Hallo, Glanton," sung out the Major, breathless with excitement, as he
rode up.  "What the dickens is this cock and bull yarn your fellow has
been spinning us.  I can't make head or tail of it and I didn't stop to
try.  Anyhow, there's my little girl again all safe and sound.  She is
safe and sound?  Eh?"

"Absolutely, father," answered Aida, for herself.  And then there was a
good deal of bugging and kissing all round, and some crying; by the way,
it seems that the women, dear creatures, can't be brought to consider
any ceremony complete unless they turn on the hose; for they turn it on
when they're happy, just as readily as when they're not.  For instance--
there we were, all jolly together again--what the deuce was there to cry
about?  Yet cry they did.

I had breakfast set out in the open on the shady side of the store, with
the broad view of the Zulu country lying beneath in the distance, and
they declared it reminded them of that memorable time when the _contre
temps_ as to Tyingoza's head-ring had befallen.  And then when Aida had
given her adventures once more in detail, through sheer reaction we were
all intensely happy after the dreadful suspense and gloom of the last
three days.  At length it was I who proposed we should make a move down,
for it would be as well to be on hand when the others returned with the
police and the prisoners.

"By Jove, Glanton, but you were right when you advised me to have
nothing to do with that rascally witch doctor," said the Major, as we
rode along.  "One consolation.  I suppose he's bound to be hung.  Eh?"

"That depends on how we work the case," I said.  "And it'll take a great
deal of working."

Hardly had we returned than the others arrived, bringing the three
prisoners, and two more in the shape of the women of whom Aida had told
us.  These however were kept entirely separate from Ukozi and his
companions.  No conversation between them was allowed.

Ukozi was sullen and impassive, but the younger prisoners glared around
with a savage scowl which deepened as it rested on Falkner.  He for
response only grinned.

"All right my bucks," he said.  "There's a rope and a long drop sticking
out for you.  By George, but this has been a ripping bit of fun for one
night."

"That's all right," I said rather shortly.  "But you might remember that
the reason for it hasn't been fun by any means."

"No, not for you, that's understood," he sneered, turning away, for he
was still more than a little sore over my success.

"Glanton, I've something devilish rum to tell you."

The speaker was Kendrew.  "Come out of the crowd," he went on.  "Yes, it
just is rum, and it gave me a turn, I can tell you.  First of all, that
nest of murderers we tumbled into, is bang on the edge of--if not
within--my own place.  Yes, it is my own place now--beyond a shadow of
doubt.  For we've unearthed something there."

"You don't mean--" I began, beginning to get an inkling.

He nodded.

"Yes, I do.  The furthest of those two poor devils stuck up there
against the rock--ugh!--was poor old Hensley--my old uncle."

"Good lord!"

"Yes indeed.  I was able to identify him by several things--ugh, but it
wasn't a nice job, you understand.  But the mystery is not how he
couldn't be found at the time, but how the deuce such a neat little
devil hole could exist on the place at all, unknown to any of us.  Why,
you can't get in--or out of it--at all from the top, only through the
hole we slipped in by.  It's like a false bottom to a box by Jove.
Yes--it's rum how such a place could exist."

I thought so too.  So now poor old Hensley's disappearance stood
explained; and the explanation was pitiable.  He had been beguiled--or
forcibly brought--to the hell pit of cruelty where these demons
performed the dark rites of some secret superstition, and there horribly
done to death by the water torture.  When I thought of the one who had
been destined to succeed him, and who by the mercy of Providence had
been snatched from their fiendish hands just in the nick of time, a sort
of "seeing red" feeling came over me, and had they been in my power, I
could have massacred all four of the prisoners with my own hand.

"Let's see if we can get anything out of them, Kendrew," I said.
"Manvers won't mind."

But Inspector Manvers did mind--at first.  Then he agreed.  They would
be started off for the Police Camp that night; however, as they were
here we could talk to them.

We might just as well have saved ourselves the trouble.  Ivondwe, who
had been kept apart from the others, smiled sweetly and wondered what
all the bother was about.  He could not imagine why he had been seized
and tied up.  However that would soon come right.  Government was his
father, but it had made a mistake.  However he, as its child, could not
complain even if his father had made a mistake.  It would all come
right.

The witch doctor simply refused to speak at all, but the young men
jeered.  One of these I seemed to recognise.

"Surely I have seen thee before?"  I said.  "Where?"

"_Kwa 'Sipanga_?"

"I remember.  Atyisayo is thy name.  `Hot water.'  And I warned thee not
to get into any more hot water--as the whites say."

He laughed at this--but evilly, and no further word could I get out of
either of them.

But if they would reveal nothing there was another who would, and that
was Jan Boom.  Him I had refrained from questioning until we should be
all quiet again.

The police, with the exception of three men, who had been detailed to
remain on the spot and keep their eyes and ears open, started off that
same evening with their prisoners.  Later, Jan Boom came to the house
and gave me to understand he had something to tell me.  The family had
just gone to bed, and Kendrew and I were sitting out on the stoep
smoking a last pipe.

"_Nkose_, the time has now come," he said, "to tell you what will sound
strange to your ears.  I would not tell it before, no, not till the
_Amapolise_ had gone.  The _Amapolise_ are too fond of asking many
questions--foolish questions--asking them, too, as if they thought you
were trying to throw sand in their eyes when all the time you are trying
to help them.  Now is that encouraging to one who would help them?"

I readily admitted that it was not.

"So now, _Nkose_, if you will come forth with me where we shall not be
heard--yes, the nephew of Nyamaki may come, too--for my tale is not for
all ears, you shall hear it."

We needed no second invitation.  As we followed him I could not but call
to mind, in deep and thankful contrast, his revelation of two nights
ago--made in the same way and on the same spot.

"You will have heard, _Amakosi_," he began, "of the tribe called
Amazolo, or the People of the Dew, which flourished in Natal before
Tshaka's impis drove the tribes of that land into the mountains or the
sea.

"It was out of this tribe that the principal rainmakers came.  So sure
and successful were they in making rain that they were always in
request.  Even Tshaka, the Great, came to hear of them, and was never
without some of them at his Great Place, Dukuza, but as to these, well--
he was ever sending for a fresh supply.  But he, that Elephant, and
Dingane after him, protected the Amazolo, so that they became looked up
to and respected among all peoples.

"Now Luluzela, the chief of that tribe, was jealous of the first
rain-making doctor, Kukuleyo, for it had come to this--that Luluzela was
chief of the Amazolo but Kukuleyo was chief of him.  So Luluzela waited
patiently and watched his chances, for he dare not strike the rain
doctor openly because Dingane favoured him, and had anything happened to
him would soon have demanded to know the reason why.  One day
accordingly, knowing some of the mysteries himself, he ordered Kukuleyo
to bring rain.  The cattle were dying for want of water, and the crops
were parched.  The people would soon be dying too.  But Kukuleyo
answered that the moment was not propitious; that anything he did then
would anger the _izituta_ instead of propitiating them, and that when
the time was right a sacrifice must be offered; not of cattle but of
something quite beyond the ordinary.  The chief jeered at this, but said
the rain doctors might offer any sacrifice they chose."

"`Any sacrifice they chose?'" echoed Kukuleyo with emphasis.

"Yes.  Any sacrifice they chose," repeated the chief, angry and
sneering.  But if rain did not come within a certain time why then
Kukuleyo and all those who helped him should suffer the fate which had
always been that of impostors.

"Soon after this, clouds began to gather in the heavens, and to spread
and fly like vultures when they scent death afar.  In a roaring
thunder-rush they broke, and the land, all parched and cracked and
gaping, ran off the water in floods.  There was rejoicing, and yet not,
for it had all come too quickly and violently, washing away and drowning
the cattle which it should have restored to life, and covering the
cornlands with thick layers of unfruitful sand.  The people murmured
against Kukuleyo and his rainmakers, the chief waxed fierce, and
threatened.  But his answer was firm and quiet.  `Lo, I have brought you
rain.'

"Still, good followed, for when the worst had passed the worst, and the
water was run off, the land was green again, and all things grew and
thrived and fattened.  But--then followed consternation on other
grounds.  The chief's son, Bacaza, had disappeared.

"He had disappeared, suddenly and in mystery.  No trace was left.  He
might have gone into empty air.  At first Luluzela was angry, then
alarmed.  He sent for Kukuleyo.

"But the rain doctor's face was like rock.  What had he to do with the
disappearance of people? he said.  He was a rainmaker.  He was not
trained in unfolding mysteries.  The chief of the Amazolo had better
send for an _isanusi_ if he wanted this one unfolded.

"And then, _Amakosi_, a discovery was made.  Bacaza, the son of the
chief was found--what was left of him that is.  He was spread out
beneath the falling water above a lonely pool, and was so arranged that
the constant flow of water falling upon the back of his head and neck,
slowly wore him to death.  But it took days of awful agony such as no
words could tell."

"How do you know that, Jan Boom?"  I said, moved to an uneasiness of
horror by the vivid way in which the Xosa was telling his story, for his
eyes rolled and he passed his hand quickly over his face to wipe off the
beads of perspiration.  Clearly the recollection was a real and a
terrible one to him.

"I know it, because I have been through it," he answered.  "For a whole
night, and part of a day I have been through it.  _Hau_! it is not a
thing to look back to, _Amakosi_.  But let me tell my tale.  When
Luluzela heard what had been done he sent for Kukuleyo, intending to put
him and his rainmakers to a slow and lingering death by fire.  But
Kukuleyo was no fool.  He appeared armed, and with a great force at his
back, so that that plan could not be carried out.  For some time they
looked at each other like two bulls across a kraal fence, then Kukuleyo
said:--

"`Did not the chief of the Amazolo bid us offer any sacrifice we
pleased, in order to obtain the desired rain?'

"`Eh-he, any sacrifice we pleased,' echoed his followers, clamorously.

"`Why then, have I not taken the chief at his word?' went on Kukuleyo,
defiantly.  `Nothing less than his son would satisfy the _izituta_, and
his son have we offered.  And--has it not rained?  Ah!  Ah!  "Any
sacrifice we pleased," was the word,' he went on mockingly.  `The word
of the chief.'

"But Luluzela did not wait to hear more.  With a roar of rage, he and
those that were with him, hurled themselves upon the rainmakers.  But
these had come prepared, and had a goodly following too, all armed, many
who were dissatisfied with Luluzela's rule--where is there a chief
without some dissatisfied adherents?--and who had benefited by the rain.
Then there was a great fight, and in it the chief was slain, but
Kukuleyo came out without a scratch.  This led to other fighting, and
the tribe was broken up, some wandering one way, some another.  But ever
since then the Amazolo have been in request.  The scattered remnants
thus drifted, but whenever a severe drought occurred some of them were
sure to be found.  With them they took the tradition of the sacrifice of
Luluzela's son."

"But," I said.  "Do they sacrifice someone every time rain is wanted?"

"Not every time, _Nkose_.  Still it is done, and that to a greater
extent than you white people have any idea of.  And it would have
continued to be done if Ukozi had not conceived the idea of turning to
white people for his victims.  Hence the disappearance of Nyamaki.  This
time it was intended to seize Umsindo, but he is a great fighting bull,
and would not only have injured others, but would most certainly have
got injured himself; and it is essential that the victim who is put
through _ukuconsa_ as it is called, shall be entirely uninjured.  So
they chose the _Inkosikazi_ instead."

"But, Jan Boom," put in Kendrew.  "How on earth did they manage, in the
case of my uncle, to spirit him away as they did--and leave no trace?"

"That I cannot tell you, _Nkose_.  You must get that from Ukozi, if he
will tell."

"Here is another thing," I said.  "Even if Ukozi belongs to this tribe,
Atyisayo and Ivondwe do not.  They are of Tyingoza's people."

"That is true, _Nkose_.  But the thing is no longer confined to the
Amazolo.  It has become a close and secret brotherhood, and all may
belong.  They are called _Abangan 'ema zolweni_, the Comrades--or
Brotherhood--of the Dew.  And--it is everywhere.  You remember what we
found in Majendwa's country?  Well that was a victim of _ukuconsa_ and
it surprised me, because I had not thought the custom had found its way
into Zululand."

"And what of the pool here, and the big serpent, and Ukozi feeding it
with the kid?"  I asked, for I had already told him about this.

"The snake embodies the Water Spirit," he said.  "It is customary to
feed such with offerings."

"Was there then a snake in the other pool which we found?"  I asked,
feeling a creepy, shuddering horror run through me at the thought of the
indescribably ghastly fate which had hung over my darling and from which
we had only just been in time to save her, thanks to the shrewd
promptitude of this staunch fellow, whom I had begun by disliking and
mistrusting.

"That I cannot say, _Nkose_.  But I think not.  The water torture goes
on for days, and the victim is left just as he is until he falls off or
room is made for a fresh one, as we saw them so make it there."

"But you.  How was it you were doomed to it, and how did you escape?"
asked Kendrew.

"That is a long story, and it will I tell another time.  I was living in
Pondoland then, not far on the other side of the Umtavuna.  Ukozi did
that, but now I shall have revenge.  Tell me, _Amakosi_, will not your
people have him lashed before they hang him?  If so I should like to see
that."

It was little wonder that this savage should give way to the intensity
of his vindictive feeling.  We white men both felt that mere hanging was
too good for these fiends.  But we were obliged to assure him that such
was very unlikely.

"When we returned from the Zulu country," he went on, "I began to put
things together.  I remembered what we had found up there, and what with
Ukozi being in these parts and the sudden disappearance of Nyamaki, a
little while before, I felt sure that the Brotherhood of the Dew was at
work.  I asked you to keep me with you, _Nkose_, because I saw my way
now, by striking at it, to revenge myself upon Ukozi for the torture he
had made me undergo.  _Whau_! and it is torture!  That of the fire
cannot be worse.  I knew that the Brotherhood would be strong, because
among the people here there are so many names that have to do with
water--from Tyingoza and his son downwards--"

I started.  Yes, it was even as he said.  There were many names of just
that description.  But Tyingoza!  Could that open-mannered,
straightforward chief for whom I had always entertained the highest
regard, really be one of that black, devilish murder society!

"Moreover," he went on, "I knew whence they would draw their next
victim.  I, too, have eyes and ears, _Nkose_, as well as yourself," he
said, with a whimsical laugh, "and I used them.  The _Abangan 'ema
zolweni_ were strong in numbers, but otherwise weak.  Their brethren
were too young and--they talked--ah--ah--they talked.  Hence I was able
to follow Atyisayo to where I guided you.  The rest was easy."

"Well, Jan Boom," I said seeing he had finished his story.  "You will
find you have done the very best day's work for yourself as well as for
others that you ever did in your life."

"_Nkose_ is my father," he answered with a smile.  "I am in his hands."

Neither Kendrew nor I said much as we returned to the house.  This
hideous tale of a deep and secret superstition, with its murderous
results, existent right in our midst, was too strange, too startling,
and yet, every word of it bore infinite evidence of truth.  Well, it
proved what I have more than once stated, that no white man ever gets to
the bottom of a native's innermost ways, however much he may think he
does.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

THE LAST PENALTY.

Inspector Manvers was a shrewd as well as a smart officer, and it was
not long before he had obtained from the two frightened women who had
been made prisoners, sufficient information to warrant him in making
several additional arrests.  These, which were effected cleverly and
quietly, included no less a personage than Ivuzamanzi, the son of
Tyingoza.  This would have astonished me, I own, but for Jan Boom's
narrative; besides after the defection of Ivondwe I was prepared to be
astonished at nothing.

An exhaustive search was made of the gruesome den of death, and in the
result the identity of poor Hensley was established beyond a doubt, as
his nephew had said.  The police spared no pains.  They dragged the
bottom of the waterhole with grappling hooks, and brought up a quantity
of human bones, and old tatters of rotted clothing.  It was obvious that
quite a number of persons had been done to death here.

"The _Abangan 'ema zolweni_ were strong in numbers but otherwise weak.
Their brethren were too young, and--they talked."  Such had been Jan
Boom's dictum, and now events combined to bear it out.  Two of the
younger prisoners, fearing for their lives, confessed.  This example was
followed by others, and soon ample evidence was available to draw the
web tight round the witch doctor, Ivondwe, Ivuzamanzi and Atyisayo, as
prime movers in the whole diabolical cult.  And then, that there could
be no further room for doubt, Ukozi himself confessed.

I own that I was somewhat astonished at this.  But since his
incarceration the witch doctor's spirit seemed completely to fail him,
which was strange; for a native, especially one of his age and standing,
does not, as a rule, fear death.  But fear, abject and unmistakable, had
now taken hold of this one.  He trembled and muttered, and at times it
seemed as if his mind would give way.  Then he declared his willingness
to make a statement.  Perhaps his life would be spared.

But he was given to understand he need entertain no hopes of that kind
if he should be convicted at the trial.  Even then he persisted.  He
wanted to throw off the load, he said, for it lay heavy on his heart.

His statement was consistent with that of all the others, moreover it
tallied with all that Jan Boom had told me.  The part of it that was
peculiar was the manner in which they had been able to remove their
victims so as to leave no trace.  This had been done by means of muffled
shoes.  The drug administered had the effect of putting them into a kind
of trance.  They had all their faculties about them, save only that of
volition, but afterwards they would remember nothing.  Nyamaki had been
easily removed because he lived alone.  He, like Major Sewin, the witch
doctor had gradually imbued with a taste for the occult.  After that all
was easy.  It had at first been intended to entrap the Major, then his
nephew, but for the reasons that Jan Boom had already given me, this
plan was abandoned.  Then it was decided to seize his eldest daughter.
Such a sacrifice as that could not fail to move the Spirit of the Dew,
and to bring abundant rain.

No, she had in no way been injured.  To have injured her would have been
to have rendered the whole rite invalid.  As for Ivondwe, he had gone to
the Major's with the object of forwarding the plan when it was ripe.  He
was almost as great among the Brethren of the Dew as Ukozi himself.
Ivuzamanzi?  Yes, he, too, was among the foremost of them.  Tyingoza
belonged to the Brotherhood, but he had been enrolled unwillingly, and
had never taken part in any of their deeper mysteries: nor indeed, did
they come within his knowledge.

Thus ran Ukozi's confession.  When it was read out at the trial it
created a profound sensation, as, indeed, did the whole case in the
columns of the Colonial Press, which clamoured for a signal example to
be made of the offenders.  And the Court by which they were tried was of
the same opinion.

When those who had turned Queen's evidence had been sifted out--of
course with the exception of Ukozi--there was still a round dozen for
trial.  The Court-house at Grey Town was crammed.  Natives especially,
had mustered in crowds, but so far from there being any turbulence, or
tendency to rescue, these were, if anything, considerably awed by the
very circumstances of the case itself.  Most of them indeed had never
heard of the _Abangan 'ema zolweni_, and a new and stimulating matter of
discussion was thus supplied to them.

The confession of Ukozi, and of the others of course went far to
simplify the trial.  Still, the fairness and impartiality for which
British jurisprudence is famous, was fully extended to the accused.  I
personally can bear witness to a good hour in the box, most of which was
spent in cross-examination for the defence.  The same held good of
Kendrew and Falkner, the latter of whom by the way, drew down upon
himself some very nasty remarks from the Bench, by reason of having
stated in answer to a question as to whether he had not expressed a wish
to see these men hanged--that he would cheerfully see every nigger in
Natal hanged if he had his way, and they had their deserts.  But he
didn't care.  As he confided to me afterwards, what did it matter what
an old fool in a gown said when he knew he couldn't have his head
punched for saying it.

Aida, too, was called upon to go through the ordeal, and of course she
did it well.  In fact a murmur of appreciation ran through the native
section of the audience when she emphatically agreed with the defending
counsel's suggestion, in cross-examination, that she had not been
ill-treated in any way.  There was, too, a great cloud of native
witnesses.  Jan Boom, in particular, had a long and trying time of it,
but the Xosa was a man of parts, and a good bit of a lawyer himself in
his way.  There was no shaking his evidence on any one single point.
Thus, as I have said, in spite of his confession, Ukozi and his fellow
accused were given every chance.

The indictment, so far, was confined to the murder of Hensley.  Had it
broken down--which of course was inconceivable--the prisoners would have
been re-indicted for the murder of the native victims, of two, at any
rate, whose identity could have been easily established.  Failing
necessity, for the sake of their relatives, in view of possible danger
involved to these, it was not deemed expedient to include them in the
formal ground of indictment.  The verdict of course, could only be
"Guilty."  The four--viz. Ukozi, Ivuzamanzi, Ivondwe and Atyisayo--were
brought in as principals--the others as accessories--some before, some
after the fact.

Never shall I forget the scene in court, as they were asked whether they
had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon
them.  It was just sundown, and an angry storm had been raging outside
for fully an hour.  Growling, cracking peals of thunder had interrupted
the judge's summing up, and now, during a lull, the glare of a wet
sunset came in through the windows, and a few heavy drops of rain still
fell like stones on the corrugated iron roof during the tense silence.
They stood in the dock those twelve dark figures, some leaning eagerly
forward over the rail, their eyeballs protruding in the climax of the
moment's excitement, others impassive and statuesque.  Amid the public
was a subdued, hush.  The native public especially seemed turned to
stone.

In answer to the appeal the bulk of the prisoners shook their heads.
They had nothing to say, they declared, and then subsided into stolid
silence.  But when it came to the turn of Ivondwe, he harangued the
Court at some length.  The white man, he said, professed to be the
protector and tolerator of all religions.  Now this, for which they
stood there, was part of the black man's religion--or at any rate a
section of it.  Why then, was not that tolerated too?  Ivuzamanzi, when
it came to his turn, answered with heat, that he was the son of a
chief--that he was a Zulu of the tribe of Umtetwa; that he cared nothing
for a set of preaching whites and their stupid laws; that he only wished
he had crossed the river long ago, and gone to _konza_ to Cetywayo.
There he would have been in a warrior land where the head-ring of his
father and chief could not have been insulted with impunity by a
swaggering _igcwane_ like the one who sat yonder--pointing to Falkner--
who, however, perhaps fortunately, didn't understand what was being said
until the interpreter had rendered it, and then it was too late to kick
up a row.  Then he might have joined one day in driving the whites into
the sea, where sooner or later they would all be driven.  He was the son
of a chief and could die like one.  He was not going to lie down and
howl for mercy like a miserable cheat of an _isanusi_.

This with a savage glare at Ukozi.

The latter said not much.  He had confessed.  He had done what he could
to put right what had been done.  His life was in the hands of the
Government.

The judge drew on the black cap, and proceeded to pass formal sentence.

The twelve prisoners before him, he said, after a long and painstaking
trial extending over several days, had been convicted of the most
heinous crime known to the law, that of murder, the penalty of which was
death.  They had only been indicted for, and found guilty of one murder,
but there was ample evidence that many others had lain at their door.
This murder then, was the outcome of one of the vilest, most benighted
forms of superstition that had ever disgraced our common humanity,
whether black or white.  As for urging, as one of the prisoners had
done, that such murder was part of the black man's religion--or
anybody's religion--why he could only say that such a statement was a
slander upon the honest, straightforward, native population of the
Colony, of whose good and trustworthy qualities he personally had had
many years of experience.  It was a relic of the blackest and most
benighted days of past heathenism, and it was clear that a bold attempt
had been made on the part of the prisoner Ukozi, to revive and spread it
in the midst of a peaceful and law-abiding native population living
contentedly under the Queen's rule and under the Queen's laws.  Once
these terrible superstitions--and their outcome of foul and mysterious
murder--took root, there was no seeing where they would end, therefore
it was providential that this wicked and horrible conspiracy against the
lives of their fellow subjects had been brought to light, and he would
especially urge, and solemnly warn, his native hearers present in court
to set their faces resolutely against anything of the kind in their
midst.  Not for one moment would it be tolerated, nor would any plea of
custom, or such a travesty of the sacred name of religion, as had been
brought forward by one of the prisoners, be even so much as considered
in mitigation of the just doom meted out by the law to all who should be
found guilty of such an offence.

Sentence of death was then formally passed upon the whole dozen.

There were many influential natives among the audience in court.  These,
I could see, were impressed, and in the right direction, moreover I
gathered from their comments, which I overheard as they dispersed, that
to many of them the existence of the Brotherhood of the Dew came as a
revelation.  And the comments were diverse and instructive.

"_Au_!" one man remarked.  "There is but one among the twelve who wears
the head-ring, and he is the one that shows fear."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The death sentence in the case of all but three was subsequently
commuted to various terms of imprisonment.  Those three were Ukozi,
Ivondwe and Ivuzamanzi.  As for the latter, Tyingoza had got up a large
deputation to the Governor, begging that his son's life should be
spared, but without avail.  Ivuzamanzi had taken an active part in this
new outlet of a destructive superstition, and it was felt that as the
son of an influential chief, he of all others should be made an example
of.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I don't know how it was--call it morbid curiosity if you like--but
anyhow I was there when these three paid the last penalty.  I had
visited them in the gaol once.  Ivondwe had talked as if nothing had
happened, about old times and what not.  The witch doctor was cowering
and piteous.  Could _I_ do nothing to save him.  He would remember it to
the end of his days, and would tell me many things that would be useful
to me.  I told him plainly I could do nothing, but in consideration did
not add that I would not if I could, for if ever miscreant deserved his
fate he did.  I gave them some tobacco however, poor wretches, and that
was all I could do for them.  Ivuzamanzi was stormily abusive, so I did
not waste time over him.  Yet for him, I felt pity, as one led away,
and--was not he the son of my old friend?

It had been decided that the execution should, contrary to custom, be a
public one.  It was reckoned that the opportunity would be a good one
for striking terror among the natives, as an example of the fate that
would certainly overtake, sooner or later, all who should indulge in
similar practices.  Rightly it was argued that a terrible superstition
of this nature, fostered by a secret society and finding its logical
outcome in barbarous and abominable forms of murder, needed to be
sternly stamped out.

On a grey and cloudy morning Ukozi, Ivondwe and Ivuzamanzi were led
forth to die.  There had been rain in the night, which had left a raw
chill in the air; while the wind sang mournfully as it drove the low
clouds along the hill tops.  A pit had been dug in front of the gaol, to
serve as a drop, and over this the gallows had been erected.  From an
early hour natives had been coming in by twos and threes, and now a
crowd of several hundreds of them had assembled.  Their demeanour
however was neither turbulent nor defiant, on the contrary it was
remarkably subdued, and they conversed in awed undertones.  With a view
to any possible demonstration a full troop of Mounted Police was
disposed around the scaffold, with bandoliers filled, and all ready for
action, but the precaution was unnecessary.  The temper of the dark
crowd was one of subdued awe as it contemplated the preparations for
this grim and unaccustomed method of exit from life; in short just the
very effect intended to be produced by making the execution a public
one.

A hollow murmur ran over the crowd like a wave as the gaol doors swung
open and the prisoners appeared, pinioned.  Their demeanour was varied.
That of Ukozi showed, unmistakably, fear--shrinking fear.  At sight of
the scaffold something like a tremor ran through the frame of the witch
doctor, and he half stopped instinctively, while his lips moved in
piteous protest.  Ivondwe was as impassive as a statue; but the chief's
son walked with his head thrown back, his tall form erect, and a bitter
scowl of hate and defiance upon his face.  Then his glance met mine.

"That is the man through whom I am here," he roared.  "Are there none
present to whom I may bequeath my vengeance?"  And he glared around.

"Yet I saved thy life once, son of Tyingoza," I answered, speaking so
that all could hear, and this I did with a purpose.

"Walk on, Ivuzamanzi, and die like the son of a chief," said the sheriff
to him in a low tone.  And he obeyed.

The Indian hangman and his assistant did their work quickly and well,
and the three disappeared from view, hardly a quiver in the ropes
showing that they had met death instantaneously, and in infinitely more
merciful fashion than the lingering and horrible manner in which they
had meted it out to so many unsuspecting victims sacrificed to their
abominable and devilish superstition; and as I thought of one who came
within an ace of adding to the number of such victims I could feel no
pity for them now, which may have been wrong, but if it is I can't help
it.

In pursuance of the policy which had decreed that the execution should
be public, the natives were allowed to come forward in batches and view
the bodies if they wished.  Many did so come forward, and the sight of
the three hanging there, still and motionless, with the white caps drawn
over their heads and faces, seemed to impress them deeply, judging from
the remarks they made as they went away.  Moreover I have reason to
believe the effect was salutary and lasting.  The pomp and awe and
mystery of it appealed to them powerfully.

I had a reason for answering Ivuzamanzi, otherwise I would not have
seemed to wrangle with a man on the very steps of the scaffold.  For, be
it remembered, he was the son of a powerful chief, and his words might
be in the highest degree dangerous to myself, and I had no hankering to
be marked out as the object of a vendetta.  But I knew that natives have
a strong sense of justice, and the fact that I had once saved his life
being made known, would go far towards taking the sting out of his
denunciation.

"He feared," said a native voice at my elbow.

I turned quickly, though I knew the voice.  It was that of Jan Boom.

"He feared," repeated the Xosa.  "He feared death.  His heart melted to
water within him.  _Silungile_!  Now am I avenged."



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

CONCLUSION.

For all the brave way in which Aida had taken her grisly experience--and
the full gruesomeness of her peril and narrow escape had been borne in
upon her, especially during the trial and the revelations it had
evolved--an impression had been left upon her mind which rendered the
life to which she had been looking forward, and its associations,
distasteful to her for the present.  So after our marriage, which took
place a month later than the dark and tragical circumstances I have just
recorded, we decided to start for a prolonged tour of a year or more in
Europe.

That time was a halcyon time for me, falling in no whit short of what I
had always pictured it in anticipation.  We did not hurry ourselves.  We
took things easily, and thus were spared all the worry and flurry of
those who do not.  In consequence we were able to enjoy to the full the
pick of the Old World in all that was beautiful or interesting, and
after my twenty years of up-country knocking about, and generally
roughing it, everything enjoyed in such association was both.

The farm I had bought for our joint occupation I was able to dispose of
at a trifling loss, and my trading store I sold at some profit; which
made things not merely as broad as they were long, as the saying goes,
but broader.  But before we started on our tour it transpired that Edith
Sewin and Kendrew had managed to compass a very mutual excellent
understanding--it might have occurred to me at the time of our anxiety
and grief that Kendrew had displayed quite an unusual familiarity in his
references to my sister-in-law elect, but I suppose in the all-absorbing
anguish of my own loss I had no mind to give to any such trivial detail.
But as we were to be away a long time, the artful dog took advantage of
the circumstance to hurry forward his own ambition.  It would never do,
he urged--they both urged--for the presence of her only sister to be
wanting at Edith's marriage, and in the result if there was not a double
wedding, at any rate there were two within a very short time of each
other.  Well, we were all glad.  Kendrew was a good fellow--a thoroughly
good fellow--and the farm he had inherited through poor old Hensley's
murder was a right good one.  He was going to throw up transport-riding
and work it, he declared, and he did.

The old people, reft thus of both their daughters, decided to leave the
frontier and settle just outside Durban; an excellent climate and
country for those who have spent most of their lives in India.  The farm
was turned over to Falkner; who, by the way, soon blossomed into a
remarkably able and energetic colonist.  His sheer brutal pluck won him
the very real and undiluted respect of the natives, and after not more
than three attempts had been made upon his life, these came to the
conclusion that "Umsindo" was really great, and one whom, taking him all
round, it was no disgrace or disadvantage to serve; for with all his
faults he was open-handed, and this tells.  He was a very devil, they
declared, but one that it was better to be with than against, and so he
prospered.  But he soon found a better outlet for his pugnacity than
mere head punching, for the Zulu War broke out, and of course Falkner
must be in the thick of it.  He served all through, in a corps of
Irregular Horse, and performed fine feats of daring on more than one
occasion and notably during the disastrous rout on the Hlobane Mountain,
for which he ought to have got the V.C. but didn't, and is a happy man
proportionately in that he cherishes a grievance.  By a curious irony of
Fate too he was instrumental in saving the life of no less a personage
than our old antagonist, Dolf Norbury, for soon after the invasion of
Zululand, that worthy, having quarrelled with his friend and ally
Mawendhlela, found himself run very hard by that gin-loving potentate's
followers.  He had made a desperate fight for it, and had shot down
quite a number.  Still there were numbers left, when Falkner, happening
along with a patrol, rescued him only in the bare nick of time.
Afterwards he told me that he had invited him to try, just in a friendly
way, another "scrap" for the conqueror, but Dolf wasn't taking any.
He'd rather light out for over the Swazi border, he said, if it was all
the same to his rescuer and quondam enemy.  It was--and so they parted,
this time in a kind of rough friendliness.

Of the "Brotherhood of the Dew" I have been able to get no further
information.  Whether the Zulu War had created a far-reaching diversion,
or that the hanging of Ukozi and Co. had conveyed the impression that it
was unhealthy to carry on its operations in a white man's country I
can't say for certain, but nothing more was heard of it, in Natal at any
rate.  Aida's experience of it however, had left such an impression upon
her that she had a rooted aversion to returning to live anywhere near
the scene of its former operations, so we decided to settle down upon a
farm in one of the most healthy and picturesque parts of the Eastern
Districts of the Cape Colony.  There Jan Boom is our most reliable and
trusted factotum; Jan Boom, now the owner of three wives--with power to
add to the number--and much cattle--the result of the priceless service
he rendered us in the past.

Priceless service!  Yes indeed, for although a good many years have gone
by since the events happened of which I, Godfrey Glanton, have striven
to set forward a clear account--remember literature is not an up-country
man's strong point--still they have been years of unbroken happiness.
And still they remain, in proof whereof, I invite any reader of this
narrative who may find himself in my part of the world, to come and
judge for himself.  I am easily found, and I promise him a cordial
welcome, and--if he is fond of the gun--something not bad in the way of
sport.

The End.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Frontier Mystery" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home